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A Man’s Bearing Reflects
His Education and Virtue

Marian T. Horvat

In my last article [click here], I said that I would continue to translate and comment on the Small Manual of Civility for Youth. This is Chapter 2: The Bearing.
The bearing comprises the whole of the various postures that the body assumes when we walk, sit, or stand, alone or in company.

The bearing reflects the degree of culture of a person. It is the natural indicator of a good or bad education. It is also the external translation of a conjunct of moral virtues.

All the qualities of bearing are summarized in the dignity of the posture. We should guard and conserve this dignity because of respect for:
First, the presence of God, Whose eye is always on us;

Second, the company of our Guardian Angel and other Angels who follow our actions;

Third, our own dignity as Catholics saved by the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now then, respect is born from what we know about a person and the esteem we have for him. Respect for a man comes directly from the knowledge we have of him. An instructed man, aware of the organic marvels God placed in a living being, has respect for life. When he is conscious of the grandeurs and prerogatives of paternity, he has respect for the sacred constitution of the family. One who realizes the grandeur of the Divine Majesty respects His presence, His representatives, the constituted authorities, and the moral and social order.

In the soul of the youth, respect is an indispensable educating force, because only with respect as its foundation, is it possible to acquire virtue, dispose minds toward the influences of good example, and excite and nourish in youth the noble ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty.

A black and white photograph of a dignified father standing proudly with his two well dressed sons

A father, showing good example in dress and bearing, poses proudly with his sons
A lax or careless posture is, therefore, a sign of ignorance and lack of respect for the presence of God and the Angels. This attitude translates into a lack of respect owed to ourselves and the persons with whom we live.

A good bearing helps to establish one's good reputation, which each should carefully guard. Because the exterior reflects our inner dispositions, our posture shows both ourselves and others how we are. To the measure that our bearing manifests our qualities or our defects, we merit either esteem or a lack of consideration, sympathy or scorn.

St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory, and the future Emperor Julian the Apostate were studying in Athens at the same time. The bearing of the latter manifested the disorder of his soul and scandalized the other students. His eyes were agitated and restless, his tone arrogant, disdainful and insolent. Scowls and ridiculous grimaces stole all seriouness from his physiognomy; he laughed abruptly and without any reason. These characteristics, revealing a bad character, led St. Gregory to say: “What a monster is being prepared for the Empire!” (click here for the comments of St. Gregory) And St. Gregory was not wrong in his appraisal.

How different from this were the Saints! The amiable St. Francis de Sales always maintained a calm and decorous dignity; the angelic St. Teresa of Lisieux possessed a charming, celestial bearing, a most pure portrait of the candor of her heart.

It is never advisable to renounce serious and dignifying postures. The cold weather, the heat, discomfort, even sickness – nothing justifies an inconvenient posture because the grand law of dignity and respect far transcends personal comfort.

Good bearing is a sign of virtue. In public as well as when he was alone, St. Francis de Sales always maintained the most correct postures. Msgr. De Camius, Bishop of Belei (France), a very close friend of the Saint, had many occasions to observe him secretly. Always he found him with an irreprehensible posture. Such was the respect of the Saint for the presence of God that he would not make the least imperfection in private.
After this fine presentation from our Manual of Civility, there is very little to add on the topic of bearing. One can see how far we have traveled from the basic principles laid out here on good posture and bearing.

Who today talks about how important it is to maintain good posture, modesty and decorum in dress when we are alone as well as when we are in public? When it is hot, we imagine we are justified to peel off our clothes and slip out of our shoes and sockings. If we are tired, we assume the right to slouch on a chair or throw ourselves carelessly across the sofa. Our bourgeois obsession for comfort has replaced the “grand law of dignity and respect.”

This small chapter shows the proper attitude of the Catholic man, who should never forget the presence of God, his Guardian Angel, his own dignity and reputation, which are reflected in the way he sits, stands and walks.

Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted August 10, 2006

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