My favorite line from the entire Catechism is at the very beginning of the section on morality. It is a quote from Pope St Gregory the Great, who in a famous homily encapsulates the great moral invitation made to every Christian.
This call is: “Christian, remember your dignity!” (CCC 1691)
This short statement contains possible world-shattering significance. First, it conveys that we have a great dignity. And second, it conveys that there is a need for us to remember that dignity to act accordingly.
A movie that I believe most encapsulates this line is The Lion King. Simba is heir to a kingdom, but he is gone. He is a king in exile from his true kingdom. Then, the sage monkey, Rafiki, shows up and leads the Lion into the dark part of the jungle to find…a simple pool. At first, he looks down and sees only his reflection. But then, through looking at that reflection, Simba sees the image of his father, Mufasa. He sees that he is the son of a great king. By remembering where he came from, Simba realized in that same moment his great dignity.
Both this story and the quote by Gregory the Great should call to our minds the first chapter of Genesis where we learn that we are made in the image and likeness of God. We often think of only our souls being made in God’s image and likeness, but that is not what Genesis says. “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) He does not create a body for us and then puts a soul inside. Rather He makes from that ground “a living being.” We are that living being (body and soul together). That means that we image God in and through our BODIES and our bodies possess a royal dignity.
But why should we care? Why does it even matter if we are our bodies and that our bodies have great dignity? How does that affect us at work as we type away on a computer or at home as we care for the kids running around? Well, ask yourself: if you knew that you were actually royalty, there was a real kingdom waiting for you, and that you were in some way responsible for those people…would you live your life differently?
Imagine you are that king or queen. How would you carry your body? Your head would be high. Your shoulders would be back. You would eat well because your body deserves to be well cared for. Perhaps you wouldn’t let your bodily desires compel you to binge Netflix or shove food down your throat or play video games until 3 in the morning (guilty of some of those). You would work out your body. You would work hard, be honest, and be diligent because, you’d want to do your best for those entrusted to your care.
And of course, you’d notice that everyone else was royalty. Even the homeless man on the street who might have forgotten his dignity still deserves to be treated as royalty. Perhaps you’d need to remind him.
This is why Pope Gregory the Great tells us to REMEMBER our dignity and why Mufasa echoes through the clouds to REMEMBER who you are. We need to remember because it’s so easy to forget. We are God’s children. We are children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. So, let’s act like it.