A Cardinal virtue is also called a moral virtue or a human virtue. These virtues are something that’s important and part of our life not just as Catholics but as humans. Let’s find out more about Cardinal virtues and how and why we need them.
What is a Cardinal Virtue?
Looking at the catholic definition, Cardinal virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. (CCC1804)
Why are Cardinal Virtues Called Cardinal Virtues?
Cardinal virtues are called “Cardinal” mainly because they are the “starting point virtues” to other virtues that we can attain and develop as human beings. The term Cardinal comes from the Latin word “Cardo” which means “hinge”.
Why are Cardinal Virtues Important?
Cardinal virtues require a lot of effort to attain, that doesn’t sound so enticing, but these virtues are very important mainly because they are the fruit of good and kind moral acts, and once we have these virtues, we will be better human beings, more considerate to others and most importantly, we will truly be living a life that obeys God’s will and fully feel the true meaning of being God’s children.
What are the Cardinal Virtues?
The Cardinal virtues are:
Cardinal Virtue – Prudence
The first Cardinal Virtue is prudence. It is “the charioteer of virtues”, meaning it is the “driver” of all the other virtues. Without prudence, we won’t be able to get to justice, fortitude and temperance.
By definition, the word prudence suggests sensitivity and awareness of good judgment or knowing the right reason in action. (CCC 1806) Prudence is the middle ground that we must have. It is what guides the judgment of conscience. (CCC 1806)
Cardinal Virtue – Justice
The next moral virtue is, Justice. Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. (CCC1807) Justice as a virtue is having the quality of fairness. This virtue is very important because it heavily influences your actions towards others and God. A just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. (CCC1807)
Cardinal Virtue – Fortitude
The next virtue is Fortitude. This is the virtue that we need the most when we are faced with challenges and difficulties in life. Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. (CCC1808) Having strong fortitude will enable you to trump over fear and be willing to do sacrifices to protect something just and morally good. Fortitude is having the courage and the kind of courage that is fueled by morality and good.
Cardinal Virtue – Temperance
Temperance is the virtue that can potentially save us from falling into temptation. Temperance is the virtue that helps us control our desires and passions. Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. (CCC1809) This virtue will help us keep our temptations at bay, and avoid overindulgence in things we know we should be doing in moderation.
How to Have Cardinal Virtues
The thing you have to remember about Cardinal Virtues is that these are formed through habit. Do not be discouraged if you don’t attain these virtues right away, as they are perfected and gained through a lot of persistence and practice.
The best way to start with attaining cardinal virtues is through prayer. Don’t shy away and tell God your desire to attain these virtues, and ask for His guidance and help. Prayer is our conversation with God, it’s our “direct line” with Him. Of course, prayer is not enough, as these virtues won’t just magically appear to you. You have to do something about it, you can also start with a journal and write down a reflection of what you’d like to do to start honing your Cardinal virtues. Then create a plan on how you can put these actions to practice. Just like habits, create a reaction plan, to your triggers. You can start small so you won’t overwhelm yourself. Remember, habits need practice, and so do Cardinal virtues.