Manners: Evidence of the Grace of God?

Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my Walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.

On Monks I did in Storrington fall,
They took me straight into their Hall;
I saw Three Pictures on a wall,
And Courtesy was in them all.

The first the Annunciation;
The second the Visitation;
The third the Consolation,
Of God that was Our Lady’s Son.

The first was of St. Gabriel;
On Wings a-flame from Heaven he fell;
And as he went upon one knee
He shone with Heavenly Courtesy.

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

Our Lady out of Nazareth rode –
It was Her month of heavy load;
Yet was her face both great and kind,
For Courtesy was in Her Mind.

The third it was our Little Lord,
Whom all the Kings in arms adored;
He was so small you could not see
His large intent of Courtesy.

Our Lord, that was Our Lady’s Son,
Go bless you, People, one by one;
My Rhyme is written,
my work is done.

Hilaire Belloc

Comment:

I’ve found myself in several conversations recently about the lack of very elementary good manners which are sadly evident everywhere these days.  Simple things like failing to acknowledge an email  or a text, or to return a telephone call.  I doubt very much if any of the people guilty of such rudeness would dream of ignoring someone who spoke them in their physical presence, but they seem to think it’s acceptable to ignore people who write or telephone.  I can’t see much difference.  I’m not talking about people who don’t reply immediately. I’m referring to those who don’t reply… at all!  

For the record, I remove that minority of contacts who ignore my messages from my email address book – it’s a response based on the age-old adage: don’t get mad, get even!  But note: I won’t be naming anyone in this thread, and I don’t want anyone else to do so either.

The focus of the discussion is this: did Hilaire Belloc get it right – IS the grace of God found in courtesy?  Or is he confusing “grace” with social convention?

83 responses

  1. I love that poem by Belloc, and I think he got it exactly right. How can a rude person be in a state of grace?

    The bad manners I hate are when someone speaks down to me, putting me down and I hate when I see it happening to other people as well.

    Maybe it’s down to earth matters like good manners that need preaching about, instead of always dogmas. Some can easily say they believe in the Assumption of Our Lady but then go on to insult their neighbour, which shows a definite lack of grace, no matter how much knowledge they have.

    • Laura,

      I have witnessed that “speaking down” to someone, and it is really horrible. It’s also embarrassing for those of us who are present. It’s very difficult to know how to deal with it on the spot. I’ve opted to try to create a diversion in the past, change the subject or whatever. And I have always tried to praise the victim in the hearing of the nasty A.N. Other, for whom I feel NO personal respect whatsoever.

  2. Laura

    I always try and be polite and mannerly but if someone tries to talk down to me I immediately give them a dose of their own medicine. I’m not saying I’m right but I just can’t ignore it.

    What about those for whom you hold a door open for a number of seconds and they march right through as if it was your duty?

    • Frankier,

      I can see how you would be tempted to act in the same way but isn’t that what we are not supposed to do? Aren’t we supposed to turn the other cheek, and offer up insults like that? I know it’s easier said than done – LOL!

      With all due respect, Editor, I’d say the same about emails/phone calls that are not answered. Unless they do require an answer for practical reasons, I’d say you have to just offer up the insult.

      It really is ignorant to let a man (usually, it’s a man) hold open a door for a good few minutes, and everyone just march through. I do try to take my turn for a few minutes when I see that happening. There is a lot of ignorance about, and I do think it is showing loss of grace.

      • Lily,

        The kind of emails etc. to which I refer, ARE the kind which require a reply. I wouldn’t care (probably wouldn’t remember) if I sent a “touching base” type of message, which I occasionally do, and it was ignored. I know my friends, and I know that they will send ME a “touching base” communication when time permits. I’m just astonished when people ignore a message which contains a direct question, for example. I think that is very bad manners indeed, and, as Belloc says, “the grace of God is found in courtesy”. Without wishing to be judgemental, therefore, I can’t help quoting our American cousins – “go figure”.

    • Frankier,

      “What about those for whom you hold a door open for a number of seconds and they march right through as if it was your duty?”

      You mean, it’s NOT your duty? I thought that’s what men were supposed to do in shops. Otherwise, why are they there?

      Anyway, here’s a tip to put a stop to that endless holding open doors for folks – I suggest you put up a sign – this one would do nicely…

      • Editor

        That sign reminds of the welcome you should give to an unwanted visitor by telling them to “come in and make yourself at home where you should be”.

      • Editor, if I hold the door open for someone and they walk through without saying anything I say “thank you for holding the door open for me.” It usually makes them feel bad. Another thing that annoys me are people who enter through a door as I am trying to exit. It was always the case that people coming out a door had right of way over those who were entering.

  3. In my opinion good manners are all part of consideration and respect for others. It is more than mere social convention. And one thing I really hate is unpunctuality. I am sure we all know people who are always late for everything. And what they are saying to the people they keep waiting is that their time is more important than the people they inconvenience. Every week I go to a small French class in our village and every week without fail the same person is about ten minutes late. If she really respected the group and the teacher this would not happen. Some people are always late for Mass. what does this say about the the importance they place on it? Not a lot.

    • Elizabeth,

      “Unpunctuality” – snap!

      In my youth, I had a friend who was always late when we arranged to meet in town. There were no mobile phones in those days so when we made arrangements to meet, I would be at the arranged spot on time and she would be late – sometimes very late. Then I’d see her head bobbing up and down in the crowd, as she approached me with a wide grin, saying “I see you’re early again”… which used to drive me crazy!

  4. I think it was St.Francis de Sales who said “There is nothing more edifying to our neighbour as gentleness of behaviour” but that was easy for him to say (and practise to a heroic degree) as he didn’t have to contend with the modern world and the people what are in it!

