Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Catholic Code of Chivalry

The following article, which comes from Keeping It Catholic's The Return of the King: A Catholic Study Guide, centers on the noble Catholic Code of Chivalry by Syler Womack. (Please Note: The Return of the King Catholic Study Guide is scheduled for republication.)

A Catholic Code of Chivalry

by Syler Womack

"For lo, the kingdom of God is within you."

(Luke XVIII: 20, 21)

“The world is all grown strange…

How shall a man judge what to do

in such times?” asked Eomer.

“As he ever has judged,” said Aragorn.

“Good and ill have not changed since

yesteryear; nor are they one thing

among Elves and Dwarves and

another among Men.

It is a man’s part to discern them,

as much in the Golden Wood

as in his own house.”

-from The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

From the Shire to The Prancing Pony in Bree, from Weathertop to Rivendell, Moria and Lorien, from Helm’s Deep to the horrors of Isengard and Mordor, from Osgiliath and the Pelennor Fields to Minas Tirith, the saga of Middle Earth constitutes an ongoing parable. The epic’s charisma may be the underlying, perhaps unconscious, factor that its heroes and heroines recall the Age of Chivalry, an era possessing a standard and a code by which to live.

Years ago, Syler Womack, mother of five (three sons and two daughters) and a Catholic homeschooling veteran, adapted the following Code of Chivalry from the original work by Mr. Brian Rice, medieval expert.

“I read this to them at least once a week, with fervor,” says Mrs. Womack.” I wanted it committed to their hearts, souls, blood and sinew.”

It is not only a fitting conclusion to a Catholic study of LotR but also a Code, reflecting the Ten Commandments that we might seek to restore in our own day. ~MCB

+Prowess: To seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a knight, martial and otherwise, seeking strength to be used in the service of justice, rather than in personal aggrandizement.

+Justice: Seek always the path of 'right', unencumbered by bias or personal interest. Recognize that the sword of justice can be a terrible thing, so it must be tempered by mercy, as God commands. If the 'right' you see rings true to the teachings of the Church, and you seek it out without bending to the temptation for expediency, then you will earn renown beyond measure. Be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil. Destroy Evil in all its monstrous forms. Avenge the wronged.

+Loyalty: Perform scrupulously your feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God. Never lie; remain faithful to your pledged word. Remain faithful and true to God and to those to whom you owe fidelity. Obey the laws of Chivalry, and all those of King and country which are not contrary to the laws of God. Never abandon or betray a friend, ally, or worthy cause.

+Defense: Seek always to defend and love your native land, your family, and those whom you believe worthy of loyalty. Defend the weak and innocent. Respect and protect women. Respect all those weaker than yourself, and constitute yourself their defender. Crush the monsters that steal our land and rob our people and defile our women. Defend the young and the old, and have reverence for life.

+Courage: Do not recoil from your enemy. Be prepared to sacrifice all in the service of God and virtue. Fight with prudence, but with courage. Never attack an unarmed foe. Never use a weapon on an opponent not equal to the attack. Never attack from behind. Exhibit courage in word and deed. Fight with honor and courage, even in the face of fear. Be Just and Merciful in victory. Do not torture. Die with valor.

+Faith: A knight must be devout in his Faith, for, apart from Salvation, faith roots him and gives hope against the despair that human failings create. He must obey and defend the Holy Catholic Church. Make war against the infidel without cessation and without mercy.

+Humility: Value first the contributions of others; do not boast of your own accomplishments, let others do this for you. Tell the deeds of others before your own, according them the renown rightfully earned through virtuous deeds. In this way the office of knighthood is well done and glorified, helping not only the gentle spoken of but also all who call themselves knights.

+Largesse: Be generous in so far as your resources allow; largesse used in this way counters gluttony. It also makes the path of mercy easier to discern when a difficult decision of justice is required. Be a benefactor to the poor, especially widows and orphans. Respect the special grace and dignity of those who strive in poverty through no fault of their own. Remember that stewardship requires you to care for and use with kindness all living creatures.

+Nobility: Live your life so that it is worthy of respect and honour. Do not lie. Do not cheat. Live for Freedom, Justice and all that is good. Exhibit self-control, respect for authority, and love of duty. Do your duty in all things. You can not expect to do more. You should never wish to do less. Seek great stature of character by holding to the virtues and duties of a knight, realizing that the quality of striving towards these ennobles the spirit, and refines it to take its place in Heaven. Nobility influences others and uplifts the weaker man by your example.

+Chastity: Keep yourself chaste for the sake of her whom you love. Do not choose to love one whom a natural sense of shame forbids you to marry. Be modest, polite and courteous at all times, and seek always to serve and protect women.

+Courtesy: Seek always to be polite, mannerly, respectful, and reverent. Cherish, as far as duty allows, the comfort of all you meet.

+Integrity: Seek to emulate everything I have spoken of as sincerely as possible, not for the reason of personal gain but because it is Right. Do not restrict Chivalry to individual areas of your life, but seek to infuse every aspect of your life with these qualities. Strive to become so infused with this code that your every action follows smoothly and naturally and without thought or consideration, so that any deviation from the Code becomes an outrage and an abomination to you. Should you succeed in even a tiny measure then you will be well remembered for your quality and virtue.

("A Catholic Code of Chivalry," Copyright Syler Womack with All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprinted with permission herein and in Keeping It Catholic’s "Return of the King Catholic Study Guide," Copyright 2004. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.)

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