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A question of Prudence

· ​The editorial ·

Four female figures clad in purple are dancing beside the float of the universal Church drawn by the griffin which represents Christ. They are the four cardinal virtues who reappear in the earthly paradise long after Dante saw them shining like stars at the gate of hell. One of them, who has three eyes, leads the dance. She is Prudence. Indeed, if justice is the foundation of every disposition to good, and hence of all the other virtues, it is in fact Prudence who regulates all the graces thanks to her triple gaze: one turned to the past, another to the present and the third to the future.

The cover photo was taken during one of the demonstrations organized in Israel by Women Wage Peace. Women of all races and religions, lay women and women religious of various political affiliations, belong to this movement. They march, sing and pray together, each in accordance with her own tradition and culture. With a sense of responsibility and the wish to change they decided to act, united by the desire to build a possible coexistence. The hymn of their marches has become the Prayer of Mothers; it was composed by the song-writer and singer Yael Deckelbaum, who sings it together with a group of women. It is a hymn of hope (youtu.be/YyFM-pWdqrY).

In line with the wisdom of the Greeks, prudence was therefore always considered the virtue which, cherishing past experience, turns to the problems of the present time and reflects on future prospects. Lately, however the idea of prudence has been emptied of meaning. Today it is those who are cautious, who hesitate, who do not want to take risks or to expose themselves who are “prudent”. In addition, the tendency to justify this selfish “prudence” which, like sloth, renounces the true and the good, is gaining ground. Prudence as a moral or intellectual virtue which guides us in upright judgement about what we must do is quite another matter. As such, prudence unmasks false reasonings and false truths, it helps us to make choices that aim for both the common and the personal good, it inspires us in the training of young people and supports us in swimming against the tide in the name of goodness and truth.

But this is not all. Like justice, prudence too is spiritualized and – in the Christian view – becomes not only the opposite of “prudence according to the world”, but also and above all the loftiest fulfilment of rational human virtue, because it is illuminated by the Spirit in conformity with Christ. It is not for nothing that Christian Prudence, as Dante portrayed her, is dressed in red, as moreover are the other virtues, Cloaked in charity, she lets herself be guided by Light, or Wisdom, which always goes before us. Thus prudence illuminated by the Spirit becomes a courageous prophetic voice for the world, for women and for the Church. A question of prudence, then as well as of justice?

On the need to know, to be known, to overcome conflicts in society, in marriage, in the family and on the role of women, we host an intervention by the great Israeli writer, Abraham Yehoshua. He speaks of his wife Rivka and of their long marriage. He maintains that the “feminist revolution is the most important revolution in the second half of the 20th century”. 

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 16, 2019

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