Real Virtues? or False Virtues?
Understanding the Virtues
In today's world many of the definitions of the true virtues have been distorted, and cannibalized. So let's look at some of the more misunderstood of them.
Humility---'.....is the foundation and guardian of virtues. Jesus Christ is the ultimate definition of humility.'
'For I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.' (John 12:48-50).
The Blessed Mother had perfect humility. This was her defining virtue. She followed perfectly God's will for her. She was fully aware of her own 'littleness' before the greatness and awesomeness of God. She is our model to follow. The first effect of humility is a lowly opinion of ourselves. 'Mary had always so humble an opinion of herself, that, as it was revealed to St.. Matilda, although she saw herself enriched with greater graces than all other creatures, she never preferred herself to anyone.
Humility is the basis of all virtues. Only the humble person is capable of true love which demands total self-giving, forgetting oneself, thinking about others, and self-sacrifice. Through humility we know and acknowledge ourselves as we truly are, and accept the truth about ourselves. It is then that we can begin to effect change within our lives. The Blessed Virgin Mary's humility was a strong determination to let God work through her. What Mary did during her life was not by her own power, nor wisdom, nor planning. It was all God working through her. 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to Thy word.' (Luke 1:38). Everything she did, she did for the glory of God.
Mary's fiat when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her demonstrates her complete obedience to God' will.
'The Son of God became man for our slavation, but only in Mary and through Mary'.
---St. Louis de Montfort
Mary humbly gave herself as a servant to God. The humility of a servant consists precisely in a willingness to obey promptly. She knew that everything that comes from God is good. He knows better than any one of us what is best for us. When we look at the people placed with us and the situations that are placed before us as being there from God, it is then that we may begin to know Him and His will for us. It is then that our relationships begin to grow and flourish. It is by God working in us and through us. With Mary as our model, and our help, we begin to live our lives in obedience to the will of God, which brings right order to all relationships.
By today's standards meekness is generally seen as being shy, timid, wimpy, afraid, not confronting a situation of conflict. But meekness, as defined by the example of Jesus Christ, is quite different. Jesus did many things while He was here on earth. He performed miracles. He cured illnesses. He cured deformities. He brought people back from the dead. He expelled demons. He taught. He was constantly among the people so they would know Him. A lot of people believed, came to believe, and were converted. Some chose not to believe in Him. They were suspicious. They looked upon Him as an impediment to their way of 'living the law'. Was Jesus shy about confronting these people? No. But HOW did He confront them? By shouting? By using harsh language? By oppressing them? By threatening violence against them? Or revenge? No. He rebuked them by speaking to them and trying to teach them the error in their ways. Was this weakness in Jesus? Absolutely not! It was strength through charity. He loved them. and wanted them to know the Truth.
Being meek is not being timid. Meekness is a divine virtue. It means to be quiet when you need to be quiet, and speaking up when you should speak up. When a person is meek they have total trust in the Lord. When a person is timid, they neglect to speak up out of fear.
So lets look at this virtue of meekness in the Blessed Virgin. There is so much we could say about her, but this quote by Dominican theologian Fr. Gerald Vann tells us a lot. He says 'Mary's vocation is to wait, to suggest and respond, to be, far more than to do....and in further detail he describes:
So to Mary in her stillness comes the announcement which is to summons to both suffering and glory, and her reply is 'So be it'; and her vocation henceforth is to live and work and suffer for the fulfillment of His vocation: and she does not command or urge, she suggests: 'they have no wine'; when the time comes for Him to 'go out into the world' she retires into the background, she waits; and when at the end He needs her comfort and her strength she gives it, not by saying anything or doing anything, but by standing silent at the foot of the Cross, by being with Him.' ('The Anti-Mary Exposed', Gress, pgs. 125-126).
Think of the suffering Mary was called to endure. Did she know in the beginning what her 'yes' to the angel would entail? No, she did not. Yet she placed all her trust in the will of God. Her strength is in her meekness. Through her trust in God, knowing that whatever it was that He asked of her, she would fulfill her vocation, her state in life, for His glory. God is all good and whatever He asked of her would not only glorify Him, but would also be the best for her soul. God would give to her the graces she needed in order for her to accomplish whatever He asked of her.
'Mary's power, then, is in her complete surrender to God....Her strength is in her capacity to get her will out of the way and allow the will of her beloved Father to shine through her. The real power to bring order, love, and a true icon of God is found in the surrender.' ('The Anti-Mary Exposed', Gress, pg. 126).
Submissiveness---first, in regards to the married state
There is a mutual respect that should exist between husbands and wives, and between parents and children. God created each of us as unique individuals with our own special set of gifts and talents. These gifts and talents should be recognized and appreciated for what they are--the tools that God has given to each us in order that we may complete our part of His great plan, for Him, for His glory, and for our salvation. God has placed each of us where He wants us to be. We need only to recognize His goodness and open ourselves up to Him so that He may work within us and through us for the betterment of others.
