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Between panic and disregard: How to find prudence

THOUGHT

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Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR - published on 03/25/20

For those of us in the "elderly" category, we have to make sure our precautions aren't causing extra harm.

As a person over 70 years of age with several underlying complicating factors, I became alert to all the coronavirus COVID-19 announcements carrying serious warnings for “the elderly,” those over the age of 60. Now, keep­ing “social distancing” has not been as difficult for me as it seems to be for many others; my sister says I’ve been doing it all my life.

I started physically distancing myself more, avoiding places or events, feeling uncomfort­able going to the store, and using more hand sanitizer in two weeks than I have in my entire life. All this heightened awareness, unfortunately, heightened my blood pressure, also. As the doctor said to me, “Do you think all this virus stuff is causing you stress?” Duh, well let me think about that a moment, Doc.

I needed to accept the fact that I am over 70, and I need to be prudent in how I live and what I do, but trying to live with avoidance was only creating more stress in my life. As if, a cloud of dread loomed just off my shoulder. It seems that the awareness that I need to live more prudently, rather than living in avoidance of catching this virus relaxed me a bit. It is not easy, and often I need to remind myself.

Then, one morning, in that drowsy state, just before fully awakening, a refrain kept repeating over and over in my mind that was so calming in the midst of this stressful and tense times. It was John Michael Talbot’s song, “Only in God (Psalm 62).”

The verse that kept repeating, and still frequently jumps into my thoughts, is:

Only in God is my soul at rest In Him comes my salvation He only is my Rock My strength and my salvation …

Hmm, my blood pressure began to stabilize.

Shortly afterward there was a link to an article in a Catholic blog I subscribe to by Fr. Roger Landry titled, “Virtues Needed to Help Keep Your Eyes on Christ in This Crisis.” The second section caught my attention as it examined the virtue of prudence.

Fr. Landry writes:

Prudence [is the virtue], which helps us to discern the good in each circumstance among many competing goods — and to choose the right means to achieving it. It helps us set a proper rule or measure, something desperately needed in times of crisis when certain goods can be emphasized out of measure and others can be forgotten. Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas after him, taught that moral virtue is a middle point between two extremes, deficiency and excess. Compassion, for example, is the mean between apathy and sentimental indulgence. Courage is found within the extremes of cowardice and recklessness. In this present circumstance, prudence can help us to see that an ‘overabundance of caution’ is not a virtue but a vice. Prudence focuses on the right measure of caution, balancing, for example, the duty we need to protect those most vulnerable to infection by ‘flattening the curve’ through social distancing, hand-washing and various other practices, with other needs, like providing for one’s family, nourishing one’s soul and others’, providing goods and services, etc. Prudence assists courage in helping people know how to take the right risks.

Such a powerful thought, “Prudence [is the virtue], which helps us to discern the good in each circumstance among many competing goods — and to choose the right means to achieving it … prudence can help us to see that an ‘overabundance of caution’ is not a virtue but a vice. Prudence focuses on the right measure of caution …”

During this pandemic crisis I encourage you to seek live with prudence rather than avoidance, “focusing on the right measure of caution.”

In closing, I leave you with John Michael Talbot:

Only in God is my soul at rest
In Him comes my salvation
He only is my Rock
My strength and my salvation…


SHEET MUSIC

Read more:
5 Consoling Christian hymns to listen to in these troubled times

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