Virtue, says St. Augustine, is simply love in action. All the named virtues are different aspects of love, and perfect love for God produces perfect virtue.
As far as virtue leading us to a happy life is concerned, I believe that virtue is nothing other than perfect love of God. I regard the fourfold division of virtue as taken from the four forms of love. I wish all felt the influence of those four virtues in their minds as much as they have their names in their mouths! I would not hesitate to define them this way:
Temperance is love giving itself entirely to what is loved.
Fortitude is love readily bearing everything for the sake of what is loved.
Justice is love serving only what is loved, and therefore ruling rightly.
Prudence is love distinguishing wisely between what hinders it and what helps it.
The object of this love is nothing other than God, the chief good, the highest wisdom, the perfect harmony. So we may express the definition this way:
Temperance is love keeping itself entire and uncorrupted for God.
Fortitude is love bearing everything readily for the sake of God.
Justice is love serving God only.
Prudence is love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it.
–St. Augustine, Morals of the Catholic Church, 12
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
How can understanding virtue this way help me make decisions about right and wrong?
Father, let me always remember the love of your Son that he showed in his suffering, and teach me to fulfill the commandment of love that he gave us.
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