The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 5 of 5

We conclude Father Pegues’ exposition of the virtue of temperance by discussing humility, which is the species of modesty that regulates the desire of one’s own excellence.

The virtue of humility “makes man repress or regulate whatever touches his own worth in such wise that he does not seek more than is in accordance with the degree of his excellence as fixed by God. It follows that man does not esteem anything as due to him considered in himself, but that all he has and is comes from God; for of himself he has nothing at all, except sin; as regards his neighbours, he esteems that their worth is due to them according to the state of perfection in which God has placed them; and as regards the rest of creation, he wishes only that things should have the place and order such as God has disposed.”

The sin opposed to humility is pride, which is “that special and in some sort general sin which, in despisal of God and of the order He has established in His work, strives to dominate all and to make one place oneself before all others by esteeming oneself superior to all.” This “leads man to commit all manner of sins.” Pride is a capital sin and the first of all sins because “there can be no grave sin that does not presuppose the sin of pride. . . . It is pride, by reason of the contempt it implies for God, that completes as it were the essence of other sins in so far as they make man turn away from God.”

The sin of the fallen angels was pride. The first sin of Adam and Eve was not the sin of gluttony, or of disobedience, or of an empty curiosity with regard to knowledge, or of a lack of faith in the word of God; rather, it was the sin of pride, “without which no other sin could exist at all.” The reason why pride was their first sin is because “their state of integrity made all within them to be perfectly under control so long as their mind remained subjected to God; but their mind could only turn away from God for some motive of pride by wishing themselves some excellence which was not their due.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

Posted in Religion, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Prayer, Bible, Catholic, Catholicism, Theology, Wisdom, Meditation

The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 4 of 5

Continuing Father Pegues’ discussion of virtues associated with temperance, we now discuss modesty and two of its species.

The virtue of modesty “restrains the sensitive appetite in things that are less difficult to regulate than those which are the object of temperance, continence, clemency, and meekness.” These “less difficult” things are “the desire of one’s own excellence; the desire to know; the exterior actions of the body; and lastly, one’s exterior as regards the manner of dress.”

The virtue of external modesty is “that perfection in the sensitive appetite which makes everything in a person’s exterior as regards his movements, gestures, words, the tone of his voice, and of his general attitude, to be what it ought to be according to the status of the person, and this in such way that nothing whatever is offensive in his conduct.” Modesty extends to one’s manner of dress “to the exclusion of unseemly fashion or disorderly negligence. Many sin in that they do not keep a just measure as regards the excesses of what is called fashion, and which may prove an occasion of sin to others. To exceed in this way is against the virtue of modesty and at the same time against the virtue of chastity.” External modesty also extends to amusements and recreation, so that a person “plays, amuses, or recreates himself as it behooves, avoiding both excess and defect.”

The virtue of studiousness “makes man control in conformity with right reason the desire to know and to learn.”

The sin opposed to studiousness is the sort of curiositythat is an “inordinate desire to know what one has no right to know, or to know what may prove a source of danger to virtue owing to one’s weakness.” This curiosity is committed both “as regards knowledge in general, or as regards that knowledge which effects the senses and the passions.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Meditation, Prayer, Religion, Theology, Wisdom

The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 3 of 5

In his exposition of the virtue of temperance, Father Pegues discusses virtues associated with temperance. These are continence, clemency, meekness, and modesty.

The virtue of continence consists in “choosing not to follow the violent movements of passion, and this for some motive of reason.” The sin opposed to continence is incontinence, which consists in this: “that man gives way to the violence of passion and becomes its slave.”

The virtue of clemency “moderates the degree of external punishment to be meted out to someone so that it does not exceed the right limits of reason.”

The virtue of meekness “controls the interior movement of the passion which is called anger.”

Three sins opposed to clemency and meekness are the sinful type of anger, cruelty, and savagery. Sinful anger is “a movement of the irascible appetite which seeks unjust avengement, or an avengement which is just but which is sought with too much temper.” There are three species of this sort of anger: “the anger of those who are fretful and who become angry at the slightest cause; the anger of those who are bitter, who forget with difficulty an injury done to them; and the anger of those who are revengeful, who without ceasing seek the punishment of those by whom they have been wronged.” This sort of anger is a capital sin because “men are particularly borne towards the seeking of revenge in satisfaction for an injury done them.” The offspring of sinful anger are “indignation, excitement of the mind, contumely, clamour, blasphemy, and quarrelling.” There is also a sin opposed to anger; it is “the lack of anger when reason demands it, for there is a just anger which is the result of the right will to punish when punishment is due.”

