Monday, April 2, 2012

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Cont...

Applying the Cardinal Virtues to Motherhood, Part III
A Thesis by Jacquelyn Barten, Guest Blogger

On the Cardinal Virtues
The theological virtues are the foundation of the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance which are also known as the moral, human, or hinge virtues because all other virtues are necessarily related to them.[1]  The cardinal virtues themselves are necessarily related to each other; they are so interconnected that one can not exist without the others.  For example, temperance needs fortitude, fortitude works for justice, and all the cardinal virtues rely on prudence.  In The Catholic Catechism, John A. Hardon, S.J. discussed the relationship of the cardinal virtues: “they are treated as special virtues, each occupied with its own proper type of situation, without denying that they overlap, or that one flows into the other.  Thus fortitude is temperate and brave, for a man who can contain his lusts can well control himself in danger of death; and if he can face death unflinchingly, he can also withstand allurements.”[2]

Although the cardinal virtues can be infused as a gift from God, the nature of this gift is limited to what is necessary for salvation.  However, Jesus called all human beings to perfection in His Proclamation of the Kingdom, and this perfection requires acquiring virtue through experience, time, repetition, and habit.  A virtue of this nature allows the mind to govern and train emotions.  Paralleling the differences between mothers with varying temperaments and natures, there are a variety of ways mothers can become accomplished in the virtues.  The journey through motherhood must be embraced, whatever it may entail, for it is sinful if a person does not acquire the virtues when they could have or should have.[3]  The Catechism states: “Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace.”[4]  To attain and maintain the cardinal virtues, mothers need to freely cooperate with the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Understanding and embracing the cardinal virtues is so important that they were the topic of Pope John Paul II’s first four General Audiences.  He was continuing the plan of the late Pope John Paul I who had first discussed the theological virtues in his General Audiences, and the primacy of the virtues in the prevalent talks of two vicars of Christ in the modern day should not be left unnoticed.  All the faithful, and most fundamentally mothers, who can claim the title of the first teachers of love to the tiny lives in their wombs, should take note of the importance the popes gave to learning and applying these virtues.  Mothers everywhere need firm attitudes, stable dispositions, and habitual perfections of intellect and will, especially in the heat of a parenting moment, and the key to this kind of self-mastery is acquiring the moral virtues. 

[1] Catechism, 1805.
[2] John A. Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Catechism, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1975), 198.
[3] Christopher Kaczor and Thomas Sherman, S.J., Thomas Aquinas on the Cardinal Virtues, (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press at Ave Maria University), 2009, 39.
[4] Catechism, 1810.

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