Summary of Catechism paragraphs 2196-2257:
- To be in right relationship with God, we must also love our neighbor; the remaining commandments prescribe how we should treat others, beginning with those who have special claim upon us, our parents; thus the Fourth Commandment enjoins us to “honor your father and your mother.”
- At the same time, this commandment has much broader ramifications: it includes parents’ responsibilities toward children, relationships with our extended family, and our duties toward those in authority over us, such as public officials, employers, and teachers.
- The family was established by God to play an indispensable role in His plan; father, mother, and children – as a communion of persons – are to mirror the life-giving love shared by the Holy Trinity; united in prayer and selfless service to each other, the family is called to be a “domestic church.”
- Because the family has its origin in the very beginning of human existence, it exists prior to the state or any other public authority; as a result, the state must not encroach upon the rights and duties of the family, but must instead uphold the family and protect it as the crucial building block of society.
- It is through the family that we learn how to form and nurture relationships, and take care of others in need, preparing us for life in society; children owe parents obedience and respect, and even once grown, children have the serious responsibility to care for their parents.
- Parents have been entrusted with grave obligations toward their children, who depend utterly upon them for all of their needs; providing for children physically and materially is essential, but it is just the minimum; parents are also to create a warm, loving home, give good moral example, and bring children up in the faith.
- Instilling the faith in children is a sacred mission that is first and foremost the responsibility of parents; little ones should come to know God and His Son Jesus, learn basic prayers, and attend Mass, however small they are; as children come of age, parents are to encourage them to discern the vocation they have from God.
- Government authorities likewise have serious obligations toward citizens; officials must view their work as public service in support of justice, the common good, and human rights and the dignity of persons; one aspect of this is welcoming migrants who seek to escape substandard living conditions.
- Citizens in turn are to give proper respect to the authorities and fulfill civic obligations, such as paying taxes, voting, and defending one’s country; but this duty also takes the form of opposition, and possibly even civil disobedience, if the government pursues immoral policies.
- Because familial and societal relationships are at the heart of the Fourth Commandment, the Church has the authority – and the solemn obligation – to proclaim moral principles in the public square; this is not “playing politics,” but giving witness to the moral law.
Live Your Faith
Our culture celebrates hyper-individualism, suggesting that we have the right to be selfish inhabitants of our own private universe.
But that view is false — a lie that ultimately leads us to a dead-end of unhappiness. We don’t belong to ourselves, but to God. We are all members of the human family that He has created; moreover, as Christians, we are members of the Body of Christ. Our lives find true fulfillment, not in selfishness, but when we are focused upon loving service to others.
Am I living up to my responsibilities, especially to my family, or what might I do better? How can I strive to bolster my family life? Is my family striving to be a domestic church, or can we do more to express our faith at home?