The Vatican

Pope proposes to cultivate virtues: "The human being is made for the good".

In this morning's audience, the Pope began a cycle of catechesis dedicated to the virtues, after having concluded last Wednesday the one on vices. On this, the eleventh anniversary of his election as Pope, Francis recalled that virtue is a gift that can be cultivated through our freedom and our daily choices.

Loreto Rios-March 13, 2024-Reading time: 4 minutes

Pope Francis during the audience of March 13, 2024 ©OSV

Pope Francis today kicked off a series of cycle of catechesis focused on virtues. Because he still has a slight cold, as he explained at the beginning of the audience, the catechesis was read by one of his collaborators, Monsignor Pierluigi Giroli.

The proposed reading for today's reflection was the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, chapter 4, verses 8 and 9: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, whatever is virtuous or praiseworthy, keep these things in mind. Whatever you have learned, whatever you have received, whatever you have heard, whatever you have seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you".

On this basis, Francis began by explaining that, "having concluded our overview of vices, the time has come to turn our gaze to the image of what is opposed to the experience of evil. The human heart can indulge in evil passions, it can pay attention to harmful temptations, disguised in seductive clothing, but it can also oppose all this".

Because, the Pontiff indicated, "the human being is made for the good", and "can practice this art by making certain dispositions permanent in him".

Virtue and classical philosophy

In this line, Francisco recalled that this reflection "on this marvelous possibility of ours" goes back to the time before Christianity, since the theme of virtues "constitutes a classic chapter of moral philosophy". On the one hand, "the Roman philosophers called it 'virtus'", while the Greek word was "areté".

The Pope went on to explain that "the Latin term underlines above all that the virtuous person is strong, courageous, capable of discipline and asceticism. Therefore, the exercise of virtue is the fruit of a long germination that requires effort and even suffering". For its part, the Greek word "indicates something that stands out, something that stands out, something that arouses admiration. The virtuous person is then the one who does not denaturalize himself by deforming himself, but who is faithful to his own vocation, who fully realizes his being".

Rediscovering the image of God in us

Therefore, the Pope pointed out that holiness is possible and within the reach of everyone: "We would be mistaken if we thought that the saints are exceptions of humanity, a sort of narrow circle of champions, who live beyond the limits of our species. The saints in this perspective we have just introduced on the virtues are, instead, those who want to be fully themselves, who realize the vocation proper to every human being. What a happy world it would be if justice, respect, mutual benevolence, largeness of heart and hope were the shared normality and not a rare anomaly".

The Pontiff pointed out that it is important that the way of virtue, "in these dramatic times in which we often encounter the worst of what is human", "should be rediscovered and practiced by all", because "in a deformed world we must remember the form in which we have been shaped, that is, the image of God that is forever imprinted in us".

What is virtue?

Francis then reflected on the definition of virtue, explaining that the catechism indicates that "virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good". Therefore, the Pope stressed that virtue "is not an improvised good or something casual that falls from the sky episodically. History tells us that even criminals in a moment of lucidity have performed good deeds. Certainly those actions are written in God's book, but virtue is something else. It is a good that is born of a slow maturation of the person, until it becomes an inner characteristic. Virtue is a habitus of freedom. If we are free in every act, and each time we are called to choose between good and evil, virtue is what allows us to have a habitus towards the right choice".

But how does one acquire this gift of virtue? Pope Francis has admitted that the "answer to this question is not simple, but complex".

Grace and asceticism

The first help we can count on is "the grace of God. In fact, the Holy Spirit acts in us who have been baptized, working in our soul to lead it to a virtuous life. How many Christians have reached holiness through tears when they realized that they could not overcome certain weaknesses," the Pope explained. "But they have experienced that God has completed that good work which for them was only an outline. Grace always precedes our moral commitment."

The Pope also recalled the importance of tradition, "the wisdom of the ancients," "which tells us that virtue grows and can be cultivated."

To this end, "the first gift of the Spirit to ask for is precisely wisdom. The human being is not free territory for the conquest of pleasures, emotions, instincts, passions", but "an inestimable gift that we possess is (...) the wisdom that knows how to learn from mistakes in order to direct life well". On the other hand, "we need good will, the ability to choose the good" through "ascetic exercise, avoiding excesses".

Praying for the end of wars

The Pope invited us to begin "our journey through the virtues in this serene universe that is challenging, but decisive for our happiness".

To conclude the audience, several readers read a summary of the catechesis in different languages. The Pope asked us to "persevere in prayer" so that wars may end, and said that today he was given a rosary and a Gospel with which a young soldier who died at the front prayed. The Pope lamented the death of so many young people and asked to pray to the Lord to "overcome the madness of war".

After praying the Our Father in Latin, the Holy Father imparted the Apostolic Blessing, ending today's audience.

La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.