Evangelical Virtues of Mary: Prudence

Virtue

Virtue (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

This is my article that ran on CatholicMom.com this week. I like to post them here, too. To view it over there, click on this link and voila!  Happy Holy Saturday!

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with God’s help, the evangelical virtues forge character.

The ten evangelical virtues are derived from a combination of the human, moral, cardinal and theological virtues, described to us in the Catechism. They are actual qualities of Mary, the Mother of God who by her example is the epitome of evangelization: chastity, prudence, humility, faith, devotion, obedience, poverty, patience, mercy and sorrow.

In this year of faith, efforts to increase in virtue are a worthy exercise. We are called to evangelize with virtue in a variety of vocations, as a mother, a daughter, a sister, an employee, a wife. Modeling our behavior on the Blessed Virgin is an excellent way to bring others to Christ.  Who more than Mary has brought more of us to her son?

The second Evangelical Virtue of Mary is Prudence.                                           

But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

And he descended with them and went to Nazareth. And he was subordinate to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. Luke 2:51

Mary “ponders” these things in her heart. She discerns. She doesn’t react, debate or take any action right away. She simply ponders things first.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us (1806), “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 woman looks where she is going. Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas. The prudent woman determines and directs her conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles without error and overcome doubts about good and evil in our everyday circumstances.

Prudence is also one of the four cardinal virtues, which means it can be practiced by anyone. The cardinal virtues are not, in themselves, the gifts of God through grace but the outgrowth of habit.

Prudence, as explained by Fr. John A. Hardon in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, is “Correct knowledge about things to be done or, more broadly, the knowledge of things that ought to be done and of thing that ought to be avoided.”

So how do we know when we’re exercising prudence and when we’re simply giving in to our own desires?

How do we know if we are acting prudently or not?  As an act of virtue, prudence involves three stages of mental operation: to take counsel carefully with oneself and from others; to judge correctly on the basis of the evidence at hand; and to direct my actions accordingly.

When faced with a dilemma, we first pray, ask God to direct our thinking.  Next we ask for advice from someone of good character, someone we can trust, of good moral character. We look at all the evidence at hand, the facts in front of us. We never rush. We ask God for his will for us. Then, finally we make a decision and act upon it.

And we must always keep in mind that the definition of prudence requires us to judge correctly. If our judgment is proved after the fact to have been incorrect, then we did not make a “prudential judgment” but an imprudent one, for which we may need to make amends.

One way to integrate these virtues into your life is by praying the Chaplet to the Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary.

Book Review: The Freedom to Love by Father Emmerich Vogt,O.P.

freedom to loveBook Review: The Freedom to Love by Emmerich Vogt, O.P.

BN ID: 2940014633703, Publisher: Mill City Press, date: 4/24/2012, Pages: 158

Verdict: A

It’s funny when I experience something, I sometimes make the mistake of thinking I am special, that I am the first to ponder these things and the one to share my findings. And then the more I delve into and explore my ideas I inevitably discover this has all be done before.  No need to re-invent the wheel here.

In my quest to reconcile the 12 Step Program (of which I am an enthusiastic participant) with my Catholic faith, I have often found myself alone, isolated. I’m not comfortable nor would it be appropriate to explore my Christianity in recovery meetings. These meetings and the 12 Step Program are necessarily non-denominational.

And I have checked out “Celebrate Recovery,” which is a terrific Christian-based recovery program started by Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in California. Celebrate Recovery pulls from the 12 Steps but is based on their 8 Principals rooted in the Beatitudes. I have enjoyed the CR meetings I’ve attended; but I longed for a Catholic Christian version.  We have our own lingo, the saints, the traditions, Mary and established Catholic moral teachings passed down to us over the last 2000 years to study.  So, although I see the value of CR, it didn’t draw me in as much as regular AA meetings did/do.

Also, since I am basically a Catholic “activist” I am unfortunately aware of the ex-Catholic leanings of many members and leaders within Saddleback and in many of her offshoots.  For reference, check this out and this.  So, even though I did like CR, it just didn’t sit right with me, like regular AA meetings did.

So, where do I look for answers and consolation–certainly I look to the 12 Steps but I have to go beyond the 12 Steps into my faith in order to have a complete “design for living” as it promises in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Gratefully, I’m not unique, after all.  Many have gone before me and have shared truly amazing resources and faith-based guides for me to follow.  Thank goodness for Google (or Bing, if I’m feeling counter-cultural)

Father Emmerich Vogt, OP published a book last year called The Freedom to Love.  It may very well become part of my repertoire and my design for living.  It’s that good. And it speaks my language (Catholic Christianity) so well that I immediately felt connected to the author in our common understanding of taking the 12 Step Program just a little bit further into living Christian principles.

In our Catholic faith tradition, I don’t think we’d ever (never say never?) create a “Catholic Program of Recovery.”  12 Step Programs work well for the Catholic alcoholic, are basically free and widely available throughout the world–thousands of convenient meetings every single day.  So, no, there’s really no need for a “Catholic AA.”

But there is a need–at least for me and since I’m  not unique most likely others have the same desire as I do—-for us to take the 12 Steps a little bit further and incorporate our Catholic faith into our design for living.

