St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians (4:8), sets out the path of virtue: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
As human persons, we have been gifted by our Creator with an intellect. This intellect signifies the higher, spiritual, cognitive power of the soul; among its functions are attention, conception, judgment, reasoning, reflection, and self-consciousness. In turn, each of these functions assist us in our efforts toward thinking. In pondering all of this, I can remember an oft-repeated phrase of my father: “God gave you a brain, use it!” Still another comes to mind: “Use it or lose it.”
In his book Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America’s Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, Professor Vincent Ruggiero notes that today, in most schools (colleges included), effective thinking is not taught at all! Given this tragedy of omission, he recommends that we adopt the “W.I.S.E.” approach to thinking: (1) Wonder applies reflective thinking to examine experiences and identify interesting problems and issues and promising lines of inquiry; (2) Investigate answers the questions raised by reflection and provides the information necessary to address the problem or issue responsibly; (3) Speculate applies creative thinking to produce possible solutions to problems or ideas for resolving issues; (4) Lastly, Evaluate encourages us to apply critical thinking to compare the possible solutions and decide which is most practical, or ideas for resolving issues to decide which is most reasonable.
As Christians, however, we know that thinking about a problem or potential course of action is never enough. Rather, faith-in-action is required! St. Ambrose, reflecting upon the 40th Psalm, noted that “Faith is the firm foundation of all the virtues.” St. Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th-century bishop, expands upon this idea and points to its ultimate meaning: “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.”
Our life of faith, therefore, is expressed through our practice of the Virtues. Regarding virtues, the Catholic Church teaches that there exist both Cardinal (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) and Theological (faith, hope, and charity) virtues. Throughout the weeks of Lent, we’ll think and reflect about each virtue and discover ways they may assist us in living out our vocation of holiness.