Wednesday 17th July 2019

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Cardinal Virtues — Prudence

September 15, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By DON FIER

In beginning our consideration of the virtues last week, we saw that the word virtue, in general, can be defined as “a firm and habitual disposition to do good. It allows a person not only to perform good actions,” explains Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, “but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his bodily and spiritual powers. He pursues and chooses this good in concrete actions of daily life” (The Faith, p. 161).
A person who lacks virtue will, at best, do good only sporadically. Conversely, through the habitual practice of virtue, a person will progressively improve not only what he does but who he is.
German philosopher Dr. Josef Pieper (1904-1997), a renowned Thomist theologian and expert on the subject of virtue, provides an insightful explanation:
“The doctrine of virtue…has things to say about [the] human person; it speaks both of the kind of being which is his when he enters the world, as a consequence of his createdness, and the kind of being he ought to strive toward and attain to — by being prudent, just, brave, and temperate. The doctrine of virtue . . . is one form of the doctrine of obligation, but one by nature free of regimentation and restriction. On the contrary, its aim is to clear a trail, to open a way” (The Four Cardinal Virtues, p. xii).
As described last week and alluded to above by Dr. Pieper, there are four cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance — upon which all the other moral virtues are grounded. These key virtues, as one might surmise from the meaning of the Latin root “cardo” from which cardinal is derived, are the “hinge” virtues on which the others depend, “as a door depends on its hinges” (Msgr. Paul J. Glenn, A Tour of the Summa, p. 143).
Before examining each cardinal virtue individually, it would be instructive to develop more fully a topic that was mentioned briefly in closing last week’s column, namely, the difference between the natural acquired virtues and the supernatural infused virtues. The former are acquired through repeated effort on our part to do what is right; the latter are infused directly by God (along with sanctifying grace and the theological virtues) at Baptism.
“The acquired moral virtues,” explains Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, in volume one of The Three Ages of the Interior Life (AIL), “have an object accessible to natural reason; the infused moral virtues have an essentially supernatural object commensurate with our supernatural end, an object which would be inaccessible without the infused light of faith” (p. 57).
Fr. Paul A. Duffner, OP, by way of contrast, demonstrates the differences between natural and supernatural virtues:
1) Natural virtues are acquired and strengthened by repeated acts while supernatural virtues are infused into the soul by God along with sanctifying grace and also grow with sanctifying grace; 2) acquired virtues dispose the faculties to follow the dictates of reason while infused virtues dispose the faculties to follow reason illuminated by faith; 3) natural virtues are lost by non-use and/or repeated contrary acts while supernatural virtues are lost (along with sanctifying grace) by mortal sin, but can be restored through sacramental absolution; and 4) acquired virtues increase the ease with which good actions are performed whereas infused virtues give the supernatural capacity to perform actions meritorious of Heaven (cf. The Rosary Light & Life [RLL] — volume 46, n. 3, May-June, 1993).
Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange points out that “true acquired moral virtues may exist even in a man in the state of mortal sin” (AIL, p. 58). For example, a man may practice sobriety, pay his debts, and teach his children good principles so as to live reasonably in the temporal sphere.
However, “as long as [he] is in a state of mortal sin, his will is habitually turned away from God . . . with the consequent result that he shows great weakness in accomplishing moral good, even of the natural order” (ibid.).
