Virtues are a way to reflect on the light of Christ at Advent

Advent is a time to direct our hearts and minds to the birth of Christ. In this season, we give thanks for our blessings and grow in our relationship with God. As we reflect on the new life in Christ, we look at Advent as a time of new beginnings and renewed hope.

I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God transforms inner poverty into beautiful virtues

The readings for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time demonstrate the power that gratitude and thanksgiving have in our lives.

In the first reading, a Gentile, Naaman the leper, comes to Elisha, the Lord's prophet, for healing. Naaman was a man of considerable means and had servants at his disposal. Leprosy was a profound embarrassment for him. Even more embarrassing, Elisha refused to come out to meet Naaman, to lay hands on him and pray with him.

I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Focus on making virtuous choices in life

Since we are a people covenanted to the Lord, the readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time spell out the everlasting consequences of our everyday decisions, whether good or bad.

In the first reading, the Lord clearly speaks to His chosen people, "Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!"

BEFORE THE CROSS | Charity: Way by which we love God and our neighbor

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson led Easter Vigil services at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. He blessed the water in the baptismal font before six people were baptized into the Catholic faith. Five others were received into full communion with the Church through the sacrament of confirmation.

"Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822).

When the topic is the theological virtue of love (charity), we might think of how we give love to others. That's a good thing; but I want to draw our attention to the paradoxical truth that the most fruitful human activity is to receive the love of God.

How could that possibly be the case?

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 | 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.

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