BETWEEN PARENTS AND CHILDREN
[continued from yesterday]
Having first paid regard to their own family virtues, the parents will next attend to the corresponding virtues in the children.
Duties toward parents are, of course, of less importance than duties toward God, but on the other hand they are of more importance than duties toward one's neighbor. It is the title under which rights are held that gives the relative importance to the corresponding duties.
God's rights come before a parent's rights, because we owe to Him more than to a parent. Nay, we owe to Him the very fact that we have parents, for God was under no obligation to create our ancestors in the first instance.
A parent's rights come before a neighbor's rights, because our parents gave us our very life, the dearest of all our possessions. Under this title, then, our parents have a right to our love, reverence, and obedience. Just as God is our Creator and demands our love, so our parents are our progenitors and demand our love. Just as God is infinitely higher than men in dignity and so requires a supreme reverence, so parents are relatively higher than their children in dignity and require a relative reverence. Just as God is supreme ruler of the world and has a right to enact an absolute obedience, so the parents are the rulers of the family, and thus, within the sphere of things pertaining to the family, have a right to exact obedience from the children.
The love due to parents is one of the primary instincts of our nature. The sensible affection of the parent for the offspring, and of the offspring for the parent, is evident through the whole of animal creation. Some animals will suffer death rather than give up or neglect their young. If, therefore, this is so in the lower creation, how much more ought it to be true in man, who is raised so much higher and is endowed with a free and intelligent will, by which to enjoy a more perfect love and affection. By this reason he is able to reflect on the infinite difference between being nothing and being something. He is able to know, and in some imperfect way to realize, what cares and responsibilities his parents have undertaken in bringing him into the world and tending him, until he should come to an age when he can look after himself.
Reflecting on these things the grave obligation, moreover an honorable and beautiful obligation, is at once apparent of making a willing offering to his parents of a great love. Ecclesiasticus, therefore, preaches both the natural and the divine law when he says:
"Honor thy father and forget not the groanings of thy mother: Remember that thou hadst not been born but through them : and make a return to them as they have done for thee."Likewise the holy Tobias when, being about to die, he spoke thus to his son:
"When God shall take my soul thou shalt bury my body: and thou shalt honor thy mother all the days of her life: For thou must be mindful what and how great perils she suffered for thee in her womb. And when she shall have ended the time of her life, bury her by me."Indeed, God Himself sanctioned this commandment with a special promise of material prosperity, and caused it to be known ever afterward as the commandment of promise.
"Honor thy father and thy mother that thou mayst be long-lived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee."...[Continued tomorrow
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.