Yet Another Nail in that Coffin--Obedience

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from St Benedict and St. Thérèse: The Little Rule and the Little Way
Dwight Longenecker

Ironically, in rejecting an external infallible authority we are encouraged to embrace the most fickle and fallible of all authorities--our own judgment. We then cling to our opinions like a shipwrecked man clings to a splinter of wood, and before long, our opinions are unassailable. In the end we don't have one objective, infallible authority but millions of subjective "infallible" authorities, and in this absurdity, we rejoice.

While one could read this to referto non-Christians, I find the indictment as pointed, and perhaps more so for Christians--because we ought to know better. I often act as if I am in ignorance of this critical aspect of Christian Life. Sometimes, I think my lack of obedience is due more to my thickheadedness, not understanding what is being said to me. But sometimes I wonder if I simply ignore the all-too-obvious messages that get reiterated time and again because it is convenient to me to do so. To wit--should I stop blogging. I blog because I love it, and yet the calamities of recent days, my reading, "incidental" and "accidental" posts, and any number of bits of circumstantial evidence conspire to suggest that perhaps the suggestion is something stronger than a suggestion. What then does obedience demand?

First, it would seem that obedience demands clarity. To act of suppositions, whims, distortions, and feelings is hardly a substantial basis for obedience. On the other hand, how does one properly discern the proper way to go. I honestly don't really know. I must assume that prayer will put me in the right place and short of that nothing can resolve the dilemma.

So, too, it would seem with all situations calling for obedience--discernment is often difficult, so I ask you all to pray. For several weeks, evidence has been mounting that suggests that perhaps I should remove myself from the blogging world--there is nothing here that cannot be found elsewhere in perhaps more charitable climes. Please pray as I try to figure out what these events are saying. Are they gentle nudges saying,"Clean up your act" or a forceful shove that says "Get off the stage." Obviously you can't answer that question, only God can, please pray that I hear what He is saying and can find the strength of will to act upon it.

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Dear Steven,

You are in my prayers. Here are some reflections on obedience, from the homepage of the Benedictine Sisters of the Perpetual Adoration:

"Looking at Christ in his humanity, we can see from the Christian Scriptures that obedience to the Father meant for Jesus a straightforward acceptance of concrete reality in his life. This was not something abstract, but the realities of everyday living. Like ourselves, Jesus had to look at his gifts, his background, the social situations of his time, what the circumstances called for, and then act with prudent judgment. Christ's human obedience was always that of complete honesty with life. This is fundamental to all obedience, Christ's and ours: we accept the life situation which here and now is the result of our decisions and choices. Genuine Christian obedience means a free and courageous decisiveness, not just conformity to a pattern of behavior. We have to choose our obedience ...

"Another thing we need to know is that God's will for us is not some kind of blueprint which we must painfully decipher to discover what God wants us to do. Our job is not to try to find out what God already knows and is not telling us. That would make our freedom a fake. It would be like doing a crossword puzzle where the answers must fit an already designed outline. No, to seek God's will is to make the most loving choices of which we are capable, using divine help.

"In choosing a particular way of life Christians put their doing of God's will in a particular setting; Priests and religious are not more obliged to seek and do God's will than are married and single people. But they have chosen different settings which will significantly affect how this will touch their lives. Those who are married will find God's will by taking into account in a special way their spouses and children. Religious will do so by taking particular account of the community in which they live. (Lay persons who are single will take into account the circumstances of their lives.) By the act of choosing a particular state of life, Christians give a very definite shape to their obedience. This shape is determined by the mediations of God's will that become paramount in this life: spouses and children, community, rule, and superior.

"At no time, however, do these mediations on God's will relieve us of the effort of discernment. Our family's wishes and needs, our community's customs and rules are privileged mediations, but we have to listen carefully to God in our hearts. That is why prayer and a mature life of prayer are so important to obedience.

"Prayer prevents us from allowing any mediation of God's will to become primary rather than God. If it is true that God has called us to live in a certain context, then we are justified in believing that the realities of this context make up a responsible mediation of God's will for us. A wife has a right to trust that her husband and their life together are a genuine mediation of God's will for her. A Sister has the right to trust that her Rule, the leaders and members of her community are such a mediation for her. But there can be no mechanical certainty. Always we must listen for God's voice and pray to understand what God is saying to us."



Obedience comes from the Latin oboedientia, which did come to have a connotation of compliance. However, the origins of the word are in "listening" (Thus, the Spanish for ear is oido, coming from the same origin).

