Pope at Audience: Temperance will not rob our joy, but will fill us with happiness

During his Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis focuses on the fourth and final cardinal virtue of temperance, saying that our ability to have power over ourselves will help us savour all we have in life, in a much more meaningful and joyful way, akin to sipping a glass of wine, rather than drinking it all at once.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Our ability to master ourselves and moderate our passions, can lead us toward true happiness....

Pope Francis offered this reminder during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday in St. Peter's Square.

This week, the Pope continued his catechetical series on vices and virtues. After months dedicated to the vices, he transitioned to discussing virtues, thus far focusing on prudence, patience, justice, fortitude, and, now, temperance.
Moderates our relationship with pleasures

The Catechism describes the cardinal virtue of temperance as “the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods.”

Moreover, the Catechism says that temperance “ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable," noting the temperate person "directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion, and does not follow the base desires, but restrains the appetites.”

With the other three cardinal virtues, this virtue shares a history that goes far back in time and does not only belong to Christians.
Power over oneself

The Pope recalled Aristotle's reflecting on enkráteia, the Greek term literally means “power over oneself,” as the great philosopher studied virtues as he explored the concept of happiness.

Over time, the Holy Father recalled, temperance was understood as one's "capacity for self-mastery," the "art of not letting oneself be overcome by rebellious passions."

Temperance, the Pope suggested, is the virtue of the right measure.

Savours with good judgment amid impulses

Faced with pleasures, the Pope said the temperate person acts judiciously.

"The free course of impulses and total license accorded to pleasures end up backfiring on us, plunging us into a state of boredom," the Pope said. "How many people who have wanted to try everything voraciously have found themselves losing the taste for everything!"

Given this, he said, we should enjoy moderately.

"For example, to appreciate a good wine," the Pope observed, is "to taste it in small sips," rather than drinking it all at once.

“To appreciate a good wine, to taste it in small sips, is better than swallowing it all in one go”

Knows the right measure

The temperate person, Pope Francis said, knows how to weigh words and dose them well. "He does not allow a moment’s anger to ruin relationships and friendships that can then only be rebuilt with difficulty," especially, the Pope said, "in family life, where inhibitions are lower, we all run the risk of not keeping tensions, irritations and anger in check."

He acknowledged that they know the time to speak and to be silent, both in the right measure, knowing how to control their own irascibility.

"This does not mean we always find him with a peaceful and smiling face," the Pope said, recognizing that at times it is necessary to be indignant, "but always in the right way."

A word of rebuke, he said, is at times healthier than a sour, rancorous silence. "The temperate person knows that nothing is more uncomfortable than correcting another person, but he also knows that it is necessary."
Manages extremes gracefully

"In some cases, the temperate person succeeds in holding extremes together," the Pope said, stating, "he affirms absolute principles, asserts non-negotiable values, but also knows how to understand people and shows empathy for them."

The gift of the temperate person, the Holy Father said, is being "balanced," which the Pope described as precious and rare.

When "everything in our world pushes to excess," the Pope said that temperance "combines well with Gospel values such as smallness, discretion, modesty, meekness."

Pope Francis concluded, by clarifying that temperance does not make one "grey and joyless," but "on the contrary," it "lets one enjoy the goods of life better."