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Header-Honor Thy Father & Thy Mother

By Rex Teodosio & Vincent Gorre

 

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Honor your father and mother that it may be well with you and that you may live long on earth.”
Ephesians 6:1-3

 

At first glance, the Fourth Commandment might seem childish, something that simply means to obey one’s parents until becoming an adult. This is far from the truth. In fact, this commandment is so profound, it touches on the very core of the family, and so vast, it touches on absolutely all aspects of society. This commandment is the very principle of what might be called the spirit of the family.

The family’s role in society is irreplaceable since it is the only true channel for the existence and perfection of society including Church and State. Families, imbibed with the Fourth Commandment, are the true foundation of any organic Christian society.

Many American families have the impression that the Fourth Commandment is mainly directed at children, as if children are emancipated from this obligation once they become adults. They take this emancipation so seriously that some states even have laws granting emancipation at the early age of sixteen. In California, it’s fourteen. Did God intend a statute of limitations for the Fourth Commandment? Is the application of this commandment different for a thirteen-year-old than it is for a thirty-one-year-old; one who has attained the age of sixteen or sixty-one? Is the meaning of the commandment simply “to obey?” Then why did God use the mandate “honor” instead of simply “obey?” To really understand this commandment, we need to delve into the meaning of “honor.”

 

The Concept of “Honor”

The few authors who write about the subject of “honor” agree that it is one of the hardest human concepts to fully define. Perhaps, one of the most prominent images in people’s minds relating to honor is dueling. Although wrong in its conception, and contrary to Church teaching, dueling did reflect a remnant of an age where honor was given the highest value, more than life itself. You were either a man of honor or you were nothing. In duels, honor is mistakenly used in one of its highest meanings.

What honor really involves is the esteem and good reputation in face of one’s peers because of a quality that shines forth. Some examples of this use of the word “honor” might be found on a bumper sticker that says: “My son/daughter is an honor student in whatever Middle School”; in the expressions, “It’s an honor to meet you,” or “Can you do the honors?”; when we address a judge as “your honor,” and prominent political figures as “the honorable Mr. Smith”; or a Marine recruitment billboard that says, “Honor” giving the impression that the word defines the soul of the Marine.

Young Jesus in the TempleA further study of honor reveals more complicated meanings and applications, especially in the context of various cultures and traditions. But scholars do agree on at least three characteristics of honor: it is universal; it can be acquired, lost, diminished or increased; and finally, it involves enjoying good esteem among groups of people.

As Christians, we will limit ourselves to how the Hebrews, Romans and Greeks understood honor, as these were the main cultures during the time of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Hebrews use the word honor to describe a person of importance or value. The Romans use honor to describe a person of respectability and high esteem. The Greeks, however, use the word honor to describe a person of great renown, glory, splendor and almost divine quality, or “the unspoken manifestation of God.”

The great Catholic thinker Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira defined honor as the esteem given to the standards of excellence we see in people, especially when they reflect God. One has honor by holding oneself to standards of excellence which may or may not be recognized immediately. From this definition of honor, there is honor in the saintly hermits who lived lives completely isolated from public esteem. There is honor in the martyrs who died for the faith, even though the Muslim public hated them. There is honor in the pro-life activists who wait hours in the cold to counsel a mother contemplating abortion. All these hold themselves to standards of excellence that will one day be recognized as praiseworthy.

 

The Highest Application of Honor: “The Spirit of the Family”

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the honor we owe our parents, according to the Fourth Commandment, must necessarily be the highest in the natural order for three reasons: first, they participated with God in the act of creation; second, they participated with God in His Divine Providence; and third, they were our first teachers. Here we have the first insight into what the “spirit of the family” means. It is based on the reality that our parents have the honor of participating with God as co-creators, co-providers and co-teachers. It is also based on us, the children, receiving so much from our parents gratuitously. In the same spirit that God, out of His goodness, created heaven and earth and blessed it with an abundance of gifts, likewise our parents gave us an abundance of gifts.

Saint Thomas Aquinas further explains that it is necessary to honor our parents with both word and deed and that by virtue of justice, we need to give back more than we received. Since this is impossible, it is necessary to bring honor to our parents in other ways. The book of Ecclesiastics points out that “For the glory of a man is from the honour of his father, and a father without honour is the disgrace of the son” (Ecclesiasticus 3:13). We need to remember that honoring our parents is based on excellence.

