We will take a look at chivalry, this mindset in men and boys which guides them on how to behave not only towards their mother, but all women and girls.
Last month, we were reviewing the history of mankind during the Middle Ages, and during the 9th century. We recall how the Vikings, coming from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark invaded Europe. These barbarians were very evil: destroying everything they could: killing women and children, burning fields, and great fear seized the people.
The Holy Roman Emperor in Europe was unable to stop them, and it became difficult for people to merely survive. There were so many bandits and criminals, and when money became nearly worthless, land became the valuable commodity. So to safeguard one’s property, people would have to be hire soldiers to protect it.
But the average land owner did not have the money to hire men for a small army, so instead, gave their land and homes to the wealthy. They would now spend the rest of their lives working on this land and, in exchange, they would be provided food and protection.
This system was known as feudalism, and the men who provided the protection were called knights.
In these feudal communities, with the protection of the knights, a higher standard of morality prevailed and those who lived there could more easily practice Catholicism. This led to the additional duty of knights to protect religion and to maintain a peaceful atmosphere for virtue to flourish.
The symbol of the knight was his sword, and it was so important to him to defend the people, the property, and goodness that eventually there was a special blessing of the sword of a knight, and a ceremony to become a knight.
Catholic knighthood was a noble position in society, so that by the 11th century, some of the knights from France and Spain were sent on crusades to free the Holy Land from the Moslems who had seized the Catholic places in Jerusalem.
But it was not easy being a knight, there was a strict moral code to follow; and they had to exhibit the virtues of courage, honor and service.
Many stories of their bravery were spread to nearby towns, some making it into Western literature, as young boys would hear the stories, and desire the same valor, virtue, and goodness.
Since knights protected especially women and children, they would show special honor to all women. This soon led to a great honor of the most holy of all women, the Blessed Virgin Mary, keeping her as the model to protect all women.
The duties of the knights were to God, to their fellow Catholics, and towards women.
First to God: They would have to be faithful to God; being known by others that they follow all 10 Commandments and that they were champions of good against evil.
They also had duties to all Catholics: in their daily life, they were to shine as example of mercy, courage, valor, fairness, as they gave extra attention upon the weak and poor.
It is not easy for men to show great mercy and compassion; far easier for women, so knights had to have a great control of their anger, even though they hated evil.
They even had to be willing to lay down their lives for another, making no distinction between the poor and rich; as they were to die for anyone under their care.
Then, there were duties to women: to defend, to protect, and to have a general gentleness and graciousness to all women.
In our last review of history, we saw the High Middle Ages as a time when Catholicism flourished in Europe, and nations began to be formed with kings ruling larger areas.
The Knights continued during this time, and by the 14th century, they also had to defend the culture of a nation. The knight would have to be a shining example of that culture….Conducting himself in accord with the long standing customs of society – such as how to behave, what clothes to wear, having manners, such as when eating or greeting a person.
With the Protestant Revolution of the 16th century, chivalry began to decline in the 17th century, as men began to consider their own cares and wants over others; and the value of women, children, and customs began to fade.
So that at the beginning of the 20th century, with the rise of Communism, the world was faced with a great campaign for what was falsely understood as “gender equality” – trying to teach people that there are no real differences between men and women; that women can act and behave just like men.
This blending of male and female would make it difficult to distinguish one from the other; so that chivalry towards women was undone. Among the initial efforts was to force women into the workforce, thereby leaving the home.
Soon after, came the efforts to convince women to wear the same clothes as men.
During the next 50 years, the mother’s influential status in the home continued to fade using various tactics, until the 1960’s would strive to liberate women of the 6th commandment, separating motherhood from the beauty of marital love.
All along, though, women would suffer, for now cast down from their exalted positions in society and made closer to men, men would not tend to be chivalrous towards them.
Jobs in society, which used to require chivalry, would now also employ women, such as firemen, police, and the military.
Now we can be dismayed at the situation we are living in which does not promote chivalry, or we can respond by cultivating chivalry in our own family, especially your sons.
Boys naturally want to live by this chivalry code, but they have to begin at a young age….Especially in the way a boy treats women and girls, and anyone younger than he is.
He has to learn to watch over and defend the younger; to be gentle to his sisters, and have great honor for his mother.
Like the knights who exhibited goodness, honor, and great virtue; boys should have a great esteem for goodness and strive to be known by everyone more for his virtue than by being good at sports or having the latest games and gadgets.
This requires boys to learn manners: using a fork and knife to eat, how to use a napkin or a tissue instead of their shirt sleeve.
Then there are the verbal manners: to say “excuse me”, “thank you” and “please”.
Addressing their elders by the title of Mr., Mrs., or Miss; not shaking a woman’s hand unless she puts it out first but simply giving a nod or smile when he meets her, holding doors open when a girl approaches, for kindness expects this.
The clothes he wears should reflect decorum. There are times when play clothes are needed or when working outside, and then when in public, clothing should be respectable….Keeping shoes tied, wearing a belt, combing the hair, tucking in a shirt.
