A Year with the Saints/June
1. We all have a natural inclination to command, and a great aversion to obey; and yet, it is certain that it is more to our advantage to obey than to command. It is for this reason that perfect souls have so great an affection for obedience, and find in it all their delight.
These are the words of St. Francis de Sales, and in fact this Saint exercised himself much in this virtue, although he was a Bishop and Superior of so many houses. He even obeyed his chamberlain in regard to rising and retiring to rest, dressing and undressing, as if he had been the servant instead of the master.
St. Teresa often said: "One of the greatest graces for which I feel bound to thank Our Lord is that His Divine Majesty has given me a desire to be obedient; since in this virtue I experience the greatest consolation and content, as the one which Our Lord enjoined upon us more than any other; and therefore I desire to possess it more than anything else in the world."
St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi had so great a love for obedience that even though a command might be very difficult to execute, or her weariness extreme, she never appeared reluctant or showed the least sign of discontent, but accepted everything with a cheerful countenance, as if the most agreeable proposal had been made to her. It even occurred to her to doubt of her own merit in obeying, on account of the great ease and delight which she experienced in it. But she did not content herself with submission to her Superioress. Of her own accord, she subjected herself also to her companions, and even to her inferiors. With this intention she chose one of her Sisters, whose permission she asked for even the most minute things which she desired or found it necessary to do, and obeyed her in everything in spite of all difficulties. If she could not have access to this particular Sister, she would ask the permission of some other; and whoever was her companion in any employment, she always yielded precedence to her, and followed her plans and methods.
2. Obedience is, without doubt, more meritorious than any austerity. And what greater austerity can be thought of than that of keeping one's will constantly submissive and obedient? ----St. Catherine of Bologna
When St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi was sick, she was accustomed to refuse any delicate food or costly medicine that was offered her; but if the bringer required her to take it as an act of obedience, she made no further objections; but saying only "Blessed be God." she would instantly take it.
As St. Dositheus was not able to practice austerities or even the ordinary exercises of religion on account of his feeble health, he turned his attention wholly to the practice of obedience, and after five years spent in this manner it was revealed to him that a crown like that of the great St. Anthony awaited him in Heaven. When some of the hermits who had been most fervent in penances and in all the other exercises felt aggrieved at this, Our Lord signified to them that they had failed to understand the full merit of obedience.
3. Obedience is a penance of the soul, and for that reason a sacrifice more acceptable than all corporal penances. Thence it happens that God loves more the least degree of obedience in thee, than all the other services thou mayest think to render Him. ----St. John of the Cross
This Saint, having finished his studies and returned to the monastic life, showed that he had a high opinion of himself on account of his great learning. To cure him, his director gave him a catechism, telling him to lay aside all other books and read this alone, picking out the words syllable by syllable, like a child. He continued to do this for a long time, and with great application, and afterwards confessed that he derived from it not only a high degree of obedience, but many other virtues as well.
We read in the Lives of the Fathers that four monks once visited the Abbot Pambo, and each of them told him in private of the virtues of the others. One fasted severely; another did not possess the smallest thing; this one glowed with the most fervent charity; while that one had lived in the practice of obedience for twenty years. When the Abbot had heard these things, one after the other, he said: "The virtue of this last is greatest of all, for the rest followed their own will, but he has made himself the servant of another's will."
4. A little drop of simple obedience is worth a million times more than a whole vase full of the choicest contemplations. ----St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi
We read of a holy nun who was one day enjoying the company of the Infant Jesus in her cell when she was sent for by the Superioress. Begging Him to wait for her, she went to obey the summons, and when she returned she found Him no longer an infant, but wearing the form of a full-grown youth. By this He intended to show her how much her prompt obedience had caused Him to grow spiritually in her heart in so short a time.
One day when St. Frances of Rome was reciting the Office of the Blessed Virgin, she was interrupted four times while repeating a single antiphon by the voice of her husband calling her. Each time she answered promptly, and when she returned the fourth time she found the antiphon written in letters of gold.
5. To pick up a straw from the ground through obedience is more meritorious than to preach, to fast, to use the discipline to blood, and to make long prayers, of one's own will. ----St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
A Cistercian monk, having gathered up a few crumbs at the close of a meal, had not had time to eat them as the signal for leaving the table was given and grace was said. He was unwilling to waste them, but his rule forbade him to eat anything except at the regular repasts. He therefore went to his Superior, and kneeling, asked what he should do. But when at his Superior's command he opened his hand to show him the crumbs, they were changed into precious gems.
