Tag Archives: virtue

The Virtue of Hope: How Confidence in God Can Lead You to Heaven

Fr. Philip Bochanski
TAN Books, 226 pages

Baptism infuses the Christian with the gift of faith, but there are two other theological virtues –hope and love – also bestowed – and often neglected. Fr. Philip Bochanski focuses on hope, which seems in short supply amid the relentless procession of bad-news headlines, the epidemic of depression, and other tribulations of today’s world. Hope, he points out, directs us to our ultimate goal of heaven and lends us the necessary strength and endurance to reach that goal. Stressing relationships, he uses the lives of saintly people to illustrate how humility, vocation, and recognizing our utter dependence upon God are the pathways for exercising this virtue.

Order: Amazon 

Man Virtues: What the Hell Am I Doing with My Life?

Robert P. Lockwood
Our Sunday Visitor, 144 pages

When Bob Lockwood passed away in March of this year, he left behind a legacy of wisdom reflected in newspaper columns he had written over his long career as an editor and publisher. His musings on his Old Man, his Catholic upbringing, living a mature faith, and the folly of the American League’s designated-hitter rule are timeless and legendary. He was an exponent on men’s spirituality before it became trendy. This book captures that Lockwood magic as he offers real-life advice for men on living the cardinal and theological virtues — which, as he points out, is ultimately the way to true happiness.


Order: Amazon

On the virtue a philanthropist needs

Suppose a virtuous man inherits a large sum of money. Formerly he lived hand-to-mouth, with only enough cash to meet his daily needs. But he was virtuous in how he used his money, giving or lending when appropriate; not hoarding; not wasting. In this daily use of money, the virtue which came into play was “generosity” (or “liberality,” as it was traditionally called). But now, after he has received his large inheritance, he can easily spend money on a grand scale. He can buy and decorate a house, for instance, or build a church. Are there right and wrong ways of doing this, of spending money on a grand scale? If so, does he need to acquire a new virtue, or is his old virtue of “generosity” enough?

These questions probably sound odd to you. But they were natural for St Thomas Aquinas to ask. He viewed virtues as powers which enabled someone to act well with regard to certain classes of things, in specific circumstances. So it was natural to ask if a virtue which was sufficient in small matters carried over into large matters – as if someone were to ask, suppose I can drive a small car, will that same skill enable me to drive a large truck?

In the case at hand, St. Thomas followed Aristotle and held that, yes, there is a distinct virtue which we specifically need when we are spending money on a grand scale, which is called “magnificence.” Like every virtue, magnificence finds the mean between an error involving excess and an error involving deficiency. When we go to excess in a grand expenditure, we err through “extravagance”; when we are deficient in some way, we err through “niggardliness” or “penny-pinching.

The standard of rightness is different in large expenditures. In the small expenditures of daily life, what matters in our use of money is basically captured by the concept of a budget. We should not spend money that we do not have, or spend money on something not proportionate to its importance and value. Whether it was right to spend $50 on a bottle of wine depends upon rules which involve analogies and comparisons (if $20 for an 88-point wine makes sense, then probably $50 for a 95-point wine makes sense).

But for large expenditures, the nature of the work itself sets a standard. If a mansion in Port Royal, Naples, is to be decorated, the stateliness and setting of the building set a standard for the expenditure. One is not free to improvise for oneself. If a wedding is to be hosted for financiers in mid-town Manhattan — rather than, say, for shopkeepers in Albany — the nature of the event sets the standard. In these cases a different virtue is needed beyond generosity, one which senses the “greatness” of the expenditure and exemplifies good grace and taste.

The high point of magnificence is some expenditure for God’s glory, as St Thomas says: “The intention of magnificence is the production of a great work. Now works done by men are directed to an end: and no end of human works is so great as the honor of God: wherefore magnificence does a great work especially in reference to the Divine honor.”

When I was at Ave Maria University, I taught a course on ethics which met on a patio overlooking the buildings and oratory. Once we were discussing the virtue of magnificence. “Look around you,” I said, “What character do you need to do this sort of thing?” At that moment, magnificence was not a theory for them but something real.


MICHAEL PAKALUK is professor of ethics at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and an Ordinarius in the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas. He lives with his wife, Catherine, a professor of economics at the Busch School, and seven of their children in Hyattsville. He is author of many books and articles, both scholarly and popular. His new translation and commentary on the Gospel of Mark, The Memoirs of St. Peter, is forthcoming from Regnery Gateway

First-string players wanted…with integrity

Decency in athletics

Thierfelder, a member of Legatus’ Charlotte Chapter, is hoping to lift up the examples of true sportsmanship and highlight the potential of sports to be a force for good and positive human development through the new Sports Virtue Institute at Belmont Abbey College.

