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FILIAL LOVE





HE who has a heart, and has it properly located, will not fail to love
that which is good; he will have no difficulty in so doing, it will
require neither command nor persuasion to make him do so. If he proves
refractory to this law of nature, it is because he is not like the rest
of mortals, because he is inhuman; and his abnormal condition is due,
not to nature's mistakes, but to his own. And no consideration under
heaven will be equal to the task of instilling affection into a stone or
a chunk of putty.

That is good which is desirable, or which is the source of what is
desirable. God alone is absolutely good, that is to say, good in
Himself and the cause of all good. Created things are good in the
proportion of their furnishing us with things desirable, and are for
that reason called relatively good. They confer benefits on one and not
perhaps on another. When I say: this or that is good, I mean that it is
useful to me, and is productive of comfort, happiness and other
desirable things. Because we are naturally selfish, our appreciation of
what is good depends on what we get out of it.

Therefore, it is that a child's first, best and strongest love should
be for its parents, for the greatest good it enjoys, the thing of all
others to be desired, the essential condition of all else, namely its
existence, it owes to its parents. Life is the boon we receive from
them; not only the giving, but the saving in more than one instance,
the fostering and preserving and sustaining during long years of
helplessness, and the adorning of it with all the advantages we
possess. Nor does this take into account the intimate cost, the
sufferings and labors, the cares and anxieties, the trouble and
worriment that are the lot of devoted parenthood. It is life spent and
given for life. Flesh and blood, substance, health and comfort,
strength of body and peace of soul, lavished with unstinted generosity
out of the fulness of parental affection--these are things that can
never be repaid in kind, they are repaid with the coin of filial piety
and love, or they remain dead debts.

Failure to meet these obligations brands one a reprobate. There is not,
in all creation, bird or beast, but feels and shows instinctive
affection towards those to whom it owes its being. He, therefore, who
closes his heart to the promptings of filial love, has the consolation
of knowing that, not only he does not belong to the order of human
beings, but he places himself outside the pale of animal nature itself,
and exists in a world of his own creation, which no human language is
able to properly qualify.

The love we owe to our parents is next in quality to that which we owe
to God and to ourselves. Love has a way of identifying its object and
its subject; the lover and the beloved become one, their interests are
common, their purpose alike. The dutiful child, therefore, looks upon
its parent as another self, and remains indifferent to nothing that for
weal or for woe affects that parent. Love consists in this community of
feeling, concern and interest. When the demon of selfishness drives
gratitude out of the heart and the ties of natural sympathy become
strained, and love begins to wane; when they are snapped asunder, love
is dead.

The love of God, of course, primes all other love. "He who loves father
or mother more than me," says the Saviour, "is not worthy of me."
Filial love, therefore, must not conflict with that which we owe to
God; it must yield, for it draws its force from the latter and has no
meaning without it. In normal conditions, this conflict never occurs;
it can occur only in the event of parents overriding the law that
governs their station in life. To make divine love wait on the human is
criminal.

It may, and no doubt does, happen that parents become unlovable beings
through disregard for the moral law. And because love is not a
commodity that is made to order, children may be found who justify on
these grounds their absence of affection or even their positive hatred
for such parents. A drunken parent, one who attacks the life, virtue or
reputation of his offspring, a low brute who has neither honor nor
affection, and whose office it is to make home a living hell, such a
one can hardly be loved.

But pity is a form of love; and just as we may never despise a fallen
parent, just so do we owe him or her, even in the depths of his or her
degradation, a meed of pity and commiseration. There is no erring soul
but may be reclaimed; every soul is worth the price of its redemption,
and there is no unfortunate, be he ever so low, but deserves, for the
sake of his soul, a tribute of sympathy and a prayer for his
betterment. And the child that refuses this, however just the cause of
his aversion, offends against the law of nature, of charity and of God.





Next: AUTHORITY AND OBEDIENCE

Previous: FILIAL RESPECT



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