A Virtuous Life
In 1916, architect John Lloyd Wright invented Lincoln Logs. These sturdy, delightful toy sets used to create model log cabins were especially popular in the 1920s and again in the 1950s and sixties. As I recall the distinctive scent that wafted from the cylindrical storage tin containing the interlocking, stained-wood logs and green slats, I’m reminded of a quote by Wright’s father, American inventor and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He said, “The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines.”
While vines may also cover our monumental tombstones, they cannot hide our interior imperfections and vices from the Architect of Life when we are raised up. That is why the Master Builder advises us to calculate the cost of discipleship and remain steadfast in our commitment to finish what we begin.
“Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish’” (Luke 14:28–30).
In a new year, let’s inspect our foundation for discipleship and build something we can complete and then improve; something we can use: Character!
Character formation is our greatest construction project in life. Catholic theologian and Redemptorist priest Bernard Haring wrote that it’s never simply one person’s private task “but a striving together with and for one another.” He says our character hinges on the attention we give our individual virtues: “We possess a competent character if it is built on a solid and unequivocally understood basic decision for good.
In the consolidated character of the individual, all the virtues…unite and work together” (The Virtues of an Authentic Life, Liguori, 1997).
According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” To that end, in 2017, Liguorian will feature content founded on the traditional Twelve Monthly Virtues as presented by St. Alphonsus Liguori as a blueprint designed to strengthen our spiritual life and character formation. For Alphonsus, the virtues are not towering theoretical concepts to be admired but practical tools to transform us into being more Christlike: A virtuous person who “pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1803).
Saint Paul calls on us “architects” to design and construct our spiritual building…
“upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord…” (Ephesians 2:20–22).
The virtues, then, are the “Lincoln Logs” that interlock us to Christ. They fit together and take shape when they’re constructed on a foundation of solid character. Together in 2017, let’s build something we can use!