Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 15, 1872 when the first baptism was recorded at St. Peter's Church, New Britain. The child's name was, Joseph Graff.
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fr joe right thingQ: Dear Fr. Joe: I get really discouraged about doing the right thing. I never mean to be mean or disrespectful and yet I keep finding myself falling into it  how do I act like the person I want to be? I try so hard.

A: My heart breaks as I read your email. I have some recollection of those days — lots of regret, lots of guilt, lots of passion I simply struggled to control. I invite you to take joy and hope from the fact that you are not alone and that only people who care about doing what is right fret about their inability to do so. God is moving in you — take courage.

I want to share a quote with you from someone who had the same problem:

I do not understand myself, for I do not do what I want to do, but I do what I hate … I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. I do not do the good I want but I do the evil I do not want.

Now, who said such a thing? St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. The guy with “Saint” in front of his name. The guy who wrote a majority of the New Testament. The guy we call “the Apostle.” That guy got frustrated with his own sin and his tendency to choose sin over virtue.

In the end, he found comfort in a couple things: first, that all of these struggles can serve to remind him of his utter dependence on God. That can keep us from pride. Second, St. Paul recognized that, even in his sin, God could and still did use him. Jesus’ victory over sin is so great that he meets us at both ends of it and in the middle: he forgives our sins and can use that forgiveness we seek to help us become more humble and more holy.

Beyond looking at the role of God’s forgiveness for our sin and his victory over it, I’m going to offer you a way we can let God free us from the pattern of our sin, so that we are progressing in our walk with the Lord. To do so, we need to look at virtue. Doing so can move us from the abstract “do good” to a concrete vision of what goodness is and looks like. So, I’m going to share with you three things: the name of each of the seven heavenly virtues, what those virtues look like and the deadly sin they counter.

 

Seven Heavenly Virtues

Virtue: Humility

What that virtue looks like:

  • “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” — C.S. Lewis
  • Putting others first. Not drawing attention to yourself and what you do. Recognizing that all you have comes from God.

Sin: Pride

Virtue: Chastity

What that virtue looks like:

  • Holding fast to our knowledge that we are children of God and that our body is a temple. Other people do not exist for my sexual gratification. Not reducing other people to things I must have.

Sin: Lust

Virtue: Patience/Forgiveness

What that virtue looks like:

  • Enduring situations and/or people with dignity and a good spirit. A sense of peaceful stability and harmony. Giving the wounds other people have inflicted on us to God and asking Him to forgive them.

Sin: Wrath

Virtue: Kindness

What that virtue looks like:

  • Compassion and friendship for others, empathy without prejudice for its own sake. The refusal to do harm to others.

Sin: Envy

Virtue: Temperance

What that virtue looks like:

  • Restraint. Constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings. Self-control, moderation, delayed gratification. The proper response at the proper time.

Sin: Gluttony

Virtue: Charity

What that virtue looks like:

  • Generosity, self-sacrifice, loving with our actions, giving of ourselves.

Sin: Greed

Virtue: Diligence

What that virtue looks like:

      • Giving all we have in that which we are given to do. Strong work ethic. Not giving up on our tasks because they are challenging. Using our time well and being on guard against laziness.

Sin: Sloth

 

Now, you’ve got this list and I’ll show you how I use it:

First, cut the list out or copy it.

Second, read the list slowly and carefully, asking God to help you pick one (not two or more, just one!). Take your time on this. Clear your head. Don’t “run ahead” of God and decide which one you want to go after, wait for his voice in your heart to show you. When you feel that you’ve got the one you are to go after, write it down and carry it with you. Pray every day that God will strengthen that virtue within you. Ask God to bless you as you pursue it.

Next, make sure that each day you practice the virtue in some practical concrete way.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Do this every day and realize two things:

One, sin is rarely, if ever finished in us. I don’t know that any of us will get to a point where we can say that we have safely put a sin behind us. Be vigilant!

Two, Don’t give up. Never, ever give up. God will not give up on you. When you fall, if you fall, get right to confession. Tell the priest what you are doing with these virtues and wait for the mercy and grace to come pouring down.

I pray that God blesses your efforts and that you find great life and joy in taking these first steps toward becoming a saint.

Enjoy another day in God’s presence.