Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Prudence Required in the Spiritual Life

Prudence will be exercised first of all in seeking to know the will of God, in discerning the signs that authenticate it. It must know how to wait for certain manifestations before engaging itself in actualities that can be perilous. God, who is our Master, could not require the accomplishment of His will before having made it clearly manifest to us. He gives to Moses proofs of the mission He is entrusting to him. He is not angry when Gideon asks for repeated assurances of his new vocation. It would truly be presumptuous, according to Saint John of the Cross, to ask for extraordinary signs [NB: visions, locutions, dreams, miracles, etc.], nevertheless we have the right to ask of God the manifestation of His will by the means of His choice. Where there is uncertainty, prudence has the duty to wait.

It is moreover an art, to know how to wait; not to interpret too hastily a strong attraction, an event that seems to be a providential sign. It is also an art to know how to make a soul wait without discouraging it, without diminishing its ardor. Waiting cools fervor that is too impetuous, and unveils the obstacles to be met with; it thus avoids those failures that would crush the spirit. It tries and strengthens whatever attractions are deep, obliges God to give His light, and prepares the way for fruitful realizations. The great doers, such as Saint Vincent de Paul, were often patient temporizers.

Prudence puts the soul at the pace of God who has His time for every work and does not want to be outrun. When the time is come—and sometimes it comes suddenly—prudence is prompt and energetic as God Himself, and demands that there be neither hesitation nor delay in the accomplishment of a divine will that is henceforth certain, and for which the grace that is received could well be only for a day.

Prudence choses the means for the work to be done—not those suggested by the zeal of beginners nor by the desire for quick execution, but those required by the limited strength of the soul and the long perseverance necessary for success. Saint Teresa tells us how the aims of her director, the master Daza, to elevate her virtue at once to the height of the divine favors that she was receiving, was almost disastrous for her.

The prudence of which we speak, which is discretion, is neither timidity nor laziness. It knows the divine exigencies and never consents, even in the face of difficulties, to diminish the ideal that has been glimpsed. It aims simply at adapting the actual possibilities of the soul to the demands of God, and at not using up prematurely the forces that are necessary for a long journey. It puts forth a constantly sustained effort; and, when confronted by a greater obstacle, it knows how to mobilize all the energies of the soul for the violence that success requires. [...]


Source: Fr. MariĆ©-Eugene, I Want to See God, trans. by M. Verda Clare (Notre Dame, IN: Christian Classics, 1953), 284–285.

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