Here’s what the devil doesn’t want you to know:
There is a way to become the saint God created you to be…a way that’s practical and doable for anyone with the grace given by God to every Baptized person: you, me, everyone. That way is learning about the virtues and how to practice them: virtues like patience, gratitude, and forgiveness.
So the devil’s lie is that great holiness – saintliness – is unattainable for a sinner like me.
Don’t tell that to St. Mary Magdalene! The virtue of faith enabled her to believe – against all odds and all the devil could throw at her – that this man Jesus could heal her and lead her to the happiness of true love beyond anything she had ever known or imagined.
Don’t tell Bartolo Longo that a virtuous life isn’t attainable by anyone.
Bartolo Longo was a 19th century Italian Catholic who came to hate the Church as a young man – because the educational system taught him to – he hated the Church so much that he eventually became a Satanist priest! Meanwhile, his mom was praying like crazy for him. Her prayers were answered when one day a Dominican priest asked Bartolo, rather bluntly, if he wanted to die in an insane asylum and go to hell.
Somehow the challenge touched Bartolo and after several meetings with the priest, he did repent and was given absolution. The virtue of hope allowed him to give up his headlong descent into hell and forge a new life, a life that now depended on God. Today he is known as Blessed Bartolo Longo – on his way to sainthood – because he ended up bringing many thousands of people to Christ.
And we can’t forget Augustine of Hippo, who famously told God, “Make me chaste, Lord — but not quite yet!” Well, he finally received the virtue of chastity and is now a saint and doctor of the church!
How can these notorious, public sinners and so many like them, all be saints? By the grace of God, of course, and by learning to love like Jesus through knowledge and practice of the virtues, which are attributes of Jesus. The virtues are how we put into action the grace of the Sacraments.
If we want to grow in prayerfulness, kindness, patience, or any virtue, we need to learn exactly what the virtue is and what it isn’t. A misunderstanding of what humility is, for example, can lead us astray, and cause us to lead others astray, even if we have the best of intentions.
So, what is humility?
Humility means looking honestly at our strengths and weaknesses in the light of God’s love and mercy.
For example, hall-of-famer Stan Musial (1920-2013) said, “I thank God for making me a great baseball player.” That is a humble statement because he owned his talent and gave the credit to God.
When a compliment came Mother Teresa’s way, she would answer, “God’s work.” For us, we can offer a simple “Thank you,” with the thought in our mind that it’s really a thank you to God for helping us do something pleasing to the person who offered the compliment.
When we forget that every good thing that comes to us comes from God, we can slip into playing God. That just sets us up for disappointment when we don’t get the approval we were looking for from others.
What a difference between the two attitudes: with humility, we end up with a heart warmed by gratitude; arrogance, on the other hand, leaves us bitter — because no worldly praise is ever enough to make us really happy.
The Lord…loves the one who pursues virtue. Prov 15:9
Okay, so even if you’re a regular old sinner like me — maybe you could use more peace and joy in your day. That’s what you get by learning what virtues are and specifically how to practice them in your daily life. I’d love to chat with you about the many benefits of joining my supportive live zoom group “Virtue Circle.”
Just leave a comment below if you’d like to hop on a quick phone chat to learn more (or if you’re already a member, leave a comment on what it’s like to be a member).
I’d love to explore with you whether being a member of this cozy, enlightening circle of Catholic women is an answer to your prayers!
P.S. An added bonus of Virtue Circle membership is the confidence to pass along the faith to your family in a fuller, richer way than ever before.