To err is to make a mistake. To be errant is to make a habit of this. Errantry, however, came to mean wandering as a way of living in the positive sense of actively practicing virtue.
In medieval romances, knights-errant wandered the land in search of adventures. They would do this to test their virtue, help others, and glorify their courts. By wandering around, knights knew they would be confronted by unexpected challenges. Would they be resourceful enough to respond creatively? If so, they would witness with clarity to the lord or lady they served. If not, they could still redeem their failure by learning from it.
Knights responded creatively to the simple challenge of interacting with other human beings by practicing courtesy or courtly manners. Being courteous means speaking and acting in ways that affirm the dignity of others simply as human beings and fellow travelers. It means saying “please” and “thank you,” opening doors for others and doing other simple acts of kindness, asking permission, asking some questions indirectly and avoiding others altogether, not taking the biggest or last serving for oneself, making apologies, not yelling, and not attacking the character of others whether they are present or absent.
At the same time, being a knight-errant also involved responding creatively to malice. So being courteous does not mean ignoring, denying, or justifying evil. It means refusing to respond to evil with evil. Our response to evil is creative only if we recognize it as evil but then respond to it with good. Responding to evil with evil lacks dignity.
Knights-errant protected marginal people. They donned their shining armor to rescue damsels in distress. We too may enjoy good adventures when we respect those weaker than ourselves and protect and comfort them when others treat them without respect.
Knight-errantry: a way of living in which we embrace challenges rather than seek to avoid them. As Christians called particularly by our lord to serve him as prophetic witnesses, our daily lives already are full of such adventures. Like the knights-errant of medieval romances, will we be able to respond creatively to them? Let us keep improving our responses to evil with good for the sake of others and for the honor of the lord we serve.
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