All for the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary!

Obedience from the Heart: The Authentic Freedom of the Consecrated Life
r. Rachel Gosda, sctjm


All vocations are a call to be who we are—to discover ourselves in light of our relationship as sons and daughters of the Father, who is Love. Thus, one’s true freedom is to live the greatness of this love which unites us to the heart of the Father within the context of one’s specific vocation. Mother Adela Galindo writes, “the identity of each human person is found in their ability to love. The fundamental basis of our human dignity lies in our being created in the image and likeness of God [. . .] who “is” Love. So the plenitude of the human person comes from our ability to love…and to love like God loves. Our fulfillment comes from our ability to love to this extreme.”[1] Mother’s words teach us that both one’s identity and fulfillment, the liberation of one’s heart, is found in loving to the extreme.

In the consecrated vocation, through the profession of the evangelical counsels, one is conformed to Christ in a mysterious and singular way by living the life that He chose while on earth—as an offering of love to the Father for the sake of the world, a life of love to the extreme. The counsels become for the consecrated heart its path to authentic freedom and liberation, lived in deep communion with the heart of Christ. In a specific way, the counsel of obedience immerses one into the true freedom that a filial heart experiences before God, for it aims to conform the consecrated heart to the great abandonment, borne of love, which Christ bore towards His Father. In order to understand and live this supernatural vocation of love to the extreme, we must turn to those hearts Who have paved this way for us—the way of the New Covenant, the way of love—the hearts of Jesus and Mary. Without them, we would neither have nor understand the beauty and the great worth of a life totally consecrated to God. For our Lord is consecration Himself! His entire earthly life was nothing but a constant “yes” to the Father and a constant living of His identity as the Beloved Son of the Father. Our Lord’s obedience unto death and willingness to be totally emptied in order to fulfill the Father’s will is the path that we desire to walk to live in the perfect freedom that evangelical obedience prescribes. Furthermore, Mary’s heart, like that of her Son, is a consecrated heart. She is rightly considered the “model of consecration”[2] because she was, even before the Annunciation, totally identified with her true identity: daughter of the Father, dependent on Him and totally disposed to His will. Thus, it is to the hearts of Jesus and Mary that we must look to understand the meaning of evangelical obedience and how it is the true freedom of the consecrated heart.

Evangelical Obedience: A Specific Acceptance of the Mystery of Christ

The profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the consecrated life are the path to liberation of the heart, for they are, as Servant of God John Paul II writes, “a specific acceptance of the mystery of Christ, lived within the Church.”[3] Thus, in professing the counsels, one ultimately gains everything, for one gains Christ and His love in the richness of the life that He Himself embraced on earth. Furthermore, as the Vatican II document Perfectae Caritatis teaches, the counsels are undertaken “in pursuit of perfect charity,”[4] the path which, as Mother Adela says, is the only true freedom of the human heart. In his many addresses to and meditations on the consecrated life, John Paul II testifies to the redeeming and liberating power of the counsels. Instead of being an “impoverishing renunciation” they are “a choice that frees a person for a fuller realization of his potential”[5], “the most radical means for transforming [. . .] the human heart.”[6] In a particular way, the counsel of obedience lies at the heart of the Lord’s redemptive and transformative plan for the consecrated life, for it most clearly reaches “the deep essence of the entire economy of the redemption.”[7] How is this so? In Romans 5:19 St. Paul teaches that Christ’s obedience brought righteousness and life to all. Therefore, in evangelical obedience, one enters into this mystery of Christ’s life and finds oneself situated, as it were, between the reality of sinful human nature, with all of its tendencies to “dominate rather than serve”, and the mystery of justification and sanctifying grace.[8] It is in this place, and along this path, that evangelical obedience embraces the mystery of Christ’s obedience and the consecrated heart, its own path to sanctification.

