Archbishop's column

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

'Before The Cross' by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Archbishop Carlson is the ninth Archbishop of Saint Louis. Listed below are the most recent columns written by Archbishop Carlson; click on the title to read the column. The Archdiocesan website has more information about Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

BEFORE THE CROSS | Faith: The act by which we believe in God and all that He has revealed


Interestingly, the first disclosure of Jesus' identity in the Gospel of Mark comes from a demon (Mark 1:21-26).

St. James makes a similar point: "You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble" (James 2:19).

Mark and James are revealing that faith -- the first of the theological virtues -- isn't just a matter of knowledge.

So, what is it? The Catechism of the Catholic Church details two key facets: "Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that He has said and revealed to us" (CCC, 1814).

BEFORE THE CROSS | Theological virtues: A gift and a task

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

It's time to shift from talking about the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance) to the theological virtues (faith, hope and love -- sometimes called charity).

Before talking about the virtues individually, it's good to keep in mind that all of them are both a gift and a task.

How so?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church points the way with an instructive parallel: "You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life" (CCC, 166). How are life and faith both a gift and a task?

BEFORE THE CROSS | Temperance: Gate-keeper between our desires and our actions

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

"Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods" ("Catechism of the Catholic Church," 1809).

This definition has two levels. On the first, we feel the pull of desire: We see the cookies, we want the cookies ... we hear the cookies calling our name!

But we don't eat the cookies because we know they aren't good for us. That's temperance. On this level, temperance acts as a gatekeeper between our desires and actions.

BEFORE THE CROSS | Fortitude: Surrendering a lesser good to preserve the greater good

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and Father Matthew O’Toole, pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, participated in a ground-breaking ceremony for the parish school’s new stand-alone middle school building.

Let's get this straight right from the start: Fortitude doesn't mean you're never afraid. Fortitude is a question of what you do when you're afraid.

And fortitude isn't the same as recklessness. The reckless man steps in front of a bus to save a penny. He lacks prudence because he gives up a greater good (life) for a lesser good (a penny). Recklessness is bravery without an accompanying measure of prudence.

BEFORE THE CROSS | Justice: Giving others their due

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

The simple definition of justice is: giving another their due (what belongs to them).

On a simple level that means if you borrow something from someone you have to give it back. On a deeper level it means giving each person the respect that is due to their human dignity. On the deepest level it means giving God our very selves -- heart and mind and soul and strength.

BEFORE THE CROSS | Prudence: Taking the good and making it the standard of action

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

This is the first in a series of columns about virtues, first the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance; followed by the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. 

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