The Source of Heroic Virtue by Fr. Thomas Dubay

3606716201_5578a4b59e.jpgIn his book, Saints: A Closer Look, Fr. Thomas Dubay has a great section outlining heroic virtue in action. Heroic virtue, which brings a person to perfection in a superhuman manner far surpassing the goodness of ordinary people, characterizes the active life of the saints, for they are “the pinnacles of human splendour” (7).

In reading this section, I was very struck by the following description on page 55:

“The very taproot of all heroic virtues is the intensity of the personal yes to God in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.


The saint’s love-penetrated embrace of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and of their Triune revelation is far stronger than that of the ordinary faithful, who also say yes but with less depth, vivacity and eagerness. So also the saint’s trust in receiving everything needful for the attainment of the beatific vision in the risen body far surpasses in intensity that of lesser souls.

The strength of this triple faith-hope-love yes to God is primarily a matter of will though often there is a notable emotional overflow.

In any event, it is not a mere sentiment but is proved to be genuine in daily choices and actions: in remarkable patience, sacrifice, obedience, fortitude and all the other moral virtues.”

As Dubay noted earlier in his book, “velleities, mere wishes, never produce excellence in any worthwhile human endeavour – scholarship, music, art or sports. The same is true for virtuous living – that is, personal excellence (living a life of heroic virtue). In the spiritual life it is not enough to say, “I wish I were better,” “I should improve,” “I admire the saints, but…” Admiration and flabby desires get us nowhere. Saints say, “With God’s grace I will be better, and I will begin right now. I will get rid of my vanities and my laziness. I will stop gossiping and overeating. I will stop procrastinating. I will take the means to see that these changes do occur soon” (23).

Since mere wishes get us nowhere, let us choose today the virtue that we know from experience we most need to develop and let us prove it in today’s choices and actions.

For a great examination of conscience on how we are doing in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, here is a link to Fr. John Hardon’s examination of conscience on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (

As Dubay said, this is “primarily a matter of will… proved in daily choices and actions” (55).

Fr. Dubay highly recommends the particular examen as a way to concretely choose a virtue to work on daily. Here is a link to the particular examen (


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