6. All the good of creatures consists in the fulfillment of the Divine Will. And this is never better attained than by the practice of obedience, in which is found the annihilation of self-love and the true liberty of sons of God. This is the reason why souls truly good, experience such great joy and sweetness in obedience. ----St. Vincent de Paul
The Saint just quoted had himself gained so complete a submission to the Divine Will that he cheerfully obeyed whoever had authority over him, as the Pope, Bishops, priests and civil rulers as well, and evinced special respect and veneration for each of them. An incident in his relations with his director deserves notice here. Having with his concurrence left the house of Conde to avoid the high esteem in which he was held there, he could not be induced to return, though entreated to do so by many men of high rank. At last there came a letter from his director, not commanding his return, but merely mentioning the desire which these nobles had for it.
Immediately a doubt arose in his mind as to what he ought to do, and this could not be quieted except by a personal interview with the director, who then exhibited some preference for his return. Upon this he went back without hesitation.
St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi had such great affection and regard for obedience as a safeguard from the danger of doing one's own will, that the thought of acting under it was sufficient to restore her peace and serenity when she was burdened by an unusual trial or labor.
7. Whoever has not the virtue of obedience cannot be called a Religious. Whoever, then, is under obedience by vow, and fails therein, not using every exertion to observe her vow with the utmost perfection, I cannot understand why she remains in the convent.
St. Margaret of Hungary, a Dominican nun, was in the habit of taking all directions that were given to the community as addressed to herself, and as if their observance depended upon her.
St. Jane Frances de Chantal once gave permission to a Sister, in a case of urgent need, to use some money which St. Francis de Sales had put into her hands to be employed for the sick alone. Though the Sister was sure to replace it from a gift that had been promised her, Mother de Chantal began to fear that she had failed in obedience, and sent for St. Francis, who came the next morning to the convent. She immediately threw herself at his feet, and, weeping, confessed her fault; and she herself said afterwards that she could never think of it without tears.
8. Would you know who are true monks? Those who by mortification have brought their will under such control that they no longer have any wish except to obey the precepts and counsels of their Superior. ----St. Fulgentius
St. Francis once gave the blessed Egidius full freedom to choose whatever province or monastery he might prefer as a place of residence. After four days of this liberty, Egidius was surprised at finding himself much troubled in mind. Then returning to the Saint, he earnestly entreated him to fix his abode for life, for he knew that this liberty would banish all peace from his soul.
9. Every Sister, on entering religion, should leave her own will outside the gate, in order to have no will but that of God. ----St. Francis de Sales
St. Dositheus said of himself that from his first entrance into religion he completely gave up his own will, subjecting it in everything to that of his Superior, to whom he also revealed all his temptations and all his desires. And he added that in this way he had attained such peace of heart and tranquillity of mind that nothing could ever disturb him.
10. Many Religious and others have been Saints without meditation, but without obedience no one. ----St. Francis de Sales
A lay-brother of St. Bernard's Order being dangerously ill, the Saint visited him and encouraged him with the hope that he would soon pass from labor to eternal rest. "Yes," replied he, "I confide in the Divine Mercy, and feel certain that I shall soon go to enjoy God." The Saint, feeling that this might be presumption, said reprovingly: "What do you mean, brother? When you were so wretched and had nothing to live on, God put you in this place, where you have lived so well; and instead of being thankful for this favor, do you now claim His Kingdom, as if it were your inheritance?"
"Father," replied the sick man, "what you say is true, but have you not preached that the Kingdom of God is purchased not by riches or nobility, but by the virtue of obedience? Now, I have kept these words in mind, and have never failed to obey anyone who has given me an order, as all in the monastery will tell you. Why, then, have I not reason to hope for what you have promised me?" The Saint was much pleased at this, and told it to all in the house after the brother's death.
11. Obedience is the summary of perfection and of the whole spiritual life, and the securest, shortest, least laborious and least dangerous way of becoming enriched with all virtues, and arriving at the goal of our desires----eternal life. ----Alvarez
St. Teresa was fully persuaded of this truth, which led her to say that if all the Angels together told her to do one thing, while her Superior commanded the contrary, she would always give the preference to the order of the Superior. "Because," she added, "obedience to Superiors is commanded by God in the Holy Scriptures, and consequently it is of faith, and there can be no deception about it; but revelations are liable to illusion." And, in fact, she often disclosed to her director things revealed to her by God, and when he disapproved of them, she immediately let them pass.
