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2012 – Harry Potter and the Seven Heavenly Virtues

Michael McVeigh  |  18 September 2018

Harry Potter and the Seven Heavenly Virtues

The Harry Potter stories delighted us with stories of epic Quidditch matches and heroic efforts to defeat the evil wizard Voldemort. But the way Harry and his friends face obstacles they encounter can also teach us about how to face problems in our own lives. In this feature, Australian Catholics takes a look at the Seven Heavenly Virtues which are often spoken of in Catholic tradition, and how various characters in the Harry Potter stories embody these virtues.

Hermione Granger
What it means: Diligence is about having a strong work ethic and being steadfast in your beliefs. It is the ability to budget your time, monitor your activities, and guard against laziness. It is about upholding your convictions even when no one else is watching.

In the stories: Hermione is the most diligent of Harry's friends. At one point she takes on so much study that she needs a special magical time-turner in order to fit in all her classes. More than that, though, she is steadfast in her beliefs. Often it is Hermione who helps Harry see the morally right thing to do in a tricky situation.

Ron Weasely
What it means: Kindness is about showing compassion and charity towards others with no need for any reward for yourself. It is about being friends and trusting others without prejudice or resentment. It is also about being positive and cheerful so as to inspire kindness in others.

In the stories: Ron has his ups and downs as Harry's friend, but he is his first and most loyal companion. He stands by Harry even when the whole wizarding world turns against him, which happens a number of times in the series. And when things are at their darkest, it's Ron who manages to make a joke and make things a little better.

Luna Lovegood
What it means: Patience is the ability to endure, to show the grace of forgiveness and mercy. It is about resolving conflicts and injustice peacefully, rather than resorting to hostility and antagonism.

In the stories: Because she acts differently than other students, Luna is often the subject of teasing at Hogwarts. In The Order of the Phoenix, when some students take her stuff, she approaches Harry and his friends to see if they have found anything. Rather than getting angry at her tormentors, Luna prefers to show patience, saying, 'I think I'll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up - it always does in the end.'

Neville Longbottom
What it means: Humility is not about thinking less of yourself, it is about thinking of yourself less. It is being grounded in reality rather than high ideals, having the courage to take on difficult or unglamorous tasks and accepting the sacrifices involved. It is about being faithful to promises, confronting fear and uncertainty.

In the stories: Neville is far from the greatest wizard at Hogwarts, but is constantly willing to do what is right, no matter the personal cost. His faithfulness is seen early in the series, when he unsuccessfully tries to stop Harry and his friends sneaking out against the rules. Professor Dumbledore rewards him, helping Gryffindor win the House Cup, saying, 'It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.'

Purity of heart
Professor Dumbledor
What it means: Purity isn't simply about abstaining from sexual conduct. It's about focusing about what matters in relationships, practicing love and friendship, and honesty. It's about living a healthy life, and seeking to better yourself through education. Purity helps us refrain from hostility, temptation and corruption.

In the stories: As the most powerful and knowledgeable wizard in the Harry Potter universe, Dumbledore could potentially control and manipulate others in the same way as Voldemort. Instead, he has opted to be headmaster at Hogwarts, overseeing his young charges and helping them become better people. Rather than being corrupted by his power, he uses it in the service of others.

Professor McGonagall
What it means: Temperance is linked with restraint and justice. It's about being able to moderate between your own self interest and the interests of the broader community, alongside the rights and needs of others. A temperate person practices self control, moderation and can judge what is the appropriate action at a given time.

In the stories: While Professor McGonagal has run-ins with Harry and his friends, she is always just in her treatment of them. In the first book, when she catches Harry Potter flying a broom without permission, instead of expelling him she takes him to see Oliver Wood to make him part of the Quidditch team. She realises that what Harry needs is a focus for his skills rather than a harsh punishment.

Harry Potter
What it means: Charity is love in its purest form. It is considered the greatest of the theological virtues, embodying generosity and selfsacrifice. This form of love embodies and reflects the nature of God, and is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit. It is embodied in Christ's own sacrifice on the cross, through which the whole world is redeemed.

In the stories: In the prophecy that shapes Harry Potter's life, he is said to possess the 'power the Dark Lord knows not'. That power is love. Harry builds around him a community of people who love him, and it's that community that helps him overcome Voldemort. Throughout the series, Harry has to sacrifice his own desires and needs - success at school, the girl of his dreams - in order to pursue the greater good. And at the end of the series, he is willing to make a final act of self-sacrifice to defeat Voldemort.


Topic tags: valuesandmoraldecision-making, heroesandrolemodels, responsiblerelationships

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