Moral Virtues – Lesson 43, Question 3

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The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity furnish a strong basis for all other virtues. The cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, are the foundation of all moral virtues. The theological virtues define our relations with God; the moral virtues define our relations with ourselves and our fellowmen. If we have these virtues, we are on the way to perfection.

How do prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance dispose us to lead good lives?

Prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance dispose us to lead good lives, as indicated below:

  1. Prudence disposes us in all circumstances to form right judgments about what we must do or not do. It teaches us when and how to act in matters relating to our eternal salvation. Prudence perfects the intelligence, which is the power of forming judgments; for this virtue, knowledge and experience are important.

Prudence shows us how to leave earthly things in order to earn riches for eternity. It is the eye of the soul, for it tells us what is good and what is evil. It is like a compass that directs our course in life. It is opposed to worldly wisdom. "Be prudent therefore and watchful in prayers" (1 Pet. 4:7). Prudence is a virtue of the understanding.

2. Justice disposes us to give everyone what belongs to him. It teaches us to give what is due to God and to man. It makes us willing to live according to the commandments. Justice perfects the will and safeguards the rights of man: his right to life, freedom, honor, good name, sanctity of the home, and external possessions.

The just man is an upright man. He gives to every one his due: he gives God worship; the authorities, obedience; his subordinates, rewards and punishments; and his equals, brotherly love. "Render to all men whatever is their due; tribute to whom tribute is due; taxes to whom taxes are due; fear to whom fear is due; honor to whom honor is due" (Rom. 13:7).

 

3. Fortitude disposes us to do what is good in spite of any difficulty. It gives us strength to do good and avoid evil in spite of all obstacles and afflictions.

We possess fortitude when we are not hindered by ridicule, threats, or persecution from doing what is right; when we are ready, if necessary, to suffer death. The greatest fortitude is shown by bearing great suffering rather than undertaking great works. No saint was ever a coward. The martyrs had fortitude.

4. Temperance disposes us to control our desires and to use rightly the things which please our senses.-It regulates our judgment and passions, so that we may make use of temporal things only in so far as they are necessary for our eternal salvation. We have temperance when we eat and drink only what is necessary to sustain life, preserve health, and fulfill our duties.

We should strive to be like St. Francis of Sales, who said: "I desire very little, and that little I desire but little." However, temperance does not consist in refusing or denying ourselves what is necessary, thus unfitting ourselves for good works.

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