Just an observation from a middle aged man, or at least a few months shy of 40. Within our tradition we have something called the three theological virtues, and the four cardinal virtues. They stand as pillars to our development as entire and whole human beings.
Now faith, hope, and charity the first three I get, not that I have acquired perfectly, but I can say at the moment of my leaving the nets they were mine to varying degrees. But those pesky other four they are more allusive. Prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, they are acquired perhaps by a different means that is not, shall I say as fulfilling, at least to my interior life.
St. Augustine said, “Love and do what you will.” To most of us that have had the love of God shed abroad in our hearts in which we cry Abba Father, the theological virtues are quite straight forward in our development as Christians. The more we orient ourselves to behold the face of God in Christ Jesus–whether through quiet contemplation, Eucharist adoration, or spiritual study and reflection–we begin to be inflamed, that is unless we are going through some dark night of sorts.
When we are inflamed with Love for God Himself loving our neighbor just happens, light begets light. If we are walking in the Holy Spirit the theological virtues simply appear as natural as the grass of the field. But those last four virtues at least in my experience are not formed in this way. They are a bit more allusive. I have observed them, I know when I’m in their presence but to be honest it is usually from without, that is coming from another.
The theological virtues are received as gift in seed form from the beginning of our pilgrimage to God from wherever and whenever ones journey begins. They’re like open ended invitations into God, “How much of the uncreated light do you want? Come on into the abyss of the divine presence.”
The last four on the other hand seem to be reserved for the backstroke of life; I have found they are rarely glaring in anyone less than fifty years of age. That is unless a person has gone through great suffering with the theological virtues at their side. So this is my theory on their development. Prudence, justice, fortitude, piety, are formed and proven over time when the theological virtues are put to the hard test of life. Where joy and love meet agony and sorrow, where faith and hope meet despair and unbelief, over and over again, where light meets darkness, and the shadows give way to cardinal virtues, and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.
My conclusion, the theological virtues are received as gift from above, the cardinal virtues are formed in us here below. But all is God.