That’s what this book does well!  Vogt takes the reader through the Steps by putting a Catholic understanding to them.  It’s splendid (and I love that word, “splendid!”).

On to the book:

From the Publisher:

Addicted persons are unable to choose to really love themselves and others without being grounded in sound moral values. The founders of AA in the Big Book encouraged the recovering alcoholic to inventory the seven deadly sins in preparation for the 4th Step because recovery meant – not simply giving up drinking – but embracing a moral lifestyle.

As a priest who has worked with the 12-step program for over thirty years, Fr. Emmerich combines traditional Christian spiritual principles with the wisdom of the Steps. An understanding of the moral virtues, and the extremes that set a person up to become an addict, is addressed in this book.

For centuries Western culture has provided a moral sense of the deadliness of sin.  However, modern culture has dropped this wisdom, which the author believes has led to an  increased vulnerability to addiction.

The seven deadly sins are shown to be destructive of the love of God and neighbor. Uncovering these character defects in our lives should guide the Christians actions. A very real and profound moral disorder is found in the un-recovered person. The person who abuses himself and others through addiction and codependency does not love himself and cannot love others. There is nothing so beautiful and salvific as the revelation of God’s love, which alone makes man fully alive. We communicate this love by His grace, which heals the wounds of addiction and sets us free to love.

This book (eBook version is just $9.99 at bn.com) explains how relevant it is to look at how the seven deadly sins manifest themselves in our lives. And then it shows how the virtues (as presented in the Catechism) can be an excellent tool for us to redirect our sins to a higher calling.

Modern Psychology, with all her wonderfulness and contributions to understanding the emotional and psychological workings of our brains and relationships, has perhaps unintentionally caused misunderstanding of what used to be common vocabulary. Words like “sin” and “morals” and “guilt” have become four-letter words. To me, those words have meaning and help me grow towards my quest for an intimate relationship with my Creator.

So, we can’t let these words (sin, morality, virtue, confession, redemption) used throughout the book scare us.  In Catholic culture, those words are just part of our lingo and they make sense.

And finally, a wonderful resource for the Catholic alcoholic looking to blend their recovery with the Faith, the author of this book Father Vogt maintains the web site and ministry The 12 Step Review at 12-step-review.com.

Great book.

Discovering the Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary

10 evangelica virtues of mary

According to Pope Benedict XVI, with God’s help, the evangelical virtues forge character. What are the evangelical virtues?

I first discovered the them when reading about one  of my favorite saints, Teresa of Avila. I googled the term “evangelical virtues,” and there was very little information out there. However, in a transcript on Vatican Radio,  Pope Benedict XVI mentions Teresa’s intense program of the contemplative life...which at its heart were the evangelical virtues and prayer.”

In this year of faith, efforts to increase in these virtues is a worthy exercise. We are called to evangelize in a variety of vocations, as a mother, a daughter, a sister, an employee, a wife. Modeling our behavior on the Blessed Virgin is an excellent way to bring others to Christ.  Who more than Mary has brought more of us to her son?  How does Mary evangelize?

 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…1Peter 3:15

These ten evangelical virtues are derived from a combination of the human, moral, cardinal and theological virtues, described to us in the Catechism. They are actually qualities of Mary, the Mother of God who by her example is the epitome of evangelization.

The Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary is a wonderful synopsis of Mary’s character:

1. Chastity (Mt 1:18, 20, 23; Lk 1:24,34)
2. Prudence  (Lk 2:19; 51)
3. Humility (Lk 1 :48)
4. Faith ( Lk 1:45; Jn 2:5)
5. Devotion  (Lk 1:46-47; Acts 1:14)
6. Obedience (Lk 1:38; 2:21-22; 27)
7. Poverty (Lk 2:7)
8. Patience  (Jn 19:25)
9. Mercy (Lk 1:39, 56)
10. Sorrow (Lk 2:35)

We notice in this list, there is no mention of being obnoxious when we evangelize others.  Quite the contrary, evangelical Catholics are to remain humble, be patient, prudent. Evangelizing to others is as simple as happily proclaiming our love and support for the Faith and the church. This is sometimes tough for cradle Catholics who grew up thinking “evangelism” was a sales tactic, associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Fundamentalist Christians.

The Catechism tells us, “A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do good. It allows us not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of ourselves.”

As Catholic mothers, we’re called to instill these virtues first in our children.  We don’t keep our love of the Faith to ourselves. We bring it into everyday activities.  We direct our focus into our own homes, become evangelizers in the midst of our work, the laundry, the dishes, diaper changes, the cooking, carpool, the cleaning and paying bills, our marriage. By pro-actively instilling these virtues in ourselves and in our children, we develop the character of Mary, rather than the character of the world—isn’t that our objective?

“It is far from easy to sum up in a few words Saint Teresa’s profound and articulate spirituality. In the first place St Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian and human life.” Pope Benedict XVI

On the ceiling of the 18th century Marian Church of Gozlin, Poland, there is a ten-pointed star symbolizing Mary’s evangelical virtues dear to the Marians. Mary’s virtues are like the rays of a star enlightening our path and inspiring our behavior.

One way to integrate these virtues into your life is by praying the Chaplet to the Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary.  Let’s get started.