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How superiors can practice Obedience

2 min • Digitized on January 11, 2022

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 126
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Asking him one day if it was possible for persons in authority, whether in the world or in the cloister, to practise the virtue of obedience, he replied:

Certainly, and they can do so far more perfectly and more heroically than their subjects.

Then, seeing my astonishment at this apparent paradox, he went on to explain it in the following manner:

Those who are obliged either by precept or by vow, which takes the place of precept, to practise obedience, are, as a rule, subject only to one superior.

Those, on the other hand, who are in authority, are free to obey more widely, and to obey even in commanding, because if they consider that it is God Who puts them over the heads of the others, and Who commands them to command those others, who does not see that even their commanding is an act of obedience?

This kind of obedience may even be practised by princes who have none but God set over them, and who have to render an account of their actions to Him alone.

I may add that there is no power on earth so sublime as not to have, at least in some respects, another set over it. Christian kings render filial obedience to the Roman Pontiff, and the sovereign Pontiff himself submits to his confessor in the Sacrament of Penance.

But there is a still higher degree of obedience which even Prelates and the greatest among men may practise.

It is that which the Apostle counsels when he says: Be ye subject to every human creature for God’s sake. [1 Peter ii. 13.] Who for love of us not only became subject to the Blessed Virgin and to St. Joseph, but made Himself obedient to death and to the death of the Cross, submitting Himself in His Passion to the most sinful and degraded of the earth, uttering not a cry, even as a lamb under the hand of him who shears it and slays it.

It is by this universal obedience to every creature that we become all things to all men in order that we may win all to Jesus Christ.

It is by this that we take our neighbour, whoever he may be, for our superior, becoming servants for our Lord’s sake.

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