Etiquette is defined as the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.
Yet etiquette is so much more than good manners and being polite. Etiquette honors the past, cultures, and traditions. As Catholics we have a unique past, culture, and tradition – one that we are called to share. Practicing etiquette allows us to live out our faith with charity, grace, wonder, and gratitude.
We are called not just to be polite, rather, to go the extra mile. We are called to radical presence, profound mercy, and beautiful sacrifice. We are called to be just – giving the other what is due to them. We are called to be merciful, offering people grace and forgiveness. We are called to be Christ for others.
Etiquette, for the Christian, culminates in the verse found in Matthew 22: “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This encounter, of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, occurs when we fill our hearts with beauty: the beauty of virtue, grace, and sanctity – the beauty of Christ.
Honoring the dignity of the human person is at the heart of etiquette, and beside that pillar, another important one stands: practicality and efficiency, yet never at the expense of the human person. Knowing which direction to pass a dish during dinner not only keeps the table organized, but it also allows us to have the freedom to focus on those dining beside us.
It is tempting to think that the art of etiquette is archaic and reserved for the elite. However, etiquette is for everyone in that it instructs us to refine and gift ourselves to others, all while honoring the dignity of others. Etiquette allows us to honor our own dignity and the fruit of that is, honoring the dignity of others.
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