NEXT TO THE Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Cardinal Virtues are apt to look pale and unenterprising, but appearances are notoriously untrustworthy.
Prudence and temperance taken separately may not be apt to get you to your feet cheering, but when they go together, as they almost always do, that's a different matter. The chain smoker or the junkie, for instance, who exemplifies both by managing to kick the habit, can very well have you throwing your hat in the air, especially if it happens to be somebody whom for personal reasons you'd like to have around a few years longer. And the courage involved isn't likely to leave you cold either. Often it's the habit-kicker's variety that seems the most courageous.
If you think of justice as sitting blindfolded with a scale in her hand, you may have to stifle a yawn, but if you think of a black judge acquitting a white racist of a false murder charge, it can give you gooseflesh.
The faith of a child taking your hand in the night is as moving as the faith of Mother Teresa among the untouchables, or Bernadette facing the skeptics at Lourdes, or Abraham, age seventy-five, packing up his bags for the Promised Land. And hope is the glimmer on the horizon that keeps faith plugging forward, of course, the wings that keep it more or less in the air.
Maybe it's only love that turns things around and makes the Seven Deadly Sins be the ones to look pale and unenterprising for a change. Greed, gluttony, lust, envy, pride are no more than sad efforts to fill the empty place where love belongs, and anger and sloth just two things that may happen when you find that not even all seven of them at their deadliest ever can.
- Originally published in Whistling in the Dark