The Theological Virtue of Charity – Part 5 of 5

Father Pegues concludes his exposition of the virtue of charity by discussing the six vices opposed to the peace which flows from charity. These are discord within the soul, wrangling, schism, strife, sedition, and warfare.

Discord occurs when one refuses to wish what another wishes when that other person desires something that would be good for a person and would give honor to God; or it can occur when one is “unduly obstinate and stubborn in disagreeing no matter what the object may be and no matter how right be our intention.”

Wrangling is to contend with another in words.” It is sinful “if one thus contends with the sole desire to contradict; and the more so if one does this in order to hurt a neighbour or contaminate the truth which our neighbour defends by his words; it would also be a sin if, in defending the truth oneself, one’s manner or speech wounds our neighbour’s feelings.”

Schism is the separating oneself intentionally from the unity of the Church, either by refusing to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff as to the head of the Church, or by refusing to have communication with the members.”

Strife occurs “between individuals without any sanction whatsoever of the public authority.” Dueling is related to the sin of strife, but with this difference: “the duel is a thing calculated and is in a sense not fought in the heat of passion; and this circumstance adds to its gravity.”

Sedition is a sin whereby parties of the same people conspire or rise up tumultuously one against the other, or against the established and legitimate authority, whose office it is to guard the well-being of the whole people. . . . Humanly speaking there is nothing more excellent and more to be desired than the maintenance of public order, hence the crime of unjust war, and perhaps sedition even more so, is the greatest crime against the well-being of our fellow-men.”

War is permissible “when there is a just cause, and no injustice is committed in the course of the war.” A just cause is “the hard necessity of making respected even by force of arms the essential rights among men, when these rights have been violated by a foreign nation which refuses to make reparation. Those who fight in a just war, and who commit no act of injustice in the course of the war perform a great act of virtue, since they expose themselves to the greatest of perils for the welfare of their fellow-men or for the good of God.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Theological Virtue of Charity – Part 4 of 5

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the virtue of charity by discussing the vices opposed to charity. First, there is the vice of hatred, which is directly opposed to charity. Then, there is scandal, which is opposed to kindliness. Next, there is spiritual laziness and envy, which are opposed to the joy that flows from charity.

Hatred is the greatest of all the vices opposed directly to the principal act of charity, which is an act of love of God and of one’s neighbour.” Since God is the Infinite Good from whom comes all good, how can He be hated by one of His creatures? “It is explained by the moral depravation of some of His creatures, who no longer consider God as the Infinite Good and the source of all good things, but as the Legislator who forbids the evil one loves, or as the judge who condemns and punishes the evil one commits.”

“One never has the right to hate evildoers; but one should detest the evil they do.” One may never wish a person on earth eternal damnation, for “this would be an act directly opposed to the virtue of charity, which makes us wish for all in the end the happiness of God.”

Scandal is that sin which through some word or deed offers to another an occasion of sinning; or the fact of taking occasion to sin because of what is said or done by another: in the first instance one gives scandal; in the second, one is scandalized.” Virtuous souls are incapable of giving scandal, and only spiritually weak souls are capable of being scandalized. Lest the weak be scandalized, the virtuous are sometimes obliged to forego certain things, provided those things are not necessary for salvation.

Spiritual laziness is a distaste for spiritual things. It is a capital sin because “on its account men do many evil things and commit numerous sins either to avoid and get rid of it, or because its oppressiveness makes them take refuge in evil acts.” Some sins it leads to are despair, pusillanimity, sluggishness as regards precepts, spite, malice, and a wandering of the mind to unlawful things.

Envy is sadness because of the good of another, not because this good is a cause of evil to us, but merely because it is another’s and not ours. . . . Spiritual laziness is opposed to the joy of the divine good in so far as this good is in God and ought to be in us; whereas envy is opposed to the joy of the divine good in so far as this good belongs to our neighbour.” Envy is a capital sin, for it leads to other sins, such as calumny, detraction, rejoicing in the adversities of another, and harboring sadness at another’s prosperity.

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Theological Virtue of Charity – Part 3 of 5

Father Pegues continues his discussion of the effects of the virtue of charity by mentioning its external effects: kindliness and almsdeeds.

Kindliness consists in doing good to others. When one has a particular reason for doing good, the virtue of justice is implied. When one performs an act of kindness for the benefit of a person in need, the virtue of mercy is implied. An act of charity which one performs out of mercy is an almsdeed.

