I feed Baxter in phases. He gets 1/2 cup of weight reducing kibble twice a day — unfortunately, it doesn’t work at reducing his weight. Each quarter cup is served in two courses, usually separated by some time. You may wonder why I go to all this bother. Well, it wasn’t my idea. I would love to dump a bunch of kibble in the bowl for the day, and let him nibble on it as he fancies. However, I have learned through hard experience that this style just won’t work.
When it comes to food, Baxter’s recessive canine gene kicks in, and he gobbles whole whatever is placed before him. His digestive system though is fully feline, and it rejects this assault on his delicate stomach. The result is a mess.
So I feed Baxter in phases to make his stomach happy and me happy. Smaller portions, spread over time with full nutrition coming through the course of a day is a recipe for success. It takes more effort and discipline on my part, but it makes for a happier and cleaner house.
We might try this approach with other, more significant and meaningful things in our lives. We don’t have to absorb them all at once. We can take them in phases to digest them fully and make them a part of the fabric of our lives. We act prudently to get a full result.
Prudence is a virtue often missed in our dealings in today’s world. We want it all and we want it now. We get easily frustrated with steady progress that takes mini steps. We get excited about a special feast for a holiday, but we may be bored with our daily fare. Still, it is our regular diet that supports our strength and endurance for a healthy life. So with our lives of faith.
Prudence teaches us how to change our character by biting off no more than we can chew, but keeping at it until all the nourishment is eaten. If you want to pray more, pray a little more each day or week. If you want to fast for Lent, don’t starve yourself but cut back on the portions. If you want to be more generous with almsgiving, don’t write one check for $1,000 but ten checks over ten months for $100. If you want to get someone back to church, invite them for a particular Sunday Mass with perhaps breakfast to follow. The little way can make a big difference in time to change our character. Saint Therese of Lisieux knew that well.
Prudence is a measured approach to incorporate into real life what we treasure in the ideal. Our ideals should always be bigger than the conditions and attributes we have and hold right now. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be ideals. But prudence brings these visions of a full life and the values they embody down to earth, and gradually shapes our conditions and character accordingly. So to stop abortions, limit them through education and legislation, and change the conditions that make a person feel desperate about a pregnancy. To stop war, begin to insist that we talk to each other in our families, communities and among the community of nations to work out our problems. To end world hunger, waste less food and prepare more at home, then share the cost difference with a food bank. These practices won’t result in ideal conditions, but they will be better ones than we face now. The true virtue of prudence is not about compromising our ideals, but keeping us on track for getting better at realizing them. When God became incarnate in Christ to save us, He did not effect our salvation in an instant. Jesus took a lifetime and beyond to reveal the Father, for He lived, died, rose and sent forth the Spirit who continues His saving work in us and the world. The ingredients are set. The recipe is clear. They continue to feed us in our time and place until He comes again. This is what we profess at each Eucharist. God’s faithful prudence should inspire our own.
Baxter’s voracious appetite has been tamed by my measured feeding practices. Our appetite for God’s Kingdom on earth needs the discipline of prudence to use the Church’s teachings and practices, to live better lives in a better world. By now, Baxter has learned his feeding routine and resigned himself to it. Maybe we will discover how to be fed by our faith this Lent, and begin the steady path to a happier life.