Large Family

Mediocrity and lukewarmness are not honorable qualities

Therefore, the “spirit of the family” is the unity of virtues expressed in this relationship. This includes the virtues of temperance, justice, fortitude, prudence, charity and sacrifice. This spirit is seen reflected in all of creation. We see this in the plant and animal kingdoms and in pagan people. This is expressed as well in temporal society, like in the feudal relationship, in calling a king the father of his subjects, or referring to the signers of the constitution as the founding fathers. We see this in the Church when Our Lord Jesus Christ addressed his followers as “my brothers and sisters,” and when He instructed us to pray to Our Father in heaven. We call the Church, Holy Mother Church and Mary, Our Heavenly Mother. We use titles like Holy Father, Reverend Father, and Mother Superior. All these are expressions of the “spirit of the family.”

 

The Necessity of Honoring our Ancestors

It is only logical that if we are obliged to honor our parents and they are obliged to honor theirs and so on, we must honor all our forefathers. “When speaking of the traditional family, we must see it as more than just the sum of living members composed of father, mother and children. Throughout history, the family has always been understood to mean the unity of the whole lineage of ancestors and descendants,” says John Horvat II in his book, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society. He further affirms that if the Fourth Commandment is truly understood and practiced, “families would cease to be modern nuclear families with all the defects inherent to it. Each family would become dynasties of tradition, where each generation tries to outdo the former in the realm of honor.”

Grandfather with grandsonTo illustrate this principle, it is interesting to see the importance of genealogy. John Horvat further explains that “family members share qualities and appetites, defects and disordered passions. Yet the family, especially the large family, is also rich in solutions since the individual draws upon family traditions, past figures serving as role models, and corrective or counter balancing traits from the two family lines to hold defects in check.” To that we can add that families also share common virtues and blessings. In short, our lineage is part of who we are, like it or not, good or bad.

The importance of bringing honor to one’s lineage is clearly evident with Our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke both begin by tracing His lineage. While Saint Matthew traces Our Lord’s legal and royal lineage through Saint Joseph (Matt 1:1-17), Saint Luke traces His biological lineage by starting with Saint Joseph, going all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38).

 

Institutionalized Honor: the Role of the Natural Leaders and Elites

When people hold themselves to standards of excellence over generations, they form true elites and leaders. Such figures take the Fourth Commandment and make it into an institution. Not only did they trace their lineages, but most importantly, they became a dynasty of honor. This explains why so many true elites sought honorable acts. They founded new continents; fought great wars in defense of the Church; established the best universities and hospitals; and joined religious orders. This is in stark contrast to today’s pop culture of narcissism, apathy and mediocrity. These noble figures sought all forms of honor, especially the honor of heroism and sanctity. In his last published book, Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites in the Allocutions of Pius XII, Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira lists a number of canonized saints who were members of the nobility and true elites as proof of this dedication to the spirit of the family.

 

The Family Spirit and Society

The spirit of the family is based on the relationship of children with their parents and theirs with God. From this relationship flows all the qualities, virtues, temperaments, customs, and habits, that first are concentrated in the home and then permeate all society.

Family GatheringThe institution of the family existed at the beginning of history. But by itself, it can only reach a certain level of perfection.

Society needs the Church and State.

As God took soil, formed it into a body, infused it with a soul, and called it “Adam,” so He did with the family.

The family is the material from which God formed the State, infused it with the Church and called it “Christendom,” or, if you will, organic Christian society.

When the balance between the family, Church and State is destabilized, society breaks apart. If the State becomes socialist and consumes the family with unjust laws, taxes and regulations, society becomes unbalanced. If the State becomes atheistic and encroaches on the rights of the Church, society becomes unbalanced.

If Church leaders neglect to temper the abuses of the State, society becomes unbalanced. If the family withdraws to itself, abandoning both Church and State, society becomes unbalanced. Or worse, if the family loses the family spirit entirely, society will collapse and mankind will soon cease to exist. Simply stated, without the family, the Church would have no members, and the State would have no subjects. As long as the spirit of the family persists, the family will survive every challenge, and so will society at large.

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the honor we owe our parents, according to the Fourth Commandment, must necessarily be the highest in the natural order for three reasons: first, they participated with God in the act of creation; second, they participated with God in His Divine Providence; and third, they were our first teachers.

 

Ten Ways to Honor Our Parents

  1. Cultivate an interior attitude of respect and esteem for parents as co-creators and co-providers with God as well as first teachers.
  2. Offer for them a sincere daily prayer. Once in a while have a Mass offered for their intentions, and tell them about it.
  3. Bring them to Mass and the Sacraments if they are able and willing.
  4. Visit often. Sympathize with them in their sorrows, worries and troubles. Listen to them, and do them the honor of consulting them, making them feel needed. Although you may not be bound to follow their counsels, you may, however, walk away surprised and enriched by their wisdom.
  5. Bring the children to see them. Encourage your own children to make them cards and small gifts.
  6. Write them a card on their birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Give them something they enjoy. Include them in the celebrations.
  7. Seek to do small favors for them, such as paying the bills or providing a meal. Take them out to eat periodically.
  8. Provide for them when they lack financially.
  9. Take care of them when they are sick. Accompany them to the doctors. If a nursing home becomes an unavoidable contingency, do not let them feel abandoned.
  10. See that they make a clear and just will. If they are troubled about final arrangements, help them resolve everything so as to set their minds at ease.

