Reserve is a virtue that makes us think, speak, and act with moderation, discretion, and modesty.
Reserve differs from Patience. Both, in truth, must be accompanied by modesty; but the former does so in order to forestall evil, while the latter does so to endure it. Reserve differs from the aspect of Prudence named precaution because it directly forestalls evil, either within itself or outwardly; whereas precaution does so directly or exteriorly. Finally, this virtue differs from Gravity. This latters principal object lies in the exterior, but Reserves essential object is not only what is external but also what is internal.
By this we understand in general that Reserve is distinguished from Precaution and Gravity, just as a cause is distinguished from its effects, as a spring differs from the rills flowing from it. But at the same time, we can understand how the virtues of a good teacher, although differing from one another, are yet so intimately united that they hold together as though by indissoluble bonds, so that we cannot fail with regard to one without often failing against several others.
Reserve, then, consists in controlling ourselves in circumstances where we might grow angry or upset; in not allowing ourselves anything not entirely proper and beyond the reach of any just criticism or evil suspicion. It teaches us to regulate all our conduct so that the students will not remark anything not imitable and edifying in us. It requires us to act everywhere with due consideration for the concerns, the understanding, and the precautions demanded by the innocence of the children, the weakness of their age, their impressionability, and their tendency to imitate evil. A word, a gesture, a smile, a winksomething insignificant in appearancecan call into play their imagination, becoming for them a fruitful source of reveries, a rich font of unjustified conclusions and sometimes of dangerous moral decisions in the future.
This virtue also avoids all dangerous friendships or relationships with them. It forbids us even to touch or caress them, to joke with them, to let them hug us. It never loses sight of the opinion usually entertained by children that persons consecrated to God must be without defects and above the ordinary weaknesses found in other persons. We must do nothing to disabuse them of this opinion, and we should also remember that there may be among these children some sufficiently perverse to give the most malignant interpretations to words and actions in which only the malice of an already corrupted heart would discern the appearance of evil when none is present.
Because Reserve in thought leads to Reserve in word and action, it is very important to learn how to think properly, that is, to reflect carefully on things as well as to judge rightly of them.
We fail against Reserve when we do not seek to give good example, to show decorum in all our external conduct, to avoid every offensive or coarse manner of acting, whatever would be the result of a poor education, whatever might in the slightest degree offend the eyes or ears of the young, give rise to rash judgment, or lessen the consideration and reputation a teacher needs in order to do any good and to deserve the esteem and confidence of his students. In fact, they lose respect for and submission to him the moment they see that his conduct is not irreproachable.
Another effect of Reserve, as of Gravity, is to impress the students, to make them very reserved also, and to prevent them from taking any liberties; for various virtues can produce the same effects because of differing principles. Evenness of soul is a peaceful and calm attitude that is not troubled by events that happen, whatever they may be. It is acquired by cultivating a balanced view of things, by moderating our desires and fears, and by preparing ourselves for all eventualities.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life. . . .
Keep straight the path of your feet, and all your ways will be sure. (Proverbs 4:23, 26)
As you lock up your silver and gold,
so make balances and scales for your words.
Take care not to err with your tongue. (Sirach 28:2526)