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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.

"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"It is not God's will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will."
Blessed Henry Suso

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"Lord, take from me everything that hinders me from going to You. give me all that will lead me to You. Take me from myself and give me to Yourself."
St Nicholas Flue

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