28 April, Thursday – Obedience to God or man

28 Apr – Memorial for St. Peter Chanel, priest & martyr; Memorial for St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, priest

St. Peter Chanel (1803-1841) was born to a peasant family and was a shepherd as a boy. He was an excellent student and was ordained at 24. He was assigned to Crozet, a parish in decline; he turned it around, in part because of his ministry to the sick, and brought a spiritual revival. He joined the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers) in 1831, and taught in the Belley seminary for five years.

In 1836, he led a band of missionaries to the New Hebrides, an area where cannibalism had only recently been outlawed. He converted many, often as a result of his work with the sick. He learned the local language and taught in the local school. He was killed by order of Niuliki, a native king who was jealous of Peter’s influence. He was the first martyr in Oceania.

“He loves us. He does what he teaches. He forgives his enemies. His teaching is good.” – one of St. Peter’s catechumens, explaining why he believed Peter’s teachings.

St. Louis-Marie (1673-1716) was born poor. He studied in Paris, France, and was ordained in 1700. While a seminarian, he delighted in researching the writings of Church Fathers, Doctors and Saints as they related to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom he was singularly devoted.

Under Mary’s inspiration, he founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Wisdom, a religious institute of women devoted to the care of the destitute. During this work, he began his apostolate of preaching the Rosary and authentic Marian devotion. He preached so forcefully and effectively against the errors of Jansenism that he was expelled from several dioceses in France.

In Rome, Pope Clement XI conferred on him the title and authority of ‘Missionary Apostolic’, which enabled him to continue his apostolate after returning to France. He preached Mary everywhere and to everyone.

He was a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, and was one of the greatest apostles of the Rosary in his day and, by means of his miraculously inspiring book, The Secret of the Rosary, he is still so today. The most common manner of reciting the Rosary is the method that originated with St. Louis’ preaching. In 1715, he founded a missionary band known as the Company of Mary.

His greatest contribution to the Church and world is Total Consecration to the Blessed Virgin. He propagated this in his day by preaching, and after his own death, by his other famous book True Devotion to Mary. Consecration to Mary is for St. Louis the perfect manner of renewing one’s baptismal promises. His spirituality has been espoused by millions, especially Pope John Paul II, who has consecrated not only himself, but every place he has visited as pope.

In True Devotion to Mary, St. Louis prophesied that the army of souls consecrated to Mary will be her instrument in defeating the Devil and his Antichrist. As Satan gains power in the world, so much more shall the new Eve triumph over him and crush his head.

The cause for his declaration as a Doctor of the Church is now being pursued.

  • Patron Saint Index

Acts 5:27-33
Jn 3:31-36

Obedience to God comes before obedience to men…”

You may have heard of this rather famous social psychology experiment called the Milgram experiment. In 1961, psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments on Americans to test if German Nazi soldiers were merely following orders in their massacre and abuse of their prisoners. He had volunteers (the test subjects) administer ‘electric shocks’ of increasing voltage to another person (the ‘learner’) in another room but visible to the volunteers, whenever the learner got questions wrong. The electric shocks were not real, although the learner pretended to receive it. At some point, the participants got uncomfortable, but 65% of them went on to administer the final shock of 450 volts, with prompting from the experimenter.

Although the experiment has had its fair share of criticism for its methodology, I am quite disturbed by its results and when I imagine myself in such a situation. Would my subjection to authority override my moral values? I cannot say that it will definitely not happen.

Thanks to the deviousness of our human nature and influence from previous experiences, we will likely need to struggle to make a variety of moral decisions on a daily basis. Sometimes, it is not just a matter of struggling against our own will, but also against that of others. The latter can prove to be a lot more challenging than the former. What if your parents, or your superior at work, or even the law, requires you to do something that is morally wrong, by which I mean against the teachings of the Church?

I would assume that most of us were brought up in cultures where it is the norm to respect and obey authority; and, similar to the conclusions drawn by the Milgram researchers, we would tend to conform to that norm. That is of course a good and necessary thing for a functioning, structured society, but there is such a sin called the sin in excess against servility – meaning adherence to a directive that is contrary to a higher law. For example, civil law permits abortion, but that is against the law of our church. Thomas Aquinas declared in his Summa Theologica that God is to be obeyed in all things, while human authorities are to be obeyed in certain things. It takes a lot of guts and a firm conviction in one’s faith to disobey an authority who is commanding something contrary to God’s law. Most of us will not come naturally equipped with the resources to do this, and it is really only through God’s grace that we can rise up above ourselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that the Spirit will give us the courage to stand up to injustice and abuse of authority.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the role models around us who have dared to give witness to the faith.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: