“His divine power has bestowed on us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and virtue, by which he has bestowed on us his precious and very great promises, that through them you may flee the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world and become partakers of the divine nature.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. If these things are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For whoever lacks these things is blind and short-sighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more zealous in confirming your call and election, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. In this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.” 2 Peter 1:3-10
The Trouble with Virtue
Virtue doesn’t get the positive press it deserves these days.
To be virtuous was to have high moral standards; now, it is synonymous with pretentiousness and holier-than-thou behaviour. Refusing a steak for a salad, for example, elicits a dismissive: “Oh, you’re so virtuous!” This often means, across a range of situations, stop being a killjoy; stop distressing those of us who are about to indulge, and stop trying to make yourself appear better than us, or, more precisely, better than you actually are.
Virtue-signalling is a contemptuous neologism for people conspicuously expressing moral values. The term suggests that there is a disconnect between the good a person is trying to do and the person they really are. Aiming for virtue, then, becomes a sign of insincerity; we assume that anyone trying to prove their good intentions lacks integrity and is not to be trusted.
Part of the problem is the acute awareness of our own personal and moral failings. Every time we set the bar high for ourselves, we fall. The missed morning alarm call; the dormant gym membership; the depleted savings account; the incognito porn sites; the floundering relationship; our failings across the board stare us, accusingly, in the face. These days, where outward social perfection is high currency, it’s easier to pull others off their pedestal than to begin the hard interior work that makes us truly virtuous. We turn to false modesty and say that no one can possibly be virtuous; indeed, that it would be prideful to even say so. In one fell swoop we excuse our inadequacy and inertia, and deter others from even trying.
For the Catholic man, however, virtue should have radically different significance.
Firstly, it should be enough to know that God Himself “has called us to glory and virtue”. Who are we to deny our capacity for virtue if our Creator has ordained it? Our nature is ordered by Him towards virtue for our own good, that we may “flee the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world”. Thus virtue and human flourishing are linked; when one does what is right, he does what is objectively suited to his true nature.
Not only this, but we “become partakers of the divine nature”. In short, the call to virtue is the call to profound proximity and intimacy with the Father and to the knowledge of our true nature as sons. If we distance ourselves from virtue, we distance ourselves from Him and from our true nature. It is in our nature to be virtuous.
Aquinas derived “virtue” from the same root as the Latin [man] and [power], suggesting that in its primitive sense virtue implied the possession of such masculine qualities as strength and courage and, in the moral order, of goodness and human perfection.
In this brief video, Sam Baker, Founder of Catholic Man UK & Ireland explains how the battle for virtue is a deeply and specifically masculine one.
We all ask questions about life: Who are we? Who is God? What is wisdom and how do we pursue it? And the world can seem chaotic—full of uncertainty and mystery. In a sea of conflicting voices and opinions it can be hard to chart a course. We need a navigator; someone who can point us towards true north and guide us along the way.
In this endeavour, many who have gone before us have looked to St. Thomas Aquinas. Why? Aquinas is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest philosophers and theologians, and he has proven to be one of history’s finest teachers.
This video is part of the excellent Aquinas101 course.
Articles on Virtue
Back in September, at the last minute, I posted on the Catholic Man UK & Ireland Facebook group whether anyone wanted to undertake Exodus90 leading up to Christmas. I had recently had a heavy evening at the pub and decided it was time for a break from alcohol for a bit. My reasoning was, if I was giving up alcohol, why not accompany it with some other spiritual disciplines too? So what advice would I give to those men thinking of starting out on their own Exodus 90 journey in 2021? Continue reading 5 Steps to Exodus 90 in 2021
The “soul of the soul,” as sanctifying grace has been called, must have channels for the deiform life that God confers on the just. They are the virtues, theological and moral, according to their respective purposes Continue reading Meaning of Virtue in Thomas Aquinas