In our popular culture, a lot of people think of religion as a duty, as a series of do’s and don’t’s. In fact, it’s a whole way of life – a relationship that brings us joy. All relationships require discipline, sacrifice, and commitment. Virtues provide this, helping us move along a path to grow and deepen our relationship with Him.
A virtue is a good habit. We were made by God for what is good, beautiful and true, so our heart instinctively desires these traits. When we follow the virtues, our hearts are free and unfettered.
Yet, in today’s world, we find it hard to discover this truth. Society often suggests that freedom is in the ability to engage in vice, the opposite of virtue. This is a wrong notion of freedom. Vices are also habits, but they enslave people in addictive actions that are not good for them or the world. So we become less and less free when we do not follow a life of virtue.
To create individuals who live a freeing life of virtue, it’s important to consider the family, where real culture exists. The family is where we learn to walk upright in the Lord and learn responsibility for one another. We learn to forgive one another, to support one another, to pray for one another. Teaching virtues within the family allows the entire family to grow spiritually and become virtuous.
Teaching virtue at school is also important. As disciples of Christ, we have the opportunity to prepare young people for the larger world, which can often be very different from the home where they were raised.
Every one of us is called by Jesus to follow Him. We have to open ourselves to act in ways that are good, true, and beautiful. He gives us the grace to do that, so the life of virtue begins to be something we really want to do.
In this conversion we recognize, “This isn’t easy. This is difficult.” The effort that is required can be much longer and more arduous than we thought it would be in the beginning. The struggle allows us to see why it is also difficult for others to follow the path.
The great thing about being a follower of Jesus is that it is an engagement of our whole person.
We were created to live forever in Heaven, and we were created to live as full human beings. God is always giving us graces to help that journey, but we have to put in our own effort. That is where virtue comes in. Traveling the path involves this combination of the use of our own freedom and the acceptance of God’s grace within us. As we become more mature, we rejoice in realizing that we are actually able to be what we would desire to be in the Heart of Hearts.