The Infused Virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
Grace is a Divine Gift
(Transient, comes and goes)
(Permanent, lives in Soul, destroyed by Mortal Sin)
Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit reside within the Essence of Man's
Natural Soul, giving its Facilities/Powers of Intellect and Will the Capacity for Supernatural Acts.
We have seen, in our consideration of Sanctifying Grace how that
Divine Gift is always accompanied with the Infused
Virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. We saw, too, that while
Sanctifying Grace Resides-in and Perfects the Essence of the
Soul, bringing a share in the very Life of God, the
Infused Virtues (Theological and
Moral) and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit Reside-in and Perfect the Faculties of the
Soul (Intellect and
Will), giving those Faculties the Capacity of Supernatural Acts.
We will take a brief look at those Infused Virtues and
Gifts to see a little more of their Role and Need in the Christian Life.
Yet, this involves Subject Matter so Extensive that we can give only the Barest Summary in these Reflections.
Essence: That which makes a thing to be what it is.
Faculties: The Quality in an Entity which makes it Capable of Performing certain Acts.
Virtues: Acquired and Infused
The Supernatural Virtues that come with Sanctifying
Grace are called Infused, to distinguish them from the Natural Virtues
that are Acquired. ACQUIRED Virtues are Good
Habits that we Acquire through Repeated Effort on our part to do what is Right,
such as the Habit of telling the Truth
(Veracity), the Habit of putting-up-with
Trying Situations (Patience), the
Habit of Moderation in the taking of food and drink
The building-up of the Acquired Habits does not come without Persevering Effort,
for they require a going-against the Selfish Inclinations of our
Fallen Nature. But as one progresses in the Acquiring of these Good Habits,
they bring a certain Readiness and Facility in the performance of those individual Virtues.
We can better understand the Supernatural Infused Virtues by way of Contrast with the Natural
While, as we saw, the Natural Virtues are Acquired and Strengthened by Repeated Acts,
the Supernatural Virtues are Infused
into the Soul by God, along with
Sanctifying Grace, and Grow with Sanctifying
Natural Virtues dispose the Faculties to follow the Dictates or Commands of
Reason, while Supernatural Virtues
dispose the Faculties to follow Reason Illuminated by Faith.
Natural Virtues are Lost by non-use,
or by repeated acts Contrary to the Virtue;
Supernatural Virtues, on the contrary, are Lost
(along with Sanctifying Grace) through Mortal
Natural Virtues increase the ease with which Good
Actions are performed, whereas Supernatural Virtues do not
increase the Facility of Action, but give the Supernatural Capacity to perform
Actions that are Meritorious of Heaven. No
matter how much we have advanced in Natural Acquired Virtues, they bring no
Supernatural Benefit without the Infused
Virtues to make their Acts Meritorious.
The mature Christian, therefore, has Two (2) Sets of Moral
Virtues, specifically different from each other, One
Natural and Acquired, the Other Supernatural
and Infused. For example, the Acquired Virtue of Temperance
causes us to use Moderation, directed by Reason, in the avoidance of all Excesses
calculated to Harm the Health of the Body and the
exercise of our Mental Faculties; while the Infused Virtue of Temperance rises higher and disposes us,
under the Direction of Faith, to Discipline
our Bodies by Fasting and
Abstinence for a Closer Union with Christ in
The Holy Spirit Our Guide
In the Work of Salvation, the Father Willed
that the Son become Man, and by His
Passion and Death
Redeem Mankind. This Work accomplished, the
Father and the Son Willed that the Holy
Spirit continue the Work of Salvation by the
Sanctification of individual Souls. As the second Vatican
Council states: Christ, to Whom all Power in Heaven and on Earth has been given, is still at
work in the Hearts of Men through the Power of His Spirit.
et Spes, n:38)
Christ, the Head of the Church and the
Source of the Supernatural Life that comes to us through the
Church, is constantly aiding us with Actual Graces to assist us along the
way. But He does this through the Holy Spirit Whom,
with the Father, He is always sending, in all that
pertains to our Sanctification (John 14:26). This
Divine Spirit, then, has been entrusted by the Father and the
Son to bring us to Everlasting Life.
