In our previous article, "Charity (Love) - The Bedrock of the Theological Virtues" — we explained the definition of this supernatural virtue and how it works. Here, we will discuss why charity (agape love) is the greatest of all the virtues.
Different Types of Virtues
The Catholic faith categorizes virtues into Cardinal, Capital and Theological.
Capital Virtues. Chastity, generosity, temperance, brotherly love, meekness, humility and diligence comprise the capital virtues. They moderate our passions and overcome our temptations towards the seven deadly sins of lust, greed, gluttony, envy, anger, pride and sloth.
Cardinal Virtues. There are four cardinal virtues from which the capital virtues flow: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. As moral virtues, these cardinal and capital virtues all come from our own decisions and practice.
Theological, or Supernatural, Virtues. The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are called supernatural virtues because we only receive them as direct gifts from God at baptism. No amount of self-effort or practice of the capital and cardinal virtues can grant or develop the supernatural virtues within us. As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, charity is the greatest of the three theological virtues.
Charity Contains Them All
Jesus tells us that the first commandment is to love God with all of our being, then to love one another as we love ourselves. In other words, once we choose to act on this love, this charity, from God, we are to first direct it back to Him. Then, we are to direct it towards all other people. In so doing, we become capable of properly loving others, even those who make themselves our enemies. Sometimes, we seem to be our own enemies, particularly when we've fallen short of virtuous behavior.
However, when we love God with His gift of charity, we instantly receive the capacity to love ourselves and others for His sake. Because neither pride, hate nor indifference can spawn any virtue at all; charity surrounds, contains, connects and supports all other virtues. It is the womb from which proper knowledge and love of self and all other people is born. It provides the logic and reason, not to mention the power, for self-sacrifice.
As St. Paul tells us, "Charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." With it, all of the other virtues grow until the practice of loving others becomes second nature.
We hope you've learned a few things from our articles on the theological virtues. At Bethesda Healing Ministry, we pray to expand all of the virtues based on the faith, hope and charity we received at our baptisms. We dedicate our ministry to helping those suffering the wounds of abortion. Through our compassionate, non-judgmental programs, we offer life-saving hope to the despairing.
If you would like to learn more about Bethesda Healing Ministry, we welcome you to contact us confidentially.