Talking about St. John Henry Newman’s Idea of a Gentleman at Catholic Match

Latest Catholic Match piece is up, going into St. John Henry Newman’s description of a Gentleman and how it applies to people today:

St. Cardinal Newman (a man who knew something of being both a Christian and a gentleman) offered this definition (abridged: the full description can be found in his Idea of a University):

‘It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain…The true gentleman…carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast;—all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home.

He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome.

He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best…

He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder.’

The Saint is here speaking of the ideal of a secular gentleman: of “gentlemanly behavior as such” you might say.Obviously, Cardinal Newman is the last man in existence who would take this to the extreme of hiding your faith or compromising the truth to avoid giving offense: he gave plenty of “jars and jolts” in the course of his life, not the least being scandalizing a good portion of the nation by converting to the Church of Rome.

But the idea is that a gentleman avoids any unnecessary offense and seeks to make the other person or people as comfortable as possible. Lord knows that’s a challenge enough, and it is here that we can truly stand out in today’s world.

Read the rest here.

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