Friday, 22 March 2019

22 March, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations for Every Day

Our Temperament
1. Just as every man has his own individual physical characteristics, he also has his own peculiar disposition. It is our character which distinguishes us and makes us what we are. Our basic temperament is neither good nor bad in itself. It is a physical and spiritual disposition which can equally well impel us towards virtue as towards sin. No two people are exactly alike in character, but it is possible to divide them all into four main categories. It is a rather artificial classification, of course, since everyone shares to a greater or less extent in the attributes proper to each of the categories.
We can broadly distinguish (1) the sanguine, (2) the nervous, (3) the choleric and (4) the phlegmatic type. People belonging to the first category are jolly folk, lively and intelligent and often impetuous. They are easily incited to begin aiming at a good or a bad objective, but usually they lack constancy and tenacity of purpose. Very often they fling themselves enthusiastically into an enterprise, but abandon it for want of perseverance. In the second category the nervous system is developed to an exceptionally fine degree in comparison with the other parts of the human organism. These people are sensitive rather than active. In their stable moments they can accomplish a great deal in a very short time. But they are easily discouraged. They are subject to depression and suffer a lot, sometimes purely as the result of a disordered imagination. They need sympathy and understanding. The choleric characters are impulsive and passionate. They have tremendous strength of will, but this needs to be restrained and diverted into the right channels if it is not to overflow into all sorts of excesses. The phlegmatic, on the other hand, are dull and apathetic by nature. They never hurry. They never get excited. They are cold, calculating, and lacking in enthusiasm. But they are masters of themselves and if they are intelligent and capable they can do a great deal of work with the minimum effort and emerge successfully from the most difficult situations. It is very helpful for a man to study and become acquainted with his own character so that he may be able to form it as he ought.
2. There is a theory that it is impossible to form character, because our character is and always will be what nature has given us. "Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret." (Horace, Ep. 1, 10:24) ("You cast out nature with a pitch-fork, but only until such time as it comes back again.") Montaigne and Rousseau extended this idea of Horace to the extent of holding that it would be evil as well as superfluous to attempt to shape character, which should be what nature intended it to be.
Although there is some little truth in this opinion, fundamentally it is false. It is true that nature cannot be suppressed, but it can be shaped and improved by a sound and well-directed education. Our natural temperament can be compared to an uncultivated field covered with weeds and bushes, or to a horse which is still untamed and unaccustomed to labour. It abounds in hidden energies and unregulated instincts; it is dangerous to leave it to itself. It would become, as Dante puts it, "a large forest, wild and rough." (Inferno, 1:5) So it is necessary for character to be formed under the guidance of a good teacher and subject to the wisdom and grace of God.
3. Each one of us is obliged to train his own character properly. Above all, it is necessary to know ourselves as the result of meditation and examination of conscience so that we may be able to correct and change our temperament. This kind of formation is slow and difficult, but we must overcome difficulties patiently and perseveringly. There is no need to be discouraged. Our main requirement in the battle against our evil instincts is the grace of God for which we should pray fervently. We need an enlightened spiritual director who will guide and encourage us. Finally, we need the determination to succeed, without which the grace of God cannot achieve the Christian transformation of our character.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are subject to deletion if they are not germane. I have no problem with a bit of colourful language, but blasphemy or depraved profanity will not be allowed. Attacks on the Catholic Faith will not be tolerated. Comments will be deleted that are republican (Yanks! Note the lower case 'r'!), attacks on the legitimacy of Pope Francis as the Vicar of Christ (I know he's a heretic and a Protector of Perverts, and I definitely want him gone yesterday! However, he is Pope, and I pray for him every day.), the legitimacy of the House of Windsor or of the claims of the Elder Line of the House of France, or attacks on the legitimacy of any of the currently ruling Houses of Europe.