Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Roman Catholic Man and the virtue of Temperance

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Honestly, when many hear the word temperance, visions of scary looking ladies with hatchets just going to town destroying bars can come to mind. Ironically the temperance movement in this country wasn't really about temperance; at least not about the virtue of temperance. The cardinal virtue of temperance is the virtue concerning self-control, voluntary restraint, and moderation. 

This virtue restrains the sinful nature of the deadly sins of lust, greed and gluttony.  Temperance keeps us from the self indulgence of either craving or consuming too much.  Temperance also tells us what are the things we need to stay away from altogether.  As with the other virtues, the Roman Catholic man, motivated by love, trains himself to use wisely the things of this world for the sake of those placed under his care and as a witness to the larger world.

Temperance holds us firm in the face of falling into addiction.  This virtue informs our will that the use of certain items which are not evil in and of themselves (food, drink, alcohol) are always to be used in moderation and never to be seen as a crutch.  This virtue also informs us to stay away from certain items that are evil in their nature (pornography) lest we damage the relationships we have.

In conjunction with prudence, the Roman Catholic man is given the divine help to learn what is a proper use of his time and what is a waste of time on the basis of whether the behavior being engaged in is to the betterment or abasement of man himself and to the betterment or abasement of those placed under his care.  Temperance also helps him to set his priorities straight, knowing they either guide himself and those placed in his care towards or away from God.

Temperance is about detachment from worldly things, using them correctly.  Temperance underlies the use of the will in the mortifications of  abstinence and fasting.  Temperance helps the Roman Catholic man towards chastity (the right ordering of one's use of sexuality) so that he never degrades himself or others sexually so as to achieve a fleeting moment of pleasure.  In fact, the Roman Catholic man who hones the discipline of temperance does not see pleasure as a primary goal in life.  Informed by love, temperance gives us the ability to embrace sacrifice and suffering for those whom we love.

For the Roman Catholic man called to marriage, the virtue of temperance and its attendant discipline affords him the necessary mastery over himself to correctly navigate the balance needed in being the spiritual head of the home.  Not enslaved to pleasure or self aggrandizement, he is free to consciously and soberly lead, provide, and protect those placed under his care.  He can place himself last as an act of love, never allowing his wants to trump the needs of those laced in his care.  The temperate man is not willing to jeopardize the welfare of others for his own self-gain.

For the Roman Catholic man called to the priesthood, the virtue of temperance and its attendant discipline affords him the ability to act always in the person of the Good Shepherd, putting his own desires aside for the good of the flock assigned to him.  The temperate priest is a fitting model for the men of his parish in what Catholic masculinity looks like.  Not given to sin, he is free to openly act as the Persona Christi in all his endeavors.  He is able to live simply as the Church calls him to live, as is seen in Canon Law (Canon 282).

Temperance is so needed in this culture where the tyranny of selfishness has emasculated men into being driven like livestock from one transitory pleasure to another.  The only outcome of this is the attachment to compensatory behaviors (abuse of alcohol, narcotics/ use of pornography...to name a few) which further break down any classical sense of masculinity.  The Roman Catholic man needs to be witness and light in such grave darkness; to remind all men of the greatness to which they were called and created.     

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