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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT: "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest
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THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT: "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest

be long-lived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee."1

 

Perfection for man consists in the love of God and of neighbor. Now, the

three Commandments which were written on the first tablet pertain to the

love of God; for the love of neighbor there were the seven Commandments on

the second tablet. But we must "love, not in word nor in tongue, but in

deed and in truth."2 For a man to love thus, he must do two things, namely,

avoid evil and do good. Certain of the Commandments prescribe good acts,

while others forbid evil deeds. And we must also know that to avoid evil is

in our power; but we are incapable of doing good to everyone. Thus, St.

Augustine says that we should love all, but we are not bound to do good to

all. But among those to whom we are bound to do good are those in some way

united to us. Thus, "if any man have not care of his own and especially of

those of his house, he hath denied the faith."3 Now, amongst all our

relatives there are none closer than our father and mother. "We ought to

love God first," says St. Ambrose, "then our father and mother." Hence, God

has given us the Commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother."4

 

The Philosopher also gives another reason for this honor to parents, in

that we cannot make an equal return to our parents for the great benefits

they have granted to us; and, therefore, an offended parent has the right

to send his son away, but the son has no such right.5 Parents, indeed, give

their children three things. The first is that they brought them into

being: "Honor thy father, and forget not the groanings of thy mother;

remember that thou hadst not been born but through them."6 Secondly, they

furnished nourishment and the support necessary for life. For a child comes

naked into the world, as Job relates (i. 24), but he is provided for by his

parents. The third is instruction: "We have had fathers of our flesh for

instructors."7 "Hast thou children? Instruct them."8

 

Parents, therefore, should give instruction without delay to their

children, because "a young man according to his way, even when he is old

will not depart from it."9 And again: "It is good for a man when he hath

borne the yoke from his youth."10 Now, the instruction which Tobias gave

his son (Tob., iv) was this: to fear the Lord and to abstain from sin. This

is indeed contrary to those parents who approve of the misdeeds of their

children. Children, therefore, receive from their parents birth,

nourishment, and instruction.

 




1. Exod., xx. 12; Deut., v. 16.

 



2. I John, iii. 18.

 



3. I Tim., v. 8.

 



4. St. Thomas also treats of the Fourth Commandment in "Summa Theol.," II-

II, QQ. cxxii, ci.

 



5. Aristotle, "Ethics."

 



6. Ecclus., vii. 29-30.

 



7. Heb., xii. 9.

 



8. Ecclus., vii. 25.

 



9. Prov. xxii. 6.

 



10. Lam., iii. 27.

 






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