Virtues are the skills required to live a happy and fulfilling life. There are rules to human life that establish the boundaries (do not steal, be dishonest, or hurt another person), much like any sport. But the most successful athletes practice the skills that make them excel within those self-evident limits. A skilled quarterback still excels within the rules of football. A virtuous person excels within the rules of life. Without practicing the skills of throwing, timing, and reading the opponent, the quarterback cannot succeed. Without practicing the skills of human life - virtues - habits of thinking and action ordered towards goodness, we cannot succeed at living well.
Our mission is predicated on the aforementioned notion that skills for human excellence are not just math, phonics, and inquiry. Thus far in the school year, we have focused on the virtues of gratitude and docility. The month of November draws our attention to magnanimity. If pronouncing the word is hard enough, understanding this virtue remains equally as challenging.
The virtue literally means having a great mind and soul ("magnus" = great; "animus" = soul).
This is the virtue by which man pursues what is great and honorable in his life, even if it is difficult. St. Thomas Aquinas describes it as a "stretching forth of the mind to great things."The magnanimous person seeks to do great acts, things as are deserving of honor."
This is not opposed to humility. The magnanimous person pursues greatness in proportion to his ability. He humbly takes stock of all the gifts that God has given him and seeks to use them as best he can. As Aquinas explains, "Magnanimity makes a man deem himself worthy of great things in consideration of the gifts he holds from God."
The preface to the quote above comes from a spiritual father very important to me. "The ways of the Lord are not comfortable. But we were not created for comfort, but for greatness." - Pope Benedict XVI
Expanding the mind is difficult. Expanding the soul is perhaps most difficult. This makes me think of the motivator of magnanimity: "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give" (Mt 10:8).
The magnanimous person does not count the cost, because it has already been paid. Instead, there is a reckless nature to giving of one's self, which makes the heart and mind grow. In terms of education, so much is focused on cost, but cost is ultimately frivolous. Once we begin to weigh educating minds and souls in terms of cost only, we lose sight of the purpose. I think this is the distinctive nature of Catholic education: the cost has already been paid by God. Once we begin counting our own input costs, we lose sight of what this is all for. This means we practice magnanimity best when we expect nothing back for ourselves; we only will the good and growth of another.
I see examples of this every day in our faculty. I am very thankful right now for Ms. McKenna, who coordinated bringing the largest group of high school aged youth from our diocese to a retreat focused on God's unconditional love, tomorrow. It isn't really motivating to spend a Saturday doing this, but she is doing it anyways. Give without counting the cost. That is magnanimity in action.
Please join me in praying for our all our young people seeking a real and closer relationship with Jesus.
Most sincerely in Christ,