As a result, evangelical obedience has deep implications in the formation of consecrated hearts. Since the counsels derive from the love of the Father, John Paul II teaches that religious profession “embraces the world and everything in it that comes from the Father, and [. . .] at the same time tends to overcome in the world everything that ‘does not come from the Father.”[9] When he refers to all of that which does not come from the Father, what more does this mean than sin and the works of the flesh, which arise from our human nature wounded by original sin? The evangelical counsels encounter their greatest resistance from the deepest roots of concupiscence in the human heart, the threefold lust of which St. John speaks: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.[10] As John Paul II teaches, the profession of poverty, chastity, and obedience, respectively, tends to conquer this threefold lust. Of the three, the pride of life is the element of concupiscence which bears most directly upon the counsel of obedience. Likewise, it is precisely this counsel which conquers everything in the human heart that arises from the pride of life.[11] In addition to the weight of our human nature wounded by original sin, modern society’s emphasis on the autonomy of the person, which can easily lead to a disordered independence from God and others,[12] further strengthens the will in disinclination to docility and submission of one’s will before others. Consequently, souls that embrace the consecrated life embrace a deep and arduous road of formation and ongoing conversion so that evangelical obedience—and indeed, all of the counsels—may be lived in fullness. Since evangelical obedience derives from Christ’s obedience “unto death,” it is therefore an embrace of Christ’s love for the Father—the love that led Him, in total freedom, to His death for the salvation of the world. Through evangelical obedience, then, the consecrated heart embarks upon a path of continual identification with Jesus’ attitude towards His Father—that of filial, loving obedience to His will.[13]

The Heart of Christ: Heart of Love, Heart of Obedience

As Christians, the way in which Christ lived in relation to the Father becomes the reference point and measure of true love and responsibility towards Him. Thus, Christ’s obedience is by no means an optional reality, something which one can diminish or simply neglect. Christ’s obedience is the foundation, the “constitution” of the Kingdom of God![14] It is inextricably part of the New Covenant, the Covenant of love. For this reason, by nature of his vocation, the Christian is an obedient being.[15] Christian obedience “[is] completely understood only within the logic of love, intimacy with God and the definitive belonging to the One who [. . .] sets all free.”[16] The heart of Jesus shows that love can never be separated from obedience, for love leads to obedience, just as obedience strengthens and proves love. He makes this very clear when He says to His disciples, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”[17] To this, He immediately adds that He says this in order that our joy may be complete—not that we may be suppressed or stifled, but rather, liberated! The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life affirms the inseparability of love and obedience in Jesus’ heart as it writes, “The unquestionable primacy of love in the Christian life cannot make us forget that such love has acquired a face and a name in Christ Jesus and has become Obedience.”[18] The Son became man to reveal the inner life of love of the Trinity, the mystery of love which lies at the heart of creation. He became flesh to reveal to us who we truly are, to teach us love, and consequently, to teach us everything that has to do with a life of love for God and man—which includes, in a fundamental way, obedience. Since Christ, the revelation of the love of God, was obedient, obedience is nothing less than a response to love. It is the key to one’s freedom and fulfillment, which is found to the degree that God’s perfect will is embraced.

From the very beginning of His earthly life, Jesus understood, embraced and responsibly guarded His mission from the Father. The Gospel of John, in a particular way, is a testament to this supreme love of Jesus for the Father. In practically every chapter—in His discourses, in His responses to the Jews, in His teachings to His disciples—He constantly makes reference to the Father. The Father’s will is His purpose for being born[19]; the Father is the origin and end of all of His works[20]; the Father’s will is His food.[21] It was only in the Father that He found His identity, and it was only in His will that He found His freedom. One of the most striking realities about Jesus’ dependence on the Father is that the perfect union of Their wills testifies to the perfect union of Their hearts. This can be seen very clearly when, before parting for the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper, Jesus says to His disciples, “the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”[22] At the time, the disciples might not have realized the depth of these words; after the Resurrection, however, they acquired an entirely new meaning as the disciples—and indeed, all Christians—could see: His love was so deep that it was not willing to spare anything; it would not settle with anything but the fullness of the Father’s will, even to the point of such an agonizing death. Love sustained Him throughout His entire earthly life, and it was love that led Him to the Cross.