The goal of the Sports Virtue Institute, which is in its fledgling stages, will be to attract, gather, and encourage athletes, coaches, and administrators who want to compete at the highest levels, but in a manner that upholds their integrity and that uses sport as a vehicle to hone personal virtue.

“Everybody wants world-class performance. Everybody enjoys watching it because ultimately, I believe, it raises us up and has us contemplate God,” said Thierfelder, the author of Less Than a Minute to Go: The Secret to World-Class Performance in Sport, Business and Everyday Life.

Thierfelder, who received his masters and doctoral degrees in sports psychology from Boston University, draws on his lifelong experience in sports. He was a medalist at the 1981 U.S. Track & Field Indoor National Championships who qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team but withdrew from competition because of injury.

Sports, mainly because of the billions of dollars they generate in revenue, tend today to be seen through a utilitarian lens of wins and losses. The cynic will argue that developing character sounds noble, but that it’s ultimately pointless if a Division I college athletic program or professional sports franchise fails to win championships.

Thierfelder argues that that view offers a false dichotomy between world-class performance on the field and competing in an ethical way that champions human dignity.

Training ground for life

“In sports, winning and losing matters,” Thierfelder said. “Here’s the issue — How do you win? In other words, is sport properly directed? And the big question someone can ask is — Can you win? Can you perform at a higher level as a world-class athlete, living a life of virtue, or living a life of vice? Which one will actually enable you to perform at the highest level?”

While noting that athletes who cheat and indulge in vices are often successful, Thierfelder believes they would compete at a higher level — and be happier while doing it — if they cultivated a life of virtue.

“On the whole, you would see a dramatic improvement not only in the performance, but in the lives, in the happiness of those competing, and those watching,” Thierfelder said.

Sport has long been seen as a training ground for life. U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur believed athletic competition taught competitors the importance of winning, and that those lessons would translate to the battlefield. MacArthur said, “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”

Writing in the first century, St. Paul made several references to running the good race, shadowboxing, athletic training, and the importance of Christians competing for an eternal crown instead of an athlete’s laurel crown.

The ancient philosophers Cicero, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle also had plenty to say about the links between sports and the virtuous life, said Thierfelder, who regularly asks people at Belmont Abbey College to memorize a lengthy quote from Pope Pius XII’s “Sport at the Service of the Spirit” statement in 1945.

“Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor,” said Pius XII, who added that “sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man.”

Distinguishing sportsmanship and virtue

 The Sports Virtue Institute will host lectures, events, and an annual conference. Thierfelder said the institute will also have a website with social media links, a blog, articles, and essays from coaches and athletes from around the country.

The values espoused in the Sports Virtue Institute have already helped to shape Belmont Abbey College’s athletic program and the Conference Carolinas that the college competes in. Thierfelder said that the conference’s tagline promotes “champions in body, mind, and spirit.”

Every year, the Conference Carolinas also gives an award for sportsmanship and virtue. When he arrived at Belmont Abbey College 15 years ago, Thierfelder said very few student-athletes wanted that award. Today, Thierfelders said it’s the most competitive award in the conference.

“Yes, we still want to be national champions if we can be national champions,” Thierfelder said. “But we also want all the other virtues that go with that.”


BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

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.

Manual for Conquering Deadly Sin

Fr. Dennis Kolinski, S.J.C.
TAN Books, 336 pages

To overcome sin, we must first recognize it in all its disguises. The Seven Deadly Sins (lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy, and pride) must be combatted even in their mildest forms lest they become more serious — and more deadly. This manual provides sound catechesis on sin and excellent advice on what to do about it. A key is to seek growth in the corresponding virtues (e.g., humility instead of pride, temperance instead of gluttony) and, of course, to stay close to the sacraments. This volume looks like a small prayerbook, complete with gilded edges and ribbon, but it reads like essential armor in the battle for our souls.

Order: TAN Books, Amazon

Business’ Hollywood image opposes Christian reality

Al Kresta

Hollywood’s 2014 box-office smash, “The Lego Movie,” opens with the villainous “Lord Business” plotting mass destruction. The movie, inspired by a consumer product, cleverly introduces that product to a wider audience. Ironically, it then presents itself as a warning on consumerism and business. “Only in Hollywood” mused CNBC columnist Jake Novak.

“Hollywood” is a business. It produces commercial products and movies. Nevertheless, movie scripts portray business executives as enemies of the good. They exploit workers, decimate forests, desecrate Native American cemeteries, cheat clients, sabotage rivals, bribe senators, market unsafe toys on children’s networks. And worse, they do so without moral anguish or pangs of conscience. “If the securities business were an individual… it could sue for defamation,” joked one trader. In Hollywood films, business people are bad people.

