by Fr. Donald Miller, C.SS.R.
How to Honor Your Mother and Father (Part One) is here.
The outline (in part one) sets forth the principles that must be held as an ideal for every Christian family, even though the ideal may be failed against often and in many ways. As long as the ideal is held sacred, and striven after by both parents and children, families will not be in great danger of falling to pieces.
But in the kind of society in which we live today, many special problems arise in regard to the obligations of the fourth commandment. Children often find themselves in special circumstances that make it difficult to know just what their obligations are.
Here are some of the special problems that arise in this matter, stated just as they are often presented by children themselves.
1. My father is an alcoholic, has not been able to hold a job for several years, has forced my mother to go to work, and has brought shame on us all. I cannot love him; in fact, I have a feeling of hatred and loathing for him. Am I committing a sin in hating my father?
You must learn to distinguish between feelings, which may not be controllable, and the obligations that can still be fulfilled, with the grace of God, by your free will.
There is no sin in a feeling of revulsion for one who disgraces himself, wrongs your mother, brings shame on your whole family by his sins. Our feelings react automatically to what hurts us and our loved ones with what seems to us to be a kind of hatred.
It is not, however, the real hatred, which is necessarily a product of our own free will. No matter what your feelings are, you are bound to love your father in two ways.
You must pray for him each day, begging God to grant him the grace to overcome his weakness and to save his soul in the end. Secondly, you are
bound to try to hide your feelings and to do everything you can to influence your father to change his ways.
Some day you may understand that there was as much sickness of mind responsible for your father’s actions as moral guilt. When that realization comes, you will not want to look back and recall that you added to his difficulties by signs of bitterness and hatred.
2. My father divorced my mother and attempted marriage with another woman. Am 1 bound to call on him as he wants me to do? I cannot do so without at the same time calling on the woman who wrecked our home. Since he is living in sin with this woman, may I not stay away from him entirely?
Even if you still felt a great affection for your father, it would be wrong to act in any way that would show approval of his sinful living. The fact that you feel bitter toward him for having wrecked your family does not of itself give you a right to ignore him; but you may stay away from him on the ground that it is impossible to see him without seeming in a way to accept the whole sinful set-up in which he is living.
At the same time you must pray for him, and, as you grow older, look for opportunities to use your influence to make him realize the terrible state in which he is living. You may not and must not hate him, in the sense of refusing even to pray for him, or to see him under any circumstances whatsoever.
3. 1 am eighteen years old, am just finishing first year of college, and I would like to become a nun. But my parents will not hear of this. They say I must wait until I am at least twenty-one before they will give their permission for my entering a convent. Do parents have the right to prevent their children from following what they think is their vocation?
Strictly speaking, parents do not have the right to interfere with their children’s choosing a priestly or religious vocation, either before or after the children are twenty-one. Since such vocations are very often lost if the individuals wait to enter upon them until they are twenty-one, parents who forbid a daughter to enter a convent until she has passed twenty-one are in effect decreeing that their child shall not follow a religious vocation.
These parents have no right to do; such a vocation is a matter between an individual and God.
However, many circumstances can enter into a situation of this kind that make it unwise, and often even impossible, for a teenager to walk out of his or her home, against the commands of parents, to follow a religious vocation.
There is always the possibility that a youth has a mistaken idea of his fitness for such a vocation. Therefore any young person who feels a call to the higher life should select a regular confessor who will also be an adviser in this matter. No step should be taken without the backing and encouragement of the spiritual director.
4. Have parents a right to decide with whom their children should or should not keep company? I am an eighteen-year-old girl, and my parents insist on deciding for or against my boy friends as soon as I start to go out. Do
I have to be obedient to them?
Parents do have an obligation to see to it that their children do not keep company with persons who are objectively unfitted to make good partners in marriage. Thus they have full authority to forbid a son or daughter to go out with a divorced person, or one who clearly lacks the moral character indispensable for a happy marriage.
Parents should also use their authority, combined with loving exhortations, to prevent their teenaged sons and daughters from keeping company with persons who are not of their faith.
Apart from these important obligations, parents would do wrong if they were to set themselves up as autocratic censors or dictators concerning their children’s friends when the children reach their later teens.
Some parents try to prevent any possibility of their children getting married by forbidding them to keep company; others set up arbitrary and unreasonable standards for the kind of person with whom they will permit their children to keep company. In all such cases the son or daughter thus treated should have recourse to a confessor or spiritual director, and follow the advice that he gives.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE FOR THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
I. MORTAL SINS
1. Have I deliberately given in to hatred of my mother or my father, refusing to speak to them over a considerable period of time?
2. Have I deliberately wished serious harm to my parents, e.g., that they would die so that I might possess their goods?
3. Have I habitually treated my parents harshly, speaking contemptuously to them or of them, ridiculing them, cursing them, causing them severe pain and sorrow?
4. Have I refused to relieve the serious needs of my parents when I was able to do so, leaving them dependent on strangers for necessary food, clothing, or without medical care In sickness and danger of death?
5. Have I done nothing to insure spiritual care for my mother or father when it was needed, neglecting to provide for their receiving the Sacraments in danger of death?
6. Have I, as a lawyer or politician or influential business man, used my power to break down or render useless just laws of the state made for the welfare of all?
7. Have I purposely struck my mother or father in resentment or deliberate bad will?
8. Have I disobeyed parents when they forbade my going with bad companions, or to bad shows and dangerous places?
9. Have I, as an official of the state, seriously failed in my duty by accepting bribes, permitting corruption, letting criminals off, etc.?
