Seeking to live a virtuous life — that of practicing and acquiring the virtues — is an important ingredient in the life of a Christian steward. A Christian steward is “One who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord” (Stewardship – A Disciple’s Response).
In the course of including spiritual reading in my “work in progress” prayer life, I just recently read The Virtues, written by Pope Benedict XVI and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This publication is a series of excerpts from his homilies, addresses, and encyclicals, in which he draws on the lives of saints, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and common experiences to bring us into a deeper understanding of the virtues, and how to cultivate them in our own lives so that we can grow closer to the Lord.
As a result of my stewardship conversion journey that began some 40-plus years ago, I have a strong tendency to wear my “stewardship lenses” in the course of my spiritual reading. As such, I almost always find threads of stewardship woven into what I am reading. This was very evident as I read and re-read The Virtues and the related references to the Catechism.
In Pope Benedict’s reference to the Catechism (CCC), I was drawn to re-visit and study Part Three, Life in Christ, Article 7, pertaining to The Virtues. In Paragraph 1803, we are reminded that “A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.”
It is important to note the stewardship threads in this paragraph quote:
- A habitual and firm disposition to do the good
- Perform good acts
- Give the best of himself
- Pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions
In our formation as Christians, we learned of the seven virtues; the four cardinal and three theological virtues.
- Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it (CCC 1806). Prudence guides the judgment of conscience
- Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor (CCC 1807).
- Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life (CCC 1808).
- Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. (CCC 1809).
- Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief because he is truth itself.
By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God” (CCC 1814).
- Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1817).
- Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God (CCC 1822). The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (CCC 1827).
Thus, it is clear, that when we, through our human efforts, acquire and practice the Cardinal Virtues and allow the related habitual perfections to govern our actions through the practice of the Theological Virtues, we are traveling well the committed way-of-life journey of a Christian steward.