St. Frances of Rome, on many occasions, received commands from God to do certain things, but she never did them without first having the consent of her confessor, which was very pleasing to Our Lord.
On her deathbed, St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi said that nothing in the review of her whole life gave her so much comfort as the certainty that she had never been guided in anything by her own will and judgment, but always by the will and judgment of her Superiors and directors.
St. Paul, surnamed the Simple, received grace to perform miracles, after serving God only a short time in perfect obedience.
12. The devil, seeing that there is no shorter road to the summit of perfection than that of obedience, artfully insinuates many repugnances and difficulties under color of good, to prevent us from following it. ----St. Teresa
On account of St. Bridget's extreme attachment to penances, her spiritual father once forbade her to perform so many. She obeyed, but with reluctance, for she feared the loss of a spirit of mortification. The Blessed Virgin then appeared to her and said: "Suppose, my daughter, that two of my children desire to fast on a certain day. One, being mistress of her own actions, fasts; the other, who is under obedience, does not fast. The second gains two rewards----one for her desire, the other for her obedience." This instruction completely reassured the Saint.
13. The more we see of failure in obedience, the stronger should be our suspicion of temptation and illusion. For when God sends His inspirations to a heart, the first grace He sheds upon it is that of obedience. ----St. Teresa
When a nun wrote to St. Francis de Sales that she was very unwilling to do some things prescribed by the rule of obedience, he answered in this manner: "To wish to live according to one's own will, in order better to perform the will of God----what a wild idea is this! That an inclination, or rather a caprice, fretful, changeable, bitter, and obstinate, should be an inspiration----what a contradiction this would be!"
Surius relates of the blessed Giordano, General of the Dominicans, that when he was ill of a fever in a Piedmontese city, where there was no house of his Order, the Bishop received him and gave him a magnificent bed, soft, and richly curtained. The humble servant of God did not wish to rest so luxuriously, but submitted at the wish of a prior of the Order, who had charge of him at the time, on account of his medical skill. The demon, however, seeing so good an opportunity, appeared to him the first night in the form of a shining Angel, and gazing on him with wonder, reproved him, saying that he could not understand how he could repose in such luxury, and how he could so soon abandon his usual mortifications, without thinking of the grave scandal that he would thus give to his Order. After adding that he ought rather to sleep on the bare ground, he quickly disappeared. The holy man, instantly springing from the bed, stretched himself upon the floor. When the prior returned in the morning, he was much astonished at the condition of things, and immediately ordered his chilled and shivering patient to return to bed, if he did not wish to commit suicide. The demon, however, did not lose courage, and appeared again the next night, under the form of an Angel of light. "Oh," said he, "I had believed that a warning from Heaven would suffice to bring you back to regular observance! But I see that self-love is very strong in you. How do you dare to rebel against the light of Heaven? Obey at once the voice of God, Who requires you to leave this effeminacy, to cure you amid the austerities suited to your state!" Strangely enough, the good man allowed himself to be persuaded again to exchange his bed for the bare floor. But when the prior visited him the next time and found him benumbed and half-fainting, he exclaimed sharply: "What oddity or what spirit of rigor is this?" But the Saint interrupted him, saying that he was lying thus not by his own caprice, but by command of the Angel of the Lord, who had expressly informed him that it was the will of God that he should not remain in such a luxurious couch. "No, Father," returned the good prior, "it cannot be an Angel of the Lord that has taught you to disregard obedience. This is the malign spirit, who desires to destroy your life, or at least to prolong your illness, that he may hinder your plans for the glory of God; if he comes again, show him no favor." With these and similar words he persuaded him to return to bed and allow himself to be cared for. When the demon came back on the third night, the reception he met with showed him that he was discovered, and he instantly fled in a paroxysm of disappointment and rage. This sick man soon began to recover, and afterwards pursued his apostolic labors with such success that his name became terrible to Hell, and very glorious throughout the world.
