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Admiration and Affection in the Family

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

As far as I have observed, admiration is what truly makes persons join together to form groups.

Each one of us was created above all to adore God in a special aspect of His perfection. During our lives, consciously or unconsciously, in a more or less defined way, we look for one or various persons who are permeated by that perfection that lives in God. When we consider such perfection as a reflection of God, it awakens simultaneously a great admiration and an enormous affection. Admiration and affection are born from the same root.

When one who is on this path finds either a person, group, institution, ambience or even a simple book that feeds him or supports him in that admiration he has for a particular perfection of God, then he feels that he is truly doing what he should in his life and acquires a great peace. Moved by his innocence, the person was already seeking in this life satisfaction for that profound predisposition of the soul.


Rothenburg, a city built on the common admiration for inocence and seriousness
Often he travels on a personal, unconscious pilgrimage seeking other persons who would provide an argument or answer to satisfy that which he was looking for in God. Many times he does not know that he is seeking God. He seeks a certain perfection, a certain human excellence that reflects a perfection and an excellence of God. When he finds it, he admires it.

According to the natural order, those who are called to reflect a similar perfection of God are members of the same family. This is not always the case. For example, the lives of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas show us that their families tried to divert them from the admiration they were called to have for poverty and wisdom respectively. Nonetheless, the natural tendency is to find this affinity in one’s family. The life of St. Isidore of Seville, who was the brother of St. Leander of Seville, St. Fulgentius of Carthagena and St. Florentina, provides an example that shows us how this rule of nature applies and how the family can favor a mutual admiration for the perfections of God.

When a family is well ordered, it either instinctively knows, or strives to find out, its primordial light, that is, that special virtue or perfection it is called to reflect of God. Then it admires it and struggles to favor admiration for it as much as possible. A common admiration is the best way to keep a family united. Admiration generates dedication and a sense of sacrifice for that ideal.

When the father, mother, children and the extended family are all striving for the realization of an ideal, this very ideal becomes a grand guiding principle for the family. Problems become much easier to resolve. Mutual patience, respect, fidelity of the spouses, and obedience of the children are the natural consequences of this common admiration. Each member of the family is turned toward a higher religious or metaphysical goal, instead of being just turned toward himself.

St Augustine_with St Monica

St. Augustine and St. Monica: A mutual affection reinforced by the desire to fulfill a special reflection of God
There are families, however, that do not built their lives upon a common admiration, but establish themselves only upon affection. Affection is undoubtedly a very noble sentiment. However, it gives the best of itself when it is subordinate to admiration. An affection that is born from admiration for a common ideal is a profound, stable and long-lasting affection.

Affection is the pleasurable relation that two persons enjoy because they share the same principles and ideals higher than those of a personal nature. They also evaluate and appreciate the worth and importance of such principles and ideals.

Even the paternal and filial affections born from nature - e.g. the parent is the immediate cause of the child - should rise to the heighth of this common admiration for principles and ideals. Otherwise, even these natural affections will decay.

A father whose children have this Catholic admiration will notice that their fidelity to it does not constrict the personality of his children. Instead it broadens their horizons, making the children overcome their incompatibilities, and unite in a great harmony with the passing of time.

The families that construct their lives based only upon affection, without admiration, usually encounter more problems. Affection without admiration is a sentiment that becomes selfish. So, family life becomes an ensemble of relations in which the mother - usually it is mothers who do this - tries to create an atmosphere of affection to keep the family united. But mothers often do not realize that this relationship lacks principles, lacks ideals. Without them, affection becomes an end in itself, a pot of honey that does not attract the family members. The house becomes a place where its members meet to eat and sleep, but less and less a place to “be at home,” to rest and live. The boys go to their games, the girls to their engagements, and often the husband also leaves for his club. And the mother is home alone and frustrated trying to discover what she did wrong.

This affection without principles also leaves itself open to all kinds of concessions regarding the wrongdoings of the family members. Parents without principles think that if they do not consent to the bad actions or attitudes of family members, it will cause things to become still worse. Then, they either consent or close their eyes to those bad relations, poor manners, immoralities, egalitarian attitudes, etc., in order to keep the family together. But this does not really work because when the children see that family life has nothing higher to give, they lose respect for it, and go their own way.

It is completely different when a family is centered on admiring and fulfilling the special value that God called it to realize, and gives its children a formation turned toward admiring that value, instead of mere tenderness.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted March 5, 2007

Tradition in Action

Dr. Plinio Correa de Oliveira
Prof. Plinio
Organic Society was a theme dear to the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. He addressed this topic on countless occasions during his life - at times in lectures for the formation of his disciples, at times in meetings with friends who gathered to study the social aspects and history of Christendom, at times just in passing.

Atila S. Guimarães selected excerpts of these lectures and conversations from the trancripts of tapes and his own personal notes. He translated and adapted them into articles for the TIA website. In these texts fidelity to the original ideas and words is kept as much as possible.

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