Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Faith, Works, and Spirituality for Dummkopfs

"Virtue" can mean quite a few things
  • There's the "malignant virtue" that some folks use as a sort of weapon
    • Or maybe a shield
  • I suppose an author could use 'Virtue Abercrombie' as the name of a character
    • Probably in a western
  • The Virtues were an early rock-and-roll band.
A dictionary defines virtue as:
  1. The quality of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong
  2. Morality with respect to sexual relations
  3. A particular moral excellence
The sort of "virtue" I've been reading about is #1 in that list. After reading Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1803-1829, my guess is that emphasis should be on "...doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong."

First, the usual disclaimer: I'm "some guy with a blog." I don't speak for the Church.

Now, about faith, works, and demons:

"Even the demons believe that and tremble"

There's a longish, and rather heated, passage in James about faith and works: James 2:17-26. The gist of it seems to be that 'really believing' is fine, but what matters is what a person does about that belief:
"Indeed someone might say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? "
(James 2:18-20)
Looks to me like folks who preferred a more ethereally 'spiritual' approach have been around for a long time.

Spirituality for Dummkopfs

There's an appeal to the notion that virtue is a matter of thinking beautiful thoughts and being just terribly unconcerned about mundane details.

For starters, it's fairly easy to fake. I don't advise this approach, but here's how it's done.

Develop a vaguely blank smile, nod at whatever folks say, and memorize a few quotes like these. Leaving out the 'harsh' parts, of course:
"What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth - whether it existed before or not."
(John Keats)

"Be gentle to all and stern with yourself."
(Saint Teresa of Avila)
Anybody who's dummkopf enough to take on that sort of ersatz spirituality can turn it up a notch by adding condescension if someone starts asking questions.

John Keats, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Doing the Father's Will

Don't get me wrong: I think John Keats' poetry is worth reading, and find nothing wrong with having an imagination. Imagination is part of being human: which is a sort of good news/bad news thing. (Catechism, 37, 2520, 2708) About what Saint Teresa of Avila said? I think the entire quote - including what I crossed out - makes sense.

As far as faith and works go, I couldn't figure out how someone could 'really believe in' what Jesus said: and not do something about it. Which reminded me of the father and two sons in Matthew 21:28-31: where one said "yes" and didn't follow orders; while the other said "no" and did what he was told to do. As usual, 'there's more to it than that:' as discussed in footnotes 23 and 24.

Virtues: Human; Theological; and - Whoops

I studied what Catechism, 1803-1829, said about virtue by making an outline of that section. It's under "Background," at the end of this post. I think outlining material is a pretty good way of studying: and I enjoy organizing information.

Back to virtue and all that.

The Catechism divides virtues into two categories:
  • Human virtues, including the cardinal virtues:
    • Prudence
    • Justice
    • Fortitude
    • Temperance
  • Theological virtues, like
    • Faith
    • Hope
    • Charity
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1804-1811)
Temperance, by the way, is more about moderation, than going crazy with an axe. (Catechism, 1809)

I see that charity is the greatest theological virtue. (1 Corinthians 13:1-4, 13; Catechism, 1826) Which brings me back to "Spirituality for Dummkopfs," that I wrote a little while ago.

What I said about ersatz spirituality doesn't sound all that "charitable." Oh, boy. I'm going to have to think about that.

