The Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary

Second Virtue: Prudence

Pondering the Lord's Words

by Patrick Lorenz

Prudence is not the most common word these days, but it's probably one that should be revived.

People don't often go around describing one another as "prudent." They're more likely to say, "He's smart," or "She's careful, and shrewd in dealing with people." And they mean that the person isn't rash, he puts thought into all that he does, he's someone who looks before he leaps, but isn't afraid to leap when it's necessary.

Often, the best way to learn how to be prudent is by messing up. The proverbial "learn from your mistakes" is often true. But that's the key: learning from the mistake. Except for Jesus and Mary, we all make mistakes, but the prudent person is able to grow stronger from an experience that would weaken a less prudent soul.

Mary's Prudence

Mother Mary showed prudence in many of her actions. The Marians' Rule of Life lists some: "She thought within herself about Gabriel's manner of greeting her, and she kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. She fled into Egypt for the safety of her Son, nor did she return from there until after the death of Herod. Finally, she avoided the country where Archelaus reigned" (p. 35).

This list of prudent things that Mary did shows someone who used her mind in making decisions for the good of herself and her loved ones. She didn't assume that God would protect her from all harm just because her Son was also His Son. No, she took action when there was a threat to Jesus' safety. She and St. Joseph both took their role as guardians and protectors very seriously.

This event also shows Mary's prudence in relation to her husband, because she received the news that they should go to Egypt from Joseph. Joseph is the one who had the dream where the angel told him to take the Child to Egypt. Mary trusted that Joseph did not imagine or distort the angel's message, and obeyed him as the leader of the Holy Family.

We Must Do Our Part

The same reality applies to us: Even though we are children of God, and we must always trust that God will take care of us, we must also do our part in cooperating with God's plan. We must take action, when it is needed, like Mary and St. Joseph.

It's like the old joke where a man lives in a town, which is being flooded. He looks out the window of his house, and he sees that the water is almost reaching the bottom of the window. Some people drive by in a big jeep that can get through the flood. They ask him to get in. He replies, "No, God is going to save me." Then he climbs onto his roof to escape the rising waters, and some people come by in a rowboat and ask him to hop in. He replies, "No thanks, God is going to save me." Then later, as the water continues going higher, so much so that it's covering the roof, a helicopter hovers overhead and the pilot yells over the loud speaker. "This is your last chance. Grab the rope, we'll pull you in." He replies again, "No thanks, God is going to save me." The man is forced to tread water, and finally he is overcome by exhaustion and drowns. In heaven, he says to God: "I trusted You. Why did You let me drown like that? Didn't You see my great faith in You to save me?" God replies, "I sent you a jeep, a boat, and a helicopter. What more do you want?"

It's in the Ordinary

Sometimes we think God always has to work in spectacular ways. But He usually does things in very plain, ordinary ways. The spectacular things are more rare.

Recall the story in the Bible about Naaman. It's in the Second Book of Kings. He was a great commander of the army of Syria and was a very powerful man. However, he came down with leprosy. Through the prophet Elisha, God commanded Naaman that if he wanted to be healed, he would have to plunge into the Jordan River seven times. At first, Naaman refused to do this. He said to his servant, "'Behold, I thought that he [Elisha] would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper'" (2 Kings 5:11).

Naaman wanted a dramatic healing, not an ordinary dip into the river. Fortunately for him, his servant convinced him to submerge himself in the river anyway. Naaman did it, and he received the healing after all.

God doesn't always heal us in the way we would like. He doesn't always teach us in the way we expect. Remember, His ways are not our ways. However, the prudent person is able to ponder God's ways in his or her heart, and act as needed, just like Our Lady.