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In the Catholic catechism, the seven Christian virtues or heavenly virtues refers to the union of two sets of virtues. The four cardinal virtues, from ancient Greek philosophy, are prudence, justice, temperance (or restraint), and courage (or fortitude). The three theological virtues, from the letters of St. Paul of Tarsus, are faith, hope, and charity (or love). These were adopted by the Church Fathers as the seven virtues.
The first virtues were identified by the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, who regarded temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage as the four most desirable character traits. After the New Testament was written, these four virtues became known as the cardinal virtues, while faith, hope and charity were referred to as the theological virtues. But Stalker, in his book The Seven Cardinal Virtues, says, "It is of distinct advantage to be reminded that the Christian character has a natural foundation... but certainly the latter are cardinal also--that is, hinge virtues; and it is convenient to have a single adjective for designating the whole seven".
A list of the seven heavenly virtues - to oppose the seven deadly sins - appeared later, in an epic poem entitled Psychomachia, or Battle/Contest of the Soul. Written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, a Christian governor, who died around 410 A.D., it entails the battle between good virtues and evil vices. The enormous popularity of this work in the Middle Ages helped to spread the concept of holy virtue throughout Europe. The virtues are identified as chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. Practicing them is said to protect one against temptation from the seven deadly sins, each one having its counterpart. Due to this, they are sometimes referred to as the "contrary virtues".
|Chastity||Castitas||Purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom||Lust||Luxuria||Abstaining from sexual conduct according to one's state in life; the practice of courtly love. Cleanliness through cultivated good health and hygiene, and maintained by refraining from intoxicants. To be honest with oneself, one's family, one's friends, and to all of humanity. Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought-through education and betterment. The ability to refrain from being distracted and influenced by hostility, temptation or corruption.|
|Temperance||Temperantia||Mensch, justice, honour, abstention||Gluttony||Gula||Restraint, temperance, justice. Constant mindfulness of others and one's surroundings; practicing self-control, abstention, moderation and deferred gratification. Prudence to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time. Proper moderation between self-interest, versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.|
|Charity||Caritas||Will, benevolence, generosity, sacrifice||Greed||Avaritia||Generosity, charity, self-sacrifice; the term should not be confused with the more restricted modern use of the word charity to mean benevolent giving. In Christian theology, charity—or love (agäpé) -- is the greatest of the three theological virtues. |
Love, in the sense of an unlimited loving kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. Such love is self-sacrificial. Confusion can arise from the multiple meanings of the English word "love". The love that is "caritas" is distinguished by its origin – being divinely infused into the soul – and by its residing in the will rather than emotions, regardless of what emotions it stirs up. This love is necessary for salvation, and with it no one can be lost.
|Diligence||Industria||Persistence, effort, ethics, rectitude||Sloth||Acedia||A zealous and careful nature in one's actions and work; decisive work ethic, steadfastness in belief, fortitude, and the capability of not giving up. Budgeting one's time; monitoring one's own activities to guard against laziness. Upholding one's convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching (integrity). |
(The vice "acedia" is more commonly known as "sloth".)
|Patience||Patientia||Gaman, mercy, ahimsa, sufferance||Wrath||Ira||Forbearance and endurance through moderation. Enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity. Resolving conflicts and injustice peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. Accepting the grace to forgive; to show mercy to sinners. Creating a sense of peaceful stability and community rather than suffering, hostility, and antagonism.|
|Kindness||Benevolentia||Satisfaction, loyalty, compassion, integrity||Envy||Invidia||Charity, compassion and friendship for its own sake. Empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment. Unselfish love and voluntary kindness without bias or spite. Having positive outlooks and cheerful demeanor; to inspire kindness in others.|
|Humility||Humilitas||Bravery, modesty, reverence, altruism||Pride||Superbia||Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is a spirit of self-examination; a hermeneutic of suspicion toward yourself and charity toward people you disagree with. The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one's own self. Being faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they may be. Refraining from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation.|
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