A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Honouring Our Parents

Posted on: January 10, 2013

I have a good relationship with my parents. I’m thankful to live close by and visit with them regularly, as well as exchange “care packages.” My father, generally a man of few words, is always available for advice or a good debate; my mother and I talk often, and these tend to be marathon phone calls.

This week, my mother phoned with some sad news: an old friend of hers had suddenly passed away, and the friend’s daughter had just called to let her know.

After the call, I thought about the fact that my grandparents’ generation is gone, except for one great-aunt—making my parents’ generation “the older generation,” as my brother would say. That fact, and the death of someone my mother’s age, makes me all too aware of their mortality.

Many times I’ve reminded my son he’s fortunate that all his grandparents are still alive. At his age, I’d lost two grandparents and the last of my great-grandparents. So I’m happy that we’re back in Ottawa and he can spend time with my parents. My husband’s family, however, lives out west and much of our contact is by phone or e-mail.

Communications technologies can help us stay in touch with geographically distant family members in a way that wasn’t possible when I was a child. When we relied on letters, cards, and phone calls timed to take advantage of time-of-day rates.

The question is whether we actually use technology to keep in touch. I admit that I don’t always feel like talking on the phone or answering e-mails. But someday I’ll wish I could ask or tell my parents something. So there are days I finish my household chores later (or not until the next day) because I was talking to Mom and Dad. Time well spent, I think.

News sources recently reported that China has a law requiring adults to visit their aging parents regularly. That such laws need to be considered, let alone passed, hardly says good things about the respect and care shown the baby boom generation.

We North Americans are likely not doing better than our Chinese peers. So many people are “sandwiched” between the needs of their young children and the needs of their aging parents—the more so because my generation has married and had children later, and people are living longer.

It’s worth asking ourselves whether and how, both individually and as a society, we observe the fourth commandment:

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you. (Exodus 20:12, Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

If not, as the Catechism points out (in paragraph 2200), there will be consequences:

Respecting this commandment provides, along with spiritual fruits, temporal fruits of peace and prosperity. Conversely, failure to observe it brings great harm to communities and individuals.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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