481. Virtue is a habit, which ennobles and adorns the rational powers of the creature, and inclines it toward doing good. It is called a habit, because it is a quality which is permanently connected with the faculties from which it is not so easily separated, thereby differing from a virtuous act, which does not remain, but passes away. It creates an alertness and facility of action tending toward the good ; this quality is not inherent in the faculty itself, for these faculties are indifferent toward good or evil. Most holy Mary was adorned from the first instant of her life with all virtues in a most eminent degree, and they were continually augmented by new graces and by new perfection in practice. All the virtues and merits, which the hand of the Lord had showered upon Her, She brought to their fullest perfection.
482. Although the faculties of this Lady and sovereign Princess were in no sense subject to disorder, nor to any of the repugnance, which other children of Adam must first overcome (for sin had not touched Her, nor the leaven of sin, which draws toward evil and resists the good) ; yet, by virtuous habits, these already well ordered faculties were capable of being inclined more and more to what was most perfect, holy and praiseworthy. More over She was a mere creature capable of suffering, and as such She was also subject to pain, to the inclination to ward licit repose, and to the inertia, disinclining Her toward the performance of some supererogatory works, which without sin She could have omitted. In order to overcome this natural disinclination and repugnance habits of the most exalted virtues assisted Her, so that this Queen of heaven vanquished them without any weakness and was in no way hindered in pursuing the utmost perfection in all her works.
483. On account of this beauty and harmony regarding the habits of virtue, the soul of the most holy Mary was so enlightened, ennobled and entirely bent on the highest Good and last End of all creation ; so alert, prompt, efficient and joyful in the practice of virtue, that, if it were possible for our weak insight to penetrate into the interior of her sacred soul, we would there find a more wonderful beauty than that of all creatures combined and inferior only to that of God himself. All the perfection of creatures were in purest Mary as if in their own sphere and center, and all virtues reached in Her the highest perfection, so that in no manner could it ever be said of Her : this or that is wanting in order to make Her altogether beautiful and perfect. Besides the infused virtues, She possessed all the acquired ones, which She augmented by practice and exercise. In other souls, one single act can not be called virtue, because many repeated acts are necessary to constitute virtue ; but in the most holy Mary each act was so efficacious, intense and consummate, that each one was superior to the virtues of all the other creatures. Accordingly, as her acts of virtue were so frequent and did not fall short in the least point of the highest degree of perfection, how incomparably excellent were not the habits of virtue, which the heavenly Mistress attained by her personal exertion? The end for which something is done is that which makes an act virtuous as being well done. In Mary, our Mistress, this end was God himself, highest possible end of all activity; for She did nothing through which She was not certain to advance the greater glory and pleasure of the Lord and She looked upon this as the motive and ultimate end of all her actions.
484. The two kinds of virtues, the infused and the acquired, are founded upon a third kind, called natural virtue ; this is born within us as part of our rational nature and is called synteresis. It is a certain knowledge of the first foundations and principles of virtue, perceived by the light of reason, and a certain inclination in the will, corresponding to this light. Such for instance is the sentiment, that we must love those who do us good, or that we should not do unto others, what we do not wish to be done to ourselves, etc. The most holy Queen possessed this natural virtue or synteresis in the most superlative degree, so that from the natural principles She drew all their consequences and relations up to the universal Good, though ever so remote ; for She reasoned from these first principles with profoundest insight, and incredible swiftness and accuracy. To arrive at these conclusions, She availed Herself of her infused knowledge of created things, especially of the more noble and vast ones, of the heavens, the sun, the moon and stars, the arrangement of all the heavenly bodies and of the elements. Taking in their whole scope from beginning to end, She invited these creatures to praise their Creator and commanded them, as far as was in them, to raise and draw men toward their God until they should arrive at the knowledge of the Creator and Author of all.
485. The infused virtues are divided into two classes:
To the first belong only those, that have God himself for their immediate object ; therefore they are called theological virtues, being faith, hope, and charity. To the second class belong all those other virtues, which have as their proximate object some means or some honorable good, which advances the soul toward its last end, namely God. These are called the moral virtues, because they are intimately connected with established customs, and, although they are many in number, they can be reduced to four, which are called the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. Of all these virtues and their different species I will say farther on as much as I can in order that I may make clear, how all of them and each one in particular adorned the faculties of the most holy Mary. At present I only mention in general, that none of them was wanting in Her, and that all were possessed by Her in the most perfect manner ; moreover they were supplemented by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the fruits of the Spirit, and the Beatitudes. God did not fail to in fuse into Her from the first moment of her Conception, all of the graces and gifts conducive to the highest beauty of the human soul and faculties ; and this was true of the will as well as of the understanding, so that She had as well the knowledge as the habit of the sciences. In order to say it all in one word : all the good, which the Most High could give Her as the Mother of his Son and as a mere creature, He conferred upon Her in the most exalted degree. In addition to all this her virtues continually augmented : the infused virtues, because She added to them by her own merits, and the acquired virtues, because She nurtured and multiplied them by the intensity of her meritorious acts.
Instruction of the Most Holy Mother of God and Most Holy Virgin
486. My daughter, the Most High communicates to all mortals without distinction the light of the natural virtues; to those who dispose themselves by means of them and by his graces, He concedes also the infused virtues at the time of their justification. As He is the Author of nature and of grace, He distributes these gifts with greater or less abundance, according to his equity and pleasure. In Baptism He instills the virtues of faith, hope and charity, and with these, other virtues, by which the creature is to co-operate and exert itself toward the pursuit of Good, not only preserving within itself those received in the sacraments, but acquiring others by its own merits and exertions. This will be the greatest happiness and blessedness of men, that they correspond to the love, which the Creator and Redeemer shows them, adorning their soul and, by the infused habits, familiarizing themselves with the virtuous exercise of their own will. But the failure to correspond to those inestimable benefits brings on their greatest misfortune, because in this disloyalty consists the first great victory of the demon over man.
487. Of thee, my soul, I require that thou exercise thyself and co-operate with the natural and the supernatural, gifts of virtue with an unceasing diligence, and that thou acquire the habits of other virtues, which thou shouldst augment by the frequent exercise of those, which God so liberally and graciously has communicated to thee. The infused gifts, joined to the virtues nurtured and attained by the soul itself, are an adornment and acquisition of marvelous beauty, and very pleasing in the eyes of the Most High. I remind thee also, my dearest, that the Almighty has been so generous in conferring these blessings on thy soul and has enriched it with such great treasures of grace, that if thou shouldst fall into disgrace, it would be thy fault, and thou wouldst incur a greater guilt, than many generations of men. Consider and always remember the great nobility of virtue, how it so enlightens and beautifies the soul, that even if there were no other gain or object, the desire of possessing it for its own sake would be entirely justifiable. Now, that which exalts virtue beyond all comparison is, that its final end is God himself, for whom truth and perfection, which are its constituents, must be primarily intended; and as soon as virtues attain this their end, namely God himself, they will be the foundation of the happiness and blessedness of the creature.