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The Character of Virtue
Letters to a Godson
Stanley Hauerwas
with an introduction by Samuel Wells

PAPERBACK; Published: 5/11/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7879-3
Price: $ 17.99
205 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5 x 8
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Timeless wisdom from a renowned theologian on living well 

From the fairy godmother’s pumpkin coach to Herr Drosselmeyer’s nutcracker, godparents have long been associated with good gifts. But in The Character of Virtue theologian and ethicist Stanley Hauerwas offers his real-life godson something far more precious than toys or trinkets—the gift of hard-won wisdom on life and the process of maturing. 

In each of sixteen letters—sent on the occasion of Laurence Wells’s baptism and every year thereafter—Hauerwas contemplates a specific virtue and its meaning for a child growing year by year into the Christian faith. Writing on kindness, courage, humility, joy, and more, Hauerwas distills centuries of religious thinking and decades of self-reflection into heartfelt personal epistles that are both timely and timeless.

An introduction by Samuel Wells—Laurence’s father and Hauerwas’s friend—tells the story behind these letters and offers sage insight into what a godparent is and can be.

Table of Contents

Introduction: On Being a Godparent (by Samuel Wells)
1. For Laurence Bailey Wells on His Baptism
2. Kindness
3. Truthfulness
4. Friendship
5. Patience
6. Hope
7. Justice
8. Courage
9. Joy
10. Simplicity
11. Constancy
12. Humility (and Humor)
13. Temperance
14. Generosity
15. Faith
16. Character

“Encapsulates a life of writing about virtues and theology in these lovingly crafted letters to his godson. . . . Hauerwas’s elegant book will provide any reader with insight and wisdom into living a virtuous life.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Bound to become a classic, Stanley Hauerwas’s wise, gentle, and compassionate letters to his godson are, in fact, timeless teachings from a great spiritual master to all of us.”
— James Martin, SJ
editor of America magazine
“Seeing Stanley Hauerwas’s treatment of the virtues through the eyes of Sam Wells’s growing son, reflecting one minute on vast reaches of truth and the next on close-up political and personal challenges, all with a light touch and characteristic Texan grit—this is a treat. A book to read and savor.”
— N. T. Wright
University of St. Andrews
“Hauerwas’s marvelous letters in The Character of Virtue are not only wisdom for those growing in the faith; they are also a model for how all of us can come alongside parents in the hard but good work of raising children in the faith.”
— James K. A. Smith
author of You Are What You Love and How (Not) to Be Secular
“A distillation of Stanley Hauerwas’s thought, and a distillation of love—these letters should find a home on your bookcase. But make sure that it is easily accessed, as you’ll want to take The Character of Virtue down often, flip it open to any page, and immerse yourself in its loving, bracing wisdom.”
— Lauren F. Winner
author of Mudhouse Sabbath and Wearing God
“In this series of intimate and luminous reflections, annual letters to a godson, Stanley Hauerwas lifts up a rich array of virtues. He does so not in order to exhort their cultivation but to display how they ride on the back of compelling practices and forms of life that we discover along the way.”
— Jennifer A. Herdt
Yale Divinity School
“Emerson thought that achieving aversion from conformity might require the enabling attentiveness of an older friend. These letters show how a godparent can embody the same emancipatory, upbuilding aspirations in a distinctively Christian idiom, exhibiting exactly the virtues that it sets itself to discuss.”
— Stephen Mulhall
New College, Oxford
“I think I’m supposed to say that this book shows ‘a gentler side of Stanley.’ But as far as I am concerned, there was never any other. Typically, for Hauerwas, it combines theoretical exposition with a direct, interpersonal context. . . . What we have here is an exemplary short summa of the practical Christian virtues in the form of an enactment of the crucial virtue of godparenthood.”
— John Milbank
University of Nottingham
“This is an invaluable, one-off book in both form and content. . . . A central insight is that our virtues are pulled out of us by our loves—pets, games, politics included, all explored with abundant humility, humor, and passion.”
— Ann Loades
Durham University
“A wonderful book for group study, as a gift to godparents on the occasion of baptism and for personal reflection. . . . It’s a book to challenge the church to live faithfully in today’s world.”
— The Presbyterian Outlook
“Hauerwas’ letters . . . are so substantive, informative, and readable that this book might be considered must-reading for all godparents.”
— St. Anthony Messenger
“These are not detached analyses of particular forms of human goodness; rather, they are sketches and evocations of the way in which various patterns of relating to the world are grounded in stories and instilled by practice and imitation.”
— Interpretation
“This book would be a powerful tool for a small group to read together and discuss.”
— Covenant Companion
“While this work does touch on theological themes, it is written for a popular, non-academic audience. It will find a comfortable home among readers in both academic and parish libraries alike.”
— Catholic Library World
"Intriguing. . . . Hauerwas is especially skilled as an accessible teacher of virtue theory in conversation with Gospel values. . . . The many virtues he explores are relevant and necessary topics of reflection in the present day."
— America