Tag Archives: pride

Restoring the place of humility and manners

Choosing what to wear for Mass one morning, I asked the sacristan why he had chosen a vestment that was rather cheap in design and fabric. He replied that it would be more comfortable. Comfort has become the criterion for dress and for manners in general. Film footage of men at ballgames 60 or 70 years ago show them better dressed than most people today are for almost any occasion.

On Sundays my father would adjust my necktie when I was too young to do it myself, for it was unthinkable to attend church without a suit. The common excuse today is that “God doesn’t care what I wear.” That exercise in self-justification assumes that one knows God’s opinion, when in fact the only hint we have to go by is His parable of the Wedding Garment, describing people thrown out of the banquet for not being properly dressed (Matt 22:1-14). Of course, this parable was about the interior disposition of the soul, but the outer garment is a sign of reverence.

Fashions are of secondary importance, but the issue here really is humility. For to place personal comfort above the sensibilities of others is a sign of selfish pride. It is also a lack of respect for the dignity worthwhile we are given by grace in baptism. This also applies to the “gravitas,” or seriousness, with which one exercises official duties. A judge wears robes for the same reason a priest vests in a Eucharistic chasuble: he is involved in something more important than himself, and he is subservient to his office and task. When George Washington became president, there were no protocols for such a novel office. He could not dress as a king, and yet he embodied the seriousness of responsibilities entrusted to him. Courteous to everyone, he was also austere in the way he carried himself and woe betide anyone who dared to slap him on the back.

As a youth, Washington studied a book called Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior which had been compiled by French Jesuits in 1595 and translated by a twelve-year old boy in London. The rules were of common sense and had nothing to do with pomposity. They harkened back to the best Greek philosophers who defined virtue in terms of piety, dignity, courage, and gravity. Saint Benedict (480-547) linked these virtues with the fundamental one of humility, of which one indication is speech that is not boisterous and coarse. True humility of manners also disdains insults and vulgarisms, while false humility often pretends to be authentic by theatrical gestures like “dressing down” and advertising poverty by rejecting the customary forms of etiquette.

It is arrogant and not true friendliness for official mailings from a bank or business to address the client by a first name. The man who says, “Call me brother call me pal” would not have to sloganize that way if he really were a brother and pal.

G.K. Chesterton recalled how Saint Thomas Beckett wore cloth of gold on the outside to please the people, and kept a hair shirt next to his skin where no one could see it. Today, he said, the modern millionaire does the opposite.

Our Lord was deprived of everything in His Passion, save His dignity. This greatly disturbed Pontius Pilate, even when He was dragged before the governor dressed mockingly as a fool. There was something ineffably royal in the Master, surpassing the ceremonies of Caesar. So the Roman governor ordered that a sign be placed on the cross calling Him a king. When the crowd objected, haunted Pilate said, “What I have written, I have written.”

FR. GEORGE RUTLER is pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City, and author of 33 books – including Grace & Truth: Twenty Steps to Embracing Virtue and Saving Civilization; and A Year With Father Rutler – a compilation of nearly 400 of his most brilliant and beloved homilies and writings (both recently released by EWTN Publishing). Father Rutler was national chaplain of Legatus from 1991 to 2001.

Great Catholic Patriots In U.S. History

Although Catholics were a tiny minority at the time of the War for Independence and have suffered bigotry since colonial days, Catholics also have made great contributions to the cause of freedom throughout American history. Here are just a few examples.

Charles, Daniel, and John Carroll were part of a wealthy colonial family in Maryland. Charles Carroll was an early advocate of American separation from Great Britain and was the only Catholic among the 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence. His cousin Daniel was one of only five men to have signed both the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution, while cousin John became the first Catholic bishop in the United States.

Commodore John Barry, an Irishborn Catholic from Philadelphia, has been called the “Father of the American Navy.” He served heroically throughout the Revolutionary War at the helm of Continental Navy warships. When President George Washington established a permanent U.S. Navy in 1794 he appointed Barry its senior captain and commodore.

Capt. André Cailloux was the first black war hero of the Civil War. In 1863, he was killed while leading Company E of the 1st Regiment Louisiana Native Guards in an assault on a Confederate fortress in Port Hudson, LA. His regiment, which was overwhelmingly Catholic, was the first black regiment to be mustered into the U.S. Army and the first to engage in a major battle.

Clara Barton, dubbed the “Angel of the Battlefield,” provided medical supplies and nursing care for wounded soldiers on the frontlines of the Civil War. “I was strong and thought I might go to the rescue of the men who fell. . . . What could I do but go with them, or work for them and my country?” she wrote in her memoirs. “The patriot blood of my father was warm in my veins.” She later founded the American Red Cross.

