CHAPTER XVII, BOOK IV,'LITTLE FLOWERS'
OF HOLY OBEDIENCE
The more strictly a Religious holds himself bound by the yoke of holy obedience for the love of God, the more abundantly will he bear fruit unto God; the more entirely subject he is to his Superior for the glory of God, the freer and the purer shall he be from sin. The truly obedient Religious is like a knight well mounted and well armed, who fearlessly and securely makes his way through the ranks of the enemy, because none of them can harm him. But he who obeys with murmuring and unwillingness is like a soldier who, entering the battle unarmed and ill-mounted, is soon thrown to the ground and wounded by his enemies, and, it may be, made captive or slain.
The Religious who wishes to live according to his own will, shows that he desires to build his eternal abode in the lowest depths of hell. When the ox bows his head beneath the yoke, he ploughs the ground well, so that it will bring forth good fruit in due season; but when the ox strays about at his own pleasure, the land remains wild and uncultivated, and brings forth no fruit at the harvest. And so the Religious who bows his head beneath the yoke of holy obedience, bears much fruit in due season to the Lord his God; but he who obeys not his Superior from his heart, remains barren and wild and fruitless in his profession. Wise and magnanimous men bow their heads promptly, fearlessly and without hesitation beneath the yoke of holy obedience; but foolish and cowardly men struggle to withdraw their neck from the yoke, and refuse to obey any creature. I hold it to be greater perfection in a servant of God simply to obey his Superior for the reverence and love of God, than it would be to obey God himself were he to command him in his own Person; for he who is obedient to a Vicar of the Lord would assuredly be still more obedient to the Lord himself, were he to lay his commands upon him.
And so it seems to me that in the case of a man who has promised obedience to another, were he vouchsafed the grace of conversing with angels, and were he, whilst thus conversing, to be called to him to whom he has promised obedience, it would be his duty immediately to leave his communing with angels, and go to perform the obedience given him for the glory of God.
He who having placed his neck under the yoke of holy obedience desires to withdraw from that obedience, in order to follow a life of greater perfection, in that man, I say, if he be not already well established in the virtue of obedience, such a desire is but a sign of great pride and presumption lurking secretly within his soul. Obedience is the way to attain to every good and every virtue; and disobedience is the way to every evil and to every vice.