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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.

"He who wishes to be perfectly obeyed, should give but few orders."
St Philip Neri

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"It is better to be burdened and in company with the strong than to be unburdened and with the weak. When you are burdened you are close to God, your strength, who abides with the afflicted. When you are relieved of the burden you are close to yourself, your own weakness; for virtue and strength of soul grow and are confirmed in the trials of patience."
St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."
St Alphonsus de Liguori

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