The Undervalued Virtue Our World Badly Needs
By Theresa Civantos Barber. This article originally appeared in Aleteia and is reprinted with permission.
If there’s one virtue that’s overdue for a revival in today’s world, it’s prudence. At least that’s what Father Gregory Pine, O.P., has discovered in his work as a scholar and pastor. Father Pine is doing his part to encourage a renaissance of prudence. His new book, Prudence: Choose Confidently, Live Boldly is dedicated to sharing and spreading this “undervalued” virtue.
What inspired you to write a book about prudence?
I was inspired to write a book about prudence because I found myself talking about it often. Prudence is undervalued as a virtue, both because it is misunderstood and because it is inherently messy.
That being said, there is a huge need for a renaissance of prudence in the life of the Church. It’s the virtue which empowers us to choose well and to do so boldly and confidently. For a generation gripped by uncertainty and indecision, there’s nothing quite like prudence to embolden us.
How would you describe prudence?
Prudence is the virtue of practical wisdom. It’s the virtue which both enlightens and encourages us to take the steps that contribute to our flourishing. It reveals what is true and good in the concrete circumstances of our lives and lays a path towards the attainment of that end.
How can we develop prudence in our daily lives?
A good first step is to realize what is possible and what is not. The prudent person isn’t called to be absolutely perfect or flawless in his approach to and execution of decisions all at once. Prudence is a virtue for those on the way. Thus, it helps to approach the task with patience, perseverance, and a healthy appreciation of our weakness and woundedness. That being said, we can do so because God has supplied us with all we need to flourish.
What are the biggest obstacles or challenges to becoming more prudent?
The world, the flesh, and the devil. There are all kinds of obstacles out there. Sometimes it is a matter of being overburdened. It’s hard to be prudent when you are always running from one thing to the next. Sometimes it is a matter of being unsure. It’s hard to be prudent when we insist on having mathematical certainty before ever proceeding with a decision. Sometimes it is a matter of context. It’s hard to be prudent when you find yourself living in an environment of rank imprudence.
Are there any people who you think especially exemplified prudence?
I think of St. Maximilian Kolbe. He had an incredible capacity for envisioning the goal and seeing it through. He was very practical and put his gifts at the service of Our Lord and Our Lady. He accomplished an incredible amount over the course of his life–establishing friaries, founding the Militia Immaculatae, undertaking a huge media apostolate, etc. But, in the end, he never lost sight of who he was or what he was called to. And, when it came time, he was true to his vocation. “I am a priest. I will take his place.” The prudent person grasps the end and takes the steps to accomplish it without ever losing himself along the way. St. Maximilian Kolbe was like that.
What’s the most important thing to know about prudence?
You have what it takes to live your life beautifully and well. Sometimes it’s just a matter of gaining a better appreciation for the graces, gifts, and talents that God has given you and a greater competence for putting them in action. This book is about precisely that.