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Temperance: Finding strength to overcome obstacles

July 31, 2020
By Shelly Fellin

Temperance: finding strength to overcome obstacles

Have there been moments in your life when you needed to practice Self-Control?

Self-control is not often considered a virtue or characteristic that needs to be exercised or trained. But indeed it is. And it certainly is not something that our culture promotes. I have a desire to eat some form of chocolate after dinner every day. That “after dinner treat” as I like to say.  But I also know that it is not good for me. I have digestion issues that are aggravated by too much confectionary i.e. chocolate peanut butter M&M’s, etc.  I know I shouldn’t eat so much but sometimes the share size bag becomes an all-to-myself bag. The desire for too much chocolate is one thing but to lose control when drinking with friends at the bar or to lust after someone for your own personal pleasure is something completely different. Temperance or self-control is that virtue we need to practice (or exercise) in order to grow into the person God intended us to be.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods.” CCC1809 The practice of self-control allows us to become masters of our will and senses and not become a slave to them. The virtue of chastity fall under this cardinal virtue of temperance. “Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom…either [we] govern our passions and find peace or be dominated by them and become unhappy.” CCC2339 Self-mastery is not something that we can accomplish once and have it for life, it is a “long and exacting work.” CCC2342 St. Paul in his letter to Titus reminds him of the importance of living a life of temperance. [See Titus 2:1-8] He also states that by God’s grace we are saved and trained to live temperately, justly and devoutly. [Titus 2:12]

Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. During his time of spiritual awakening he lived as a beggar, eating and drinking sparingly. This practice of temperance among other practices assisted in his transformation into the saint that he was meant to be. Temperance is not an easy virtue for sure but with the grace of God we can follow in the footsteps of the many saints who show us how to be virtuous people.

Where do you see a need for temperance (or self-control) in your life? Do you have some habits that seem to rule your life? Gluttony is a vice that may seem harmless but can lead us down the wrong path. It can weaken our will and open us up to greater temptations. With all that is going on in the world these days we don’t need to be reminded that the power of the evil one is all around us. But “finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right…aided by God’s grace, [he] succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity”. CCC409 As St. Peter tell us “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around…looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings”. [1Peter5:8-9] Through prayer, fortitude and faith we can overcome many obstacles in life. Let us seek the graces that God gives us each day by asking him to help us practice self-control.