The type of cruelty that is opposed to clemency is “a kind of crudity or rawness of soul owing to which one seeks to increase punishment beyond the just limits fixed by reason.” Savageness is “something absolutely inhuman which delights in the infliction of punishment, taking pleasure therein merely because it is an evil. Savageness is directly opposed to the gift of piety.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Meditation, Prayer, Religion, Theology, Wisdom

The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 2 of 5

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the virtue of temperance by discussing two species of temperance: chastity and virginity.

The virtue of chastity is “that perfection of the sensitive appetite which makes man master of all the impulses that bear him towards the things of marriage.” A special form of chastity is the virtue of virginity, which is “the firm and absolute purpose, made holy by a vow, of renouncing for ever the pleasures of marriage.”

The sin opposed to chastity is voluptuousness. This consists in “using things on account of the pleasure attached thereunto which nature has ordained for the conservation of the human species, whether this be by deed, or desire, or thought willed, in which pleasure is taken; for this is contrary to the natural order whose office it is to control the use of such things.” This sin has many forms, such as fornication, the sin against nature, adultery, incest, rape, sexual abuse, and sacrilege by abusing a person consecrated to God. Fornication is “directly opposed to the good order of the things of marriage as regards the end of marriage, which is the welfare and the education of offspring.” The sin against nature is “opposed directly and wholly to the first and essential end of marriage, which is the birth of offspring.” Voluptuousness is a capital sin which “carries men away by its extreme vehemence.” The offspring of voluptuousness are “blindness of mind, rashness, unmindfulness, inconstancy, self-love, hatred of God, cleaving to the present life, and horror of the world to come.” All these sins have in common, although in varying degrees, that “the mind is absorbed by the flesh.”

Father Pegues mentions that the gift of fear of the Lord, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, corresponds to both the moral virtue of temperance and the theological virtue of hope, but to each under different aspects. “The gift of fear corresponds to the theological virtue of hope in so far as man reveres God directly by reason of His infinite greatness and avoids offending Him; and it corresponds to the virtue of temperance in so far as the respect that it inspires with regard to God’s greatness makes man avoid those things which are more offensive to God, and these are the pleasures of the senses.” The gift of fear of the Lord is more excellent than the virtue of temperance because “temperance puts these things aside only in that measure of which man is able of himself by the light of reason or of faith; whereas the gift of fear makes him avoid them according to the personal action of the Holy Ghost.”

Finally, Father Pegues notes that two precepts of the Decalogue refer to temperance: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Meditation, Prayer, Religion, Theology, Wisdom

The Moral Virtue of Temperance – Part 1 of 5

Father Pegues continues his exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on the Cardinal Moral Virtues (Summa Theologica II-II, 47-170) by discussing the virtue of temperance.

Temperance is “that virtue which keeps man’s sensitive appetite within the bounds of reason so that it may not be carried away by pleasures, particularly those that refer to the sense of touch in those acts that are necessary for the conservation of bodily life.”

Abstinence and sobriety are forms of the virtue of temperance that concern pleasures of the table. They regulate “the sensitive appetite with regard to eating and drinking so that this be done in conformity with what reason demands.” A special form of abstinence is fasting, which is “doing without a part of what is normally required for each day’s food. . . . To fast may be a most excellent thing, for it serves to keep concupiscence under control; to make the mind more free to occupy itself with the things of God; and to make satisfaction for sin. In this matter one must always be ruled by discretion and prudence, and there must be no danger to health, and it must not prove an obstacle to duty.”

The sin opposed to the virtue of abstinence is gluttony. There are several forms of gluttony: “The inordinate desire to eat and drink may bear upon the nature and the quality of food, or upon its quantity, or upon its preparation, or upon the actual consumption of the food by not waiting for the proper time of eating, or by eating with greediness.” Gluttony is a capital sin because “it bears upon one of those pleasures which of its nature incites man to desire things of sense and to act in accordance with them.” The offspring of gluttony are “dullness of mind with regard to things intellectual, inept mirth, immoderate speech, buffoonery, and impurity. . . . These sins are the outcome of gluttony because thereby the reason becomes sluggish and almost paralyzed, and can no longer guide man in the way he should go.”

The object of sobriety is “only to take intoxicating drink as it behooves.”

