“My” Virtue and “My” Work of Mercy

From today’s Magnificat Morning Prayer for the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist:

John is the prophet of hope.  He was born, lived, and died to prepare the way for the good news whose fulfillment he himself would not see.

file000196576996Hope is the theological virtue that draws me most.  Hope resonates in my soul.  I crave it.  I feed on it.  It’s the virtue I most want to encourage in others.

I’ve been despondent.  I’ve been stuck in the mire of my own scrupulosity.  I’ve been sick in mind and body.  And, in time, God has proved himself my hope of healing and transformation.

Perhaps that is why my favorite papal encyclical (not that I’ve read all that many) is Benedict XVI’s Spe Salvi.

I suspect that I’m not the only one who is drawn to one virtue or another as “their” virtue.  Likewise, particular works of mercy attract me more than others.  You would probably never catch me in a soup kitchen (that catch-all act of do-good that everyone names when pressed), but visiting the sick? Definitely.  It’s “my” work of mercy.

The Church’s many charisms must spring from our unique affinity for particular virtues or works of mercy.  It’s why Dominicans preach and teach whereas Religious Sisters of Mercy heal and comfort.  If hope is “my” virtue, then it must be others’ virtue as well.   Hope will manifest itself in our lives in unique ways – as unique and individual as we are – and yet we united in our attraction to hope, our need for hope, and our love of hope.

Same goes for charity and faith.  Or the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

Of course, I need to exercise the other virtues as well.  I don’t chose hope and negate my need for the others. It’s just that I like hope best of all.

Image Credit:  MorgueFile (cc)

About these ads

5 thoughts on ““My” Virtue and “My” Work of Mercy

  1. Someone might make the case for mercy by pointing out that Gosnell merely carried out the logic of the abortion license that is enshrined and protected in our law. One might note that there is no moral difference between dismembering a child inside the womb (which our jurisprudence, alas, treats as a constitutional liberty) and snipping a child’s neck after he or she has emerged from the womb (potentially a capital offense). How can our legal system impose the death penalty on Gosnell, given the arbitrariness and irrationality of the underlying law?

    • Denver, this is a bit of a non-sequitur, given my post, but I’ll answer with the Catechism:

      “2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

      “If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

      “Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’”

      The logic (or lack thereof) of our legal system aside, despite the egregiousness of the Gosnell case, we ought not take life when other means of enacting justice are available.

  2. The origin of penance as a virtue is God as Author, and man as the one who is disposed thereby, for “He who created us without us, does not justify us without us” (St. Augustine, Sermon 169, ch. 11, n. 13). In man the work of the virtue of penance proceeds in this manner (ibid.,a.2 q. 2, resp.). First it is necessary to recognize the goodness and justice of God, to whom every evil and disorder is displeasing, who is offended by these and who in no manner leaves evil unpunished. And at the same time, it is necessary to recognize that by sin one has made his very self into that which can do nothing else by displease His goodness; and this is the recognition of fault in one’s self, and from this the individual recognizes that he is obliged to undergo punishment in virtue of Divine judgement. Secondly, it is necessary to recognize the mercy of God, who is ready to remit and pardon every turning away from and grief over the fault committed. From the first recognition, spoken above, there is born divine fear; from the second, hope of forgiveness. And from both of these is born the will to turn away from sin and to make a compact with God and to make satisfaction by means of lamentation and other penances (fasting, the discipline, the cilice, the hairshirt, fatiguing work, endurace of extremes of climate, almsgiving, prayer). And if one begins to do these things which are in one’s own power to accomplish, he has been already disposed to justification and the forgiveness of sins. Penance is thus a necessary act before justification, for though sanctifying grace alone forgives and purges sins from the soul, it is necessary that the individual consent to this action of grace by the work of the virtue of penance, which engenders detestation and sorrow for sin.

  3. Without Christ, and outside of faith in Christ, works of mercy become merely secular, and could be done by any group in society. But with the Church’s work of mercy, this fundamental truth of the Bible, that Christ alone is the way of salvation – this is what makes the work come alive with the love of Christ. Every human being needs the love of Christ. Every human being has been redeemed by the death of Christ. That means that every human life is equally valuable to God and thus also to His Church. That’s because every human being has a value beyond measure for Christ shed his infinitely precious blood for every human being. See 1 Peter 1:18-19.

  4. Pingback: The Optional Preferential Option for the Poor? | The Naptime Novelist

Comments are closed.