Apr 29, 2007

Disorder and the Man on a White Horse

Many years ago we were warned that if our country became libertine (as distinguished from exercising responsible freedom), disorder would come and the only solution would be a Man on a White Horse. The Man would justify taking away legitimate freedoms so (he would claim) to restore order to society.

One website describes the phrase "man on a white horse" as
referring to a politician who does nothing but appease the masses. The white-horse aspect refers to the fact that such a politician will 'ride in and rescue all the people from their sorrows'. The man-on-a-white-horse typically labels himself as a champion of the common man.
Order and disorder are addressed by Alice von Hildebrand in the April 2007 issue of This Rock magazine (usually quite good). She puts the issue into perspective, showing that order for its own sake can "become a straitjacket and can cause them [some people] gravely to offend charity."
Another kind of habit is genuinely good in and of itself. One only need read the Rule of St. Benedict to see that he orders his monks to follow a tight schedule: time for prayer, time for reading, time for work, time for sleep. In convents and monasteries, the bell rings to call the religious to certain duties. St. Benedict insists that as soon as it rings, the monk should immediately abandon whatever he is doing (relictis omnibus). This is not easy when one is very close to completing a task. Most of us would either get irritated, or cheat a tiny bit....

Following a schedule is a good habit; so is leading an ordered life. Some talented people accomplish very little because they lack discipline. Some people who have no exceptional talents nevertheless accomplish much because they organize their day. Discipline and order are praiseworthy. But they too can become illegitimate ties. We all know peopole who actually lose their temper when an object is misplaced. Moreover, charity demands that sometimes we should disrupt our schedule in an emergency. In such cases, charity should always be given precedence.
Mrs. Von Hildebrand concludes: "The saint, though, acquires a superb flexibility and indifference. One the one hand, he never allows his moods to disrupt his schedule; on the other he never hesitates to break it when charity demands it." Very good advice.

My own opinion is that societal disorder is so rampant that the firm practice of order should be encouraged. When I was growing up my elders all followed a regular pattern of life. Monday was wash day; Tuesday was ironing day.... Saturday was housecleaning day. Most importantly, Sunday was a very special day beginning with early Mass followed by breakfast, reading the paper, and refreshing our energy. On that day we were likely to visit with relatives. Sunday always ended with the family rosary. It's a good way to live life.

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