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FILIAL RESPECT





WORTHY of honor are they whom the Lord sees fit to honor. In the
exalted station to which they have been called and in the express
command made by the Lord to honor them, we see evidence of the dignity
of parents; and the honor we owe them for this dignity is the honor of
respect. By respect, we mean the recognition of their superiority, the
reverence, veneration and awe all well-born men instinctively feel for
natural worth that transcends their own, the deference in tone, manner
and deportment that naturally belongs to such worth.

It is much easier to say in what respect does not consist than to
define the term itself. If it really exists in the heart--and there it
must exist, to be at all--it will find expression in a thousand
different ways, and will never be at a loss to express itself. Books
will give you the laws of etiquette and will tell you how to be polite;
but the laws that govern respect are graven on the heart, and he whose
heart is in the right place never fails to read and interpret them
correctly. Towards all, at all times and in all places, he will conform
the details of his life with the suggestions of his inner
consciousness--this is respect.

Respect has no substitute; neither assistance nor obedience nor love
can supply it or take its place It may happen that children are no
longer obliged to help their parents; they may be justified in not
obeying them; the circumstances may be such that they no longer have
love or affection for them; but respect can never be wanting without
serious guilt. The reason is simple: because it is due in justice,
because it is founded on natural rights that can never be forfeited,
even when parents themselves lose the sense of their own dignity.

Sinful, wicked and scandalous parents there have been, are, and will
be. But just as they do not owe the excellence to any deed of their
own, but to the free choice of the Almighty, so it depends not on
themselves to forfeit it. God made them parents without respect for
their personal worth. He is the custodian of their dignity. Good or
bad, they are parents and remain parents. Woe unto those who despise
the authors of their days!

Respect overlooks an innocent joke at the expense of a parent, when
absolutely no malice is intended, when on both sides it is looked upon
as a matter of good-natured pleasantry. It brooks humor. Not all
familiarity breeds contempt.

But contempt, which is directly opposed to respect, is a sin that is
never anything but mortal. It refuses honor, belittles dignity and
considers parents beneath esteem. It is contempt to laugh at, to mock,
to gibe and insult parents; it is contempt to call them vile,
opprobrious names, to tell of their faults; it is contempt, and the
height of contempt, to defy them, to curse them or to strike them. It
is bad enough when this sort of thing is directed against an equal; but
when parents are made the objects of contempt, it acquires a dignity
that is infernal.

The malediction of Heaven, the almighty wrath of God follows him or her
who despises a parent. We are repeatedly told in Holy Writ that such
offenders "shall die the death." Scorn of parents is looked upon as a
crime almost on a par with hatred of God. Pagans frequently punished it
with death. Among Christians it is left to the avenging wrath of God
who is pledged to defend the dignity of His delegated paternity.

It is not a rare occurrence to see just retribution visited upon
parents who in their day were undutiful, unworthy and unnatural
children. The justice of Heaven often permits it to be done unto us as
we do unto others. Our children will treat us as we shall have treated
our parents; their hands will be raised against us and will smite us on
the cheek to avenge the grandsire's dishonor and tears, and to make us
atone in shame for our sins against our parents. If we respect others,
they will respect us; if we respect our parents, our children will
respect us.





Next: FILIAL LOVE

Previous: PARENTAL DIGNITY



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