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Learning the Virtues
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Learning the Virtues > Virtues - Nature of Virtue, Truthfulness, Acceptance, Patience

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Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 538 comments Quotes from Guardini relating to each chapter:

The Nature of Virtue - "It is from the eternal goodness of God that moral enlightenment comes into the soul of the receptive man." (Pg. 9)

Truthfulness - "He who holds to the truth holds to God." (Pg. 22)

Acceptance - Guardini's quote from the bible: "If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Pg. 34)

Patience - "Patience is man in the process of becoming, with a true understanding of himself." (Pg. 44)


Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 538 comments I never thought about the possibility of a virtue being constraining until I read the first chapter. But it makes sense, the example of orderliness taken in the extreme can become an obsessive compulsive problem. Even charity taken to the extreme can be detrimental, causing neglect to self and family. I think Pope Francis mentioned something about this in "The Joy of Love".

I especially liked Guardini's comments about truthfulness in that it "must be accompanied by tact and kindness". Too many people, including myself, forget the tact and kindness part. The chapter on acceptance was also good. He says that accepting yourself and your destiny brings freedom. How true that is, because beating your head against the wall is not freedom. Sometimes acceptance can be very difficult, just when I think I have accepted something I can doubt it all over again.

Guardini's story about the impatient Indian god, Shiva, destroying the world, shows us how patient our God is. With all of the horrible things that mankind does, God is still patient. It is love beyond our understanding.


message 3: by Galicius (last edited Jul 20, 2016 07:42AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Galicius | 466 comments Notes on “The Nature of Virtue” Chapter

Guardini tells us a bit further in the book that he tried to “remove from the concept of virtue the narrow, moralistic tone that it has acquired in the course of time” (p. 35). I sensed that is what happened when reading Louis de Granada’s “Sinner’s Guide”, published in 1556. Granada does not even define the concept of Virtue except to tell us “God being essentially goodness and beauty, there is nothing more pleasing to Him than virtue” (Chapter 1). It’s a central idea and focus for Granada and he uses the word 142 times in his Guide and describes at length Virtue’s privileges and motives for practicing it and advises how to practice it.

I wonder why the meaning of “Virtue” became so “watered down” and acquired a negative association since Granada’s time. I am wiling to bet it had something to do with the changes regarding the Church and religion that took place since sixteenth century to our time. Hillaire Belloc deals with these changes at length in his “The Great Heresies” written in the 1930’s. Belloc sees “a contempt and hatred for virtue” in his time. He sees the main character of the times as “materialist and atheist” (“The Modern Phase” chapter).

I like the way Guardini defines virtue by example using “orderliness”, how he looks at it from both sides--both necessary--and develops the idea at some length to get to the first author from Whom “every order of existence depends”. (p. 9) I am looking forward to his getting into his promise of providing help “in the practical conduct of our own life.” (p. 11)


Manny (virmarl) | 4084 comments Mod
"Orderliness becomes an attitude of his whole life, a disposition which prevails everywhere and determines not only his personal actions but even his surroundings, so that his whole environment acquires a quality of clarity and reliability."

Yikes! What a stab to my heart. I am one of the most disorderly persons around! My desk and office at work has papers strewn everywhere. I better shape up. ;)


Kerstin | 1482 comments Mod
A thought occurred to me: order and randomness aren't mutually exclusive. Take a look at nature. All the sand on a beach may be randomly strewn and moved about, but each sand grain is highly ordered to its mineral and molecular structure. Same goes for trees in forests. They may grow randomly wherever the seed fell and sprouted, but as organisms they are highly ordered according to their natures. There is a deep orderliness here despite the random arrangements.


Christine in BoMass, USA | 48 comments Kerstin wrote: "A thought occurred to me: order and randomness aren't mutually exclusive. Take a look at nature. All the sand on a beach may be randomly strewn and moved about, but each sand grain is highly ordere..."

I did not get this either. I even double checked if orderliness is one of the 7 virtues and it is not. Why is orderliness in this book? Did I miss something?

