"I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill? "

Featured Posts


Creative Minority Reader

Humility and Matthew Crawley

Matthew Crawley became heir to Downton Abbey and the its title quite suddenly and unexpectedly when the former heir died on the Titanic.

Crawley, a country lawyer by trade, had never known the kind of life lived at Downton Abbey. On the outside it seemed like a life of pointless privilege and unnecessary trappings.

When he first arrived, Matthew refused to let anybody help him do in anything. He had no use for the maids, the footmen, but he especially eschewed his valet. When his valet tried to dress him, Matthew wouldn't allow it. When the valet tried to offer assistance in picking out a pair of cuff-links, Matthew dismissed the notion and his valet as silly. The valet felt useless and the pain of such dismissal was obvious on his face.

Matthew was simpler and he was proud of that simplicity. He had never needed anyone to help him dress before and he didn't see why he would need one now. And the clothing, ugh, the clothing. Matthew much preferred his plain ol' suit to tuxedos and tails. His initial instinct was that all these accoutrements and formality was mere flash and frippery and he would quickly dispense with it all.

Yet, Lord Grantham counseled him that while all this grand tradition might seem purposeless, it was not. He explained to Matthew that these traditions meant something, not only to the people blandished upon, but to the people who provided the service and to others as well. Lord Grantham explained to Matthew that when he dismissed it all as useless, he was dismissing the value of lives and livelihoods spent learning the craft and the legitimate pride taken in hard work and diligence. He suggested that the service of the servants served not only their masters.

Over time, Matthew began to realize that their was some truth in Lord Grantham's words and being a kind and considerate man, he pondered it. Perhaps his insistence on simplicity was just another form of pride? Perhaps in accepting his new role, the truly humble thing to do was forgo his preference for simplicity, self-reliance, and plainness? In accepting his new role, he had a responsibility to others for whom these things meant a great deal.

And so, in an act of humility and kindness, Matthew asked his valet to help him dress and said, "Would you be so kind as to pick me out a pair of cuff-links." The valet smiled from ear to ear. Good Matthew had never been so humble and so self-effacing as when he accepted the assistance and adornments expected of his new role.

Matthew learned that simplicity is not always humility and pomp not always pride.

As the coming weeks and months unfold, we would all do well keep this lesson in mind.

*subhead*A lesson for us all.*subhead*

Your Ad Here

59 comments:

Matthew Roth said...

I think, in time anyways, we will see this with Francis. Even Benedict needed adjusting, albeit on a smaller scale. At first he didn't let people kiss his ring, and did not want to wear white in private.

Pater, O.S.B. said...

What an excellent post!

ALG Bass said...

Yes!!
Makes me want to watch the show.

Pax Britannica said...

I was wondering how long it would take for the parallel to be drawn with that memorable 'Matthew' episode, so beautifully and touchingly written by Ld Fellowes - and you have put it perfectly.

Rev. Tóth said...

Thank you for the post, watching the show I felt the same. I hope that the Holy Father will realize this soon.

Katharine B. said...

Very nice and tasteful way to put it. Thank you.

Martin Gallagher said...

Nice Post, Patrick. I especially appreciated it because I do love simplicity and your post made me appreciate the other point of view. However, would you also accept that those of us who are naturally drawn to simplicity of worship really do see the beauty of it and are not being prideful or iconoclastic? Is there room for everyone?

Patrick Archbold said...

Martin
Absolutely, it is not and either or.

Mack Hall, HSG said...

The producer, Julian Fellowes (I may have the spelling wrong), is a Catholic, and it shows in his generosity of spirit -- in DOWNTON ABBEY everyone makes mistakes, sometimes terrible ones, but Mr. Fellowes' thesis is that all people are worthy of salvation as children of God. There is not a single character who is not shown sympathetically.

