By Kathy Coffey
“Honor your father and your mother…” (Exodus 20:12).
We turn from the first three
God and humans, towards the next
four, which focus on relationships
What nugget of wisdom does
the Fourth Commandment teach
us? Today some parents and children
wish their parents
were alive to
honor them. But
story shows how
children still honor their parents.
Jan celebrated her 60th birthday
with friends, far from her children
who lived in five different states.
But she had
told her kids,
“No gifts. All I
need are memories
Then the postal
box. Within it
were 60 small
pieces of paper,
on which Jan’s
written 60 special memories. She
read and cherished each one with a
mixture of laughter and tears.
While we can only speculate
what motivated Jan’s children, we
can ask ourselves: Why honor our
parents? In the world of the Bible
and in the best homes today, parents
provide the images of trust,
hope and serenity that enable the
young to face formidable obstacles
ahead. To their children they convey
the message, whether spoken
or unspoken, “You are loved. You
All human beings are constantly
making the passage from the known to the unknown. Parents who have endured
disappointment, even tragedy, can help their offspring
travel that passage with dignity. “We’ve made
mistakes,” they say. “We’ve lost jobs, or health, or our
dearest loves. But it didn’t kill us. Something in
human beings endures. Something continues to trust.
Something moves forward in confidence.”
Furthermore, parents are the keepers of memory.
When their children hit snags, they remind them
what glorious people they most deeply are, recalling
their finest selves. And if humor, perspective or home
cooking can lighten a load, they contribute it.
In Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca
Wells recounts a long, serious mother-daughter rift
which begins to heal when the mother sends
her daughter Sidda in the Pacific Northwest
her famous crayfish etouffe from
Louisiana. “With each bite, Sidda tasted
her homeland and her mother’s love.”
The wisest parents honor their children
in turn. They count on their children’s
good sense to pilot them through
difficulties, so they restrain the “free
advice.” They clarify the boundaries of
their role: providing safe harbors, but not
holding the ropes too tightly. They encourage children
to explore God’s large and beautiful world, not
burdening the young
fear or anxiety.
Wisely, they recognize
where the young
have more expertise
and anything technical),
inviting them to
Many parents struggle with handing on their faith
to a generation that seems, at best, unenthusiastic
about it. There too, honor comes in. Realizing that
the gift of faith, no matter how important it is, cannot
be coerced or controlled, parents can follow the
advice of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Agonizing
over her sons’ shenanigans she once said,
“What’s a mother to do but pray and
dote, pray and dote?”
If the roles of parent and child
seem too idealized, we need only look
to Jesus and his mother for role models.
(Unfortunately, Scripture records
little of Jesus’ relationship with Joseph.)
Learning From Jesus and Mary
The wedding at Cana provides the perfect example of
their honoring each other. Mary wisely tells Jesus of
the need: “They have no wine.” Then she backs off.
She trusts his instincts to resolve the crisis.
Despite his reservations (“My hour has not yet
come”), Jesus in turn honors his mother. Whether he
was responding to her, or to the couple’s dire need,
we may never know. Despite the exhaustion and pain
of his passion, Jesus continued to honor Mary, making
sure even from the cross that his beloved disciple
would continue to care for her (John 19:26-27).
In Jesus’ day, women who had no son or husband
to protect them often became desperate beggars.
Knowing that sad reality, Jesus makes sure that John
will take her into his own home. St. Ignatius imagined
that the first appearance of Jesus after the
Resurrection, although not recorded in Scripture,
must surely have been to Mary.
As parents and children who follow Jesus, we are
called to do likewise.
Next: The Fifth Commandment
What do you think are the best ways for children to honor their parents?
What are the best ways for parents to honor their children?
Honoring Each Other
By Judith Dunlap
The best way for children to learn to honor their father and
mother is to witness how their mother and father honor
each other. I learned from my own parents to always show
respect for my husband. In all of my growing-up years, I never
heard my mom or dad speak one word against the other. And my
siblings and I certainly were not allowed to speak disrespectfully
to or about them.
We were never allowed to call my mother “she” or my dad
“he.” My dad (a native of Poland) told us that many languages
had a distinct pronoun to use when speaking to people we
were to respect. English was not one of those
languages. The same pronoun, “he” or “she,”
is used to refer to a common thief or a highly
respected elder. Therefore, Mom was always
Mom, and Dad was always Dad. It was a habit
my sisters and I learned at an early age. It was
something my husband and I tried to teach
our own children.
Parents also show respect for each other by
making a point of demonstrating a united
front. Children learn at an early age whom to
go to when they want certain things. And by
the time they have reached early adolescence,
they have learned the technique of “divide and
conquer.” It is important for parents not to let
their guard down.
After a few years of being married (or perhaps working
through shared custody), as parents you know what issues you
tend to disagree about. Don’t let your children take advantage of
this knowledge. Consult with each other often. Learn to ask if
they have already consulted their other parent. Whether children
know it or not, they need to have parents who back each other
up, and they need parents who show respect for each other.
Name other people besides parents who deserve to be honored. Talk about different ways to show respect to people who deserve to be honored.
By Frank Frost
Katy McLaughlin is a
dreamer in the classroom.