The Holy Spirit Leads Us in Two (2) Ways
God has not only created us to share in His Own Infinite
Happiness, but He Willed (for those who reach the use of
Reason) that we Cooperate with Him in
attaining that Goal. By granting us the Divine Gift of
Sanctifying Grace, He made us Sharers in His Own
Divine Nature and Life, making us His Adopted Children and Heirs of
Heaven. Along with that He gave us the
Power to Act in a Divine Way through the Infused Virtues
and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to become Cooperators with
Him and Secondary Instruments of our own
Salvation. God, of course, is the
Primary Cause of the Salvation of both
Angels and Men. In the light of this, we will consider the Two (2) Ways in which the
Holy Spirit leads us in the Christian Life.
By the Infused Virtues: At times the Holy Spirit
leaves us to ourselves to make Acts of the Theological Virtues (
Faith, Hope and Love), and
of the Moral Virtues (Prudence,
Justice, Fortitude and
Temperance). We set these Acts in Motion under the Impulse of Actual Grace.
We are Master of these Actions in that we rule the direction of our lives. However, we are aided every step of the way by the
Holy Spirit, Who is the
First Cause of our Supernatural Acts by means of the
Infused Virtues and Actual Graces. Yet, our
Free-Will is not infringed-on. Under the
Inspiration of Actual Graces we Freely Choose to Exercise these
Virtues. Not that we think of these Virtues
individually, but they are all at-work in our decisions made with Supernatural Motives.
of the Holy Spirit
Fear of the Lord
Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit reside within the Essence of Man's Natural Soul, giving its
Facilities/Powers of Intellect and Will the Capacity for Supernatural Acts.
However, this way (aided only by the Infused Virtues) has its
Difficulties, for we do not have Perfect
Possession of these Virtues. In spite of our
Good Intentions and Efforts we Fail many times to do what we propose to do.
We share the same Weakness as Saint Paul: I do
not the Good that I wish, but the Evil that I do not wish, that I perform. (Romans 7:19). Because of
this inherent Weakness in our Fallen Nature,
the Infused Virtues - Indispensable as they are - will not be enough in every
situation. For this reason the Holy Spirit Himself takes over the direction of our Actions
at Crucial Times by means of the Gifts of the Holy
By the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: The Second Way in
which the Holy Spirit leads us is by means of the Seven
(7) Gifts of the Holy Spirit which Perfect the
Seven (7) Infused Virtues. They do this by rendering the Faculties
of the Soul Docile and Disposed to react more Promptly and Easily to the
Actual Graces continually offered by the Holy Spirit.
The Seven (7) Infused Gifts are:
Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge,
Piety and Fear of the Lord. At times, by
means of these Gifts, the Divine Spirit takes over
the direction of our Actions, so that we become mere Instruments in His Hands. When this
happens, we are no longer in the Driver's Seat; we merely consent to His Work. When the
Holy Spirit leads by means of the Gifts, our
Human Weaknesses are overcome, the task is accomplished with Greater Ease, and the
Infused Virtues are exercised more Perfectly.
Spiritual Writers compare these Two (2) Ways of being led by the
Holy Spirit to progress made by rowing-a-boat, and by being carried-forward by means of a Sail. The Rowing (in which we
retain Mastery and Direction of the boat) is much more Laborious and
Slower; but with Sails (given a favorable wind) the progress is with much Less Effort and Greater Speed.
The parallel here is clear. When aided, only by the Infused Virtues, we retain the direction
of our Actions, but much more Effort is required, and we are subject to much
Inconstancy because of our many Human Weaknesses.
This is usually the 'more-common' manner of following in the Footsteps of Christ,
for the Wind of the Holy Spirit blows only when
He Wills. (John 3:8). The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are compared to
the Sails that catch the Divine Inspirations, and carry us along as the
Holy Spirit leads us where and when He Wills,
we consenting to His Action. As Grace grows,
these Gifts become more-active, and the Holy Spirit
takes a Greater-Role in the Direction of our Lives. But it would be Sheer Presumption to expect or wait for the
Holy Spirit to lead us in this manner, if we do not Strive Energetically to exercise the
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not to be confused with the
Inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Inspirations are Actual
Graces, passing helps to Enlighten the Mind or Inspire and Strengthen the
Will. Whereas the Gifts are Permanent Endowments that remain
as-long-as Sanctifying Grace remains. The Gifts render
the Intellect and Will Docile and Receptive to the
Inspirations of the Holy Spirit.
