The Virtue of Religion, Highest of Moral Virtues
There are thoughts that occur in us all from time to time, that lead us into objects of one’s mind, that difficult and hard to describe, delineate or make simple. I find not unlike others, I cannot express them clearly and are sometimes make them downright incomprehensible. They are not this way because of a lack of intellect but it is because of the enormity of their scope. Such a one for me is the Virtue of Religion. This virtue should be explored by Catholics as from it comes the very essence and is the basis of our religious life. It is said that all roads lead to Rome, well for me the more I spend time exercising my mind on this virtue the more I was taught returns into my mind. It takes me deep into my childhood when Sister Joseph et al taught me the Penny Catechism. Here it is then just as I think about this virtue that leads us into a life of eternal grace.
This is another lost teaching in the Church. As I think about its loss, then considering the behavior and dress we see in the Western Canadian Church today, I can but not think that just showing up to Mass could be sinful. To many it is just another boring day in the week without much importance. A day when we can watch the gladiators on sports tv., literally beating each other about the head and then kneeling in the end zone and blessing their victory. Do we go to Mass, because we are some kind of tepid, minimal catholic? Do we go because of what our relatives, friends, brothers and sisters and other sundry folk might think of us? Do we go because it is a habit we are frightened to break and when we get there we rush out and away as quickly as possible? Are we acting scandalously by not going or do we scandalize the Trinity by going with a very lackadaisical, and laisse faire attitude towards the Sacrifice? Do we treat it, as we should a sacrifice, according to the definition of the Church? I mean the completely surrendering of the best of what we own to be destroyed. I mean especially in this case our shameful, sinful habits which we often prize above all else? It is taught by the Church and the Hebrews that the transformation and destruction of the gift, we offer symbolically, shows that God possesses absolute power and authority also dominion over all things. This statement, though, needs to be examined in a different manner. I was taught as the Eucharistic Bread we receive melts in the mouth ,by the heat of our body, not chewed but dissolving, is the renewal of the Holocaust. It literally dissolves in the fire of Love. As a child when I was taught this it seems I saw it as destroying all that I felt good about.
Here is the opinion on the Virtue by the Catholic Encyclopedia:- The brackets are my thoughts
Of the three proposed derivations of the word "religion", that suggested by Lactantius and endorsed by St. Augustine seems perhaps to accord better with the idea than the others. He says it comes from religare, to bind. Thus it would mean the bond uniting man to God. The notion of it commonly accepted among theologians is that which is found in St. Thomas's "Summa Theologica", II-II, Q. 86. According to him it is a virtue whose purpose is to render God the worship due to Him as the source of all being and the principle of all government of things.
There can be no doubt that it is a distinct virtue, not merely a phase of another. It is differentiated from others by its object, which is to offer to Almighty God the homage demanded by His entirely singular excellence (and perfection). In a loose construction it may be considered a general virtue in so far as it prescribes the acts of other virtues or requires them for the performance of its own functions. It is not a theological virtue, because its immediate object is not God, but rather the reverence to be paid to Him. Its practice is indeed often associated with the virtues of faith and charity. Still the concordant judgment of theologians puts it among the moral virtues, as a part of the cardinal virtue justice, since by it we give God what is due to Him. St. Thomas teaches that it ranks first among moral virtues. A religious attitude towards God is essentially the product of our recognition, not only of His sovereign majesty, but also of our absolute dependence on Him. Thus, as Father Rickaby says, He is not merely "the Great Stranger" (unfortunately He is to so many), our behavior towards whom must be invested with awe and admiration; He is besides (all the above) our Creator and Master and, in virtue of our supernatural filiations in the present order of things, our Father. Hence we are bound to cherish habitually towards Him sentiments of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, loyalty, and love. Such a demeanor of soul is inexorably required by the very law of our being. We must not, however, rest satisfied because perchance our interior bearing is fairly in conformity with this standard. We are not simply spirits. Our composite nature needs to express itself by outward acts in which the body as well as the soul shall have a part — this not only to spur on our inner feelings, but also because God owns us body and soul, and it is right that both should show their fealty to Him. This is the justification of external religion (our example of the inward feelings we must have). Of course God does not need our worship, whether interior or exterior, and it is puerile to impugn it on that score. We cannot by our homage add anything to His glory, unless it is, the extrinsic increment of the theologians of which account need not be taken here. It is not because it is strictly speaking of use to Him that we render it, but because He is infinitely worthy of it, and because it is of tremendous value to ourselves. The chief acts of this virtue are adoration, prayer, sacrifice, oblation, vows; the sins against it are neglect of prayer, blasphemy, tempting God, sacrilege, perjury, simony, idolatry, and superstition.
This article tells me that my-our whole Catholic Life and perspective is set by and comes from this virtue. A Virtue as I wrote at the start is far, very far from the minds of the greatest majority of catholics, because of the ecumenical tone of the newer catechism. In fact not knowing this virtue leads to tepidity and that dreadful religious homicide called minimalism. Intelligent observers in a state of (the) grace that blesses their intellect can readily conceive my viewpoint by the shoddy clothes, the gum chewing, and zeal lacking in so many who attend Sunday Mass and receive Jesus in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. I ask for an honest answer from deep inside you all, “What is it they are receiving? What is the value they place upon It?”.
At the blog address that follows, you will find a priest whom by force of local circumstances had to make his views known on comportment at the Liturgy. Read at the end of the information about Chick, his admonitions to his parish.
