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A beautiful dance

Obeying our parents as kids – honoring them as adults

Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation with youngsters is an interesting experience. Usually, there are three areas of life in which children are aware of sinfulness – their actions at school, how they treat their brothers and sisters at home and how they show their love for their parents. Usually, the latter is expressed like this: “I don’t obey my mom or dad.” With a little bit of discussion, children are usually able to realize that obeying mom and dad is an extension of showing love for them. It’s not the same as giving dad a hug or mom a kiss on the cheek, but in the context of family life, bending one’s will to obey a well-intentioned parent is just as vital.

Another important realization that seems to sneak up on many of us is that our parents are always our parents – no matter if we are six or 60. The special bond of love and obedience that is formed when we are young continues to be lived out even when we children begin to think of our parents more in terms of a peer to peer relationship. Many moms and dads in their seventies and eighties still worry as much and pray as fervently for their children as they did when their biggest fears were a son’s skinned knee or a daughter’s missed homework assignment.

The Fourth Commandment’s beautiful dance of honoring our fathers and mothers continues throughout our lifetimes, beginning when we are young and continuing into adulthood. As their children, we seek to love and obey our parents when we are young; we seek to honor, protect and care for them when they are old.

In little more than 200 years, adult life expectancy in our nation has gone from 35 years to 90 and beyond. More and more older adults are faced with the everyday reality of caring for an aging parent. Since 1980, Eleanor Vallie and her husband, Dewain, have been the primary caregivers for Eleanor’s 94-year-old mother, Leona. The Vallies lovingly tend to Leona’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. For her part, Leona is still an active part of the Vallie household. Their love for one another is grounded in the realization that they continue to be the domestic Church – a little community of love, rooted in deep faith in God.

Sometimes we are called to care not only for our biological parents, but also for those who have been like a mother or father to us throughout the years. Our late, beloved Bishop Kenneth Povish was a spiritual father to many, particularly to the many priests he ordained. As he made his way into retirement, and as his health difficulties began to mount, a number of priests – his spiritual “sons” – took a loving role in caring for him, none more so than Fr. Frank Williams. Faced with his own physical challenges, Fr. Frank watched out for Bishop Povish until the bishop’s death last September.

How we live our lives can be a testament in honor of our parents. How we die our death can be an equally powerful witness to our love and devotion, our willingness to protect them and keep them safe from harm. In October 2003, D.J. Wheeler of Concord, a 22-year-old soldier and the son of Mary Cay and Don Wheeler, sacrificed his life in the sands of Iraq. A young man of deep faith, D.J. brought many others to faith just as he brought honor to his father and mother who gave him the gift of faith.

Showing our love and honor for our parents indeed goes beyond giving them hugs and kisses. And so our journey in FAITH continues.