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                                               By Alphonse Cerza

                                                Short Talk Bulletin: November 1977

Freemasonry is sometimes described as a school which teaches men a way of life which has met
the test of time. We do not have a monopoly on the teaching of moral Truths, but we do have a
special way of teaching which is both interesting and effective. Freemasonry teaches its members
all the cardinal virtues which are designed to make its members better men, but this Short Talk
will discuss only three of them: Temperance, Fortitude and Prudence.

Temperance: The word "temperance" has acquired an unfortunate connotation in modern times.
It is frequently associated with the movement to eliminate the use of alcoholic beverages. But the
word has a much broader meaning. The Masonic definition of Temperance may be stated briefly
as follows: Temperance is that due restraint upon our affections and passions which renders the
body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vice. Every Mason is then
told that Temperance should be the constant practice of every Mason, as he is taught to avoid
excess in all things, such as contracting any licentious or vicious habit, the indulgence of which
might lead him to- suffer, or to lose his health, or cause him to lose his reputation.

In a general sense it means that one must exercise a degree of self-restraint and self-control at all
times, in all the activities of life, including both words and deeds. The key idea is "moderation in
all things." The idea is well illustrated in the old statement: "All work and no play makes Jack a
dull boy." It does not mean abstinence except in matters which are inherently bad or harmful.

The word "temperance" comes to us from the Latin, which means to temper or harden according
to the use intended. As a consequence, we must recognize that there cannot be hard and fast rules
in this subject. Each person must decide for himself how much restraint and self-control must be
exercised in a particular situation. For example, I like to eat apple pie; one small piece is adequate
to satisfy my desire after a hearty meal. My neighbor might not eat as hearty a meal, but might
desire a larger piece of apple pie. Both of us by the exercise of self-control and by being temperate
refrain from having a second helping.

Fortitude: The second principle under consideration is that of Fortitude. It is closely related to
Temperance because very often the use of Fortitude is necessary to being temperate in a specific

In Freemasonry Fortitude is defined as that noble and steady purpose of the mind whereby we are
enabled to undergo any pain, peril or danger, when prudentially deemed expedient. The word is
related to the word "fort," which originally denoted a structure built around something for
protection. It is a word that comes to us from the Latin and indicated not so much a moral attitude,
but rather the true quality of manhood, as is implied that one had strength and courage.

Fortitude, therefore, is that quality of character which gives a person strength to withstand
temptation and to bear all suffering in silence. Fortitude is a virtue, for it permits one to do his duty
undisturbed by evil distractions. It is in great measure a frame of mind to regulate one's words and
deeds with courage and with determination. It is both a positive and a negative quality in that it
creates courage to do what is right and also creates strength or character to withstand intemperance.

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