"I'm afraid of making the wrong decision."
"I just don't know what God wants me to do."
"Which way is God's will for me? And what happens if I 'miss it'?"
If you're striving to live a life for and with the Lord, chances are you have thought or expressed similar sentiments. It is a common question in the Christian life: what does God want? And in our eagerness to obey Him and our sincere desire to serve Him, we can find ourselves rather stuck when facing any sort of decision. We fear that we will lose relationship with the Lord if we choose a lesser good, or that we will "miss" our mission, or that God will be disappointed if we choose the "wrong" breakfast.
The Trap of Stuck-ness
Saint Francis de Sales often wrote about a sly tactic of the devil. He expressed that a soul in love with God may often be tempted to be so overly-concerned with the aforementioned questions that it remains paralyzed.
C.S. Lewis often quipped that the enemy has no need to make the faithful Christian "evil," just to keep them busy and preoccupied with good things.
Mother Angelica was fond of bluntly reminding us that God's will is to choose the good and embrace the present moment.
Those holy men and women who have gone before us understood what it means to live confidently in the merciful love of Jesus. They also understood the virtue of prudence.
An Underrated Cardinal Virtue
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1806 states:
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... It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure.
Prudence is the "charioteer of the virtues" and we are offered this virtue through our Baptism and life in grace. It is what helps us not only discern what is morally right and what the Lord is calling us to in a given circumstance, it also helps us move forward in confidence and trust.
So how can we learn more about this secret-weapon virtue, and how can we come to live it?
A Treatise on Prudence
When I first saw that Fr. Gregory Pine, OP was releasing a book with OSV about prudence, I was thrilled because I always benefit from his commentary on Pints with Aquinas. I appreciate his clear mastery of Thomistic philosophy which he presents covered with a flood of spiritual wisdom and encouragement. He's a teacher, and I always learn from him.
This book arrived at the perfect time—one in which my husband and I are discerning a few major life decisions and navigating challenging circumstances. I was tempted toward stuck-ness. As I read through this book, I found myself reading section after section aloud to my husband. Prudence: Choose Confidently, Live Boldly has already born great fruit in our conversations and hearts.
Academic and Approachable
Prudence brings the heat when it comes to theology and philosophy. I loved the deep dive Fr. Gregory takes to explain what prudence is and what it is not. He examines freedom, intellect and will, and conscience. He clearly defines terms that can be easily misunderstood or misconstrued. He walks us through the assent our souls take to the good when we choose the good (even in seemingly obvious situations like not cheating on a test). It is a fascinating breakdown of the movement of grace in our souls.
He purely teaches what the Church teaches, which, as you can imagine, is a great wealth of grace.
But Father does not leave us simply with an academic exploration of the virtue, for the virtue itself is meant to motivate us toward holy action. And he helps with the concrete application. Alongside the insightful information about the virtue, Father provides charts that help us understand the movements of the human intellect and will and the process of prudence. He treats the human condition with both honesty and compassion, and masterfully points out our potential pitfalls when exercising prudence.
The entire book is an invitation into prayer and self-reflection with God. Each chapter is titled as a question—one we should be asking ourselves when facing a decision. We are called to apply the wisdom of the Word, the Church, and the Saints to our own lives. Father points us directly to the One Who does "direct our paths" (see Proverbs 3:6).
Each chapter ends with questions for reflection that assist us in applying the material to our own lives.
As I read through Prudence: Choose Confidently, Live Boldly, I noticed something: it drove me to prayer. After reading a section that stretched my mind and gifted me new understanding, I would immediately desire to talk to God about it in relation to those areas in which I am in particular need of prudence. This book has not remained stagnant in my life but has helped me put words to doubts, clarity to confusion, and confidence to uncertainty.
We are all in great need of prudence, and this 166-page book from Father Gregory provides the path.
Have you read this book yet? Are you in need of some direction in this aspect of your soul?