Manners: Evidence of the Grace of God?

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


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?

Comments (83)

  • Liam Jenkinson

    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,


    October 8, 2016 at 9:13 pm
    • Therese


      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?

      October 8, 2016 at 10:36 pm
    • Athanasius

      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.

      October 9, 2016 at 12:37 am
    • editor


      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!

      October 9, 2016 at 3:49 pm
  • spudeater


    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.

    October 9, 2016 at 12:11 pm
  • Liam Jenkinson

    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,


    October 9, 2016 at 7:32 pm
    • editor


      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

      October 9, 2016 at 8:39 pm
    • Athanasius


      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.

      October 9, 2016 at 10:27 pm
  • Therese


    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.

    October 9, 2016 at 8:15 pm
  • catholicconvert1

    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”.

    October 9, 2016 at 8:36 pm
  • Michaela

    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.

    October 9, 2016 at 9:50 pm
  • Christina

    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!

    October 9, 2016 at 11:00 pm
    • RCA Victor


      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.

      October 10, 2016 at 3:52 pm
  • Liam jenkinson

    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.

    October 10, 2016 at 1:54 pm
    • Laura

      Comment removed – off topic

      October 10, 2016 at 4:34 pm

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