John Paul II teaches that Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will was marked by a deep sense of responsibility and mutual trust.[23] These were the practical realities which compelled Him in His daily decisions and actions. Jesus’ life reveals that the filial love which lies at the heart of evangelical obedience is strengthened and lived out by the very human virtues of responsibility—to the mission entrusted to Him by the Father—and trust—in the perfection of the Father’s plan. His life reveals that only one who recognizes himself as beloved son or daughter of the Father can place his entire will in His hands, in total freedom, trusting that the Father’s will is more perfect than his own.[24] It is clear then that obedience is not a passive, submissive reality that denies and diminishes one’s personal existence—it is an active, responsible choice of love! It is a choice which draws one deeper into the truth of his identity and existence: as a beloved child of the Father, created in His image and likeness. John Paul II writes,

“the Son's attitude discloses the mystery of human freedom as the path of obedience to the Father's will, and the mystery of obedience as the path to the gradual conquest of true freedom [. . .] by obedience [consecrated hearts] intend to show their awareness of being children of the Father [. . . and to] show that they are growing in the full truth about themselves, remaining in touch with the source of their existence.”[25]

In light of these words, it must be said that this attitude of the Son towards the Father is not something automatically appropriated by those who desire to live it; it is a high and lofty reality, a mystery, like John Paul II says. Therefore, the consecrated heart who chooses to embark upon the path of evangelical obedience embraces a life of continual identification with the heart and life of Christ in order to put on His mind and appropriate the movements of His heart as one’s own. Although we are in the image of God by the very fact of our existence, it is only through obedience that we are like to Him—that is, “through our free choice, [we] become what he is by nature:”[26] obedient. This conformation does not take place simply by one’s willing it, however. It is only in one’s willingness to be totally emptied of oneself and docile to God’s grace that He can give one a new heart and conform one most perfectly to the obedience of Christ.

“He Emptied Himself”: The Mystery of Poverty in Evangelical Obedience

Since each of the evangelical counsels is an expression and manifestation of one’s love for God, it is linked with the other two and cannot be considered independently of them. In a particular way, however, obedience and poverty are closely interconnected. Without poverty of heart, a true emptying of self, there would be no space for authentic obedience in a consecrated heart. Poverty, therefore, can be considered as the forerunner to obedience as regards the necessary emptying of self required for the living of this vow. Hans Urs Von Balthasar says that “It would be folly to try to clear a path to evangelical obedience without passing through this entrance gate [of evangelical poverty].”[27] It is not merely the living of evangelical poverty which allows one to live evangelical obedience, however; the self-emptying and poverty of spirit which evangelical poverty entail prepare the consecrated heart for a deeper and more radical self-emptying: that of death to one’s will, one’s intellect, and one’s understanding. This specific element of poverty within obedience itself is what we wish to understand.

In the hymn from Philippians 2,[28] it is clear that evangelical poverty and obedience were inseparable in the heart and life of Christ. Although self-emptying is characteristic of both poverty and obedience, obedience lives this self-emptying in a more radical way: that of obedience “unto death”, humbling oneself and becoming a slave as Christ did. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa describes the basis of Christ’s obedience not as a principle or an idea, but as an event—that of His death on the cross. Furthermore, as the New Adam, the obedient One, His obedience consists principally in emptying Himself and giving up His own will.[29] For the consecrated heart, this sacrifice and self-emptying is the very essence and direction of evangelical obedience, which is rooted in love, sustained by responsibility and trust, and invigorated by a spirit of sacrifice and renunciation. To do the Father’s will, Jesus shows that one must be empty of one’s own will, the roots of which run very deep within the human heart. When one chooses to live evangelical obedience, one embraces the path, as John Paul II said, that gradually leads to authentic freedom. One embraces the life of learning to use one’s free will, freely and joyfully, for the fulfillment of the Father’s will.

Part of the mystery of the profession of the counsels, as was stated earlier, is that they penetrate the heart of the Redemption: the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. All Christians are called to reproduce within themselves this mystery of Christ’s life. In a particular way, the Servant of God John Paul II teaches that the “paschal duality” of Christ—that of death through self-emptying and birth to new life through the resurrection—is central in the profession of the evangelical counsels. This entails putting to death within oneself all that is sinful and embracing the possibility of being reborn each day to a greater good within the human heart.[30] Furthermore, in response to the spousal and redemptive love of Christ, the consecrated heart desires to make Christ’s Paschal Mystery totally his own by filling his soul and body with the spirit of sacrifice.[31] This spirit of sacrifice does not just embrace the large crosses which come in religious life, but rather, all of the daily offerings and sacrifices which the consecrated heart makes in order to deny himself that he may be conformed more fully to Christ. As regards evangelical obedience, the spirit of sacrifice is directed primarily towards emptying oneself of oneself, of even that which is good, in order to be totally free to do God’s will.