    I could end my post just there but of course I don’t doubt that his gentle courtesy would withstand the buffeting of even this day and age. St.Francis definitely thought about manners in the same way as Hilaire Belloc and recognised their spiritual link/dimension as when St.Jane Frances de Chantal first came to see him in his study and told him she wanted to get closer to God, he said to her in all seriousness, “Well, you could start by closing the door more gently.” For some however (and I include myself in ‘some’) gaining such mastery over oneself that you remain courteous and composed in the face of thoughtless or rude treatment can be a lifetime’s project. One of my pet peeves is when you’re walking along a relatively narrow pavement and the person coming towards you makes little or no effort to supply an equal right of way – I have to remind myself sometimes to give them the benefit by taking into account that I’m a fast walker and perhaps I don’t allow them enough time to take evasive action but it ain’t easy. I suppose a lot of it is down to pride pure and simple whereby we can be ever ready to respond to any perceived slight or poor treatment, no matter how minor. For an example of heavenly courtesy though, we need look no further than Our Lady’s third apparition at Lourdes when she asked St.Bernadette “Will you do me the favour of coming here for a fortnight?” Not “You are to…” or even “I would like you to…” but the Mother of God requested a ‘favour’ from a poor peasant girl.

    Anyway, as Attila the Hun said, ‘Manners maketh man’ so I’m off to do some serious pleading for a heart with even just a few parts meekness and humility per million.

    (I hope Laura’s not right, by the way, and that rudeness of the habitual or easily provoked kind isn’t a sign of a soul in deep trouble but can be more indulgently ascribed to a character defect which for all we know, the person concerned may be desperately trying to rectify but more often than not failing in the attempt(s).

    • Spudeater,

      Yours is a very insightful comment, much as it maddens me to say so 😀

      This observation hit me where it hurts (my conscience): ” I suppose a lot of it is down to pride pure and simple whereby we can be ever ready to respond to any perceived slight or poor treatment, no matter how minor.

      I’m still working on the tendency to go to all lengths to prove myself right about this, that or the other, often very trivial matters. Here’s a recent example.

      A friend from my youth got in touch with me out of the blue and we arranged a reunion. She brought some photos which included my glamorous self at 21 years of youth. It was taken at her 21st birthday party and a few of us were holding a glass of some kind of drink. Mine, of course, would have been milk…

      I could see something sticking out of the glass so presumed it to be a straw. To my amazement, nobody else could see anything sticking out of the glass. Well. I asked everyone I could think of to check the photo (including Athanasius and others who attend the same Mass as I do) but when nobody could see anything in the glass, I went to Tesco and had the photo enlarged. Still most couldn’t see anything (although the man in the photo shop said he could see what I meant but he thought it was just the light reflecting on the glass, but at least he could see something, so I began to breathe easily again… outright madness had been ruled out, at last. I wasn’t seeing things, imagining things, phew! )

      Eventually, my search for soulmates ended when two different, unconnected people to whom I showed the photo, saw what I could see, so I let the matter drop. Cost me £2.50 to have that photo enlarged, but it was worth every penny 😀

      Pride, you say? Well, yes, but, you see..

      • Yes indeed Margaret. And it’s sad to think that when he was young, he wanted to be a children’s author before his parents pushed him into pursuing a career in guerrilla warfare instead.

        • You can’t blame them too much, Spudeater, after he was such a failure at the 3 year acting course they funded.

  5. Good manners are a basic manifestation of treating others as we would have them treat us.

    What interests me about manners is how they seem to be different in different contexts.

    For example: if you briefly hesitated as to which way to turn in a supermarket aisle, causing a person to abruptly stop behind you – they would smile and make no big deal out of it.

    But, outside in the car park, if you briefly hesitated at a junction when driving, that same person would be screaming for your blood in the car behind you. Its remarkable what getting into a car does to the human psyche and how we then perceive and treat others.

    “Road rage” is a new term, but the phenomenon is not a new thing – as a child I remember seeing an “old” cartoon (maybe from the 50s) about how a nice man turned into a “Mr Hyde” type character when driving. (I remember it so well as the driver was scary to a child!).

    This ‘different manners for different contexts’ now also manifests in modern emails and text messages. While it would be considered rude to ignore a question, or delay answering, in “real life”, it seems to be accepted than one can reply to texts and emails at their own leisure.

    When I was younger, this would drive me insane, but now as a father I do sympathise with it slightly more as I feel busy a lot more. But the questions remains – from where does this different etiquette come from?

    In a sense it works both ways – as well as choosing to delay answering, many people will sometimes choose less personal means of communication (email / text) to deliver bad news or broach a difficult topic.

    I admit I do dislike this new world of constant communication and information – I often feel assailed by it and think that it would take over your life, if you allowed it to.

    I heard on the radio recently that many people feel depressed if parted from their mobile phone for even a brief period. In contrast, I detest my mobile phone, they are the worst things ever invented in my opinion. Its nice to put it down for a while and think your thoughts, or do some activity in peace, but when you pick it up again its missed calls / missed texts etc and you regret ever going back to it haha!

    So, I do agree with the premise of the article that good manners are often lacking in the modern day – you should meet my mother-in-law, talk about pig ignorant – but I do think that these new modes of communications have somehow given rise to different forms of manners for their own context.

    This is the reality, but that doesn’t mean its a good thing – perhaps one factor is the sheer volume of texts and emails that people can receive. Whereas, in “real life”, you can’t have more than one conversation at once.

  6. I forgot to say, in my previous job, (10-12 years ago), I actually got into trouble for being polite in the work place.

    I remember my Boss of the time took me aside and asked why I was always saying “please / thank you / excuse me” etc to people (especially to those on the “shop floor”). He said it would make me look “weak” / a soft touch.

    I thought that was absolutely remarkable and I don’t think I have ever quite gotten over it!

    I did thank him for his concern – haha! 😉

    • Gabriel Syme,

      That’s not uncommon, the belief that being gentle or polite is a sign of weakness.
      It IS remarkable, though – truly remarkable – that anyone could think like that, but it does happen. I’ve witnessed it more than once.

      Thanking your boss for his “concern” (over your politeness) is just priceless!

      But just think – if we lived in England, it would be much worse…

  7. I think it would be helpful to distinguish different types of contact and communication.

    For instance internet chat rooms are notable for fleeting visits and comments; folk post on the run, may or may not have time to engage fully in discussion but wanted to make a point, have more or less time than others etc. It is very much public and usually a comment made to a person is by medium, made to the whole forum/public.

