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141. The Virtue of Temperance

1. A virtue is a habit which disposes and inclines aperson to act in accordance with reason. Now, reason indicates theneed of measure and moderation; what supplies this need rightly istherefore a virtue. This is the virtue of temperance.

2. In one way temperance can be regarded as a generalvirtue, for ordinateness or moderation, which is the object oftemperance, is found in all the moral virtues. Yet the virtue oftemperance has a special phase of good in view: it holds back theappetites from inordinateness in their drive for what is mostalluring. Hence, temperance is a special virtue.

3. Temperance controls desires and pleasures. It moderatesthe appetites for sensible and bodily delights; it also moderatesthe appetites that shrink from bodily evils. Fortitude controls thefear of evils. Temperance controls the pursuit of pleasurablegoods, and also moderates the sorrow or distress caused by the lackof such goods.

4. Bodily goods cannot give pleasure unless they aresomehow brought into contact with the bodily person of the one whoenjoys them. Chief of such bodily goods are the goods ofnutriment (food and drink) and of sex. Sincebodily contact is involved in the use of these goods, the virtuewhich regulates their use, which is temperance, has to do with thetactile sense, the sense of touch or contact.

5. The principal use of the bodily and tactile goods withwhich temperance deals is the preserving of the human individualand the human species. And, as we have said, these goods are more amatter of the sense of touch than of sight, hearing, taste, orsmell. That food, for instance, should have a pleasing taste oraroma, or that it should look attractive, is entirely a secondarymatter in the service that it renders. For the essential pointabout food is that it supports life. Yet, since the sense of tasteis closely allied with the tactile sense (for food comes intocomplete bodily contact with the organ of taste), the savors andflavors and amounts of food are proximately subject to regulationby the virtue of temperance.

6. Temperance regulates the use of bodily goods whichbelong to the order of man's natural and normal needs. Thisvirtue, therefore, moderates and ordinates man's appetites tothe end that he should use pleasurable goods according to the needsof life.

7. Since moderation, which is the characteristic oftemperance, is required for virtue in general, temperance is aprincipal or cardinal virtue.

8. Temperance, in point of excellence, comes fourth in thelist of cardinal virtues. These virtues, in the descending order ofexcellence, are: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance.

"The supreme perfection of man in this life is to be so united to God that all his soul with all its faculties and powers are so gathered into the Lord God that he becomes one spirit with him, and remembers nothing except God, is aware of and recognises nothing but God, but with all his desires unified by the joy of love, he rests contentedly in the enjoyment of his Maker alone."
St Albert the Great

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"What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. "
Thomas á Kempis

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"When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so by little and little he gains his end at last."
St Philip Neri

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