She fails history
in the exclusive Wyoming
academy she attends. After
two hours of exam time she
hasn’t put a word down on
paper, although, she tells her father,
“I wrote it in my head.”
What she’s dreaming about are
horses—their strength and power,
their ability to run free. Where she
wants to be is home on the family
The opening narration in Katy’s
voice makes it clear that horses in
general reflect her character. “I can
see in them an expression of my
own restless spirit. Charged with an
appetite for adventure…I see them
running wild and free.”
Flicka is a remake of the 1943
classic My Friend Flicka from the
novel by Mary O’Hara, in which the
hero was a boy, played by Roddy
McDowall. But the story essentials
are the same.
In this version Katy (Alison
Lohman) is the strong-willed child
bumping up against the authority of
her equally strong-willed father, Rob
(country music star Tim McGraw),
by attempting to tame and ride a
wild mustang she has discovered on
an early morning ride. She repeatedly
sneaks out to a small corral at
night to approach the dangerous horse, in direct opposition to her father’s
But Flicka (as she names the wild stallion),
in particular, is another incarnation
of her own wild spirit yearning to be free.
Katy identifies with Flicka so closely that
when Katy is endangered by a high fever
and the horse is lying injured and about
to be put down, Katy tells her father, “It’s
all right, Dad, you can shoot us.”
There’s another theme running
through the movie as well—a romantic
ideal of the West as the embodiment of
the pioneer spirit, and all that suggests.
As Rob discusses Katy with his wife
(Maria Bello) astride their horses on
the windswept wild grasses high on a
Wyoming mountain, he sums up the
importance of keeping their ranch going.
“I see these kids hanging out in the mall,
they’re sullen, they’re lazy, got no ambition,
got no dreams. This is the only way
that I know how to save our children.”
Perhaps much of the viewing audience
is sympathetic to Rob’s perception
of today’s youth, if not to his solution—ranching in the untrammeled West.
Flicka is beautifully shot. Its soaring
aerial scenes of herds of horses thundering
along open hillsides, revealing gorgeous
steep canyons, help us feel the emotional
draw of the West. Katy is a strong
and appealing character in that context,
dedicated to the land and to her family.
As a teen, she is on a journey of self-discovery
that involves rebellion. She is
fearless and headstrong and has much to
learn. So much so that the viewer might
feel a little ambivalent in determining the
balance between cheering on a wild child
seeking her destiny, and blanching at the
repeated disobedience Katy displays in
order to do that.
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
St. Benedict the African (1526-1589)
The son of African-born slaves who converted to
Christianity after being brought to Sicily, Benedict
himself was freed on his 18th birthday. Suddenly, he
had a whole new life before him, a life that offered unexpected
possibilities. What direction would he take?
For Benedict, the answer was easy. He found a job as a
day laborer, shared his meager wages with the poor and
cared for the sick. Though many people admired him for
his charity, others ridiculed him for the color of his skin.
Unconcerned about the opinions of others, Benedict was a
content and peaceful man.
He joined a group of hermits around Palermo, Italy, that
later became part of the Franciscans. For a time Benedict
happily served in the friary kitchen, but he was eventually
chosen novice master and guardian—positions rarely held
in those days by a lay brother. (Benedict never sought ordination.)
Such prestigious assignments were difficult for a
man who preferred quiet service. As soon as his terms
ended, he went right back to the kitchen.
Benedict took religious
The few things he
used were not “his,”
but “ours.” Each year
he kept a number of
40-day fasts, and he
regularly tried to limit
himself to just a few
hours of sleep each
He also came to be
known far beyond the
walls of the friary. He had a reputation for being able to
read people’s hearts, to offer helpful advice, even to work
miracles. The poor came seeking his help, the sick hoped to
be healed, people of all walks of life asked for his prayers.
Benedict died in 1589 and was canonized in 1897. His
feast day is April 3.
Forget the gangs. Forget the
drugs and crime. Ethan Smith
has better things to do with his
life. Though he lives in South
Central Los Angeles, a tough neighborhood
by any standards, that
doesn’t mean he is without
options. He’s headed
for college next year
and for a life of
service after that.
Urging him on
are his mother as
well as the community
at Verbum Dei, a
high school for young men
whose families could not otherwise
afford such an education. Latin for
Word of God, Verbum Dei is part of
the network of Cristo Rey schools
established by the Jesuits.
President of the student body and
a tackle on the school’s winning varsity
football team, Ethan, 18, also
takes community service seriously.
He works at a soup kitchen and
tutors at an elementary school. Last
summer he served at a camp for
“Service allows me to give back,
to help people in need, to treat others
the way I would like to be treated,”
Ethan told Every Day Catholic.
The coming years may not offer as
much time for community
service as he’d like—he
hopes to head to
and earn a doctorate
in engineering. After
that Ethan wants to
establish a nonprofit
kids growing up in
neighborhoods like mine.”
Among the services he would
like to offer is “teaching young people
how to deal with obstacles and
how to become successful.” Ethan’s
own definition of success comes
from a book about leadership: “A
successful man is one who lays a
firm foundation with the bricks that
have been thrown at him.”
Ethan is ready to build a strong
foundation of service to his community.
He’s ready for success.