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The Virtue Driven Life Paperback – September 1, 2006
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I was most impressed with Fr. Groeschel’s insight into the Theological virtues. For example, “The virtuous man …lives by faith, is taught by faith, and knows what to do by faith. Faith is what guides him” (p. 109). In the chapter on Hope, Fr. Groeschel writes of the ultimate hope, that being eternal life. “Our hope in eternal life derives from the promise of someone who experienced the dregs of human suffering” (p. 120). The coup-de-gras was the chapter on charity, where Fr. Groeschel describes four types of love: eros (self-centered love), storge (devotion and loyalty to family, friends and relatives), philia (a relationship of mutuality of friends) and agape (selfless, self-giving love).
Fr. Groeschel closes his book by telling us how to grow in virtue. “The beginning of all conversion and self-improvement is the recognition that something is either missing or wrong” (p. 145). He then instructs the reader to do the same thing that I instruct all of my followers to do: Determine what virtues are missing from your life and pray for the grace to receive them. Then, begin finding ways to practice them. With God’s assistance, tap into those virtues already within you, like faith, hope and charity.
Is The Virtue Driven Life for you?
This is an excellent book for any teen or adult wanting to learn more about virtue. Fr. Groeschel wrote this book in an easy to understand manner, which makes it a great read for anyone beginning the journey to build virtue in their lives.
by Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.
Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2006
Pp. 156. Paperback $12.95.
ISBN: 13:978-159276-265-1; LCCN: 2006932354
Review by Reverend Brian Van Hove, S.J.
Published in The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, vol. 30, no 1 (Spring 2007): 34-35
Don't let the title of Father Benedict Groeschel's newest book mislead you. Catholics might think that he is sparring with the Baptist minister Rick Warren. Warren, founding pastor of the Saddleback Valley Community Church in southern California, wrote a best-seller, The Purpose-Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002). It sold twenty-five million copies. Written in a devotional style of forty chapters, perhaps Warren's theology is to Evangelicals what St. Ignatius' "First Principle and Foundation" theology is to Catholics.
Wrong. Groeschel is not responding to Warren. Rather, he is casting into semi-popular language a serious point that Pope Benedict XVI made at Regensburg University in September 2006. He could not have done this intentionally because the book was finished before the pope arrived in Bavaria.
Reason (or Logos) and our Greek philosophical inheritance may not be shed except at peril to the Faith itself. Jews and Catholics understand this because of their two-source theory of Revelation (Scripture and Tradition), whereas Evangelicals and Muslims do not. The Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura, and the absence in Islam of any principle of secondary causality, does not equip Evangelicals or Muslims to appreciate the importance of tradition. That is what the pope reemphasized at Regensburg. The Catholic genius addresses and transforms the best of Greek wisdom (including newer secular learning and technology, for that matter). The original concept of "virtue" derives from Athens, not Jerusalem.
Father Groeschel writes a lot. His books often contain anecdotes, but his choice of them is rich and sometimes very moving. (e.g. pp. 125-126) The story of the beginning of his vocation is told as an anecdote. (pp. 141-143) His professional background in psychology emerges, but he never presents psychology as an ersatz religion. He keeps it in its place as a helping tool for life. (p. 118) In fact, the author hides neither the failure of psychology during the last century nor the collapse in our country of hope in psychoanalysis. The author demonstrates that psychology is lately edging closer to values and the affirmation of character¯and virtue. (pp. 14-16) Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman espouse a positive psychology of human strengths, almost a contemporary reorientation toward the Greek virtues. We can deduce from this that psychology finally left behind B.F. Skinner and his behavioristic model. Paul Vitz wrote about the happy event in his "Psychology in Recovery" (First Things, March 2005). Groeschel is very much cheered that this newer trend in psychology reverses the negativity of the past, when people were told they were merely victims. This trend replaces that with something so good and positive. (p. 148)
The Virtue Driven Life owes much to Cardinal Newman. Besides personal anecdotes, we get an abundance of quotations from John Henry Newman. After Newman, the author quotes Pope John Paul II, especially from Crossing the Threshold of Hope. The author frequently cites The Catechism of the Catholic Church and sprinkles biblical references throughout the text. The questions for meditation and little boxed quotes may not be helpful for the reader. Along with the prayers in the appendices, their inclusion signifies that the author intends this to be a meditation book. Especially to young readers, the Afterword is an admonition to get going and develop tough personal virtue.
The first part of the book treats the classical cardinal virtues¯prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. These Greek ideals can be re-expressed in Christian terms. Yet we need more than reason and the natural virtues, so the second half of the book deals with the supernatural virtues¯faith, hope and charity. "They are special gifts of God so that the soul may be saved." (p. 130)
Chapter 7, which discusses charity, has an excellent presentation of the four loves we first learned about so long ago from C.S. Lewis. Groeschel explains that the absence of storge in our contemporary society has led to a selfism that is destructive. Storge was not mentioned by the pope in his first encyclical, probably to avoid confusion. But the decline of loyalty to a greater group (family, country, church, community, troop, cause) explains the difficulty for the newer generation in making any commitment. This insight alone makes The Virtue Driven Life worth buying.
The more illuminated our problems become, the more there is hope to solve them with the twin resources of faith and reason.
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Fr. Groeschel has such brilliant insights not only in his immense psychological expertise, but his...Read more