VIRTUE IS IN THE MIDDLE
Thus far in speaking about the virtues, we have seen that if we are going to get out of the beginners' age in the spiritual life and make progress it is necessary to practice the virtues more ardently; and we have discussed the difference between the natural and the supernatural virtues. Today we shall consider the statement that virtue is in the middle way.
There is an old Latin saying: In medio stat virtus: this means that virtue is in the middle way, or virtue follows the golden mean. Since our virtue makes our conduct agree with a certain fixed standard or rule it does not allow of excess or defect.
This golden mean, this middle way is found differently in different virtues.
In the case of justice, the golden mean is determined by something external, and this never changes, since justice gives what is due to others, neither more or less. In the case of fortitude and temperance, the golden mean is determined by prudent judgment and is different in different cases, since these two virtues are concerned with the regulation of the internal passions according to conditions of individuals and circumstances. Thus, a debt of ten dollars remains the same whether the debtor is rich or poor, whether the creditor needs it or not. But a glass of liquor which would be just enough for one who was sick, might be far too much for him when he was well; and a danger which a man might be expected to encounter, might be too much for a woman or a boy. Parents who are too strict or too lax in disciplining their children are not following the golden mean. A mother who goes to Mass every morning when she should be at home caring for her family is not following the golden mean.
The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity have no golden mean as far as their object is concerned, since God, being infinite in truth, power, and goodness, cannot be believed in, hoped in, or loved too much. By reason of their subject, however, these virtues have a golden mean, since it is possible for one to exceed or show defect, as for example, in the virtue of hope where one may sin by presumption or despair.
Each one of us has a desire, more or less intense, of being successful spiritually. If we are virtuous we shall be successful spiritually. We shall have order in our lives because virtue is the middle way. The more we follow this middle way of virtue, the happier we shall be.