So faith, hope, love remain

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

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The Princess Bride was the very first movie I remember watching in a theater with my family and is a favorite of mine. I have always wanted to read the book, and I finally got around to reading it a few decades after the desire. This is a book my oldest daughter and I read out loud to each other, which we enjoyed as much as the movie.

The character development in this book is spectacular. Each character had a personality that flowed from page to page. Each had significant ups and downs in the book, and the reader can understand how they responded in each situation. The virtues are easily recognized in the story, especially in regards to the character’s personality.

Virtues are “firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith (CCC 1804). Virtues take a lot of human effort to master, and one can see times where the characters in the book had to focus on their actions to be more virtuous.

The Catholic Church typically defines seven virtues:

Four of them being cardinal virtues (meaning all others can be grouped under these four): temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude which comes from:

Wis 8:7 – For she teaches moderation and prudence, justice and fortitude, and nothing in life is more useful for men than these.

Three of them being theological virtues: faith, hope, and love which comes from:

1 Cor 13:13 – So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 

The characters in the books exhibited all seven virtues as human virtues, meaning how they related to each other or the situation. While faith, hope, and love were abounding in the book, they were on a passionate level with each other and not what the church means when they categorize them as ‘theological virtues.’

Theological virtues are those that deal with our relationship with God, and “they have God for their origin, their motive, and their object – God known by faith, God hoped in and loved for his own sake” (CCC 1840).

This book had me thinking a lot about faith, hope, and charity. Each character hit a time of desolation in the book with regards to their relationships with others or their possible achievement of life’s dreams/goals. How each person responded clearly showed which virtue was the strongest and which was the weakest in their disposition.

Each person is given grace from God, but this grace is ordered by a person’s personality. Everyone has a measure of faith, hope, and charity. Which means we exhibit them at times and struggle in them at other times. I find myself, and I am sure this is true for most people, that I struggle in one theological virtue more compared to the others. I find it helpful to recognize where I struggle the most because when I enter into desolation, the theological virtue I am the weakest determines how I respond.

Sins against the theological virtues (from question 442 of Compendium): 

Faith versus doubt: Faith believes in God and rejects everything that is opposed to it, such as: deliberate doubt, unbelief, heresy, apostasy, and schism.

Hope versus despair: Hope trustingly awaits the blessed vision of God and His help, while avoiding despair and presumption.

Charity versus pride: Charity loves God above all things and therefore repudiates indifference, ingratitude, lukewarmness, sloth or spiritual indolence, and that hatred of God which is born of pride.

For me, I am a hope/despair person. This firmly dictates how I respond when I am in desolation. I tend to think of the worst possible thing that can happen to my family in the coming years, especially in regards to the enticement of not believing in sin. In times of desolation, I have thoughts around why should I pray, read the bible, go to adoration, or attend mass? What is the point as everything seems lost?

It is crucial to understand how you personally behave in desolation. St. Ignatius wrote 14 rules for discernment. Rule #10 focuses on creating a plan for desolation. We can create a specific and unique plan only if we truly understand how we typically respond in desolation. We will always be flowing from consolation to desolation back to consolation. With a firm plan in place for desolation, we can maintain our relationship with God.