I imagine the Cardinal Virtues as the trunk and main branches of our Tree. The Latin word from which cardinal is derived means hinge; the remaining virtues turn, or are hinged, by our practice of these four:
Prudence - Look before you leap. Prudence disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it (CCC 1806). By this virtue we apply all the Truth we have learned, with the Wisdom God has given us, through prayer, to discern the best course of action.
Justice – Right relationship. Justice consists in a person’s constant and firm will to give their due to God (religion) and to neighbor (respecting civil rights) (CCC 1807). Thinking of the artistic rendition of “Lady Justice”, she is blindfolded and holds a scale. Justice therefore, shows no preference for persons, but weighs the truths involved in a situation and acts accordingly.
Fortitude – Perseverance. Fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life…even to fear of trials, persecutions and death (CCC 1808). Fortitude is the “good cheer” we have in the tribulation of the world, knowing God has overcome it. This virtue is epitomized by the martyrs, those saints who gave their very lives rather than deny Christ.
Temperance – Not too much of a good thing. Temperance moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. (CCC 1809). God has given us a beautiful created world full of things to delight our sensory appetites. With temperance, we put our delight and love of God first, and balance our appetites for everything else after. We give Him honor, and grant ourselves peace, when we enjoy the fruits of this world in the order He desires.
Through our efforts and by Divine grace, the practice of these virtues will enable us to draw ever nearer to Our Lord, who personifies all virtue. Let us endeavor to practice doing good. This good will bless us, our families, our friends, our world and our Lord. Our Lady, Queen of all Virtue, please pray for us.