A Year with the Saints – 20 January


Give yourself in earnest to the acquisition of virtue; otherwise, you will remain always a dwarf in it. Never believe that you have acquired a virtue, if you have not made proof of it in resisting its contrary vice, and unless you practice it faithfully on suitable occasions which, for this reason, ought never to be avoided, but rather desired, sought, and embraced with eagerness Saint Teresa of Avila

Saint Vincent de Paul was not contented, as so many are, with knowing and loving virtues, but he applied himself continually to the practice of them. It was his maxim that labor and patience are the best means of acquiring and planting them firmly in our hearts and that virtues acquired without effort or difficulty can be easily lost, while those which have been beaten by the storms of temptation and practiced amid the difficulties and repugnances of nature, sink their roots deep into the heart. And so, on such occasions, instead of being sad he appeared unusually cheerful. When a certain person was lamenting a mischance which had recently occurred as likely to give bad opinion of his community and give rise to comments injurious to himself, he replied, “This is good, for it will give us a more favorable occasion to practice virtue.”

By this same sentiment, Saint Philip Neri encouraged his penitents not to grieve when they suffer temptations and trials, telling them that when the Lord intends to confer on anyone some particular virtue, He is accustomed to permit him to be first assailed by the contrary vice. Saint Francis de Sales illustrated the firmness of virtue in this manner: “If,” said he, “the world comes to attack me, I will treat it as I would a viper: I will trample it underfoot, and obey none of its suggestions. If Satan arms his powers, I will not fear them at all. I am stronger than he. God is my Father, and He will have compassion on me, and will fight for me.” Here is a fine example of virtue, and of the way to exercise it.

MLA Citation