God has created both order and chaos, in fact the laws of physics dictate that things go from a state or order to a state of chaos and it takes work to change it back again.

I am going to stick with it, but so far I am not digging this book.


Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 538 comments Although orderliness is not one of the seven virtues, it can be a virtue. I think when Guardini was using orderliness as an example of virtue he was trying to set up the definition of what a virtue is in his first chapter on “The Nature of Virtue”. Galicius makes some comments about this in his post. Without order, efforts in obtaining the virtues would be difficult. Guardini sums up the definition of virtue using order on page 11:

“We see that what we have called the “virtue of order,” which at first appeared so commonplace, reaches ever deeper, becomes more and more inclusive and finally ascends to God Himself – and descends from Him to men. This concatenation is what the word virtue means.”

I am glad that so many comments were made about order, it caused me to go back and reread this first chapter, because I don’t think I read it carefully or fully grasped it the first time around.


Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 538 comments Galicius wrote: "Notes on “The Nature of Virtue” Chapter

Guardini tells us a bit further in the book that he tried to “remove from the concept of virtue the narrow, moralistic tone that it has acquired in the cour..."


Galicius makes some interesting comments about virtue and how it’s meaning have become watered down. I would agree with those thoughts. When we were reading “The Interior Castle” by Teresa of Avila, the subject of learning more about the virtues came up in our discussion. So I purchased and read Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s book “The Virtue Driven Life”. In the introduction to his book he says: “Virtue has become a forgotten word. Today if someone says to you, “Oh, she’s very virtuous,” it is not likely to be seen as a compliment.” He also goes on to say “Virtuous is often used in a sarcastic, cynical way by those who have no regard for virtue themselves and criticize it in others.”

I also find it interesting that both Guardini and Groeschel place part of the blame upon Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the German philosopher, for “devaluing” the virtues. Guardini says the following about Kant on page 3: “….ethics, which under the rule of Kant had petrified and become merely a doctrine of duties…”. In Groeschel’s book, “The Virtue Driven Life”, he goes into more detail with his opinion on Kant’s influences: “Immanuel Kant, relying on pure reason, sought to avoid giving values to things, at least in his most influential work. You may think that one thing is good; another person may think something else is good. Nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong.” Groeschel also states “But Kant’s interpretation of the process of knowing is a dangerous point of view. It took into account neither right nor wrong.”


message 9: by Gerri (new) - added it

Gerri Bauer (gerribauer) | 210 comments Guardini has made me realize how much virtue - as others have noted - isn't a component of the typical modern life. I think many people conflate the concept with "values" nowadays, and deem that an acceptable substitute. But a person can have certain values and still not be virtuous. Guardini notes on page 9 how virtue descends to us from God, and even then we have to master our virtue "to attain to the freedom of the image of God."

Guardini prods us (me) about Truthfulness, Acceptance, and Patience. "...I must not disregard my own reality, must not deceive myself, but must be true in dealing with myself. But how difficult that is, and how deplorable our state if we honestly examine ourselves!" (page 19) Yet we must examine ourselves because only in the light of truth will we understand what we have to accept, both externally as in situations/circumstances that can't be changed, and internally as in our weaknesses. - although that doesn't mean we won't strive to better ourselves. To accept requires patience (page 39). I've more than once told others "patience is a virtue I lack," so I know where I'll be expending some effort. :)

One thing left me questioning. Not quite sure what Guardini means when he says "what brings us security also endangers us" (pages 27-28). He leads into it after a section about having to accept both our strengths and weaknesses; possibilities and limitations.

(Happy to finally keep up with the reading schedule and join the conversation!)


Kerstin | 1482 comments Mod
Christine.Conloncomcast.Net wrote: "I did not get this either. I even double checked if orderliness is one of the 7 virtues and it is not. Why is orderliness in this book? Did I miss something?"

