Core Decorum: Values

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Illustration courtesy of Cecilia Lang

Some who will remain nameless would do well to remember that it is often a fruitless endeavor to judge the relevance of an ancient text by modern Catholic values.

On the other hand, it is not as fruitless to search for Truth (note the capital T) in these works.

Some of us need to take a stroll down memory lane to recall “The Iliad” back in Lit Trad I, and others may still see its fangs gleaming, near and frightening. My childhood was rather unique, in that my brother and I often debated such matters as to who was superior: Achilles or Hector.

I, possessing at the age of six an intellect of unparalleled proportions, made the impenetrable argument that Achilles won the battle. Also, he wore red in the illustrations and red is (obviously) better than blue. That was enough to silence my brother, and enough to give me an inflated ego. 

However, I returned to the question as I prepared to graduate high school. Much thought was put into what it means to be a man, specifically a Christian one. 

I realized that Achilles did not really hold up to this standard, but Hector did. 

Achilles, when insulted, begins to sulk, crying to his mother about his bruised ego. He fought out of passion and hatred. Hector stood as a patriot, defended the house of his father and ultimately laid down his life. Before his death, he puts his affairs in order and bids his wife and son goodbye. 

One of these is worthy of imitation, the other is not.

As a Christian man myself, Hector remains an ideal of piety, paternity and patriotism. He stays faithful to his wife, despite being in a society that is willing to fight a war to defend adultery (looking at you, Paris). He seems by all accounts to be countercultural. 

Though unconventional, it seems as if Catholics can gain something from reading these pagan texts after all. 

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