What are the Cardinal Virtues?

Mission Lab

The Cardinal Virtues are prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude of heart. Along with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, these Cardinal Virtues enable us to express, prove, and grow in our love of God by implementing His plan and covenant in a practical way.

“And if anyone loves righteousness, her [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage; nothing in life is more profitable for men than these” (Wisdom 8:7).

The virtue of prudence is the power to make right judgments. It is the permanent capacity to receive Jesus’ power of prudence and to use this power to develop habits of supernatural prudence. These habits lead our hearts to set goals, make plans, and choose projects for implementing God’s plan for us.

The virtue of justice helps us to see the need to protect the rights of our fellow man. It is the permanent capacity to receive Jesus’ power of justice and to use this power to develop habits of supernatural justice. These habits lead our hearts to always choose to do the right thing, consistently giving ourselves firm commands to do God’s will and to keep our New Covenant with Him.

The virtue of temperance helps us to control our desires, especially the desires that might keep us from using correctly the things which appeal to our senses. It is the permanent capacity to receive Jesus’ power of temperance and to use this power to develop habits of supernatural temperance. These habits lead us to toughen our wills and commitments by focusing Jesus’ or Mary’s own delight, desire, and joy on them; and their dismay, aversion, and sorrow on any temptation to neglect or abandon these commitments.

“My son, test your soul while you live; see what is bad for it and do not give it that” (Sirach 37:27). “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare” (Luke 21:34).

Fortitude gives us the strength to do what is good in spite of every difficulty. It is the permanent capacity to receive Jesus’ power of fortitude of heart and to use this power to develop habits of supernatural fortitude. By these habits, we imitate Jesus and Mary in focusing the emotions of courage, trusting commitment, and enthusiasm on doing God’s will and the emotions of fear, despair, and anger on sin, false hopes, and Satan.

Sanctifying grace gives us a certain readiness for the practice of all of the virtues, together with a supernatural merit each time we practice them.