The Supernatural Organism - Part III of V
by Father Jordan Aumann, O.P.
Father Jordan Aumann, O.P. former Director of the Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical University of
Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, is an honorary professor of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, where he has been giving special
courses in Spirituality since 1977.
The Infused Virtues
[No Infused Virtues - No Heaven]
- Supernatural Organism
||Infused Virtues and
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
||Acts of the Virtues and Gifts
Infused Supernatural Virtues reside within the Essence of
the Soul along with Sanctifying Grace and the
Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Existence and Necessity of the Infused Supernatural Virtues follow from the
Nature of Sanctifying Grace. Although Grace
is classified as an Accident, and not a Substance, its Role in the Supernatural Life
of Man is similar to that of the Human Soul. Therefore, Sanctifying
Grace is not Immediately Operative but Static, although it is the Remote Principle of all the Activities of the
Person in Grace. And since Habitual Grace is the
Principle of the Supernatural Life, it needs Faculties or Powers as the Immediate
Principles of Operation.
If this were not the case, we would be Elevated to the Supernatural Order
only as regards our Soul, but not as regards our Operative Powers. And
although, absolutely speaking, God could Elevate our Faculties to the
Supernatural Order by means of Continual Actual
Graces, this would produce a Violence in the Human Psychological Structure by reason
of the Tremendous Disproportion between the Purely Natural Faculty and the Supernatural Act
to be effected. And such Violence could not be reconciled with the Customary Suavity of
Divine Providence, which moves all things according to their Natures. As
Saint Thomas points out:
It is not fitting that God should provide less for those He Loves, that they may acquire Supernatural Good,
than for Creatures whom He Loves that they may acquire Natural Good. Now He so provides for Natural Creatures that not merely does He
move them to their Natural Acts, but He bestows on them certain Forms and Powers, which are the Principles of Acts, in order that they
may of themselves be inclined to these Movements, and thus the Movements whereby they are moved by God become Natural and easy to
Creatures .... Much more, therefore, does He Infuse into those He Moves toward the Acquisition of Supernatural Good, certain Forms or
Supernatural Qualities whereby they may be moved by Him Sweetly and Promptly to acquire Eternal Good.
Nature of the Infused Virtues
The Infused Virtues may be defined as Operative
Habits Infused by God into the Faculties of the
Soul to dispose them to Function according to the Dictates of Reason,
Enlightened by Faith.
"Operative Habits" is the Generic Element of the Definition, common to all
Natural and Supernatural Virtues. On the purely Natural Level, an
Operative Habit is a Quality, difficult to remove, that disposes the Subject to Function with Facility,
Promptness, and Delight. It gives the Subject, Facility for Operation, because every Habit
is an increase of Energy in relation to its Corresponding Action; it gives Promptness because it constitutes, so to speak, a Second Nature
in virtue-of-which the Subjects Quickly give themselves to Action; and it causes Delight in the Operation because it produces an Act that
is Prompt, Facile, and Connatural.
"Infused by God" is a Radical Difference between the Infused and Acquired
Virtues. The Natural or Acquired Virtues
are Engendered in us by means of Repeated Acts; the only Cause of the Supernatural
or Infused Virtues is the Divine Infusion.
Their purpose is to Supernaturalize the Faculties by Elevating them to the Order of
Grace and making them Capable of Performing Supernatural
Acts. Without them, or without the Actual Grace that Substitutes for them
(as in the case of the Sinner before Justification),
it would be impossible for us to perform a Supernatural Act. Saint Thomas
says: "As from the Essence of the Soul flows its Powers, which are the Principles of Deeds, so likewise
the Virtues, whereby the Powers are Moved to Act, flow into the Powers of the Soul from Grace".
