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Pope at Audience: Live faith, hope and charity, to merit eternal life

During his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis transitions from discussing the cardinal virtues to the theological ones, recalling that faith, hope and charity help us follow Christ, guide our journey together toward holiness, and restore us, even when we fall.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Theological virtues are infused by God, and with the Holy Spirit, prepare us to merit eternal life.

Pope Francis made this point at his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, as he transitioned from discussing the cardinal virtues to reflecting on the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

In recent months, the Pope has been offering this catechesis series on the virtues and vices. After he concluded his discussions of sins, he moved on to virtue, thus far, reflecting specifically on patience, prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance.

Inform, give life to all moral virtues

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Pope recalled, describes the “theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues.”

“They are infused by God,” it continues, “into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as His children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.”

While praising the cardinal virtues as being capable of generating men and women who are heroic in doing good, the Pope warned, it poses a risk of being heroic, personally, but isolated.

Never alone

Whereas, he suggested, “the great gift” of the theological virtues is “existence lived in the Holy Spirit.”

The Pope emphasized this essential, community-related dimension of Christianity, which is inherent in the theological virtues.

“A Christian is never alone,” he reflected, “He does good not because of a titanic effort of personal commitment, but because, as a humble disciple, he walks behind the Master Jesus.”

Therefore, he suggested, the theological virtues “are the great antidote to self-sufficiency.”

“How often do certain morally irreproachable men and women run the risk of becoming conceited and arrogant in the eyes of those who know them!” he lamented. 

Intentions count

The Gospel, the Pope emphasized, warns us against this “danger.” Pride, the Pope said, is a “powerful poison,” noting that even “a drop of it, is enough to spoil a whole life marked by goodness.”

“A person may have performed a mountain of good deeds, may have reaped accolades and praise, but if he has done all this only for himself, to exalt himself,” the Pope said, he no longer can call himself a virtuous person.

Revive us when we fall

“To correct all these situations, which sometimes become painful,” the Pope stressed, “the theological virtues are of great help,” especially when we have moments where we “fall,” and we do not succeed in our good moral intentions.

“But if we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis encouraged, “He revives the theological virtues in us.”

“If we have lost confidence, God reopens us to faith; if we are discouraged, God awakens hope in us; if our heart is hardened, God softens it with His love,” he reassured.

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