Many years ago, when I was a novice, it was revealed to me that a former novice directress tested her novices about obedience. The novices, at the time, were studying the virtue and vow of obedience. The directress planted dead, dried sticks into the ground with the name of a novice on each stick. She told them they were individually responsible for watering their stick. Unbeknownst to the novices, the directress had planted seeds alongside the sticks. Because she told the novices they were individually responsible for their stick, after a few days, she discovered which novice was obedient to the instructions as the seeds began to sprout. To their embarrassment, the novices who did not water did not have little seedlings reaching out of the rich soil. Sister explained to the novices what she wanted them to learn: “Sometimes it makes no sense what God or someone else asks you to do. You do it anyway, for no other reason save for love.”
I am reminded of this story as I continue the Top Ten ways to foster inspirations of the Holy Spirit, given Father Jacques Philippe in the book, “In the School of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s turn to the next two on the list: Resolve to Refuse God Nothing, and Practice Filial and Trusting Obedience.1
Our obedience to God is not because He is God and we are His creatures; our obedience must be rooted in love, not fear. Because of that love, we become more and more determined to obey God in the little and the big things in our life. God can truly be found in our daily lives as well as in the world around us! Daily, sustained prayer not only enhances a resolution to refuse Him anything, it also allows us to “hear” the tiny whispers (inspirations) that God gives us. These are graces given to us by the workings of the Holy Spirit. As the Catechism (CCC 2003) says, “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church.”
What’s the result of listening to this? When we train our spiritual ears to these whisperings or inspirations, they become more abundant not because God speaks to us more, but because we can hear him more readily. In a sense, the tiny dripping of the garden hose of grace is transformed into a firehose of grace, affecting change within. In addition, because we grow in identifying the whispers of God, we can readily identify the whisperings of the Evil One and run from those whispers more readily. Satan’s whispers never lead us to greater love of God and others, but rather a greater love of self.
Besides listening to God’s whispers, we can obey God’s will as we obey the nuances of the Commandments, the duties of our state in life, and so on. Observing all of these will increase inspirations from the Holy Spirit and deepen the dialogue of our hearts with the heart of God.
I bet you never realized why obedience was so important! Before I heard the story of the novices, I didn’t either!
1Philippe, J. In the School of the Holy Spirit. (2002). Scepter Pubs, p. 30-31.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness