The Beard and Virtue

It has come to my attention that the Dormitory’s constant promotion regarding beard growth has lead some of you astray. I have heard comments that suggest that divine grace, virtue and true manliness is linked solely to the beard, and that some of you have disregarded the works of beardless men as worthless. However, this my brothers is not righteous. We must all take a step back and realize that contrary to what some Russian Orthodox may have believed, less than 300 years ago, one can enter heaven with a shaven face. Many saints and great men have been able to attain and in-body true manliness time and time again without having a glorious beard.

Just to list a couple:

  1. St. Dominic Savio
  2. Blessed Pope John Paul II
  3. C.S. Lewis
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien

Blessed Pope John Paul II shaving

However, that isn’t to say that there is something righteous about a beard. The beard  has been cherished through-out history as a symbol of virility; to cut off another man’s beard was an outrage (2 Samuel 10:4); to shave or to pluck one’s own beard was a sign of mourning (Jeremiah 41:5; 48:37); to allow the beard to be defiled constituted a presumption of madness (1 Samuel 21:13). And yet we see a hatred toward beards arise in the middle ages. For example, legislation requiring the beard to be shaved seems to have come from this time. Thus an ordinance of the Council of Toulouse, in 1119, threatened with excommunication the clerics who “like a layman allowed hair and beard to grow”, and Pope Alexander III ordained that clerics who nourished their hair and beard were to be shorn by their archdeacon, by force if necessary. This last decree was incorporated in the text of the canon law (Decretals of Gregory IX, III, tit. i, cap. vii). Durandus said, the “Length of hair is symbolical of the multitude of sins. Hence clerics are directed to shave their beards; for the cutting of the hair of the beard, which is said to be nourished by the superfluous humours of the stomach, denotes that we ought to cut away the vices and sins which are a superfluous growth in us. Hence we shave our beards that we may seem purified by innocence and humility and that we may be like the angels who remain always in the bloom of youth.” (Rationale, II, lib. XXXII.)

And yet this goes in complete contrary to the words of St Augustine, Lactantius, St. John Chrysostom, The Apostolic Constitutions and St. Clement of Alexandria.

But then again St. Charles Borromeo was in favor of the canons restricting beard growth.

So what is the solution?

The solution is to grow a beard if you believe it is what God is calling you to do. Look at your life and say, “will facial hair help me in a virtues life?  or will it scandalize those around me and lead them away from the light of Christ? if my beard is not so glorious will it increase my humility? or if my beard is glorious will it fill my pride?”

If you answer yourself those questions then the choice is yours. Just be sure to know, love and serve God in all of your thoughts, words, deeds and omissions.

That being said, you should definitely grow a beard and this is why:

In history, beards have conferred prestige.

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For many of the careers that matter, beards are practically a prerequisite.

Bearded men are more attractive. This has been proved by science.

That’s according to a study by the University Of New South Wales. The optimum level of face fuzz was found to be heavy stubble: ten days’ growth.

It gives you something to stroke while you’re thinking.

You can grow it into the shape of a cage. Then drink tea through it.

That is all real beard hair. Filmed at the 1991 Beard and Moustache Growing Contest in Tacoma.

Now to Be Honest

Gentlemen, if you can’t grow a beard. That is fine. Do not think of yourself as less of a man, or some how incapable of true courage and virtue because let me reveal to you a fact about my own facial hair growing abilities…. There are none.

So Gentlemen do not fret or mock your brothers who are beardless this Movember, whether it be by their choice or by age and fate.

2 comments

  1. Fantastic article and a point well made. It is not the beard which confers greatness, but greatness which oft begets beard. As goes one of our most cherished Beardivist proverbs: The true quality of the beard lies in the measure of virtues required for its cultivation.

    We shall add your research to our archives forthwith.

  2. […] interpretation on both the modern physiognomy and historical significance of beard growth over at The Catholic Dormitory.  We highly recommend the read to all The Center’s students and faculty, but claim neither […]

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