What Does ‘Virtue’ Mean?

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A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself.

The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions. “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God,” says St. Gregory of Nyssa.

There are human virtues and theological virtues. Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith.

Human virtues consist of four cardinal virtues – Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance.

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.”

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.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.

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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.

Culled from Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1803 – 1809.