Therefore, as Fr. Duffner states unequivocally: “No matter how much we have advanced in natural acquired virtues, they bring no supernatural benefit without the infused virtues to make their acts meritorious” (RLL, ibid.).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) now devotes a single but substantial paragraph to each of the four cardinal virtues beginning with prudence, which it defines it as “the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it” (CCC, n. 1804). The etymology of “prudence” comes directly from the Latin prudentia (“a foreseeing, foresight, sagacity, practical judgment”).
In his Summa Theologiae (STh), St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle, defines it as “right reason applied to action” (STh II-II, Q47, art. 2). Similarly, the crucial importance of prudence in making wise practical judgments is underscored in the Old Testament Book of Proverbs: “The simple [man] believes everything, but the prudent [man] looks where he is going” (Prov. 14:15).
Prudence, or practical wisdom, is the habit of right reason by which we order means to ends, by which we make choices and judgments. On the natural level, it is the “queen of virtues” in that it leads the other virtues by guiding the reasoning or deliberation process. Classical philosophers portray prudence as the “charioteer of the other virtues” (auriga virtutum) because it directs them: “It guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure” (CCC, n. 1806).
Prudence is an intellectual virtue because it perfects reason; it is also a moral virtue in the sense that it is intimately tied to the will and appetites. One cannot perform a morally good action without being prudent, without it being in accord with right reason in the particular situation. For example, it would not be a truly virtuous act to fast at the joyous occasion of a wedding reception; it would, in fact, be both imprudent and intemperate under the circumstances.
All the virtues have to grow and work together; in other words, you cannot have one without the others. Prudence, however, is unique in that it leads the other moral virtues in the sense that it directs and balances them. Another important point regarding the virtue of prudence is that it can never be used badly; it can never be associated with vices.
In today’s society, the word “prudent” is often used in reference to sensible management of financial matters or other worldly affairs, a mere practical, calculating cleverness or worldly prudence where the end sought is a particular temporal good (e.g., the wise use of money). True prudence aims for something infinitely higher — it refers to the prudence of a person who chooses wisely and responsibly with regard to his final end, that of eternal beatitude.
If prudence as a virtue referred simply to practical cleverness, people blessed with the natural gift of superior intelligence would have a significant advantage — not everyone can be prudent in that sense. However, we all have the ability, if we cooperate with God’s grace, to exercise prudence in the sense of making good choices for our final end.
Very simple and humble people are often, in fact, far more prudent than those who have been endowed with great natural gifts. This is seen throughout history in the actions of government leaders, philosophers, scientists, and other intellectually gifted individuals who perpetrated great evil.
As is true for each of the cardinal virtues, there are two types of prudence: natural and supernatural. Natural prudence guides man toward his natural end and is strengthened by repeated acts of prudence — it is the work of a lifetime. Supernatural prudence, on the other hand, is elevated from natural acquired prudence in that it guides one toward his supernatural end.
As noted earlier, it is infused into one’s soul by God at Baptism — everyone in the state of sanctifying grace possesses supernatural prudence to some degree (as well as the theological virtues, the other supernatural moral virtues, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit).
In his Modern Catholic Dictionary (MCD), Fr. Hardon identifies three stages of mental operation that should take place in exercising the virtue of prudence: 1) take counsel carefully with oneself and from trusted others; 2) judge correctly on the basis of all the evidence at hand; and 3) direct subsequent activity according to the norms determined after a prudent judgment has been made (cf. MCD, p. 448). Furthermore, and not surprisingly, the gift of the Holy Spirit most closely connected to this cardinal virtue is that of counsel, which perfects prudence (see volume 149, n. 9; March 3, 2016 for a fuller treatment).