    A personal text or phone call, letter or individual email is much more directed and private and is likely to receive a reply. (spam examples aside)

    I do think it smacks of pride to expect replies on internet forums. People often make comments and may not return to the site for weeks or ever, whilst others may have made the comment when they had some free time but are now prioritising other things and do not get back to carry on the conversation.

    Moreover for humility, someone might want to disengage from a discussion that is leading them towards prideful acts.

    So unfortunately pride is at the root of much of this: some people just have to defend their position at all costs, whether good or bad, whilst others just have to have the last say at all costs.

    Furthermore internet forums tend to take on a whole parochial pack mentality in many cases and pride again inspires people to jump to defend or attack on the basis of none other than allegiance.

    Manners therefore works both ways. To presume that a lack of communication is bad manners is presumptuous at least.

    This of course depends on the person involved.If I was to phone my mother (God rest her Soul) and she did not reply for a day or two, I would not consider it bad manners, but I would be alarmed and investigate why she had not returned/answered my call.

    This attitude with close kin might be at least spun out to a degree in all our communications. If someone does not return a message/call/post then we might just let it be and be at peace with them and ourselves.

    Pride lies at the heart of all sin.

    I for one struggle with pride so I know what I’m talking about in my own case. I have read recently Humility of the Heart by Fr. Cajetan de Bergamo and it is probably one of the best (and scariest) spiritual lessons I have had.

    God bless.

    • Summa,

      I’ve never felt drawn to internet chat rooms or other types of social media. Blogging here (and occasionally elsewhere, if I stumble across an article that I think calls for comment) is about as much as I can manage. I do try to always respond to comments which are addressed to me, but I confess that I don’t always do so timeously. I’ve sometimes found an unanswered comment on a particular topic very late in the day, and then, often only write a brief apology, on the basis that it’s a cut above completely ignoring the comment altogether!

      However, I do agree that, in any case, that sort of thing is not as rude as ignoring a private email, text or phone call. Given the volume of comments on a blog and the speed with which a discussion can grow legs, so to speak, it is understandable that someone may overlook a reply or a request for a reply. That excuse doesn’t wash with an email or other private communication however – especially a communication seeking information or perhaps an RSVP to an invitation of some kind.

      In my own case, I just try to keep my expectations low. These days, when I send emails to certain people, for example, I put them out of my mind because I know I am unlikely to receive a reply… Or, put another way, I tell myself to…

    • Summa

      I agree with you about pride. I don’t think any of us can say with honesty that we are free from this destructive root of all sin. We have to constantly beware that it is not colouring our every thought and opinion. That’s why we, as Traditional Catholics, should confine ourselves to the Traditional teaching of the Church in spiritual matters that we are not clear about, or not sufficiently schooled in. It is when we express personal opinions, or those of so-called experts in their field, that we run the risk of entrenching ourselves in error. It’s a very common disease in these liberal intellectual times.

      I don’t agree with you about Internet forums, however. As far as I’m concerned there is an even greater need for Catholics to display good manners and courtesy on these public platforms, by the very reason that they are public. I would not make a comment on a public forum if I knew beforehand that I was unlikely to be able to answer respondents, however silly or banal I thought their replies.

      We have a duty as Catholics to respectfully instruct and correct each other in matters concerning the faith, and yes, to stick to our position throughout if we have the truth and the evidence at hand to prove it. I’ve never personally been a fan of “agreeing to disagree” when it comes to truth, although I have given place, and even accepted correction, in matters of personal opinion. None of us is infallible, as I’m sure you will readily admit.

      No, communication with other people, by whatever medium, demands at all times the greatest courtesy and good manners. People do expect public forum responses to be answered in the same way their letters or emails would be answered, even if it takes a few days. If we are not prepared to make time to correspond in this manner then we would be better not to post comments in the first place to avoid offence. Why engage with others when we know that we have neither the time nor inclination to afford them the courtesy of a fruitful and respectful exchange? That could be taken as someone who holds his opinion as superior and beyond further discussion. I’m sure you can see this.

      • Athanasius,

        I think you are right to say that we must constantly guard against pride. It is destructive. I think regular confession helps with this. I know when I examine my conscience I realise I have nothing to be proud about!

        • Petrus

          Yes, I think we can all say the same about ourselves. And you’re right about regular confession to combat pride. I remember a saint (can’t remember who) saying that sin is a great act of pride which is outweighed by the humility of gong to confession.

  8. Courtesy and good manners are very much a manifestation of the grace of God in a soul. There is no story in the Gospels of a sinner approaching Our Lord and being met with anything but the kindest fatherly care.

    I suppose we have all failed at times to live up to this standard, to the Divine Command to love our neighbour as ourselves and not to do to others what we would not have them do to us, and it is scandalous. A kindly, patient and courteous person always impresses us, whether we admit it or not. The opposite, sadly, is also true, and often with very harmful results, especially if the offender is a priest or religious.

    There seems to be a great loss of courtesy and good manners in our time, this is evident even at the highest levels of journalism where interviewers interrogate rather than interview their guests, constantly interrupting and harranguing them when they are trying to answer questions. There was an interview with Bishop Fellay not so long ago in which a famous secular journalist behaved in a manner that would have seen him sacked from his job just a few decades ago. Utterly disrespectful of the office of the one he quizzed, and with no little arrogance. It was embarassing.

    But the harm done to feelings by secular bad manners and absence of courtesy are as nothing in comparison with the damage done to souls by the clerical equivalent.

    It’s called “clericalism”, a prideful disposition that makes a priest imagine himself superior to the sinners under his care, with a right to treat them as contumeleously as he pleases. I have personally experienced this many times in my life, it’s like a sickness of these Modernist times, and I can testify to how damaging it is.

    The most recent personal example is when I wrote to a diocesan bishop with evidence that a priest under his jurisdiction was using his weekly column in a well-known “Catholic” paper to spread heresy and moral dissent. I sent plenty of evidence of this, knowing that others had previously written with evidence of their own. The bishop’s response was silence! Not a single note to acknowledge receipt of my letter, and that priest continues in his destructive work unrestrained. Now that is truly scandalous. How can such a bishop have the glory of God and the salvation of souls at heart? As far as he’s concerned, I’m a trouble maker not worthy of the least courtesy. Shocking!

