True Wisdom1. Cicero aptly defined wisdom as that knowledge of the human and of the divine which gives birth to the resolution to imitate the divine and to subordinate all human considerations to the practice of virtue. (Cicero, Tusc., IV, 26)
According to Christian teaching both knowledge and wisdom, properly understood, are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Only the light and grace of the Holy Spirit can enable us to comprehend the truth, which in its plenitude is God Himself, and to appreciate the vanity of human things as long as they are not ordained to their final end, which is God and the everlasting life of happiness.
St. Thomas holds that human and earthly things are the proper object of science, in so far, however, as they ought to be directed towards God. "The man who has a correct approach to science regards creatures as ordained to God, does not value them for more than they are worth, and does not permit them to constitute the purpose of his life." (S. Th., II-II, q.9, a. 4) "All creatures are ordained to God and to His glory," he writes elsewhere, "in that they manifest the divine goodness in themselves; they are, moreover, the means to everlasting happiness." (Q. Q., d.d., De Caritate, q. 1, a. 7)
Nature may be said to be a sacrament which enables us to gain experience of God. (S. Th., III, q. 60, a. 2 ad 1) This is how knowledge becomes wisdom, which is not content merely to have a proper estimation of human objects, but proceeds to penetrate with the assistance of Revelation and of grace into the transcendent mysteries of the Divinity. Wisdom, moreover, guides the will and the heart as well as the intellect. It is practical as well as speculative, for it directs our actions as well as our thoughts towards God. Like the Saints, we should be guided entirely by this true intellectual and practical wisdom. "Grant me, O Lord, celestial wisdom," we should pray with the author of ‘The Imitation of Christ,’ "that I may learn above all things to seek Thee and to find Thee; above all things to relish Thee and to love Thee, and to understand all other things as they are, according to the order of Thy wisdom." (Bk. III, c.27)
2. Today, unfortunately, there is too much store set on material science considered in itself and apart from God. Many people do not regard earthly things as steps which enable them to climb towards God, but as objects desirable in themselves which possess the power to satisfy them both intellectually and sensibly. In fact, they fail to appease their vanity for very long and, if they become attached to them, lead them towards spiritual ruin.
A century ago the French writer, De Maistre, prophesied incalculable evil if men did not return to the ancient values and subordinate knowledge to goodness once more. Because of science, he said, men would become more barbarous than the barbarians. His words have come true in the past few decades. Unbridled science has brought us two world wars and the atom bomb which is now threatening to perpetrate the final destruction of the human race.
3. Let us seek to avert catastrophe in our own individual lives at least. Knowledge is desirable, but only after goodness and humility. Let us remember the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: “All things are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. (1 Cor. 3:22-23)