Why? Critic Michael Fumento suggested “that somebody has to play the bad guy, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to find bad guys who don’t have lobbying organizations.” Producer Barney Rosenwieg speculated that “Blacks, women, Italians, Hispanics, [add LGBTQ and Muslim activists] everyone, really … writes letters complaining about how they’re portrayed on television. That’s why I love businessmen — they don’t write me letters.”

Investor’s Business Daily quotes a screenwriter: “It’s a closed shop policed very strictly through the Department of Labor. Scripts that are pro-business are seen as anti-labor.” Many producers maintain faith that socialism will triumph over capitalism. “It’s impossible for a screenwriter who doesn’t profess…these things to become very successful. You can’t use my name,” he added. “I’ve got a family to feed.”

Catholics see business through a different lens. Business is a divine calling to serve one’s neighbor. Ideally, the Catholic businessman is a quietly heroic, even godly figure engaged in a deeply humane enterprise. Properly understood, it can be a highway to heaven even with the
inevitable speed bumps.

St. John Paul II’s “civilization of love” depends more on business people than politicians, environmental activists, entertainers or leftwing antifa revolutionaries. Why? Because only
business creates wealth. Without businesses creating wealth, politicians would have nothing to redistribute! Environmental activists would lack donors. Entertainers would have no box-office receipts and left-wing antifa revolutionaries would have to move out of their parents’ basement.

According to the Catechism for Business and The Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine (CCSD), business efficiently and creatively responds to consumer demands by producing useful goods and services. This creates wealth not just for the owners but for all of society (CCSD, 338).

Profit is a necessary indicator of a healthy business. By pursuing profit, business achieves broader social and moral goals like employment, cooperation, problem solving and a corporate culture in which workers enhance their skills. Business also cultivates personal virtues like accountability, punctuality, leadership, organization, patience, trustworthiness, honesty, good stewardship of time, money and materials (CCSD, 340).

Why, then, are movies so anti-business? Because the businessman recognizes limits. He prizes prudence, practicality, efficiency and thrift. These bourgeois virtues cramp Hollywood’s grand style. To succeed, Hollywood must appear larger than life, haloed with magnificence, transcending our conventional, petty concerns. But it’s all a mirage. Hollywood’s “fantasy factories” are subject to the same mundane business realities as the shoe manufacturer. Studios are businesses. The Hollywood ethos denies this. It enchants as it whispers: “We are real wizards. Pay no attention to that little mercenary business man behind the curtain.” Screenwriters and filmmakers traffic in fantasy, dreams, limitless possibilities. They resent those who remind us that we are mere mortals with material and moral boundaries, finite and fallen creatures.

“Lord Business” is ugly because his twisted desires respect no moral boundaries. In reality, however, businesses flourish best within moral limits. Let’s bear witness to that truth. St. Paul exhorts Catholics to be “living epistles” read by all men. People will read us. The only question is “What’s our message?” Has the Catholic faith, has Christ motivated, inspired, healed, guided, sustained, disciplined, consoled you in this moral drama of growing your business while not losing your soul? If so, share the good news. Our nation’s most powerful storytellers don’t seem to know that you can do well even when you are, first of all, committed to doing good.

AL KRESTA is president and CEO of Ave Maria Radio, author, and host of “Kresta in the Afternoon” heard on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.

God will pierce the corporate veil

A statement I really hate is “I’m just doing my job.” People use this either as a humblebrag (“Piece of cake because I’m awesome”), or to evade moral responsibility (“I was just following orders”). While the first usage is annoying, the second is dangerous. Adolf Eichmann’s defense in the Nuremburg trial was nothing more than, “I was just following Hitler’s orders.” This defense did not convince the Nuremburg judges, nor will it convince God.

Conor Gallagher

You can’t separate the person from the work. This simple truth lies at the core of the ever growing, overly complex subject of “business ethics.” Peter Drucker once said, “There is neither a separate ethics of business nor is one needed,” meaning that the same ethical rules that apply to man in his private life apply to him in his business life. An altruistic statement for sure, given our cluttered world of regulations and corporate law. Drucker, however, has a great point – as always.

As Catholic leaders, we must not allow ourselves to excuse or justify every decision we make with an unreflective “I’m just doing my job.” As leaders, we must take ownership of our actions and examine our individual consciences in light of what we profess to believe. If this reflection causes a few more sleepless nights, or, hopefully, more prayerful nights, then so be it. Actions have moral consequence. The corporation may be a legal “person”, but God judges real persons. He judges us.

