I Love Sobering Thoughts

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So here's another. Sobering and at the same time uplifting and joyful.

Listen to the Silence: A Retreat with Père Jacques
TR/Ed Francis J. Murphy

We follow the opposite path. Christ started out from contemplation to come to the perfection of obedience. We must start out from the perfection of obedience to arrive at contemplation. This is the reverse route we must follow. In the depths of our being our prayer is worth what our obedience is worth. Our embrace of God will be in accordance with our embrace of his will.

This follows from the discussion of the other day. If God is simple and uniate, His will is not separable from Himself. We cannot find a way to God without embracing all of God. This includes his will. Thus, the measure of our prayer and embrace of God is the obedience and humility we show in following His will completely.

This said, there is always some difficulty knowing exactly what His will is for us because we see now "as in a glass darkly." We certainly know the outlines of His will for us, and we can discern the "danger areas," the arenas of temptation. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether God wants us to do this one thing or this equally worthy other thing. Obedience consists of praying it through, seeking the counsel of a wise spiritual director, and listening with all our might before one makes a choice. When one does this, one has done everything within one's power to discern the proper end. God will either direct us, or, as I often think the case, leave us to choose, desiring both ends and giving us the delight of choosing the end that most suits us.

Obedience is so important that St. Teresa of Avila advised the sisters in her foundations to follow instructions they knew to be "wrong" (I assume this meant interior knowledge of their impropriety) so long as they were not sinful. For example, if a spiritual director told you to do something you were not inclined to do and that you knew was not something you should do (speaking only prudentially)--it would better to do it anyway and demonstrate obedience to those God has put in authority over you AND at the same time to show humility and meekness in your approach to God. St. Teresa pointed out that if God wanted the circumstances to change, he would cause the director's mind to change, or would replace the director with one who better understood the circumstances.

This is radical obedience--the perfection of obedience that is demanded from those who would embrace God's will. What does this mean in practice? Well, let's take a simple, but controversial example. Let us say you go to a parish where the Priest, in contradiction to one understanding of the rubrics tells the congregation to hold hands during the Our Father. Our immediate obedience is owed to the most immediate director. St. Teresa did not contradict her own director because her Bishop or the prior general said she could do otherwise. Perfect obedience would require that we obey the immediate authority.

Fortunately, I have almost never heard a Priest tell everyone to join hands, even if he does so as example on the altar. This isn't usually an issue. But it is a test of your willingness to be obedient. We understand it to be technically wrong, but we are told to do it anyway.

The measure of our prayer is the obedience we show to those whom God has placed in legitimate authority over us. This is scary and very, very difficult. But it is also liberating. If I know that it is not sinful, even if it seems wrong to me, I do better to follow the instruction than to follow my own lead. It is a training ground for humility, patience, meekness, and obedience and it is a very direct way of saying "I love you," to God.

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It is easy to be obedient when you agree, the true test of obedience is to do so when you do not.

I have found that my experience in the military really helped and prepared me for the Catholic Church, especially my previous sixties hippy views of authority.

In the military you have to obey all lawful orders whether you agree with the prudence of them or not. Unlawful orders are another matter entirely.

The same goes in the Church whether you are in a religious order or not. You can look at countless examples of saints being obedient even when they probably did not agree with their superior on the subject.

This type of obedience is sorely lacking now and not just among progressives.

I really like your last paragraph and of course all things that we do should be saying the exact same thing.

St. Teresa pointed out that if God wanted the circumstances to change, he would cause the director's mind to change, or would replace the director with one who better understood the circumstances.

This, to me, is a demonstration of the completeness of understanding of God's perpetual care for our lives, that He doesn't let one thing happen to us without His allowing it to happen to us. Personally, an understanding of this principle ebbs and flows in and out of my life, and I have much more peace in the times that I understand it more. In the times that I have less understanding of this principle, I think that it's all up to me, and I have much less peace.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 24, 2006 9:34 AM.

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