Saturday, October 13, 2012

Faith as a Virtue

Since we just started the year of faith, I'd like to consider how faith is a virtue. As a virtue, it helps us become holy. St. Thomas begins with faith when he writes about the virtues in the Summa Theologiae. His moral teaching is so positive because he centers it around virtue, not sin (though he certainly deals with sin as well).

Faith is the foundation of all the other virtues. It's given as a gift with baptism, and once we are baptized we can never lose it--unless we commit a sin directly against faith. Even if a person commits other serious (mortal) sins and loses the life of sanctifying grace, the virtue of faith remains (along with hope). However, without grace it's not a living faith. But we still need it, because it enables us to come back to God. If we lost faith with every sin, how could we ever repent?

It seems to me that people don't think about faith as a virtue. Today, it seems that even many Catholics regard faith as something we do. In other words, that it's up to us to decide whether or not we will believe, what we will believe, etc. Since we're living in an age of relativism, it's easy to lose our bearings. But faith keeps us moored in Christ. Faith is a gift of God and is based on God himself.

An enriched understanding of faith as a virtue can revitalize our faith. So I'm hoping to do some posts on what St. Thomas teaches about faith precisely as a virtue, and what that means in our everyday life.

Monday, October 01, 2012

St. Therese: "In the heart of the Church, I will be love"

In the reading for today's Office, St. Therese of Lisieux explains how she came to understand her vocation. She was reading St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians on the different gifts in the Church. Therese didn't see herself in any of the gifts Paul mentions (preacher, teacher, apostle, etc.). So she felt unsatisfied, but then she came to Paul's beautiful hymn on love (ch. 13). And in a sudden burst of light, she knew her vocation: "The Church has a heart...and in the heart of the Church I will be love."

The other day I came across something in St. Thomas that relates to this. In speaking of how the Trinity dwells in us through grace, he says "the Son is the Word, but not just any word, the Word breathing love."*  Thomas sometimes lets some poetry slip into his theology, and this is a beautiful example of it. Through grace, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell in our souls, and the Son is "the Word breathing love."

St Therese may never have read that line from St. Thomas. But she lived it to the fullest degree--and that's why she's a Doctor of the Church. She allowed the Trinity to dwell more and more in her soul, to the point where she lived and breathed love. If we are in the state of grace, the Trinity dwells in us too. The Son lives in us, breathing forth the Holy Spirit, who is Love. As we go about our daily tasks, we too can live and breathe love to all the people around us, just like Therese did.

* (I, q. 43, a. 5, ad 2--Blackfriars translation).