Family Lineages: Behold What Historians Fail to Emphasise

September 15, 2022

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We were facing one of the primordial events in the history of mankind. When these semi-civilised tribes were pushed toward the hills and behind the swamps, a series of family lineages was born. This is a fact that historians fail to emphasise sufficiently.

A lineage is something very different from a family. What is a family? It is the ensemble of father, mother, and children. It suffices to have legitimately married parents for a family to exist. A lineage, however, is quite different. The French language speaks of source, that is, origin. It refers to the source of a family just as to the source of a river. The English also used the word source in this manner, but also of stock, as in “coming from good stock”.

So what is the source of a family? What is a lineage-man? The founder of a lineage is a man with a vigorous enough personality to raise a family that maintains his main moral and physical hereditary traits. He gives it a sufficiently strong formation so that the initial impulse that he imparts to a certain order of things continues after him. He is a man who founds a school of feeling, of thinking, of acting, of overcoming difficulties—who founds a small system of life. I affirm that it is necessary to have much more personality to found a family lineage than to govern a country. Founding a lineage requires a most vigorous personality, one which must be vigorously wholesome in order to follow a wholesome direction.

What was admirable at that moment of European history was that those families, who had been driven out, banished, and cast into utter disgrace, reacted and formed lineages all over the place who eventually became the noble lineages of Europe. These lineages, which were to mark one thousand years of history, arose from the most atrocious misfortune. Because of their natural vigour and, above all, the correspondence of their family members to God’s grace, these abandoned and isolated families gave birth to the noble family. The ensemble of these noble families then gave birth to Europe. This is the true story of feudalism. (There is a series of other facts that prepared the coming of feudalism, but we will not study them here, as this would deviate too much from our main topic.)

Since lineages had such an importance in the formation of feudalism, let us study them more accurately and at length. If we have a correct concept of the family, we will know what was born when we say lineages were born. To do this, however, we need to analyse in depth the reality that is called man.

Man is endowed with soul and body. Consequently, spiritual and invisible realities can be manifested to the eyes of men through visible material realities. There is a mysterious nexus between soul and body whereby the body, in some way, is a symbol of the soul. The human body is a reflection of the soul by its colour, physiognomic traits, timbre of voice, dynamism, way of moving, etc. It allows its qualities to show through. It this harmonious whole of soul and body that constitutes the human person.

Thus characterised, man is susceptible of a greater or lesser physical or moral development. In the physical realm this phenomenon is known to everyone. If a newborn child is placed in an ambience in which his physical energies are stimulated, the child can grow quite large, at least as big as his nature permits; but placed in unfavourable circumstances, the child will most likely be underdeveloped.

The same can be said of the soul. It has a series of potentialities that will develop if the conditions in which we place it are propitious. Otherwise, only with great difficulty would those qualities affirm themselves and triumph. We can therefore say that the human soul will develop more or less completely depending on the conditions in which it finds itself. Just as the body only realises itself fully in certain circumstances, so also does the soul. The full realisation of the human person, who is soul and body, is constituted by the full realisation of the soul and the body together. By considering this, we are better able to understand what lineage is.

The family is an institution of the natural order, founded on a sacrament, and given the task of perpetuating the human species and educating the offspring. It is an institution, therefore, whose obligation is to develop and educate the human personality to the greatest possible extent. The family will perfectly accomplish its mission if it makes all the qualities of both body and soul of those born into it expand and affirm themselves completely.

To accomplish this, the family is endowed with extraordinary qualities, heredity and tradition, at which we will take a closer look in Chapter 5.

This notion of lineage needs to be completed. There are lineages not only in the noble class, but in all social classes. If lineage is the natural product of a family’s development, and if the family is called by the designs of Providence to develop, we must have many lineages at every level of the social hierarchy: lineages of bakers, princes, rubbish collectors, jewellers, and singers.

The ensemble of these lineages is what constitutes a nation, a nation not only in the present, but with a historic continuity in the past, present, and future. Today’s Europe is the same Europe as yesterday’s because it descends from the same ancient lineages, preserving an identity of tradition. However, to the degree that these lineages fade away and are replaced by new ones without true tradition, a country is no longer the same. This is a process of many centuries. Today’s Egypt, for example, is no longer the Egypt of old, as its lineages are not the same.

What was born with feudalism, both in cities and the countryside, was an enormous ensemble of men who formed lineages. This ensemble of lineages and lineage-based organisations is precisely what constituted the Middle Ages. What it had most intrinsically and deeply rooted was this structure of lineages vivified by the family spirit. This is what historians generally fail to take into account.

The Christian Institution of the Family: A Dynamic Force to Regenerate Society, by Tradition, Family, Property Association. Pages 16-21.

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