Chapter 11 ~ Christian Prudence
At first glance it may, perhaps, appear strange to speak of prudence to children of your years, considering the fact that prudence is generally found only at a more mature age.
In a certain cathedral in the old country there is to be seen a statue of Wisdom; this statue has two faces, one the wrinkled countenance of old age, and the other the face of a young girl. The sculptor wished to imply thereby that wisdom is proper to all ages. And so is prudence, as a form of wisdom, proper to all ages. Of course it cannot be as fully developed in a child as in an older person, but nevertheless it ought to be found in the child, that it may begin its wholesome influence. What, then, is the mission of prudence? (I am speaking, of couse, of Christian prudence.) You will readily understand it, if you call to mind that we are but travelers here on earth as you have been told many times; and prudence is a necessary virtue for travelers.
What do we mean by a prudent traveler? In the first place we mean a traveler who is anxious to find the right path and to follow it, the road that will lead him in safety to the goal of his journey. He avoids all roads which deviate from the right path, he makes sure of the right road at all the turns and crossings, he looks at the sign posts and if necessary he inquires for direction. My children, you also are engaged on a journey, the journey to eternity; be prudent therefore in your proceeding and in the selection of the road you take. Are you mindful of the goal which you must reach? Very little, I am afraid. Here then is the first imprudence. You are traveling upon this earth without much thinking as to where you want to travel. You are on the way to eternity. Heaven is your goal, and if you miss this goal your whole life will have been lived in vain, you will be wretchedly lost eternally. What a terrible misfortune! To attain this goal, then, there is a path upon which we must walk and which the Catechism points out in the words: we must know, love and serve God. This is the only right road, and away from it there is no salvation. All others are paths of perdition and they lead us astray from the right path. Let us see now what is meant by a prudent child. He asks himself, am I not going astray? Are my words, actions, and general conduct helping me along the road to salvation? The prudent child thinks of this as seriously and as frequently as he can. While thus he is serious about serious things, this does not prevent him in the least from being cheerful, gladsome and eager to play. But he is not frivolous, not wild and boisterous like many children are who never give thought to serious matters, who seem to live with the sole idea of having a good time, whose brain is not exercised by thoughts about more important matters than eating and playing. Poor children, what will become of them? They will grow up without acquiring the ability and the habit of reflecting, of taking seriously things that are serious. Caring not what path they take, it is greatly to be feared that they will not resist the temptation to take the easy path that leads to perdition.
You see, dear children, how necessary it is to be prudent travelers, to exercise continually the prudence which consists in knowing positively where one is going, and of keeping faithfully to the path which leads there.
There is another thing that a prudent traveler does. He is not only anxious about the right path, he is also anxious to avoid any dangers that may beset the path; quagmires are met with, precipices have to be skirted, and robbers may be waiting to do injury. For this reason the careful traveler advances with great caution, he looks about to see where his steps are leading him, he anticipates a possible attack by the enemy, he prepares to defend himself, he keeps away from the brink of the precipices for fear of being taken with a sudden weakness that would expose him to the danger of falling.
Have you not already understood the lesson which this picture teaches? Dear children, you, too, are exposed to many dangers on the path through life; dangers of being drawn into evil! Bad examples, bad advice, temptations of all sorts, these are the precipices over which you may fall, these are the hiding places whence the enemy emerges. What prudence must we be possessed of, if we would escape all these perils! With what caution and fear must we proceed! How reckless the imprudent children who expose themselves carelessly to dangers as if they were certain to pass through them well and safely. They are presumptuous, forgetting the words of Holy Scripture that: “He who loves the danger shall perish in it.” Sooner or later they will be victims of their imprudence; imprudence, for instance, in reading bad books, bad newspapers, or wilfully looking at improper pictures or posters. A prudent child will carefully avoid such things because he knows that wilfully reading a bad book, looking with pleasure at an improper picture, is sinful. It is likewise an imprudence, to associate with evil companions, who by example and advice lead to sinful actions. The prudent child keeps away from such companions, knowing that association with them will almost surely mean falling into sin.
Dear children, be prudent in all things, and pray to God for grace, that you may conquer the temptations that beset your path. You will thus become brave little travelers on the journey to heaven, guided band guarded by Christian prudence, and you may be sure that the good Lord, who sent His angel to guide the pious Tobias on his journey, will also give His grace and assistance to you.