Happy Father’s Day: Long Live Partriarchy!

Today is Father’s Day, an occasion to remind ourselves of our constant duty to honor our fathers.  From Latin, we have a word for the reverence due to fathers–the word “piety”.  Thomas Aquinas regarded piety as part of the virtue of justice, the justice owed to those who gave us life and formed us.  As such, Aquinas states that we owe piety to God, to our country, to our parents, and to our other ancestors.  Indeed, he goes so far as to say that we owe “worship” of a kind to all of these.

Among the ancient Chinese, filial piety was regarded as one of the most important virtues.  As Confucius said,

Filial piety is the constant requirement of Heaven, the righteousness of earth, and the practical duty of man….Of all man’s actions, there is none greater than filial piety.

What is demanded of us by piety?  Here again, the Confucian classics have penetrated deeply.  First, there is the duty to support one’s parents if they are in need.

While his parents are alive, a son should not dare to consider his wealth his own nor hold it for his own use only.

This is only the most obvious requirement of piety, however.  As Confucius complained,

The filial piety of nowadays means the support of one’s parents.  But dogs and horses likewise are able to do something in the way of support; without reverence, what is there to distinguish the one support from the other?

The full scope of filial piety is expressed in this magnificent passage from the Li Ki:

The superior man while his parents are alive, reverently nourishes them; and when they are dead, reverently sacrifices to them.  His chief thought is how, to the end of his life, not to disgrace them.

Note the last statement, a reoccuring Confucian point, that virtue in all areas of life is enjoined by filial piety.  A pious son guards his honor and shuns whatever would blacken it because he wishes to be a credit to the memory of his parents.

Let us also at this time pay tribute to the institution of fatherhood itself.  Fatherhood is the idea that gives meaning to our nature as men, the key that lets us read in the raw physiological facts of sexual differentiation a particular vocation to duty and self-sacrifice.  Master of his house, protector and provider for his wife and children, what a sublime figure is a father!  Without our fathers, how should we ever have been able to form an idea of God, our Father in heaven?  What language would we have that could touch the Trinity Itself?  Even apart from the unpayable dept we owe our fathers, we should revere them as personal religious icons, for here are images of God.

Today, we have a duty to defend the distinctly masculine roles and virtues against the onslaught of androgynism.  We must remind men of the code of chivalry, of every man’s duty to be a defender of children and the weaker sex.  We must help people understand the difference between maternal and paternal roles while giving due honor to each.  We must defend the authority of the paterfamilias against individualist errors and the usurpations of government and school.

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