Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 72 (3) August 2022

Book Review

The Art of Living
The Cardinal Virtues And The Freedom To Love

by Edward Sri Ignatius Press and Augustine Institute

Book CoverThe author beautifully demonstrates that the life of virtue is both attractive and attainable. He argues that we no longer know how to live the virtues. As a result, we do not know how to relate to each other. The result, in the words of Pope Benedict, is that we have lost the art of living.

The good news is that we can learn to live a virtuous life once we know what the virtues are. This is a tradition that goes back to Jesus Christ and beyond. The author uses homely anecdotes to educate us in the virtues.

The virtues are hinged, so to speak on the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temper- ance. In order to give us an understanding of these cardinal virtues, he turns to an examination of Raphael's frescos of the virtues. Raphael paints them as people. Fortitude is clad in armour. Her inner struggle is depicted in the way she holds a bent oak tree and pets a lion. Prudence is repre- sented with two faces, a young maiden looking into a mirror and an old man looking backward. They represent self-knowledge and wisdom gained from experience. Temperance is calmly holding back the reins of the fire of passion and Justice is holding scales, symbolising the responsibilities be- tween one person and another. The frescos highlight how each of the virtues work together to form a well-integrated person.

Our will is hindered mainly in two ways in our desire to pursue a virtuous life. The first involves our bodily desire for pleasure. The second is due to our fear of suffering.

The author notes that for Aquinas, there are three things needed to practice the virtue of gratitude. First, we must recognise we have received a favour from someone. Second, we must express our gratitude. Third, we should repay the favour at a suitable time.The magnanimous person strives to do great and noble things. This is not opposed to the virtue of humility. He aims at giving the best of himself for the sake of others. He is not striving to glorify himself.

The author notes that patience means bearing sorrows well. It is natural to be sad over suffering. But we must be careful not to allow sadness to overwhelm us. Saint Francis de Sales said that excessive sorrow can damage our spiritual life.

The author has covered so many of the virtues, and he has done so very well.