Perhaps there is no greater teaching on the self-emptying, sacrifice, and conformity to the life of Christ in the Christian disciple than that of St. Paul in Philippians 3:7-14.  His words are perfectly applicable to the mystery of evangelical obedience and can be understood as a synthesis of its theology. St. Paul personally testifies to his own experience of “counting as loss” all of his merits, his glory, his identity before he knew Christ. All of his old self is nothing—as he says, is “rubbish”—when compared with the supreme good of knowing Christ. Therefore, it is with great zeal that he desires to lose all of these things for one purpose alone: to gain Christ and be found in Him. This is precisely the path of renunciation and self-emptying that evangelical obedience entails. The supreme good and goal of this counsel is to enter into this mystery of Christ and thus gain Him in greater depth. Clearly, this sacrifice is borne of love, for one cannot renounce even that which is good with such willingness and freedom if not impelled by the love of God. However, this can be seen as the starting point for the path of evangelical obedience.

He then goes on to say that the purpose of all of this is to “know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” This is the Paschal Mystery which the consecrated heart is called to make its own. It is to know Christ in all things: in the glory of the resurrection, in the depth of His suffering, and in the darkness of His death. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that Christ’s obedience was learned in the school of suffering,[32] the school of sacrifice. For those who follow the path of evangelical obedience, there is no other way than through suffering, through the Cross, and through renunciation to self. As St. Paul finishes, he makes it clear that self-emptying is a continual process: “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of [perfection] yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and striving forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The one thing that matters, Paul preaches, is one’s determination to leave behind all riches and attachments and constantly strive forward in Christ to the fullness of His call to holiness. For the consecrated heart as regards evangelical obedience, this path to holiness is the perfection of the Father’s will, which entails the embrace of self-emptying.

Obedience from the Heart: The Spirit of the Counsel

Obedience, properly understood as a response of love borne from the heart of Christ, can only be applied to evangelical obedience on the level of the heart, the true spirit of the counsel of obedience. What does this mean? Mother Adela Galindo writes, “The great risk for the religious is the ‘apparent’ [. . .] or ‘mediocre’ offering of the will and the mind. Many times one may appear to be obedient since one does what [one] is asked to do. Nonetheless, the greatness of obedience is not only in the action, but in acquiring the authentic spirit, the vision that should move the actions.”[33] As Mother writes, acquiring the authentic spirit is what the embrace of the consecrated life entails. By virtue of human nature wounded by original sin, one is not naturally inclined to obedience borne of pure love, moved without any selfish calculations, desires, manipulations, or grumblings. The spirit itself—love—is beyond one’s ability to grasp, for to love as Christ loves—with His love—one must receive His love poured forth in his heart through the power of the Holy Spirit. However, as St. Paul teaches in Philippians 3, one is able to eagerly strive forward, renounce oneself, and forget all that lies behind in order to make the necessary space within for Christ to reign in fullness.

This is the great beauty of the Church’s teaching on religious profession: that it is a deepening and a perfection of one’s baptismal consecration into Christ’s death.[34] Anyone wishing to embrace the way of the counsels embraces the understanding that religious profession is a threefold holocaust of one’s entire being: soul, mind, and body. This spirit of emptiness to self equips one with receptivity to the power of the transforming love of God which only the Holy Spirit can pour forth. Through religious profession, then, one chooses the life of the Spirit, moved by His power to live poor in spirit—conformed to Christ’s death—in order that the life of Christ may be “manifested through [one’s] body.”[35] Pope Paul VI captures this spirit so well when he writes in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Renewal of the Religious Life, Evangelica Testificatio, “You must feel something of the force with which Christ was drawn to His Cross—that baptism He had still to receive, by which that fire would be lighted which sets you too ablaze [. . .] Let the Cross be for you, as it was for Christ, proof of the greatest love.”[36] The baptism here—of which Christ spoke and to which Pope Paul VI refers—is His death. Therefore, inflamed by His death, one embraces it within oneself allows his heart to receive all of the power of the Spirit and the freedom that reigns where the Spirit of the Lord is.[37]

In the religious life, the call to die is lived within the context of the community, one’s spiritual family. It is in acquiring one mind and heart that the consecrated heart embraces the cross and denies himself of his will, preferences, and way of interpreting and understanding. However, this does not mean that one’s individuality, one’s personal “I” ceases to exist. This contradicts the very reality of the consecrated life and must be distinguished as an element that is not in accordance with the true spirit of evangelical obedience. As Mother Adela explains,