The principal difference between the Acquired and Infused Virtues is by reason of the
Formal Object. The Infused Virtues dispose the Faculties to follow the Dictate or Command,
not of Reason alone, as do the Acquired
Virtues, but of Reason
Illumined by Faith. The Acquired Moral
Virtues, however Heroic and Perfect, could never Attain the Formal Object of the Infused
Virtues. With good reason does Saint Thomas say that the principal difference between the Acquired and
Infused Virtues is by reason of their Formal Objects:
The Object of every Virtue is a Good considered as in that Virtue's Proper Matter; thus the Object of
Temperance is a Good with respect to the Pleasures connected with the Concupiscence of Touch. The Formal Aspect of this Object is from
Reason, which fixes the Mean in these Concupiscence's. Now it is evident that the Mean that is appointed in such Concupiscence according
to the Rule of Human Reason is seen under a Different Aspect from the Mean that is fixed according to the Divine Rule. For instance, in
the Consumption of Food, the Mean fixed by Human Reason is that Food should not harm the Health of the Body nor hinder the Use of
Reason; whereas according to the Divine Rule it behooves Man to Chastise his Body and bring it under Subjection (1Corinthians 9:27) by
Abstinence in Food, Drink, and the like. It is therefore evident that Infused and Acquired Temperance differ in Species; and the same
applies to the other Virtues.
Nor does it change matters to object that the Act of Infused Temperance is identical
with that of Acquired Temperance (namely, the Moderation or Control of the Pleasures of
Touch) and that therefore, there is no specific difference between them. Saint
Thomas admits the Identity of the Material Object but insists on the Specific and Radical Difference by-reason-of the
Formal Object: "Both Acquired and Infused Temperance moderate Desires for Pleasures of Touch, but for
different reasons as stated: wherefore their respective Acts are not identical".
But the Infused Virtues lack something of the perfect definition of
Habits, because they do not give complete Facility in Operation, which is characteristic of True
Habits. They confer, it is true, an Intrinsic Inclination and Promptness for
Good, but they do not give an Extrinsic Facility, because they do not remove all
the Obstacles to Good, as is evident in the case of converted
Sinners who experience Great Difficulty in the Performance of Good, because
of their past Acquired Vices. Saint Thomas distinguishes clearly the
Facility proper to the Two (2) kinds of Virtue:
"Facility in performing the Acts of Virtue can proceed from Two (2) Sources: from Custom (and the Infused
Virtue does not give this Facility from its beginning), and from a Strong Inhesion as regards the Object of the Virtue, and this is found
in the Infused Virtue at its very beginning".
The principal differences between the Acquired and Infused Virtues
can be summarized as follows:
By reason of their Essence. The Natural or Acquired Virtues are
Habits in the strict sense of the word. They do not give the Power to Act
(for the Faculty has that already), but they give Facility in Operation. The Supernatural
or Infused Virtues give the Power to Act
Supernaturally (without them it would be impossible, apart from an Actual
Grace), but they do not give Facility in Operation.
By reason of the Efficient Cause. The Natural Virtues
are Acquired by our own proper Acts; the Supernatural Virtues are infused by
God together with Sanctifying Grace.
By reason of the Final Cause. The Acquired Natural Virtues
enable us to conduct ourselves rightly in regard to Human Acts in accordance with our Rational
Nature. The Supernatural Virtues, on the other hand, give us the ability
to conduct ourselves rightly in regard to our condition as Adopted Children of God,
destined for Eternal Life, and to exercise the Supernatural
Acts proper to the Life of Grace.
By reason of the Formal Object. The Natural Virtues
work for the Good according to the Dictate and Light of Natural
Reason; the Supernatural Virtues work for the
Good according to the Dictate and Supernatural Light of Faith.
There are Four (4) Properties that the Infused
Virtues have in common with the Acquired Natural Virtues:
They consist in the Mean or Medium between the Two (2) Extremes (except for the
Theological Virtues, and even these do so by reason of the Subject and Mode);
In the State of Perfection they are United among themselves by Prudence (and the
Infused Virtues by Charity also);
They are unequal in Perfection or Eminence; and
Those that imply no Imperfection perdure after this life as to
their Formal Elements.
The Characteristics or Properties that are Exclusive to the Infused Virtues
are the following:
They always Accompany Sanctifying Grace and are Infused together with
Grace. This Doctrine is common among the Theologians, although it is not exactly
defined by the Church.
