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168. Modesty as Decorum

1. Outward activity, bodily movement or conduct, fallsunder the rule of virtue. For such activity is to be controlled byreason, and reason is disposed by virtue to rule ordinately. Man ismeant to live rightly by inner righteousness and outer decorum.Modesty as decorum is the virtue which steadily disposes aperson to regulate his external conduct so that it is well-ordered,fitting, and beautiful.

2. Man needs at times the relaxation of play, whether inwords or deeds. For man is liable to weariness of mind and soul, asof body. He finds rest in bodily repose, and in mentaldivertisement. Now, the body takes rest, not only in quietinaction, but also in games. And the soul finds an easing oftensions in lighter occupations, among which are games or play ofnonathletic type. Since there is need of ordinate-ness or goodorder in necessary relaxation, there is a virtue respectingrecreation and games. Aristotle (Ethic. iv 8) calls thisvirtue eutra-pelia, which means "the habit of apleasant and cheerful turn of mind." This virtue ofeutrapelia finds outer manifestation in attitudes, words,and actions. The function of this virtue brings it under the headof modesty as decorum. Eutrapelia, the virtue of apleasing turn for games, relaxation, and recreation, requiresregulating by certain conditions: (a) games, and other modes ofpleasure in recreation, must include nothing indecent or injurious;(b) a person must not be completely lost in his addiction tofavorite pastimes; (c) all recreational activities must be suitablyordered with references to persons, times,and places, andother circumstances which can influence the character and effect ofhuman action.

3. Play goes beyond reason and sins by excess when it iseither (a) discourteous, scandalous, obscene or insolent, or (b)inordinate in point of circumstances-place, time, etc. The firsttype of inordinate-ness in games or play is sinful in itself, andmay easily be mortally sinful. The second type is mortally sinfulif it would make a person disobey the laws of God or the Church;if, for instance, a Catholic were willing to miss Mass on Sundayrather than forgo a game in which he is avidly interested. But, forthe most part, excess in games and in addiction to them is notmortally sinful.

4. It is not reasonable for a person to be whollymirthless, and to make himself a dull burden to others in theirrecreation and games. Such a person is rude and boorish, and hisconduct is from a vice rather than from a virtue. Lack of mirth,however, is less unreasonable than excess of mirth.

"Before a man chooses his confessor, he ought to think well about it, and pray about it also; but when he has once chosen, he ought not to change, except for most urgent reasons, but put the utmost confidence in his director."
St Philip Neri

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"Obedience is a short cut to perfection."
St Philip Neri

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"Let no one wear a mask, otherwise he will do ill; and if he has one, let him burn it."
St Philip Neri

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