    I have experienced this many times at the hands of both bishops and priests, who place their own convenience, opinions or partisan affections before the good of the souls under their care. This usually results in not answering correspondence, being generally dismissive when approached, sometimes insultingly so, and/or outrightly agressive. If they only knew before God the damage they do by this Pharisaical behaviour. They give rise to divisions, resentment and discouragment, to name but a few of the bitter fruits of their bad mannered and discourteous disposition. For me, it would have been better that such men had never entered the seminary.

    I’m always acutely aware of the importance of the priest’s influence on his flock, how, as the saint says, his example can sanctify, make indifferent or destroy the souls given to his care. That’s why we should always pray for priests that they never fall into harshness in their treatment of others, but rather, like the Divine Saviour Himself, be always ready to deal equally with all in charity, patience and understanding, correcting when necessary with firm but kind instruction. Cutting souls off in discourteous silence is not of God, it’s of the devil and it greatly harms religion. The harsh priest will be harshly judged, as will all who deal discourteously with others.

    Truth and holiness are so much more easily instilled in souls when priests are meek and humble of heart; caring for all their flock with concern for both their spiritual and material wellbeing. That’s the compassion that drew tens of thousands to Our Lord and caused the saints to be venerated even in life.

    As for this modern secular world, I’m afraid good manners and courtesy have become more the exception than the rule, a clear sign that the charity and graciousness of Our Lord is dying in many souls.

    • Athanasius,

      Well said.

      I, too, have written politely to the same bishop about the same scandalous priest, and received no acknowledgement.

      Then, when others spoke with him to express their concerns and ask why he was not instructing that priest to stop his attacks on Catholic teaching and morals, said bishop asked for “evidence” – which you, I and others have sent him by the truckload.

      So, aside from the manifest lack of courtesy in ignoring correspondence, we have a case, here, of apparent dishonesty, always allowing for the possibility that all our letters, sent by various people and from various locations, failed to arrive on his desk.

      It’s the way I tell ’em…

  9. While I’m thinking of something intelligent and relevant to post about this topic, I thought I’d do a little basic research on the subject of “genteel manners.” This turned up a few very interesting links, including:

    1.An article called “The Genteel Republic,” about the concerns of the Founding Fathers of America regarding the preservation of principles and morals in the early Republic (“The Founders feared that refinement and democracy were contradictory”): http://wilsonquarterly.com/quarterly/winter-2014-four-decades-of-classic-essays/the-genteel-republic/ This article includes a link to another book called 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, based on the work of French Jesuits from 1585.

    2. Here is the link to that second book, which George Washington was apparently required, as a boy, to copy out by hand: http://www.foundationsmag.com/civility.html (includes many rules about table etiquette).

    3. Here’s a book from 1758, The Polite academy, or Complete instructions for a genteel behaviour and polite address in masters and misses : serving as a foundation for the manners and behaviour of an accomplish’d gentleman or lady in any stage of life, and the link (these are photographs of each page): http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/ref/collection/MSS/id/43298

    4. And finally, this little tidbit from a website called “The World of the Hapsburgs”: http://www.habsburger.net/en/chapter/refined-manners-and-genteel-conduct

    Meanwhile, I shall puff on my pipe and contemplate, with a view to another post, on the manners characteristic of the Social Reign of Christ the King vs. the manners characteristic of the New World Order, and the reasons for the stark and irreconcilable differences between them…

  10. Thank you for the magnificent post. Fr. Yves Le Roux mentioned in one of his letters that “Courtesy is the flower of charity.” (I’d have to look up his original letter from St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary to find out the source of the quote.)

  11. This thread has reminded me of a little something I stored away of my professional life.
    I taught R E, though not as a specialist, just a willing volunteer.
    The head of Department was about five feet tall, a long time widow, parent and grandparent.
    When youngsters came the door of her department for materials for class teachers, they came in all shapes and sizes, and too often the badly behaved, whom teachers were glad to be free of for five minutes! Non teachers, trust me, it happens!
    If the supplicants at the lady’s door had hands in their pockets, or slouched, or missed a “please ” or just suggested even in body language that they did not exude respect, Mrs G would just say the words ” YOU mind your manners. ” slowly and firmly.
    Six feet guys, long haired, insolent “look at me” 4th year madams quailed.
    Was it the tone? Or was it a reminder of something else? Had a Gran or a parent once asked that of them? That they were supposed to be well mannered: and they had forgotten, until Mrs G reminded them?
    I’ll never forget the effect it had on these children.

    • Spero, that’s interesting, and reminds me of my experience at the school where I worked, not as a teacher. I would often go to reception and interact with the pupils, and always insisted that they said “please” and “thank you”. 99% usually got the message pretty quickly when they saw my forbidding visage, and didn’t need much prompting, but the other 1% were the most rewarding, from my point of view. They had clearly never been taught basic manners, and I would do a little act for them, demonstrating their attitude, and then the “correct” one, and asked them which behaviour would most impress them if they were giving someone a job. They always got the point, and it became a fun exercise with them seeing which one could outdo the others in manners and presentation.

  12. And as an afterthought, in view of the the thread’s title, could it be, that as the head of the Religious Education Department, the grace of a God was indeed working through Mrs. G, and the dear little kids(even at six feet tall) sussed it ( let’s face it: they suss everything else ) and trembled before it?

  13. It is entirely possible for a rude fellow to not only be in a state of Grace but to be particularly close to God. Have you never heard of the “Holy Fool” in Russian Christianity? What about an inmate of a mental hospital? He might be raving, but he might be very close indeed to Our Lord.

    We really must try to understand the difference between culture and the effects of Grace. Granted, one wouldn’t expect one in a state of Grace to be using foul language. No, I am not referring to that. Surely the effects of Grace are seen in a gentleness of nature, in a softened heart, in a shining that comes outwards from the soul. A sensitivity too of character (that wasn’t there before) I think is also a likely effect of Grace. But the proper use of a knife or fork, or a belch after the soup course (deemed good manners in some cultures) are not part I think of the measurement of Grace.

