Faith, hope and charity are just some of the virtues that man must cultivate in order to be considered good and worthy.

First of all, let's try to clarify what a virtue is. For this, nothing better than to resort to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, according to which virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good. We can, therefore, consider as virtues all the aspects of the human temperament that lead to the performance of good deeds, but not only. Virtues are the best part of ourselves, those components of our being that enable us to do our best in every situation.

After all, what are the theological virtues?

This tendency toward goodness translates into a tension in relation to God. The one who practices the virtues aspires to become as similar to Him as possible.

Over the centuries, men have sought to codify the virtues in different ways.

The ancient Greeks included the totality of human virtues in Arete, which included fortitude, moral vigor and physical bearing. Whoever possessed it could use all his talents. Plato, in The Republic, already lists those that would become for Christians the four cardinal virtues, that is, those capable of exercising control in the rational part of the soul over the passions: temperance, courage, wisdom, justice.

For the Romans, virtue was the disposition of the soul toward the good, toward the optimal realization of actions and ways of being. The virtuous Roman man tries to do as well as possible and to be as perfect as possible with his own natural talents and dispositions.

Philosophers of each era elaborated their interpretations of the virtues, with a consequent codification of life and man's attitude toward the world.

We, in this context, will limit ourselves to speaking of virtues from the Christian point of view, meaning by this all those attitudes and dispositions of the soul that regulate human action, ordering the passions, determining conduct, impelling man to lead a morally worthy life. He who pursues the virtues, pursues the good, consciously and determined by his will.

The pursuit of the virtues leads man to communion with God.

Cardinal Virtues

The cardinal virtues are those that we can consider as the basis of excellence in human beings. Their very name suggests to us how much they are the pillars around which the nature of the virtuous man rests. They are :

  • prudence, impelling man to control his passions and recognize the good in every situation, as well as making him understand how to perpetuate it;
  • justice, the will to give to God and others what is just and due. According to Plato, it brought harmony and balance to all the other virtues, leading man to perfection;
  • strength, what Plato called courage, which provides the fortitude necessary to pursue the other virtues and pursue the good;
  • Temperance, the urge to pursue the good and control over passions and instincts.

Intellectual virtues

These are the virtues that regulate the proper use of intelligence to perfect the intellect and bring man closer to the knowledge of religion and God. They are:

  • wisdom , the theoretical knowledge of things, thanks to which the intellect can ascend to God and the intangible;
  • science , allowing man to know the different aspects of reality in their truth and sequence, developing appropriate notions;
  • intellect, enabling man to ascend thoughts and concepts to embrace supreme realities, understanding the essentiality in everything and in every action.

Theological virtues

Let's go to the theological virtues, faith, hope and charity, the subject of this article. These are the virtues that determine the relationship between man and the divine, all three directed directly to God. The very etymology of the theological term suggests this: it derives from the Greek θεός, "God" and λόγος, "word."

They are, therefore, virtues that, starting from man, tend toward the divine, and in him they find their origin, object and reason for being. Unlike the cardinal and intellectual virtues, according to the theologians of the Church, the theological virtues cannot be obtained by human effort alone, but must be infused in man by divine grace.

As we said, there are three:

  • faith, concerning knowing God and believing in him, which leads to knowing God through revelation;
  • hope, regulating human life in relation to the Trinity, and the promise of salvation, leading to the possession of God, understood as eternal life in the light of His glory;
  • charity, the foundation of every Christian's life, the source and goal of all the other virtues, expressing love of God through love of neighbor, leading to love of God and God as the highest expression of man in life and death.

These three virtues are closely linked to each other: charity, understood as love for God, derives from faith, that is, from the revelation of God, and also from hope in eternal life brought about by the knowledge of God. 

In reality, the path along which these three virtues guide us is a path of grace and spiritual elevation, designed to lead those who undertake it to the highest expression of holiness that God can offer his children.