Prudence Is Indeed A Virtue

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

One of the things I’ve discovered about getting older is that I tend to be more cautious in carrying out everyday activities. When unloading groceries from the car to the kitchen, I carry just one bag at a time, instead of two or three. When walking the dog early on a dark, winter’s morn, I’m super cautious about black ice on the driveway. Going up and down the stairs I always hold onto the handrail. And before going to bed at night, I double and triple check to be sure that the doors are locked and the stove is turned off.
Maybe I’m a bit paranoid, but maybe I’m just becoming more prudent in my old age.
Prudence is commonly defined as “the exercise of good judgment or common sense in practical matters.” The word prudence is related to the word providence, that is, the ability to “see ahead.”
There are lots of decisions you make every day, some more serious than others, that require prudence. Do I risk leaving the security of one job to apply for another with a bigger salary? Am I ready to buy a new home? Should I accept that “friend request” on social media from someone I don’t know very well? Should I invest a couple grand in a new couch or hang on to the one I’ve grown comfortable with for twenty years?
Decisions, decisions! We all need the virtue of prudence, don’t we?
Prudence has implications in the spiritual life as well. The Church lists prudence as one of the four “cardinal” virtues, those habits of the heart and mind that play a pivotal role in our spiritual development. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “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.” (#1806) And the Book of Proverbs states, succinctly, that “the prudent man looks where he is going.” (14:15)
How does prudence affect the spiritual life? Well, for example, do we arrange our schedules so that attendance at Sunday Mass is a priority for us? Do we set aside some time every day for a few moments of prayer and silence? Do we control our spending in a way that allows us to give to charity? Do we avoid the people, places and activities that we know will lead us into sin?
Pray for the gift of prudence. It is indeed one of the key ingredients of a happy, healthy and holy life.
Something to think about: Are you a prudent person? Cite some examples.