As we continue to read from the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, we hear Saint Paul proclaim, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Now, is this really true in our daily lives? Sure, spiritually, we all know that prayer helps! When we turn to the Lord in our need, he listens; perhaps not right away, perhaps not in the way we expect, but always in the way we need.

And we know that when we go out of ourselves to help others, to be men and women of service, when we recognize that life is not all about ourselves, in losing ourselves, we truly find ourselves and, ultimately, Christ. But how does Christ strengthen us to accomplish all with, through and in him?

Perhaps we might want to turn to the concept of the virtues. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1803, a virtue “is an 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. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.”

Virtues remind us of the ultimate final goal of our life, what is called in philosophy our telos, our end — to become like God! Put everything else aside — all of our temporary desires and preoccupation and what is most important, in the end, is our final destiny. Yes, we have forgotten the four last things in so many ways, those four final eschatological aspects that we as Christian people need to recall and have at the forefront of our mind — death, judgment, heaven and hell. When we lose our eschatological edge, we become fuzzy Christians who don’t remember what our purpose is in this life — as the Baltimore Catechism reminds us, in answer to the question, “Why did God make you?” “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.”

The theological virtues all have God as the “origin, motive and object” (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1812) and they are the very bedrock of the Christian moral life. They are called theological virtues simply because they all come from God (in Greek, theos) and connect us back to God. These theological virtues are faith (we believe in God and all he reveals for he is truth itself and all that the Church proposes for our belief) (CCC No. 1814); hope (we seek first God’s kingdom, eternal life and rely in trust in God’s mercy) (CCC No. 1817); and charity, also called love (where we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves) (CCC Mo. 1822).

The human virtues, also called cardinal virtues (coming from the Latin word “cardo” meaning “hinge”) is what we hang our basic daily life as Christians around. They are the good habits of the mind, intellect and heart through which we grow and are, ultimately, able to practice the good. What are these cardinal virtues? Prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. Every human being has these human virtues and every person is required to grow in these virtues so as to live a moral life.

With this in mind, a question — how have we grown in the theological and cardinal virtues this year so far?

Have we grown in the virtue of faith, opening our hearts and minds to the truth who is God and what is expressed magisterially by his spotless Bride, the Church? Have we sought the truth about what the Church teaches from reliable sources or simply allowed the media to inform us and our opinions?

Have we made progress in the virtue of hope, recognizing in all things that God is God, we are not, and thank God for that, relying not on ourselves and in our own merits, but in the grace of God?

Have we developed in the virtue of charity, needed above all in this unpleasant age of ad hominem attacks in all areas of social media?

Have we grown in the virtue of prudence this year, that virtue that Saint Thomas Aquinas describes as “right reason in action?” Prudence guides all the other virtues. Have we acted at all times with prudence?

How about our growth in the virtue of justice this year? This virtue, according to the Catechism No. 1807, is the “constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor.”

What about fortitude, that cardinal virtue that helps us persevere in our pursuit of the good. Even when we are faced with discouragement and setbacks, have we shown real and true fortitude?

Finally, what about that moral virtue of temperance, that great human virtue that allows us to control our inordinate attraction to pleasures and helps us to moderate and balance our use of the goods we have or are given, even when we were in lockdown?

Yes, we, like Paul, can do all things in him who strengthens us! And the way the Lord strengthens us is through the virtues — praise God for his gifts to us.