Drunkenness is the vice opposed to sobriety. Drunkenness is a sin “whenever it comes about through one’s own fault by not ceasing to drink when one should and not taking into account the intoxicating character of the drink one takes.” By drunkenness, one “knowingly deprives himself of the use of his reason and puts himself lower than brute beasts, for these at least always keep their instinct to guide them.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Meditation, Prayer, Religion, Theology, Wisdom

The Moral Virtue of Fortitude – Part 2 of 2

Father Pegues continues his exposition of the virtue of fortitude by discussing three virtues associated with fortitude: magnanimity, magnificence, and patience.

The proper object of magnanimity is “to strengthen one’s soul in its effort to accomplish great acts in so far as great honours or great glory result therefrom.”

The sins opposed to magnanimity by excess are presumption, ambition, and vainglory. “Presumption inclines one to the performance of acts that are too much for one’s capabilities; ambition seeks honours greater than one deserves; and vainglory seeks some glory that has either no object, or that has an object of little worth, or which is not directed to the one true end which is the honour of God and the welfare of men.” Vainglory is a capital sin, for “it implies the showing off of one’s own excellence which one seeks in everything, and which may lead one to commit all manner of sins.” The offspring of vainglory are boasting, hypocrisy, stubbornness, discord, strife, and disobedience.

The sin opposed to magnanimity by defect is pusillanimity. This sin is “contrary to the natural law which inclines every being to act according to its capabilities.” It is “blameworthy not to make use of the powers and the means God has given us.” Pusillanimity should not be confused with true humility.

The virtue of magnificence “strengthens the soul in its effort to fulfil what is arduous as regards the expenses demanded by the undertaking of great works. This virtue presupposes great riches and the opportunity to dispense them, especially as regards the worship of God or the public welfare of a city or state.”

The sin opposed to magnificence by excess is extravagance, which “inclines one to expend unreasonably over and above what is necessary.” The sin opposed to magnificence by defect is stinginess, which “makes man begrudge and be unwilling to give even what is necessary for the undertaking of some work.”

The virtue of patience consists in “supporting, for the sake of the future life, all the troubles that come to us unceasingly in the present life, whether they be caused by life’s own whims or by the actions of others in their dealings with us.” Patience, longanimity, and constancy all help us “to bear the miseries of this life.” They are distinguished in this way: “patience helps us to bear especially the troubles which come about daily in our dealings with others; whereas longanimity bears us up against those troubles which arise from the delay of the realization of something for which we have to wait; and constancy buoys us up against the troubles which we encounter in the struggle to do good.”

The sin opposed to patience by excess is obstinacy, “which makes one persist in not giving way when it is reasonable to do so.” The sin opposed to patience by defect is lack of resistance, sometimes called effeminacy, “which makes one give way to the least difficulty or to the least fatigue.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Meditation, Prayer, Religion, Theology, Wisdom

The Moral Virtue of Fortitude – Part 1 of 2

Father Pegues continues his exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Treatise on the Cardinal Moral Virtues (Summa Theologica II-II, 47-170) by discussing the virtue of fortitude.

Fortitude is “that perfection in the moral order of the sensitive appetite whose object is to make man hold firm in the presence of the greatest fear, or to keep within bounds the most daring boldness as regards peril of death that presents itself in the course of just war, in order that man might never fail in his duty.” This virtue was manifested in all its excellence by the martyrs. Martyrdom is “that act of the virtue of fortitude which sustains man in accepting death in testimony of the truth from the hands of those who persecute the name of Christian and all that pertains thereto.”

Sins opposed to the virtue of fortitude are (1) “fear, which lacks courage in the presence of dangers of death”; (2) “insensibility to fear in the presence of peril, which is the lack of shunning peril when one ought to”; and (3) “rashness which rushes towards danger imprudently.” It is possible that “one may, under the impulse of excessive courage which is unrestrained by reason, be so carried away as to perform acts that are not really acts of true courage, but have only the semblance of bravery.”

The gift of fortitude, a gift of the Holy Spirit, corresponds to the virtue of fortitude. Both the gift and the virtue have to do with fear and courage. But, they differ in this: the virtue of fortitude regulates fear and courage regarding dangers that are “in the power of man to overcome,” whereas the gift of fortitude excites fear and courage regarding dangers or evils that are “absolutely impossible for man to overcome.” The gift works in such a way that “a strong and unfailing confidence takes hold of man, making him steadfast in the presence of the greatest fear and even to approach death itself fearlessly. . . . In truth one may describe the proper effect of this gift as the victory over death.”

Quotations from Thomas Pegues, Catechism of the “Summa Theologica” of Saint Thomas Aquinas, trans. Aelred Whitacre (New York: Benziger, 1922).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholicism, Christianity, Faith, Inspiration, Meditation, Prayer, Religion, Theology, Wisdom