14. That obedience may be complete, it must exist in three things: in execution, by doing promptly, cheerfully, and exactly whatever the Superior orders; in will, by willing nothing but what the Superior wills; in judgment, by being of the same opinion as the Superior. ----St. Ignatius Loyola
Whatever command was laid upon St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi, she accepted it always with a cheerful countenance, and executed it with promptness and exactness. And, what is more, she obeyed blindly, without stopping to inquire about the purpose and reason of the order, and whether that or something else would be better; for, as she said, she would not consider herself obedient, though she performed what was required, if she did not subject her own judgment to that of the Superioress. And so, when she received an order, she first applied herself to judge and feel as the Superioress judged and felt, then she inclined her will to desire what she desired; therefore, she found no difficulty in performing anything, whatever it might be. Once Our Lord ordered her to live on bread and water, to go barefooted, and to wear a single poor and patched garment; but as the Superioress did not consent to this, she put on stockings, shoes, and her ordinary dress, and ate the usual food, as far as she was able, until by an evident miracle God changed the will of the Superioress. By this she showed that she trusted more to the judgment of Superiors than to her own, or even to revelations.
The Abbot Silvanus loved one of his monks, named Marcus, with a special affection. When a person came one day to tell him that the others were much offended at this, he brought him to the cells of the monks, and called them, one after another, by name. All were slow in appearing, except Marcus, who instantly came out. The Abbot and his companion then entering his cell, found that he had been writing, and had left a letter half finished that he might not delay in answering the voice of his Superior. This proved to all how reasonable was the Abbot's preference for him.
"I take for my model," said St. Francis de Sales, "the little Babe of Bethlehem, Who knew so much, could do so much, and allowed Himself to be managed without a word."
15. Obedience consists not alone in doing what is actually commanded, but also in a continual readiness to do on any occasion whatever may be imposed. ----St. Vincent de Paul
St. Francis Xavier, whose image is above, was so ready for any act of obedience that though he was working so fruitfully in India, and with so much satisfaction to himself, he said that if at the beginning of a promising mission he should receive an order from St. Ignatius, his Superior, to return to Italy, he would instantly break off his work and set out.
St. Felix the Capuchin excelled greatly in this virtue. At the least sign from his Superiors, he showed himself ever prompt and ready to execute all their directions, however ardous, difficult, and varied they might be, without excepting any. This was so well known that Superiors were careful not to mention any wish of theirs in presence of this holy man without real need, for he would be sure to consider a mere remark as a rigorous precept, and immediately proceed to execute it.
16. True obedience manifests itself in executing gladly and without any repugnance, things which are objects of antipathy or contrary to one's interests. ----St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
St. Teresa tells of herself that when the prioress ordered her to leave a certain foundation which she had begun by Divine command, and for which she had labored much, she instantly left it with perfect willingness; for she judged this to be a proof that she had done all she could, and that nothing more was required of her. But even her confessor would not believe in this resignation, thinking that she must be afflicted at so great a disappointment.
In the convent of the venerable Sister Maria Crucifixa it was the rule to receive male visitors veiled. A special direction to the contrary was at one time given to her, which she obeyed readily, though with feelings of extreme repugnance.
St. John Berchmans was appointed to serve a High Mass at an hour very inconvenient for his studies. He accepted the duty gladly, and served the Mass for many months without a word of complaint, or an attempt to be relieved from the charge.
We read of St. Felix the Capuchin that he was always prompt in giving up his own preferences, and especially for actions in themselves virtuous and meritorious, which even pious persons find it difficult to abandon, from motives of charity or mortification. But if these acts ceased to be approved by his Superiors and directors, they no longer attracted him. And so, a simple prohibition was sufficient to make him forsake any austerity or spiritual exercise, not only without repugnance, but with the greatest tranquillity. For example, he had for years gone barefoot with the consent of his Superiors. But in his old age the Cardinal Protector, at the request of one of his companions, ordered him to put on sandals again. This he immediately did, without complaint or inquiry as to who had made the suggestion to the Cardinal and without considering how much his reputation would suffer among seculars, who would suppose that he had relaxed in virtue.
17. A truly obedient man does not discriminate between one thing and another, or desire one employment more than another, since his only aim is to execute faithfully whatever may be assigned to him. ----St. Bernard
St. Jerome wrote that when visiting hermits in the desert, he found one who for eight years had carried a heavy stone on his shoulders twice a day for a distance of three miles, by order of his Superior. Asking him how he could be willing to perform such an act of obedience, he replied that he had always done it with the greatest contentment, as if it had been the loftiest and most important occupation in this world. These, concludes the Saint, are the ones who make profit and grow in perfection, for they nourish themselves with "the flour of wheat,"----that is, with doing the will of God; and he testifies that he was himself so moved by the reply he received, that from that hour he decided to become a monk.