The seven virtues we normally encounter also encompass other attributes or "contributing" virtues.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_v...
(I also posted this link in the introduction section)

What I see Guardini doing is laying out how many aspects or contributing virtues have to come together so we can get a comprehensive understanding of virtue.


Manny (virmarl) | 4084 comments Mod
Great discussion. If I may project into Guardini's citing of orderliness, I think he is saying that an orderly person reflect's God's order in the universe:

"Virtue is also a matter of our attitude toward the world. How does a person in whom the feeling of order has become effective view the world? He observes that everything in it is "ordered according to measure, number and weight," as Scripture says (Wisd: 11:20). He knows that nothing that nothing happens by chance and that everything has a meaning and connection. He rejoices at the sight of order. He may think, for instance, of the cosmology of the Pythagoreans, who equated the laws of the cosmos with those of musical harmony and said that what guided the course of events was the sound of Apollo's lyre." (p.6-7)

It never occurred to me that my disorderly desk was disturbing God's orderly plan!


Manny (virmarl) | 4084 comments Mod
Susan Margaret wrote: "Galicius wrote: "Notes on “The Nature of Virtue” Chapter

Guardini tells us a bit further in the book that he tried to “remove from the concept of virtue the narrow, moralistic tone that it has acq..."


I remember hearing Fr. Groeschel on TV say that every little thing in the universe and our lives has meaning. Nothing is random to God. That has always stuck with me.


Manny (virmarl) | 4084 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "A thought occurred to me: order and randomness aren't mutually exclusive. Take a look at nature. All the sand on a beach may be randomly strewn and moved about, but each sand grain is highly ordere..."

Yes, it is only random to our human perception.


Manny (virmarl) | 4084 comments Mod
One other observation that caught my attention in those early chapters was the distinction Guardini makes between man and the animal world when it comes to virtue. He makes it a couple of times, but here's a key passage:

"An animal is essentially in harmony with itself. More accurately, for the animal the question does not exist. It is naturally adapted to its environment just as it is and is absorbed in it. That is why it gives us the impression of "naturalness." It is exactly as it must be according to its nature and the surrounding conditions.

Man's situation is different. He is not absorbed in his own being and environment. He can depart from himself and think about himself. He can judge himself and can raise his desires above what he is to that which he would like to be or should be. Indeed, he can lift himself in fancy to the impossible. So there arises a tension between his actual being and his desires, which may become a principle of growth insofar as he keeps before him in his striving an image of himself, which he seeks to overtake with that which he really is. But the tension may also cause a harmful split, a flight from one's own reality, a fantasy existence which disregards the given possibilities and also the threatening dangers. This is what is meant when we said that all effective moral striving must begin with a man's sincere acceptance of existence as it is." (. 26-7)

That's a really key passage. I think I had in my mind that one must rise above our naturalness to arrive at virtue. Guardini seems to be saying the opposite, that naturalness is the state of virtue, which we have to re-attain. Do others read that the same?


message 15: by Mike (last edited Jul 22, 2016 10:12AM) (new) - added it

Mike I loved the fact that he started with “Truthfulness” as a cornerstone among the virtues. He presents it in such eloquently simple terms – always speak the truth in both word and action. I am sure that many people, such as myself, were gearing up for an extended philosophical discussion and Guardini simply says “tell the truth” with consideration. The simplicity is beautiful.

Since many of us just finished the Pope’s book on marriage, I cannot help but wonder how much better the state of marriage would be if each partner had developed a deep practice of truthfulness prior to and continuing on onto marriage. Actually, the same could probably be said about all of the virtues.


message 16: by Galicius (last edited Jul 23, 2016 07:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Galicius | 466 comments I second Manny that this is turning out to be a great discussion, thanks to everyone.