    Look rather to the holiness of a person.

    • Bencjcarter

      The manners we’re discussing are not so much table manners as a kindly and gracious disposition. I don’t agree that angry, rude people are close to God, it goes against everything that Our Lord exemplified in the Gospels and it contradicts what the saintly writers tell us in the various spiritual books. No, bad manners, harshness and a generally dismissive comportment are all signs that someone needs to up their spiritual life significantly.

        • Benedict,

          Someone can be lacking knowledge of social niceties such as table manners, through no fault of his/her own. That’s not being rude.

          I remember a teaching colleague of mine who arranged for a little tea party in her classroom for some of her poor ability pupils. Part of her reason was to teach them some basic table manners, since they were from homes where the family just didn’t sit down together to eat – TV meals, I believe they’re called, were the norm.

          The children weren’t rude (at least not during the tea party! They were delighted to have the experience,and the goodies!) but they clearly didn’t know some, or most, of the elementary rules.

          It’s not about having a “different understanding of the term ‘good manners'” but about recognising how to distinguish knowledge of social conventions from deliberate rudeness. Someone who doesn’t know that they should say “please” when asking for the salt to be passed along, is quite different from someone who chooses to ignore correspondence which requires an answer. Of course, if said person also chooses to yell “give us the salt, you” with the deliberate aim of offending, then he/she is being rude, so its really not about “table manners” but about elementary good manners; speaking with respect to someone, not being rude.

          • Did either you or Athanasius actually read my post?

            “Surely the effects of Grace are seen in a gentleness of nature, in a softened heart, in a shining that comes outwards from the soul. A sensitivity too of character (that wasn’t there before) I think is also a likely effect of Grace.”

            My point, one that clearly hasn’t been understood, is that what some people here describe as “good manners” is NOT a result of Grace but mere “good manners” which is a natural good that even the pagans and unbelievers can show.

            “Holiness” is what we should be talking about.

            • BCJC

              You’re confusing the issue. If a person has gentleness of nature, a softened heart and a sensitivity of character according to grace, then he will be patient, kind and well mannered. That, for me, is quite obvious.

              • I am confusing nothing, merely pointing out the obvious: that in the things I listed is found HOLINESS. And holiness is what matters – all else follows. It was the great error of the “English gentleman” and a sclerotic Anglican Church to think that Christianity is good manners. It isn’t. Holiness first, courtesy follows.

                You appear to be conflating the two. Therefore sort out your own confusion before accusing others.

                • Benedict,

                  So someone who insults people and is rude at every turn – we’re not talking about an occasional slip up, say in anger – is someone who is consciously seeking holiness?

                  Well, we’ve had all the rest of the “news” and there’s a new one every day. Now we have a new philosophy of holiness! I’m getting to like this new religion. It’s exciting! Fun! Much better than that old stuff about personal sacrifice, being silent in the face of …er… rudeness, offering up insults etc. No, this one is much better. Be rude away there, you’ll become holy anyway. Love it!

                  Yip, count me in, you clown, stupid idiot, thicko – I LIKE this new road to holiness 😀

                  • Editor

                    There’s no reply button below, so I’m replying here.

                    I’m sure Hitler was very sociable and courteous, doesn’t mean he was holy

                • Benedict Carter

                  Sounds like your manners are a bit rusty. I can see why you don’t want them associated with grace.

                  • Are you and Editor being deliberately obtuse? I think so.

                    Holiness comes first. Manners MAY BE a mark of holiness building up within a soul, but are not necessarily be due to holiness at all, but to culture.

                    We surely agree that a holy person will be a courteous person. That is self-evident! I am warning against identifying “good manners” with holiness. They are different things. And that difference seems to have been lost on this thread.

                    Many Traditionalists speak most courteously, but wouldn’t lift a finger to help you. I’ll take the helper rather than the one of lordly speech, thanks. And I think Our Lord will too.

                    • Benedict,

                      Nowhere have I, or anyone else, said that a courteous person is by definition a holy person. Never thought that, never said it. Someone may be courteous through concern to comply with social convention, or what you term “culture”. They may, or may not be on the road to holiness – being well mannered towards others is a necessary first step.

                      Because, what is very clear is that a rude person is, by definition NOT holy.

                      Who was it said: how can you love your Father in Heaven whom you do not see, but hate your brother whom you DO see?

                      If there is a dislike of anyone, a person seriously striving for holiness will hide the fact, and will certainly not treat that person rudely.

                      St Therese of Lisieux became so successful at hiding her dislike of a particular Sister in the convent, that when she, Therese, died, the Sister expressed surprise that for some reason Sister Therese had had a special liking for her!

                      THAT, Benedict, is holiness.

  14. Courtesy seems to have diminished very rapidly in society in recent years, just as selfishness and narcissism has grown very rapidly in the ‘me’ generation(s). What, other than complete self-centeredness, is at the root of all the discourtesies mentioned – failure to answer letters and emails, being late for appointments, and so on? And, as being centered on self is the complete absence of charity, then courtesy shows its presence in the soul and Belloc was spot on.

    I’m most aware of the increase of selfishness in general when driving – which I do a lot daily. If you have been driving for a long time, then the rapid changes are quite startling. Take joining an M-way. It used to be the case that people matched speed on approach and slotted in behind an appropriate vehicle. Now many seem hell-bent on racing to get in in front of any vehicle already there – it happens even if there’s nothing behind that vehicle, and then they cut straight over to the outside lane. Why? I suppose it’s ME- I must be ahead of everyone else. And don’t leave a safe gap in slow-moving traffic or lane-hoppers will be in (no request by signal) just to gain a few feet on the next man – oops, or woman. And what about those streets full of parked cars, so you courteously flash lights to give right of way to an oncoming vehicle which sails through without a thank-you flash or wave. Worse, sometimes there’s a queue of them following and taking advantage of your kindness/weakness, and even if the first one thanks, the followers rarely do.

