from Helps to Happiness by Father John Carr, C.SS.R.
What a queer unmanageable sort of term is Human Respect. We see it so often in print and in practice that we now easily recognize it; but really, if we met it for the first time, most of us should not be able to make head or tail of it.
Used in its ordinary sense it is a moral cowardice keeping men from speaking or acting as they know they should, through fear of what others may think or say of them.
On the other hand, we must be careful not to have wrong ideas about moral courage. Moral courage does not mean parading; flaunting our virtues, trumpeting our good deeds, sky-writing our excellences, as did that Pharisee in the temple who reminded God what a fine fellow he was and how well he compared with the sinner whom he looked at from the corner of a disdaining eye.
It does not mean saying prayers and doing good and holy deeds “that we may be seen by men.”
Nor does moral courage mean singularity, when singularity is not called for. (At times we must be singular if we are to follow our conscience). But some people set out to be singular and affect originality in serving God. This looks dangerously like vanity and love of notice.
Nor does moral courage mean intruding our piety and our zeal for God’s glory and the good of souls. To pull out our rosary in a crowded bus, for instance, and ask the passengers to join in prayers for peace; to accost our neighbor in the public thoroughfare and question him on his compliance with his religious duties; to treat our fellow-travelers in a railway compartment to a little holy reading—all such exploits in moral daring would no doubt be a brave defiance of human respect, but would show an alarming lack of common-sense.
Human respect has enormous crimes to its account. Here are two:
Pilate sent Jesus Christ to His death through fear of being reported to his Roman masters. Herod had St. John the Baptist beheaded through fear of what his company would think of him if he broke a stupid oath he made when well in his cups.
Human respect can make men ashamed of doing the right thing and proud of doing the wrong.
Writing of his sinful boyhood, Saint Augustine says : “I invented things I had not done, lest I might be held cowardly for being innocent, or contemptible for being chaste.”
There is much moral cowardice amongst us. A smutty story is told in company. What keeps people from treating the smutty raconteur as he or she deserves? Human respect.
The good name of another is attacked. What keeps us from dissociating ourselves from the attack, at least by our silence? Human respect.
What makes many people, even passing for good Catholics, more afraid of being caught with a holy book in their hands than with a risque novel? Human respect.
This statement once emanated from a body of Protestant bishops: “People are more ashamed today to mention God’s name than to tell an obscene story. It is scarcely too much to say that in our daily speech the Creator is almost taboo in His own creation.
Men seem to be the worst offenders in this matter. Men who would at once accept a challenge to fight, who would be heroes on the battlefield and the first over the top, who would risk life and limb to save a life, will shrivel up before a taunt or a sneer.
They would fear being caught with a rosary in their hand, or carrying a fair-sized prayerbook, or saluting a church, or joining a sodality, or going to Mass on a week-day, or making the Way of the Cross. They would fear what the other fellows might say—the other fellows and “their sisters and their cousins their aunts.”
And the folly of it! How often we fear that others are thinking queerly of us and they are not thinking of us at all!
Anyhow, they think little of us for following our conscience, they would probably think less of us for not following it through fear them.
How many bad Christians does not Human Respect keep from becoming good! How many good from becoming better!
The great St. Bernard wrote in his rule that whenever the monastic bell rang, the monks were to drop what they were doing and go to whatever they were being called to.
In our homes, our monastic bell is all the many things beckoning at us throughout the day…the diapers to be changed, the dishes that need doing, the laundry that needs to be done, etc.
We respond to these things right away, even though we many not want to, remembering that these duties are the very things that will make us holy.
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Very good read, some things I do wish he had given more examples, but very important those he did.
Thank you! A blessed feast of the Blessed Trinity! And requiem in pace to our fallen soldiers tomorrow. 🙁
Thank you! Excellent food for thought.