Martin, I submit that a liturgy can never be simple -- if the organ is silenced, then banjos and tambourines are sure to make their unhappy presence known. To suppress a historical usage is to invite a sugary Hallmark-ness in to fill the vacuum. If the celebrant does not humble himself in wearing the proper vestments, he or his successor might show up in clown suits. If we cannot have the Latin, we might have to suffer aw-shucks asides in English.

susan said...


Just SO well done. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

POPE BASHER!!! ;-)

"Perhaps...the truly humble thing to do was forgo his preference for simplicity...he had a responsibility to others for whom these things meant a great deal."

Wow. The profundity.

Matt, thank you. Time for great Penance.

Fr Bill Peckman said...

There is a nobility to simplicity. Simplicity is not the trivializing of liturgy nor the lessening of it. For example, chant is simple musically, but its simplicity is awe striking in beauty. Personal simplicity of life (not to be confused by being simple-minded) has been the hallmark of the saints from Bl. Theresa of Calcutta to St. John Vianney to Christ himself. WE make the mistake of associating grandiosity with traditional ways and simplicity with progressive ways; both are wild over-simplifications. I happen to believe that clerics living like aristocracy is repugnant and against Canon Law which tells us we should embrace simplicity of life as a matter of personal holiness. One need not become a beggar (though there is nothing wrong with that as is seen by the mendicant orders), but simplicity of life is a life of detachment from the goods of this world and wholly appropriate to the clerical state.

Chris said...

The humility of the mendicant orders is not the same as the monastic. Our 2 most recent popes have chosen their names in direct relation to the 2 most prominent men associated with these distinct ways of living out the Christian life. And while, yes, both are the pope which does change things - for both St. Francis and St. Benedict could not have been pope and the saint that they were - the modeling of life upon these great giants of the faith should reflect different aspects of our shared Faith. Beauty can be found in both - but certainly it is more palpabile with Benedict. Humility can be found in both, but certainly easier with Francis. May God help us to see the connection between these paths which lead to Him.

Anonymous said...

This metaphor is not only brilliant but very moving. I can savor this and share it.

Shaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick Archbold said...

Shaw
It presupposes no such thing. Why do people insist on reading more into things than are there?

This is a narrow point to show one single example in which insistence upon simplicity was not humility. That is all. Don't complicate it.

Fanoftommore said...

Amen amen. My sentiments exactly.I am glad you pu it to words God bless!

Fanoftommore said...

Amen amen. My sentiments exactly.I am glad you pu it to words God bless!

anne said...

very nice. thank you.

Martha said...

Well put. But seriously, he'd better not die in a car accident!!!

BONIFACE said...

Here is a look at the question from a historical and theological point of view:

http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/social-teaching/moral-issues/93-social-teaching/moral-issues/307-humility-and-station-in-life.html

truthfinder said...

I had considered this parallel quite soon after the Conclave, I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking this way. And indeed, noble simplicity!

Micha Elyi said...

Jesus is not physically present among us in a way able to accept the honor of an alabaster jar of costly ointment. Therefore, among the duties of His vicar on Earth is to receive such honors in His stead.

Pope Francis has gained among the ignorant the credibility to demonstrate why the Church doesn't just - as Judas advocated - sell off all its material wealth and hand over the result to The Poor.

Anne Marie said...

No joke my husband Tom made the same analogy! Great minds think alike :-)Thanks for sharing this perfect comparision.

Kypapist said...

Years ago I read an article about a very, very wealthy man who brown-bagged it to lunch in his downtown office every day. Instead of being impressed by his frugality or humility, all I could think of were all the working moms waitressing within easy walking distance of his building who could have used a good tip. Not quite as long ago, a co-worker praised a successful business owner, an older gentleman, single, who drove a 20+ year old car and never cashed his paychecks or the dividend checks from his wholly-owned company. "He reminds me of a monk," she gushed, "living so simply." I pointed out that if he had no use for all the profits, his employees could certainly use the additional wages since they were not paid much above the minimum.
These are the examples that came to my mind when I read some of the early reports about our new Holy Father. This is not intended as a criticism of Pope Francis (God bless him), just a presentation of a different point of view. I will have to look into Downton Abbey.

thomas tucker said...

