The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 24)
A virtue is a developed moral habit, a disposition, an internalized power to live well. Among all the virtues, there are seven that are utterly foundational for the Christian life.
The Cardinal Virtues
They are known by the Natural Law. The Church adopts Aristotle's treatment,
deepening his understanding with Christian wisdom.
P R U D E N C E
Perhaps the most ignored and misunderstood of all the virtues. Not the fear of risk, not timidity in moral action, certainly not prudishness. Prudence is the wisdom to look reality in the face, to recognize the good that must be done in every circumstance and the right way to do it, not overdoing or under-doing.
J U S T I C E
Living in right relationship with God, others, and oneself. To know what one owes to others, always giving them their due. The old English word for “Justice” is “righteousness.
F O R T I T U D E
Firmness and constancy in doing the good, when doing the good is difficult and costly. St. Thomas Aquinas says the highest form of courage is not the one dramatic heroic act, but the quiet endurance in suffering for the good.
T E M P E R A N C E
Moderation, balance, the art of using all the good things of creation as they are meant to be used. The avoidance of all addictive enslavement to the pleasures.
The Theological Virtues
These are known, not by Natural Law, but by Revelation. These virtues are given by Grace,
but must be actively sought and humbly received.
F A I T H
The habit of opening the intelligence to the revealed truth of God, as it comes to us in his Word, and living always in confident trust in God's love.
H O P E
The knowledge of our true End in God, our eternal destiny; and the confidence that God will achieve that blessed End, so that we never despair in the trials of this life.
C H A R I T Y
The goal of all virtues (1 Cor. 13). Not only acts of mercy, but the love God, as Jesus taught us, with all our mind, heart, and strength; and loving others as ourselves. Not so much a feeling as generous good will.
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