Virgin Most Prudent - The Virtue of Prudence in Mary

"Virgin most prudent, whither goest thou, bright as the dawn of day? Daughter of Sion, thou art wholly fair and sweet, beautiful as the moon, radiant as the sun." - Antiphon of the Magnificat on the Feast of our Lady's Assumption

The end for which man was created, is eternal happiness in the vision of God face to face. This end man must achieve by his own merits; consequently, he must so regulate his actions, that they may be always directed toward this object. It is therefore evident that prudence, which consists precisely in this guiding of our actions and directing them toward our last end, is of primary necessity for us.

If, generally speaking, it is difficult to succeed well in the enterprises of life, it is particularly so when we come to treat of that affair for which we are placed in this world, and which is the one thing necessary. It is of little account to have won honors and riches, and to have enjoyed all possible pleasures, if finally we fail in attaining eternal bliss.

Now it is precisely prudence which guards us against so great an evil. This virtue recalls to our minds the lessons of Jesus Christ and His apostles, and makes us follow with docility the advice of our directors. It makes us circumspect in the difficulties which we encounter: it helps us to foresee the impending dangers in which our virtue might be overthrown; in a word, it holds always present before our eyes the end for which we were created.

Lord, "make me know my end . . . that I may know what is wanting to me."

* * *

Among the virtues which shone with greater splendor in the life of Mary, we must make mention of prudence.

It was prudence which restrained the glorious Virgin from ever proceeding with precipitancy; it was this same virtue which prompted her always to take counsel of her Heavenly Spouse in all the circumstances of her life, to weigh with a wise deliberation the motives of her every action, to decide with calmness the course to be pursued and to follow in all her actions the light of reason and faith.

With what sedulous care did Mary seek to know, at the moment of the Annunciation, the disposition of the divine will in her regard! How docile she was in always following the inspirations from on High!

Also, when she found in the Temple her well-beloved Son, with what humility mingled with maternal tenderness, she asked of Jesus the cause of His absence; and when she had received His answer, how she pondered and. mused upon the mysterious reply, "preserving all these words in her Heart!"

It was prudence also which dictated to Mary to appear so thoughtful for others during the wedding feast at the nuptials of Cana, and when she heard from Jesus that His hour was not yet come, this same virtue inspired her to give to the waiters the sage counsel: "Whatsoever He shall say to you do ye."

Take this counsel of Mary's, O my soul, for thy rule of conduct. It is this counsel inspired by prudence, which alone can bring thee to the possession of eternal life.

* * *

Just as there is spiritual prudence, so also there is carnal prudence. The former leads to life, the latter to death: "The wisdom of the flesh is death," says Saint Paul. Heavenly prudence reflects upon all the other moral virtues a pure light, guiding, inspiring and facilitating their acts. Fleshly prudence, on the other hand, is accompanied by numberless vices, which debase the soul, and prepare it for eternal ruin.

The first offshoot of carnal prudence is craftiness, which goes along the ways of lying and deceit. Craftiness entails dissimulation and fraud, by means of which the wicked pursue their detestable ends; in reality they are but digging a pit for themselves to fall into.

Oh, how estimable is that prudence which is frank with the frankness of the children of God! It unites the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness -of the dove; like a trusty bark it carries the mariner in safety through every rook and quicksand, to the harbor of everlasting rest.

Example - Saint John Damascene

While God, in His inscrutable judgment, permits that there should arise, in the course of centuries, errors and persecutions against the Church, He does not omit to send men, illustrious for their virtues and sanctity, to defend this His beloved Spouse, and to vindicate the sacred deposit of revealed truth, even at the cost of their blood.

There arose, in the eighth century, a sect of heretics, who, both by words and deed, opposed with fanatical hatred the worship of sacred images, declaring that these are only idolatry and superstition. Consequently they barbarously destroyed any statues or holy pictures they could find, for which reason they were called "Iconoclasts," which means "breakers of images."

Under such difficult conditions, God deigned to raise up a number of wise and holy men full of faith and courage, who opposed these nefarious profanations and vindicated the truth and legitimacy of the worship paid to sacred images. Among these must be mentioned Saint John Damascene, so called from Damascus, a town in Syria, his birthplace. This holy man, both by preaching and writing fearlessly defended the Catholic teaching regarding the worship due to the images of Christ and of the saints. He proved how this worship is not contrary to Sacred Scripture or Tradition.

But his ardor aroused the implacable hatred of the Emperor, Leo the Isaurian, who commanded the Prefect of Damascus to cut off John's right hand, the guilty instrument, as it seemed to the Emperor, of his defending an idolatrous and superstitious cult.

The Saint bore this cruel trial with heroic courage, thinking himself happy to suffer something for the honor of Jesus and Mary. Then he recommended himself with great fervor to the Blessed Virgin, his Mother and Patroness, whose honor in the veneration of sacred images he had defended with such warmth and vigor. This benignant Queen heard his prayers and lo! she caused the hand that had been separated from the arm to be reunited to it in so marvelous a manner, that it seemed as if it had really never been cut off. Thus does Mary beneficently repay those who are zealous for her honor, and who place all their trust in her protection.

Saint John Damascene died full of merit, in the year 956, and is honored as a Doctor of the Church.


O Mary, most prudent Virgin, thy life was always so well ordered, that in all thine actions thou never didst seek but the good pleasure of God. Obtain for us, of thy Son, this spirit of counsel and heavenly prudence, in order that seeking nothing but the fulfillment of the divine will, we may happily attain to the possession of our last end. Amen.

- from the book The Fairest Flower of Paradise: Considerations on the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, Enriched with Examples Drawn from the Lives of the Saints, by Cardinal Alexis-Henri-Marie L├ępicier, O.S.M., 1922