Yesterday, we discussed the 7 deadly sins. As stated, these sins deaden our souls to good and if left unchecked, lead to Hell. Thankfully, there is a remedy for this, a medicine, if you will, for the soul: 7 heavenly virtues.
For each of the deadly sins, there is a corresponding virtuous remedy. (A virtue, by the way, is a good habit that leads us to holiness, to God.) If for example, one struggles with gluttony, the virtue that person must cultivate is temperance. Here are each of the deadly sins with the corresponding virtue:
In today’s world, far too many people equate chastity with “no sex.” This could not be true! Since God made man and woman to complement each other in every way, that includes sexual union. Chastity means that first, we respect sexuality as a gift from God. We do not treat others as objects to be our “playthings.” Second, it means that we all must practice chastity according to our state in life: married, single, religious.
Temperance can often bring to mind the extreme stance of about 100 years ago that led to Prohibition: alcohol is evil! We must stop people from EVER imbibing. Instead, temperance means that we enjoy food, beverages, and all good things moderately. It is one beer and not the entire case. It is a tasty, healthy meal prepared and enjoyed by all, and not a back seat filled with the wrappers of fast food.
Charity seems to refer to giving to someone in need, and it can be that. But as a virtue, there is a broader meaning. “Charity” comes from the Greek “caritas,” the type of love we should show to all. It is the love that helps us love ourselves and others too much to allow us all to stay stuck in sin. It is a giving of one’s self. It heals greed by keeping us focused on others, and not ourselves. Rather than “me, me, me” charity says, “How can I serve you?”
The virtue of fortitude cultivates true courage. Sloth is, in many ways, related to fear. “I’m afraid I won’t get a job; why bother looking?” “Dad is always telling me I don’t do anything right, so I’m gonna lay here and watch tv.” But sloth also leads us to laziness in our faith: “I know I’m supposed to go to Mass, but Sunday is the only day I get to sleep in.” By practicing fortitude – doing what is right even when it is difficult – we can overcome sloth.
Envy is that “green-eyed monster” that makes us angry over others’ good fortune. Benevolence, on the other hand, allows us to see others’ success with the same attitude that we would see our own. We realize we are all God’s children, connected if you will, by divine DNA. Benevolence allows us to stop comparing ourselves to others; rather, we seek the goodwill of all.
If you pray for patience, God will provide. No, he will not “magically” make you more patient. He WILL provide you with plenty of opportunities to BE patient! Wrath sends our lives out of balance: we become consumed with anger and revenge. We seek to hurt others. We “lose it.” Patience provides balance. We react with docility rather than anger. We don’t “fly off the handle” with annoyance and petulance; we react with a calm spirit.
If pride is the root of all the deadly sins, then humility must be the starting point for all the remedies that virtues provide. Humility does not mean you’re a doormat: that you allow people to take advantage of you, or that we don’t stand up for justice when someone is wronged (even if that someone is ourself.) No, humility is Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. It is the attitude that, as a Catholic, I am meant to serve others first. We treat everyone with dignity, from the leader of a nation, to a CEO to a homeless woman on the street. Even more, we realize that we are no better than anyone else; we are equal in God’s love and mercy for us.
No one said being a faithful Catholic was easy! Practicing the virtues is hard – there is no way around it. Just like an athlete must put in hours and hours in the gym, or an artist knows that only the time-consuming practice of technique will create great art, so it is with virtue. We try, we fail and confess, we try harder. That is the “cure” for sin and the medicine needed for ourselves and our world.