Monday Morning Musings

Regular readers will know that I am no fan of Brexit, but Donald Tusk’s puerile rudeness towards Theresa May has made me much more sympathetic towards her than I ever dreamed I could be. It reminded me of incidents in my brief banking career when one was subject to similar laddishness (though, thankfully, Instagram did not exist then), to say nothing of the tiresome misogyny women still encounter in the Church. Happily, today’s first reading at Mass, Proverbs 3. 27–34, is a reminder that men do not have a monopoly of bad behaviour. We can all be boorish at times. The trouble comes, I would suggest, when we see our rudeness as a positive good, a mark of our independence of mind and spirit, and forget what the effect on others may be.

I have long thought that in Britain we have come to despise courtesy and forgiveness as weakness. The idea that inviting the German President to attend a ceremony at the Cenotaph to mark the end of the First World War is an ‘insult’ to those who fought and died in that war strikes me as but the latest example of such a tendency. I can’t imagine any of my family thinking in that way. The legacy they left their grandchildren (of whom I am one) was the conviction that war is a terrible evil, to be avoided at all costs; but if one is called upon to serve, one must do one’s duty but never make the quarrel personal or one will never be free of the hatred and suspicion that led to war in the first place. I am not sure that I have always managed that (my dealings with whoever is the Enemy of the Moment, especially if encountered just after emerging from the confessional, tend to give the lie) but I acknowledge it as an ideal, above all, a Christian ideal.

Why do I link courtesy and forgiveness? The answer is very simple. The word ‘courtesy’ originally meant manners fit for a royal court but subsequently came to have overtones of something granted as a gift, not by right. We all live by the mercy of God, freely given. We have no ‘right’ to grace or forgiveness, but we have the duty of sharing both; and if we do, we have our place in the court of heaven. Long after Mr Tusk’s little jibe has been forgotten and the memory of the First World War is just one more of those ‘old, unhappy, far-off things and battles long ago,’ a courtesy, a kindness, a refusal to bind another with unforgiveness will shine as brightly as the stars.

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6 thoughts on “Monday Morning Musings”

  1. Dear Sister Catherine

    Friday 21 and Sat 22 were both corkers, and today’s was good to be said. I was particularly grateful for Friday’s and am still pondering shelter or launch pad.

    • Thank you. My bit about the Enemy of the Moment and the confessional was, of course, said light-heartedly. Most of us know we tend to get disproportionately worked up about some matters (hence the ‘Enemy of the Moment’) and, of course, it is usually just when we have made a firm purpose of amendment in confession that fresh provocation arises! 🙂

  2. Absolutely agree, dear D. Catherine.
    Re forgiveness after the war and former enemies commemorating their dead together: there was a wonderful TV film called “A Foreign Field” starring Alec Guinness, Leo McKern and Lauren Bacall, in which the men meet the woman for the first time in Northern France at the war graves. After the two men have paid their respects to their brothers in arms lying there, they offer to accompany Lauren Bacall to her father’s grave, when it becomes apparent that he was a German. The resulting emotional scenes could only have been played by such gifted and wise actors, but they were deeply cathartic. In the face of death, the past was irrelevant.

  3. I’m afraid as a Scot and because Scotland has been systematically ignored by the Westminster Government in a disgraceful and demeaning way I have no sympathy for Mrs May or her cohorts. I believe they have been ill prepared, arrogant and lacked basic diplomacy skills in their dealings with the EU. I also believe the feigned hurt displayed by May etc all is a smoke screen for their abject failure. Cameron initially caused this mess to appease his party. Certainly not for the common good.

    • I have no idea whether Mrs May is feigning hurt or not; Mr Tusk’s conduct was certainly rude in my book. I think if we all kept a score of previous wrongs, real or imaginary, we would choke off all forgiveness and hope of future reconciliation. I do hope you will find it in your heart to consider what I was actually writing about, courtesy and forgiveness.

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