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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues - CD Review

Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues

CD Review

          Father Robert Barron is well known for his Catholicism series, which ran on PBS and is now available as a DVD set.  He has also put up numerous You Tube videos about some aspect of the Faith or philosophy and has reached many people through that ministry as well as his Word on Fire organization.

          Father Barron has also made a number of CDs for St. Joseph Communications, which are distributed by Lighthouse Catholic Media.  In this article I am reviewing his CD Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues.  The CD, along with many others (and the Catholicism series), is available at the Lighthouse online store, a link to which is on the sidebar of this page.

          Hopefully this review (and others that will follow from time to time) will be informative and give people an opportunity to go deeper by purchasing the CDs if they desire.  The reviews are not meant to be a sales pitch, but will hopefully be a worthwhile encounter with a ministry in which I believe.

          In Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues, Father Barron follows Dante’s Divine Comedy through the seven deadly sins.  He explains each one in detail, and with wonderful examples.  Then he gives a counter-virtue that is an antidote for the sin, and some practical advice on what to do to overcome it.  Finally he gives a Marian example from Dante in which she beautifully models the virtue.

          Pride:  Father Barron starts with pride, which is at the base of Dante’s Mount Purgatory, and is the base of most all sin.  Father Barron gives St. Thomas Aquinas’s definition of pride – turning oneself into God, taking on the prerogatives of God to oneself.  This is the sin that made Lucifer say, “I will not serve,” and led Adam and Eve in the Garden to steal the prerogative of God and decide what is good and what is evil, according to their own authority.  The lively virtue that is the antidote for pride is humility, one of the most precious and difficult of all the virtues.  The practical advice Father gives is for us to find opportunities to purposely take the lowest place.  By allowing others to be ahead of ourselves we will develop humility and conquer that tendency to grab for ourselves that place to which we have no claim, God’s.

          Envy:  Next is envy, what Aquinas defines as sorrow at another’s good.  This sin Father Barron says is the nearest to pride, and its antidote is admiration.  If we can admire the good of another we can rejoice in it.  His advice is to go out of our way to praise someone, particularly someone whom we envy.  If we are in a group where envy leads to gossip about another person, make a point of finding the good in that person and praising it.

          Anger:  Next up Mount Purgatory is anger, which Aquinas defines as the unreasonable desire for vengeance.  Not surprisingly the antidote lively virtue is forgiveness.  Father’s practical advice: take a step today to heal a broken relationship.  Particularly if it has been festering, become a grudge, or led to not speaking to another, make some step to begin to heal the relationship, and quench the sinful anger.

          Sloth:  Midway up the mountain is the sin of sloth, the lack of energy for spiritual good.  It is a spiritual lethargy that may be very present in people who have much energy for the cares of the world.  The antidote virtue is zeal, and Father’s advice is to seriously discern our mission.  Take to prayer the question of what mission God would have us accomplish.  If we discern our mission, we will obtain that zeal that drives out sloth.  He also suggests we practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, visit the sick, instruct the ignorant, pray for the living and the dead, etc.  It’s not hard to see how these would be incompatible with sloth.

          Avarice:  Avarice is defined as the unreasonable or immoderate desire for wealth.  Father Barron passes on wonderful wisdom from the Saints and popes about the use of material goods, of the right to private property and the responsibility to use that property with the common good in mind.  The lively virtue is generosity, and Father Barron gives a host of practical advice.  First, he advises that we make a habit of giving things away on a regular basis.  We should often clean out our closet to the benefit of the poor.  He suggests when we make a purchase to buy a model item one step down from the one we want and give the difference to the poor.  His suggestions are difficult to follow, but certainly powerful for replacing avarice with generosity.

          The last two sins deal with sensual pleasure, which is good when used properly and seen as a foretaste of Heaven.  However, the devil is a master at distorting and corrupting the good things God has made.

          Gluttony:  Gluttony is the immoderate pleasure in food and drink.  Despite America being an overweight nation in a health craze, gluttony as a spiritual problem is not given much concern these days.  However, food and drink can become an addiction and over-indulgence in them can be used as an escape or even a substitute for God.  The lively counter-virtue is asceticism.  Father Barron notes the irony that the modern world considers asceticism some medieval, crazy idea, while at the same time rushing to the gym to spend hours on the Stairmaster.  The goal, he reminds us, is not puritanism, but to discipline our lower nature.  And his practical advice is fasting.  He offers the simple recommendation to occasionally skip a meal, spend the time in prayer, and give the money we would have spent on it to the poor.

          Lust:  At the top of Mount Purgatory is the deadly sin of lust, which is defined as treating another person as a means to one’s own pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure.  Father Barron reminds us of Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative, that we must always treat the other as an end and not a means.  The virtue that does that, particularly with our sexuality, is chastity.  His advice will require us to examine our relationships.  First, he says, if we are using any form of pornography, stop.  If we have a problem with it, seek help.  Then, if we can recognize any relationship, perhaps even a marriage, in which we objectify another person, we have to reorient it.

          This CD is a wonderful example of why Father Barron is such a popular speaker.  It is informative, interesting, and leads to reflection.  From time to time I will review other CDs from various speakers.  This CD and many others can be found by clicking the Lighthouse online store icon on the sidebar of this blog.  There are specials for Lent and gift ideas as well.  If you would like this ministry brought to your parish, please email me ( or contact Lighthouse directly.  Finally, if you know of another ministry faithful to the Church that I can promote on this blog, please email me with information about it.  I am happy to promote any program that will bring people to Christ.