We are told at an early age, “Use your manners.” Although we try, everyone seems to have a different idea on how to use them. For example:
• When you are walking into a building, and there is a person who is walking across the parking lot to enter into the same door, at what distance between you and that person are you committed to holding the door open for that person?
• When someone sneezes in a library, is it polite to say, “Bless you,” or is saying, “Bless you,” rude because you are disrupting other people?
• When you are driving, and there is a car waiting to pull out into your lane, is it polite to let that person in, or is that being rude to the drivers behind you because now they have one more car to contend with?
• When you and a complete stranger are riding on an elevator together, is it polite to start a conversation, or is it more polite to recognize that this relationship is only going to last for the duration of the elevator ride, so why even begin pleasantries?
• When you run into someone whom you’ve already met, and you forget their name, is it polite to tell them you forgot their name, or do you try and fake it until the conversation is over?
While we could spend hours debating the right thing to do in these situations, we have to understand why these rules even matter. Manners aren’t really about following a set of rules, but rather taking hold of the opportunity to show someone love and respect. This is the same as our faith. I hear people complain about the “rules” of the Catholic Church all the time, but we don’t follow “rules” for the sake of following rules. Rather it is about an opportunity to live beyond ourselves and our own needs. Like manners, Catholic teaching is a guide to achieve what God has set out for us to achieve. For example, at Christmas, my kids got a Lego playset of a castle, and the first thing I do (after 10 minutes of weeping because I know this is going to take all day) is look for the guide. Why? Because, while I could build some kind of resemblance of a castle without the guide, I would have leftover pieces, and a castle that was not built to how the toy maker designed it. Each Lego block has a purpose, just like each Catholic teaching has a purpose and each way of using manners has a purpose. They are building blocks to the kingdom, and maybe, one day we will be able to look at our Maker and say, “Thank you.”
By Chris Rogers, Director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry