Fr. Roy Cimagala .
FAR from falling into irrelevance, and much less, into obsolescence, as some people claim, virtues are actually most needed today. And that’s simply because with the fast-moving and more complicated developments of the times, virtues actually help us greatly in properly tackling the challenges of these new developments.
We are actually in urgent need of these stable qualities in our modern times. We have to debunk the myth that virtues hinder our reactions to the challenges of the times. It is a piece of pre-historic thinking that would consider the virtues as obstacles in our effort to grapple with the new developments.
It is amazing that some people, even the self-proclaimed highly educated people who are supposed to be very scientific in their outlook, would still cling to that fiction. If anything at all, virtues help us not only to facilitate our reactions to these new developments but also to see to it that our reactions are the right ones.
We need to dismantle the bias against virtues as wrongly understood by some people. In fact, these days we should be into some intense campaign to promote the importance, development and practice of the virtues. This should start in the family, and always reinforced in parishes, schools, offices and everywhere else. They are always relevant. There is nothing in our life where the virtues would be out of place.
Take, for example, the cardinal virtues under which all the other virtues are grouped and which are the hinges of a virtuous life, a life that would resemble us more and more with our Creator God who made us to be his image and likeness.
Prudence “disposes reason to discern in every circumstance our true good and to choose the right means for achieving it. Prudence guides the other virtues by pointing out their rule and measure.” (Compendium 380)
Given the confusing culture of our times where we not only have to distinguish between what is good and evil, but also between competing good options, we really would need prudence to be able to make the right choice. Under this virtue, for example would the virtue of order that enables us to have the proper priorities amid the many things that we have to consider.
Justice enables us to give to others, especially God, their due. (cfr. Compendium 318) This virtue is always necessary since we are not supposed to live simply on our own. We always live with others, and we have duties and responsibilities toward them. This virtue will help us avoid falling into self-indulgence and self-absorption which are the common anomalies today.
Fortitude “assures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.” (Compendium 382) Since our life will always involve moves of conquest and defense, we cannot overemphasize the importance of this virtue.
And again, given the complexities of our times, we have to make sure that we are tough and strong enough to tackle the many challenges of the times. Sad to say, many now have fallen into despair precisely because they lack this virtue that will always include a certain sense of optimism despite all the possible mishaps we can experience in life.
And then we have the virtue of temperance which “moderates the attraction of pleasures, assures the mastery of the will over instincts and provides balance in the use of created goods.” (Compendium 383)
This is a virtue that I would say is most immediately needed, since we are easily carried away by the movements of the flesh as it interacts with the new, fascinating albeit intoxicating things of today’s environment.
This is where we need to have self-discipline and a good sense of restraint and moderation in the use of the new technologies, for example.
If we want to be truly human, let alone, authentically Christian, we need these virtues more than we need food, drink and air.
An apt description of today’s troubles? Some words of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans appear to be a good description of today’s trouble in the world. In that letter, he describes the troubles and identifies the cause.
It’s in Chapter 1,18-32 of said letter, and I think it is worthwhile to remit the whole text if only to realize how St. Paul ably captured the why-and-wherefore of today’s troubles. To wit, he says:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator…
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful.
“They invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
I consider these words a bullseye description of the situation of much of the world today. Let us hope that we react to these words properly by launching a deep desire to return to God, to be most faithful to his teaching as taught and shown by Christ, and now by the Church. This is not going to be an easy task, but neither is it impossible.
And as St. Paul himself recommended, let us help one another in this task of going back to God in such a way that we would be “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” (Rom 1,12) This should be a concern of everyone.
As we approach the celebration of the 5th centennial of the Christianization of our country, let us hope that we grow in our faith, attaining a more mature faith able to see God everywhere, to cooperate as fully as possible in his will and ways, one that is operative, knowing how to gain more ground in our spiritual life and more able to bear our human frailties and resist temptations and sin.
Let’s hope that we can have a faith that knows how to undo or resolve the moral troubles we have at present.