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Sunday, September 16, 2012

The System of Virtues and the Five Silences

Blessed Father Chaminade, a french priest who lived from 1761 to 1850, was a wise man and a master of the spiritual life. One of his great contributions to the development of the interior life is what he called "The System of Virtues". Essentially, Father Chaminade believed that true Christianity involved living a life of Faith, Hope, and Love (Charity) (the three theological virtues), and in growing in that life to the point that it the would replace some of the more undesirable, or less virtuous, traits that we all have.

The System of Virtues was divided into three sections, each one setting the stage for the next:

The Virtues of Preparation - the work of consecrating oneself to the ideal, Jesus Christ; and the work of making normally involuntary actions voluntary, so that we then have power over them (more on this later). This involves a heightened self-awareness and a willingness to enter into self-examination.

The Virtues of Purification - Once the work of "preparation" has been begun (and it is important to note that it really never ends), only then can we really work at the purification virtues, which seek to help the soul have confidence in God, exercise patience, resolve to persevere even after failure, and to develop a resistance to temptation.

The Virtues of Consummation - As their name implies, Blessed Chaminade thought of these as the highest spiritual virtues, and he believed that they could only truly be worked at after reasonable progress had been made in the virtues of preparation and purification. The idea was that the first two kinds of virtues paved the way for a person to struggle with the final set: humility (removes all consideration of ourselves as the end of our existence), modesty (removes from our influence on people all our deficiencies), abnegation of self (removes all personal interest in our relations with the world), and renouncement of the world (takes from us all consideration of the world as the end of our aspirations)

This brief summary is based primarily on the text of a talk by Father William Ferree, SM, given in 1936, which can be found in Dougherty, Benjamin, ed., A Ferree Resource Collection (Dayton, Ohio: NACMS, 2008).

I would like to write more on each set of virtues at a later date, but for the moment, I think this will suffice as an introduction to the System of Virtues. What I would like to talk about more is what Blessed Chaminade called the "Five Silences". I will go on in later posts to enumerate each silence and give more information pertaining to it, but as an introduction here are the five silences:

Silence of Words
Silence of Signs
Silence of Imagination
Silence of the Mind
Silence of Passions

Look for more information on each of these in follow-up posts throughout the week!

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