Category Archives: Prudence

Prudence

-The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (1822) by William Blake, Tate Gallery, London, UK, please click on the image for greater detail.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
-Matthew 25

CCC 1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.”(Prov 14:15). “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.”(1 Pet 4:7). Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. ST II-II,47,2. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Show me, O Lord, the way of true prudence.

MEDITATION

If we wish to attain union with God, our whole life should be directed toward Him; and as our life is made up of many acts, we should see that each one is a step forward on the way that leads to Him. Supernatural prudence is that virtue which suggests to us what we should do and what we should avoid in order to reach the goal we have set for ourselves. If we wish to reach union with God, prudence tells us to conform ourself in everything to His will, to detach ourself from all things, even the least, if it be contrary to His divine will. If we wish to become a saint, we must perform these acts of charity and generosity without recoiling from the sacrifice. If we wish to become a soul of prayer, we must strive to be recollected, to avoid useless conversation, to mortify our curiosity, and to apply ourself diligently to prayer. Thus prudence prescribes what we ought to do and what we ought to avoid, whether in view of our final end—union with God, sanctity—or in view of an immediate goal—such as the acquisition of particular virtues—which, however, always must be ordered to our final end.

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins effectively demonstrates the need of this virtue. They all slept while waiting for the bridegroom to come; when he arrived, the first five were admitted into the banquet hall, the other five were refused simply because they had not had the prudence to provide themselves with sufficient oil to fill their lamps. And the parable concludes: “Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). Supernatural prudence counsels us first of all to make good use of the time God gives us and the opportunities He offers us to practice virtue, because “the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). When, through indolence or carelessness, we miss an opportunity to do a good deed, it is lost forever; others may present themselves later, it is true, but that one will never return again.

COLLOQUY

“O my God, a soul who loves You listens no more to the suggestions of human prudence. Faith and love alone influence her, making her despise all earthly things, holding them to be worthless, as indeed they are. She cares not for any earthly good, being convinced that all is vanity. When she finds that by doing something she can serve You better, she listens to no objections but acts at once, for she understands that her profit consists entirely in this” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Conceptions of the Love of God 3).

“O Lord, if I wish to be a saint, I must live entirely on a supernatural plane, always remembering that ‘whatsoever is not God, is nothing,’ as the author of the Imitation says; consequently, I must leave all things or make use of all to come to You.

“If I do not watch over myself, I can materialize even spiritual things by considering everything superficially, under its human aspect. Alas! O Lord, I know that at times I have acted in this way.

“Oh no! a life spent for You is so great, so beautiful! But it is not great because of any extraordinary deeds, but rather because of the love and fidelity with which I must inform even the least important duties, which transforms these least actions, as well as all my daily occupations; it is great because of the apostolic intentions which vivify my prayers and sacrifices. Teach me, O Lord, to give the greatest amount of love to each instant, to make eternal every passing moment, by giving it the added value of charity” (cf. Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.).”

Love & prudence,
Matthew

We were made for happiness. It is our natural end.

be·at·i·tude
/bēˈadəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
noun: beatitude, plural noun: beatitudes
1. supreme blessedness.

“Since happiness is the perfect and sufficient good, it must needs set man’s desire at rest and exclude every evil. . . . Wherefore also according to the Philosopher (Ethics, 1:9), happiness is the reward of works of virtue. — St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 5. arts. 4, 5

“Now I wish to tell you further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him. Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kindness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible. Good men produce and prove all their virtues on their neighbor. . . .” — St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue

“Perceived lack of intimacy and belonging is clearly a threat to our happiness and, indeed, is a real evil when evil is understood as a lack of a good that should be present…As St. Irenaeus stated so well eighteen centuries ago, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.”13

One hundred years before Irenaeus’s birth, God made Himself visible and explained in His own words why He came to the people on earth: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). St. Thomas Aquinas added that God intends for us a twofold happiness: an imperfect happiness while here on earth and a perfect happiness in heaven.

Starting with Aristotle and concluding with St. Matthew, Thomas tells us: “The Philosopher, in placing man’s happiness in this life (Ethics, 1:10), says it is imperfect, and after a long discussion concludes: We call men happy, but only as men. But God has promised us perfect happiness, when we shall be as the angels . . . in heaven (Matt. 22:30).”14 And what are the keys to both kinds of happiness? We saw in this chapter’s first quotation that St. Thomas Aquinas claims that virtues hold the keys to happiness.

