Practicing Necessary Obedience

August 31, 2021 • 2 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 129

There are two sorts of obedience, the one necessary, the other voluntary.

By that which is necessary, you must obey your ecclesiastical superiors, as the Pope, the bishop, the parish priest, and such as represent them: also your civil superiors, such as your prince, and the magistrates he has established for administering justice; and, finally, your domestic superiors, viz., your father and mother, master and mistress.

Now this obedience is called necessary, because no man can exempt himself from the duty of obeying his superiors, God having placed them in authority to command and govern, each in the department that is assigned to him.

You must, then, of necessity obey their commands; but to be perfect follow their counsels also, nay, even their desires and inclinations, so far as charity and discretion will permit.

Obey them when they order that which is agreeable, such as to eat or to take your recreation: for though there seems to be no great virtue to obey on such occasions, yet it would be a great vice to disobey.

Obey them in things indifferent, such as to wear this or that dress, to go one way or another, to be silent, and this will be a very commendable obedience; obey them in things hard, troublesome, and disagreeable, and this will be a perfect obedience.

Obey, in fine, meekly, without reply; readily, without delay; cheerfully, without repining; and, above all, obey lovingly, for the love of Him, who through his love for us, made Himself obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross, and who, as St. Bernard says, rather chose to part with his life than his obedience.

That you may learn effectually to obey your superiors, yield easily to the will of your equals, when you see no evil in doing so, without being contentious or obstinate. Accommodate yourself cheerfully to the reasonable desires of your inferiors; never exercise an imperious authority over them, so long as they act well.

It is an illusion to believe that we should obey with ease, if we were in a religious order, when we feel ourselves so backward and stubborn in what regards obedience to such as God has placed over us.

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