Virtues, Gifts, and Fruits

In the book Parenting with Grace by Greg and Lisa Popcak, they offer several suggestions for virtues-based training.  One of which is to choose a virtue of the day to discuss and have the family give extra practice.  By virtues, they don’t just mean the Seven Theological and Cardinal Virtues, but they also include the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit:

I’ve been spending the first few days trying to put together working definitions for each one.  Meanings for the various Virtues and the Gifts were not to hard to put together from various internet sources, but the Fruits have been a whole other story.  Most websites just list them without any explanations, the Wikipedia article is extremely dense, and the common dictionary definitions don’t adequately describe what the fruits look like when practiced by a Christian.

As I worked on my little project, I became increasingly aware that  my kids aren’t the only ones who need to be taught about these various virtues and how to live them out. For instance, I realized that I had neglected the fruit of charity the other day when I presumed the worst intentions from my husband instead of giving him the benefit of the doubt.   I may need to practice what I am trying to preach as much, if not more, than my children do.

And I believe that practice is the right word indeed.  Virtue is commonly defined as conformity to a standard of moral and ethical principles.  I think that in some ways I am very good at living a virtuous life at a macro level.  I know the moral and ethical standards of the Catholic Church, I love to explain them and defend them, and I live them in “big ways” such as never missing Mass or refrain from using artificial contraception.  However, on a micro level, in my day to day life and relationships, I don’t think that I do quite as well as I could and should.  I need to practice these virtues over and over again every minute of every day if I want to perfect them and if I truly want to know, love, and serve the Lord.

The Church teaches that we are given the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism and they are strengthened when we receive the sacrament of Confirmation, just as the Apostles did at their baptisms and when the Holy Spirit descended upon them on Pentecost.  These gifts are like seeds planted in our souls, and if we cultivate them they will bear the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  But even when trees begin to bear fruit they must still be pruned and protected in order for them to reach their juicy ripeness.

As the Popcaks try to drill again and again in their book, virtues-based parenting is not just a series of techniques and tricks.  It is about making decisions in all aspects of our life (including parenting) using the virtues, gifts, and fruits that God has given us in order that we may more fully imitate Him.  On a practical level, this starts with learning about and practicing these virtues, gifts, and fruits and being able to recognize when we have failed to live up to them.  I’ve also realized that each of us may struggle with certain virtues over others.

So, I’ve put together working definitions of all 26 virtues, gifts, and fruits and printed them out onto 4 x 6 index cards.  I haven’t exactly decided the best way to use them yet.  (Post a new one everyday?  Post two or three a week?  Discuss them at dinner time?  Post multiple copies around the house as reminders?)  But through this process I have spent a lot of time thinking about these things, and I might from time to time share my thoughts and experiences with a specific virtue, gift, or fruit.  As usual, I mainly write for myself as a way to clarify thoughts and ideas, but I am humbled if anyone else is able to get any use out of my mental ramblings.  So, I have added a new category just for those particular posts, starting with this one.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Catholic Faith, Religion, Virtues/Gifts/Fruits

One Comment on “Virtues, Gifts, and Fruits”

  1. Cable Says:

    How great! Jane learned Galatians 5:22-23 in school and often sings it even though that was back in November. I do wonder if she understands all of the words though. Putting them into the family consciousness is a good way to help with that.


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