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 Catholic Culture Fall 2017
The Seven Basic Virtues: Secrets of a Happy Life
Saint Gregory the Great was a very organized person. He introduced the calendar that most of the world uses today. He is also the  rst person to have come up with a list of seven basic virtues. He started with
the four basic virtues ancient Greek philosophers advised their followers to practice—prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. To these he added the three virtues described by Saint Paul—faith, hope, and love (charity). There are more virtues, of course. But these seven inspire all the others. For example, as Saint Paul points out in his letter to the Cor- inthians, love leads to patience, kindness, and humilty, to name a few. See 1 Corinthians 13:4.
We call the basic four virtues named by the Greek philosophers the moral virtues because they have to do with our treatment of one another. The word moral comes from the Latin word mores (pronounced “MOR- ays”). Mores are practices that contribute to the good of a society. These four virtues are also called the cardinal virtues because they are cardinal, or central, to our humanity.
We call Saint Paul’s three virtues the theological virtues because they are about our relationship with God. (Theo comes from theos, the Greek word for God.) God gives us these three virtues directly through Jesus in Baptism. The faith, hope, and love that we receive in this sacrament transform our ordinary ability to believe, hope, and love into something far more potent. Infused into our souls is God’s own life—the ordinary becomes supernatural, or divine. Faith, hope, and love are the powers that give us the strength not only to be faithful to God, to hope in God, and to love God—but also the spiritual energy we need to grow in all the virtues.
THE MORAL (CARDINAL) VIRTUES
Prudence: The ability to size up a situation, to decide the best and wisest course of action and to follow it through.
Justice: Fairness, giving everyone his or her fair share.
Fortitude: The courage to do what is right no matter what obstacles stand in the way. Temperance: Moderation in enjoying all the things that delight our senses.
THE THEOLOGICAL VIRTUES
Faith: Belief in God and all that God has revealed through creation; in Jesus Christ, whom God sent to save us; and in the Holy Spirit whom the Father and the Son sent to guide us.
Hope: Trust in God’s promise of eternal life. Con dence that we someday will enjoy complete happiness in the full presence of God .
Love: Love of God above all things and love of others and of self out of love for God. In other words, this is the love of all that God loves.
        A Service of
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