“For other animals have their natural ‘forethought’ which enables them to provide for themselves: whereas man lives by reason, which can attain to forethought only after long experience: so that children need to be instructed by their parents who are experienced. … Consequently a short space of time such as suffices for birds is not sufficient for the education of the offspring in the human species, and a great part of life is required for the purpose.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, III, 122
Your mother turns eighty, or ninety, or seventy, or any more advanced age. It is a real milestone in life–hers and yours. But how do you relate to your mother, after, dare I suggest it, you don’t really need a mother anymore? Indeed, is it not the place of parents to make themselves unnecessary?
This week my mother turns eighty, and it has given me pause. Aquinas suggests that in humans, unlike in other animals, parenting requires many years. Children need much example and training in doing what humans do—if they are to learn to live a truly good human life. If parents have done their part, even with notable shortcomings, they have rendered an irreplaceable service, one of actually infinite worth.
But especially if parents have fundamentally succeeded, their role diminishes as they grow older. Doesn’t it?
My father was not here to turn eighty in December; he passed away in September. But for the last couple years of his life he taught me a lesson I would perhaps not have learned from anyone else: how to grow feeble; and die. With grace.
I know I don’t absolutely need a father anymore—though I should still be learning from the example he set. Perhaps I don’t need a mother anymore either. But it is an amazing blessing that I still have one. One from whom I should still be attentive to learn, even as in other ways our roles shift and now I must serve. But ultimately it is not a question of need anyway; but one of a love, which I have confidence will never cease.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1215-1274) is considered by many to be the greatest theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages. A Dominican friar, and Master of Theology at the University of Paris, he was known for his humility, and his single-minded devotion to teaching.
Fire is a capital article. To have no fire, or a bad fire to sit by, is a most dismal thing. In such a state man and wife must be something out of the common way to be in good humor with each other… William Cobbett, Cottage Economy There is something about a fire. We...
Stewardship is using the natural world carefully so that it thrives and thus serves human life well. The natural world provides food, cloths, and shelter, each with its proper delight and beauty. It can also form our mind and character, teaching us basic lessons of...
“In the loss of skill, we lose stewardship; in losing stewardship, we lose fellowship; we become outcasts from the great neighborhood of Creation.” Wendell Berry, The Gift of Good Land “Old usage tells us that there is a husbandry also of the land, of the soil, of the...
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.