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Dear Prudence


Have you ever responded to an email with a scathing reply within minutes of receiving it? Have you been in a store and succumbed to and impulse buy of an item you didn’t really need? Maybe you acted immediately and angrily to that driver that cut you off in traffic. These are examples of acting rashly and in a non-prudent manner.

What is Prudence?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

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.” It is prudence that immediately guides the judgement of conscience. The prudent man determines and direct his conduct in accordance with this judgement. CCC 1806

I would like to emphasize one point here and it is key to this entire post. The Church is telling us that prudence applies in every circumstance. Remember my examples above? The Church is teaching us that prudence should be applied to them all.

Catechesis from a saint

The virtue of prudence is so important that on Oct. 25, 1978 Saint Pope John Paul II spoke about it in his first General Audience as pope.

“Today I wish to…. speak briefly of the virtue of prudence. The prudent man, who strives for everything that is really good, endeavors to measure everything, every situation and his whole activity according to the yardstick of moral good. So a prudent man is not one who – as is often meant – is able to wangle things in life and draw the greatest profit from it; but who is able to construct his whole life according to the voice of upright conscience and according to the requirement of sound morality.”

There are those key words again everything and every situation. John Paul II continues:

“So prudence is the key for the accomplishment of the fundamental task that each of us has received from God. This task is the perfection of man himself. God has given our humanity to each of us. We must meet task by planning it accordingly.”

Putting prudence into action

Prudence can an d should be applied to every aspect and decision in our lives. Pope John Paul II gave some examples of this is his General Audience for discernment. For youth he encouraged them to apply prudence to their homework, reading, pastimes and their circle of friends. He encouraged parents to apply prudence to their conjugal and parental commitments. For statesmen he advised they ensure pursuit of the real good of society, the nation and mankind. Pope John Paul II even recognized the need for prudence in his role as pontiff as he asked the crowd that day to pray he act prudently in his pontificate.

Praying for prudence

In order to attain the virtue of prudence it is necessary to pray for good counsel. Let us all unite in prayer this week utilizing the prayer to the Holy Spirit for Prudence below. A virtue that even a pope prayed for.

Holy Spirit, who with the Father and the Son in the beginning hovered over the deep and formless void to give it shape, and breathed the breath of life into humanity and every living creature, come now from Heaven, come now from your throne of glory.

Be with me and help me; work with me and teach me what is pleasing to You. You, who know all things, guide me to be prudent in all my undertakings, and protect me by your glory. Only then will everything I do, be acceptable in your sight. Amen.


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