Growing in virtue 

Men's fellowship is a needed support that in the last two generations has often been in short supply. Whether we know the every day ordinate vulnerability of healthy men desiring to live chastely in an immodest world, or, the inordinate vulnerability of lust addicts in recovery, no one can learn the path of purity and chastity without the help of God and others.

Our help comes from the Lord. There are things He will do, that are impossible for us. We can also recognize what we are already able to do and choose to continue to do them. The latter too are gifts from the Lord! Give thanks!

There are ways we can help afflicted brothers, who await our intercession. The charity of praying for others is a self-blessing. Righteousness is credited to the righteous, through faith: the devout one refuses to ever stop praying until something happens.

From the outside in, God's grace builds us up, working from where we are, building on our nature. Real lived virtues become attainable through prayer. St Francis de Sales said that one learns to teach by teaching. It is within reach then to 'learn virtues by being virtuous'.

This sounds like we have to come up with some things on our own. But Jesus taught us we can do nothing without him. Our good works are done in Christ. How is this so? By grace. Where is grace from: Christ, in His word and in His sacraments. The Catholic Church is a dispensary of grace!

This is why the Eucharist is central, why there is a daily Mass, because we are enabled to maintain a close relationship with Him, by drawing near to His real (not symbolic) presence in the gift of transubstantiated bread and wine, and thereby to have his strength and his power dwell within us. This is what it means to "have life within you", it is to have Him within you! The bible is a grace dispensary! Jesus is in His word. Jesus' words teach wisdom, they show us the way to receive and also the way to work out our salvation. But He never leaves us to do the work alone.

Along the way of recovery is the renewal of our minds, seeing God as He truly is. The past may have been dominated by the images of a wrathful or punishing God. In fact, He is tender as a father and you are His child, the apple of His eye. He does not make it hard on his child. It is the opposite. In all our humble and withering, admitted frailty He comes. And so we make this prayer without ceasing: God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me!

Our work is to see our limitations and to lean on Him. It is not always easy, since like children, we squirm in his arms sometimes, saying "put me down Daddy!"

It is really all about trust; the cultivation of real trust. First in God, later, and again, trust in ourselves knowing we are now in God. The more we step out in faith the more He supports us with grace. He is with us and helping us all the time. He doesn't do the work for us, but like a parent, he guides what we do, helps us to remain focused on our labor, to concentrate. Everything comes from Him! Thank you Father!!

More proof? >
Psalm 131
A song of ascents. Of David.

1Lord, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.
2Rather, I have stilled my soul,
Like a weaned child to its mother,
weaned is my soul.
3Israel, hope in the LORD,
now and forever.

* [Psalm 131] A song of trust, in which the psalmist gives up self-sufficiency (Ps 131:1), like a babe enjoying the comfort of its mother's lap (Ps 131:2), thus providing a model for Israel's faith (Ps 131:3).[Above from the USCCB website]

Virtues are made ours most powerfully by bringing our broken spirit, our defects of character, all our sins to the Father, in confession. Power is made perfect in weakness.

The sacrament of reconciliation fulfills our hope for God's mercy and providence. It is always a pathway for grace into us and also a healing. Examination of conscience turns light on our errors and incapability. If the Devil alone put them before us, he would do no more, leaving them there to shame and torment us with guilt.

But God, Who is love, makes something poor better. He heals the very weakness we confess. He takes what is imperfect and relieves us of the burden of repeating failure. This is the power of the Savior, the One sent to make the propitiation for human sins. Let us have before us always a spirit of thanksgiving and to take time to reflect on the work of Christ to forgive us, to cover our sins, to make us new, to give us self-mastery that is impossible without him.

"God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit."

There is no greater gift than the freshness that possesses us as we make our act of contrition and complete an offering of penance. All of the sins we have ever committed are wiped out, we are made clean. The fact of this is staggering, and rightly so. Every confession restores us to this state of original freedom, all sins are covered by Christ's blood, making us every bit as new as we are capable of realizing.

Here is the foundation of all hope! God is infinite, inexhaustible mercy. By the unlimited merits of Christ, every sin we confess He erases forever and replaces with virtues. Virtue is from God.

Tender and loving Father, help me never to lose my trust in your fountain of love and mercy and providence. In Jesus' name. Amen.