I began this blog . . .

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with the intention of trying to understand what it means to be Catholic and live in the modern world. I think most people, including most Catholics, would think there was a tension between the two. I don’t believe there it, but, clearly it is not an easy path to follow for the devout Catholic.

Anyway, I my main objective was to focus on what the impact of my, then, relatively new Catholicism would have on my business career and business decisions. The background to all of this was two-fold.

First, just prior to my coming home to faith, still as a Protestant, I had been reading and studying Steven Coveys wildly successful book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. I was very interested in what it is that makes a business, or any organization, successful and effective, and I thought, and still do, that Covey made a lot of good points. After I converted to Catholicism and began studying Church teaching, I began to see a parallel between the seven habits and the seven virtues, the theological virtues of faith, hope, love, and the moral virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. I became convinced that the underlying idea behind what Covey was saying about effectiveness was really what the Church had been saying for centuries about the virtues; that to be successful in life, as well as business (vocation), it is necessary to live the virtues. Covey was merely repackaging a very old, and very Catholic idea that goes back to the Middle Ages. Thus the title of the blog: The Seven Habitus.

Incidentally, the word habitus was used by St. Thomas to describe the operation of the virtues. The Catholic Encyclopedia puts it this way:

From Saint Thomas's entire Question on the essence of virtue may be gathered his brief but complete definition of virtue: "habitus operativus bonus", an operative habit essentially good, as distinguished from vice, and operative habit essentially evil. Now a habit is a quality in itself difficult of change, disposing well or ill the subject in which it resides, either directly in itself or in relation to its operation. An operative habit is a quality residing in a power or faculty in itself indifferent to this or that line of action, but determined by the habit to this rather than to that kind of acts.

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines virtue as:

“According to its etymology the word virtue (Latin virtus) signifies manliness or courage. "Appelata est enim a viro virtus: viri autem propria maxime est fortitudo" ("The term virtue is from the word that signifies man; a man's chief quality is fortitude"; Cicero, "Tuscul.", I, xi, 18). Taken in its widest sense virtue means the excellence of perfection of a thing, just as vice, its contrary, denotes a defect or absence of perfection due to a thing. In its strictest meaning, however, as used by moral philosophers and theologians, it signifies a habit superadded to a faculty of the soul, disposing it to elicit with readiness acts conformable to our rational nature. "Virtue", says Augustine, "is a good habit consonant with our nature."”
Is there any doubt that a person living the virtuous life would be, truly, both “effective” and, morally and spiritually if not financially, successful? (I believe financial success might well also be expected to accompany a virtuous life, but not in every case.) Such a person would habitually tend towards the good and avoid evil.

There have been a lot of examples that confirm my theory in the corporate scandals surrounding Enron, MCI, Tyco, and the rest. The executives who precipitated these corporate scandals may have appeared successful at certain points in their careers, but that was truly a fleeting condition. In the end, they were hardly effective, they destroyed themselves and a lot of people who were depending on them for their livelihoods.

Now, why am I going into all this? First, I have never really explained the title of the blog, and doing so has helped me recover a bit of the original sense of direction and purpose I had for the blog. Second, this all ties in with the mystery I have been trying to write.

Now, I’m sure that seems a bit of a stretch, and maybe it is but I’ll try to explain.

What is a mystery except the story of what happens when virtue is lost? It represents the story of a disorder in the world and the effort to put it right, usually at some cost to the hero. It is the classic theme of the legends of the Old West, and the cowboy is the hero of those stories. Lately, there have been few major movies or TV series set in the old West, I’d like to change that. But, we live in a modern world, ranching, cowboying, is a business like everything else. A successful rancher, while being virtuous, must also be a good business man. That’s the general idea behind my accountant/auditor/cowboy character.

So, I’ll keep working, trying to develop my skills as a fiction writer, and also exploring these themes here. I hope one will support the other.

PS – Novel Update. I’ve realized over the last two or three months that the problems I’ve been having with the story so far are fundamental – and easily corrected. The plot sucked, really it was totally incredible, I thought it would be very difficult, nearly impossible, to come up with plots for mysteries, and therefore was not putting enough thought into it. However, I have realized that my career as an accountant provides lots of fodder for murder and mayhem. Therefore, I have a new story line.

I am also working to revamp my protagonist, Joe Morgan. In my earlier efforts, he was not much more than a caricature, and his motivation is weak. While the cowboy is the archetype hero, I don’t want this guy to be a card board cut out type character; I think he has a lot to say about the world he is living in and I hope I can help him say it.


I’ll keep you posted.


2 Comments

Just wanted to say I love the idea of your blog. I have been doing my own research on habits and what the Catholic Church teaches in regards to them. My own bit of research has more to do with how the current brain research regarding how habits are formed or broken relates to what the Church says about them. I have always believed that there is more to it than just the sin of gluttony (in regards to certain habits). I believe that many want to change but habits have been ingrained in them and are harder to break than many realize. This may not have anything to do with your blog but so far your blog is one of the few discussing the subject.

Holly

Thanks for your comment. Of course, I haven't done much research on the brain. The Church has nearly always viewed the idea of habitus as a moral question, rather than a physical one. The idea at the center of the concept of virtue is that of choice -- a person has the moral responsibility to choose the good.

By the way, the idea of habitus is a bit deeper than that of habits, I'll try to brush up on that and explain a bit later.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on January 14, 2006 8:23 AM.

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