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Politeness is Charity

In the last few years, especially since the riots of 2020, there has been a palpable erosion of manners. This has been especially apparent when driving. It’s not uncommon to see dangerous speeding--- far above the speed limit, reckless lane changes, running through stop signs or red lights, using turning lanes to pass, etc. This seems related to the de-Christianization of our culture. The words of Abp. Sheen come to mind: “The moment we cease to be Christian, we will revert to the barbarism from which we came.” This “reversion to barbarism” is accelerating.

Other words of Abp. Sheen come to mind: “Good manners are the shadows cast by virtues. Courtesy is the external sign of the inner love and regard that we have for someone else. Politeness is charity, and charity is love, and love is God.”

The early American colonists wished to show their “inner love and regard for someone else” by asking George Washington to declare a National Day of Thanksgiving. A joint committee of Congress asked him “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God…” Soon after, President Washington declared the last Thursday of November, 1789, “to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country…”

While a schoolboy, George Washington copied out by hand, Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. These manners were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. It’s believed they were copied out as part of a penmanship assignment by Washington's schoolmaster. Some of these are outdated, but most still apply to us today. We will air these rules on the station this month.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a good time to remember one’s table manners as a way of showing the “love and regard that we have for someone else.” A short list of these includes: dressing appropriately, asking the host where to sit, not sitting until he or she does, placing your napkin on your lap, waiting to eat until prayers are said and the host has begun. When serving dishes are on the table, these are passed counterclockwise; no eating with one’s mouth open, or talking with food in one’s mouth; saying “Please pass the___” and “Thank you,” instead of reaching for a dish or condiment. Other table manners include: no elbows on the table, avoiding highly divisive topics, sitting up straight, bringing the food up to one’s mouth (instead of lowering one’s head to the plate); using the napkin, not licking one’s fingers, not taking from a dish that someone else has requested.

Finally, one should thank the host and hostess for the meal and invitation.

On Thanksgiving Day, especially, we should “acknowledge with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.” These favors include: the gift of life, food, friends, the blessings God has bestowed on America, and most importantly, the possibility of eternal life with God and the saints, won by Him whose death on the cross was the external sign of the inner love and regard that He had for us. We can show our gratitude by living virtuously, by having good manners, and by loving and treating politely even those who are our enemies.

We volunteers at St. Michael Broadcasting are thankful that we have, through your generosity, the honor of bringing His word to others. Please continue to support your station by offering to volunteer, by telling others, by praying for its success, by inquiring if you may place these program guides in your parish’s information rack, and a financial contribution if possible.

Deo Gracias!


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