They are really distinct from Sanctifying Grace. It suffices to recall that
Grace is an Entitative Habit infused into
the Essence of the Soul, while the Infused
Virtues are Operative Habits Infused into the Potencies, which are really distinct from the
They are specifically distinct from the corresponding Acquired Natural Virtues. This
has been previously demonstrated.
They are Supernatural in their Essence, but not in their Mode of Operation.
They increase with Sanctifying Grace. Saint Paul writes to the
Ephesians: "Rather let us profess the Truth in Love and grow to the Full Maturity of
Christ the Head" (Ephesians 4:15). To the Philippians he says:
"My Prayer is that your Love may more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of
experience" (Philippians 1:9). And he prays for the Romans
"that through the Power of the Holy Spirit you may have Hope in abundance"
(Romans 15:13). Saint Peter writes: "Grow rather in Grace, and in the
Knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2Peter 3:18).
They give us the Intrinsic Power for Supernatural Acts, but not the Extrinsic
Facility for those Acts. This explains why the Repentant Habitual Sinner experiences
great Difficulty in the Practice of Virtue. The Difficulty can be overcome by Perfecting
the Acquired Virtues. The Acquired Virtues
cannot assist the Infused Virtues Intrinsically, of course, because
a Natural, Acquired Habit cannot Perfect a
Supernatural, Infused Virtue. However, it can help
Extrinsically by removing Obstacles or by correcting Disordered Concupiscence. When the
Obstacles are removed, the Infused Virtues can begin to work Promptly and Delightfully.
Except for Faith and Hope, they are all
Lost as a result of Mortal Sin. The reason
is that the Infused Virtues are like Properties flowing from
Sanctifying Grace, and when Grace is
Destroyed, they also are Destroyed. Only
Faith and Hope can remain, and they in an Unformed and Imperfect State.
But if a Person Sins directly against these Two (2)
Virtues, they also are
Destroyed, and the Soul is then Deprived of every Trace of the
They cannot diminish directly. This Diminution could be caused only by
Venial Sin, or by the Cessation of the Acts of
Virtue. But they cannot be diminished by Venial Sin, because this
Sin leaves intact the orientation to the Supernatural
End proper to the Infused Virtues. Nor can they be diminished by the
Cessation of the Acts of the Virtues, for these
Virtues were not acquired by Human Effort, and hence do not depend on Repeated Acts. Nevertheless, the
Infused Virtues may be diminished indirectly by Venial
Sins so far as these Sins Stifle the Fervor of
Charity, Impede Progress in Virtue, and Predispose to
Division of the Infused Virtues
Some of the Infused Virtues Ordain the Faculties to the End or Goal; others Dispose them
in regard to the Means. The First Group is the Theological
Virtues; the Second Group is the Moral
Virtues. The First corresponds, in the
Order of Grace, with the Principles of the Natural Order that direct us to our Natural End; the
Second corresponds with the Acquired Virtues of the Natural Order that
Perfect us in regard to the Means. Once again the close Similarity and Analogy between the Natural and the
Supernatural Orders are evident.
Theological Virtues - The existence of the Theological
Virtues seems to be clearly indicated in several texts of Saint Paul, including:
"God's Love has been poured into our Hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us"
(Romans 5:5); "So Faith, Hope, Love abide, these Three; but the greatest of these is
Love" (1Corinthians 13:13). Moreover, the Church has
stated in 'Equivalent Formulas' that we receive with Sanctifying Grace the
Gifts of Faith,
Hope, Charity, and the other
The 'Equivalent Formula' of Baptism
Baptism infuses Seven (7) Virtues into the Soul, the First Three (3) of which relate to God Himself, namely, Faith, Hope,
and Charity. We are thus enabled to Believe in Him, Hope in Him, and Love Him. But Four (4) other Virtues, called Moral
Virtues, are related to the means of attaining God; these are Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. By the right
use of things for God's sake, by paying our debts to God, by being brave about witnessing our Faith and Temperate about
even the Legitimate Pleasures of Life, we reach God more quickly.
