Editor's note:

As we’ve been looking into fortitude this week—what is it?, who models it?, and, tomorrow, how do we nurture it within ourselves?—we thought it might be helpful to look at this particular virtue in its relationship to the other three cardinal virtues.

As Richard taught us on Monday, “cardinal” comes from the Latin word cardo, meaning “hinge.” The four virtues Augustine of Hippo writes about below have been regarded as the basic characteristics of a virtuous life since ancient times (derived initially from Plato’s scheme, discussed in Republic Book IV, 426–435, of the four virtues of the just city). Augustine, of course, gives them a distinctly “with-God” flavor. Enjoy!

—Renovaré Team

As to virtue leading us to a happy life, I hold virtue to be nothing else than perfect love of God. For the fourfold division of virtue I regard as taken from four forms of love. For these four virtues (would that all felt their influence in their minds as they have their names in their mouths!), I should have no hesitation in defining them: that temperance is love giving itself entirely to that which is loved; fortitude is love readily bearing all things for the sake of the loved object; justice is love serving only the loved object, and therefore ruling rightly; prudence is love distinguishing with sagacity between what hinders it and what helps it. 

The object of this love is not anything, but only God, the chief good, the highest wisdom, the perfect harmony. So we may express the definition thus: that temperance is love keeping itself entire and incorrupt for God; fortitude is love bearing everything readily for the sake of God; justice is love serving God only, and therefore ruling well all else, as subject to man; prudence is love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it.

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From Of the Morals of the Catholic Church, Chapter 15 by Augustine of Hippo, public domain via NewAdvent.org.

Image: Personifications of the Four Cardinal Virtues, Campanie, 14th c., by Sharon Mollerus, via Flickr Creative Commons.