What obedience means to the priesthood

The value and importance of obedience are being taught to the candidate for the priesthood. It forms part of the vows that religious men and nuns must make as they enter the consecrated life, whether as a member of a religious institute living in the community or as a consecrated hermit.

Why is it that obedience is hard to follow even for priests, religious brothers, seminarians, and theologians? Mind you my dear friends living this “Vow of Obedience” does not mean blind obedience.

Before we proceed, my dear people of God, “secular” or diocesan priests do not make vows. However, they are required by Church’s law to promise respect and obedience to their bishop. In contrast, “religious” priests like Augustinians, Benedictines, Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans, and the Jesuits among others do make vows to live a life of chastity, poverty and obedience.

Every candidate for the priesthood is taught the value of obedience, poverty, and chastity. It is either you obey the Magisterium of the Church or you find your way out.

Since Day One in the seminary or convent or in any religious house, the candidate is taught to obey the pope, the bishop, his successors, and all those who are placed in the Position of Authority.

That is why candidates for priestly ordination begin their four years of theological studies after the philosophical journey, there are necessary ministries that a candidate must acquire before receiving the Orders of the Diaconate and the Priesthood which of course include the ministries of Lectors and Acolytes.

Before each Installation, a candidate is to write a letter of request to his Bishop or superior General through the Rector of the Seminary he is studying that he wishes to be installed in the forthcoming installation in the diocese. This request is done before Installation as Lector and Acolyte, before diaconate and priestly Ordination and it must be handwritten and signed by the candidate. This shows that you freely choose to submit yourself to the work of God and obey the Church.

During the ordination, the bishop asks the candidate “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successor?” to which the candidate replies “I do” then the bishop would say “May God, who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”

By making this promise, a priest submits his will to his Bishop and makes himself available for the sake of the church. However, obedience is not always as easy as it looks like yet however it is expected that one obeys for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Pope Leo XIII was right when he maintained that: “Obedience is not the servitude of man to man, but submission to the will of God, who governs through the medium of men.”

Obedience gives the priest both freedom and clarity. It is important to remember that the bishop possesses the fullness of holy orders, is heir to the apostles, and is called by the Holy Spirit to govern his diocese as a chief shepherd.

Obedience is one act that implies so many other responsibilities. The vow of obedience is a “death sentence accepted and endorsed” by those who freely make such a vow in the hands of the Bishop.

Religious people professed the vow of obedience which is to live according to the evangelical counsels. It forms part of the religious vows that are made both by members of the religious institutes and diocesan hermits in the Roman and Anglican Churches.

In simple terms, obedience professed by a religious means hearing the word of God and acting on it. It implies aligning our will with God’s will; doing what God has asked us to do. It is when we completely surrender to His authority and base our decisions and our actions on His Word.

By obeying all things, the religious are showing God that he or she is willing and able to obey whatever God asks of them. Obedience to God is not only a way to worship him, but a way to get closer to him, preparing the person wherever God leads him or her to grow as a person.

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