What is virtue? “A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” A person with virtue “pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.” (CCC 1803)
So why should you try to grow in virtue? Why does it matter? There are many reasons, such as improving prayer life, being a better friend/spouse/parent, and rejecting sin more easily; but St. Gregory of Nyssa said it best: “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.”
The Catechism has identified four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. (CCC 1805) They are also known as human virtues as they are tied to our intellect, emotions, passions, and actions.
The three theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. They are the “foundation for Christian moral activity” (CCC 1813) helping us to live in right relationship with God.
The Church in her wisdom has given us seven capital virtues, which can be utilized as balms for the seven deadly or capital sins. Growing in these virtues helps us to overcome sin. The seven capital virtues are: humility, generosity, meekness, diligence, brotherly love, temperance, and chastity.
Here are some saints who exemplified what it means to be virtuous along with a novena you can pray. You can pray for growth in all virtues or for a specific one you feel you’re especially in need of.
Saint Basil: Prudence
“Prudence must precede every action which we undertake; for, if prudence be wanting, there is nothing, however good it may seem, which is not turned into evil.” -St. Basil
Saint Basil the Great was a bishop in the early church. He fought against heresy and contributed to monastic life in the church. As a theologian and intellectual, he exemplified prudence, and he will pray for you to as well. You can pray the Novena to Saint Basil the Great to grow in virtue.
Saint Martin de Porres: Justice
St. Martin de Porres was a Dominican lay brother in the 1500s-1600s. He cared for the poor and sick, treating them with dignity. He also endured mistreatments and injustices throughout his life because of his race and status. You can pray for an increase in the virtue of justice by praying the Novena to Saint Martin de Porres.
Saint Augustine: Fortitude
“Fortitude is the disposition of soul which enables us to despise all inconveniences and the loss of things not in our power.” –St. Augustine
Saint Augustine fell into a life of sin after being raised in the faith. He is a saint who struggled but persisted, and eventually came back to God. Pray the Novena to St. Augustine to grow in fortitude.
Saint Paul: Temperance
“If you live according to the flesh you shall die; but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live” (-St. Paul, Romans 8:13).
Temperance requires mastering instincts and desires and having moderation when it comes to things. St. Paul also wrote about having a thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7–10); he had to master himself and rely on God. You can pray for an increase in the virtue of temperance with the Novena to Saint Paul.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Faith
St. Teresa of Calcutta wrote that she did not feel God’s presence to her for long periods of time; she experienced darkness, emptiness, and distance when she desired closeness to Christ. Even so, she kept faith in God. She believed and she led others to believe too. Pray for an increase in faith with this Novena to St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Padre Pio: Hope
St. Pio of Pietrelcina is famous for saying “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” He was a priest in the 1900s who bore the stigmata. Throughout his life and priesthood, he served and offered hope to many people. You can pray the Novena to Padre Pio for an increase in the virtue of hope.
Saint Therese of Lisieux: Charity
“Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” ― St. Therese of Lisieux
Charity means loving God above all else and having our love for God affect how and what we do; it is taking Jesus at his word when He commanded us to “love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote that her vocation was love; she exemplified charity. Pray this Novena to St. Therese of Lisieux for an increase in charity.
St. Vincent de Paul: Humility
“The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.” -Saint Vincent de Paul
The virtue of humility overcomes the sin of pride. The devil’s sin was pride, so increasing in humility elevates us toward God and away from satan. Saint Vincent de Paul humbled himself and served the poor for much of his life; pray the Novena to Saint Vincent de Paul to grow in humility.
Saint Nicholas: Generosity
The virtue of generosity overcomes the sin of greed. God calls us to be generous, not only with our money, but with our time, our resources, our gifts, and more. Jesus told the rich young man to “go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Matthew 19:21)
Saint Nicholas was a bishop in the early church. He is known for his acts of generosity; one instance is when he tossed some gold coins through an open window for a family in financial need. You can pray this Novena to Saint Nicholas to help you grow in generosity.
Saint Francis de Sales: Meekness
The virtue of meekness overcomes the sin of anger. Matthew 5 tells us “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
St. Fransis de Sales was a bishop in the 1500s-1600s. Even though he naturally was quickly riled to anger, he was largely known for his meekness. He overcame his natural tendencies and grew in the virtue of meekness and you can too. Pray this novena to St. Francis de Sales for an increase in meekness.
Saint Monica: Diligence
The virtue of diligence overcomes the sin of sloth. When we don’t want to fulfill what we are called to do, we must be diligent and persevere.
Saint Monica was the mother to Saint Augustine. She was diligent in prayer for her son to return to his faith; for years she prayed for this, and eventually her prayer was granted. You can pray this Novena to Saint Monica for an increase in the virtue of diligence.
St. Maximilian Kolbe: Brotherly Love (Kindness)
The virtue of brotherly love or kindness overcomes the sin of envy. Sometimes it can be difficult to be truly happy for others when they have or are what we want, but God calls us to do just that. We are called to be selfless, rejoice when others rejoice, and love those around us.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe is an incredible example of brotherly love because he selflessly gave his own life to save another. He gave without receiving anything in return. You can pray this Novena to St. Maximilian Kolbe to grow in brotherly love.
St. Thomas Aquinas: Temperance
The virtue of temperance overcomes the sin of gluttony. Temperance applies to “desires and pleasures of touch” according to Aquinas.
St. Thomas Aquinas is a great saint for temperance because after he entered the Dominican order, his family attempted to tempt him to leave by sending a prostitute to him. He was tempted, but did not give in; the story goes that he chased her out of the room with a firebrand from the fireplace! You can pray this Novena to St. Thomas Aquinas for an increase in the virtue of temperance.
St. Agnes: Chastity
The virtue of chastity overcomes the sin of lust. Saint Agnes at a young age dedicated herself to virginity for love of God. Many men wanted to marry her, but her refusals ended in her being handed over to the authorities as a Christian. She was martyred in the year 304. Pray this Novena to St. Agnes for an increase in chastity.