A boy should also strive for following social manners such as washing hands before eating and before exiting the restroom, and standing up when a woman enters the room.
This care for women begins by how he treats his sister. He must be taught that she is not like a brother who loves to wrestle, hit, and tease; rather she needs to be shown care and gentleness…That she is much different, and that difference makes her like a flower garden that he preserves carefully.
Knights also were known for their honesty and keeping their word; so a boy has to be faithful when he says he is going to do something, never lying.
It is good for a boy to learn that girls are much different on the inside; and he will learn this by how his father treats his wife, and how his mother chooses to display herself.
Does she hold herself as someone to be honored, keeping the traditional distinctions of manners, behaviors, dress, and etiquette, of motherhood?
A boy will be watching his sisters and learning about females, so it is good to teach your daughters how to sit like a lady, how to behave in the presence of a man or a boy.
And there is one thing mothers and daughters can do that may influence your sons more than anything else:
To show this we begin with …What is a universal sign? This is some image which has been so pressed into the memory of a person that it triggers a response which is so natural, that it seems the person does not really think before acting.
A symbol like a stop sign is so impressed in our mind. We see thousands of them in our life, that now, anytime a red, octagonal image is put somewhere, we naturally know we are supposed to stop.
If a student is taking a test, and there is a red, octagonal sign at the bottom of the page, he knows to stop, for it is the end of that test – no one told him how to act for that image is so ingrained in him.
Applying this to parents who are trying to teach a boy to be chivalrous, what is that universal image for a woman, remembering that a boy’s mind is wired to focus more on the visual?
What is some sign he will use to associate everything you teach him and everything he learns about girls?
It is the image still used by the world: the skirt. When you wish to use a public restroom, the sign of the person with a skirt is the women’s restroom.
So the more a son sees his sisters (even as babes and throughout life) wearing only girl clothes – skirts and not pants – his mind will collectively sum up what he gradually learns of women by that image of a skirt.
So that whenever he sees a woman in a skirt throughout his life, this image produces the immediate reaction to treat her chivalrously.
Proof of it is how a man is more likely to hold a door opened for you when you are wearing a skirt in public; not 100% of the time, but generally.
If the skirt is not the image that he uses, a man will have to find something else (and the mind of a man generally finds one part of her).
So whenever a person is approaching him, and he is determining if the person is a woman or man, there are not many other aspects of a woman he will universalize for females: the most common are 1) hair or 2) a private part.
But nowadays, some women have short hair, and some men have long hair. So the challenge before every man and boy here today is to be chivalrous.
First: To God by following all 10 Commandments, and also being known as a person who will not do bad things.
Second: Towards all Catholics by living a virtuous life, shining forth especially with mercy, courage, fairness, and giving extra attention towards the weak and poor.
Lastly: Towards all women and girls: protecting them, and treating them with gentleness (be a gentle man).
Being chivalrous is not always easy; it will take great effort, like the knights of old who had to be willing to even die for others.
The sword they needed was made of metal since their enemies used similar swords.
But people do not fight with swords in the United States, yet men still need a sword. Not made of metal, the sword we use today is the cross, made of wood. The cross has everything the Knights of today need: suffering pain well, enduring your burdens, not complaining when carrying the cross, but carrying it manfully and virtuously.
These make you chivalrous, into honorable knights;…Not of a castle, but of the Catholic Church; a Knight of Christ, and a Knight for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
– Carroll, Anne. Christ the King, Lord of History. 3rd ed. Tan Book and Publ.: Rockford, IL., 1994.
Nature also gave man the instinct for the maintenance of manly honor and chivalry, which prompts him to earn the respect, attachment, and love of a pure woman.
Nature inclines him to be a chivalrous protector of her virtue and honor, making him willing to suffer any hardship in order to keep her innocence from every harm, as he would in the case of his own sister. -Fr. Lovasik, Clean Love in Courtship https://amzn.to/2JZBF8A (afflink)
Gemma’s poem from the Catholic Mother Goose Volume Two….
Pink of Perfection Apron! Feminine and Beautiful! Fully lined, quality material, made with care and detail. Available here.
A very valuable book for the guys plucked out of the past and reprinted. It was written in 1894 by Fr. Bernard O’Reilly and the words on the pages will stir the hearts of the men to rise to virtue and chivalry…. Beautifully and eloquently written!
A very beautiful book, worthy of our attention. In it, you will find many pearls of wisdom for a woman striving to be the heart of the home, an inspiration to all who cross her path. You will be inspired to reconsider the importance of your role of wife and mother! Written by Rev. Bernard O’Reilly in 1894, the treasures found within its pages ring true and remain timeless…
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Very very well written! I very much like Dr. Anne Carroll, she wrote very good history books from my memory! 😀
The Medieval Professor said:
Nice website! It’s encouraging to see Catholics still standing up for the tradition of chivalry. I’ve been writing on this subject over at the Medieval Professor. Cheers.