Perhaps so. But, at the same time, there does come a time in which traditions and customs have outlived their usefulness and may become obstacles and stumbling blocks. An example might be the use of the papal throne that was carried on the shoulders, or the papal tiara. Someone then has to take the lead in making changes. The key is in how this is done and if it is done with pure intentions.

eulogos said...

I imagine Downton Abbey has been translated into Spanish and produced either dubbed or with subtitles. Perhaps someone could send a copy of the episode to Pope Francis!
Susan Peterson

Gretchen said...

Thomas Tucker makes a valid point. Alas, the rupture that has occurred in the last decades, in which traditions and customs (including the EF Mass) were thrown out willy-nilly and told to stay out, has not helped.

Matthew Crawley's education in charity is quite instructive for us all.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Patrick. God bless!

Lori said...

Thomas Tucker - yes, exactly! I'm getting kind of fed up hearing "but it's much more humble to follow the tradition." It sort of bypasses the whole discussion of how valid or useful the tradition is.

I think Pope Francis has tried to present himself so simply not out of "humility," but out of these very practical and astute consideration that millions of modern people, if they had seen him dressed in red velvet and ermine like royalty at his first being presented to the world, would simply have dismissed him and everything he stood for out of hand, because they would not have been able to associate him at all with the simple rugged life of Jesus and his first followers. All the mockery about the Pope's "rich clothes" and "trappings of power" come from actual people, ignorant people, but still, people with souls to be saved. Choosing simpler dress -- that is still instantly recognizable as papal dress -- could be a very smart move in winning a hearing for himself.

Keep in mind that Francis' choice of shoulder wear or footwear during his ordinary public appearances has nothing to do with the liturgy as such. The first time he shows up to celebrate Mass in jeans and a sweatshirt, then we can talk.

(BTW, previous popes, Benedict, JPII, JPI all worn a simple mozzetta that was probably silk, or perhaps linen on the balcony; but the garment laid out for Francis as shown in photos was definitely the ermine one. I think perhaps Benedict and others would have thought this excessive as well).

Anonymous said...

Ceremonial traditions are of enduring value. They convey a tangible sign of the awesome importance of the office. They provide the people something to celebrate and rally around. They make it possible for even the simplest among us to rejoice in knowing they are part of something noble, timeless, and grand beyond all human imaginings.

No one criticizes "vain spectacle" when the context is the Super Bowl or a wedding or "Hail to the Chief" or the Tomb of the Unknowns. In all of these, pomp, ceremony, tradition, and even solemnity have their place and are accepted. To find all these qualities repellant only when they are found in Christ's Church is a sign of profound spiritual disorder.

PS: The all-conquering infatuation with the new man's humility has as its nasty subtext that this quality was somehow lacking in our last Holy Father -- implying that the works of his papacy deserve to be dismissed as vain and discredited. I sense a whiff of satanic smoke.

Romulus

Connor said...

This is really funny, I had this exact same thought just a few days ago! No doubt though like Mr. Crawley, Pope Francis will initiate a simpler way of doing things into the thinking at the Vatican. Not a complete overhaul, but in some noticeable ways I would imagine. No doubt there will be some Dowager Countesses advising against the changes and campaigning for things to adhere to the traditional ways of the MO of the Vatican. Hopefully many non-Catholics have considered the link between these two men too as a sort of stealth evangelization! AMDG!

Tim J. said...

I am grateful and encouraged by the example of Pope Francis, AS WELL as our two most recent popes. Catholics, at least those familiar with the lives of the saints, ought to know that there is no cookie-cutter, one-size version of holiness. It is a beautifully varied thing.

Anonymous said...

