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Creating men of virtue

| Thursday, April 20, 2017

I love Stanford Hall. While its t-shaped, cinderblock stature may look uninviting to the aesthetic eye, as the old cliche goes: “it’s what on the inside that counts.” What’s inside Stanford Hall is an incredibly welcoming community that prizes each and every one of its members. While other may dorms may rightfully share the same sentiment, the community of Stanford is built upon a realization that each member helps every one else grow as a student and as a person, but most overarchingly as a man of virtue. Stanford hosted its third annual “Men of Virtue Dinner” this past Tuesday, and so I wanted to spend some time reflecting upon how every guy at Notre Dame can take up the task of growing as a man of virtue.

You may be asking yourself, however, “why is this guy even talking about increasing in virtue? Couldn’t he have something more applicable to talk about?” While these objections may be somewhat valid, I believe that the question of virtue and how to increase in it is especially relevant to Notre Dame students and the overall mission of this institution.

Fr. Moreau saw education as “the art of helping young people to completeness.” Virtue is the main engine of reaching this completeness, mainly because it advocates for and even necessitates the pursuit of excellence. Students at Notre Dame do and should pursue excellence, both inside and outside the classroom, and the success that is achieved stems from one’s acquisition of and commitment to virtue. As Aristotle once said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Look, it’s hard to be a virtuous guy on a college campus. Temptations are everywhere, and honestly the general vibe is that it’s “uncool” to be a man of virtue. However, virtue comes from the Latin word “vir”, meaning man. The word virtue can be equivocated to the word manliness. If you’re not convinced by Latin, its very likely that your own personal hero is in many ways a man of virtue. Guys at Notre Dame should encourage one another to take on this role.

I believe that the best way to foster an increase of virtue is to promote and absorb the goal into the very fabric of the residence hall community. This dedication to virtue and excellence becomes much easier when your brother’s around you are committed to it as well. When it becomes “cool” to be virtuous — when it becomes epistemic — the task of building virtue becomes much easier. Living within a community such as this allows an individual to build up virtues such as prudence, temperance, and fortitude. These are the types of communities that we ought to be constantly building, day-by-day, action-by-action. When we let our virtue shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same, and we are liberated from the fear that we are powerful beyond measure.

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