Prudence is the cardinal virtue that tells us when actions that seem good in themselves are to be avoided or moderated, so that we do not cause greater evil than good accidentally. Justice and love are the virtues that lead us to seek the greatest ultimate goals, but prudence shows us how to get there, when and how and how much to act.When we identify a problem that is placed before us, often the solution seems simple and within our means. A few words of encouragement or a handful of cash; a change of direction or blunt words of disapproval, will fix the problem. Sometimes we don't give enough thought or commitment to our decision involving the best course of action. Seeing only the immediate situation and not the bigger picture, we do a quick fix and walk away feeling proud of our good deed as a Christian. We will face times where we need to act but we need to show caution and consider long term effects and consequences, otherwise our choices may result in a "Cure that is worse than the disease".
Prudence is defined as the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.
Examples of failures to be prudent:-
- Closure (rather than reform) of asylums. Rather than attempting to reform the institutes to offer safe, supportive environments "Freedom" was given to schizophrenics, freedom to struggle alone with mental illness and homelessness for much of the rest of their lives.
- French Revolution. A way of getting liberty, equality and fraternity by a complete overthrow and rejection of everything associated with the old regime, as a result inspiring mass murder and terror.
- Iraq. Baathists expunged from all governmental roles, leading to gaping holes in administration and order, thus anarchy and suffering. Compare this to what Patton did in Germany after WWII.
- When to "tell it like it is" about somebody else's foolishness and when to hold the tongue.
- When to correct innocent minor errors and when just to encourage in teaching.
- When to give generously and when to stop enabling irresponsibility.
- When to clean up after a child's mistakes and when to let them learn the hard way.
- And so on.
Sometimes we do need to speak, to act, to help, and to do so with gusto.
Prudence also accepts this and chooses to make the effort powerfully.
Nobody is exempt from developing this virtue that is very crucial in our lives,
it is another step along our journey to wisdom.
God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. † Amen
Note: The Requiem Mass for Brother John Charles is on Wednesday 19th at 11am in Maitland. Anglican Catholic Holy Communion / Mass on Sunday 23rd will be held in Taree. Contact Father Matthew for further details