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61. The Cardinal Virtues

1. There are four principal moral virtues. On these theother virtues depend as a door depends on its hinges. And indeedthe name cardinal virtues means hinge virtues; for theLatin cardines means hinges. The cardinal moral virtuesare prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Prudence, indeed,is really an intellectual virtue, for it is the habitual knowledgeof how to act rightly. But prudence is so intimately bound up withwill-action that all moral virtues require its direction.Therefore, by reason of association and service, prudence iscommonly listed with the moral virtues.

2. St. Gregory (Moral. ii) says that the wholestructure of good works is built upon the four cardinal virtues.Virtues direct good deeds and good lives. Now good is in the reasonby the virtue of prudence; it is carried into operation bythe virtue of justice; it directs the passions of the soulby fortitude, and curbs them from excess bytemperance.

3. The four cardinal virtues cover the ground of moralvirtue. All other moral virtues are subordinate to these four.

4. The cardinal virtues are distinct habits, each with itsown determinate area of application. These virtues are not merelyfour phases of one master virtue.

5. The cardinal virtues may be called socialvirtues inasmuch as man requires them for living rightly in humansociety. They may becalled perfecting virtuesinasmuch as they help man to perfect his character and attain hisend. They may be called perfect virtues since they arealways found in perfected human nature. Finally, they may be calledexemplar virtues, for they are the model or exemplar uponwhich human conduct is to be patterned; besides, the perfectionwhich they involve is found eminently in God, man's divineexemplar.

"If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel."
Thomas á Kempis

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"A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"A man should keep himself down, and not busy himself in mirabilibus super se."
St Philip Neri

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