Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Outdated Virtue?

How Can It Be Relevant If I Can't Pronounce It?
by "Dad" Thomas R. Labagh

Filial Love?  What's that?  What kind of a word is filial?  How is it pronounced?  What does that mean, anyway?  And why do so many Chapters have a Preceptor Cloth that says, LOVE OF PARENTS instead?  

Let’s go back to English Class for a moment:  The root of many of our words is Latin, and the Latin word for son is “filius.”  Filial Love is simply Love that is befitting, or worthy, of a son or daughter.  It is a love that is both automatic upon birth, and essential to the success of any civilization.  Yes, it is Love of Parents, but it is SO MUCH MORE than just an emotional attachment.

Filial Love, for DeMolays, is the PRACTICE of courtesy, affection, and obedience in the home.  We CANNOT SAY that we love our parents if we do not treat them with the same respect we demand from them for ourselves.  We CANNOT SAY we love our parents if we shrug off THEIR natural tendencies to show affection—those darn hugs and kisses in front of our friends—YUCHHH!—especially when we need to give those hugs and kisses back to Mom and Dad.  And we cannot say we love our parents, if we look for every way to thwart their rules, their curfews, their chores, their demands, and worst of all, their expectations of our success in school, work, sports, church, and yes, even DeMolay.  SAYING we love our parents, or even SAYING, “MOM… DAD… I LOVE YOU… isn't enough for DeMolays.  We must show it in our daily actions.

Sometimes, I wonder about the relevance of this virtue.  If you think about it, it is a strange virtue in today’s times, because, statistically, it doesn't have much meaning to many of our DeMolay Brothers!  So many of our members do not come from “traditional” families with “a Mom, and a Dad, two kids, and a dog.”  Recently, watching an the Initiatory Degree, I couldn't help wondering how many of our new brothers standing there COULD NOT RELATE to the simple concept of “HONOR THY FATHER AND THY MOTHER.”  

How many don’t have traditional parents, or even one parent at home, but rather, live with extended family, or a blended family, or in a foster home, or even an institutional home?  How did they feel when hearing this quaint language about the “home-loving, mother-loving, father loving young man?”  How did they relate to this Preceptor?  I could see some of their faces and could almost hear some of them say, “This doesn’t have any meaning for me….” or even worse… “Don’t these people know how much it hurts me to stand here and listen to this?”  And so I worry that we turn them off, and send them away with a view of our Order as simply out of sync with the times… an Order that has no meaning for them.  

Or, does it?

The Seven Cardinal Virtues are not  standards we all MUST REACH, or risk calling ourselves losers. They are, rather, IDEALS that we strive to promote and perpetuate. Because they are ideals, I would suggest that Filial Love is perhaps the most IMPORTANT of our Virtues, and we should give it most of our attention!  Here is why—-  sociologists give great weight to the strength of a family unit in the ultimate success or failure of a child to become a useful, productive and happy member of society.  Children who grow up with both of their parents statistically have the greatest chance at success.  The more traumatic a childhood has been, the less likely the probability of success, and NOTHING can be more traumatic than the loss of one or more parents, for whatever reason!

Here is where DeMolay can make a huge difference in the lives of its members!  Children-at-risk are most often those who come from non-traditional families—NOT ALL—I don’t mean to generalize—but statistically speaking, this is the truth.   DeMolay does two things in this situation—we talk about an ideal that we can all look at and strive to enact in our own families when we are old enough to have them.  Even more pertinent, we provide “surrogate” Moms and Dads who become role models and who give the personal attention to each and every member that ensures a successful Chapter, and perhaps, a successful life!

Do you remember how DeMolay started?  Dad Land’s heart bled for the quiet suffering of Louis Lower and his three siblings, whose father had died of an infection in his leg.  He reached out to Louis, gave him a job, became his friend, helped him finish High School, and ultimately felt that Louis was as close to a son as he would ever have.  He filled a void in Louis’ life at a time when that young man needed adult guidance and acceptance.  He modeled the Order of DeMolay’s future purpose—to become a family unit for those who needed Dads, Brothers, Sisters and Mothers. 

The First Virtue wasn't given its place by accident.  The language of the First Preceptor is not out of touch.  If someone hasn't grown up in a traditional family, how can he know its value?  How can he understand the emotional strength provided a son by both a father and a mother?  How can he say, "I want MY children to grow up in a better environment," if he cannot see or experience this model for life?  

In DeMolay, we offer a FRATERNITY FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY, wherein all CAN learn to value something that they may never have experienced in their own family life.

Filial Love, for DeMolays, is the practice of courtesy, affection, and dutiful obedience in our homes, with our parents or the adult care-givers we are fortunate to live with, and in our extended DeMolay family. 

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