Growing in a Life of Virtue with the Saints – Healing 2023


Living a Christian life isn’t easy, but thankfully the Church offers us a powerful witness and example in the holy men and women who came before us. In this talk, Sr. Orianne Pietra René invites you to look to the Saints, especially St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother to understand what it means to live a life of virtue and practical ways to grow in virtue. 

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“The only true riches are those that make us rich in virtue.”

Pope St. Gregory the Great

1. Christ and the Blessed Mother are often called the “New Adam” and the “New Eve.” What are some similarities between them and our first parents? How can you look to Jesus and Mary as an example of openness to the will of God and in choosing virtue no matter the cost?

2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as a habitual and firm disposition to do the Good. We build up habits slowly over time so we need to learn to say “yes” in the small things God asks of us so that we may say “yes” when He calls us to larger ones. What little ways can you say yes to God today?

3. Are there virtues to which you feel naturally inclined or that you have taken care to build up over time? What virtues do you struggle with most often? How do you respond to those moments of struggle or failure in living out virtue?

4. St. Joseph was the only member of the Holy Family who was conceived with original sin. What can the humility of St. Joseph teach you about your own pursuit of virtue?

Text: Growing in a Life of Virtue with the Saints

Hello, I’m Sister Orianne Pietra Rene. I’m a daughter of St. Paul and I’m very excited to be praying with you today. We’re going to be talking about virtue and looking at Mary and Joseph and some of the other saints to kind of see how do we build a life of virtue? How do we grow in virtue and how do we respond in difficult situations the way that Mary did, or Joseph did or the Saints did. But before we do, let’s open with a prayer and ask Mary in particular for her intercession that she may ask the Holy Spirit to inspire a desire for virtue in us and to build us up in virtue to give us the strength, the fortitude, the wisdom to choose virtue. 

Hail Mary

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Choices with Lasting Implications

Okay, there’s a lot that can be said about virtues, virtues and vices, and we could get super theological about this, but today we’re going to stay on the practical and maybe some aspects that you may not have considered before or that you can’t just super easily Google. But if you would like to know more about the theological aspects of virtues, virtues or vices do please feel free to look it up. It is fascinating and it can be very helpful to understand. 

So, when we’re talking about living a life of virtue the way that Mary did, or Saint Joseph did or any of the saints did, it’s very important to remember two things. The first is that we cannot choose well on our own. We are weak and poor and limited and faulted, and here we are. We are sinners in the sense that we sin, right? And when we look back at the beginning at the Garden of Eve, with both the Garden of Eve, the Garden of Eden with both Adam and Eve, right? Both Adam and Eve had a choice at one point to choose obedience to God and trust in God, honoring of God, love of God, or to choose otherwise and they chose otherwise, and their choice had implications lasting implications for all of their descendants for all of the children who had been entrusted to them. That’s us. 

However, when we look at the new Adam and the New Eve, you may have heard them referred to that way before, Christ Jesus and his mother Mary, both of them were faced with huge questions of the same nature. Do I choose to obey God? Do I choose to trust God? Do I choose to honor and love Him? Both of them in their own ways, chose yes. And that yes, contrary to the no of Eve and Adam the yes of Mary, which allowed Christ to come in the yes of Christ had lasting implications for all of the children of God, for all of the children of Mary, we see her as the mother of the church, right? 

That is really important to recognize because we have parents to go to. Do you know what I mean? We can go to God for help. We can look to Mary for intercession and support an example. We can go to God to give us the strength when we are failing. And I think it’s really important to remember also that again, in the grace of your baptism you have the end willing of God who is all good, all powerful. You can lean on Him as you’re seeking to build virtue. That is what the saints all did. 

Mary and Her Yes

Very few of the saints began as virtuous. People, I mean, some of them were just naturally, they had a good upbringing or they were just naturally very inclined towards specific virtues. But all of them had vices with the exception of Mary. Mary always chose to say yes. And Mary also was immaculately conceived which means she was not born with the stain of original sin because God was building an arc for His new covenant, right? So just as the arc had to be pure, Mary had to be pure, but Mary still had a choice. Eve was also born without original sin. Eve chose no. Mary chose, yes, she had just as much of a choice as Eve did, and possibly even more incentive if you’re looking at, you know, preserving yourself or preserving your own comfort to say no to God. But she didn’t, why? Why did she say yes? 

