Topic: Virtue

Br. Bradley Thomas Elliott, O.P.'s picture

Aquinas on Virtue (Part 1)

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"Morality" and "moral rules" tend to bring up hot topics in our current culture. Thomas Aquinas, though, highlights the role of "virtue" in the moral life as the key to happiness. In this series of instructional videos, I will explore, question by question, St. Thomas's treatises on the virtues in the Summa Theologiae that lay out the basic foundations for Aquinas's notion of virtue. The first installment centers on the first question in the treatise, which deals with the definition of virtue. I explain how St. Thomas uses Aristotle's "four causes" to flesh out the essential notion of what a virtue is. As we will see throughout the series, practicing virtue does involve our feelings and emotions, but only insofar as they are ordered by the mind and our reason...

 

Br. Michael James Rivera, O.P.'s picture

What's in a Name?

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Saint Michael, icon at Prince of Peace Monastery"War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it." --Revelation 12:7-9

Any brother who visits my room will find images of Saint Michael throughout: on the door, next to my bed, on the bookshelf, above my desk, and so on. Although most of these prayer cards and icons have been gifts that I’ve received since entering the Order and receiving Michael as my religious name, the fact is that I have had a great devotion to the captain of the heavenly hosts for many years.

My affinity for Saint Michael began in college, when I began to learn more about our Catholic faith and discovered that Saint Michael’s feast day -- which he now shares which the other archangels -- is on September 29, just a few days after my birthday.  Tradition teaches us that on this date, during the pontificate of Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Michael appeared to the pope in a vision. Saint Gregory was leading a penitential procession and praying for the end of a plague that was decimating the population of Rome. As he and the other pilgrims made their way across the Tiber River, suddenly the sound of an angel chorus could be heard. Saint Michael appeared above what is now known as the Castel San’Angelo, and sheathed his sword -- which was dripping with blood -- a sign that the plague was finished.

A lesser-known story says that it was on this date that Saint Michael defeated Satan, as described in the reading from the Book of Revelation above. After being cast out of heaven, the devil was hurled towards earth and finally crashed, landing on a thorny bush. The bush’s berries took on the color of the vanquished dragon’s blood, a dark violet that, at first glance, appears black. Seething and outraged, Satan cursed the bush and its blackberries. As a result, tradition holds that one should only eat blackberries harvested before this day, otherwise they will be too bitter.

Now as much as I love these stories and traditions associated with Sept. 29th, they are not my primary reason for venerating Saint Michael. The real reason I honor this archangel is because of what his name signifies. Despite the fact that “Michael” is often translated as a statement, it as actually a question – the question asked by this noble prince of heaven when Satan refused to serve and worship God. Michael means: “who is like unto God?” It is a rallying cry for the faithful, that causes the devil to tremble in fear, reminding him of that fateful day when he, in his pride, rebelled against God and lost his place among the heavenly host. At the same time, it is a reminder to all us that we must practice humility, for the answer to the question “who is like unto God?” is no one.

Let us pray, then, that Saint Michael, by the divine power of God, will help us to grow in virtue, and in humility, so that we may turn from sin and overcome the evil spirits who prowl this world seeking for the ruin of souls.

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Br. Michael James Rivera, O.P.'s picture

Surrender and Bend Low

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"Humility is one of the most difficult of virtues both to attain and to ascertain," Bl. Cardinal Newman reminds us in The Idea of a University. So how how does one grow in humility? Hear one answer in my reflection from 1st Vespers on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

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Fr. Gabriel Mosher, O.P.'s picture

The Kraken

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I’ve always feared deep waters. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lake, or an ocean. I don’t like how you can’t see the bottom. Regardless, I’ve ventured out. I’ve fished the rivers and lakes of New Mexico. I’ve swum in backyard ponds in the Midwest. I’ve even treaded water in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But no matter how many times I drown my fear of some slimy, creepy, crawly aquatic animal nibbling on my toes or making a lunch of my limbs I remain terrified. Just the thought of tipping one little toe in murky water makes me cringe. My breathing becomes labored. My skin gets clammy. I squint my eyes at the crazy person who’s asking me to put (literally!) my life and limbs in danger. I cautiously dismiss the thought that my friend, family, or fellow religious brother is trying to feed me to the Kraken.

I have a lot of these irrational fears. And, make no mistake, they are irrational (well many of them). But, unlike some people I rarely allow my fears to paralyze me. I’m always willing to try something new. Why? Well, unless my suspicions about being fed to the Kraken are correct, nothing, i.e., nobody, is going to eat me.[1] While this may be true, I still experience fear. I think it’s because there’s always the one rational fear that keeps me shaking. Sometimes, I’m really good at sabotaging myself.

As I get closer to professing Solemn Vows I’ve been thinking more and more about this shortcoming.[2] As I get closer to completing my Master’s studies, as I get closer to the reception of Holy Orders, I fear that I’ll continue to perpetuate this recurring pattern. I’m afraid that I’ll gnaw off my own limbs.

I’ve never experienced fear quite like this. But I know what’s likely at its root. I’m afraid of sabotaging myself because I really care a lot about my life as a Dominican. I don’t want to muck it all up. I want to get this right! I want to call this fear the result of love combined with enough self-knowledge to know how bad I can mess something up. But the reality is: this fear is the unruly child of pride.

I’ve been looking at this whole problem the wrong way. I have the audacity to think that my success in these things is a function of my own genius. On the contrary, success will only be attained when my heart and mind cling firmly and exclusively to God’s will. I need a stronger, more radical trust in God.

It’s become my prayer that God grant me (and each of us) this gift. I desperately need God’s help to trust in him. But, as you know, sometimes it’s hard to believe that he actually cares. My hope is that this little gift of trust will result in nothing less than a stronger love and a deeper capacity to love. I’m confident that as my trust in God increases, and as my love for God increases, my pride and fear will slink away into the depth. They’ll lose their parking space in my heart.

God will it be so! I’m just so tired of being afraid.


  1. Thank’s to Merlin Mann for this turn of phrase.  ↩

  2. As of the writing of this post there is less than one week till I profess my vows usque ad mortem.  ↩

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