18. The chief merit of obedience consists not in following the will of a mild, amiable Superior who asks rather than commands, but in remaining patiently under the yoke of one who is imperious, rigorous, harsh, ill-humored, and never satisfied. This is a pure fountain of water gushing from the throat of a bronze lion. ----St. Francis de Sales
St. Jane Frances de Chantal used to say that she should feel greater satisfaction in obeying the lowest Sister, who would do nothing but vex her and order her about roughly and sharply, than in following the directions of the ablest and most experienced in the Order; for, she said, where there is least of the creature, there is most of the Creator.
St. Athanasius relates of the ancient monks that they sought for harsh and unamiable Superiors who would never be pleased with what they did and who would reprove them for their good, as St. Pacomius did his disciple Theodosius; and the harder and more unattractive the Superior was, the more perfect was their obedience.
St. Catherine of Bologna desired that her Superioress should treat her always unkindly and impose upon her the hardest tasks. She said that her own experience had proved that obedience in ordinary matters is indeed very useful, but that obedience in things difficult or harshly commanded in a short time fills the soul with virtues, and unites it to God.
19. If you will not do violence to yourself and will not be indifferent as far as your own interests are concerned, as to who is your Superior, do not flatter yourself that you will ever become a spiritual man and a faithful observer of your vows. ----St. John of the Cross
St. Francis of Assisi said that among the graces he had received from the Lord was this, that he was as willing to obey a novice who had been in the house but an hour, as the most worthy of the seniors.
St. Francis Borgia showed the greatest veneration for all Superiors, not only while in office, but after they had retired from it. And when St. Ignatius appointed a lay-brother to take charge of his health, he yielded the same obedience to him that he would have to the Saint himself.
20. Remember that thou hast given thyself to the Superior for the love of God, and to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, and consequently, thou art no more thine own, but his to whom thou hast given thyself. Therefore it is not permitted thee to do anything of thyself, and without his will, since he----not thou----is the master of thy will.
As far as St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi was able, she did nothing without seeking the command or permission of the Superior or Mistress.
The venerable Pudenziana Terziaria, a Franciscan nun, said to her confessor just before her death: "Father, since I gave myself into your hands, by the Divine help I have never so much as uttered a sigh which had not the seal of obedience. I have now but to draw my last breath, which I desire should have the same merit. Give me, then, permission for it!" The Father, astonished at so strange a request, paused for a moment, and then answered: "My daughter, I do not wish you to go yet." She inclined her head, and turning to the crucifix, "My Lord," she said, "Thou seest I am detained. Do not compel me, for I cannot consent." A little while after, she renewed her request to the Father, with the same result. But finally, moved with pity, he said: "Depart, O blessed soul, to the eternal repose!" She said quickly, "Bless me, Father," and after receiving the usual benediction, she turned her eyes upon those around, as if bidding them farewell, clasped and kissed the crucifix, and saying, with a smile, "I am going," she expired.
21. Beware of paying any attention to the wisdom, skill, or intelligence of a Superior; if not, you will exchange Divine obedience for human; for you will be led to obey for the sake of the qualities you perceive in him, and not for the sake of God imperceptibly present in his person. Oh what great havoc the devil works in the hearts of Religious, when he succeeds in making them regard the qualifications of Superiors. ----St. John of the Cross
Father Peter Faber never looked at the defects of a Superior, but always at his virtues, that he might honor him in truth. And if he met one full of faults and destitute of virtues, he would still strive to honor and obey him faithfully, for the love and fear of God, and for his own perfection.
St. John Berchmans saw God in his Superiors, and never their own qualities. This caused him to treat them always with great veneration, and he said that he had never the, least dislike for anyone of them.
22. When the Superior orders anything, consider that it is not he that speaks, but God, so that the Superior is but a trumpet through which the voice of God sounds. And this is the true key to obedience, and the reason why the perfect obey in everything so promptly, and make no difference between one Superior and another, and submit to the lowest in authority as well as to the highest, and to the imperfect as well as to the perfect; for they regard not the persons nor the qualities of Superiors, but God alone, who is always the same, of equal merit, and of equal authority. ----St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
St. Aloysius Gonzaga said that he did not remember ever to have disobeyed the slightest order of a Superior. He even showed as much reverence and submission to the beadle as to the General himself.
