The Virtues called Holiness

Saint John Henry Newman reflected upon the connection between faith, love and charity. The foundation for developing these holy characteristics is the lifting of one’s heart and mind to God. Newman notes that:

“Prayer is to the spiritual life what the beating of the pulse and the drawing of breath, are to the life of the body. It would be as absurd to suppose that life could last when a body -was cold and motionless- as to call a soul alive – which does not pray. The state or habit of spiritual life exerts itself, consists in the continual activity of prayer”. (Parochial and Plain Sermons VII, 15)

This quotation provides the background for Newman’s reflections upon the famous 1 Corinthians 13 passage about love being patient and kind not jealous or selfish and so on. Newman points out that St Paul uses the terms love and charity interchangeably. He says that they are short-hand names for “all the virtues at once…love is the condition of faith; and faith, in turn, is the cherished and maturer of love. It brings love out into works (of charity) and, therefore, is called the root (of the actions)of love” (Parochial and Plain Sermons IV, 21)

St John Henry Newman shows that, if we remain always open to be more converted to Jesus, then our religious belief will become increasingly exciting and fulfilling. It must, however, be lived out practically:

“Faith without charity is dry, harsh, and sapless; it has nothing sweet, engaging, winning, soothing; but, it was charity which brought Christ down (to become man). Charity is…another name for the Comforter. It is is the bond of things in heaven and earth.”

Responding to God’s call to be disciples that we received at our baptism, is part of the effects of this sacrament’s amazing grace.

Fr Peter Conley