There two kinds of almsdeeds: corporal and spiritual. “Corporal almsdeeds are the following: to feed the hungry; to give drink to him that thirsts; to clothe the naked; to give hospitality to the stranger; to visit him who is ailing; to set at liberty those in captivity; and to bury the dead. Spiritual almsdeeds are prayer, teaching, counsel, consolation, correction, and the forgiving of an offence.”

These almsdeeds are of great worth, because “we see by the Gospels that at the day of judgment the sentence of eternal damnation or eternal reward will depend upon them.” There is always “a strict and grave obligation” of performing an almsdeed “when our neighbour is in pressing need, whether spiritual or corporal, and when we only are able to help him.” Even when there is no pressing need, there is a “strict and grave obligation to make use of the spiritual and temporal goods one has received in superabundance from God with the view of bettering our neighbour or society.” We are “duty bound to act in this way.”

The precept relating to charity is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole mind, with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength” (Dt 6:5). This means “that in all our actions our intention should be directed towards God; that all our thoughts should be subject to Him; and that all our affections should be regulated according to His will; and that all our external acts should be performed in fulfilment of His will. It is indeed the greatest of all the precepts, since it contains virtually all other precepts, for these are ordained to it. . . . The precepts contained in the Decalogue were only given in order that the carrying out of the precepts of charity might be assured.”

Moreover, these precepts of charity manifest themselves without need of promulgation, for “as there is a law of nature inborn in all which commands that in the natural order God must be loved above all and all things else for His sake; so it is a law essential to the supernatural order that God, who is the fount of all in this order, must be loved with a supernatural love above all and all things else for His sake.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Theological Virtue of Charity – Part 2 of 5

Father Pegues elaborates upon the internal and external effects of the virtue of charity; and first, the three internal effects, which are joy, peace, and mercy.

Concerning joy, he writes: “When the soul has the virtue of charity and performs in truth the principal act of charity, the result is the first effect of charity which is called joy. This joy is perfect, without trace of sadness, when it reaches towards the infinite happiness that God is to Himself or towards the elect in heaven; but it is mingled with traces of sadness when it reaches to the happiness of God which is not as yet possessed by the souls in purgatory, or by us and all those who are still on earth. The mingling of sadness in this joy is due to the presence of physical or moral evil which affects or can affect those who are in the divers states mentioned. By the very virtue of charity joy should always predominate, because this joy has for its principal object and for its first cause the infinite happiness of the Divine Friend, Who enjoys eternally the infinite good which is no other than Himself, and which He essentially possesses secure from all evil.”

Peace is the tranquillity of order or perfect harmony resulting in us and in all things from the fact that all our inclinations and the inclinations of all other creatures are turned towards God, who is the supreme object of our perfect happiness.”

“By mercy is meant a special virtue distinct from charity, and of which it is the fruit, whereby we sorrow for the misery of our neighbour as something possible to ourselves, or at least as if the misery in some sense were our own, and this by reason of the friendship which unites us to our neighbour. It is a virtue which belongs to God par excellence, not indeed in so far as there is any feeling of sorrow or of sadness (which cannot be in Him), but as regards the effects which this feeling moved by charity produces.” Moreover, “the nearer one approaches to God, so much the more must mercy have root in him, inclining him to give help to all around him according to the extent of his means, whether they be spiritual or temporal.” Consequently, “the practice of this virtue be a great help towards the establishment and the strengthening of social peace among men.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Theological Virtue of Charity – Part 1 of 5

Father Pegues continues his exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on the Theological Virtues (Summa Theologica II-II, 1-46) by discussing the virtue of charity (love).

Charity is “a special virtue which has precisely the role of making man lead a wholly supernatural life with a view to the possession of God.” Charity “raises us to a life of intimacy with God for His own sake, in so far as He is His own happiness and has deigned to wish to communicate His happiness to us. This life of intimacy with God implies two things in us: first of all a participation of the divine nature which divinizes our nature and elevates us above every natural order (whether human or angelic) to the order which is proper to God; . . . secondly, it implies in us principles of activity proportionate to this divine existence which enable us to act as true children of God even as God Himself acts.” Moreover, “whoever has charity has also sanctifying grace together with the virtues and the gifts.”

“There are degrees in this love of charity; for first we must above all love ourselves, and then others according as they approach in nearness to God in the supernatural order, or according as they are more or less near to us in the divers relations that bring us into touch with them, such relations, for instance, as ties of blood, friendship, life in common, etc.”