Detachment And
Renunciation

Let us close by prayerfully reflecting on the words of Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, on the importance of guarding against influences of the world and the flesh in exercising prudence:
“In order that our judgments and may be prudent, we must know how to free them from elements which are too subjective, such as our personal attractions and interests, our likes and dislikes. Sometimes we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we are judging a situation or deciding to do something solely for the glory of God or for the good of our neighbor, when, in fact, if we examined ourselves thoroughly, we would perhaps see that the motives which prevailed in our judgment or in our deliberations were egoistic and dictated by our own personal interests.
“Hence, even prudence requires that we cleanse our hearts from all these human motives, and that we practice detachment and renunciation” (Divine Intimacy, n. 174 § 1).

+ + +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is a Consecrated Marian Catechist.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

"If men only know what awaits them in eternity they would do everything in their power to change their lives."
St Jacinta of Fatima

Has The Church Been Infiltrated?… And If So, By Whom? @TaylorRMarshall https://t.co/wvpa2x3kD0

Load More...

Tucker Carlson: big business is now at war against your family

July 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The first thing to note about Tucker Carlson is that when he’s on stage and riffing on his irritations, he is hilarious. He began his keynote speech at the National Conservatism conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday…Continue Reading

Teacher sues Catholic school for firing her over pro-abortion posts on social media

BERKELEY COUNTY, South Carolina, July 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A former teacher filed a wrongful termination suit against a South Carolina Catholic school that fired her for championing legal abortion on social media in violation of long-settled, well-known Catholic doctrine.…Continue Reading

Bombshell Claim: Scientists Find “Man-made Climate Change Doesn’t Exist In Practice”

A new scientific study could bust wide open deeply flawed fundamental assumptions underlying controversial climate legislation and initiatives such as the Green New Deal, namely, the degree to which ‘climate change’ is driven by natural phenomena vs. man-made issues measured as…Continue Reading

Cineplex explains decision to screen Abby Johnson’s ‘Unplanned’ in Canada

July 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The pro-life film Unplanned, which tells the true story of pro-life activist Abby Johnson’s conversion from the abortion industry, will be shown in Canada after all thanks to a decision by film distributor Cineplex. Unplanned tells the…Continue Reading

Viganò criticizes Pope Francis’ handling of abuse allegations

Vatican City, Jul 5, 2019 / 02:47 pm (CNA).- Recently published remarks from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano take aim at two situations described by the former nuncio as “allegations of offenses against minors during Pope Francis’ tenure.” In fact, in…Continue Reading

U.S. Bishops Approve the Pope’s Capital Punishment Ban

Sæva indignatio. Few writers in the history of English letters could express “savage indignation” at human folly as did Jonathan Swift who wrote those words for his own epitaph. Our times give ample opportunity to empathize with him, and that is…Continue Reading

Due to backlash, Pell to live in ‘secure compound’ if appeal succeeds

Sydney, Australia, Jun 25, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- While Cardinal George Pell of Australia is appealing his sexual abuse conviction in court, he and his supporters are making arrangements for a “safe hideaway” for the cleric, should his conviction…Continue Reading

Forced abortion decision overturned on appeal, according to reports

London, England, Jun 24, 2019 / 11:03 am (CNA).- A controversial UK court decision to force a disabled woman to have an abortion has been overturned on appeal. In a decision reportedly reached June 24, the English Court of Appeal, consisting…Continue Reading

Rosary Rally in Reparation for Homosexual and Transgender Grooming of Kids in “Drag Queen Story Hour” at Public Library in Md

A small group ranging from ten to 15 LGBTQ-obedient bots danced and played loud gay anthems like “YMCA” and “We are Family”, and holding a sign which read “Toleration is Godly”, sequestered behind yellow tape on one side of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Rosary Rally Sunday to Protest Maryland Drag Queen Story Time for Kids

Personhood Maryland is asking pro-life Christians to gather at the Lexington Park Library for a peaceful prayer vigil on Sunday, June 23rd from 3:30-5:30 pm Eastern to stand against the Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) and Drag 101 event scheduled…Continue Reading

Supreme Court rules WW1 Peace Cross memorial is here to stay

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 20, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 this morning in favor of a nearly 100-year-old World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, known as the “Peace Cross,” allowing it to remain standing.…Continue Reading

Vatican’s doctrinal office expected to release document on gender theory

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s doctrinal office is preparing a document which will address Church teaching and the anthropology of the human person in the context of so-called gender theory, according to a Vatican…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

Vatican’s former doctrine head criticizes Amazon synod working doc for ‘false teaching’

July 16, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The cardinal who was tasked by Pope Benedict with defending the doctrine of the Catholic Church has criticized the Pan-Amazon Synod’s working document (Instrumentum Laboris) for its “radical u-turn in the hermeneutics of Catholic theology” and for its “false teaching.” Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), said the “main problem” with the working document is that “key terms are not being clarified.” His statement…Continue Reading

2 priests, 2 pro-life activists arrested trying to save babies inside New Jersey abortion center

MORRISTOWN, New Jersey, July 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Two Catholic priests and two lay pro-life activists were arrested this morning for entering and refusing to leave an abortion facility, offering red roses to the women inside and encouraging them to choose life. At least one woman turned away and didn’t go through with an abortion, Red Rose Rescue spokeswoman Lisa Hart told LifeSiteNews. The woman’s mother was forcing her to have the abortion.