“In community, one way we express our leaving behind [everything for Jesus] is that we have to all become one [. . .] We don’t annihilate our “I” [. . .] we need our “I” so we can invest it in our “we”. It actually becomes a greater “I.” It’s a wrong mentality to say that your “I” doesn’t exist […]; it’s just [that] the direction of your “I” is [no longer] for you. Your personal “I” is invested, is given, given, not annihilated [. . .] there’s two different movements. It’s given for the “we.”[38]

Is this not the reality of the Church—Christ’s Bride and His Mystical Body, who receives her identity from and in Him? Is this not the reality of the consecrated life? If one is to put on Christ, to be conformed to Him in an ever closer way through the profession of the evangelical counsels, is one not called to become all that He is, and therefore renounce to oneself as being the author of his own will and person? As Mother explains, one can never lose one’s individuality. However, one invests the total gift of oneself in the community so that, through the community, the Lord may conform the soul to His image and likeness through the profession of the counsels. The reality of becoming one lies at the heart of evangelical obedience, and in a particular way, at the heart of that specific poverty so intrinsic to the living of authentic obedience. Thus, it lies at the very heart of the Gospel. When Christ states the demands of discipleship, “If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,”[39] is this not precisely what He means? If one is to follow Christ, one cannot be the author of one’s own identity, life, and will. Only by denying oneself as such does the consecrated heart make the necessary space within for the path of the evangelical counsels to be walked freely and fully. In religious life, therefore, the denial of one’s very self is the total, willing, and joyful dedication to becoming one with one’s religious family by embracing the mind, heart, and identity of its charism, which is a gift of the Spirit leading to configuration to the heart of Christ for all of its members.

Mary, “Living Icon of Obedience”[40]

One cannot consider the spirit of evangelical obedience without turning to Mary, the Mother of God, she who is rightly understood as the first and greatest disciple of the Lord. She is also the “perfect model of consecration,”[41] for she learned from and lived with He who is Consecration Himself. As the Tradition of the Church teaches us, Mary, from the beginning, was the obedient remedy to Eve’s disobedience.[42] Her total surrender to God and obedience to His word at the Annunciation shows us that her heart was already disposed to free and perfect obedience, borne of love for God, even before Jesus was born. When He was born, however, this obedience reaches an entirely new dimension when it becomes obedience in the footsteps of her Son, the Obedient One. Not only was she the first to walk the path of the counsels that Christ marks out for His disciples, she walked it to the greatest degree possible. Although there is much that can be said about Mary as the model of obedience, we will look primarily at the spirit of total self-gift and total self-emptying which made Mary’s obedience the most perfect model for all consecrated hearts to follow.

As the first heart consecrated to God in poverty, chastity, and obedience, Mary is the most shining realization of how the consecrated life particularly reveals the Church as Bride. The Servant of God John Paul II writes, “The consecrated life has always been seen primarily in terms of Mary, Virgin and Bride [. . .] Following in the footsteps of Mary, the New Eve, consecrated persons express their spiritual fruitfulness by becoming receptive to the Word.”[43] This element is of utmost importance in the spirit of evangelical obedience, which derives from one’s love of God lived in total self-gift to Him. This is precisely the source of Mary’s spiritual fecundity. In the Gospel of Luke, when a woman from the crowd praises her, Jesus qualifies this blessing and says, “blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”[44] Jesus’ words in no way detract from the sublime dignity of Mary; rather, they elevate it. Mary’s perfect availability and response to Him—the Word of God made flesh—is the basis of discipleship! For anyone, as Jesus says, who does so is His father, mother sister, or brother—each is who he is called to be. The consecrated heart, therefore, in the footsteps of Mary, is who it is called to be by virtue of total self-gift to the Lord: the offering of the totality of one’s person: will, intellect, gifts, and potentialities. As John Paul II teaches, maternal love and the love proper to virginity are fused in Mary.[45] Thus, her love for Jesus not only brought Him into the world and nourished Him; it led her to freely and completely give herself to His person, identity, and mission and to walk the path that He marked for all consecrated hearts. Her love for Jesus was always both maternal and proper to virginity, the total gift of all that she was to Him. This total self-gift filled the heart of Mary and led her in freedom along her Son’s path of obedience.

