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Mutual Obedience

Thursday, August 29, 2024

Obedience is a blessing to be shown by all, not only to the prioress and abbot but also to one another, since we know that it is by this way of obedience that we go to God. Therefore, although orders of the prioress and abbot or of the subprioress or prior appointed by them take precedence, and no unofficial order may supersede them, in every other instance younger members should obey their elders with all love and concern. Anyone found objecting to this should be reproved.

Into a democratic country and a highly individualistic culture, into a society where personalism approaches the pathological and independence is raised to high art, the rule brings a chapter on listening and wisdom. The rule says that we are not our own teachers, not our own guides, not our own standard setters, not a law unto ourselves. In addition to the "officials" in our lives--the employers, the supervisors, the lawgivers and the police--we have to learn to learn from those around us who have gone the path before us and know the way. It is a chapter dedicated to making us see the elderly anew and our colleagues with awe and our companions with new respect. In a society that depends on reputation to such a degree that people build themselves up by tearing other people down, the chapter on mutual obedience turns the world awry. Monastic spirituality says that we are to honor one another. We are to listen to one another. We are to reach across boundaries and differences in this fragmented world and see in our differences distinctions of great merit that can mend a competitive, uncaring and foolish world.