    It’s very noticeable these days that children in supermarkets are always clamouring ‘I WANT’, but never now say ‘Mummy, please can I have’ and when given, they so often snatch without a word of thanks. Hardly the little children’s fault. Today in Tesco I nearly dropped a box of eggs when a small boy accidentally knocked me with a trolley and said ‘Sorry’!

    So now I’ll go away and wonder if it would have been more meritorious for me not to have had this rant at all. O dear!

    • Vianney,

      That video was really funny. I did get a great laugh at that. It could be any parish, true enough. Only six minutes long, it’s really worth watching, everyone. Thanks for making me laugh heartily this evening!

  15. I forgot to say I specially laughed at the way Mrs Armstrong refused to move up the bench. That is so typical of a lot of people where I go to Mass. You’d think they’d bought their seat with a lifetime guarantee, LOL!

    • Vianney,

      Great video! I could think of our “Mrs Armstrong” right away! The whole thing was very comical. Great fun – thanks for posting it.

      • Editor, if it’s the person I think it is, I was told that on one occasion a family of six arrived very early at the Glasgow chapel and were the first in. “Mrs Armstrong” came in next and despite every other bench being empty proceeded to try to enter the one where the family were. The father of the family said to her that he didn’t think there was any room in the bench to which “Mrs Armstrong” retorted “this my seat.”

        I’ve actually realised that I have been in the chapel on the video. It is St. Kevin’s Oratory in Dublin. It’s attached to the Pro-Cathedral and can be entered either through the cathedral or by it’s own door in the lane behind.

  16. I think the disappearance of manners and courtesy can be traced, as some bloggers have already intimated, directly to the disappearance of Christianity (i.e. the “Social Reign of Christ the King”) and its replacement by Marxist collectivism, i.e. a ruthless atheistic tyranny. On an individual level, this has resulted in looking at the world through the eyes of self, rather than through the eyes of Faith.

    As Fr. DeLallo points out in the first chapter of his The Sword of Christendom, this process has occurred in three stages:

    1. “The removal of Christ from the hearts of men,” via the so-called “Enlightenment” and the deification of reason and man. Who were the icons of this first stage? Martin Luther and King Henry VIII: that is, two self-indulgent pigs.
    2. “The removal of Christ from Society, i.e. from the State,” otherwise known as the “separation of Church and State.” What was the benchmark of this stage? The French Revolution (prepared psychologically by Luther and Rousseau, and enabled by the failure of Louis XIV to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus), a bloodbath of bestiality and terror.
    3. “The removal of Christ from His Church,” which occurred through the subversion of the Church from within . Benchmark: Vatican II. Man can no longer look to the Church as an anchor, a guide, a safe harbor, an ark, because the Church has surrendered to man. Man now has nowhere to turn except to himself, and to the pervasive organs of propaganda which tell him what to think.

    In a Catholic society, the faithful instinctively looked to the Church and thus to Heaven to find their place in the world, and to save their souls as well as the souls of their fellow creatures. The operative psychology, for the individual in a Catholic society, proceeds from grace and humility. But the New World Order has its own operative psychology at the individual level, which is a prerequisite for tyranny: in order for tyranny to be successful above, one must have anarchy below. The “Enlightened Despots,” starting with Frederick the Great, understood this. Going further into the psychology of man, how does one create anarchy? By creating narcissism: the world revolves around me; me and my beliefs and lifestyle, no matter how bizarre or perverse, are more important than anyone else’s.

    We have seen how anarchy works at the social level: everyone is allegedly supposed to be offended by everyone else, and the only impediment to anarchy, which are the beliefs, practices and structures of the traditional social order, are to be ridiculed and torn down. How can civility, courtesy, trust possibly exist in such a state? They can’t – which is exactly the point, since lack of civility requires repression by the State in order to achieve conformity. Anarchy must be controlled once created.

    • RCA Victor,

      “In a Catholic society, the faithful instinctively looked to the Church and thus to Heaven to find their place in the world…”

      I think that “looking to the Church and Heaven” is the key, as you say, to being civil, good manners etc.

      Nobody who is genuinely “Catholic” could possibly be deliberately rude. Obviously, there might be occasions in discussion or debate, heated conversation when someone will speak rashly, but that again is in a different category altogether from the calculated rudeness of ignoring people, whether in person or by unanswered correspondence.

      Many thanks for the wonderful meditation comment 😀

  17. Tue humility according to one theologian means being yourself i.e. a unique creation of God. We can easily confuse civility with a lack of integrity. The Gospel tells us we are to say yes when we mean yes and no when we mean no and Isiah warns us ‘woe to those who call good evil and evil good’. Christ’s civility to his Father included turning the tables over in the temple and calling others a brood of vipers etc.

    We all find it easy to avoid the truth as misguided politeness and according to the penny catechism silence is one of the nine ways we can share in the guilt of another’s sin. One of the sins I confess is allowing moral cowardice to mask itself as prudence. As one eminent pro-life priest warns sometimes silence is not golden its yellow. One of the most effective popes Pius X1 had a style which included holding a cleric by his beard to emphasise his point, sacking a cardinal for disobedience and frightening Goering by his very presence.

    Christina you and fellow bloggers should not be shopping in Tesco. The only ethical Supermarket is Aldi. All the rest sell either condoms and or child killing abortifacients which means customers subsidise the provision of these death dealing products.

    Love and prayers,

    Liam

    • Liam

      Do you drive a car? If so then you shouldn’t go near any filling station because they all sell condoms. Do you visit a pharmacy? Then you shouldn’t because they all sell condoms. Do you go to a doctor when you’re sick? You shouldn’t because he’s pro-contraception. You see how extreme such a position can become?

      We do not share in these sins simply because we have to fill our cars with fuel, buy our goods fromTesco, visit a doctor and get our prescriptions from the local pharmacy. God is not unjust. Sin has to be entertained in the heart and wilfully entered into if it is to be sin, especially mortal sin.

