Pope Michael on Obedience

Saint Ignatius says: “I also desire that this be firmly fixed in your minds, that the first degree of obedience is very low, which consists in the execution of what is commanded, and that it does not deserve the name, since it does not attain to the worth of this virtue unless it rises to the second degree, which is to make the Superior’s will one’s own; so that there is not merely the effectual execution of the command, but interior conformity, both willing and not willing the same. Wherefore, it is said in Scripture: “obedience is better than sacrifice;” (I Kings 15:22) for, according to St. Gregory: “In victims the flesh of another is slain, but in obedience our own will is sacrificed.” (Morals book 35) And because this disposition of the will in man is of so great worth, so also is the offering of it, when by obedience it is offered to his Creator and Lord.

“But he who aims at making an entire and perfect oblation of himself besides his will must offer his understanding (which is a further and the highest degree of obedience), not only willing, but thinking the same as the Superior, submitting his own judgment to his, so far as a devout will can bend the understanding. For although this faculty has not the freedom of the will, and naturally gives its assent to what is presented to it as true, there are, however, many instances when the evidence of the known truth is not coercive, in which it can with the help of the will, favor this or that side. And when this happens every obedient man should conform his thought to the thought of his Superior. And this is certain, since obedience is a holocaust in which the whole man without the slightest reserve is offered in the fire of charity to his Creator and Lord through the hands of His ministers; and since it is a complete surrender of himself by which a man dispossesses himself to be possessed and governed by Divine Providence by means of his Superiors, it cannot be held that obedience consists merely in the execution, by carrying the command into effect and in the will’s acquiescence; but also in the judgment which must approve the command of the Superior, in so far (as has been said) as it can, through the energy of the will, bring itself to this.”