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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