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Obedience, Subjection and Superfluous Words

October 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Imitation of Christ, Obedience

Obedience, Subjection and Superfluous Words



1. It is a great matter to live in obedience, to be under a superior and not to be at our own disposing. It is much safer to obey than to govern. Many live under obedience, rather for necessity than for love; such are discontented, and do murmur. Neither can they attain to freedom of mind, unless they heartily put themselves under obedience for the love of God. Go whither thou wilt, thou shalt find no rest, but in humble subjection to the government of a superior. Many deceive themselves, imagining to find happiness in change.

DetailMirrorJulesBretonDeuxJeuneFemmeDansLeVintage1862TwoWomen2. It is true, that everyone willingly doeth that which agreeth with his own liking, and inclineth most to those that are of his own mind. But if God be amongst us, we must sometimes cease to adhere to our own opinion for the sake of peace. Who is so wise than he can know fully all things? Be not, therefore, confident in thine own opinion but be willing to hear the judgment of others. If thy thought be good, and yet thou partest with it for God, and followest the opinion of another, it shall turn to thy good.

3. I have often heard, that it is safer to hear and to take counsel than to give it. It may also happen, that a man’s opinion may be good; yet to refuse to yield to others when reason or a special cause requireth it, is a mark of stiffness and pride.


1. Whensoever a man desireth anything inordinately, he is presently disquieted in himself. The proud and covetous can never rest. The poor and humble in spirit dwell in peace. Oftentimes I could wish that I had held my peace when I had spoken; and that I had not been in company. Why do we so willingly speak and talk one with another, when, notwithstanding, we seldom cease our converse before we have hurt our conscience? Why obediencewe so willingly talk is, for that by discoursing one with another, we seek to receive comfort one of another, and desire to ease our mind. And we very willingly talk and think of those things which we most love or desire; or of those things which we feel to be against us.

2. But alas, oftentimes in vain, and to no end for this outward comfort is the cause of no small loss of inward and divine consolation. Therefore we must watch and pray, lest our time pass away idly. If it be lawful and expedient for thee to speak, speak those things that may edify. An evil habit and neglect of our own growth in grace do give too much liberty to inconsiderate speech. Yet discourse of spiritual things doth greatly further our spiritual growth, especially when persons of one mind and one spirit associate together in God.


Editor’s Note: Today’s reflection is an excerpt from the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis.


Art: Mirror detail of Deux jeune femme dans la vintage (Two young women picking grapes), Jules Breton, 1862; Mirror of Abendläuten (Evening Prayer [Vespers]), Wilhelm Amberg, by 1899; both PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • nancyveronica

    This is very good in that you remind us that whatever we do, whatever we say, it must be tempered by love of God. Sometimes it takes a lifetime for one to learn such Love. Talking about things is how we learn and help others. I am grateful for wise (and courageous) folk who respond to me when I speak without prayerful thought. And in this day and time, everything gets turned upside down no matter what the intent. Thank you and God bless!

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