Seven virtues

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In the Catholic catechism, the seven Christian virtues or heavenly virtues refers to the union of two sets of virtues: from ancient Greek philosophy, are prudence, justice, temperance (meaning restriction or restraint), and courage (or fortitude); and the three theological virtues, from the letters of Saint Paul of Tarsus, are faith, hope, and love. These were adopted by the Church Fathers as the seven virtues.

Virtues are connected with human nature and three main abilities that define human; to think, wish and feel. As Jesus was sinless, he showed in practice those virtues. At the beginning of his mission he is led through the desert to be tested with three main temptations that can lead one into sin, vices and perversion of personality. Modern names of temptations are egoism, materialism and hedonism. In First Epistle of John temptations in world are called "pride of life", "lust of eyes" and "lust of body". Jesus rejects temptations with virtues of:

  • fortitude, courage not to eat, risking his life to die of "hunger" (hedonism),
  • prudence, caution not to make sign of might without reason, "spectacular throw" (egoism),
  • temperance, self-control not to take glittering attractions, "kingdoms of world" (materialism).

Virtues are talents that lead human to seek ultimate ideals of life, called transcendentals in philosophy and correspondent with appropriate field that seeks them; truth (science), beauty (arts) and goodness (religion). Persons who enter catholic orders give public vows to live under guidance of evangelical counsels to confront world temptations; obedience (vs. egoism), poverty (vs. materialism) and purity (vs. hedonism). Human virtues are rooted in theological virtues of faith, hope and love which relate directly to God who is True, Beauty and Goodness.


(Mt 22,37) mind soul heart
divine virtues faith hope love
man thoughts wishes feelings
philosophy logic aesthetics ethics
ideal truth beauty goodness
field science art religion
(1 Jn 2:16)[1]
(Mt 4:1–11)[2]
"pride of life"
"spectacular throw"
"lust of eyes"
"lust of body"
monastic vows obedience
human virtues prudence

The first virtues were identified by the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, who regarded temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage as the four most desirable character traits. After the New Testament was written, these four virtues became known as the cardinal virtues, while faith, hope, and charity were referred to as the theological virtues. But Stalker, in his book The Seven Cardinal Virtues, says, "It is of distinct advantage to be reminded that the Christian character has a natural foundation... but certainly the latter are cardinal also--that is, hinge virtues; and it is convenient to have a single adjective for designating the whole seven".[3] However, such a perspective runs counter to the traditional understanding of the differences in the natures of Cardinal and Theological virtues, as the latter are not fully accessible to humans in their natural state without assistance from God. "All virtues have as their final scope to dispose man to acts conducive to his true happiness. The happiness, however, of which man is capable is twofold, namely, natural, which is attainable by man's natural powers, and supernatural, which exceeds the capacity of unaided human nature. Since, therefore, merely natural principles of human action are inadequate to a supernatural end, it is necessary that man be endowed with supernatural powers to enable him to attain his final destiny. Now these supernatural principles are nothing else than the theological virtues."[4]

Seven heavenly virtues[edit]

A list of seven heavenly virtues, to oppose the seven deadly sins, appeared later in an epic poem entitled Psychomachia, or Battle/Contest of the Soul. Written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, a Christian governor who died around 410 A.D., it entails the battle between good virtues and evil vices. The enormous popularity of this work in the Middle Ages helped to spread the concept of holy virtue throughout Europe. The virtues are identified as chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. Practicing them is said to protect one against temptation from the seven deadly sins.

Virtue Latin Gloss (Sin) (Latin) Virtue's Meaning
Chastity Castitas Purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom Lust Luxuria
  • Discretion of sexual conduct according to one's state in life; the practice of courtly love. Cleanliness through cultivated good health and hygiene, and maintained by refraining from intoxicants.
  • To be honest with oneself, one's family, one's friends, to all of humanity, and to all of God's creations.
  • Ignorance breeds suffering; education and self-betterment embraces moral wholesomeness and achieves purity of thought.
  • The ability to refrain from being distracted and influenced by hostility, temptation or corruption.[5]
Temperance Temperantia Humanity, justice, honour, abstinence Gluttony Gula
  • Restraint, temperance, justice. Constant mindfulness of others and one's surroundings; practicing self-control, abstinence, moderation and deferred gratification.
  • Prudence to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time; proper moderation between self-interest, versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.
Charity Caritas Will, benevolence, generosity, sacrifice Greed Avaritia
  • Generosity, charity, self-sacrifice; the term should not be confused with the more restricted modern use of the word charity to mean benevolent giving. In Christian theology, charity—or love (agäpé)—is the greatest of the three theological virtues.
  • Love, in the sense of an unlimited loving kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. Such love is self-sacrificial. Confusion can arise from the multiple meanings of the English word "love". The love that is "caritas" is distinguished by its origin—being divinely infused into the soul—and by its residing in the will rather than emotions, regardless of what emotions it stirs up. This love is necessary for salvation through Jesus Christ, and with it no one can be lost.
Diligence Industria Persistence, fortitude, effort, ethics, rectitude Sloth Acedia
  • A zealous and careful nature in one's actions and work; decisive work ethic, steadfastness in belief, fortitude, and the capability of not giving up.
  • Budgeting one's time; monitoring one's own activities to guard against laziness.
Patience Patientia Forgiveness, mercy, sufferance Wrath Ira
  • Forbearance that comes from moderation; enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.
  • Building a sense of peaceful stability and harmony rather than conflict, hostility, and antagonism; resolving issues and arguments respectfully, as opposed to resorting to anger and fighting.
  • Showing forgiveness and being merciful to criminals and sinners.
Kindness Benevolentia Satisfaction, loyalty, compassion, integrity Envy Invidia
Humility Humilitas Bravery, modesty, reverence, altruism Pride Superbia
  • Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is a spirit of self-examination; a hermeneutic of suspicion toward yourself and charity toward people you disagree with. Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect.
  • The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love.
  • Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one's own self. Being faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they may be.
  • Refraining from despair; the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Seven Cardinal Virtues, by James Stalker (1902) - p. 10
  4. ^
  5. ^ Hoopes, Tom. "Seven Passion Sins and Virtues". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Robert Grosseteste II Dicta

External links[edit]