'In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul explicitly defines the role of wives: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22, NABRE). Other translations of the Bible use the word “submissive.” Before we go on to look at his instruction to husbands, let’s first draw attention to what Paul did not say.
Paul DID NOT say wives are inferior to men.
Treating women as inferior to men is offensive to a woman’s dignity and is not in line with Catholic teaching. In his encyclical Familiaris Consortio: The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, St. John Paul the Great (Aka Pope John Paul II) explains:
In creating the human race “male and female,” God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity . . . God then manifests the dignity of women in the highest form possible, by assuming human flesh from the Virgin Mary, whom the Church honors as the Mother of God, calling her the new Eve and presenting her as the model of redeemed woman. The sensitive respect of Jesus towards the women that He called to His following and His friendship, His appearing on Easter morning to a woman before the other disciples, the mission entrusted to women to carry the good news of the Resurrection to the apostles—these are all signs that confirm the special esteem of the Lord Jesus for women.
The Lord did not create men and women to be in competition with one another over which sex is more powerful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that man and woman were both made in the image and likeness of God, and both have equal dignity (paragraph 1700). This dynamic of equality between the sexes does not change upon entering the marriage covenant. In fact, it is explicitly mentioned in the nuptial blessing: “May her husband entrust his heart to her, so that, acknowledging her as his equal and his joint heir to the life of grace, he may show her due honor and cherish her always with the love that Christ has for his Church.”
Paul DID NOT say that wives should be slaves to their husbands.
Being subordinate or submissive to your husband is not the same as being your husband’s slave. St. Ambrose says this about as bluntly as one can as he implores the men of his time: “You are not her master, but her husband: she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife. . . . Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.”
St. Paul instructs wives to be subordinate to their husbands as they are to the Lord. God has given us the free will to choose whether or not we wish to follow him. When I act virtuously, go to Mass, and pray, it is my choice to submit to what I know God wants for my life. So it is with my husband. I am not indentured to him, I choose to submit to what I know he wants for our marriage. Do I always agree? No. Is it sometimes scary to allow someone else to make important decisions that affect my life too? Yes. But I choose to submit out of love. Out of my own free will. And, maybe this would be a completely irrational decision on my part if it weren’t for what St. Paul says next in Ephesians 5:25-28.
Paul DID say: Husbands, Love your wives
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul does not leave the husbands hanging. He has instructions for them, too:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church . . . So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
How does a husband love? In his book Love and Responsibility, John Paul the Great said that man’s ability to love “depends on his willingness consciously to seek a good together with others, and to subordinate himself to that good for the sake of others, or to others for the sake of that good.” (he is speaking of “mankind” generally)
To love someone, then, is to subordinate oneself to another’s good.
So wives are to subordinate themselves to their husbands. And husbands are to love their wives, which means they are to subordinate themselves to their wives’ good. So, when I submit to what my husband wants for our marriage, I am submitting to his submission for my own good. I’m okay with that.
It is also important to note the differences between the active and passive use of the word subordinate. St. John Paul the Great writes that when two people are pursuing the same common good, not only does this make them equals, it “precludes the possibility that one of them might be subordinated to the other.” Doesn’t this conflict directly with what St. Paul instructed for wives? No, because St. Paul instructs wives to choose to subordinate themselves to their husbands. This gets back to the point above that wives are not slaves to their husbands. Their subordination is a free choice. The husband should not do anything to the wife that would cause her to “be subordinated.”
St. John Chrysostom said: You want your wife to obey you as the Church obeys Christ? Then you must care for her as much as Christ cares for the Church. Should it be necessary to die for her, to be cut into a thousand pieces, to bear any sort of suffering, you should not say no. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church.” What did Christ do for the church again? He freely gave himself over to suffer and die on the cross for our sake. Husbands, following Christ’s example, are to die to themselves for the sake of their wives.
In conclusion, St. Paul asks a lot of wives when he instructs them to be submissive to their husbands. But marriage is not a one-way street. In accepting their wives’ submission, husbands are to sacrifice everything for the benefit of their wives. Both willingly give up a part of themselves for the benefit of the other, in the efforts to seek a greater good together—eternal life in heaven.' (taken from femcatholic.com)
Submissiveness---in the single life
St. Paul uses the term submissive as meaning 'to know one's place' or to 'fall in line'. There are many opportunities for single people to submit to others. Here are some examples. Children submit to their parents because the parents, ideally, have the best interest of the child in mind. Workers submit to the authority of their boss, knowing they were hired to do a job according to the instructions of the boss. There is the voluntary submission to an idea a friend or family member might have, even though you might think, or know, that your idea might be more efficient, more economical, or more quickly accomplished. Women in the religious life submit to the instructions of the Mother Superior. As do monks in a monastery who submit to their superior, and priests of a diocese submit to the assignments of their bishop. This submissiveness is a very noble, positive and healthy discipline. It helps to encourage others and brings about a deeper humility within the soul. Submissiveness is to be accomplished with the understanding that it is for the glory of God, and to strengthen not only your own soul, but the soul of others.