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56. The Subject of Virtue

1. Virtue belongs to the soul; it is a perfection of a power of the soul, whether intellect or will. Virtue is a true habit, and we have already seen that the proper subject of habits in a living being is the life principle.

2. One and the same virtue cannot be in a plurality of powers. For creatural virtue is, like every habit, a quality, an accidental, and no accidental can be individually and identically in a plurality of subjects. Thus a moral virtue, such as obedience, is in the will and not in any other power. The intellect indeed has knowledge of the duty of obedience and of how to exercise it; this knowledge is not the virtue of obedience, but a condition required for the exercise of obedience.

3. Virtue is called a habit of reason. Reason is, primarily, the thinking mind; yet it includes the will when there is question of practical reasoning. To say that virtue is a habit of reason is merely to say that it is a habit that belongs to a power of the soul. The mind, the intellect, has its virtues; so has the will.

4. Since the concupiscible and irascible appetites are essentially of the sentient order, they are not subjects of virtue. Yet in man these appetites rise quickly into the intellective order, being admitted there by the will. Inasmuch as the appetites participate the order of reason, they may constitute virtues. Thus fortitude, which stands up to extremes of pain and danger, is a virtue of the irascible order, although it comes to full perfection as a will-virtue, a moral virtue. And temperance, as tendency to use material goods in due measure, is of the concupiscible order, although in full perfection as a virtue, it belongs to the will.

5. All virtues are either intellectual (that is, of the order of understanding) or moral (that is, of the order of will). As we have just noted, the virtues of the appetites are reduced to moral virtues. The sentient knowing powers are not subjects of virtues; although they may be used in aid of moral or intellectual virtues; thus a person may preserve the virtue of purity by habitually imagining, in moments of temptation, the actual presence of our Lord or the Blessed Virgin.

6. Habit perfects an acting power. The will is an acting power. Hence the will has habits. In so far as these are good habits and perfect the power by which a man directs his responsible life, they are virtues. Thus the will has virtues. They are known as moral virtues.

"Spiritual persons ought to be equally ready to experience sweetness and consolation in the things of God, or to suffer and keep their ground in drynesses of spirit and devotion, and for as long as God pleases, without their making any complaint about it."
St Philip Neri

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"A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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