The mystery of the Annunciation is a foundational event to consider as one ponders the depth of Mary’s total self-gift to God. In a particular way in this mystery, her total self-emptying in order to receive and fulfill the will of the Father in its fullness shines forth. Just as Christ emptied Himself in order to fulfill the Father’s will, so too Mary gives all of her “human and feminine I” to the Lord in order that what He desires may be accomplished in and through her.[46] Her obedience, just like that of her Son, is completely connected with the freedom of heart to empty herself of her own will in order that the will of the Father may become her will. At the moment of the Annunciation, our Lady’s understanding of her identity can be seen to expand in its depth when she responds to the angel: “behold the handmaid of the Lord.” Before she gives her decisive fiat, these words reveal that she considers herself to be only that which the Lord wants her to be. She is His servant, nothing more; she lives to be who He desires her to be. In saying this, she does not deny her “personal I” as Mary of Nazareth, but rather, she gives it to the Lord and allows it to be transformed and expanded into an ever more sublime identity: that of the Mother of God. Her entire life, her “pilgrimage of faith” was a constant deepening of her understanding of herself as much more than Mary of Nazareth, but that of the “handmaid of the Lord”—totally the Lord’s, totally free to be who He wanted her to be: Mother of the Church, the Immaculate Conception, and the Mediatrix of all graces, to name a few. What greater example of self-emptying and freedom of heart could there be than this? What greater promise of the perfection of the Lord’s will, and the perfection of the human response before it? The Annunciation reveals that a heart totally given to the Lord as an offering is always an obedient heart. Furthermore, as an obedient heart, it is a heart which is always disposed to be empty of oneself in order that the fullness of God may reign in the human heart—that one may “gain Christ and be found in Him.”

Far from submission and lack of personal freedom, Mary’s heart displays the fullness of human freedom: that of perfect union with the will of God. As a human heart, Mary lived as do we all: by the light of faith. Therefore, the perfection of her obedience is seen precisely in that she lived by faith. As John Paul II teaches, to believe means “’to abandon oneself’ to the truth of the word of the living God.”[47] Mary shows us that faith is only authentic if it fulfills this definition set forth by John Paul II. In fact, Mary does more than just show us authentic faith; her faith inaugurates the New Covenant[48] of love and obedience. She sets the standard of faith for those who belong to the New Covenant: faith is indispensably linked to total abandonment to God; therefore, faith is indispensably linked to obedience. This is what the Church, drawing from the teaching of St. Paul in Romans 1:5, describes as the obedience of faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “To obey in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself.”[49] The Catechism makes it clear that the obedience of faith is a completely free act of the human intellect and will before God. Thus, Mary, who “perfectly embodies the obedience of faith”[50] is a totally free human person. Her choices of loving obedience to God strengthened her freedom and faith throughout her life, to the point of her willing consent to Jesus’ death on the Cross.          

It is at Calvary that her obedience of faith reaches its pinnacle. John Paul II describes Mary’s faith at the cross as the “deepest kenosis of faith” in history, for it was precisely through her faith that she was perfectly united to Jesus’ self-emptying.[51] Mary’s deepest personal will was that of her incomparable love for her Son, a love that would have wanted anything but His death. However, knowing it was the Father’s perfect will, she not only consented to it—she positively willed what the Father willed. This required that she empty of herself of her deepest will—her love of her Son—and in faith, positively unite her will with the Father. Fr. William Most explains that the deepest kenosis of faith in history was that of Mary positively willing what the Father willed.[52] The greatest obedience of faith is linked with the greatest self-emptying in the heart of Mary. Only faith, sustained by love, can lead the consecrated heart to total self-emptying; only total self-emptying allows obedience to be a free act of the human heart. The hearts of Jesus and Mary reveal the depth and the power of love to sustain and guide all hearts to the perfection of evangelical obedience in submission to the will of the Father.

