On Chivalry and Christian Manliness

On Chivalry and Christian Manliness

From an essay titled The Catholic Origins of Manliness by Michael P. Foley, a great counter to all the feminist misconceptions of what chivalry means:

Though the chivalrous regard for the welfare of women would later become subject to all sorts of romantic distortions (hence the parodies of love-stricken knights in Chaucer and Cervantes), even here there lies the kernel of a uniquely Christian insight. When St. Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph. 5:25), he is essentially telling them to put the welfare of their spouses high above their own, even to the point of death.

Today the concept of �ladies first� is more often than not condemned as quaint or chauvinist, but when it is properly understood and practiced it reflects this Christ-like conversion of male power and aggression to the selfless service of others. It presupposes that if a Christian man is designed to rule, he is to exercise that rule paradoxically by serving, just as Christ exercised his lordship paradoxically by humbly washing the feet of his apostles (John 13:4�16). This insight is well-reflected in the famous medieval legend of the Holy Grail as told by Chr�tien de Troyes. When Perceval the knight is about to part from his mother, her last words to him are: �Should you encounter, near or far, a lady in need of aid, or a maiden in distress, make yourself ready to assist them if they ask for your help, for it is the most honourable thing to do. He who fails to honour ladies finds his own honour dead inside him.�

Over time, several customs developed from this transfiguration of male honor. Simple gestures such as opening doors or pulling out a chair for a lady bespeak a gentleman�s humble respect for women and a recognition of his responsibilities. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is the practice of tipping one�s hat to a lady. Given that a man�s hat is a traditional symbol of his rank and authority, the gesture is essentially a ritual acknowledgment of the fact that his position is in some crucial respects ordered to the service and regard of women.

Of course, it isn’t really surprising that feminists don’t get chivalry. If you don’t understand Christianity, rejecting it as “patriarchal” and therefore de facto evil, you won’t be able to comprehend its fruits either. At the heart of chivalry, Foley explains, is Christ’s example of selfless love and service. At the heart of feminism is a me-first grasping at power and privilege which is antithetical to a Christian vision of true human dignity.

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