Concerning acts of the supernatural virtues, he states that, since they are “directly ordained to the happiness of God,” we should desire them for ourselves and for others.

Concerning temporal goods, he writes: “We may and sometimes we ought to desire for ourselves and for others temporal goods.” This we should do “when they are indispensable to our life on earth, and for the practice of virtue.” This we may do “when they are not indispensable but may be useful.” But, he cautions: “if these temporal goods become an obstacle to a life of virtue and are a cause of sin, we cannot desire them neither for ourselves nor for others without prejudicing the virtue of charity.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Theological Virtue of Hope – Part 2 of 2

Continuing his discussion of the virtue of hope, Father Pegues distinguishes filial fear from servile fear, and then shows how the gift of fear of the Lord, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, corresponds to the virtue of hope.

Filial fear, or fear of the Lord, is a holy respect of God on account of His excellence or on account of the goodness of His infinite majesty. One who has filial fear “fears only what displeases Him or keeps us away from Him in such wise as to prevent us from possessing Him eternally in heaven.” Servile fear is “a disposition of an inferior order such as is proper to slaves whereby one fears a master because of the penalties and punishments He is able to inflict.”

Filial fear is superior because it cares not about the loss of created goods, “provided that the possession of the Uncreated Good which is God Himself remains assured. It is only the loss of the Infinite Good, which is God Himself, or of whatsoever compromises perfect possession of it, that filial fear dreads.”

Filial fear can initially co-exist with the kind of servile fear that is not sinful. Such servile fear is called “initial fear.” But, since charity is the cause of filial fear, as charity grows in a soul, filial fear grows and becomes the only fear in that soul, so that, at length, that soul becomes “wholly penetrated with the love of God.”

Filial fear is most intimately related to the gift of fear of the Lord. By means of this gift, “one subjects oneself to God and to the action of the Holy Ghost, resisting Him not, but rather revering Him in all, lest one lose Him.” Thus, this gift belongs in a special manner to the virtue of hope.

Hope and fear of the Lord differ in this: “the virtue of hope views the infinite good of God to be gained by the help which He Himself gives, whereas the gift of fear views rather the evil of being separated from Him and of losing Him in withdrawing ourselves by sin from that help which He gives in order to lead us to Him.” Hope is of a higher order than the gift because (1) the theological virtues are superior to the gifts; and (2) “the virtue of hope views the good to be possessed, whilst the gift of fear views the evil which is the lack of such good.”

Filial fear will exist in heaven “in its highest perfection.” In heaven there will be “a holy trembling in the presence of the infinite greatness and majesty of God’s goodness; but no longer will it be the trembling of fear as if it were possible to lose God.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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The Theological Virtue of Hope – Part 1 of 2

Father Pegues continues his exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on the Theological Virtues (Summa Theologica II-II, 1-46) by discussing the virtue of hope.

He says that the effect of the theological virtue of hope is that “our will, relying on the help of God, is drawn towards Him revealed by faith, as towards the one who is to be some day our perfect happiness.”

He notes that “it is impossible to have the virtue of hope without faith which is its necessary basis, because only faith gives to hope its object and the motive upon which it relies.” The primary object of hope is “God Himself according as He is Himself His own happiness, and according as He deigns to give Himself to us one day in heaven to make us happy. Every true good can be the object of hope, provided it be subordinated to the principal object, which is God Himself.” Hope necessarily implies “virtuous and meritorious actions performed with God’s help that we may approach Him in the way that He desires, namely, that He might give Himself to us in heaven.”

Two sins against hope are presumption and despair. One who commits presumption counts on the future possession of God and holds that such is possible without preparing oneself by a life of supernatural virtue. One who commits despair thinks it impossible to practice a life of virtue and so gain happiness, and consequently, renounces a virtuous life and no longer seeks God’s help. “Man ought never to despair no matter how great his sins; for the mercy of God is so great and He is so good that He will always help him by His grace.”

The blessed in heaven “have no longer the virtue of hope since they possess God.” Nor do the lost in hell have hope, because “God, who is the object of hope, is separated from them for ever.” The souls in purgatory have hope, “but for them an act of hope is not quite the same as for the faithful on earth; for although they do not yet possess God they no longer have need of His grace to merit heaven since they are sure of heaven, all sin henceforth being impossible to them.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

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