Mary had been building or fostering a life of trust from the very beginning going to the foot of the cross to be with her son. I don’t, you can’t even describe that as a huge deal that that’s magnanimous, it’s just beyond how do you even describe that? It’s beyond anything, but many of us will face difficulties in our life, losses and pains, scary things, things that that just create absolute turmoil in our souls, possibly even resentment that that we face that may be our equivalent of standing beneath the foot of the cross watching one that we love suffer or perhaps we are the one personally suffering. That’s where we’re filled with questions, right? 

The fact that Mary stood there and still chose to say yes to God and still chose to be open to receiving another son, I mean who stands beneath the foot of a cross watching their son die in agony and humiliation and think, oh, well, I’ll have another son. Mary accepted the gift of another son when Jesus entrusted John to her and and through him, all of us. So how can we look to her as an example of openness to God and have choosing love and patience and endurance and kindness and listening and all the virtues that we may struggle with.

Allow the Lord to Feed Us in Prayer

One of the best ways to do this, is to allow the Lord to feed us in prayer, through the scriptures, through the sacraments, the greats of the sacraments. Because by all of these things, He gives us grace with which we can grow in our ability, in our capacity to choose to say yes to Him. However, this is something we build up. We need to learn how to say yes to virtue how to choose virtue in all of the little things before we’re strong enough to be able to do it in the big things. And being strong enough to be able to do it in the big things does not mean that it comes easy or that it’s painless, but it means we will be able to and that we will be able to trust God’s faithfulness in it, because we’ve trusted Him in all the little things. 

Why do the Little Things Matter?

So, what are some of the little things? Sometimes they’re things that really they don’t seem like they matter. They’re too small to matter and sometimes the fact that they seem to matter to God is kind of annoying because they’re so small. But this is where our training ground is to choosing virtue. And the reason all of those tiny things matter that you do, is because you matter, you matter, you matter so much to God, that every little thing you do has inherent value. That your choice to virtue in the smallest thing matters and He can use it. That your choice to vice in the smallest thing matters, it has implications and effects. 

So, your choices matter because you matter. You matter infinitely to God. He has loved you since the beginning of time. Beyond that, the little things matter because you matter, your choices matter because you matter. So what are some of those little things? Sometimes it can be as simple as, yeah there’s dirty dishes in the sink, but I really don’t want to do them right now because the game is on. But I know that at the same time, if I leave them in the sink, someone else will probably have to do them because there’s no room to strain the pasta in the sink. What am I going to choose in that moment? Am I going to choose immediate self-gratification? Am I going to choose to put the other first? Am I going to choose my duty the other patience to get to the game? Endurance for those five minutes that I don’t get to watch the game? Am I putting everything in right perspective? Am I choosing yes in this tiny little thing so that I can grow and that as I grow, as I say yes in all the little things, it becomes easier and easier to say yes, it becomes more intuitive more instinctive to say yes, to choose virtue. 

Tests That We Encounter 

So that might be a really good example of the virtue of patience, the virtue of selflessness. There are other ones that are a little bit more obvious I think to many of us. If I’m online, maybe I’m shopping, maybe I’m browsing I don’t know, information, I don’t know, maybe I’m reading articles, maybe I’m on YouTube watching videos, maybe I’m listening for music and an advertisement pops up that may not be helpful to my chastity to my being able to look at people with pure eyes of the eyes of a sister or a brother in Christ. 

What am I going to choose? Am I going to choose to watch the rest of that advertisement, even if it’s not in the category of like pornographic? Is it helpful to me? Is it helpful to me in my chastity? Is it helpful to me in seeing people as my brothers and sisters in Christ? It doesn’t mean I can’t admire them. It doesn’t mean I can’t be like, “Hey, God, you did a good job there, that person beautiful.” But how am I looking at them? How am I looking at them? How am I perceiving them? Am I separating their humanity from who they are? And is the advertisement inherently trying to get me to do that in any way? To sell whatever, to sell a book, to sell a car, to sell whatever, to sell an idea? Do I watch the whole commercial through or do I watch more than I have to, or do I change it? 

If I changed it right away because I recognized that this was not helpful to my chastity, to my charity, I’ve chosen virtue. If I watched it one second too long, okay, maybe I haven’t chosen virtue but I have a choice on this spectrum. Do I recognize that I’ve watched it a second too long and move on? Do I continue watching? If I’ve watched it too long, what do I do with that now? Do I choose the virtue of humility and going back to God and seeking forgiveness, seeking absolution and seeking the grace to help me have the strength next time not to do that? Or do I choose to be prideful, to excuse it away to say it doesn’t matter, to demean the person further by saying whatever, it’s just a commercial as though it wasn’t a real person on the other side of the screen. How am I choosing those things? Because those little choices will have implications later on. Am I building a habit of virtue either before a fall or after a fall? How do I respond to the fall? That in itself can be a ground of building virtue or am I not? 

