Obedience, Grace, and Free Will

February 23, 2023


No one can force a man to do something good when he does not want to do so. As for forcing someone to do evil, this could be discussed. For example, among certain gangs there are those who are enslaved and are unable to break this relationship. However, it is very different when dealing with good behaviour.

The Church teaches that without the help of grace no one can stably practice the Ten Commandments. This is the point of reference from which we must always consider anything relating to the religious crisis, spiritual life, or any other similar issue.

Imagine the most fascinating Man in history: Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Humanity. He was history’s wisest, most intelligent, most perfect, most elevated, most pleasant, most gentle, and most attractive man—as well as the most terrible in His wrath. Imagine Him using His infinite personal superiority to influence overwhelmingly the least of men for a period of five years.

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes. Having fished all day in the Lake of Gennesaret and caught nothing, Our Lord told St. Peter to put his nets out. St. Peter obeys and catches so many fishes that their boats are almost sinking.

Imagine that the two of them were the only ones on earth and Our Lord dedicating Himself exclusively to that man. If Our Lord were to use just His natural superiority, He would not be able to ensure that the man could practice all the commandments stably. Supernatural action must come into play.

No matter how intelligent or how much influence the person has over the other, as soon as he turns his back the other person could easily fall into sin—even grave sin. One sin leading to another, after a year it could very well be that the person would try to kill Our Lord. He would think: “I am going to kill that brute. I am fed up with him! Why? I don’t know, but I am fed up with him!” This could happen because no one can be forced to be good.

Thus within the “planet-satellite” relationship, the planet can only lead a satellite if the satellite wants to be led. The success of the “planet-satellite” relationship is never due to intimidation or personal qualities. A “planet” that thinks he can lead a “satellite” through his great talents has not understood the ABC’s of how talent or the strength of personality works. No intimidation in the world can make a man practice virtue. A defect never leads to virtue; only virtue leads to virtue.

A blind man by Prilidiano Pueyrredón.

Therefore, a “satellite” that practices virtue because of the “planet” is really doing so of his own free will. He uses the planet to help him do what he already has in mind. He willingly obeys because he knows the other person will lead him where he wants to go. Seen in this light, to follow another person is legitimate, good, and upright. It is the way it should be.

Think of a blind man who asks a boy to lead him to church. The blind man obeys the boy because he wants to go to Church and knows the boy will lead him there. The blind man is in charge, not the boy. The boy is only an instrument of the blind man’s act of will to go where he wants. The blind man affirms his sovereignty, not his weakness.

Someone could object: “When an individual recognizes the need for a superior, he affirms his own weakness.” This is true. However, this weakness is not a weakness, but rather part of the order God placed in the universe. Everyone should be guided by a superior. It is not a weakness, but a limitation. It proves the individual is not God. It is an understandable act of humility.

A teacher with her violin class in New York City, 1936.

He who obeys practices aseity because he obeys the superior he has chosen and allows himself to be led because he so wills it. The proof of this is how much effort one must make to allow oneself to be led. It is a sacrifice, and ultimately a person will only be led if he wills it.

In sum, the “planet-satellite” relationship works differently in virtue and in vice. Perfect aseity is found in this relationship because perfect independence and perfect hierarchy coexist together. Finally, the fullness of aseity is based on the acceptance by the “satellite” of the legitimate “planet” and legitimate authority so that it may attain its own goal.

The Christian Institution of the Family: A Dynamic Force to Regenerate Society, by Tradition, Family, Property Association. Pgs. 53-55.



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