Sunday, December 13, 2020 –
Whew! We made it to the last of our Four Cardinal Virtues, which means we will be covering Temperance today. Personally, I find this to be the easiest of the Cardinal Virtues to understand, but not necessarily the easiest to accomplish.
Anyhoo, how about we start with our standard definition for the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Temperance: The cardinal moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasure and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the mastery of the will over instinct and keeps natural desires within proper limits (1809).
Nice! Now, let’s add in our longer definition / explanation from the Catholic Dictionary:
Temperance: The virtue that moderates the desire for pleasure. In the widest sense, temperance regulates every form of enjoyment that comes from the exercise of a human power or faculty, e.g., purely spiritual joy arising from intellectual activity or even the consolations experienced in prayer and emotional pleasure produced by such things as pleasant music or the sight of a beautiful scene. In the strict sense, however, temperance is the correlative of fortitude. As fortitude controls rashness and fear in the face of the major pains that threaten to unbalance human nature, so temperance controls desire for major pleasure. Since pleasure follows from all natural activity, it is most intense when associated with our most natural activities. On the level of sense feeling, they are the pleasures that serve individual person through food and drink, and the human race through carnal intercourse. Temperance mainly refers to these appetites. (Etym. Latin temperare, to apportion, regulate, qualify.)
A bit long-winded for my taste, but there was a key point in there about food and dink and other stuff. I think that Bishop Morrow puts it a little more succinctly:
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:
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. (Bishop Morrow, My Catholic Faith, p. 87)
I do like that he clarifies that temperance is not the outright denying ourselves of the stuff we need. Rather, it is a useful regulation of our passions so that we can move towards our eternal salvation. All right, and for our last source, let’s crack open the Catechism of the Catholic Church and see what is what:
1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.”72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.”To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).
1838 Temperance moderates the attraction of the pleasures of the senses and provides balance in the use of created goods.
There you have it! A moderation, a balance, a mastery over our desires. In a good twist, the Catechism had a great run down of how all four cardinal virtues by living well through the love of God “with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts.”
Right, so now we have to do our example, and y’all aren’t going to like this one. Getting back to our giant pile of candy, I hope you can see where this is going. Temperance would be not eating the whole pile. In fact, it would be eating only what you need for sustenance, which is not a lot, FYI. I mean, unless the Pope came down with a new rule that in order to maintain spiritual devotion to our Lord you must eat at least a candy bar a day. I doubt he is going to say this, but he has said stranger, so one can only hope…
Sancti Fabiane et Sebastiane, orate pro nobis!