- Steve Auth
Lumen Circle Notes
Dear Lumen Brothers, Well, another amazing night in Naples! Beautiful sunset, great wine, and the Sauce Lady provided! Fr. Daniel, thank you for joining us; you kept us centered. Learned a lot about Prudence. Here are my notes:
Making a Resolution to change something is a big step; following up is a bigger one. We started by reviewing the list of great resolutions from last year’s circles. Our hit rate was pretty good, but not perfect. Most of the resolutions were pretty challenging, and often involved in one form or another engaging others in matters of the Faith and/or of Christian virtues. Easier said than done! Our little review session unveiled a few resolutions not fully implemented, including our Legacy Letter and importantly our resolution to discuss it’s lessons with our progeny. Useful exercise. We will do this annually from now on. In the meantime, are we following up individually on our Lumen resolutions? Maybe at least once or twice a month prior to our next circle?
Prudence is an action verb.
The Virtue Corner defines Prudence as “the Charioteer of the Virtues.” It requires using the other virtues to make a decision, and then acting on it. While delaying a decision is often prudent (see our resolution below!), ultimately Prudence is about virtue in action. So let’s not confuse Prudence with hand-wringing. As in the painting of Prudence that we probed, it does involve for sure “the mirror test”, reflection and consultation with our God-given conscience, before we act. But it does also in the end involve grabbing that snake by the throat, and beating it at its own cunning game. Prudence needs action to effectuate the Good. Do we too often think prudently but act imprudently?
Prudence takes practice. While “going with your gut” sounds manly, sometimes our gut misdirects us towards the easier, less prudent path. When Salomon faced that tough call about the baby claimed by two mothers, he was able to handle the pressure of the moment wisely because he’d been training for it. Practicing the virtues, and consciously discussing them with real life examples and exploring how to handle problems that could come up (i.e. our Leadership Circles), arms us with the “gut” to do the Prudent thing, even when time is short and the pressure is high. Are we being intentional enough about prudence in our lives, reflecting through self examination on even smaller decisions made during the day that could have been made more prudently?
Even the Prudent can fall. As impressive as Salomon’s decision about the baby was, even he ultimately fell into sin that began a new dark age for the Hebrews. So none of us should feel to self-satisfied. Being virtuous in all things takes vigilance, practice, and most importantly, an on-going relationship with Jesus. He is the source of all Wisdom and strength, and trying to go it alone usually leads to disaster. Ironically, the more successful we become in virtue and holiness, in some ways, the more vulnerable we become. The risk of spiritual pride rises, and with it, the loss of the very humility that began on the road to the spiritual life.
And when we lose our humility, we have a tendency to take our “prudence” for granted and end up doing something rash and stupid.
As we grow in the virtues, are we staying grounded in humility, or are we starting to think of ourselves as spiritually better than others? Pride took down Salomon, and Pride took down Adam, come to think of it. The Thinker was left thinking about it, a little too late….
Virtue needs to be grounded in Christ, not ourselves. The reading from Chesterton moved us. Though written many years ago, it foresaw where our post-Christian culture stands today. For sure, many of the virtues that are the bedrock of the faith, such as prudence, integrity, magnanimity, are bandied about by many non-believers, and that to some extent is a good thing. But inevitably, when virtue is un-anchored from its source, from God, human beings have a way of bending those virtues to their own wills, and what comes out is not virtuous at all. So one of the keys to staying true to the great virtues, including Prudence, is to stay true to their source, to God. Are we thinking too often of virtue as a secular activity, or are we rooting ourselves first in God and letting Him drive us?
Resolution: We all agreed that the next time we are confronted with a particularly thorny decision, rather than “go with our gut”, we will take a “time-out” and consider on it in prayer before going forward.