Ignatian Vow of Obedience: Men Vowed to Truth from Love
“We must obey God rather than man” – St. Peter and the other apostles (Acts 5:29).
“Priests should not always be obedient because they will assume the vices of their superiors too.” –Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604)
“I do not hesitate to claim that the lack of truth is the major disease of our age” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, A New Song for the Lord)
The Society of Ignatians holds on to key features of the ideal of St. Ignatius Loyola, retaining some as he envisaged them but changing others in the light of its own characteristic inspirations and the urgencies of the present hour of the Church’s history.
Deeply sealing the identity of the Society of Ignatians is its providential birth during the massive assault on the very foundations of the Catholic Faith by the Dictatorship of Relativism. The onslaught, since it is against the truth of the foundations of Catholicism, urgently requires men who will defend the fundamental truths of the Faith ; who will stand fast at this narrow Gap of Thermopylae to prevent the enemy from capturing the very sanctuary of Catholicism. Such a mission requires men who equip themselves intellectually with this paramount goal in mind and with a readiness to be in the frontlines of the defense of the Faith.
Therefore, Ignatians will live a lifestyle coherent with one of their chief mottos: The Truth of Christ Urges Us! Truth is the leit motif of Ignatians; it rules all their thoughts, words and actions: they strive to live for, in, and by Truth. And this urgency about Truth is secretly impelled by Love. For by defending the truths of the Catholic Faith they are protecting the sublime truth of the Love of Christ. Hence, the Ignatian’s worldvision, enlightened by the vision of Christ the Savior who defined Himself as “The Truth” (Jn 14:6), is one that breathes with the two lungs of Truth and Love.
Of course, Truth is essential to the Catholic understanding of the vowed life in every religious order. However, just as each order has been inspired to emphasize one particular facet of the diamond of Catholicism, the Society of Ignatians wills that love of Truth color its entire spirituality and particularly its vow of obedience, making it above all a determination to be obedient to Truth. The Ignatian is a priest who is motivated in his obedience by the fact that he freely vows obedience first and foremost to God, and only secondly to men in as much as they are His representatives and commanding according to His commandments. The Ignatian will remind his superior if necessary what St. Paul, speaking as bishop of the Corinthinans, once said to them: “We can do nothing against truth” (2 Cor. 13:8).(check this quote)
Ignatian Obedience: Patterned on that of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Ignatian’s obedience to God is patterned on the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ who in order to break the reign of Satan over mankind ushered in by the first man’s disobedience, became obedient unto death. Thus He re-created human nature, enabling every man who accepts Him as Lord and Savior to become a new man and attain salvation. Ignatian obedience is therefore imitation of Christ the Priest who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…and became obedient unto death, death on a cross” (Phil. 2: 6;8). Thus, the Ignatian, resolved to prolong Christ’s salvific mission and to fight alongside Him for the salvation of souls, by imitating Christ can “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Col.1:24).
It is therefore an obedience patterned on the life of the God-Man whose whole existence was governed by an obedience that radiated from love. Christ is he who loves perfectly, the Great Lover who fulfills His Father’s commandment to its utter limits: “You shall love the Lord your God with the love of your whole heart, and your whole soul and your whole strength and your whole mind” ( Lk.10:27). In this way, the Ignatian is a man who lives obedience with the spirit of a free man who obeys Truth – for Christ is the Truth – out of a heart-felt love.
He is intimately convinced of this because during his years of preparation for the priesthood he has carefully studied and prayed over its motivations, implications, and purpose. He knows that the Society of Ignatians, if it is to fulfill its mission of combatting for the Truth of Christ on the frontlines against a a hostile secularized society by forming creative minorities, must have in its ranks strong individuals who live out their priestly lifestyle out of personal conviction.
Obedience to the Catholic Faith and the Natural Law
The Society of Ignatians emphasizes that obedience is obedience to the Catholic Faith and the Natural Law. It is first of all the willingness to uphold the truths of the Catholic Faith and the Natural Law as lived out always and everywhere by the Church’s Tradition. Secondly, obedience to all superiors in as much as they are representing God by communicating His Will: obedience to the Pope in as much as he is Christ’s Vicar proclaiming and defending the unchanging truths of the Divine Revelation received from Christ and entrusted to the Church under his vigilance; obedience to bishops in union with the pope, with the spirit recommended by St. Ignatius of Antioch; obedience to superiors in the Society in as much as they are faithful voices for the true and the good.
Obedience in the Society of Ignatians will therefore carefully distinguish between what is absolutely essential in obedience and what is not. We will distinguish carefully between that which we must always obey even to the point of being ready to die for them ‒ the truths of the Catholic Faith and the Natural Law ‒ and that which is unimportant but must, under usual circumstances, be obeyed such as day-to-day orders. In a truly Christian understanding of obedience, there can be no compromise whatsoever about obedience to the Natural Law and to the dogmas of the Church since these are principles that are non-negotiable. In all other orders a man must use his intelligence critically to see if what is being ordered in upright and wise.
The Society of Ignatians will require only normal, frank, down-to-earth, and straightforward obedience. The subject will be required to apply his intelligence to all commands and to recognize whether or not they are wise and selective of the most appropriate and effective ways of achieving results. All within common sense. What is commanded by a legitimate superior or director, provided it is morally unobjectionable either immediately or on grounds of wise judgment as to its effects and circumstances (the virtue of prudentia), should normally be carried out.
And if an order, although moral, is deficient in clearsightedness, reasoning, no Ignatian will warp his intelligence and reasoning to think it is. There will be no “obedience of understanding” in the Society.