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Sunday, 5 April 2015

No, I have not forgotten Prudence

...I just wanted more time before I write on this last Cardinal Virtue. By the way, did you know that Prudence is frequently painted with a mirror, indicating reflection, thought, reasoning?  I think there are some medieval cathedral sculptures with Prudence and mirror as well. The mirror also symbolizes the wisdom of self-knowledge.

Prudence may be the lynchpin virtue. Again, looking at the graph as well as the wisdom of experience, one can see the necessity for Prudence in the Catholic Church.

The great sins listed there include at least one found among certain Synod fathers--carnal prudence.

Carnal prudence is what pushes those cardinals who support sin to want to change Church doctrine. Carnal prudence makes leading Churchmen compromise.

Carnal prudence makes a person not think like a Catholic--but to live in fear and only within one's comfort zone. Self-protection and selfishness provide the fuel for carnal prudence. God asks us to use His virtue of prudence in the world to change it. Carnal prudence is worldly prudence.

St. Thomas Aquinas, and I follow his example, puts prudence as the first virtue. It is recta ratio agibilium or right reason in action. The CCC lists prudence as auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues), meaning it leads the other virtues. 

The key word in this definition is "reason".  To think like a Catholic means that one has conformed one's mind to the teachings of Christ and can reason, reflect, decide according to the Mind of Christ, which is the mind of the Church.

One must know things in order to act and prudence informs action with knowledge, the general knowledge of, for example, the Church's teaching on marriage, to the specific, how one "pastors" those in irregular marriages.

Aquinas notes that the use of prudence also indicates that one has affections in order. If the passions and lower faculties are not in order, one cannot employ the virtue of prudence. Like all of the virtues, prudence can be blocked by both mortal and venial sin.

Prudence moves our entire lives, which is why it is not only a moral virtue, but an intellectual virtue.

If you are a regular reader, you may remember my comments on synderesis a while ago. Synderesis sees the end of one's actions and prudence determines how one morally gets to the end, as well as seeing that end..

I have over 203 posts on St. Thomas Aquinas, but here is one which is connected to these thoughts today.

Besides carnal prudence, cunning is a sin against the virtue of prudence. Cunning  involves using deceit to get to one's end, such as lying or hiding the truth. Sadly, cunning runs the lives of too many politicians and businessmen.

Prudence is a virtue given to us freely by God, but we can also learn prudence, or hone it through experience. However, one may fall into carnal prudence and cunning from experience as well, if one does not guard one's mind and soul from anger, deceit, or pride.

A life of sin can destroy all the virtues over time so that a person becomes full of vice instead of virtue. Prudence can be ignored over and over through desire or through the avoidance of suffering until one no longer can exhibit this virtue.

For example, if one never wants to suffer, and acts accordingly to avoid discomfort, one sins against prudence, which demands that one acts in accordance to truth and fortitude (courage).

Selfishness and pride can make an person imprudent, not just negligence. We usually think of negligence, such as a person who is a spendthrift, as the emblem of imprudence. but the so-called clever man or woman, who "covers all the bases" in a worldly manner is also imprudent, preferring his or hers own version of prudence rather than God's.

One thinks of the parable of the Widow's Mite as an example of both the greatness of heart of the woman who is acting out of prudence, as opposed to those who give only out of their excess and not out of need., which is carnal prudence.

A person of prudence takes advice from his or her superiors in the Faith, such a a spiritual director or confessor. A woman of prudence would be obedient to a good, Catholic husband. Children of prudence listen and obey their good Catholic parents, and so on.

Tomorrow, I shall write on the gift of counsel which comes from the virtue of prudence, but is different.

Happy Easter!