Virtues are habits or dispositions to know the truth and to do the good. They perfect our powers as human beings made in the image and likeness of God with intellects and wills. They perfect the capacities of our intellects to know what is true, and the capacities of our wills to rein in our passions and desires to keep us from doing what is wrong and to guide us toward what is right. The more we embrace and build these capacities, the happier we become and the less susceptible to negative attitudes and emotions, including those that accompany excessive, prolonged loneliness.

Now, there are important natural virtues, such as temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence, long known to great pagan philosophers. And literally thanks be to God, there are also supernatural, theological, or infused virtues that the Father and the Son freely bestow on us through the workings of the Holy Spirit: faith, hope, and love (also called charity). All the virtues work together to guide us toward that imperfect happiness we can experience on earth and the perfect eternal bliss we hope to share: the beatific vision of God in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Vost, Kevin. Catholic Guide to Loneliness (Kindle Locations 379-389, 391-417). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

13 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV, 20, 7, as cited in Mons. Phillipe Delhaye, Pope John Paul II on the Contemporary Importance of St. Irenaeus, no. 10, http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/irenaeus.htm.
14 Summa Theologica (ST), I-II, Q. 3, art. 2.

Prudence

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Help me, O God, to judge with rectitude so that I may be able to act accordingly.

MEDITATION

The first duty of prudence is to help us choose the best means for attaining our final end. Many times the choice is easy and presents itself spontaneously to a mind accustomed to making judgments and acting in the light of eternity. At other times, however, it is difficult and perplexing, as for example, when it concerns choosing one’s vocation or profession or solving complicated problems in which elements independent of one’s own will must be considered. In these cases we must take time to examine everything carefully and to consult prudent, experienced persons; to act hastily would show a want of prudence. In the Gospel, Jesus Himself tells us about the prudent man who “having a mind to build a tower, first sits down and reckons the charges that are necessary, whether he have wherewithal to finish it” (Luke 14:28). The time spent in these examinations and calculations as dictated by prudence is not time wasted. Quite the contrary! When facing serious decisions, we must realize that God Himself often wants us to wait patiently until circumstances clearly manifest His will to us. In this waiting we should give a large place to prayer, begging Our Lord for the light which our own prudence cannot give us. In fact, prudence, even though it is an infused supernatural virtue, is always a virtue exercised by human faculties and, therefore, is affected by human limitations; however, to help it, God has given us a special gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of counsel, the actuation of which does not depend on us but is obtainable by prayer.

After using all the means suggested by supernatural prudence, we arrive at a decision. Prudence then commands us to put it into effect with courage and diligence, without needless delays on our part and without being discouraged by the difficulties we may meet.

COLLOQUY

“O God, one work performed with prudence is more pleasing to You than many done carelessly and imprudently, for this virtue thoroughly examines and weighs every action so that it may be turned to Your honor and glory.

True and supernatural prudence belongs to You and is in You O Lord. Few there are in whom we find it, because many seek it through cunning, using their own wisdom to scrutinize Your designs; thus they lose their time and find nothing. Anyone who really desires to possess prudence must come to You, the Incarnate Word; he will find it in You, together with all the other virtues, but vastly different from human prudence, which tends to what exalts and not to what abases. In You, he will find the prudence which teaches us to humble and abase ourselves, as You willed to humble and abase Yourself, in order to show us the way which leads to salvation. You, O Lord, have said: ‘If you wish to be My disciple, renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.’ Oh! this is prudence in the highest degree! Yet to human prudence it looks like utter madness. For, O crucified Christ, to the wise ones in this world it is the height of madness to take up one’s cross and follow You! But You teach me that the foolishness of the cross is supreme wisdom, and to deny oneself is supreme prudence. What wiser folly can there be than to take up the cross with You and follow in Your footsteps? And what greater prudence can there be than to die to self in order to find life in You, from Whom everything receives life?” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“O prudence, you are like a high mountain. Those whom the mountain shelters, live a healthy life and enjoy its pure air. From its height, they see and foresee everything they should do. So also, my God, the prudence which proceeds from You keeps the soul high above the clouds of passion and human considerations; it invigorates her virtue, and causes her to honor You in all her works, making her foresee everything, so that she can arm herself against temptation. O my God, give me this true upright prudence, which will lead me to union with You. Let it guide me in such a way that I shall never fail to perform Your works out of any motive of human respect or regard for any creature.” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

“Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Teach me Your ways, that I may follow Your truth. Give me temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude, for nothing is more profitable to men.” (cf. Ps 51; Wisdom 8:7).

“O Jesus, supreme Goodness, I ask You to give me a heart so enamored of You that nothing on earth can distract it … a free heart, never seduced or enslaved, an upright heart which never goes astray” (St. Thomas Aquinas).

Love, pray for me, that His grace may allow me the virtue of prudence,
Matthew