Jean Donovan, The Seven Virtues: An Introduction to Catholic Life. New York: Crossroad, 2007. 157 pages. ISBN 978-0-8245-2452-4.
I like to find books that have short chapters that I can read devotionally. Donovan's The Seven Virtues was a perfect fit. It also discusses a subject that is important to me-the virtues and Christian life. The virtues discussed in this book are the moral and theological virtues and one added virtue-community. Donovan's uses the teaching of the virtues to introduce the reader to the Catholic life.
Jean Donovan is an Assistant professor of Theology at Duquesne University.
The book is divided into three parts including an introduction. In the introduction the author states that the Christian life begins with an experience of God. This book is intended to provide a theology for the Christian life. Donovan defines theology as "a way to describe who we are and why we live the way we do" (13). Part one describes the theological virtues: faith, hope, and love. In each of the chapters Donovan describes the virtue discussed in the chapter and describes the lives of people who demonstrate the virtue in their life. The last part of the chapter analyses the virtue and shows how it applies to the Christian life. The author states that faith is "supernatural;" and it is a choice. Faith is also rational. Faith "does not violate human reason" (36). The chapter on faith describes the Christian life as a journey. Faith is not a one-time decision, but a life-long journey. It is a choice that is made everyday.
Faith puts us in relationship with God. Hope shows how we are to live our life. Hope helps us to persevere in difficult times. Hope is what keeps us going when we want to give up. The scriptures teach us that God is love and we are to love as God loves. Faith, hope, and love are the supernatural virtues.
In part two Donovan describes the natural virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. The author defines prudence as "right reason in action" (80). It is wisdom on how to act in a given situation. This wisdom is connected to a love of truth and the responsibility for everyone to seek it. In the chapter on justice he distinguishes between different types of justice. Christians are obligated to seek the good of the other. He describes how so many lives are "bent toward self-destruction" (103). Temperance calls us to live a life free from materialism. It also requires us to order our affections and desires. We must manage ourselves. Temperance also points to our bodily life as a Christian. The author writes, "Temperance is self-discipline. Our ability to focus both body and mind means that we can craft a life that is intentional and purposefully Christian" (113). Self-discipline is not an end; it is a means to communion with God and others. Courage is another word for fortitude. It is the ability to persevere. It is the ability to be faithful in all our relationships.
The last part discusses the virtue of community. Donovan states that the "goal of the virtuous life is communion, with God" (127) and with others. It allows us to live our lives in harmony with others and the world. Community is "central" to living the Christian life. There are no lone ranger Christians. We need each other.
Using the virtues to introduce the Catholic life is a good ideas. The teaching of the virtues has been prominent in Catholic circles. It has much to offer to Protestants. Many Protestants are now joining Catholics in the importance of cultivating the virtues in the Christian life. The Seven Virtues shows how the moral and theological virtues can be cultivated in the Christian life,