Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy
— Hilaire Belloc
Courtesy is not strictly distinct from the other virtues, but rather a quality to be found in them all. It has something to do with reverence, humility, and chastity. It is shaped by charity, the form of all the virtues, into the quality of mercy. It is the beauty of a brave and generous life.
And discourtesy then, must come from the Enemy:
If God’s grace is in courtesy, the devil’s disgrace lurks in
discourtesy. According to the author of “Piers Plowman”, discourtesy
will be one of the marks of Antichrist. William Langland prophesied a
terrible falling away from Christ and his Church, and the sign of
that apostasy would be discourtesy. Intellectual arrogance would lead
men into infidelity to Holy Mother Church, contempt for the little
and weak, and depravity of morals—in a word, into what Scripture
calls “the pride of life,” the deadly opposite of courtesy.
Near the end of the medieval poem “Piers Plowman”, Langland writes something that is eerily familiar about today’s culture:
Loud laughed Life…
And armed himself in haste in harlot’s words,
And held Holiness for a jest and Courtesy for a waster,
And Loyalty a churl and Liar a free man,
Conscience and Counsel he counted it a folly.
Pride, the devil’s favorite sin…