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The Importance of Friendship

January 27, 2015 by  
Filed under Book Club, Cardinal Virtues, Sarah Reinhard

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The Four Cardinal Virtues (Week 4 of 12)

There is no way of grasping the concreteness of a man's ethical decisions from outside. But no, there is a certain way, a single way: that is through the love of friendship. A friend, and a prudent friend, can help to shape a friend's decision. He does so by virtue of that love which makes the friend's problems his own, the friend's ego his own (so that after all it is not entirely “from outside”). For by virtue of that oneness which love can establish he is able to visualize the concrete situation calling for decision, visualize it from, as it were, the actual center of responsibility. Therefore it is possible for a friend–only for a friend and only for a prudent friend–to help with counsel and direction to shape a friend's decision or, somewhat in the manner of a judge, help to reshape it.

The Four Cardinal Virtues, Prudence, Chapter 3, paragraph 19

The Importance of Friendship

I've been reflecting on the importance of friendship–especially as it relates to women–for quite some time. As a new mom, I found myself relying on friends in whole new ways. As a new Catholic, I found myself needing the friends who had led me to the Church in word and deed. And now, as a whatever-I-am-now (wife, mom, working professional, struggling Catholic, coffee addict, failing daughter, etc.), I find myself very, very, VERY glad for the influence of the holy women and men God has strategically placed in my life.

There's the friend who pointed out to me that my pregnancy ending right on the cusp of Holy Week is sure to give me great graces during Lent. There's the friend who offered to be my accountability partner this year and has already helped me see some gaping holes in my life. There's the dear friend who I talk to daily and who challenges me to walk closer to Jesus through her uncanny suggestions and insights.

And I would be remiss not to mention my husband, though I don't think that's the kind of friend that Pieper means. That said, my husband really does have insight into my life that no one else has.

Without a doubt, God uses the people in my life to get my attention and to draw me into himself. He has gifted me with these genuine and holy friends who have the same eternal goal I do, and who aren't afraid to help me on that difficult path.

Prudence isn't an easy virtue, as we continue to see in these final chapters of this section. I felt a little click with it when I read, just two paragraphs after the section about friends quoted above, this: “And prudence is the perfection of the ability to do, whereas “art” (in St. Thomas's sense) is perfection of the ability to make. “Art” is the “right reason” of making (recta ratio factibilium); prudence is the “right reason” of doing (recto ratio agibilium).

Though we are human beings, as my has spiritual director reminded me repeatedly, doing is an essential part of living. And prudence guides us in that doing.

And our friends, I think, play a more important part in the good practice of prudence than I ever appreciated, for which I can't help but thank God!

Reading Assignment:

Justice, Chapters 1-2

Discussion Questions:

1. Who's a friend who guides you in the virtue of prudence?

2. How can you be or have you been the friend who guides another in the path of virtue?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Sarah Reinhard

Sarah Reinhard continues to delight ”and be challenged by” her vocations of Catholic wife and mother. She's online at SnoringScholar.com and is the author of a number of books for families.

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  • Andy

    The human self, which grows toward perfection by accomplishing the good, is a “work” that surpasses all preconceived blueprints based upon man’s own calculations. (Prudence, Ch. 3)

    I really liked this quotation; it helped me to start wrapping my head around what Prudence is. I’m not sure I fully understand everything Pieper says, but I’m starting to grasp that Prudence is a refocusing of everything in our lives – trying to see the real reality of God around us instead of the temporary reality of the people and things that surround us.

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