Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that He has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief because He is truth itself. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason, the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity.”
The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But “faith apart from works is dead”: when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body.
The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live by it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow Him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of, and witness to, the faith are necessary for salvation: “So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
By faith, we believe in God and believe all that He has revealed to us and that Holy Church proposes for our belief.
Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” “The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.
By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it.
Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own “to the end,” He makes manifest the Father’s love which He receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Jesus says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” And again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which “binds everything together in perfect harmony”; it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love.
The practice of the moral life animated by charity gives to the Christian the spiritual freedom of the children of God. He no longer stands before God as a slave, in servile fear, or as a mercenary looking for wages, but as a son responding to the love of Him who “first loved us.”
The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.
By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).