In the Activity of the Infused Virtues, the Natural Powers of the Soul
(Intellect and Will) are in control. In each
Virtue the Human Mind deliberates and the
Will chooses the way one will go. Although these are
Supernatural Virtues, the Soul Acts in a Human Way,
In the Activity of the Gifts, on the other hand, the
Soul Acts in a Divine Way, for it no longer moves itself, but is moved by a
Divine Instinct. The Soul's Activity is that of Acceptance
and Assent. The deliberation of Human Reason gives-way-to Divine
Intuition implanted in it by the Gifts. The Human Way of Acting is transformed by the
Divine. Theologians describe the Activity of the
Gifts as follows:
"The Holy Spirit never Impels to Action without at the same time Enlightening the Soul. In every Act
of any of the Gifts there is both a sudden Illumination and a swift surge of Love . . . The Holy Spirit unites in due measure Science and
Sanctity, Truth and Love, a complete Sanctification in Truth. His Movement, moreover, imparts Certitude and Security, since it has not
Natural or Human Norms, but Divine Knowledge and Action as its Measure and
Rule". (SWIFT VICTORY, Walter Farrell, O.P. & Dominic Hughes, O.P. p. 18)
“Although the Soul acting under the Gifts is Free and Merits in each Act, it has no dominion over these Acts.
It cannot summon the Holy Spirit when it wills, nor can it decide to perform Acts of His Gifts whenever it chooses. Its exclusive
function is to prepare itself for His Working, to remove, by His Cooperating Grace in the Virtues, the Obstacles to complete Docility.
The Great Mystics could not experience Contemplation when they willed, but only when it was given them by the Infusion and Inspiration of
the Holy Spirit. Their Ascetic Lives removed Obstacles, and their living Faith and intense Charity disposed them to receive the Actual
Graces which would Stimulate the Gifts into Action”. (ibid. p.20)
The Infused Virtues
We have considered in a general way the Infused Virtues in contrast with the Acquired
Virtues, and in contrast with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here
we will take a brief look at them Individually, namely, the Three (3)
Theological Virtues and the Four (4)
Moral or Cardinal Virtues.
Three (3) Theological Virtues: The
Virtues of Faith, Hope and
Charity have God as their Direct Object. By
Faith we know God, by
Hope we trust His Goodness and Promises, and by
Charity we Love Him.
FAITH - which enables us to assent to the Divine Truth
that God has revealed, has been defined by the First Vatican Council as
a Supernatural Virtue whereby, under the Inspiration and Assistance of Grace, we believe those things
revealed by God to be True, not because the Intrinsic Truth of these things has been perceived by the Natural Light of Reason, but because
of the Authority of God Himself revealing them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. By its very Nature,
Faith is Imperfect and
Obscure; but to help correct its
Imperfections as far as possible, we have the Gifts of Understanding and
Knowledge which Perfect Faith to become more-Penetrating, more-Comprehensive,
HOPE - is a Divine Infused Virtue by which, with
certain confidence, relying on God's Goodness and Promises, we expect to attain
Eternal Life, and the Means to attain it. This
Virtue enables us to live the Christian Life without the
Uncertainty and Inconstancy of Human Hope,
but with the Unshakable Support of God on
Whom we rely. While Faith gives
Light, Hope gives Confidence.
It eliminates Discouragement from Faults,
Temptation and Aridities found in every life.
The more one advances in the Christian Life the Stronger
Hope must be, for the Struggles become more
Difficult, the Sacrifices greater, and the Operations of
Grace more Difficult to Understand. This
Virtue is brought to its Highest Perfection
by the Gift of Fear of the Lord.
CHARITY - is the Supernatural Infused Virtue infused by
God into the Will, by which we
Love God for
Himself above all things, and our Self and Neighbor for His Sake. It is the
Queen of all Virtues, the One that Unites all the other
Virtues and makes their Actions Meritorious. It is the Key
Virtue, therefore, responsible for growth in
Grace which is the measure of Glory in the
Life to come. Charity (Love
of God) makes easier every Effort, and Sweetens
every Sacrifice. It can find expression in countless ways as Saint Paul testifies
(1Corinthians 13:4-7). It is the Heart and
Soul of Prayer, as well as the Motivating Force of the
Spirit of Mortification. It is brought to its Highest Perfection by the
Gift of Wisdom.