I find this a bit ridiculous. I personally have found Pope Francis a breath of fresh air from the recent line of Popes, whom I loved. It's nice to see the Vicar of Christ not rolling around in some of the most expensive things imageable, or having everyone cater to his every need. Indeed, did Christ have everyone do everything for Him? I find this a tad bit offensive. It seems everyone is finding something wrong with Pope Francis. We get enough of it from those outside the Church. Let's not split hairs within. Good grief.

Barbara C. said...

Pope Francis is not the one translating his choices as acts of humility...it's the media (secular and Catholic). I think he just has a different personality and style than Benedict, not better or worse.

I've heard Benedict described as an introvert; perhaps rides alone in the papal car helped him to recharge. Francis may be an extrovert for whom riding the bus with others recharges his zeal. Benedict may appreciate form more, while Francis may appreciate function more. Benedict is a theologian, and Francis may be more of a scientist.

And if you want to take your analogy farther...remember that it was Matthew with his new management methods that saved Downton Abbey from bankruptcy and stagnation.

Anonymous said...

If the President of the United States cooked his own meals and did his own laundry, people would say he's not working hard enough at his real job.

Romulus

Margaret in Minnesota said...

Thank you.

Wine in the Water said...

Matthew Crawly also pushed the Lord Grantham to not mindlessly adhere to the old ways of managing the estate when they no longer made sense.

Tradition is not dogma, and it is very easy to let the pendulum swing to far either direction.

enness said...

I see, so we have a responsibility -- nay, a duty! -- to have attention lavished on us, is that it? ;)

Kypapist: unless I was privy to their wills, and knew for a fact that they left it all to the poodle instead of a favorite charity, I personally would rather keep such thoughts to myself.

Romulus: that is something we may never get to find out.

Suzanne said...

Yes.

Lynda said...

The sacred liturgy of Christ's Church on earth is not about us but about God and His Truth revealed through His Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium. No one has the authority to experiment or introduce novelties - that is egotistical and an affront to God. The Mass IS the Faith.

Anonymous said...

I know what you're saying, and I don't disagree, but this just feels, to me, like a back handed slam on Francis because he's doing all these things.

Reading this and Father Z, it's feels like sour grapes for some reason.

B et G said...

I tend to agree with Barbara C. that this is more of an introvert/extravert thing. I believe that Benedict is a deeply humble person and his act of submitting to all the trappings was his expression of humility. Yet I believe the rejection of these things is also Papa Francis' expression of humility. I also would like to remind folks of the part where Tom joins the servants for a meal. It was very much clucked about, but it was fitting in the circumstances for him not to hang on to traditions however well respected and established. I also remember hearing about Pope Pius X, that he was the first to dine with others rather than dining alone. It was rather "scandalous" at the time and those around him insisted that he must dine alone as it had been this way for hundreds of years, but he waved them off and said "I am the Pope now". Francis here is reminding me of Pius X. If he does not have need or desire of certain trappings, he is the Pope and he can jolly well do as he likes. :) One further thought--at the time of Downton Abbey, it was important for the "common folk" to see a continuance of certain traditions. They understood the idea of nobility or royality and wished to see a certain elevation of the noble class. I wonder if some of the Papal trappings were more necessary or helpful when there was more of a sense of royalty/nobility and deeply respected and felt the fittingness of those traditions. It seems now that some of those things *can* be a stumbling block and Papa Francis' expression of simplicity is a way of reaching people in a way appropriate to our time. I've thought about this a lot in the last few days as I am seeing a lot of admiration and a lot of criticism and I understand both points of view but personally remain moved by these gestures of our new Pope.

Rebecca in ID

Unknown said...

"Reading this and Father Z, it's feels like sour grapes for some reason."