The word, authority comes from the same origin as author, in the sense of an originating source of the word.

To be obedient to authority, in its ultimate sense, is to be one who listens to the author of the universe: the Word through which the world came into existence.

Humility comes from humus, meaning "ground". A humble person is not necessarily one who submits to another. Rather, the connotation is that the humble person is "grounded" and "down to earth". The humble person lives in reality. The proud person lives in a world of self-delusion.

Faith is more than intellectual assent. Saint James points out that the devils know who Jesus is, and they tremble. Faith goes beyond knowledge. It is trust in the goodness of the one who created us, died for us, and shattered death by his resurrection!

Where I am going is to point out that obedience does not necessarily imply servitude to another. Rather, the obedient person is one who listens from a stance grounded in reality. The one she or he listens to is God. The "authority" of the Church is not the force of a threat. Her authority is based on the goodness of God that earns our trust when we listen.

Ultimately, I cannot answer whether you are called to continue blogging or not. Prayer can bring you the answer you seek, and I will certainly pray for you. I struggle myself with whether spending time on the internet is the best use of my time, talent and treasure.

Yet, the point I am making is that you need not think of obedience as self-denial, submission, and servitude. Rather, obedience is hearing the voice of the one who gives life, and trusting his invitation to take risks in his name to gain even greater gifts. The Church is an instrument in the process of discerning his voice, but we ultimately hear God in the seat of conscience deep within our hearts.

We know we hear his voice when the command we hear brings joy to the heart even amidst tribulation in the world.

I'll hold you in prayer, brother.

Peace and Blessings!

Dear Sirs,

Thank you both for your comments and your prayers. It is so easy to get muddle-headed about relatively minor things. I still don't know for certain which way the wind is blowing--but I think so long as it is blowing, I should hoist sail and chart a course. It's hard to be obedient if I'm stuck in the mud and not moving at all.




It occurs to me that the obedience referred to in the quote is that owed by the Catholic to the infallible teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, not of the individual to the leadings of the Spirit. Be that as it may.

It also occurs to me that we all would like to be perfect and have done things that we regret. This is especially true for those of us pretentious enough to hold ourselves out as writers. For myself, there are any numbers of things I regret putting out on the Internet for the world to see. As a result, over the past month or so I have been plagued with some of the same questions you seem to be pondering Ė to blog or not to blog. But, I keep reminding myself that the Good Lord can, and does, use even those things that we most regret for good. Something we think of as a disaster can still be part of Godís plan. The fact of the matter is, we are human and make mistakes. Sometimes the challenge is to accept these things, trust in God, and move on.

You say that you blog because you love doing it. That, I think is key. One of the ways that I have always used to try to discern Godís will is whether I am doing something I enjoy. If I am doing something that I do not enjoy, or positively hate, I take that as a possible indication that it is not in accord with Godís will. On the other hand, something that brings joy and peace is an indication of the direction of Godís will. Another aspect of this is that I believe there are any number of folks, myself included, who have come to greatly appreciate your blog and the fresh approach you have taken to blogging. I think we would all feel the loss were you to stop. Perhaps this is another indication that God is not leading you to stop this.

The point I am trying, badly, to make is that perhaps your being bothered by things you have written is, not to give up on the blog, but to take a different approach. I have been thinking that this is true in my own case. I believe the Lord is trying to lead me to be more mindful of what I am saying, perhaps a little slower to get something out there. Itís sometimes better to write in the heat of passion but publish after passions have cooled and you can look at things more objectively. This suggestion is one that likely applies more to myself than to you, but you might be able to see what the change might be that is most appropriate for you.

I read Camille Pagliaís comments and I think that they may be apropos of blogs in general. There is a great deal of crap out there in the blogosphere. But, her remarks are not appropriate, generally, of Catholic blogs. Most Catholic blogs are at least well written, if not interesting, and some, many, are nearly inspired. I wouldnít be discouraged by her rather general comments.

Sorry for the long comment, if it's nonsense, please ignore.

Pax et bonum

Dear Ron,

Of course it's not nonsense. It makes very good sense, and when I came to my sense sometime yestereve I recognized exactly what you're saying. So I've been praying about it today and I have an ambitious new set of changes I'd like to start implementing that will give a formal structure to my blog day--something along the lines of the liturgy of the hours.

Thanks for the words of consolation and advice.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 31, 2003 10:49 AM.

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