I have a new article up at NewEvangelizers.com.
“Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”At one time I was contemplating the priestly and religious life. I considered what it would be like to take on the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I remember having a conversation with someone at the time who asked if I could handle a life with no or little material possessions and never having physical intimacy. I said that that might be a struggle. But the real problem for me would have been the obedience.
Growing up was not an overly rebellious child. I did not act out against my parents in ways beyond the typical teenage tropes. But I will say that, as my mother puts it, I marched to the beat of a different drum. Or to put it more plainly: I was weird. When I became obsessed with Billy the Kid, I wore toy six-shooters wherever I went in public, even when my parents took me shopping (I should mention I was older than you are probably imagining). Once at a junior high dance while everyone else was acting normally, I decided to start a game of tag with my friends instead. When my mother insisted that I didn’t wear sneakers to go see The Nutcracker, I put on dress shoes: one brown one and one black one.
My point is that I very much like to do things my way and in my time. I don’t think that I am unique in this, but doing simply because I am told has never been my thing. That is why the thought of religious life was such a challenge. In my studies of the saints, they would often be told to do things by their superiors that were downright stupid. But they would have to obey.
I remember reading the story of one saint in a convent who had a nun in higher authority who did not like her. So, the superior ordered her to sit on a table while the older superior nun cleaned the kitchen. The sitting nun was forbidden to explain that she had been ordered to sit and do nothing under the constraint of obedience. When other nuns walked by they saw a scene of what appeared to be a young, able-bodied woman watching uncaringly at her much elder fellow sister humbly laboring. The older nun wanted to make the younger nun look badly and wanted to make herself look humble and selfless.
This story filled me with indignation. I don’t think I could endure such a shaming. But the young nun who went on to become a saint burned with charity for the older nun. She prayed for her, not in a judgmental way, but in a sincere desire to deliver her from her false humility. And the saintly nun was grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to exercise obedience.
When evaluating someone from the religious life for possible canonization for sainthood, they look at how they followed the vow of obedience. If there is a case of unrepentant disobedience to a superior, the cause of canonization is thrown out. This is how seriously obedience is taken.
But why? Are we not meant to think for ourselves and choose for ourselves? Is that not why God gave us a free will?This objection makes a great deal of sense. That is, it makes a great deal of sense if we ignore the reality of Original Sin.
Because of Original Sin, our nature has been broken. Our hearts and souls are corrupted, not beyond redemption, but corrupted nonetheless. I am turned inward and begin to worship my own ego, the self. I place myself on the throne where God should sit.If my compass is broken, how can I expect it to lead me in the right direction? If my heart is broken, how can following it get me where I need to go?
As I said, were are not completely depraved as John Calvin thought. We still are made in God’s image, though the imaged has been scarred. And we have His voice in us through the presence of the conscience. But the draw to selfish, rather than Godly, ends is often too strong.
If you tell a child to do whatever he or she wants at all times, do you think that child will grow to be a happy adult? Probably not. Because children need guidance from those who are wiser. As adults we think we are the wise ones, but we must remember Wisdom Itself is with God alone.
And so we have to give over our will to God. We must surrender.
You can read the entire article here.