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7. Circumstances of Human Acts

1. Conditions which are outside the essence of a human act and yet touch it or bear upon it, are called circumstances of the human act. Circumstances are accidentals of a human act.

2. Circumstances influence human acts (a) in point of their measuring up to their end; (b) in point of morality; (c) in point of merit and demerit. Therefore, theologians who study human conduct in its reference to God, cannot ignore circumstances, but must discuss, weigh, and judge them, to establish prudent rules for human living.

3. A convenient list of the circumstances of human acts is given by Aristotle (Ethic. iii), and is slightly emended by Cicero. This listing is a series of seven questions to be asked by one who wishes to know all the circumstances of a human act. The questions are: who, what, where, by what aids, why, how, when? Following the suggestion of these questions, we may list circumstances in this manner: (1) circumstance of person,(2) circumstance of quality of the act, (3) circumstance of place, (4) circumstance of helps or influences, (5) circumstance of intention, (6)circumstance of mode or manner, (7) circumstance of time.

4. The most notable of the circumstances are those of intention and quality of the act. The intention of the agent (doer, performer of the act) touches the essential character of a free will-act; quality of the act respects the act itself as a deed done. No other circumstances are so intimately bound up with human acts as these two.

"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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"Let no one wear a mask, otherwise he will do ill; and if he has one, let him burn it."
St Philip Neri

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"Though the path is plain and smooth for people of good will, those who walk it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty if they do not have good feet, courage, and tenacity of spirit. "
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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