Monday, May 9, 2016

The Roman Catholic Man and Prudence

I have the lofty goal of examining over the next week the Cardinal and Theological Virtues and finding within them the very definition of Roman Catholic masculinity.  The theological virtues are faith, hope, and love. The cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.  The way a Roman Catholic man looks at who he is, who he is before God, and what his role is in this world and in the Church is and should be substantially different  than how a secular man would identify himself in the same circumstances.

Virtue is a good habit.  It is strengthened by the discipline of practice. It is to our soul and mind what exercise is to the body.  While the seeds of these virtues are planted within us by God, the growth of these seeds comes through a mixture of God's grace and our active cooperation.  They are to be nurtured consciously by our thoughts which give rise to our words and actions.

The desire to practice virtue is bound in the theological virtue of love.  By love, we speak of the Greek word 'agape' which conveys a complete self giving for the good of the other.  In the determined growth in virtue, it is a response to our desire to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves in such a way as to lift up these relationships towards God.  The man who eschews the virtues is no man at all, but merely a overgrown adolescent.  Virtues and their intentional practice lead the Catholic man from adolescence to maturity.

A cardinal virtue is hinge virtue, that is, virtues that inform our decisions and actions. They are conscious decisions and courses of actions in how we deal with events and people around us.  Flowing from our active will to love, they inform us as to how to act and decide as men of God.

Prudence is the exercise of good judgement and wisdom in practical matters.  The prudent Roman Catholic man weighs his actions in light of the Gospel of Christ and the subsequent teachings of the Church.  The prudent Roman Catholic man knows he cannot do this without be familiar with the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.  Why?  The prudent man knows that within himself is NOT the totality and wisdom of the ages.  He knows that God has revealed what it is that He desires. Humility drives him to seek such things out and use them as measures of his own behaviors and words.  Love of God drives him to seek such wisdom.

Prudence helps us combat rashness in words and actions.  It tempers us from explosions of emotion and foolishness.  For the Roman Catholic man, prudence is a filter by which he determines a path of action or words.  Prudence leads us to look to the long term.  Is what I am about to say or do going to have consequences now and in the future?  Who suffers or benefits from these consequences?  Will these consequences lead to heaven or hell?  Will these actions give positive witness or cause scandal?  The prudent Roman Catholic man asks these questions continually.  Practiced enough, then these questions become second nature. 

As we look towards our society, we see a lack of prudence and the tyrannical reign of unrestrained emotions.  We see a foolhardiness in which the only criteria is how something makes me feel. Social media has given a super highway for such drivel.  This is not to say that social media is evil by nature, it isn't.  However. like any tool, it can be used for either and given the breadth of its reach, can be used for tremendous good or unspeakable evil. The lack of prudence will manifest itself in a narcissism. 

The need for Roman Catholic men to nurture prudence becomes more dire as the virtue is shuffled off the public stage.  Prudence connotes a strength of character and an awareness of both oneself and one's environs and relationships.  Prudence will guide where actions needs to take place and where it is appropriate to hold one's tongue. A Roman Catholic man cannot be the protector and provider he is without prudence.  Prudence will lead us to see that God has placed others into our care and protection.

For the Roman Catholic man called to marriage, prudence becomes the guide by which he measures the correct path with his wife and children.  Informed by love, he weighs his decisions on what consequences will be reaped or suffered by those entrusted to his care by God. Is his actions leading those entrusted to him towards or further away from God?  Is he giving witness or scandal?

For the Roman Catholic man called to priesthood, prudence becomes the guide by which he ever measures every word and action by whether he is leading the flock closer to or away from Christ.  Prudence keeps him from wandering away from church teaching.  It bolsters him in standing for the truth even when the truth is unpopular.  It informs him in the celebration of the Eucharist in not making it about a show, play, entertainment extravaganza, or anything else that changes the focus from God to us.  It informs his words of preaching and teaching and keeps him aware that said words are seeds which can produce a great harvest or can introduce weeds into the crop.

Let us Roman Catholic men strive to such a high standard.  Let us avail ourselves of becoming familiar with the teachings of the Gospel and the Church so that we might rightly judge and speak.  Let us reign in the emotions and more greatly exercise restraint before acting or speaking.  Remember, it is a good habit, furthered by each positive act of will to develop it.  Finally, let us realize that it by the grace of God as given through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are given what we need to do this.

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