“Make sure you finish the dishes before you leave, just as you promised,” shouted a distressed mother from upstairs, “and leave everything ready for tomorrow. You’ll be too tired when you come back. And don’t forget to grab an extra can of oil from the basement just in case the bridegroom tarries.”
“There’s no time, mom,” a teenage daughter hollered back as she clasped on her hairpins. “I need to leave now to make it to the party. Why can’t you see things from my perspective for once?” She sighed aloud and stole a final glance at her quick smile in the mirror, threw a purse over her shoulder, and headed out.
No longer toddlers, we can’t just attribute all our imperfections and misdeeds to ignorance. There are times when we do know better, but we choose evil anyway. Although the whispers of conscience urge on to do the right thing, we can choose to abuse our freedom. Someday we will regret it, either during life or afterwards. Even the saints have gone through moments when they wished they had made a different decision. Fortunately, practical wisdom, or prudence, can reduce the number of these moments. It helps us use right reason to guide our choices on the path toward the final happiness that awaits us in heaven. We can grow in prudence by pausing to think before speaking or doing something, asking experienced people for their advice, and learning from our mistakes.
Jesus told the parable of the ten virgins to emphasize the benefits of this wisdom (cf. Matthew 25:1-13). The five imprudent virgins, who for whatever reason did not bring extra oil, were compelled to go out and buy some, and they were absent when the bridegroom came. We might not be satisfied, however, with the virtue of the prudent virgins—and we shouldn’t be. There was something they were lacking. If the Blessed Virgin Mary were there, what would she have done? One of her titles is “Virgin Most Prudent,” but in the highest degrees of prudence we should not expect to find slyness, trickery, and deception, but charity, equivalent to love for God in her neighbor. The full possession of any virtue is impossible without charity. If charity is the final touch of all virtues, it is also the final touch of prudence. So what should we have expected from Mary in such circumstances? St. Alphonsus Liguori tells us Mary would have brought oil not only for herself, but also for the other virgins. This kind of deed is simple, but no less heroic. We can learn from the example of our Mother, the Virgin Most Prudent, and ask for her prayers, that we too may show God we love him by good deeds for our neighbors.
Joseph A'Hearn, LC studies for the priesthood in Rome.
Question or comment? Please, write to Fr. Nathan Miller, LC at [email protected]
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