Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Art of Temperance

This last year has been pretty eye-opening for me, with regards to studying the virtues, and just how intricate they are to perfect. One in particular, which is particularly lacking in our culture, is the virtue of temperance. How do we know? Because we are attached! At least I am. Think of all your routines, your creature comforts, think of how you lived before you had children (they are really good at forcing us to detach from things we never thought we could: sleep, food, showers ;-)). 

Temperance, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is the moderation of all desires and appetites. It is the art of tight-rope walking with regards to virtue. This week, my husband, myself, and our friends from our theology study sesssions, are challenging one another to grow in temperance. Before I take on how to grow in temperance, I'll break the virtue down further. 

The subvirtues of temperance, are:
Diligence = moderation of rest, doing your duties immediately
  • Should you really have stayed up until midnight folding laundry, or could it have waited until the morning?
  • Did you factor in the extra 10 min. to get the kids in the car to make it on time to the music lesson?
  • Do I say my morning offering the moment I wake up?
Meakness = the moderation of anger (this one's big with small children who throw temper tantrums)
  • Anger is the perceived injury with a desire for vindication
  • Our Lord, was justly angry once in his entire life, and it was for an offense against Our Father. Not even when he was crucified did he allow himself to be angry once. May we remember this when our children are acting out. There may be just punishment, but hardly ever is there to be anger associated with that punishment.
  • When someone cuts us off in traffic, does it do any good to hit the steering wheel or yell? Does it help us get there any faster?
  • When your 2 year old spills a cup of milk on the floor as you're walking out the door, are you disappointed at his lack of foresight, or just miffed that this means you have to clean it up?
Abstinence = the moderation of food; only eating as much as reason dictates
  • Do you decide how much you will eat before you sit down?
  • Do you eat enough? Or do you eat too much?
  • Do you go hours and hours without eating because you are "busy with the kids?" Fasting is a great thing, but don't let yourself get grumpy either because you haven't fed your body what it needs.
  • Does your tummy hurt because you ate those 5 extra candy corn? (What is it about this treat that makes it so hard to stop!?)
Sobriety = the moderation of drink so that it does not affect or inhibit the intellect (the ability to choose right and wrong)
  • The sin happens when you know you're at the tipsy point but you still decide to have just one more glass of wine
Chastity = the moderation of sex
  • Are you and your spouse completely open to life? Are you using NFP without grave reason, or doing anything else that might block the purpose of the marital act?
  • If you're single, are you spending too much time late at night with your significant other, or spending too much time alone?
Modesty = The moderation of the externals; stuff of the body that our emotions can act upon
  • Do you dress appropriately for mass on Sundays? This means dressing to meet the King of Kings, not just covering the parts that need to be covered with jeans and a t-shirt. 
  • For us ladies, how much do we listen? Do we speak too much? Yes, modesty applies here too! May we remember to temper our speech.
Simplicity = the moderation for desire of material things
  • When was the last time you cleaned out your closet?
  • Are the toy bins overflowing?
  • Do you really need 5 pairs of brown shoes?
  • On the flip side, there's a reason kings live in a castle. The virtue lies in the middle, so we should make sure that all of our material goods are appropriate for our state in life. A stay at home mom should have a nice set of pots/pans or functional cleaning tools if the family can afford it.
Any of these ring a bell? For me, they do. I can absolutely grow in this virtue, and boy, am I attached to certain things. So, how do we grow in temperance?
  • Detachment = When material things don’t move the appetite too much
    • Mortification = denying oneself something
      • Go without that afternoon coffee
      • Don't buy that shirt you think you "must have"
    • Penance = Taking on some sort of discomfort
      • start your morning shower with cold water
      • Kneel on the Church tile at consecration
    • Seek the Arduous!
      • Park further away from the grocery store
      • Instead of using your vacuum, sweep
      • Don't buy the pre-chopped onions and chop them by hand (I know, that's a major timesaver, but how did women do it for thousands of years???)
      • Wash your laundry in the tub; the kids will love this one ;-)
I think you get the picture. Have fun with this, and please comment with ideas of how we can all grow in the virtue of temperance by mastering these subvirtues and detaching from those things that sting a little bit to give up.

Happy tempering! 

1 comment:

Andi said...

I've been thinking about this post a lot, and wanted to chime in that part of the reason that we chose to cloth diaper, use cloth rags, pads, napkins, etc is to create a little mortification for our family. Having to fold and put away the rags has created a job for our 5 and 3 year olds, who are starting to learn that we depend on their hard work for our kitchen to function properly!

Second- I had completely forgotten that pre chopped onions existed :) I got so much grief from hubby for buying them once, close to six years ago, but now that #4 is almost here those are sounding mighty tempting.