I recently had the opportunity to teach my fellow missionaries at FOCUS’s summer formation at St. Mary University in North Dakota, and it was an incredible time!
FOCUS spends five weeks each summer training new missionaries to go out to the college campus to spread the Gospel and to raise up people who will do the same (I was at one and a half weeks of it to help this summer). Those five weeks are set up to help form the missionaries as best we can for their mission.
That may sound good, but if you’re like me, you may be wondering: “What does a well-formed person look like?” I picked up a new way to capture that picture while I was at training, and I would be delighted to paint it for you. The goal in life is to become a saint, and one of the marks of a saint is that they lived out heroic virtue. So what is virtue? Virtue, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is “an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions. The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God” (¶1803).
Aristotle helps to flesh out the definition by giving us the spectrum from those who give themselves over to vice to the point that they don’t even know they’re doing evil (the vicious men and women), to those who knowingly struggle to do good but ultimately do evil (the incontinent), to those who knowingly struggle to do good and ultimately will to do that good (the continent) and finally to those who choose the good and enjoy doing the good (the virtuous). Here’s a handy chart for how we (usually) grow in cooperating with God’s grace:
As we seek more formation, we can look back and examine not only if we ceased to do bad things, but if we are pursuing good things to the point that, as the saying goes, virtue is its own reward.
And as we look at our brothers and sisters, can we lovingly offer them a better path, knowing that they may not even know that there is one? Can we offer encouragement to those who falter and fall? Can we live our lives such that people can see that the good life is exactly that: good?
I’m in for the adventure! Let’s begin!
Parish FOCUS Missionary