  18. To Athanasius:

    Yes I drive a car. I have found a garage that doesn’t sell condoms and after weekly dialogue with staff and owners they now no longer sell pornography or have pornographic calendars in the workshop. There is a crucial conceptual and spiritual distinction between going to a pharmacy or doctor because there you have no choice. However where you do have a choice i.e. supermarkets I repeat you should only shop at Aldi the only ethical supermarket. It is clear and not a form of extremism to avoid avoidable occasions of sin and avoidable sins themselves especially serious sins like supermarkets which sell child killing abortifacients. A local orthodox pious priest recently commented in a sermon on 40 days for life that as well as protesting outside abortion clinics we should be protesting outside supermarkets and ‘Boots’ who also facilitate abortions through abortifacient provision.

    Love and Prayers,

    Liam

    • Liam

      You have found a garage that doesn’t sell pornography etc because you have have a dialogue with the owners? Fabulous, and congratulations on a job well done. Where is this garage, and to whom do we write to congratulate and encourage them?

    • Liam Jenkinson

      Like Therese, I congratulate you in the matter of convincing the staff at that garage to stop selling pornography, etc. That is very good indeed.

      However, to suggest that Catholics should boycott every outlet today that sells contraceptives and pornography is not, and has never been, the teaching of the Church. The Church is quite clear that it is a mortal sin for Catholics to purchase or use these evils, as it is for those who sell them, but there is no sin involved in purchasing legitimate necessities from these outlets. Unless you can quote me some Magisterial teaching to the contrary then I am obliged to advise you that your opinion is personal and puritanical, much more likely to turn people against Catholicism than towards it.

      Hearts won’t be softened by condemnation but by patient and charitable correction, such as in the case of your garage owner. Our Lord in the Gosples is frequently accused by the Pharisees of eating and drinking with sinners, yet He never alters His compassionate association with them in the hope of winning them back to goodness. That’s the view we should have as Catholics, not the Pharisaical one. As I said before, the teaching of the Church is that where there is no intent to commit grave sin, there is no sin. Your understanding of occasions of sin and what constitutes participation in sin is erroneous, I’m afraid.

      Besides all that, it is simply not practical for everyone to go looking for shops that don’t sell pornography and/or contraceptives. The suggestion is actually ridiculous, as is the declaration that it’s ok to make use of pro-contraceptive doctors and pharmacies because there are no alternatives. The moral principle either applies across the board or is doesn’t. If you’re right then there can be no compromise whatsoever with evil under any pretext. Thatnkfully, you’re very wrong on this one.

    • Liam,

      I fear you have created a false dichotomy between good manners and integrity. There should be no such separation. The two go hand in hand – they are not mutually exclusive.

      Having had several conversations with you on the telephone, I think of you as a quintessential English gentleman (rather like Elizabeth’s husband, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at our June Conference).

      So you see, you are, yourself, clear evidence that there is no such “gap” between being a courteous person and being a person of integrity.

      Even if you hadn’t told us that you engaged in “weekly dialogue” (presumably over a period of some time, with the garage owner) I could bet a small fortune (which is about all the “fortune” I’ve got!) that you did not go barging into the garage, demanding that the owner mend his ways and remove pornographic material on the double.

      Our Lord instructed us to “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Hence, we aim to be both courteous and persons of integrity.

      Easy… I wish!

  19. Liam,

    Whilst I admire your stand and would characterise your position as extremely principled rather than extreme, the ultimate practicalities of its consistent implementation would be beyond all but a tiny fraction of faithful Catholics. If Aldi joined all other supermarkets tomorrow in supporting the culture of death and even if you were then in a position to own a goat (or better still a cow) and grow all your own food, it still leaves the thorny question of what is done with your tax and National Insurance contributions (I’m assuming you’re a taxpayer). The last letter I received from this Godless regime concerning my tax year kindly informed me that I had contributed £1087 to ‘Health’, £109 to ‘Government Administration’ and £71 to ‘Overseas Aid’. I have thus given money to facilitate abortion, to support instances like the prosecution of the street preacher (in Taunton?) who said homosexuality is condemned in the Bible, and to bankroll the widespread promotion of contraception/abortion in the Third World. Short of declaring a tax strike à la Ann Barnhardt, it is impossible to fully extricate ourselves from the belly of the Beast.

  20. I get the majority drift as the editor calls it and at least I get a response from Catholic truth not like the hierarchy, CDF etc. In that spirit I respond as follows. I never fail to be freshly surprised by the way situation ethicists find ever more nuanced and refined versions of Corban (St Mark chpt7) to avoid the radical demands of the gospel message.
    The Vatican document ‘morality of conjugal life, handbook for confessors, pontifical council for the family’ pages 16 and 17 section 5 states ‘a specific and more serious moral evil is present in the use of means which have an abortive effect, impeding the implantation of the embryo which has just been fertilised or even causing its expulsion in an early stage of pregnancy.’
    To suggest that to avoid avoidable situations to prevent the subsidy of the provision of these death causing products is not legitimate is beyond me as well as those which facilitate onanism.
    Mgr. Schooyens pontifical academy for life said ‘sin my brothers but in safety. After safe sex we now have safe sin’.
    Cardinal Sarah stated ‘separating magisterial teaching from pastoral practise is heresy and a dangerous schizophrenic pathology’. he also stated ‘if men who are consecrated to God are no longer capable of understanding the radical nature of the gospel message and seek to anesthetise it we will be going the wrong way for that is the real failure of mercy’. Because we are part of the universal priesthood these words apply to us all. I have been following what seem to have been a lonely prolife path since 1978 with some notable successes. I would ask all to realise as I did in the supermarket isles that like the story of the good Samaritan I was walking down the other isle whilst subsidising the provision of agents of death for children in another isle. I asked myself whether this dialogue as I once asked a negative priest on the subject of abortifacients was part of the problem or part of the solution to the issue of killing children. I regret to say that for the most part this present dialogue on this subject has been part of the problem not part of the solution so in love I resist you to your face. St Mark chapter 9 v 41 applies as does ‘he who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in large’. To be called a puritan and an extremist for defending human life is defamatory, hurtful and erroneous and I don’t accept these definitions. Indeed I will sign off once and for all by referring you to Mathew chapter 15 v 14 and 15 and ask you to reflect on the words of father E Whelan Clifton cathedral Bristol ‘ we must act in accordance with our beliefs rather than believing in accordance with our actions’.

