TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Prudence

I find myself in Canberra for the weekend, with my son and his family, to attend Grandparent’s Day at Marist College, Canberra, which is on Monday 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation.

Whenever I ponder Mary and her place in God’s revelation to us, I think of her ‘yes’. Her willingness to trust that God was present to her in the angel’s message and that God would keep revealing the nature of Godself to her in the inexplicable journey that lay ahead of her.

Is this not where we find ourselves? The violence we are exposed to - the wish for better leadership at church, national and global levels, the shame facing our church, the impact of climate change, the face of poverty - lead us to question, to seek answers, and to ask where God is in the mess. As humans we desire greater harmony, compassion, mercy, justice and peace.

The weekend reading from the book of Exodus invites us to go up the mountain with Moses, and face the burning bush while standing on holy ground. God speaks to Moses and asks him to lead the people out of captivity to a land of milk and honey. What is God asking of each of us? What is our prayer during this Lenten season? How will we know when God is speaking to us? How do we discern between our own voice, God’s voice and the voices of those who surround us?

Fr Tony Percy in his homily at St Peter Chanel’s Parish, Yarralumla invited us to think about the seven virtues which form part of our tradition – the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love, and the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice. His reflection focused particularly on the virtue of prudence, which is a virtue that can be practised, unlike the theological virtues of faith, hope and love which come to us through the grace of God.

Prudence requires us to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, or the reasoning between what is good and what is evil. Prudence is the acquired habit of making right judgements. These judgements are usually made after seeking counsel from others, looking at the evidence before us and reviewing the decision once it has been made and put into action.

At this time of our Plenary Council in Australia, I wonder if we are able to apply to our church the seven virtues, especially the cardinal virtue of prudence. Prudence is not just an intellectual virtue; it is also a moral virtue. How will we look at the many voices shared through the Plenary process and determine what is of the Spirit, and what is of our human making and desires? I have no doubt that the Spirit is asking us to seek out what is good for Australia, our Church and for the common good. This is a ‘big picture’ exercise.

And here I find myself in the capital of Australia and see the many choices which surround people and wonder how anyone might be exercising prudence as a virtue. So I was pleasantly surprised by our visit to Marist College, Canberra where our grandson is in Year 4. This is where we celebrated Grandparent’s Day, just for Year 4. The Catholic message was evident in the presentation from each of the four classes. The boys were immersed in prayer, particularly to Jesus through Mary. They were already able to sing the school song around Marcellin Champagnat, Mary and Jesus, after eight weeks at the school. What was also impressive was the way they were with each other, respectful, gentle, and considerate and when they joined us for morning tea they did not charge at the treats before them, but negotiated their way around the hall and the many grandparents to find some goodies. Their motto is Servo Fidem (Keep the Faith) and their goal for education is reflected in the phrase, “Together we create fine young men”.

I am conscious as I write this part of the message, that this week there will be a dedication ceremony of a memorial to the victims and survivors of historical sexual abuse at Marist Brothers High School, Hamilton, on behalf of the Clergy Abused Network Steering Committee, the Marist Brothers Province of Australia and the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. It will be a time of remembering, dedicating and hoping for those who gather and for those who are unable to be present.

May the innocence, zeal, energy, hope etc. of the young boys whom I and other grandparents encountered on Monday not be taken away from them, but be fostered into something amazing, which will serve our world. While I acknowledge the previous harm done, I also look to the hope of the future. May we be prudent enough to know that it is the good we as humans strive for, and it is the good which will overcome evil.

I hope this short message leaves you with something to ponder, and to pray deeply for and about.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.