Four (4) Moral Virtues: We have seen that the
Theological Virtues put us in contact with God,
enabling us to Know and Love Him in a
Supernatural Way. Yet, because of our Fallen Nature,
those Virtues are not sufficient of themselves to enable us to live a
Christian Life. There is needed, in addition, Moral
Virtues which concern our Self-Control and our Relationships with others, considered as means toward that
Ultimate End. There are Many
Moral Virtues, but there are Four (4) General
(or Cardinal) Virtues under which all other
Moral Virtues may be classified: Prudence,
Justice, Fortitude and
We might say, then, that as the Theological Virtues Unite us with
God, the Moral Virtues remove the
Obstacles to that Union. But they do more than that, for when they are Motivated by
Charity, they become Meritorious Acts and the means of growing in that Union.
PRUDENCE - is an Infused Virtue rooted in the
Practical Intellect enabling the individual to make Correct Moral
Decisions and carry out those Decisions in particular circumstances. It is the most important of all the
Moral Virtues, for it is the Guide of our entire Moral
Life. In the Light and Strength
it receives from the Theological Virtues, Prudence
Directs and Guides all the other Virtues as to the Proper Means for attaining
Eternal Life. The Virtue of Prudence is
brought to its Highest Perfection by the Gift of Counsel.
JUSTICE - is an Infused Virtue that inclines one to respect
the Rights of Others (whether God's or our fellow human's) and to render to them their strict due.
It regards the Rights of Others not merely as seen from the Light of Reason, but from the
viewpoint of Reason Enlightened by Faith and Elevated by
Charity, and of our Ultimate Goal - Eternal
Life with God. Justice is brought
to its Highest Perfection by the Gift of Piety.
FORTITUDE - While Justice has to do with our duties toward others,
Fortitude helps to control our Inner Life, our
Emotions, our Desires and
Fears. It helps us to steer a middle-course between Fear and
Daring, for lacking control, these Two (2)
Emotions can Degenerate into Cowardice on the
One Hand, and Foolhardiness on the
Other. It Strengthens the Soul to Sustain and Overcome the
Difficulties and Dangers that beset us in our Moral
Lives, and keeps us from giving-up when the going is Hard. It brings a
Strength of Soul that is required for every Virtue. The
Ultimate Act of Fortitude is Martyrdom, like that of Sister Maria
Goretti, who had the Courage to accept Death rather than
Sacrifice her Virtue. This Virtue
is brought to its Perfection by the Gift of Fortitude.
No Pain . . . . . .
No Guts . . . . . .
No Cross . . . . .
TEMPERANCE - a Supernatural Virtue that moderates one's
Desires for Pleasures of the Senses, and keeps
them within the Limits of Reason Illumined by Faith. Although Temperance
Moderates all Sense Pleasures, it refers in a special way to the
Pleasures of Taste and Touch which are the most likely to draw the
Appetite beyond the Rule of Reason. For this
reason it is one of the most necessary Virtues in the
Spiritual Life of the individual. Like Fortitude, it brings Self Control.
While Fortitude Strengthens, Temperance
Moderates. Between these Two (2) Virtues
our entire Inner Life is properly ordered. Temperance
is brought to its Highest Perfection by the Gift of Fear of the Lord.
Summing up: To reach Life's Goal, the most
important condition is that we are headed in the Right Direction. The Theological Virtues accomplish
this, directing us Godward. But to reach our Destination we must also have
Prudence to choose the best-means of getting there, Justice to
fulfill our Obligations to God and Man on the way, Fortitude
to overcome the Difficulties we encounter, and Temperance
not to be sidetracked on the way by passing Pleasures and
These, then, are the Supernatural Powers or Faculties Infused into the
Soul along with Sanctifying Grace, Elevating
our Natural Powers with their Natural Acquired Virtues to a
Supernatural Plane, orienting them to our Final End, and enabling us to
cooperate with Actual Graces which the Holy Spirit,
the Sanctifier, is constantly bringing to us.
Audio Clip on the
by Father Jordan Aumann, O.P.
Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical University
of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome
Links to other Pages on Virtues
Three (3) Theological Virtues
Four (4) Main Moral Virtues
No Species exist for the
Three (3) Theological Virtues