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The Pope Speaks on PRUDENCE

(TAKEN FROM THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS ON VICES AND VIRTUES AT THE WEDNESDAY GENERAL AUDIENCE, STARTING IN DECEMBER, 2023.)

In our continuing catechesis on the virtues, we now consider prudence, one of the four “cardinal” virtues that, together with the “theological” virtues of faith, hope and charity, are the pillars of integrated Christian living. Prudence is the ability to combine intelligence and creativity, simplicity and shrewdness, understanding the complexity of situations and evaluating possible solutions, applying wisdom gleaned from past experiences while anticipating future needs. In this sense, Saint Thomas Aquinas calls prudence “right reason in action”.

Prudence is instead the quality of those who are called to govern: they know that to administer is difficult, that there are many points of view and one must try to harmonize them, that one must do not the good of some but of all.

Prudence also teaches that, as they say, “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. Indeed, too much zeal in some situations can cause disasters: it can ruin a construction that would have needed gradualness; it can give rise to conflicts and misunderstandings; it can even trigger violence.

Many passages from the Gospel help educate us in prudence. For example: prudent is the man who builds his house on the rock, and imprudent the one who builds his on sand. God does not only want us to be saints, he wants us to be intelligent saints, because without prudence it takes but a moment to make a wrong turn! May we also practice prudence daily on the journey towards the fullness of life in the heavenly Kingdom.