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.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.
It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience.
The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.
– Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sec. 1, Ch. 1, Art. 7, The Virtues, para. 1806.
[T]he word “union” represents not so much a rare and unimaginable operation, as something [we are] doing, in a vague, imperfect fashion, at every moment of our conscious life; and doing with intensity and thoroughness in all the more valid moments of that life.
We know a thing only by uniting with it; by assimilating it; by an interpenetration of it and ourselves. It gives itself to us, just in so far as we give ourselves to it; and it is because our outflow towards things is usually so perfunctory and so languid, that our comprehension of things is so perfunctory and languid too. . . .
Wisdom is the fruit of communion; ignorance is the inevitable portion of those who keep themselves to themselves, and stand apart, judging, analyzing the things which they have never truly known.
– Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism, A Little Book for Normal People
The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane.
– G.K. Chesterton
Some News: The respected website Catholic Stand has invited me to post a one-monthly column on their site. This is an exciting opportunity, which I have quite happily accepted. Any new columns I post there will also be posted shortly after here at Traditium, together with my usual thoughts, runblings and quotes. Because Traditius seems a bit formal as a name for Catholic Stand, I will be publishing there as Patrick Pierce. Thanks to everyone who follows Traditium, I couldn’t do it without you.
Quick and tumbled flashes
And then a seventh fall
A checkered, torn-up past
of impassioned pauls and sauls.
Ten thousand lousy sins
Ever thunderous complaints
Flawed, erratic, dire,
worthless, fallen saint.
Hypocrite they say!
He knows of what he speaks
Who knows what he’ll inherit
So many worlds away from meek.
Rude, obnoxious, odd
An awful, frightful sight
Knocking over people
While scrambling toward the light.
All the burdens piled up high
Worlds they might have broke
Yet they’re worn as if a jacket
And felt as if a yoke.
They cut imperfect heroes
And play merrily in sludge
The rain of stones falls harder
Where no one can be judged.
If you seek the perfect image
The light, the right, the wise
Then you’re a thousand miles from nowhere
When you look into his eyes.
But in a world so beaten
That some say it’s better broke
Where no one dares assert a truth
At least he’s one who spoke.
This time holds no perfection
But he points toward where it lies
Bloodied, dirty, weary,
All he can do is try.
So stop the twisted onslaught
While anyone still can
See the once lost sinner
And behold the righteous man.
Copyright 2013 Traditium, Patrick Pierce
She could die now. What happy words.
Laying in a bed in the student ghetto near my college I was reading a book on Zen Buddhism. I had determined that a person should decide for themselves what religion they were, and I was a mutt. The Catholic Church had told my father he could not marry my mother at the main altar of the parish he had grown up in. Then my parents, when I was seven, divorced. So on some weekends I was Methodist, on some weekends Presbyterian or Episcopalian. In truth, I was none of these. I was raised by the culture. I was certainly taught values, often short on explanation, but modernity—such as it was in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan—raised me more than any church.
So there I was reading books on zen. I was studying business and Japanese since Japan at the time was the competition for the auto industry in Detroit. And I was trying to meditate, considering the East, trying to figure out things. I believed—I still do—that religion is one thing people should freely determine for themselves. I was determined to build my own heresy.
I doubt if a single individual could be found from the whole of mankind free from some form of insanity. The only difference is one of degree.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Free thought has exhausted its own freedom. It is weary of its own success. If any eager freethinker now hails philosophic freedom as the dawn, he is only like the man in Mark Twain who came out wrapped in blankets to see the sun rise and was just in time to see it set. . . . We have no more questions left to ask. We have looked for questions in the darkest corners and on the wildest peaks. We have found all the questions that can be found. It is time we gave up looking for questions and began looking for answers.
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. . . . There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
Chapter Five of Patrick Pierce’s novel, The Same Eye, has been published here on Traditium! Chapter Five begins Act Two: The Master. Check it out here.
Books on spirituality and “self help” line the shelves of bookstores, stories on the same topics call at people from the magazine racks. The millions of readers of these books and articles seem to end up fluttering from one theory, one cure, even one culture, to the next like moths off to the next bright light. Many seem to get some peace of mind from the busyness of the chase but, given all the activity, the background anxiety must never go away. Perhaps because they are looking in all the wrong places.
Much of this, of course, is that recent generations have been trained to have almost no attention span, but another important component is the simple fact that spirituality without religion is an empty vessel. It is a bright, festively wrapped box with a large bow and nothing inside.
So they flutter on.
Deep down, though, the whole culture sometimes seems to be begging for connection to its soul, a way to understand its spiritual side. It wants meaning from its own culture, a connection to its own past. The modern culture teaches, through scientism, to disconnect from prior beliefs, and through modernism, to aspire to a future which promises the most glittering, colorful and exciting line of empty boxes, stretching toward the horizon as far as the eye can see.
Meanwhile, the Church, with over two millenia of experience of providing meaning, is trying in frustration to evangelize that culture. Despite the questions of one side, and the rich history of answers on the other, the chasm between the culture and the Church seems to be ever widening, and altogether perplexing.
At this moment there is hope that a new pope will be able to bring these sides together. He seems to have a connection to the people, a charisma, an ability to inspire. But has the culture given him its attention because he is the next big thing, and already hinted that they will flutter away from when the next bright light appears?
If this Pope does not bring the precise style of change that people’s personal politics desire, then they will certainly press on to the next sensation that appears in the spotlight, as if they are not running all the while from themselves.
But within the great traditions of this very culture are the truths that can nourish and sustain. The frenzied desperation of believing in self alone offers no peace, and each individual, should they consider it, knows this in their heart. While they keep following from one bright light to the next, they all, deep in their souls, want to stop the chase, embrace peace and stay in the light.
But there is another form of poverty. It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the ‘tyranny of relativism,’ which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.
But there is no true peace without truth. There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.
– Pope Francis