Conscience - Virtue of Prudence
by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
Virtue of Prudence and Conscience
"Conscience is a Judgment of Reason (Intellect) whereby the Human Person recognizes the
Moral Quality of a Concrete Act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed".
(CCC, n. 1778)
"Moral Conscience, present at the Heart of the Person, enjoins him at the Appropriate Moment to do Good and to
avoid Evil. It also Judges particular choices, approving those that are Good and denouncing those that are Evil ... When he listens to
his Conscience, the Prudent Man can hear God speaking".
(CCC, n. 1777)
In reading about the Virtue of Prudence, one might find it difficult to distinguish it from
Conscience. The Two (2) are inter-twined, but not the
same. Conscience is not the Intellect, it is not
a Virtue, it is a Practical Judgment of the Intellect; and
Prudence is the Virtue (a permanent disposition of the
Soul) that Guides that Practical Judgment. We see, then, how important is the
Virtue of Prudence in the
Christian Life. It affects all the other Virtues in that it Guides them
in the choice of means to their Proper Ends. And in turn, it is affected by them, each in its own way. The
Perfect Act of Christian Prudence needs the Help of each of the
Theological and Moral Virtues. For example:
Prudence needs the Light of FAITH, the
Confidence of HOPE, and the Urging of CHARITY
to direct One to his final End Means, to attain that End.
We see, then, how Universal is this Virtue in its Function, for it touches the whole of our
Christian Life. Either Right Reason is
Ruling us, or our Attachments to the World,
the Flesh, or the Ego are Ruling us. In the
measure that any of these last Three (3) Monarchs Rule us, it
is going to affect the Performance of Prudence, and indirectly affect the Performance of
the other Virtues that Prudence assists.
All of these Virtues are United in
Charity which is the Bond of Perfection (Colossians 3:14)
giving the Motivation that makes the Acts of every Virtue
Meritorious. But in another way all Virtues are United in
Prudence, since all of them Contribute to perfect
Prudence, and all of them depend on Prudence in Choosing the
Proper Means that lead to God.
|Many monks had come to Saint Anthony from various parts, in order to discuss which was the
Virtue whereby one might climb with security to the Heights of Perfection. Some thought Austerity of life, with Watchings and
Fastings, to be the most necessary Virtues; others held Perfect Contempt of Earthly Things to be of still greater importance; While
others again thought Solitude, Charity, etc., each one exalting different Virtues, according to his Inclinations and Graces, and
giving reasons for the opinions he held. At length the great Saint Anthony arose, and, while praising all the various Virtues named
by the others, said that Prudence seemed to him of
all others the one Virtue which best enabled man to reach Perfection, for it controlled him in the practice of the others, keeping
him from the two extremes of Excess and Defect. After developing the subject and explaining his reasons, Saint Anthony found his
brother monks agreed with him that Prudence is
that Virtue which leads most securely to God.