Evangelical Obedience: Abandonment to the Father’s Heart

The school in which the consecrated heart learns, lives, and is purified along the path of evangelical obedience is within the religious community, its spiritual family. Under the authority of his or her superior, whose authority, like all authority, is given by God, the consecrated heart learns how to recognize in him the sign of God’s presence and mediation of His will.[53] This is no easy task, for one finds oneself situated in a “struggle between that I who tends to be in control of oneself and one's history and that God who is ‘the Lord’ of every history, a school wherein one learns to entrust oneself so much to God and to his Fatherhood, as also to trust in men and women.”[54] Evangelical obedience lived in the context of religious life is an even greater abandonment before God, for one must learn, in faith, to look beyond the mere appearance of what is seen—another human being—and instead, see the hand of God who communicates His will through both the Cross and the consolations of life. Thus, it is with great abandonment that the consecrated heart embraces the path of evangelical obedience. The hearts of Jesus and Mary are for all consecrated hearts the examples of perfect abandonment —and thus, perfect obedience—to the Father. Through and in them, the consecrated heart is led through the pathways of self-emptying, self-offering, and self-gift in order that the Father’s will may truly become its food—its only will. In this path of conversion and conformation more fully with the true spirit of evangelical obedience, the consecrated heart is liberated to live its authentic freedom as it becomes who it is called to be: a true son or daughter of the Father, “obedient from the heart.”[55]


Works Cited

Cantalamessa, Raniero. Obedience: The Authority of the Word. Boston: St. Paul Publications, 1989.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life. The Service of Authority and Obedience. May 11, 2008.

Pitts, Mary Dominic. “The Threefold Response to the Vows.” In The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision, 100-111. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2009.

John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation: Redemptionis Donum. March 25, 1984.

John Paul II. Apostolic Exhortation: Vita Consecrata. March 25, 1996.

John Paul II. Encyclical Letter: Redemptoris Mater. March 25, 1987.

John Paul II. Homily for the Jubilee of Consecrated Life. February 2, 2000.

Most, William G. “A Papal First.”  Homiletic and Pastoral Review (1991).

Mother Adela Galindo. The Charism of Love to the Extreme. August 9, 2004.

Mother Adela Galindo. May We Have One Mind and Heart. April 1993.

Mother Adela Galindo. Address on the Vision of the Music Ministry. October 15, 2009.

The New American Bible.

Vatican II Council. Perfectae Caritatis. Rome: Vatican, 1965


[1] Mother Adela Galindo, “The Charism of Love to the Extreme.”

[2] John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 28.

[3] Ibid., 16.

[4] Perfectae Caritatis, 1.

[5] John Paul II, “Homily for the Jubilee of Consecrated Life.”

[6] John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 9.

[7] Ibid., 13.

[8] John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 13.

[9] John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 9.

[10] 1 John 2:15-17

[11] John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 9.

[12] The Service of Authority and Obedience, 2.

[13] John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 36.

[14] Raniero Cantalamessa, Obedience, (Boston, St. Paul Publications, 1989), 16.

[15] Ibid., 8.

[16] The Service of Authority and Obedience, 6.

[17] John 15:10

[18] The Service of Authority and Obedience, 8.

[19] John 6:38; “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me”

[20] John 8:28; “I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father taught me”

[21] John 4:34

[22] John 14:31

[23] John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 21.

[24] The Service of Authority and Obedience, 5.

[25] John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 91.

[26] Raniero Cantalamessa, Obedience, 24.

[27] Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Christian State of Life, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983), 154, quoted in Mary Dominic Pitts, The Threefold Response of the Vows, in The Foundations of Religious Life: Revisiting the Vision, (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2009), 100.

[28] Philippians 2:6-8

[29] Raniero Cantalamessa, Obedience, 15, 17.

[30] John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 10.

[31] Ibid., 8

[32] Perfectae Caritatis, 14.

[33] Mother Adela Galindo, “May We Have One Mind and One Heart.”

[34] John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 7.

[35] 2 Corinthians 4:10

[36] Pope Paul VI, Evangelica Testificatio, 29, quoted in Mary Dominic Pitts, The Threefold Response of the Vows, in The Foundations of Religious Life, 104.

[37] 2 Corinthians 3:17

[38] Mother Adela Galindo, Address on the Vision of the Music Ministry, October 15, 2009.

[39] Matthew 16:24-25

[40] Raniero Cantalamessa, Obedience, 69.

[41] John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 17.

[42] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 19.

[43] John Paul II, Vita Consecrata, 34.

[44] Luke 11:28

[45] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 39.

[46] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 13.

[47] Ibid., 14.

[48] Ibid., 27.

[49] No.144.

[50] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 148.

[51] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 18.

[52] William G. Most, “A Papal First,” Homiletic and Pastoral Review (1991).

[53] The Service of Authority and Obedience, 29.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Romans 6:17

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