Fr. Michael McGivney responded to the financial struggles of immigrant workers and the widespread bigotry against Catholics in the latter 1800s by founding the Knights of Columbus as a mutual aid society. Emphasizing both patriotism and Catholicism, the order showed how one could be both a faithful Catholic and a proud American.

Al Smith, the first Catholic nominated for U.S. president by a major party, lost in a landslide in 1928 to Herbert Hoover due in part to the nation’s prosperity and in part to lingering anti-Catholic prejudice. But he helped pave the way for the election of our first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, 32 years later.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Making America Patriotic Again

Whatever happened to patriotism? Recent Gallup polls reveal that Americans are feeling less patriotic nowadays.

Last summer, for the first time in the 18 years Gallup has conducted the poll, fewer than half of U.S. adults – just 47 percent – said they are “extremely proud” to be American. That was a 4 percent drop from 2017 and a marked decrease from the 70 percent figure seen in 2003.

Among younger Americans, patriotism seems even weaker. A Pew Research report a few years back found that fewer than half of U.S. millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – would describe themselves as “a patriotic person” at all. And a 2018 YouGov survey found that 46 percent of U.S. young adults ages 14 to 37 did not believe that America is “the greatest country in the world.”

“The millennial generation has earned plenty of labels,” said Gabrielle Bosché, a millennial strategist and author of the 2017 book 5 Millennial Myths. “Patriotic certainly isn’t one of them.”

That perceived lack of love for country has some observers concerned. In a commentary reflecting on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion earlier this year, Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky wondered: “Would today’s millennials meet the same challenge if faced with a future war, one in which the U.S. and its allies were attacked?” 

Meaning of patriotism

 Yet patriotism means different things to different people. All agree it means love of country, but how much can one disagree with a nation’s laws, government, and leadership and still be considered patriotic?

Although a nation founded upon democratic principles and individual liberties must allow for a “loyal dissent,” gestures such as athletes “taking a knee” during the National Anthem are seen by many as disrespecting the flag and those who defend it. On the other hand, those who show zealous, uncritical support for our country to the point of carving out a “love it or leave it” position are sometimes accused of expressing not patriotism, but rather nationalism.

Nevertheless, “That some have exhibited extremes of patriotism does not remove the truth that patriotism is a virtue and is both commended to us and commanded of us,” writes Monsignor Charles Pope, a pastor in Washington, D.C., and a popular blogger.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms the virtue of patriotism, relating it to the Fourth Commandment call to honor one’s father and mother. “It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom,” it reads. “The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.” (#2239)

That concern for the common good necessarily extends beyond one’s own national borders, however, or risks sliding toward an unhealthy nationalism. As Pope St. John Paul II said in an address to the United Nations in 1995, “True patriotism never seeks to advance the wellbeing of one’s own nation at the expense of others. …

Nationalism, particularly in its most radical forms, is thus the antithesis of true patriotism, and today we must ensure that extreme nationalism does not continue to give rise to new forms of the aberrations of totalitarianism.”

Reinvigorating patriotism

How, then, do we instill true patriotism among young Americans?

Some educators debate whether patriotism should be taught at all. Many elementary and high schools across the country today do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In those that do, students are not required to participate. History textbooks present more varied perspectives than they once did. Patriotism, or at least its public expression, is not being taught or practiced as perhaps it was years ago.

Meanwhile, President Trump has called for changes to public-school curricula with the intention of “promoting American pride and patriotism in America’s schools.” Such an initiative likely would involve not only saluting the flag, but also fostering American pride through lessons in history and civics, even if the shadows of history and the controversies of today are taught along with the principles of a democratic republic and the stories of America’s national heroes.

While those at other points on the political spectrum might not endorse such an educational directive, many still understand the need to rouse a patriotic spirit – however it may be defined – among the U.S. citizenry. “One of the core lessons of Trumpian politics is that Americans are starved for a meaningful politics of what it means to be American,” said political author Jefferson Cowie in a New York Times essay a year ago.

Even Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic former mayor of Chicago, acknowledges the need to start with the younger generation. He has called for a restoration of patriotism in our youth through mandatory national service such that all 18-year-olds who do not join the military must volunteer for six months with the Peace Corps or another service organization. “[A] universal national service program will tap into younger Americans’ desire to serve the greater good,” Emanuel explained in an April 2019 essay in The Atlantic.

Millennials and the future 

Amid the alarming polls, there is reason for hope.

Bosché, the millennial researcher, understands why younger Americans don’t sound as patriotic as their elders: they tend to be more independent in their thinking. They hear more discussions involving concerns over privilege and access, inequities in income and opportunity, and broader perspectives on global issues, and are less inclined to take the “my country, right or wrong” approach of generations past. Still, she sees this social awareness as a strength that can benefit America. “In truth, I believe millennials are more equipped to change the world than our predecessors were at our age,” she said.