The blessed Solomea observed the orders of Superiors with as much exactness as if they had been given by God Himself----for this reason, that he regarded them as originating from God, and only promulgated by the voice of the Superior.
The venerable Mother Seraphina sometimes had confessors who possessed but little wisdom, yet she obeyed them with the same exactness as she did the others; and she often said that when they did not command anything sinful, it was always necessary to obey them, without seeking a reason for their orders.
23. Do you know how it happens that many who have lived long in religion, and practiced daily so many acts of obedience, have by no means succeeded in acquiring a habit of this virtue? Because, not every time they obey, do they do it because such is the will of God [which is the formal reason of obedience]; but they obey, now for one cause, now for another, so that their actions, being destitute of mutual similarity, cannot unite to form a habit of this virtue. ----St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi never regarded the person who was her Superior, or who gave her orders, whoever she might be, but recognized in her the person of God; nor did she obey for any other reason than because she believed it to be the will of God. She considered whatever was imposed on her as ordered by Divine authority, and so she obeyed the cook as willingly as the prioress, and experienced equal joy and satisfaction in doing so.
The same is narrated of the monks of Egypt, who performed promptly, without any discussion or objection, whatever duty was laid upon them, as if the order had come directly from God, whose will they were accustomed to recognize in that of the Superior.
24. If you ever are conscious of impulses, thoughts, and judgments opposed to obedience, though apparently good and holy, do not admit them on any account, but reject them promptly, as you would thoughts against chastity or faith. ----St. John Climacus
St. John Berchmans once had a philosophical thesis to defend on which he was only partly prepared, when he was called to join a brother who was going out. He felt interiorly a slight repugnance to leaving his work; but without giving any outward sign of it, he turned his thoughts in another direction. When he came home, he reflected seriously on the emotion he had felt, and for some days recalled it at his particular examen, and made it a subject of mature reflection. Finally, by the grace of God, he was able to tell his Superior that he had obtained a victory over himself; and he was never again disturbed by any repugnance.
The Venerable Maria Seraphina had permission from her director, who was living in Naples, to Communicate every day. But to avoid singularity, he advised her to ask permission each time from the ordinary director of Capri. When he refused it, as often happened, she submitted, though with much grief. On one of these occasions, as she was hearing Mass, the Lord appeared to her after the Consecration and seemed to invite her to go to Communion, which enkindled in her heart a most vehement desire to do so. But she would not yield to it, as she was persuaded that there might be an illusion in regard to the vision, while there could be none as to the command of the confessor.
25. Beware of examining and judging the orders of Superiors, and considering why such a thing was commanded, or whether another course would have been better. All this belongs not to the subject, but to the Superior. ----St. Jerome
One very warm summer day, St. John Berchmans went out three or four times having been given by the Superior as a companion to several Brothers in succession. His roommate, feeling sorry for his evident suffering, advised him to use a little more discretion and prudence, for otherwise the intense heat would surely make him ill. But he answered with much gentleness: "Brother, I must leave prudence to him who gives me the orders. I am bound to nothing but obedience."
When the Bishop of Capri was going to celebrate Mass one morning at the convent of the venerable Mother Seraphina, he sent her word that he did not wish to give Communion to the nuns at the usual grating, but at the altar, and that they must therefore all come into the church. The servant of God was then in her cell, and without stopping to consider how painful was such a direction on account of the great irregularity it involved, she threw herself on her knees before her crucifix and kissed the ground; then rising, she kissed the Lord's feet, saying affectionately: "He was made obedient unto death." Without further delay, she left her cell and went to beg of her Sisters to obey the order of the Prelate. After receiving Holy Communion, they all went into the choir to make their thanksgiving. There the Mother had an ecstasy, in which Our Lord told her how much He had been pleased with this act of obedience. She told her companions of this when they were assembled at the general recreation. But when some dwelt on the repugnance they had felt, she said: "For me, the Lord gave me this morning a great reward for my blind obedience; and though the action in itself may not have been good, certainly the obedience was good."
