Tag Archives: Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

A nation’s character is found in its people

Many in the U.S. are awakening to the realization that the Christian foundations of our society have drastically eroded. A cultural war is in progress, and our families have not been immune to the process of social and moral deterioration. Sadly, Christians have often compromised their beliefs and have therefore suffered defeat on many battlegrounds. While Christianity may appear strong, it has nonetheless been undermined by insidious social, cultural, philosophical, and political forces. If we are to recapture ground that has been lost, we must understand the conflict and reassert the moral life we are called to live in Christ Jesus. To be victorious, we need to live heroic virtue.

The Christian moral life is one that seeks to cultivate and practice virtue. “A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself” (CCC,1803). Saint Paul insists that we do, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8).

Cultivating Virtue

Virtues are attitudes, dispositions or character traits that enable us to be and to act nobly. Developed through learning, daily practice, and self-discipline, virtues become habits. They guide our conduct according to the dictates of faith and reason, leading us toward an authentic freedom based on self-control and toward joy in living a good moral life. Their practice supports moral behavior, controls passions, and avoids sin.

There is a reciprocal relationship between virtue and acts. Virtue disposes us to act in morally good ways, and by doing good acts, the virtue within us is strengthened and grows. A person who develops a consistent pattern of virtuous behavior has the power to transform lives beyond his own. His moral integrity, thus, influences and affects the lives and actions of others – being light, salt, and leaven.

There is also a correlation between the moral life and what we experience today in society. A person’s character traits and moral foundation, because they are not developed in isolation, are deeply affected by the values of the community, by the personality traits the community encourages, by the teaching and role models the community puts forth for imitation and by the structures of influence, i.e., education, social media, laws, government, and the entertainment industry. The moral life, then, is not simply a matter of following moral rules and of learning to apply them to specific situations. Rather, the moral life is a matter of trying to determine the kind of people we should be and attending to the development of character within our communities, ourselves, and future generations.

Samuel Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, understood the importance of virtue in shaping the moral character of the nation and its people, as well as its preservation:

“A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy… While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtues, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader… If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved.”

We are engaged in a great battle, and much is at stake. To recapture the moral influence of Christianity in our culture, which benefits ourselves, our communities, and future generations, we must put on the armor of the Lord Jesus Christ and live heroic virtue.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International www.hli.org and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

Advent, Mother Teresa, Holy Family

FR. SHENAN BOQUET writes that Blessed Mother Teresa will inspire you this Advent . . .

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Blessed Mother Teresa’s tendency to offer quotes of spiritual genius offers timeless inspiration. In all the good she did, it was her faithful disposition that led her to accomplish great things for God’s glory.

Her willingness to help those suffering physical poverty, regardless of race or creed, clearly demonstrates “love for neighbor,” as demanded by biblical and Church teaching. Yet her greatest gift was her concern for people’s spiritual poverty. How can we acquire such a disposition in light of our own obstacles and sufferings?

Perhaps the holy woman of Calcutta simply placed herself where material and spiritual poverty knew no bounds. Picture the dramatic scene in Bethlehem. Joseph, keen to protect and provide for his expectant wife finally reaches his destination. The couple desperately seeks lodging after a long, weary journey on a road rife with dangers.

When a shelter is finally discovered, it’s just a very simple dwelling — a drafty, dank, dark and pungent cave surrounded by curious creatures. To make matters worse, what comfort could a feeding trough — a mere shallow and empty depression used to nourish livestock with food or water — provide for a swaddled newborn babe?

Imagine the holy couple amid such great difficulty, completely dependent on God, trusting in him to provide for their material and spiritual needs. History’s greatest accomplishment is delivered in the nativity, God’s gift of salvation through the joyous birth of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Even in the face of suffering, discomfort, and uncertainty, the greatest of deeds can be accomplished — just as the greatest of gifts can be unwrapped. This scripture passage presents God’s disposition for unveiling his eternal gift of salvation through the incarnation: “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

This is precisely why, in the humblest of settings, God’s works are accomplished completely through the desired dependence and disposition that the holy couple possessed. How to embrace such a disposition toward God is best explained by Mother Teresa: “Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your own weakness.”

Life’s many obstacles are best overcome with complete dependence on God. Likened to the trough of the nativity scene, God cradles all of our material and spiritual needs in the most humbling and mysterious of ways when we empty ourselves. Following in the holy footsteps of St. Joseph and Our Blessed Mother, we too must embrace the cradle of a greater poverty of spirit, an impetus for an intimate and life-saving prayer life.

Such transformation allows God to fully maximize any talent, ability, wealth, reputation, influence and achievement to bring about great accomplishments for his kingdom. As Mother Teresa cautions, “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to his voice in the depth of our hearts.”

In this season of anticipation, joy, and wonder, consider for a moment the disposition we should have toward God, the giver of all gifts. Are we allowing ourselves to be emptied, addressing the temporal and spiritual poverty of our neighbor  — like Mother Teresa and the Holy Family — through our personal and professional lives?

I strive to live this very disposition in serving the Lord and his Church — my neighbor — as priest. The Lord continues to inspire me to exercise this disposition to accomplish great deeds in his vineyard in my current role as president of Human Life International. Such wondrous transformation brings about great accomplishments as seen in this admirable Catholic and educational apostolate. Throughout HLI’s 40-year mission, we have worked to encourage the faithful to embrace a disposition toward God and neighbor, following his will to cultivate, sustain and build a Culture of Life around the world in defense of life and family.

Perhaps this final pearl of wisdom from Mother Teresa will be an inspiration for your own disposition: “It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.”

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La.