10. Have I, as a parishioner, fomented rebellion and disobedience among the people of a parish, by slander, conspiracy, etc., against my pastor?
11. Have I upset the home of my parents by frequently disobeying the rules they had a right to make—concerning the persons to be brought into the house, concerning the hours I kept at night, concerning decent conduct within the home?
12. Have I, when earning money while living under the parental roof or while still subject to parents, refused to give them part of my earnings when they needed it or demanded it?
13. Have I, as a parent, given in to deliberate hatred of a son or daughter, by continual mistreatment, cursing, driving them out of my home without a serious reason?
14. Have I failed entirely to teach and discipline my children in serious matters such as morality and religion?
15. Have I, with deliberate and grave carelessness, endangered the life of a child, either by seriously dangerous conduct before birth, or by neglect of proper attention through the years of infancy?
16. Have I failed to have my child baptized at least within two weeks or thereabouts after birth, when there was no serious obstacle to so doing?
17. Have I given serious bad example to my children, by cursing in their presence, by serious quarreling, by impure talk, by neglecting serious religious obligations?
18. Have I failed to correct and punish my children for serious wrongs, or to forbid them to enter serious occasions of sin?
19. Have I refused to send my children to a Catholic school when I could have done so and had no permission from bishop or pastor to do otherwise?
20. Have I selfishly interfered with the vocation of a son or daughter when God seemed to be calling them to marriage or to a religious vocation and I had no serious reason for refusing to let them go?
21. Have I, as a pupil in school, seriously undermined the authority and harmed the work of my teacher by slander, rebellion, etc.?
22. Have I, as a teacher, seriously neglected my duties by failing to prepare myself in any way for my classes, by not teaching subjects I was hired to teach, etc.?
23. Have I as an employee, failed to a grave degree in carrying out commands of an employer for which I was hired, or fomented rebellion and disobedience and sabotage among others?
24. Have I, as an employer, been seriously unjust to one or many of my employees, by driving them tyrannically, by demanding more than human nature could do, by allowing inhuman working conditions?
1. Have I failed to show love and gratitude to my parents, either by neglecting opportunities to do so, or by positively hurting them in small ways?
2. Have I failed in the respect due my parents, by laughing at them, being openly ashamed of them, talking harshly or angrily to them, saying unkind things about them?
3. Have I disobeyed my parents in small things that they commanded or forbade?
4. Have I lied to my parents to avoid a reprimand or punishment?
5. Have I been stubborn and peevish and openly resentful against parents?
6. Have I neglected to ask or take advice from parents in matters in which their knowledge and experience are meant to guide me?
7. Have I selfishly refused to make life more comfortable and enjoyable for my parents when I could have done so?
8. Have I, in my own mature years, left my parents alone, seldom visiting them, seldom showing any gratitude or love?
9. As a parent, have I slothfully neglected the lesser duties I owed to my children, such as taking an interest in their school work, explaining difficult religious matters to them, encouraging extra habits of piety?
10. Have I given bad example to my children in venial matters, by anger, gossip, lying, etc.?
11. Have I failed to cooperate with teachers of my children by criticizing them to the children, countermanding some of their orders, etc.?
12. Have I, as a pupil in school, been disrespectful and disobedient to teachers?
13. Have I, as a teacher, given bad example to pupils, or failed to prepare well for my classes, or to fulfill minor obligations I assumed?
14. Have I, as an employee, been disobedient to just orders given by my employer, thus causing slight losses?
15. Have I, as an employer, given way to anger, partiality, unfairness in dealing with my employees?
16. Have I, as a citizen, disregarded laws made for the safety and well-being of all, or ridiculed those in authority who made the laws?
III. HELPS AND COUNSELS
1. Have I convinced myself of the truth that all valid authority comes from God, and that obedience to such authority is obedience to God?
2. As a son or daughter, have I ever reflected on the gratitude I owe to parents, which is the basis of the love, respect and obedience I owe them?
3. Have I trained myself to overlook the human faults in those who hold authority, remembering that these faults do not remove my obligation of obedience to all just commands?
4. Have I meditated on what chaos would engulf the world if there were no obedience, and on how much misery has already been caused by rebellion against authority?
5. Have I realized the old Scriptural principle that obedience to parents in youth is the surest means of gaining loyal obedience from others when I may be placed in authority?
6. Have I meditated on the example of Christ, who became man out of obedience and who was obedient to all lawful authority even unto His death?
ASPIRATION: All for Thee, most Sacred Heart of Jesus! (300 days indulgence.)
O Jesus, my Savior, Thou didst say on entering the world: “I am come to do Thy will, O God,” and didst fulfill Thy promise by becoming obedient even unto the death of the cross—O, do Thou teach me to be obedient in all things like unto Thee.
In the past I have often rebelled against those who represent Thy own authority; permit me now by Thy grace to rebel no longer. Thou didst obey Mary and Joseph at Nazareth, and all Thy civil and religious rulers. Let me
see in my own superiors the same divine authority Thou didst obey, no matter what human defects Thy representatives may possess.
And if Thou willest that I should have authority over others in any sphere, grant that I may exercise that authority with the same gentleness, meekness, kindness and charity that were always present in Thee. O Mary, who didst say to the angel who represented God: “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” let me echo thy beautiful submission whenever God’s will is made known to me through my superiors.
One time in 1949 Padre Pio was talking with a certain doctor who was very close to him. They were discussing prayers for the dead. Padre Pio said to him, “Maybe you don’t know that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather!” But the doctor remarked that he has been dead for many, many years. Then Padre Pio explained, “For the Lord the past does not exist. Everything is an eternal present. These prayers had already been taken into account. And so I repeat that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather!”
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