Catholic Filial Piety
This kind of filial piety is something familiar to me; Chinese culture traditionally has a high regard for one's elders and parents especially and venerates them in life as in death. It is a misnomer to call this 'ancestor worship'; rather one remembers one's parents in death and Chinese households would gather once a year to visit the ancestral graves, to pray for their happy repose and to share a family meal. This too happens in Hispanic cultures on All Souls' Day, so at the heart of things, there is nothing alien in the traditional Chinese practices; it is something Catholicism encourages, in accordance with the Fourth Commandment.
Today's commemoration in the Order is a wonderful example of filial piety. I am blessed that my parents and grandparents are still with me in this world, but I am privileged to pray for the deceased parents of my brothers and sisters in the Dominican Family as this reminds us that when we join the Order, we don't do so in isolation, but in a some sense our families come with us...
An increasing number of us in religious life will also have parents or families who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ; it can be difficult to preach and evangelize those closest to us, especially those to whom we looked for guidance in our infancy and youth. Today's commemoration reminds us of the need to pray for those closest to us and to strive for their salvation. Indeed, the Second Reading appointed for the Office of Readings today is from a letter written by St Catherine of Siena to her mother. In it, St Catherine exhorts her mother be joyful in the Lord, to rejoice in Catherine's gift of self to God in the Order and to look to Christ Crucified for her own salvation.
With such thoughts, I pray the Collect for today:
You have commanded us to honour father and mother.
Have mercy on our deceased parents,
And forgive them their sins.
May we come to see them in the joy of eternal light.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
The above photo was taken in the Philippines and is of a poor Filipino family in the parish where I worked; a wonderful image of filial love and piety.