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Shoring Up Your Team with the Virtue of Temperance

St. Thomas Aquinas sums up the definition of temperance in the above quote. In this week's podcast Fr. Ripperger explains temperance even more specifically in saying that this is the virtue that pertains to the control of the pleasures of food and the conjugal union preventing one from gluttony and from lust. I think it goes without saying that this is a virtue that is lacking greatly in our society. But temperance is used in other areas of our marriage as well.

Let's be clear though, pleasure is a good thing. The Lord makes those things that we need to do for sustenance of the human race pleasurable. Eating and the marital act are both quite necessary for humanity to continue. But they are both to be pleasures for a greater purpose, not pleasures in and of themselves or they become disordered acts causing damage to oneself and to others.

Fr. Ripperger explains twelve integral virtues of temperance, but let's briefly look at only half of them.

The first integral virtue is shame. This is interesting because one may not see shame as a virtue. But Thomas Aquinas teaches that shame is a necessary fear of revealing oneself less than one is. We are supposed to feel ashamed at bad behavior like selfishness, rudeness, disrespect, gluttony, lust, etc. We should even regulate our speech out of shame of appearing ignorant. This doesn't mean we stick our head in the sand so as never to make a mistake, but it is a virtue that we need to guide us in our behaviour. Unfortunately in our society today there is the opinion that one should be able to do or say whatever one chooses to do or say and not be regulated at all. But the ultimate good is to consider if my actions or words are beneficial for all concerned. This virtue can aid in marriage by guiding each of the couple in choosing his/her behavior or words. We should want to give to our spouse our very best. Think how often people in the world get our best all day but when we come home we give the one we are supposed to love more than any other person in the world our very worst. We should be truly ashamed by this. Shame can help if we allow it to do so.

The second integral virtue is honestia. This is the habit of always seeking to do what is virtuous in each situation. It can also be called integrity. What does this look like in marriage? It's remembering the first step of St. Benedict's rules of humility, which is the realization that God is always present. He sees everything we do, including leaving on the floor that object that you tossed toward the trashcan and missed. He hears everything you say, even when no one else is around to hear. He even knows what we think. Now isn't that scary?! This virtue is the pursuit of excellence. Do you pursue an excellent marriage? If the answer is yes, then we must pursue excellence in our individual lives and striving to always do what is virtuous.

The third integral virtue may seem very odd in marriage, but it is so necessary. It is the virtue of virginity. This is not the virtue of celibacy! It is simply a purity of mind and soul. It is desiring truth and beauty in mind and body with oneself and one another. Fr. Ripperger says that lust reveals a lack of clarity of judgement in all areas of one's life. But the virtue of a virginal mind directs one to good judgement and a pure relationship in marriage. St. Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, reveal this virtue in their marriage better than any other couple I could mention. Do some reading about their beautiful marriage and family and you will be inspired!

Clemency or meekness is another integral virtue of temperance that is important in marriage. These virtues can be defined as those that moderate the delight and pleasure one gets out of vindication. The opinion of "he had it coming" or "she deserved it" are thoughts against these virtues. This kind of thinking is never healthy for a marriage. Anger must be regulated, and sometimes one may need professional help to learn how. There's no shame in getting help! Sometime we need to learn tools to grow in clemency and meekness for the good of our emotional health and for the good of our marriage.

Integral virtue number five may be a lost virtue. Well, not exactly, but it is lacking in our society. It is the virtue of decorum. This is behaving in a way that suits a person's circumstances. It is the regulation of profanity and vulgar speech. Let me explain with a personal story. I was once on retreat with a wonderful English priest. In our conversation he learned that I had completed my Masters degree from a university in England, one he was very aware of. Later in confession, I had to confess lack of discipline in my language, using profanity. He questioned me in this saying, "Do you mean you have used curse words, profanity?" I had to admit to this while feeling quite guilty by his shock. He then told me that I must get this under control and stop this nasty habit because I was "entirely too educated to speak in this way." There you have it. I was ashamed that I had not been appreciative of the blessing of the education that I was able to acquire well enough to practice proper decorum. This is something we should also consider when speaking to and around our spouses. We are supposed to be leading them to Heaven. The virtue of decorum shows our commitment in this. It also shows our respect for them in choosing not to bring anything less that goodness and beauty into their lives.

The final integral virtue of temperance that I want to mention is the virtue of silence. Communication in marriage is very important but sometimes nothing needs to be said. This virtue calls us to speak only when something needs to be said. It regulates the need to hear our own voice and often times the need to talk about ourselves. It offers time to listen; to our spouse, to our children, and to the Lord. It helps us to learn interior silence, even in the midst of chaos. Try sitting for fifteen minutes with your spouse in complete silence. It may be the most refreshing thing you do all day.

Again, these are only six of the twelve integral virtues of temperance that are discussed on this week's podcast. Sign up our our website and leave a comment sharing how some of the other six can benefit marriage. Please feel free to share this with anyone that you think can benefit from it.


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