Prayer and fasting, worship and adoration, Scripture and sacraments and sacramentals all provide the weapons of our spiritual warfare. With them we go on the offensive against the Evil One. But the virtues provide our defense armor … They are our best defense against his attacks, for they guard our minds and hearts from his deceptions and temptations. -Paul Thigpin, Manual for Spiritual Warfare
As parents, we instinctively prepare our children for every kind of weather, coach them on the right attitude on the field and off, all in order to keep them physically and emotionally safe. Yet are we talking to our children about their spiritual journey with the same level of preparedness? Let’s face it, their minds and hearts are just as vulnerable and less visible to the eye. And still each day they encounter innumerable decisions and temptations that propose a different or altered course for their lives.
These may come as an outright affront or more often as subtleties, small moral choices that go unnoticed. That is, until they don’t or they lead to a bigger decision in life. Do I watch this video … and if I did, do I tell my parents? Do I join my friends in doing something I feel is wrong? While we can never protect them from every danger, we can give them the tools to help guard their soul, with virtue.
- Fortitude (Courage) is the virtue that strengthens and emboldens when we face challenges and temptations overcoming fear and persecution.
- Justice is the virtue that entails resolute commitment to God and towards the rights and good of all persons.
- Prudence is the virtue of continual discernment of what is ultimately good in our lives and how to achieve it.
- Temperance is moderation of needed things and abstinence from things which are not needed.
- Faith is the virtue through which one comes to believes in God and in what has been revealed as true .
- Hope is the virtue that enables us to long for the kingdom of God and eternal life as our ultimate happiness. Fully aware that we could never achieve it alone but only through the Holy Spirit’s assistance.
- Charity (Love) is the virtue by which our love of God is above all, and through which we come to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Virtues, like riding a bike, work best not with over-corrections but with balance. Likewise, what is hard to teach in theory is best witnessed in the lives of others. Take the virtue of love, for instance. Someone who is loving of others to an extreme may not see the value in caring for their self or their own self-worth. Likewise, without love for God or one another, we can become self-centered and distant from God’s will for our lives. Depending on the age of the child, the examples can be more detailed and applicable to what they see and hear around them.
Recently, my 13-year-old son approached me about a headline that had made all the news. At the center of the conversation was the action that had now defined who that person was known to be. “How do you think that this happened?” I asked. “Do you think that this person just woke up and decided to commit this crime?”
“Maybe, but there were probably other things before this,” he offered, “that led him to this point.”
“Hmm, I agree. Temptations and sin are not always big things but add up and pull us farther and farther away from where God wants us to be. Much like a doorway, we begin to allow more and more of what is evil to enter our hearts and lives.”
“But wait … St. Michael can defeat Satan; can’t we just ask him to go to battle for us?”
“The saints are ready to help us but God asks us to strive to grow too. Satan comes in many forms, not just the creature you see pictured with St. Michael. Simply put, Satan comes wrapped in any package that tempts and lures you to go against God’s will for your life or your ultimate happiness.”
“Even a pretty girl?” he comically tendered.
“Especially a pretty girl!” I quipped.
After a good laugh I took a few moments to talk to him about the virtues and how they provide a good defense in our lives. Using sports terminology, he readily understood that any good offense also required a good defense to clinch the game. This spiritual battle wasn’t just being waged outside of him, but indeed required his active participation. Now I had his full attention … and so did God.
Where is my armor weakest, and in what virtue might God be inviting me to grow the most?
Copyright 2019 Elizabeth Reardon