Bosché said she knows many young people who consider reciting the Pledge “a privilege” rather than a duty

“Not all millennials have lost respect for our country,” she emphasized.

 GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Hypocrisy or holiness?

Meekness may call for leaders to put themselves in unpopular positions to fight for righteous causes, knowing the outcome is persecution. Leaders who delegate their authority to key team members multiply their influence exponentially. Similarly, Jesus delegated his authority to the Church. Every pope has had a slightly different approach to that authority . . .

Dave Durand

Dave Durand

Our Catholic faith is filled with paradoxes. At a glance, an uninformed person may see successful Catholic leaders as hypocrites. They might ask, “How can you drive your fancy car and live in that big house? The Bible says it is easier for a rich man to pass though the eye of a needle than to enter paradise.” Or “How can you boss everyone around at work every day? The meek shall inherit the earth. Pride is at the center of all evil.”

These economic times have tested everyone. Our attachment to material goods or power can shine light on whether we’re living lives of paradox and holiness or contradiction and hypocrisy.

Success can lead to materialism, but it’s possible to have “things” without being attached to them. Making important decisions can lead to personal pride, but it can also be a path to holiness. So how do we reconcile the need to be confident and to control certain aspects of our respective organizations with the Christian virtues of humility and meekness?

The answer is more about the connotation of these terms than it is in resolving a true conflict. Being meek is often wrongly defined as being weak because meekness carries with it the assumption of submissiveness. However, being submissive is one of the greatest signs of character and strength in a leader. The saints (who should be considered the strongest of all people) were submissive to all righteous authority even when it was inconvenient. Their meekness provided the prudence to engage only in relevant battles and to stay focused on what is important. Without meekness people get caught up in fruitless debates which can lead to resentment, envy and revenge. Strong leaders avoid those negative characteristics with meekness as a shield.

Christ called himself meek and humble of heart, yet he turned over the tables in the temple and called the unrighteous a “brood of vipers.” At times, meekness calls for leaders to put themselves in unpopular positions to fight for righteous causes, knowing the outcome is persecution. It was certainly not pride that inspired Jesus. It was his loyal submission (or meekness) to the Father. Being meek also assumes being compliant. It has been my experience that compliant leaders, who have solid business acumen, are excellent delegators. Most people rightfully think of compliance as a top-down issue. However, leaders who delegate their authority to key team members should be compliant with the decisions those key people make whenever possible. That’s how to multiply your influence exponentially.

Christ delegated his authority to the Church, and every pope has had a slightly different approach to using that authority. They all differ somewhat on how best to communicate the truths of the faith, but they haven’t wavered on the content of faith and morals. The accommodation Christ offers the leaders of his Church is a great model for all people in authority. Leaders can follow Christ’s example by never accommodating an immoral act or even a morally neutral act that stands in opposition to the organizational mission, but whenever possible, accommodating individualized approaches to solutions.

Many secular leaders claim that pride accelerates success and power. That’s only half true. Pride can be a positive attribute. To take pride in your work is a markedly Catholic trait. We should do all of our work to glorify God; therefore, having pride in what pleases Him is righteous. Saint Paul even “boasts” in his epistles about the righteous work he did. At first blush it almost looks like bragging, but a closer read reveals a paradox, not a contradiction. It’s clear that his boast is directed toward God in praise for His grace — not a personal tribute.

On the other hand, self-aggrandizing pride is the root of sin. This pride is not something that accelerates power or success in any way. In fact, it does the opposite. Pride always comes with an equal dose of blindness. Leading with pride is like driving with a mirror as a windshield. It prevents you from seeing where you are going because the entire focus is on yourself. Obviously, that causes you to run over things and people on your way to an inevitable crash.

Humility is the antidote to pride. It keeps your windshield clear because humility is precise truth about oneself in the eyes of God. There’s no greater strength than truth. So how can you be sure that your life is not filled with hypocrisy? How can you know that you’re not attached to your material goods? How can you know that you only make decisions to help the organization that you lead rather than to pump your ego?

It’s remarkably easy to deceive ourselves into believing that we’re not attached to items or to power. Self-justification is a very strong motivator. It’s often only when those things are taken from us that we realize how attached we really were. That’s why it’s imperative for leaders to stay especially close to the sacraments. We need supernatural clarity if we are truly to know ourselves. God’s grace is often the only power potent enough to penetrate our pride.

Dave Durand is best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Win the World Without Losing Your Soul.” He is a business executive and trainer of well over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.