The “Patience” chapter, unlike the previous one “Acceptance”, lends itself to an easy overview of the argument. To remove the negative attitude about the meaning of “patience” when viewed in a narrow moralistic tone Guarnieri proposes to consider how patient our creator is and to ask the question that is unanswerable to us on earth “Why did God create” the world? Guarnieri offers the myth of Shiva, an impatient god, to show how different God the creator’s relationship is to the world and how He is absolutely patient. Man should take up God’s work “with understanding, feeling and love”. (p. 37) But as it is man is impatient. The animal world does not know impatience. We must accept what comes to us and earn to live with patience. “Mature, responsible life begins with our accepting people as they are.” (p. 40) This includes being patient with ourselves. Guarnieri acknowledges that the greatest spirits were dissatisfied and disgusted with themselves. That is a necessary quality for self-criticism and moral development. Self-control is the way to “keep a firmer hold on ourselves, become more quiet in speaking, more prudent in action”. (p. 40) Consciousness of self-moderation, restraint of our actions, begins the slow process of our moral growth. Patience begins again and again—“Semper incipe”—a phrase Thomas a Kempis used. Faust was above all impatient. Guarnieri focuses further on the definition of patience and compares it to color and sound and how there is no pure color or pure tone but combinations of other colors and overtones. Patience similarly is not possible without wisdom, understanding, great strength, love, living it, working out the tensions. Shiva the impatient and foolish one did not have the wisdom to hold the world. Guarnieri ends the chapter with a prayer asking God to have patience with us and to grant us patience.


Kerstin | 1482 comments Mod
Manny wrote: "Guardini seems to be saying the opposite, that naturalness is the state of virtue, which we have to re-attain. Do others read that the same?"

Yes. I thought this very interesting as well.
For instance, lying is the unnatural state, saying the truth the natural. Stealing this the unnatural state, being honest the natural. etc., etc.
Isn't this where our hearts naturally want to be?


Christine in BoMass, USA | 48 comments I must be the only one not getting this book. Not that I am not learning from it, however it does not meet my expectations so I find myself re-reading a lot to ensure I get Guardini's meaning.

In the chapter on Truthfulness (again, not a formal virtue) it says on pg 14 that 'Those who exercise violence have no right to demand the truth.'. We could argue that they have no right to demand it, however they are in desperate need of it, because if they had it, they would not be violent. The actions of Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, and others were targeted on just that: getting the violent to see the truth.

A lot of text is focused on what is truth. God is truth. Jesus told Pilot so. We can all have, in all sincerity our versions of the truth, however only God has the one truth.

I really appreciated the chapters on Acceptance and Patience because I see these as going hand in hand, and it is in these where my biggest struggles lie. In Seeds of Contemplation Thomas Merton discusses helping and identifying with the poor. He talks about feeding them, living with them, but also the challenge of their knowing and acceptance that God has will that their lives be this way. Now that is acceptance and patience. I find this very helpful when I think about my struggles and brokenness and reflect on these being God's will for me.

I am going to read up on Guardini to help me get a better understanding of where he is coming from as the focus of this book are not the established Virtues we were all taught as children.


message 19: by Kerstin (last edited Jul 25, 2016 07:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kerstin | 1482 comments Mod
Christine.Conloncomcast.Net wrote: "'Those who exercise violence have no right to demand the truth.

Guardini lived through Nazi Germany. In the sentences preceding he speaks of truthfulness in context with totalitarianism,

"Special problems arise from circumstances such as we have known in the past and still meet today, when a totalitarian tyranny places all under compulsion and permits no personal convictions. Then man is perpetually on the defensive."

Then he continues,

"Those who exercise violence have no right to demand the truth, and they know that they cannot expect it."

When you then connect this with what he says later, the picture becomes a little clearer.

"The hideous manifestation of tyranny occurs when a man's conscience and consciousness of truth are broken, so that he is no longer able to say, "This is so ... this is not so." Those who bring this about - in political and judicial affairs, or elsewhere - should realize clearly what they are doing: they are depriving man of his humanity." (p.20)

Truthfulness is intimately connected with conscience and consciousness. When man is denied his innate right to conscience, then he is also deprived of his humanity. Why? Because the compulsory aspect of any enforced ideology robs man of his free will.