The virtue of religion to me is so very important; it is the basis of how I live my religious life, from it is derived the proper practice of our religion, that is the describing our life as religious. I write and use the adjective ‘religious’ and not spiritual. Spiritual is a word used so foolishly by idiot savants claiming as their custom dictates some false interior motive for holiness. Growing up in the Church we never called those who gave us a good example to live by, spiritual; we never or perhaps we rarely called them holy, we said they were deeply religious. We understood the difference. We find when we read the internet to learn of the actions of the pseudo supernatural cults, those who act and pray unintelligently, and claim to be spiritual has made this word become a modern buzzword, covering a multitude of foolish actions, thoughts and desires. How many of us as Catholics try honestly through the virtue of religion and actions both interior and exterior to become mystical? Do we make the practice of our religion a way of life or do we just pass our time away pretending to be what we are not? We are in many cases piously fraudulent. A catholic state of grace earned by joining in, uniting ourselves to God in the programs of worship blessed by The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church makes us mystical not spiritual and certainly not supernatural. That is we give to God what is His due through the liturgies, rites and rituals governed by the Sacramental Holy Mysteries formed and taught by Christ Himself. What is supernatural and in reality what are really supernatural acts? If they are destined by God from us from the moment He created us are they not natural acts of God? Can we say these actions were destined for each individual by Our God at our creation and part of the natural law and will of God for us? How can we know, if the will of God is a natural act for us or because of its Founder a supernatural act? Whatever your answer it may well be that some of us in God's way may be supernatural in our scope when the virtue of religion drives us to perform good works aiming for a state of sanctifying grace. That is a claim for God to prove and not for us to presume. Is it not a fact that all Christ’s instructions when followed faithfully are good works? I cannot see that loving, trusting and adoring God through the liturgies and sacraments are anything other than the highest of good works.
If we understand the Virtue of religion correctly, it is I suspect a supernatural act, an abiding drive, a grace which enables us through faithful actions to give God the worship adoration and exterior disposition that is His due. From this virtue the acts of worship, both of the body and the heart, we give to Him, are and should be acts of extraordinary beauty of a marvelous kind and of necessity mysterious. Can we say the body and soul should be hygienically clean as required by their physical and spiritual state? The virtue of religion when fully used by those in a state of grace, place ourselves interiorly and exteriorly with a purity and cleanliness both in our demeanor and dress into the Holy Presence of our adorable God. Therefore the Third Person who for me is the Holy Ghost, as God's Love, brings us virtues (talents) which we must use. Now since to my mind there are many Holy Spirits in form but only one Person. Wisdom declares this Third Person is the Spirit of Wisdom, of Discipline, of Fortitude, of Charity and of so many virtues. From this Third Person comes many gifts which we must use for our and others salvation. I have heard Catholics pray and petition ,for example, for humility and fortitude gifts which I surmise they already have due to the Religion of Virtue, but they never use them. The problem is they pray etc and never go out and be what they have prayed for, they expect a supernatural finger to point at them and say I have answered yes. Go do My work”.
The virtue of religion leads us to admit the Lord our God leads us to proclaim as in the Magnificat, His glories, His greatness and His majesty. and to rejoice in His salvation. Catholics are taught that at certain stages of our lives and due to the Sacramental Acts virtues are given to us, rather like the talents in Christ’s parables. Moral theology teaches us that we can acquire this virtue somewhat imperfectly but in reality it is infused into our soul by grace at Baptism and we have to develop it. This is probably what is really meant in part, by informing our conscience.
What comprises the exterior acts of the body, (bodily worship)? Some of the necessary information can be found if we read Leviticus 19:28 it says, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, neither shall you make in yourselves any figures or marks: I am the Lord”. This surely means, although spin doctors deny and mistranslate these words. We are not to mark our bodies deliberately, as we cannot improve on God’s works. This could help our understanding, if we read of Christ’s words when He came to fulfill scriptures to give us help in our life. Can His statements of the feathers of birds and the colors of flowers have a meaning? We can say, if God dressed the beasts, birds and vegetation to please Himself, then He made these of His creatures with nutritive hearts, with an imperfect soul, attractive to Him. They were and are acceptable to God. Christ said His Father would help us to survive. I can but believe He provides what we need to be dressed as acceptably as them., in His eyes and in His way We, as creatures with sentient hearts, able to use intelligence, besides using the natural law. Is is definite those in the more advanced countries can dress ourselves acceptably. Surely then we need to show His works on our behalf and the difference He gives us, by not wearing work clothes to church, at least on Sundays. We then should show an exterior beauty, thus mirroring our souls. Do you think that denim jeans, tee shirts, with mottoes and logos and sneakers really demonstrate the interior cleanliness of our souls or is it perhaps a true sign of our interior state? I was sat in church behind a boy with a spitting cobra on his back. He carried symbolically a snake and not a cross on his shoulders.
The acts this virtue leads us to must be both interior and exterior. They are to be performed with both mind and heart. The virtue of religion as exercised by the creature has to become corporeal, comprising of external acts that qualify our interior life. This is why prayer as taught by the Church is the raising up of the Mind and the Heart to God. Religious acts therefore must reveal themselves externally with bodily worship and internally as divine worship or contemplation
It is no short journey to realize that from the acts demanded from this virtue other virtues can become apparent if unlike the receivers in the parables we do not bury them but use them for first the honor of God, then for ourselves and finally for the benefit of others. As you can see to express this virtue coherently is not easy. It would take pages and pages to explore our lives and the influence of our religion in it.
Labels: Virtue Religion Adoration God's due