The Virtues: Seven Habits of Champions
Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D.
SHOW #2: PRUDENCE (Wisdom) Intellectual virtue.
I. Definition of the intellectual virtue of Prudence
A. Can’t do what’s good unless you know what’s good. Prudence is the virtue whereby you Know what’s good. (CCC 1806)
B. Many highly educated people are really impractical, imprudent
C. Not book learning or technical knowledge
D. Perfects the practical intellect; applies to specific situations, the perfection of conscience.
E. Definition of prudence: “the perfected ability to make right decisions.” “Prudence im¬plies a transformation of the knowledge of truth into decisions cor¬res¬pond¬ing to reality.” Josef Pieper, The Cardinal Virtues (South Bend IN: Univ. Notre Dame Press, 1966), 162.
II. Mind is important
A. Don’t misunderstand being “fools for Christ.” It means we don’t follow the false wisdom of the world.
B. Heart is the seat of thinking in the OT
C. OT command to “Get Wisdom”. Proverbs is about practical life. So is the book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus).
D. Solomon’s practical wisdom. The famous story of the two harlots. Solomon understood human nature, the way things work. Understood motherhood.
E. Solomon was open to the world, the way things are. Teachable. Give up our pre-conceived notions. Open to the way God is, people are, rather than the way we’d want things to be.
F. If we don’t know the way things work. We make dumb decisions all the time. Having good intentions is not enough. Love needs to be wise
1. Example of imprudence: girl giving away her virginity to a boy out of misguided sense of love and loyalty
2. Example of imprudence: covering for an Alcoholic. Enabling behavior.
3. Example of imprudence: Parent declining to punish a child. Permissive
G. Piety does not always mean holiness: Holiness is the development of character.
H. Prudence is the Mother & measure of all other virtues: The most important of all the cardinal virtues
III. Sins against Prudence
A. Impulsiveness. Rash judgment.
B. Indecisiveness: considering pros and cons. Stalling for time. Fear of making a mistake paralyzing. What if I’m wrong. Mat 25:14 ff. God is a loving father. Does not mind if we make mistakes. Making the same mistake over and over again is foolishness. Most things we do allow for some mistakes.
C. Only way to learn to make good decisions is to practice making decisions!
IV. Prudence means planning
A. Making provision for the future. We live in time. Always plan for the future. Plan for retirement.
B. Trusting in the Lord is not a substitute for making a plan.
C. Child in school. Major exam. Neglecting to study is not faith, but irresponsibility. Building a Catholic school.
D. Often not taught in the Church. Sirach The Church’s book. Ecclesiasticus
E. In early church, RCIA dealt with character, virtue. Only place it is being taught: business seminars
F. Advertising: what motivates people to make decisions? Need to take the time to understand what attracts people, keeps attention, makes them want more.
V. How to get prudence:
A. Look at models
B. In Scripture.
D. Other great people in history like Teddy Roosevelt. People today.
E. Take counsel: spiritual director
F. Make decisions: faith that God will bring good even out of your mistakes
G. key point: the goal traditional Catholic moral teaching is not moralism (casuistry) or legalism, but helping people come to ethical maturity.
This outline appears in the Virtues & Christian Character, Christian Lifestyle and Prayer & Spirituality sections of The Crossroads Initiative Library.