Sometimes I wonder if the concept of a corporate entity, distinct from the people themselves, leads to a convenient disconnect between the person’s actions and the business’ actions. I remember the question being raised in metaphysics: does a community of persons have its own essence? And I remember a similar question being raised in corporate law: is this corporation a legal person? Both philosophy and law grapple with the same question. That should not surprise us, for it is an interesting and important question, especially for those of us for whom the answer is so fraught with significance. I understand the need for a legal entity and the need for a corporate veil. But we must not delude ourselves into thinking that the business actually took action. We took action. The legal entity is a fauxperson – convenient, yes, but faux nonetheless. It is we that will be judged, not the corporation.

In other words, God will pierce the corporate veil.

If we are virtuous through our businesses, God will reward us. If we are sinful through our businesses, God will punish us. “But God, I was just doing my job!” I would not want that as my defense on judgment day.

After being asked about corporate ethics, Milton Friedman once said, “So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no, they do not.”

I think my fellow Legates would disagree with the great Milton Friedman on this point. For we all know that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, not the S Corp, C Corp, or LLC.

CONOR GALLAGHER is publisher at Saint Benedict Press and TAN Books. He is the author of If Aristotle’s Kid Had an iPod: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Parents and obtained his J.D. and M.A. in philosophy from Catholic University. He and his wife, Ashley, have 12 children.

Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity

Brian Engelland
Sophia Institute Press, 222 pages

The world of business is closely associated with turning a profit, and for good reason: A business whose earnings regularly fall short of its overhead probably won’t last long.

But Brian Engelland tells us the ultimate goal of business is not maximizing profits, but serving others, and that begins with the ethical treatment of employees and customers. He lays out how it is incumbent upon business leaders to embrace and possess sound moral character, infused with the virtues, in order to conduct their business relationships with integrity and apply ethical principles to every decision. His approach is grounded in Catholic social doctrine, but it’s commonsense counsel for all business leaders.

Envy can leer from strange corners

“He got a raise that’s better than mine.” “I deserve more benefits.” “They have an unfair advantage which makes our jobs harder.” “You’re lucky you landed that position [interview] [award] [opportunity] [spouse][family] [golf score].” Sound familiar? Resentments involving status, liberality, ability, esteem – even character – are as old as time.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

An odd sting in extending hospitality or altruism – whether on a broad scale or one-on-one – is often the bitter chill from others who compare themselves to the benefactor or recipient. Even accomplished peers with similar breadth of experience in business, education, and hardknocks can bristle at a junior colleague’s integrity or distinction.

Take a peek. A subordinate invites several supervisors to his home for a Christmas party. He earns considerably less than they do, but he and his wife enthusiastically spend weeks planning the menu, cocktails and music. His children dress nicely, help serve, and hang coats. His wife cooks everything, splurges on fresh flowers, and presents each guest a handmade ornament. He even obliges their requests to play some sing-a-long carols on the piano. Several guests comment on what fun it all is, the delicious food, and attractive holiday decor. A few others take note and utter not a word. They don’t sing, either. What’s up with that?

“Are you envious because I am generous?”

In the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20: 1-16), the Lord – personified as the vineyard owner – receives complaint from the day’s first-workers about late-hires receiving the same wage as they did. The owner doesn’t apologize for his generosity or affluence – but instead asks them if they’re envious because of it! He throws more fuel on the fire, declaring, “Am I not free to do as I please with my own money?” Wow, right? It’s always confounding that he didn’t instead dock them without any pay for their impertinence and ingratitude. The firstworkers weren’t just envious of others receiving what they did, but of the owner’s incredible beneficence. His virtue exposed their lack of it.

It is evident that some get more – and different – gifts than others. No two journeys or ‘benefit packages’ are alike, temporally or spiritually. In contrast to the renewed push for wealth redistribution now (we called it “communism” back in the day), God’s plan involves lots of inequality – in physical traits, health, prosperity, athleticism, intelligence, and affability – as well as in weaknesses and problems. We take the hand we’re dealt … and we deal with it.

Distress at another’s excellence – especially in virtue – is the worst sort of envy, said the late Fr. John Hardon, S.J. “It is the envy of sanctity,” he said, “and Christ – along with many prefigures in salvation history – suffered it repeatedly.” The fallen angels envied their Maker, Satan envied the First Couple’s happiness, Cain envied Abel’s pureheartedness, Saul envied David’s prowess, Herod envied Christ’s moral superiority, even Pilate envied Christ for His burgeoning leadership influence.

Emulating and honoring the Great Benefactor remains the ultimate incentive, however, for sharing every good gift, no matter the earthly cost or sacrifice in human regard.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s Editor.