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for September 22, 2019

Dismiss all anger and look into yourself a little. Remember...

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September 22

 

Dismiss all anger and look into yourself a little.
Remember that he of whom you are speaking
is your brother, and as he is in the way of salvation,
God can make him a saint,
in spite of his present weakness.

St. Thomas of Villanova


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Thomas of Villanova

When the emperor discovered his secretary had written the na...

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St. Thomas of Villanova

Thomas was born in Castile, Spain in 1488. His family was not wealthy, but his father’s work as a miller allowed the family to be charitable and generous towards the poor. He was sent to school at the University of Alcala at the age of sixteen, where he threw himself enthusiastically into his studies and, ten years later, became professor of philosophy.

In 1516 he joined the Augustinian Friars at Salamanca and was ordained a priest two years later. He eventually became prior in several houses of the Augustinian Order, notably Salamanca, Burgos, and Valladolid. When Don Jorge, the Archbishop of Valencia, resigned, the emperor did not offer Thomas the see because he knew the high position would be a grievous trial for the humble friar-priest. Instead, the emperor nominated a religious of the Order of St. Jerome. However, when the emperor discovered his secretary had written the name of Brother Thomas of Villanova on the letter of nomination, he took it as a sign from God and appointed Thomas bishop. The year was 1545.

Thomas immediately began to restore the spiritual and material life of the archdiocese. He was deeply committed to the poor, established care for orphans and convinced the emperor to provide funds to organize priests for service among the converted Moors who had lapsed back into their old religion for lack of a shepherd.

Renowned for his personal charity, sanctity and austerities, Thomas was eventually consecrated archbishop. While he did not attend the sessions of the Council of Trent, he was an ardent supporter of the Reformation against the Lutheran heresy.

Thomas of Villanova died in 1555 of angina at the age of sixty-seven. He was canonized by Pope Alexander VII on November 1, 1658.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

“What is that?” Asked a curious voice as America Needs F...

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The Power of a Picture

“What is that?” Asked a curious voice as America Needs Fatima custodian Jose Ferraz stepped into the hotel elevator in Altamonte Springs, Florida. “This is the Pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima,” replied Mr. Ferraz, “I take Her to visit people in their homes to spread the Fatima message.” He then handed the woman, who was a maid at the hotel, America Needs Fatima’s most popular picture. “This is a picture of Her.” The woman gasped. “I know that picture! It inspired a conversion.” She then asked excitedly, “Do you have a minute to hear the story?” 

Order your free 8x10 picture of Our Lady of Fatima

As Mr. Ferraz listened, he learned that the woman, Maria Vegra, had a 22-year old son who had recently passed away after three weeks in the hospital due to a fatal injury received in a car accident. While in the hospital, a priest would visit him every day to administer Holy Communion. The priest consistently offered the sacrament to the neighboring patient of Maria’s son, another young man who was also in critical condition. The young man would say, “No. I don’t believe in God.” But the priest continued to offer salvation. “Let me hear your confession and give you Holy Communion and Last Rights,” the priest said, “it will save your soul and get you to heaven.” Time after time, the young man stubbornly refused.

During the weeks of hospitalization and fruitless medical treatments, Maria had taken her son a picture of Our Lady of Fatima a friend had given her from an America Needs Fatima mailing.

She knew Our Lady’s watchful gaze would give her son peace in his last days. The day after she placed Our Lady’s picture at the foot of her son’s bed, she heard the voice of his stubborn neighbor: “please,” he said, “bring the picture closer to me. I want to look at the Lady.” 

Surprised but willing, Maria placed the picture in the middle of the two suffering men. 

After three days of letting the nearby picture of Our Lady touch his heart as he gazed into Her eyes, the suffering patient relented. “Please,” he called out, “bring me the priest. I want to receive the sacraments.”

A few days later, the young man died a Catholic. With a simple picture of Our Lady of Fatima, God touched a heart and saved a soul. 

 By Catherine Ferdinand

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“What is that?” Asked a curious voice as America Needs Fatima custodian Jose Ferraz stepped into the hotel elevator in Altamonte Springs, Florida. “This is the Pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima,” replied Mr. Ferraz, “I take Her to visit people in their homes to spread the Fatima message.” He then handed the woman, who was a maid at the hotel, America Needs Fatima’s most popular picture. 

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