Cultivating Virtue

St Francis of Assisi, Miracle of the Crucifix by Giotto di Bondone

St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) and St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) give advice on how one cultivates personal virtue:

St. Francis says: “Temptation, when we do not yield to it, is an opportunity of practising virtue.”

Along these lines, St. Bernardine adds: “A Man truly desirous of keeping the Catholic Faith, and of persevering in it, ought to shun carefully all that savours of infidelity, all that causes or nourishes error, and apply himself to the virtues opposed to these disorders.”

St. Francis gives this insightful teaching: “It is much more dangerous to make an abuse of virtue than not to possess it.”

St Bernardine of Siena

St. Bernardine echoes the Poverello’s teaching when he adds: “Virtues are dangerous if not accompanied by humility; we lose our reward through the vainglory they produce.”

Simply put, a virtue is a good habit, a vice is a bad habit. They are opposites. In the following excerpts, Blessed Egidius (Giles) of Assisi, who was one of St. Francis’ first followers, imparts these words of wisdom on the operation of virtues and vices:

“One grace wins another grace, and one vice engenders another vice.”

“The more virtue a man possesses the more he will be tempted, and the greater hatred must he have for vice. The more vices you conquer the more virtues you acquire.”

“The more vice a man feels within himself, so much the more should he speak of virtue. By often conversing on virtue one turns to it more easily, and its practice is greatly facilitated.”

“There is more virtue in bearing an injury without complaining than in great almsgiving or an austere fast.”

“Never omit a good action from fear of vainglory; if vainglory trouble you, it will not hinder you from becoming perfect, and the best part of your good action will always be yours.”

Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).

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