In order to be heroic a Christian virtue must enable its owner to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure, from supernatural motives and without human reasoning, with self-abnegation and full control over his natural inclinations.
This is a continuation of what St. Thomas Aquinas has said:
Virtue consists in the following, or imitation, of God. Every virtue, like every other thing, has its type in God. Thus the Divine mind itself is the type of prudence; God using all things to minister to His glory is the type of temperance, by which man subjects his lower appetites to reason; justice is typified by God's application of the eternal law to all His works; Divine immutability is the type of fortitude. And, since it is man's nature to live in society, the four cardinal virtues are social virtues, inasmuch as by them man rightly ordains his conduct in daily life. Man, however, must raise himself beyond his natural life unto a life Divine: 'Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.'). It is, therefore, necessary to posit certain virtues midway between the social virtues, which are human, and the exemplary virtues, which are Divine. These intermediate virtues are of two degrees of perfection: the lesser in the soul still struggling upwards from a life of sin to a likeness with God — these are called purifying virtues; the greater in the souls which have already attained to the Divine likeness — these are called virtues of the purified soul. In the lesser degree, prudence, moved by the contemplation of things Divine, despises all things earthly and directs all the soul's thought unto God alone; temperance relinquishes, as far as nature allows, the things required for bodily wants; fortitude removes the fear of departing this life and facing the life beyond; justice approves of the aforesaid dispositions. In the higher perfection of souls already purified and firmly united with God, prudence knows nothing but what it beholds in God; temperance ignores earthly desires; fortitude knows nothing of passions; justice is bound to the Divine mind by a perpetual compact to do as it does. This degree of perfection belongs to the blessed in heaven or to a few of the most perfect in this life.
During our lives, and especially during this Holy Season of Lent, we have the opportunity to deny ourselves for love of God and for the sake of His kingdom. Saint Jerome says, "...we fast 40 days, or make one Lent in a year, according to the tradition of the apostles." We can join Christ as He fasted in the desert for 40 days.
St. Augustine says:
...by the due observance of Lent, the wicked are separated from the good, infidels from Christians, heretics from Catholics. Our Saviour fasted 40 days, not because he stood in need of it, as we do, to subject the unruly members of the body, which lust against the spirit, but to set an example for our imitation.
Holy Mother Church does not require us to fast completely like Christ did in the desert. However, Christ's example should give us encouragement to be heroic this Lent and throughout the year. St. Joseph, pray for us.
- New Advent: Heroic Virtue
- Haydok Commentary Douay Rheims Translation: Matthew 4:1-4
- Audio Sancto: Lent: Fasting and Abstinence in the Tradition of the Church