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Catechesis by Pope St John Paul II
in his series on the Cardinal Virtues
General Audience, Wednesday 22 November 1978 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. In the course of the audiences of my pontifical ministry I have sought/tried to carry out the "testament" of my beloved Predecessor John Paul I. As is known, he did not leave a written testament, because death caught him unexpectedly and suddenly, but he left some notes, from which it appears that he had proposed/intended, in/at the first Wednesday meetings, to speak about/of the fundamental principles of Christian life, that is, of the three theological virtues - and this he had time to carry out - and then of the four cardinal virtues - and this is being done by his unworthy Successor. Today the turn has come to speak of the fourth cardinal virtue, "temperance", thus bringing to fulfillment, in a certain way, the programme of John Paul I, in which we can see, as it were, the testament of the deceased Pope.

2. When we speak of the virtues — not only of these cardinal ones, but of all of them, of every virtue — we must always have before our eyes the real man, the concrete man. Virtue is not something abstract, detached from life, but, on the contrary, (it) has deep "roots" in life itself, it springs from life and forms it. Virtue affects the life of man. It affects his actions actions and his behaviour. It follows that, in all these our reflections, we are not speaking so much of the virtue as of the man who lives and acts "virtuously"; we are speaking of the prudent, just, courageous man, and finally, precisely today, we are speaking of the "temperate" (or "sober") man.

Let us add at once that all these attributes, or rather attitudes of man, coming from the single cardinal virtues, are reciprically/mutually connected. Therefore one cannot be a truly prudent man, nor an authentically just nor a truly strong one, if one does not also have the virtue of temperance. It can be said that this virtue indirectly conditions all other virtues, but it must also be said that all the other virtues are indispensable, so that man can be/ for man to be able to be "temperate" (or "sober").

3. The term "temperance" itself seems in a certain way to refer to that which is "outside of man". In fact we say that temperate is the one who does not abuse foods, drinks, pleasures, who does not excessively drink alcohol, who does not deprive himself of consciousness through the use of drugs, etc. This reference to elements external to man has however its base/basis within man. It is as if in each one of us there existed a "higher ego/I/self" and a "lower ego/I/self". In our "lower ego/I" is expressed our "body" and all that which belongs to it: its needs, its desires, its passions of a sensual nature above all. The virtue of temperance guarantees to every man the dominion of the "higher ego/I/self" over the "lower ego/I/self". Is this perhaps a humiliation of our body? Or an impairment/a disability? On the contrary, this dominion valorises/gives value to the body. The virtue of temperance ensures/means that the body and our senses find the right place, which belongs/pertains to them in our human being.

The temperate man is the one who is master of himself. One in whom the passions do not take precedence over reason, over the will, and even over the "heart". The man who knows how to dominate himself! If it is thus/this is so, we easily realize what fundamental and radical value the virtue of temperance has. It is even indispensable, for man "to be" fully man. It is enough to look at someone who, carried away by his passions, becomes a "victim" (of them), renouncing of his own (accord) the use of reason (such as, for example, an alcoholic, a drug addict) and we see clearly that "to be man" means to respect one's own dignity, and therefore, among other things, to let oneself be guided by the virtue of temperance.

4. This virtue is also called "sobriety". And rightly so! In fact, to be able to dominate our passions, the concupiscence of the flesh, the explosions of sensuality (for example in relations(hips) with the other sex) etc., we must not go beyond the just limit with regard to ourselves and our "lower ego/I/self". If we do not respect this just limit, we will not be able to dominate ourselves. This does not mean that the virtuous, sober man cannot be "spontaneous", cannot rejoice/enjoy, cannot cry, cannot express his own feelings, it does not mean that he must become insensitive, "indifferent", as if he were made of ice or stone. No, by no means/not at all! It is enough to look at Jesus to be convinced of this. Christian morality has never been identified with stoic morality. On the contrary, considering all the richness of the affections and emotionality/emotions with which every man is endowed — moreover/after all, each in a different way: man in one way, woman in another owing to her own sensibility/sensitivity — it is necessary to recognize that man cannot reach this mature spontaneity, if not through a work on himself and a particular "vigilance" over his entire/whole behaviour. In this in fact consists the virtue of "temperance", of "sobriety".

5. I think that this virtue demands from each of us a specific humility with regard to the gifts that God has placed in our human nature. I would say, "humility of the body" and that "of the heart". This humility is a necessary condition for man's interior "harmony": for man's "interior" beauty. Let everyone think about it well and in particular young men, and even more young women, at the age when it is so important to be handsome or beautiful in order to please others! Let us remember that man must be beautiful above all interiorly. Without this beauty, all efforts directed at the body alone will not make — either him or her — a truly beautiful person.

Moreover/After all, is it not just/precisely the body that suffers considerable and often also serious damage to health, if man lacks the virtue of temperance, of sobriety? In this regard, the statistics and medical records of all the hospitals in the world could say a lot/great deal. Also doctors involved in clinics to which spouses, engaged couples and young people turn have great experience of this. It is true that we cannot judge virtue based exclusively on the criterion of psychophysical health, however there are numerous proofs that the lack of the virtue, of temperance, sobriety, leads to damage to health.

6. I must finish here, although I am convinced that this topic is rather interrupted than exhausted. Perhaps one day the opportunity will arise to come back/return to it. For now/the present this is enough.

In such way I have sought, as I could, to carry out the testament of John Paul I. I ask him to pray for me, when I shall have to pass to other themes during the Wednesday audiences."


To the sick

"Let a specially affectionate greeting now go to the sick. All of you who are suffering, know that the Pope has a predilection for you because you are called to take part more closely in the Saviour's redeeming Passion and because the evangelical beatitude: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (cf Mt 5, 4), belongs to you. Take heart! The Pope is with you: your suffering is not vain, but constitutes the riches of the Church. May my special blessing comfort you."

To the newly weds

"I am happy to address a word now to the newly-weds present here and to all young couples who with their love, blessed and sanctified by virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage, have started a new life. To you I say: do not be afraid to give a Christian stamp to your new family: Christ is with you! He is near you to make stable and indissoluble the bond that unites you in mutual donation. He is near you to sustain you in the midst of the difficulties and trials that are, indeed, inevitable but not insuperable, and never destructive of married love when it is authentic and not selfish. With these happy wishes, the Pope blesses you in the Lord's joy."