26. It is not enough for obedience to do what is commanded. It must be done without debate, and must be looked upon as the best and most perfect thing possible, though it may seem and may even be the contrary. ----St. Philip Neri
Father Alvarez was accustomed to subject himself willingly to obedience in all things. For he said that he had noticed that even when it seemed desirable for him to do something contrary to what obedience required, yet by obedience he always succeeded best.
What did Our Lord do to cure the blind man? He anointed his eyes with clay, and told him to go and bathe in the pool of Siloe. This blind man might have said that this was a remedy better adapted to take away sight than to restore it, and he might have objected to the journey. But as he obeyed without cavil, he was cured.
St. Columbano the Abbot, having most of his monks sick, ordered them all to go to the barn and thrash the grain. It seemed a very hard and indiscreet thing to oblige men who were almost too weak to stand, to perform such laborious work, and to expose them to the rays of a scorching sun; but they all went out to execute the order, except a few prudent and cautious ones, who thought it safer to remain in bed. But what was the result? Those who blindly obeyed were cured instantly, while the others who reasoned about the matter remained sick of the fever for a whole year.
The Blessed Virgin, appearing to a nun, told her that by means of obedience the ends of Divine Wisdom are accomplished; which, often by ways sublime and not penetrated by human prudence, moves on to the aims it seeks without any hindrance.
27. Whoever wishes to be a good Religious must make himself like the ass of the monastery. This animal does not choose what burden he is to bear, nor go by the road he prefers, nor rest when he likes, nor do what he wishes; but accommodates himself to all that is chosen for him. He walks, he stops, he turns, he goes back, he suffers and labors day and night, in all kinds of weather, and bears whatever burden is put upon him without saying, "Why?" or "What for?" "It is too much;" "It is too little;" or the like. ----Abbot Nesterone
This holy Abbot, as is told in the Lives of the Fathers, at his very entrance into religion made this beautiful resolution: I and the ass are one. I will consider myself to be the monastery ass. And so, he became one of the best Religious.
St. John Berchmans considered himself in the same light. Whatever was commanded him, he never refused to do, nor excused himself, nor gave any sign of discontent or discouragement, but accepted all cheerfully and executed it promptly and faithfully. And so, when the Superiors were in perplexity as to assigning some difficult task or finding a companion for a brother who was going out, he was always their resort. Thus, it sometimes happened that he had scarcely returned home with one, when he was appointed to go out with another; and this might occur three or four times in one day. And with these companions he would go back and forth, in one direction or another, stop anywhere and as long as they pleased, without objecting or complaining of the loss of time, or of not being as well treated as others; for his only aim was to obey and serve.
But St. Felix the Capuchin put on this character most completely of all, for he did it not only in his own mind, but by an avowal that others might have the same opinion of him; and he even valued the title of ass. Sometimes he was passing through a crowded street with baskets full of bread or wine, when he would shout: "Make way for the ass!" And if anyone should say that he did not see any ass, he would answer: "Do you not know that I am the Capuchins' ass?" As he was walking one day in the city, he fell down by accident in the mud, and not being able to rise he said to his companion: "Do you not see that the ass has fallen? Why do you not put on the whip and make him rise?" When any Religious called him by his own name, he would often answer, "You are mistaken, Father; my name is Brother Ass." Nor was all this a mere matter of words; for the Superior could employ him at all times and places, precisely as if he had been an ass, and give him whatever he pleased to do, without the risk of a word of excuse or the slightest sign of reluctance.
28. Whoever lives under obedience ought to allow himself to be ruled by Providence, through his Superior, like a dead man. It is a sign of death not to see, not to feel, not to answer, not to complain, not to show any preference, but to be moved and carried anywhere at the will of another. See how far your obedience falls short of this. ----St. Ignatius Loyola
A man of this type was St. Paul the Simple, a disciple of St. Anthony. He one day asked his master whether Christ was before the Prophets; upon which the Saint commanded him not to speak, as he was able to talk nothing but nonsense; and for three successive years the disciple observed perpetual silence. After that St. Anthony, wishing to try his obedience still further, commanded him to do many absurd and useless things such as drawing water from a well and then pouring it out, making garments, then ripping them to pieces, and the like. St. Paul regarded all these things as necessary, at least because they were commanded, though they might be frivolous and of no account in themselves. He performed them, therefore, cheerfully, promptly and with all possible diligence, without making the least reflection about them.
