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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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"Honor thy father and thy mother." A man is called father not only by

reason of generation, but also for other reasons, and to each of these

there is due a certain reverence. Thus, the Apostles and the Saints are

called fathers because of their doctrine and their exemplification of

faith: "For if you have ten thousands instructors in Christ, yet not many

fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you."31 And

again: "Let us now praise men of renown and our fathers in their

generation."32 However, let us praise them not in word only, but by

imitating them; and we do this if nothing is found in us contrary to what

we praise in them.


Our superiors in the Church are also called fathers; and they too are to be

respected as the ministers of God: "Remember your prelates, . . . whose

faith follow, considering the end of their conversation."33 And again: "He

that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me."34

We honor them by showing them obedience: "Obey your prelates, and be

subject to them."35 And also by paying them tithes: "Honor the Lord with

thy substance, and give Him of the first of thy fruits."36



Rulers and kings are called fathers: "Father, if the prophet had bid thee

do some great thing, surely thou shouldst have done it."37 We call them

fathers because their whole care is the good of their people. And we honor

them by being subject to them: "Let every soul be subject to higher

powers."38 We should be subject to them not merely through fear, but

through love; and not merely because it is reasonable, but because of the

dictates of our conscience. Because "there is no power but from God."39 And

so to all such we must render what we owe them: "Tribute, to whom tribute

is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom

honor."40 And again: "My son, fear the Lord and the king."41


Our benefactors also are called fathers: "Be merciful to the fatherless as

a father."42 He, too, is like a father [who gives his bond] of whom it is

said: "Forget not the kindness of thy surety."43 On the other hand, the

thankless shall receive a punishment such as is written: "The hope of the

unthankful shall melt away as the winter's ice."44 Old men also are called

fathers: "Ask thy father, and he will declare to thee; thy elders and they

will tell thee."45 And again: "Rise up before the hoary head, and honor the

person of the aged man."46 "In the company of great men take not upon thee

to speak; and when the ancients are present, speak not much."47 "Hear in

silence, and for thy reverence good grace shall come to thee."48 Now, all

these fathers must be honored, because they all resemble to some degree our

Father who is in heaven; and of all of them it is said: "He that despiseth

you, despiseth Me."49






31. I Cor., iv. 15.


32. Ecclus., xliv. 1.


33. Heb., xiii. 7.


34. Luke, x. 16.


35. Heb., xiii. 17.


36. Prov., iii. 9.


37. IV Kings, v. 13.


38. Rom., xiii. 1.


39. "Ibid.," 7


40. "Ibid."


41. Prov., xxiv. 21.


42. Ecclus., iv. 10.


43. "Ibid.," xxix. 19.


44. Wis., xvi. 29.


45. Deut., xxxii. 7.


46. Lev., xix. 32.


47. Ecclus., xxxii. 13.


48. "Ibid.," 9.


49. Luke, x. 16.

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