A Year with the Saints – 21 July


Prudence is of two sorts: human and Christian. Human prudence, which is also called the prudence of the flesh and of the world, is that which has no other aim than what is temporal, thinks only of arriving at its end, and makes use of such methods and sentiments alone as are human and uncertain. Christian prudence consists in judging, speaking and acting that way in which the Eternal Wisdom, clothed in our flesh, judged, spoke and acted, and in guiding ourselves in all cases according to the maxims of the Faith, never according to the fallacious sentiments of the world, or the feeble light of our own intellect. Saint Vincent de Paul

Saint Francis de Sales was a sworn enemy to human prudence, as he declared to one of his penitents, writing to her in these terms: “If I could be born over again with the sentiments that I have now, I do not believe that anyone could make me waver in the certainty which I feel, that the prudence of the flesh and of the sons of this world is but a mere chimera, and a most certain folly.”

Saint Vincent de Paul never used any but the Christian kind of prudence, so that it is no wonder that he was considered to have a rare and solid wisdom. Though his intellect was keen and clear enough to penetrate things to the bottom and discover all their relations, yet he never trusted to his own light till he had compared it and found it to agree with the maxims taught us by Our Saviour, which are the only rule by which to form a sure and certain judgment. So he never began to do anything of importance, or gave answers or advice to others, without first turning his eyes upon Jesus Christ, to find some act or word of His upon which he might securely rest the decision he was about to make. Having collected a company of priests outside of his Congregation, who were called the Ecclesiastics of the Conference and who were accustomed to give Missions in the country under his direction, he was asked that they might give one in a section of Paris. The Saint saw no difficulty in this; but they saw much, and told him that in such a place a very different sort of Mission would be required from those they had been giving in the country, for the simple and familiar discourses which had succeeded so well there would furnish little but subjects of ridicule among more cultivated people. But he, who was little accustomed to trust to means purely natural, answered that he felt sure they ought to use the same method they had employed elsewhere, and that the spirit of the world so triumphant in that quarter of Paris could not be better conquered than by attacking it with the spirit of Jesus Christ, which is a spirit of simplicity. He added that to enter into the sentiments of this Divine Saviour, they ought to seek not their own glory, but that of the Eternal Father; that, in imitation of the Redeemer, they ought to be ready to suffer contempt and to bear, if it were the will of God, opposition and persecution; that remembering the words of the Son of God, they might at least be sure that Jesus Christ would speak by them, and that so good and holy a disposition as he had described would make them fit to serve as instruments of His mercy, which penetrates the most hardened hearts and converts the most rebellious spirits. His advice was received by them as the advice of an Angel, and laying aside all human considerations they followed it in giving their Mission, which proved most fervent and successful.

MLA Citation