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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