Looking Up to Saint Joseph’s Example

I think that in these kinds of examples, I always like to look at St. Joseph because we don’t know a lot about the life of St. Joseph other than he was a righteous man. He was after God’s heart, right? Just like many of his forefathers, not all of them, but many of them. And he chose virtue. He chose to say yes to God in hard things, and we can tell that by the trajectory of his life and how he was able to say yes to God in hard places, he was a very faithful man but at the same time, he was the only sinner in his little nuclear family there. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. 

Mary who was immaculately conceived. Yes, of course you had the choice to say yes or no at any given moment to the Lord, to choose virtue or to choose vice at any given moment, and yet didn’t. Versus him who did have the stain of original sin was probably a little bit more confused percent or a little bit more apt to choose poorly than Mary was. And fell in front of her, right? He would have fallen in front of her. He would’ve fallen in front of Jesus. Joseph’s greatest virtue was that of humility in saying yes to this family. He was bared, his soul was like naked before these people. He was the only sinner in his nuclear family, and everybody saw it. Mary saw it, Jesus saw it. They didn’t judge him for it. But how difficult would that be to know that you are the one falling constantly, constantly, constantly compared to the other people, and that they see it, they see it in you, especially Jesus? 

And yet he said yes. He said yes, every day of his life, every single day of his life he said yes to that. His humility allowed him to keep going back again and again and again. For help, for inspiration to come back and look at his child in the face and knowing he was looking into the eyes of God because he kept choosing this virtue of humility, of love of God, a fear of God, right? Not to say he didn’t fall, he sinned too but he chose to say yes to God as much as he could and as he chose to say yes, he built up his capacity to continue saying yes. 

He kept going back to Jesus and to God for the strength to continue saying yes and he said yes in his final moments at his death knowing he wouldn’t be there when his son suffered, when he probably would would’ve wanted to be there the most, and that Christ when Christ, when we talk about the harrowing of hell or the dissent to the dead, we’re not talking about the theological hell where you choose a life separate in an eternity separate from God but the hell that referred to like the realm of the dead who were awaiting the righteous dead who were awaiting heaven. Sometimes it’s referred to the “bosom of Abraham” when Jesus was nailed to the cross, died and descended into the dead, to the bosom of Abraham, to that hell, to free all the righteous souls awaiting the opening of the gates of heaven. He went down and met His father. He went down and met Joseph. 

Joseph’s life of continually saying yes to God, of continually going back for the grace to to step back up, to stand back up when he had fallen of continually choosing the virtue of humility and in a difficult and humiliating circumstance. This allowed him to see his son face to face at the redemption of the dead bringing the dead back to heaven. How beautiful is that? We have that opportunity. 

Seek the Saints as Examples

We can look to the saints as examples. We can ask for their intercession, right? Because they are with Christ and He shares His heart with them. We’re in His heart. He allows them to hear us. He allows them to pray for us. Ask for their prayers, lean on the sacraments just as they leaned on Jesus in real time. Mary and Joseph, just as they asked for His grace to help them we have the same ability in prayer and in the sacraments. Lean on that grace. Lean on Christ, lean on His grace and keep choosing to say yes. 

Keep choosing virtue in the little things. Builds that up for yourself. And when you fall, choose to say yes in your response. How do you respond to that fall? Say yes to God in your response. Choose virtue in your response. Choose humility. Go back to Him in confession. That’s how Mary and Joseph I think are the absolutely best examples. I’m sure that in our own life circumstances we may find saints that really click with us, who went through something that revealed to us in a particular way what it means to live a life of virtue and things that we face whether it’s personality traits or circumstances, or whatever the case may be, whoever that saint is to you, praise God that he kind of like connected you to, you know. 

But if you want to look at a biblical example of two Saints Mary and Joseph Par excellence, if you want to go back and read a little bit of their story and just kind of think of it from that angle, I would invite you to again, crack open, your gospels, pray with that and ask them to intercede for you as you continue to strive to say yes to God in all things. 

Glory Be

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

About Sr. Orianne Pietra René

Sr. Orianne Pietra René, fsp was born into a multi-cultural and multi-faith home, and converted to Catholicism at a young age.  After years of ongoing little conversions of heart, she left a teaching career to enter the Daughters of St Paul, a community of religious sisters dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel through the most effective means of communication, as St Paul did. Sr Orianne’s greatest wish is for all people to find their healing, their belonging, and their joy in Christ!