    Love and Prayers,

    Liam

    • Liam,

      This is all off topic – we are not discussing abortion or contraception, or pornography, so please stick to the topic, which is good manners, as clearly set out in the introduction. I’ve explained that you are creating a false dichotomy between two different things, by setting good manners in everyday life against pro-life issues, or “integrity”. It strikes me as less than polite, frankly, to continue with off topic posts when I have explained that to you, as clearly and as courteously as I can muster.

      I have, in any case, just posted a thread about The Pill – click here to read and comment

    • Liam

      There is much misinterpretation of Church and Scriptural teaching in your response, but since Editor has highlighted that the subject is off topic and requested that we leave it alone I shall resist a theological correction.

      Suffice it to say that while I greatly respect your concern for the unborn child, which I hope we all share, it is clear that you have adapted the Gospel message and the Church’s teaching on occasions of sin to suit your own viewpoint and personal crusade. For the majority, however, what you insist upon as indispensible Catholic Action is both imprudent and impractical, which is why you cannot produce Magisterial teaching that upholds your position.

      Society is so morally perverse today that these token gestures, for such is what they are, have little to no impact. Indeed, for every one who may be won back by them ten will resent the “puritanical” impudence and become more entrenched in their error. It seems you take too much upon yourself and leave little to the grace of God.

      If we keep the Commandments, do our duty in accordance with our state, offer our rosaries and firmly trust in Our Lady’s Fatima promise, then we do well. Only God can change the hearts of men, and He generally does so with mercy and compassion, such as on occasion when prayerful demonstrators outside abortion clinics are used as instruments of grace to convince poor sinners to turn away from the evil of abortion.

      God knows these are very difficult times for Catholics, who must continue to observe the moral law by grace in a culture saturated with immorality. That’s cross enough for many without you laying further burdens upon them that neither God nor Church demands. I know you have the very best of intentions at heart but you simply cannot insist upon peril of soul that others subscribe to your personal crusade. We are not all mortal sinners because we use the local supermarket. I make no excuses for calling that claim “extremist” and “puritanical”, for such is what it is.

      I’m sorry if that offends you and makes you want to depart from the blog, but I have to call it as I see it so that others may be reassured in conscience that your opinion in this matter is not Church teaching.

  21. Liam

    Did you not see my post asking for the name and address of this garage which you allege has stopped selling pornography because of your intervention? Please act in accordance with your belief, and allow me to do the same, by providing this information.

  22. Of course the Grace of God is found in courtesy and good manners. How else are we to communicate the love of God to our neighbour and to follow the Biblical Commandment of Our Lord in Matthew 22: 37-40 in which He said “Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Loving our neighbour is all part of loving God, and anger, rudeness and curtness etc., are all part of the sin of wrath, and if unchecked wrath will inevitably turn to hatred, spite and bitterness. The person who is in a state of grace, and who desires to remain in that state must strive to always be charitable. If we perform works of charity and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy then we will increase in grace through good works. Also, if we show courtesy to friends and strangers, then they will see that we are kind, generous and solicitous then they will see that it is our Catholic Faith that has motivated us to perform these good works, and as a consequence, they will be attracted to the True Faith. As St. Francis de Sales said, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrel full of vinegar”.

  23. I also think that ignoring messages by email or text is ignorant, but there’s another type of rudeness that really gets to me. It’s called passive aggressive, and it’s when someone lets you know he’s not agreeing or dislikes you by just staring at you or keeping quiet. I know someone like that and he obviously doesn’t have the bottle to speak his mind, just goes into silent mode during any conversation that he doesn’t agree with. Then he stares out someone. So nobody could accuse him of actually saying anything rude, LOL! but he is rude, just the same, IMHO. . I always feel uncharitable when I’m in his company especially since I know it is probably because he just doesn’t have the social skills to disagree politely, but it does rankle a bit.

    BTW, I love that Belloc poem. It’s really beautiful.

  24. Michaela, I’ve received that sort of stare but I think with a different intention on the part of the starer, who happens to be a priest, I’m sad to say. A colleague and I had to meet him in connection with using his church for a traditional Mass, and we opted to do it over lunch. He wanted wine, and asked me what I would have. It happens that I don’t drink (no virtue in that – all alcohol tastes the same to me – like vinegar!), so I simply said that I didn’t want any wine, thank you. At this he leaned forward and stared hard at me for a good ten seconds, and I blushed like a girl and felt like a total freak. Similarly, when in a traditional church in Rome, I went into the sacristy to ask the very charming PP if he could tell me the time of a forthcoming Mass in St. Peter’s. The PP was busy, but there were about six priests in there hanging about doing nothing much, so I approached one and politely asked my question. From his height of about 6’5″, he stared down at me with what felt like unutterable scorn for several seconds, and turning away threw the words over his shoulder – “I haven’t the FAINTEST idea”. I felt like a sub-species of garden worm!

    • Christina,

      I share wholeheartedly your dislike of wine, not to mention the physical effects of alcohol in general. Unfortunately that puts me in a distinct minority in our parish, where far too many people seem to think that life is a series of opportunities to drink – and then defend this (at best) rank Epicureanism as “Catholic” (and supply the wedding at Cana as “proof.”) (Hah- 100 Proof!). It’s as if they can’t enjoy life without getting light in the loafers – or worse.

      I’m not sure if this habit qualifies as “bad manners” or just “embarrassing behavior,” but sometimes I sense that people think I’m some sort of Puritan because I refuse to drink.

  25. Comment removed – off topic

    Liam if you would be good enough to post over on the new thread on The Pill as I have already asked, and on THAT thread, answer the question raised twice by Therese asking for the name of the garage you mention. I have also deleted a comment below from Laura who asked for the name of the priest whom you quote as supporting you, although personally I wouldn’t bother about that since modern priests will agree with anybody and everybody when it suits (except those of us dubbed “traditional” Catholics).

    All posts on abortion etc. which are posted here will be deleted the minute I see them from now on – Editor.

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