Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
As we continue on our journey of the understanding of the importance of virtues in our lives we focus this week on the virtue of temperance. In the CCC 1809 we read “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.” Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in the world.”
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia temperance is “A cardinal virtue which encourages moderation of our instincts and drives for pleasure. Temperance enables the person to establish a proper spiritual relationship with God because it properly orders our drives.” Temperance is an important virtue for our era because it not only moderates our drive for pleasure but also our drive for violence.”
Temperance is one of the four cardinal virtues. As such, it can be practiced by anyone; unlike the theological virtues, the cardinal virtues are the outgrowth of habit rather than the gifts of God through grace. Temperance, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, “is concerned with what is difficult for a man, not in so far as he is a rational being precisely, but rather in so far as he is an animal.” It is the control of the desire for pleasure. In this sense, as Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, it corresponds to fortitude, which restrains our fears, physical as well as spiritual.
St. Thomas Aquinas ranked temperance as the fourth of the cardinal virtues, because it serves prudence, justice, and fortitude. The moderation of our own desires is essential to acting rightly (prudence), giving each man his due (justice), and standing strong in the face of adversity (fortitude). Temperance is that virtue which attempts to overcome the human condition that “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
When we practice the virtue of temperance, we call it by different names, depending upon the physical desire that we are restraining. The desire for food is natural and good; but when we develop an inordinate desire for food, we call that the vice of gluttony. Likewise, the inordinate indulgence in wine or other alcoholic beverages is called drunkenness, and both gluttony and drunkenness are combated by abstinence, which is temperance applied to our desire for food and drink.
Temperance is primarily concerned with the control of the desires of the flesh, but when it manifests itself as modesty, it can also restrain the desires of the spirit, such as pride. In all cases, the practice of temperance requires the balancing of legitimate goods against an inordinate desire for them. (Catholicism.About.com)
Let us pray for the virtue of temperance in our lives that we may control our desires.