Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

The Four Cardinal Virtues

There are many Virtues.  Among all the Virtues four stand out and have since antiquity been known as the cardes or hinge virtues.  Thus we call them Cardinal Virtues.  Plato usually receives the credit  for the four Cardinal Virtues but Scripture addresses them too.  The development seem to parallel each other in history.  Plato did give us the lexicon to understand the Virtues and for that, we are grateful.

All other Virtues proceed from or find their context around them.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) # 1805 states:

“Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called ‘cardinal'; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. ‘If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.’ [Wis. 8:7] These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.”

All other virtues are dependent on these four. That includes lesser Virtues, which are corollaries of these, and also greater virtues (the three “theological virtues”), which are the flower of these.[1] We are dependent on these virtues in order to be fully human but they are not innate.

We must practice, practice, practice.  Virtue means strength and we all know that muscles are built only with exercise.  Over the next few days, we will look at each of the four Virtues and consider a few of their aspects.

Lord, strengthen us with virtue that we may become the men and women of God you have designed us to be!


[1] Kreeft, Peter. “Justice, Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation: The Four Cardinal Virtues” Chapter four in Back to Virtue (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 59-70.


“Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called ‘cardinal'; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. ‘If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.’ [Wis. 8:7] These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1805)

2 Responses to The Four Cardinal Virtues

  1. Joe Adams says:

    I am really enjoying these pieces on spirituality and virtue, especially Carmelite spirituality.

    • Q says:

      Thanks! I plan to do a lot more on the various “strains” of spirituality and their relation to personality and locality. I also have a plan in my head of integrating the two subjects. A number of discussions have transpired lately with individuals that know very little about virtue and do not see how the subject relates to daily living of spirituality. Go Carmelites!

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