Abba Anthony said, “Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge or we labor in vain.”
I’ve been rolling around our current criteria for sanctity in my head as well as my own understanding of our theology of sanctity. Our criterion 2 “Christian Discipleship” is rather broad and vague. Indeed, that’s not necessarily surprising as discipleship comes in a variety of forms. But, what if—as a way of focusing our thoughts—we identified the specific virtues of Christ that we see manifested most fully in the given individual?
The value here is that it accomplishes a couple of things. First, it brings the basic vocabulary of the virtues back before the eyes of the church, reminding them of our ascetical theology. Second, it reiterates a sound theology of sanctity which does not praise individuals for their individuality but which understands them to be participating in the virtues of Christ.
Of course, this does raise the issue of what list of virtues to use—and there are any number to chose from whether that be the classic list of the seven (fortitude, temperance, wisdom, justice, faith, hope, love) or one of the list ennumerated in Scripture or a combination of several. Again, this leads us back to us as a church and how we understand the Christ-like virtues most needful now.
For instance, Catherine of Siena might be (wisdom, temperance) or (wisdom, reconciliation, service). [But are the last two virtues or charisms—should there be a distinction between the two; can there be a distinction? Gonna have to think about that…]