What are the four cardinal virtues?
Catechism of St Pius X
1 Q: What is a supernatural virtue?
A: A supernatural virtue is a quality infused by God into the soul by which the latter acquires inclination, facility, and promptness to know good and do it towards eternal life.
2 Q: How many principal supernatural virtues are there?
A: The principal supernatural virtues are seven: three theological, and four cardinal virtues.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Four Cardinal Virtues
1805 – Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. “If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.”64
1806 – Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.”65… Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation.
1807 – Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” … The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”68
1808 – Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good…The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.”70 “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”71
1809 – 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… “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.”72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.”74
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75
The virtues and grace
1810 – Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.
64 Wis 8:7.
65 Prov 14:15.
67 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,47,2.
68 Lev 19:15.
70 Ps 118:14.
71 Jn 16:33.
72 Sir 5:2; cf. 37:27-31.
73 Sir 18:30.
74 Titus 2:12.
75 St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1,25,46:PL 32,1330-1331.
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…
Father Emil Kapaun, an example of the virtue of fortitude: