Cardinal Moral Virtues – Part 3 of 3

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of the moral virtues by elaborating upon the cardinal virtues of temperance and fortitude.

Temperance is the virtue which moderates our desires according to right reason. It establishes order and moderation in all we say and do.”

St. Prosper of Aquitaine says of temperance: “It bridles our passions, moderates our affections, multiplies our holy desires, and chastises our evil ones.” St. Bonaventure observes: “Temperance is to the Christian what the bridle is to the horse.” And St. Bede notes: “Temperance makes us acceptable to God and man.”

Father Geiermann says that the acts of temperance are: (1) abstaining from illicit pleasures; (2) moderating licit ones; and (3) abstaining from lawful pleasures in due season. Specific virtues of temperance are abstinence, sobriety, chastity, and modesty. Temperance also includes the following: humility, continence, meekness, clemency, application, modesty, and urbanity. And the principal vices opposed to temperance are insensibility, intemperance, gluttony, lust, immodesty, incontinence, pride, anger, cruelty, curiosity, negligence, and scurrility.

Fortitude is the virtue which teaches us to meet danger and to perform our duty faithfully. Fortitude conducts us unscathed through adversity, and keeps us unperturbed in time of a crisis. . . . The fortitude of the world usually springs from cupidity, while Christian fortitude derives its strength from the love of God.”

“In actual life humility must be the companion of true fortitude. Humility will teach us to strengthen our fortitude by prayer in time of temptation, and to flee in time of temptations to impurity. . . . Magnanimity gives us courage to face danger, while patience restrains our temper and enables us to endure misfortune with an even mind. Confidence prepares us to meet a difficulty, and constancy to overcome it. Magnificence, finally, prompts us to incur the necessary expense to attain our end.”

Some of the acts of fortitude listed by Father Geiermann are these: being generous and constant in self-discipline; persevering in prayer; enduring temptation; resisting pride in prosperity and dejection in adversity; bravely facing danger in defense of virtue and religion; maintaining tranquillity of mind in time of trial; prudently undertaking difficult tasks, strengthened by confidence in God; and calmly avoiding dangers that exceed our strength. Vices opposed to fortitude are audacity, timidity, presumption, worldly ambition, pusillanimity, impatience, insensibility, parsimony, prodigality, pertinacity, and inconstancy.

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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