Vincent Lambert, France’s Terri Schiavo, dies after 9 days without food and water

July 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Vincent Lambert, the disabled man a court ordered to be starved to death in a French hospital, died this morning. After nine days without food and fluids, showing a remarkable will to live despite the cruel death of thirst that doctors had prepared for him, France’s Terri Schiavo departed from this earthly life at 8:24 a.m. on Thursday, July 11. He died of heart failure induced by the malfunction of his kidneys…Continue Reading

Cdl. Zen warns Pope Francis that Vatican directives for China church may lead to ‘death of true faith’

HONG KONG, July 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong has spoken out forcefully against the Vatican’s newest “pastoral document” for the Chinese Church which gives reasons for why priests should register with the communist government. Cardinal Joseph Zen presented nine criticisms to Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro

Archbishop Fulton Sheen to be beatified

Vatican City, Jul 6, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis approved the miracle attributed to Archbishop Fulton Sheen Friday, making possible the American television catechist’s beatification. The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated the decree approving Sheen’s miracle on July 6. The miracle involves the unexplained recovery of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy born apparently stillborn in September 2010 to Bonnie and Travis Engstrom of the Peoria-area town of Goodfield. He showed no…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Archbishop Sheen To Be Beatified

By COURTNEY GROGAN VATICAN CITY (CNA) — Pope Francis approved the miracle attributed to Archbishop Fulton Sheen on July 5, making possible the American television catechist’s beatification. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated the decree approving Sheen’s miracle on July 6. The miracle involves the unexplained recovery of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy born…Continue Reading

California Confessional Bill Withdrawn… Thanks To All For A Smashing Victory

By BILL DONOHUE (Editor’s Note: Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented July 9 on the final outcome of the California confessional bill.) + + + The seal of Confession is safe in California. The bill to bust it has been pulled. Yesterday, [July 8] on the eve of a scheduled hearing on SB 360, California…Continue Reading

Looking For Light In A World Of Shadows

By DONALD DeMARCO Nothing is random in the light of eternity and when viewed in this way, everything makes sense. To God, there are no accidents. Even forgetfulness can be an occasion of grace, a moment when we find light in a darkened world. There were distractions that might have made my forgetfulness explainable that…Continue Reading

Trump’s Patriotism Vs. The New Anti-Americanism

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Despite all the grousing and griping about his “politicizing” of the Fourth of July and “militarizing” America’s birthday, President Donald Trump turned the tables on his antagonists, and pulled it off. As master of ceremonies and keynote speaker at his “Salute to America” Independence Day event, Trump was a manifest success.…Continue Reading

Analysis . . . New Vatican Constitution To Centralize Power In State Secretariat

By ED CONDON VATICAN CITY (CNA) — At the end of June, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary of the Pope’s C6 Council of Cardinal Advisers, announced that the group hoped to present Francis with a final draft of a new Vatican constitution in September. Praedicate Evangelium, as the new governing document for the Roman Curia is…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Serve Others With Charity

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Sixteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Gen. 18:1-10a Col. 1:24-28 Luke 10:38-42 In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Martha welcoming Jesus and serving Him. Martha became burdened with the task of serving and asked the Lord if He did not care that Mary, her sister who was sitting at the feet of…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Sexual Immorality Begins With Teaching Failures

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. “But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Answering a question in a recent column about the meaning of “Jesuitical,” we said that it can mean “dissembling or equivocating, in the manner associated with Jesuits.” We cited as an example of an attempt to skirt around some clear moral teaching of the Church a 2017 comment by the superior general of the Society of Jesus. When…Continue Reading

Before And After the Pill . . . Its Redefinition Of Human Sexuality And Impact On Society

By FR. SHENAN J. BOQUET (Editor’s Note: Fr. Shenan Boquet is the president of Human Life International. He travels around the world spreading the Gospel of Life. Fr. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI in August 2011. (This commentary first appeared July…Continue Reading

Love God And Love Neighbor

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fifteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Deut. 30:10-14 Col. 1:15-20 Luke 10:25-37 Toward the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses pleads with the people of Israel: “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord your God….” It was the failure of the people to follow the Commandments of the Lord that…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . Sts. Louis And Azelie-Marie Guerin Martin

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Lord sends the Church the men and women who are needed to keep her holy in times of trouble. Among these are: St. Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Faustina, and the first married couple ever to be canonized together: Louis and Azelie-Marie (Zelie) Martin. Their feast day is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Nazaria March y Mesa

By CAROLE BRESLIN Throughout the 2,000-year history of the Church, there have been periods of great conversions followed by a waning of the faith among future generations. After the initial persecution of the Church during the few hundred years following Christ’s crucifixion and death, the Church grew rapidly. In Latin America, the Catholic Church expanded rapidly after the appearance of…Continue Reading