The existence of the Theological Virtues is postulated by the very Nature of
Sanctifying Grace. Since Grace is not
Immediately Operative, it requires Operative Principles to Grow and Develop to Perfection.
Among these Principles, some must refer to the Supernatural End (
Theological Virtues), and others must refer to the Means that lead to that End (Moral
Virtues). This argument takes its force principally from the Divine Economy
and the Workings of Divine Providence, made known to us through Revelation.
The Theological Virtues are Operative Principles by which we are Ordained Directly and
Immediately to God as our Supernatural End.
They have God Himself as their Material Object and One (1)
of His Divine Attributes as their Formal Object. Since they are strictly
Supernatural, only God can infuse them into the
There are Three (3) Theological Virtues:
Faith, Hope, and
Charity. The reason for this number is that, by these Three (3),
'Immediate Union' with God is realized Perfectly.
Faith enables us to know God as
First Truth; Hope makes us desire
Him as the Supreme Good for us;
Charity Unites us to Him by the
Love of Friendship, so far as He is
Infinite Goodness. There are no other Aspects of Union with
God, for although the Divine Perfections are
Infinite, they cannot be Attained by Human Acts except under the Aspect of Truth
(by the Intellect) and Goodness (by the
Will). And only this latter admits of a Twofold
Aspect, namely, Good for us (Hope) and
Goodness in itself (Charity).
That the Theological Virtues are distinct among themselves is something beyond doubt,
since they can actually be separated. Faith can subsist without
Hope and Charity (as in one who commits a
Mortal Sin of Despair without losing his
Faith); Charity will perdure
Eternally in Heaven, separate from
Faith and Hope, which will have disappeared
(cf. 1Corinthians 13:8); and finally, in this life, Faith and
Hope can subsist without Charity, as
always happens when One Commits a Mortal Sin not directly-opposed-to
Faith or Hope. In these instances
Faith and Hope remain in the
Soul in an Unformed-State, since Charity is
the Form of the Virtues.
In the Order of Generation or of Origin, the First is to
Faith), then to Desire (Hope),
and Lastly to Attain (Charity).
According to the Order of Perfection, Charity is the Most-Excellent of the
Theological Virtues ("and the greatest of these is Love" --
(1Corinthians 13:13) because it Unites us Most Intimately with God,
and is the only one of the Three (3) that perdures in
Eternity. As to the other Two (2)
Virtues, Faith is Superior to
Hope because it bespeaks a Relation with God in
Himself, whereas Hope presents
God as a Good for us. Moreover, Faith
is the Foundation of Hope. On-the-other-hand, Hope
is more closely-related-to Charity, and in this sense, it is more-perfect-than
Moral Virtues: The existence of the Infused Moral
Virtues was denied by numerous Ancient Theologians, but today it is admitted by almost all Theologians, in
accordance with the Doctrine of Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Great, and Saint
Thomas. The basis of this Doctrine is to be found in Scripture. Thus, in the Book of Wisdom
we are told that nothing is more useful in the life of a person than Temperance,
Prudence, Fortitude, and
Justice: "If one loves Justice, the Fruits of her works are
Virtues; for she teaches Moderation and Prudence, Justice and Fortitude, and nothing in life is
more useful for Men than these" (Wisdom 8:7).
Saint Peter, immediately after speaking of Grace as a
Participation in the Divine Nature of
God, states: "For this very reason make every effort to
supplement your Faith with Virtue, and Virtue with Knowledge, and Knowledge with Self-Control, and Self-Control with Steadfastness, and
Steadfastness with Godliness, and Godliness with Brotherly Affection, and Brotherly Affection with Love"
(2Peter 1;5-7). In these and other texts we have the Scriptural Basis that was later elaborated by the Fathers and
Theologians to give us a Body of Doctrine that is Perfectly Organized and Systematic. It is true that the
Church has not expressly defined anything on this question, but today the Doctrine on the Existence of the
Infused Moral Virtues is generally accepted.