The same spirit was shown by a certain disciple of the Abbot Martin who, having a dry rod in his hand, planted it in the ground and bade his disciple to water it until it blossomed. The latter did this regularly for three years, going daily for water to the Nile, which was two miles distant; and he never complained nor was discouraged by seeing that he had labored so long in vain. Finally the Lord deigned to show how much this labor pleased Him, for the rod grew green and blossomed. This anecdote is related by Severus Sulpicius, who says that he had himself seen the tree, which was preserved up to his time as a memorial in the court of the monastery.
On the day when St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi received the habit, she prostrated herself humbly and with true feeling at the feet of her Mistress and resigned herself wholly to her will, saying that she gave herself into her hands as if dead, and that hereafter she might do with her whatever she pleased, for she would obey her in everything. She also entreated her not to show her any favor in regard to humiliations and mortifications. She made the same protestations to a second Mistress afterwards appointed to succeed the first. And she did, in fact, live thus wholly submissive to their will, obeying them promptly in everything, and allowing herself to be employed by them in whatever they wished, without ever contradicting or giving any sign of disapproval, whatever they might say. In this manner she succeeded so far in despoiling herself of her own will and judgment that she seemed no longer to have any, and they might be called dead in her.
29. The perfection of a Religious consists in exact obedience to his Rules; and whoever is most faithful in their observance will be, by this fact alone, the most perfect. ----St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
St. Vincent de Paul was most exact in the practical observance of all the rules of the Congregation, to such a degree that he scrupled to transgress even the smallest, such as that of kneeling on entering or leaving his cell, though in the last years of his life this became very painful to him, on account of a disease which had settled in his limbs. He was also usually the first to be present at the general exercises, particularly meditation.
Father Joli, Superior of the Congregation of the Mission, was most exact himself in the observance of the Rules and inflexible as to others, yielding neither to reasons nor to entreaties, so far as to permit the least want of observance. A Superior having once written to him to ask a certain permission, this was his reply: "Our Rule is opposed to this, and we ought to be most strongly attached to our Rule. This is the best of all reasons." In a discourse to his Community he said one day: "We ought to regard as our chief duties the Rules and holy practices of the Congregation, disregarding, to observe them, all our own particular devotions. For example, we should consider it more meritorious not to speak without permission to persons of our acquaintance whom we may meet in the house, than to take twenty disciplines of our own will."
St. Jane Frances de Chantal had the observance of her Rules so much at heart, and kept such strict watch over herself, that she might not transgress the smallest, even when a Superior, and much advanced in years, that her practice served as a living and most efficacious rule to rouse and incite all the others to a most perfect observance. It happened once that she came into recreation from the parlor, much prostrated on account of her great age. Some companions begged her to rest for the short time that remained before the close of recreation. "But what shall we do," she answered, smiling, "with the Rule, which requires us to work in recreation?"
St. Aloysius Gonzaga was never seen to transgress the least rule of the Institute. He was so exact in this that he could not bring himself to give a companion half a sheet of paper or to receive any little picture that might be offered to him without first obtaining permission from the Superior, as the Rule prescribed.
One night the devil tormented a lay-brother in the Dominican monastery at Bologna with so much cruelty that the noise of blows and struggles aroused the Religious. When St. Dominic, who was there, commanded the demon to tell why this was, he answered that it was because the brother had taken something to drink on the previous evening without permission and without asking a blessing, as the Rule enjoined.
St. Gregory relates that an evil spirit entered into a nun and tormented her grievously because she had eaten lettuce without asking a blessing, according to the requirement of the Rule.
30. The predestination of Religious is inseparably connected with love for their Rule, and the careful performance of the duties of their vocation. ----St. Francis de Sales
St. Bonaventure wrote these words in a notebook: "I have come into religion to live not as others live, but to live as all ought to live, in the spirit of the Institute and full observance of the Rule; for, at my entrance, the Rules were given me to read, and not the lives of others. The Rules were then accepted by me voluntarily and as the basis of my life, and therefore I ought to observe them all exactly, although I should see that no one else observed them."
St. Francis de Sales gave high praise to a certain General of the Carthusians, for his great regularity in the observance of his Rule; for, he said, he was so exact even in things of the least importance that he did not yield the palm even to the best novices.
St. John Berchmans was so devoted to the observance of the Rules that during all the time he lived in religion, no person ever saw him violate one of them. And so, when he came to die, he asked for the little book of his Rules, and clasping it in his hands he said, "With this I die willingly."