Manny (virmarl) | 4084 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "Manny wrote: "Guardini seems to be saying the opposite, that naturalness is the state of virtue, which we have to re-attain. Do others read that the same?"

Yes. I thought this very interesting as ..."

When you put it that way, I would agree with Guardini. But is courage a natural state? Or self preservation? Is patience a natural state? Maybe, maybe not. Is asceticism a natural state? Probably not. Some virtues seem to fit his model and some don't.


Manny (virmarl) | 4084 comments Mod
Christine.Conloncomcast.Net wrote: "I must be the only one not getting this book. Not that I am not learning from it, however it does not meet my expectations so I find myself re-reading a lot to ensure I get Guardini's meaning.

In ..."

Christine, I was going to bring up something like your comment when we got to Justice. His chapter on Justice seems like a confused mess to me. I really can't make heads or tails out of that chapter.


Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 538 comments The information below from rosary-center.org, ( http://www.rosary-center.org/ll46n3.htm ) may help clear up some questions about natural virtues:

VIRTUES: ACQUIRED AND INFUSED
The supernatural virtues that come with sanctifying grace are called infused, to distinguish them from the natural virtues that are acquired. ACQUIRED virtues are good habits that we acquire through repeated effort on our part to do what is right, such as the habit of telling the truth (veracity), the habit of putting up with trying situations (patience), the habit of moderation in the taking of food and drink (temperance), etc.

The building up of the acquired habits does not come without persevering effort, for they require a going against the selfish inclinations of our fallen nature. But as one progresses in the acquiring of these good habits, they bring a certain readiness and facility in the performance of those individual virtues.

We can better understand the supernatural infused virtues by way of contrast with the natural acquired virtues:

While, as we saw, the NATURAL VIRTUES are acquired and strengthened by repeated acts, the SUPERNATURAL VIRTUES are infused into the soul by God along with sanctifying grace and grow with sanctifying grace.

NATURAL VIRTUES dispose the faculties to follow the dictates or commands of reason, while SUPERNATURAL VIRTUES dispose the faculties to follow reason illuminated by faith.

NATURAL VIRTUES are lost by non-use, or by repeated acts contrary to the virtue; SUPERNATURAL VIRTUES, on the contrary, are lost (along with sanctifying grace) through mortal sin.

NATURAL VIRTUES increase the ease with which good actions are performed, whereas SUPERNATURAL VIRTUES do not increase the facility of action, but give the supernatural capacity to perform actions that are meritorious of heaven. No matter how much we have advanced in natural acquired virtues, they bring no supernatural benefit without the infused virtues to make their acts meritorious.

The mature Christian, therefore, has two sets of moral virtues, specifically different from each other, one natural and acquired, the other supernatural and infused. For example, the acquired virtue of temperance causes us to use moderation directed by reason in the avoidance of all excesses calculated to harm the health of the body and the exercise of our mental faculties; while the infused virtue of temperance rises higher and disposes us, under the direction of faith, to discipline our bodies by fasting and abstinence for a closer union with Christ in His redemptive sacrifice.


Christine in BoMass, USA | 48 comments Kerstin wrote: "Christine.Conloncomcast.Net wrote: "I did not get this either. I even double checked if orderliness is one of the 7 virtues and it is not. Why is orderliness in this book? Did I miss something?"

T..."


Thank you. I did some homework reading up on the author Guardini and now that I have more context about him and when he lived, I am understanding his meaning better.

English is a dynamic and living language. Words change meaning, new words are invented, and some words fall out of usage. I think this might be the case for Guiardini's meaning of Virtue.


Christine in BoMass, USA | 48 comments Kerstin wrote: "Christine.Conloncomcast.Net wrote: "'Those who exercise violence have no right to demand the truth.

Guardini lived through Nazi Germany. In the sentences preceding he speaks of truthfulness in con..."


The Nazi's were worshiping a false God and thereby following a false truth. They and those like them need God's truth more than anybody. If they 'have not right' for truth, how are they going to change? That was my point.


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