So many of the family life articles in Catholic and other Christian publications and websites are focused on parenting, quality time with kids, etc. That's all well and good, but it seems the Fourth Commandment is often overlooked in comparison. Indeed, while the first three commandments deal with our obligations to God, the first of the subsequent commandments that deal with our relations with others is "Honor your Father and your Mother."
Friends from other countries tell me that they are shocked at how poorly many Americans treat their parents, and elders in general. Not only do we treat them disrespectfully, mooch off them as long as possible, and then shuffle them off to nursing homes, we commit the more subtle sin of ignoring the great wisdom they have to offer us.
The modern media culture is a great offender here, depicting parents and the aged as objects of ridicule, clueless buffoons who are hopelessly out of touch with What's Happening Now. The roots of this attitude go back further to Freudian psychology, which places the blame for our personal ills at the feet of our parents. We can follow the decline of filial piety through the Enlightenment and the Protestant Reformation all the way back to the dawn of man.
The obligation to honor, respect and care for parents was identified by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics as part of the natural law, something that all people are aware of simply because of our human nature. Yes because we are corrupted by sin, God had to remind us of this commandment through His revelation. St. Thomas Aquinas gives a powerful overview of the fourth commandment here , and the Catechism of the Catholic Church also offers an enlightening exposition of this important but oft-forgotten virtue.
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