Related posts:
More, about
  • Death, judgment, works and faith: Catechism, 1021
  • Praise, sufferings, prayer, and work: Catechism, 1368
  • Works of mercy: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447
Background:
  • The human virtues
    Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1804-1811
    • As a group
      • Are
        • Firm attitudes
        • Stable dispositions
        • Habitual perfections of intellect
        • Acquired by human effort
        • The fruit and seed of morally good acts
      • Will
        • Govern our actions
        • Order our passions
        • Guide our conduct
          • According to
            • Reason
            • Faith
    • They
      • make possible
        • Ease
        • Self-mastery
        • "Joy in leading a morally good life"
          • "The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good"
      • More: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1804
    • The cardinal virtues: Catechism, 1805
      • Prudence
        • "Right reason in action" (St. Thomas Aquinas, taking a page from Aristotle)
        • Prudence is not
          • Timidity
          • Fear
        • More: Catechism, 1806
      • Justice
        • Justice involves
          • Respecting the rights of each person
          • Establishing harmony in human relationships
        • Justice does not mean being
          • Partial to the poor
          • Deferential to the great
        • More: Catechism, 1807
      • Fortitude
        • Strengthens resolve
        • Conquers fear
        • "...The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause....
        • More: Catechism, 1808
      • Temperance
        • "...Moderates the attraction of pleasures..."
        • "...Provides balance in the use of created goods..."
        • More: Catechism, 1809
    • How we get the human virtues, what they do
      • Acquired by
        • Education
        • Deliberate acts
        • Perseverance
          • Trying over and over again
        • Purified and elevated by divine grace
      • Develop character
        • With God's help
      • Help us do good
        • With God's help
      • More: Catechism, 1810
    • Practicing the human virtues isn't easy
      • We
        • Are wounded by sin
        • May keep trying through the grace of "Christ's gift of salvation"
        • Should always
          • Ask for this grace of light and strength
          • Make the sacraments a habit
          • Cooperate with the Holy Spirit
            • Following His calls to
              • Love what is good
              • Shun evil
      • Like it says, it ain't easy
      • More: Catechism, 1811
  • The theological virtues
    Catechism, 1812-1829
    • As a group
      • Adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature
        Catechism, 1813
      • Are where human virtues are rooted
        • Infused by God into the souls of the faithful
          • To make them capable of
            • Acting as his children
            • Meriting eternal life
        • "The pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being"
          Catechism, 1813
        • Three in number
          • Faith
          • Hope
          • Charity
        • More: Catechism, 1812
      • Are the foundation of Christian moral activity
        • "Relate directly to God"
        • "Dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity
        • Have the One and Triune God for their
          • Origin
          • Motive
          • Object
        • Animate Christian moral activity
        • Give Christian moral activity its special character
        • Affect all the moral virtues by
          • Informing them
          • Giving them life
        • God
          • Infuses (instills, soaks) theological virtues into the souls of the faithful
            • Making the faithful able to
              • Act as His children
              • Merit eternal life
        • More: Catechism, 1812-1813
    • Faith
      • Makes it possible to believe
        • In God
        • All that
          • God has
            • Said
            • Revealed to us
          • Holy Church proposes for our belief
      • Because God is truth itself
        • "By faith 'man freely commits his entire self to God.' "
          • This is why the believer seeks to
            • Know God's will
            • Do God's will.
        • More: Catechism, 1814-1816
      • Hope
        • Makes it possible for us to
          • Want
            • The Kingdom of Heaven
            • Eternal life with God
          • Trust Christ's promise
          • Rely
            • On the grace and help of the Holy Spirit
            • Not our own strength
          • More: Catechism, 1817
        • More: Catechism, 1818-1821
      • Charity
        • Is how we love
          • God above all things for his own sake
            • Our neighbor as ourselves
              • for the love of God
          • More: Catechism, 1822
        • Is the 'new commandment'
          • As Jesus said
            • "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love."
              (John 15:9)
            • "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you."
              (John 15:12)
          • More: Catechism, 1823
        • "Keeps the commandments of God and his Christ"
          • "If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love."
            (John 15:10)
          • Is the "Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law"
          • More: Catechism, 1824
        • Jesus died for us
          • While we were still enemies
          • The Lord asks us to
            • Love as he does
              • Even our enemies
            • See everybody as our neighbor
            • Love children
              • As Jesus does
            • Love the poor
              • As Jesus does
            • Described by Paul
              (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
              ["Love" apparently being the practical effect of Charity (B.G.)]
          • More: Catechism, 1825
        • Is the greatest theological virtue
          (1 Corinthians 13:1-4, 13)
          • [In NAB, "Love:" which seems to be a practical expression of Charity (B.G.)]
          • More: Catechism, 1826
        • Animates and inspires all the virtues
          • Binds the virtues together
            (Collossians 3:14)
          • Is the source and goal of the virtues' practice
          • "upholds and purifies our human ability to love"
          • Raises our human ability to love "to the supernatural perfection of divine love"
          • More: Catechism, 1827
        • The moral life
          • Gives the Christian
            • Spiritual freedom
              • Of the children of God
            • When
              • Practiced
              • Animated by charity
          • The Christian
            • "no longer stands before God as a slave"
              • In servile fear
                • Fearing punishment
              • Or as a mercenary
                • Looking for wages
              • But as a son
                • Responding to the love of him who "first loved us"
                  (see 1 John 4:19)
          • More: Catechism, 1828
        • Charity
            Yields
            • Joy
            • Peace
            • Mercy
          • Demands
            • Beneficence
            • Fraternal correction
          • Fosters reciprocity
          • Remains
            • Disinterested and generous
          • Is
            • Friendship
            • Communion
        • More: Catechism, 1829

    1 comment:

    Brian Gill said...

    Liam,

    Thanks.

    Since the link is to an online pharmaceutical operation, my 'spam' policy requires that your message gets deleted.

    The original text, complete, follows:
    >>>>>
    Liam said...

    Good read.
    October 6, 2011 6:04 AM

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    Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

    What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

    From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

    I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

    For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

    Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

    Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.