|4th Superior General Everard Mercurian, S.J.|
there was one by which the Superiors were required, in the general exhortations which it was their duty to make to us, in order to excite us to religious perfection; to take once a month, as the subject of their discourse, the virtue of obedience.He attached so much importance to it, that feeling his end approaching, he wished to bequeath us a public recommendation of this virtue, as his last remembrance. He therefore called for Father John Philip Viti, his Secretary's assistant, and saying to him, " Write down what I think on the subject of obedience, that I may leave it as a memorial to the Society;" dictated the following words.
First. At my very first entrance into a religious life, I must place myself entirely in the hands of God, and of him who holds the place of God by His authority.
Second. My desire must be that my Superior should oblige me to renounce my own judgment, and to subdue my own understanding.
Third. In every thing which is not sinful, I must do tho will of my Superior, and not my own.
Fourth. There are three different ways of obeying; the first is when the obedience is of precept; and then it is good; the second, when being able to choose between two actions, I prefer doing what I am advised to do; and this is better. But the most perfect of all is the third, and consists in doing a thing without having received any express order; merely from believing that such would be my Superior's will.
Fifth. I must make no difference between one Superior and another, nor examine whether it is the chief, the second, or the third who commands me; but consider them all equal before God, whose place they hold; for if I make a distinction of persons, I weaken the virtue of obedience.
Sixth. If it seems to me that the Superior has ordered me to do something against my conscience, or in which there appears to me something sinful; if he is of a contrary opinion, and I have no certainty, I should rely upon him. If my trouble continues, I should lay aside my own judgment and confide my doubts to one, two, or three persons; and rely upon their decision. If all this should not satisfy me, I am far from the perfection which .my religious state requires.
Seventh. I must no longer belong to myself, but to my Creator, and to those who govern in His name; and in whose hands I should be as soft wax, whatsoever he chooses to require of me; whether as to the writing or receiving of letters—speaking or not speaking to such or such a person, and other things of that nature; and I ought to employ all my zeal and fervor in executing his desires with promptitude.
Eighth. I should regard myself as a dead body, without will or intelligence; as a little crucifix which is turned about unresistingly, at the will of him who holds it; as a staff in the hand of an old man, who uses it as he requires it, and as it suits him best. So should I be in the hands of the Order, doing whatever service is judged best.
Ninth. I must never ask my Superior to send me to such a place, nor to employ me in such an office; I can only make my wishes known to him, deferring absolutely to my Superior, and ready to acknowledge as best whatever he orders.
Eleventh. With regard to poverty, I must depend upon the Superior alone; consider nothing as my personal property, and myself in all that I use, as a statue, which, allows itself to be stripped, no matter what the occasion may be, and offers no resistance.
Ignatius had not waited for the approach of death, at which time he dictated these eleven maxims, to write his thoughts upon obedience; but he then did for the general instruction of the Society, what he had already done a few years before for the particular use of several colleges. He had been desirous of laying down a rule, and putting a curb to the immoderate fervor of some of our Religious in Spain and Portugal; who thought it lawful to govern themselves in spiritual things, and who conducted themselves with more courage than prudence, from whence serious evils resulted.
Some gave themselves up to austerities injurious to their strength, and others, intoxicated with the sweetness of contemplation, became hermits or Solitaries; all equally forgetful of the object of their vocation.Ignatius addressed letters to them, filled with wise instructions and solid reasoning, to prove to them, that in withdrawing themselves as they did from their duty of obedience, to follow their own inclinations, they deviated from the right path, and took back the better part of the holocaust which they had offered up to God, namely, their own will; so that all which they offered to Him in its place, was valueless. But above every thing that has been written upon the subject of obedience, whether coming from the pen of the Saint, or from all those who have treated of this virtue.
Link (here) to History of the life and institute of St. Ignatius de Loyola