Letter from Rome: March 2018

By Joshua Dixon

'She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her' (Proverbs 3)

This quotation speaks to us of Wisdom. All of us, no matter our age or position, can think of people who have given us sound advice in moments of decision in our lives. Those people who seem to know the way we should go, or who at the very least provide us with a reliable sounding-board upon which to bounce our ideas, check our perceptions and even voice our dreams.

To be considered wise is a pleasing accolade, something to be admired in a person and an attribute in which we take comfort. But what is wisdom? There is the sort of wisdom that comes from experience and from making mistakes, reflecting over them and learning both what to do and what to avoid in similar future circumstances. Experience is always the fruit of humble reflection – sometimes joyful when things have gone right but often it relates to something painful, since it is in such times that we learn from what has gone wrong.

A humble disposition in our soul is the necessary soil in which Wisdom plants herself and without which she cannot grow.

A basic definition of wisdom, then, includes experience, which is always the fruit of reflection. As the philosopher Socrates puts it: 'The unexamined life is not worth living.'

Yet there is another kind of wisdom, a higher wisdom which includes experience while also going beyond it. This wisdom is a gift of the Lord, the fruit of prayer, the contemplation of beauty, the reading of scripture, and loving one’s neighbour. It is the kind of intuitive knowing that emerges in those who humbly allow the Lord to work graciously on and through their hearts and minds. It is something that we, as believers in Jesus, receive as a grace and from which we gain both peaceful and striking moments of insight.

Solomon the wise, as he was known, prayed for this gift and was given by the Lord 'a wise and discerning heart' (1 Kings 3), something much more valuable than the passing and often burdensome treasures of this world.

The business of a seminarian is to discern prayerfully whether the Lord is calling them to priesthood. The business of every Christian is to discern that to which the Lord is calling them both to be and to do in this life. We need to open our hearts and minds to the Lord in prayer each day – allowing Him to surprise us and speak to us – and to sift through the diverse daily emotions and thoughts we experience.

By doing this, perhaps by spending 10–15 minutes a day in silent prayer, we can let the Holy Spirit, who is identified with Wisdom in the scriptures, inspire us and reveal the direction the Lord wishes us to take. Why not try it and see what the Lord is asking of you?