I agree. They might have their good intentions in pointing certain things out that matter to them, "not wearing the mozzetta, not wearing the red shoes, not wearing..." What would be said if he had taken to wearing sandals and the black habit of his order?
When I saw the 300,000 pilgrims in that square yesterday and saw them joyful and cheering, well, I see that as a blessing and not as anything negative. I wonder how many of then were wondering if he was dressed as a pope should be dressed?
My hope lies in the fact that something is stirring, something is bearing fruit with Papa Francisco. It is reported that many have gone back to confession in Argentina, after being away for so long. Not sure if that is true but the thought of such makes me hopeful.
I have seen his adoration, his faith, his love, of our Eucharistic Lord when he elevates the sacred host and precious blood and all "while not wearing the red shoes."
Yes, I know that the regalia that comes with his office is important but his faith is beautiful too and perhaps, in time, he will bend and follow and dress as a Pope and not because many are upset about it that he has not yet done so, but that he will do so out of love for Christ and nothing else.
Sorry, but many who are upset with what he wears or does not wear will need to bend as well. Do not become distracted....but pray! Pray! Pray!

Foxfier said...

Micha Elyi -
I thought similar things about the "sell it and give the money to the poor" aspect. :)

FWIW, focusing just on the Pope-- not on what folks are trying to project on to him-- the choices he's making right now are in the "statement" stage. To paraphrase the apocryphal quote, preach always, use words when you gotta.
He didn't refuse to have the garments tailored, he just chose simpler ones; he hasn't insisted on unornamented cotton, but he has gone with plain white-on-white decoration when possible; he hasn't refused to be chauffeured at all, but he has chosen to take simpler forms of transportation when possible.

It's sort of like the last two Popes' different responses to physical limitations, both of which are living examples of different goals. JPII, suffering from a disease whose victims are commonly dehumanized to the point of death, refused to resign. B16, suffering from a much less dramatic side-effects of aging, gave up all the power of the office.

Magdalene said...

Our new Holy Father will hopefully come to see that it is to honor the office he now holds as the Vicar of Christ on earth that warrents the beauty of extraordinary liturgy and accoutrements. It is not about him but about the office. St. Francis may have dressed in rags but he only wanted the best for the churches and the liturgy...and all sacred things such as vessels and vestments.

Jay Anderson said...

Anyone who thinks that Father Z's writing on the Holy Father smacks of "sour grapes" just proves that they haven't ACTUALLY READ what Fr. Z has been writing about Pope Francis since his election.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I did stop to think about the driver who was waiting to take our new pope, and the cobbler who crafted the red shoes. There are many talented people who live to serve. Sometimes it's humbling for us to accept their services. Hopefully we are reading too much into our new pope's actions. Time will tell!

Unknown said...

@ Jay Anderson...I read Fr. Z's article and wondered...regardless, the Holy Father is a man of faith and loves Christ and His Church and her people. I will not waste my time complaining or being upset he does not wear the red shoes nor the mozzetta. Instead, I will ask for forgiveness and pray and hope that all will be one.

Jay Anderson said...

But he has written MANY posts in favor of the Holy Father (including a quite moving reflection on the night of his election regarding an encounter he had with Cardinal Bergoglio a few years back). An he had admonished those who have been critical (including in the comments to the very post in question). This one post - in which he respectfully explains what the red shoes mean - should not be taken as indicative of sour grapes on his part.

Anonymous said...

But red shoes symbolize the blood of the martyr...not royalty!!!

Whether he wears them or not isn't the most important thing. But I think that the Matthew Crawley metaphor is that wearing them, as Benedict did, was profound act of humility, submission, and self-denial and certainly NOT an act of pride or arrogance. He tried to teach what the symbols truly meant, which was a direct connection with the sacrifice of Peter.

Lori, you expressed a concern that if he had worn the traditional clothing, some might "simply have dismissed him and everything he stood for out of hand". This might be true, but they would be wrong in their interpretation. He still wore the cassock and people make fun of it all the time.

I am a lover of symbolism...but we need to know what the symbols represent! I would really like to hear what Pope Francis had in mind with these gestures.



B et G said...

