Striving for Heroic Virtue

A few weeks ago, in the waning days of this rather unique semester, I decided to impulsively make a short visit at the chaplaincy, foregoing my usually tedious study grinds in the University library. Now I was pleasantly surprised that I arrived just before one of Fr. Chris’s Wednesday afternoon talks. His was a talk on the virtues and in the usual Fr Chris fashion he goes straight into the vast depths of the topic. One of the great goals of the Christian life is the perfection of virtue. Our Lord has made us for the virtuous life and I was reminded of that beautiful truth during that talk. The saints are the best example of this, their love for God and the way they heroically strove for virtue is something that never fails to leave me in awe. After all it was through the saints that I’ve found my deepest desire for God and the truth of the Catholic faith, but that is another story. The history of our Catholic Church is filled with stories of the valour and faith the saints held throughout their lives and I can’t help but call specific saints to mind every time Fr Chris hones in on a virtue. But here I must admit that I find myself disheartened, how can I be like these saints and strive for perfect virtue when I myself is deep in the mires of imperfection? That is exactly where I lost the point, you see when we read about the lives of the saints, it seems that all we can see is their perfect and best selves, but as St. Josemaria Escriva puts it, a saint is a sinner that keeps trying. Virtue is a habit and each day of our lives we are given the choice between virtue and vice. It is a choice that either draws us closer to God or draws us further away from Him. Behind every saint is an imperfect person who chooses virtue throughout their lives. But it is more than that, you see the saints constantly choose to follow a life of virtue even if the odds are against them, yes even if it seems unreasonable to choose virtue. For it is an intense love for God that drove their choices  for virtue and this is what makes their lives truly heroic. Our Lord uses their lives to show how a life of virtue is something truly beautiful and to show His glory. Consider an orchestra, each and every player in that orchestra has worked for countless hours, days and years honing their skill in their particular instrument in order to play the most beautiful of tunes and when each and every instrument is played in tandem, according to the directions of a maestro can true music can fill the halls of the stage. Similarly, when we strive for virtue in our daily lives only then can our Lord elevate us from our imperfections and sinful selves into the saints He sees us to be. Oh what beauty it truly is to see the song a virtuous Christian plays for our Blessed Lord. I believe that every choice we make is either a step towards our unification or our separation with God, we either slowly turn into the saint that God sees us to be or the sinner that ceases to be in the light. I have come to realise that virtues are hard-fought-for habits that we build over time and with the grace of God, it culminates in our sanctification. It is through our choosing of virtue that God works to both sanctify us and I will always remember that quote by St. Francis De Sales, when asked why a certain incident did not incur his wrath on another he said; “would you have me lose in fifteen minutes what I have laboured fifteen years to achieve?” (St Francis was a man who was known for his temper!). His is just one example of how saints heroically strove for virtue out of a love for God, to be a virtuous man or woman is a constant effort for all of us, it is a consistent yes to a life of true charity and a life led with heroic virtue is a life that illuminates the glory of God’s work in man that shines brighter than the stars.

 

John Soniega

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