The Theological Virtues are demanded by the very Nature of
Grace so that it can be Dynamically Orientated to the Supernatural End;
the Moral Virtues are demanded by the Theological
Virtues because to be Ordained to the End requires a proper disposition to the Means. Hence, the
Infused Moral Virtues are Habits that dispose the Faculties of Man to
follow the Dictate of Reason Illumined by
Faith in relation to the Means that lead to the Supernatural
End. They do not have God as their Immediate Object --
and in this they are distinguished from the Theological Virtues -- but they rightly
Ordain Human Acts to the Supernatural End, and in this way they are distinguished from the
corresponding Acquired Natural Virtues.
The Infused Moral Virtues regulate all the Acts of Man, including (at least on the part
of Prudence) the very Acts of the Theological
Virtues, in spite of the fact that these latter Virtues are Superior to the
Moral Virtues. For although the Theological
Virtues, considered in themselves, do not consist in the Mean or Medium as do the Moral
Virtues, one can nevertheless go to excess in the Manner of Operation, and it is that Manner or Mode that falls under
the Moral Virtues. So it is that the Moral
Virtues must be numerous, as Saint Thomas points out: "For every Act in
which there is found a Special Aspect of Goodness, Man must be disposed by a Special Virtue". Accordingly, there will
be as many Moral Virtues as there are Species of Good
Objects that serve as Means leading to the Supernatural End. Saint
Thomas Studies and Discusses more than Fifty (50)
Moral Virtues in the Summa Theologiae, and perhaps it was
not his intention to give a complete and exhaustive treatment.
However, since ancient times it has been the custom to reduce the Moral Virtues to
Four (4) Principal Ones, namely, Prudence,
Justice, Fortitude, and
Temperance. They are expressly named in Sacred Scripture, as we have already seen, and they are
called the Virtues most profitable for Man in this Life. Among the Fathers of the
Church, Saint Ambrose is apparently the first to call them
Cardinal Virtues. The Scholastic Theologians unanimously subdivided the
Moral Virtues on the basis of these Four (4)
Saint Thomas maintains that these Virtues can be called
Cardinal from Two (2) Points of View: in a less proper
sense, because they designate general Conditions or Characteristics necessary for any
Virtue (every Virtue calls for
Prudence, Justice, Fortitude,
and Temperance); more properly, because they pertain to Special Activities that require
the Control of Virtue. Hence, the Cardinal
Virtues are Special Virtues, not merely General
Virtues that comprise all the other Virtues.
The Principality of the Cardinal Virtues can be seen in the influence they exercise
over their Subordinated Virtues. The latter
Virtues function in Secondary Related Matters, leaving the Principal Matter to the corresponding
Cardinal Virtue. Hence, each of the Cardinal Virtues can be divided
into Integral Parts, Subjective Parts, and Potential Parts.
The Integral Parts refer to Conditions or Characteristics necessary for the Perfect Exercise of the
Virtue. Thus, Patience and
Constancy are Integral Parts of Fortitude.
The Subjective Parts are the various Species of the Principal Virtue. Thus,
Sobriety and Chastity are Subjective Parts
The Potential Parts are those Annexed Virtues that do not have the Full Force
and Power of the Principal Virtue, but are in some way related to it. Thus, the
Virtue of Religion is Annexed to Justice
because it has to do with rendering to God the Cult that is due, although this can never
be done Perfectly, because one cannot achieve the Equality required for strict Justice.
But does the Principality of the Cardinal Virtues make them Superior to the Secondary Related
Virtues? Evidently not, for Religion and
Penance are Superior to Justice, since their
Object is Nobler. Humility is related to
Temperance, but is more Excellent than Temperance.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to preserve the Principality of the Cardinal Virtues as
hinges of the others, because they comply more fully with their definitions as Virtues.
For example, Commutative Justice has more of the aspect of
Justice than Religion or Penance.
An Annexed or Related Virtue may be Superior, by reason of its Object, but the
Cardinal Virtue is Superior precisely as a Cardinal
We shall treat of Particular Virtues when we discuss the Positive Means for Growth in
Grace and Holiness (Chapter 9). Now, however, we
shall investigate the Last and Crowning Element of the Supernatural Organism, namely, the
Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- End of Part III -