Anonymous, thank you for pointing this out about the red shoes. You're right, I was actually more thinking about the carrying of the chair, etc., in relation to the trappings of royalty. And I agree with you that Benedict's submission to these traditions was profoundly humble especially as he *was* an introvert and I'm sure had a tendency to feel embarrassment. I agree there. I'm just thinking that Pope Francis is just doing something different and it's also totally okay--he is not *negating* the blood of the martyrs, for example, by choosing the simple black shoes his friends so thoughtfully gave him. Another example, besides Pius X, of a Pope who broke with accepted tradition, is Pius V. He was the first, from what I have been told, to wear the white cassock. It was simply that he was a Dominican, and he wished to wear the habit of his order rather than the traditional Papal garments. I am sure there were venerable reasons behind the traditional Papal garments and he was not insulting those or acting proudly, but he just really preferred to dress as a simple Dominican. And he was the Pope, and that was okay. This Pope is not doing anything nearly as extreme, from what I've seen so far!

Rebecca

thefederalist said...

There's also a fine scene early in the movie "Gettysburg". Colonel Joshua Chamberlain is leading his men toward Gettysburg, and is walking his horse because it's blazing hot and if his men have to march, he will too. His master sergeant is a crusty emigre from Ireland who can't stand the South because their society is too aristocratic, like England (which he also doesn't care for much). But after a while he comes up to the colonel and suggests, you've made your point, now get on that horse - the men want to know that their officers aren't stupid.

thefederalist said...

There's also a fine scene early in the movie "Gettysburg". Colonel Joshua Chamberlain is leading his men toward Gettysburg, and is walking his horse because it's blazing hot and if his men have to march, he will too. His master sergeant is a crusty emigre from Ireland who can't stand the South because their society is too aristocratic, like England (which he also doesn't care for much). But after a while he comes up to the colonel and suggests, you've made your point, now get on that horse - the men want to know that their officers aren't stupid.

thefederalist said...

There's also a fine scene early in the movie "Gettysburg". Colonel Joshua Chamberlain is leading his men toward Gettysburg, and is walking his horse because it's blazing hot and if his men have to march, he will too. His master sergeant is a crusty emigre from Ireland who can't stand the South because their society is too aristocratic, like England (which he also doesn't care for much). But after a while he comes up to the colonel and suggests, you've made your point, now get on that horse - the men want to know that their officers aren't stupid.

thefederalist said...

There's also a fine scene early in the movie "Gettysburg". Colonel Joshua Chamberlain is leading his men toward Gettysburg, and is walking his horse because it's blazing hot and if his men have to march, he will too. His master sergeant is a crusty emigre from Ireland who can't stand the South because their society is too aristocratic, like England (which he also doesn't care for much). But after a while he comes up to the colonel and suggests, you've made your point, now get on that horse - the men want to know that their officers aren't stupid.

Caeremonarius said...

Another example, besides Pius X, of a Pope who broke with accepted tradition, is Pius V. He was the first, from what I have been told, to wear the white cassock. It was simply that he was a Dominican, and he wished to wear the habit of his order rather than the traditional Papal garments.

No, no, and NO!

St. Pius V was NOT the first pope to wear white. Popes have worn white since at least the time of Sixtus IV (d. 1484).

See this contemporary painting of Sixtus IV, and note his white cassock under his rochet:

http://www.christusrex.org/www1/vaticano/P-Platina.jpg

I'm a Lay Dominican and would love for the story of Pius V to be true, but it simply isn't.

B et G said...

Caermonarius,
Ha, thanks! That's what I get for believing my husband (the lay Dominican). Next time I'll check sources. It's true about Pius X and his dinner, though. :)
Rebecca

B et G said...

Hmm, so apparently this guy thinks that the story about Pius V is kinda true...http://electingthepope.net/question/why-does-the-pope-wear-white/
Maybe they wore white *a little bit* before, but after Pius V they wore white big-time? Seems like it's recent enough history that we should be able to get a straight story on it? I think it is true at any rate that Pius V chose to simply wear his Dominican habit?
Rebecca

Post a Comment