| By Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM

Blessed Memories

Recently, I read in a passage from St. Thomas Aquinas1 that our Lord Jesus Christ was always holy in his Godhead. “Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk. 1:35) As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote further, Christ was made man and a holy man.

In a similar manner, Jesus was obedient to God the Father; he and the Father are one. In his humanity, Christ Jesus was obedient, and he learned obedience through his human experiences. “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) He teaches us obedience.

After many years, a married couple may feel that they finally have learned to listen, to speak more clearly, to give and to receive, to grow in patience. They search to know the will of God by fulfilling what they have promised to each other. And fulfillment of his will is accompanied by suffering, both in setting aside one’s own preferences and in experiencing the hardships of the beloved. Yet, the joy and freedom of such dedication overshadows all. God leads us to know of his grace and to grow in faith. Each person learns about generosity and holiness in obedience to what he or she has promised.

The human path of our Lord was to be poor, chaste and obedient, and he lived with his followers in a profound fraternal bond. A religious institute is established to mirror the human life of Jesus within the Church and to seek the way of holiness for others, as well as for the religious themselves. Religious profess a vow of obedience to God, which is received by our superiors.

Can. 601: The evangelical counsel of obedience, undertaken in a spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ obedient unto death, requires the submission of the will to legitimate superiors, who stand in the place of God, when they command according to the proper constitutions.

One of the many things I love about religious life is enshrined in the maxim, “Go where you are asked; do what you are told.” One might see this maxim in a negative light, as if members of religious institutes act blindly or in a childish manner. Yet, obedience, which is both voluntary and reasonable, engages our minds and will, as well as our hearts, moving the focus away from self to love of the Lord.

Recently, I was reassigned to the motherhouse of the Religious Sisters of Mercy in Alma and I will complete my work for the Diocese toward the end of June. As I write this last column, I wish to express my gratitude for the privilege of collaborating with Bishop Gruss and his predecessors, the clergy and other religious, and my colleagues in the diocesan offices, schools, parishes and surrounding community.

And here I express my gratitude to have walked the path of faith with you. I have long admired the devotion to God and generosity of the people in this Diocese. May we all grow in faith together, and I shall cherish blessed memories.

1 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica III, Q. 34, a.1

Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. She serves as chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.