Words from our Principal
Dear Families and Friends of Lumen,
Last Friday, our Church celebrated the feast of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, better known as “Padre Pio.” While his life is incredibly fascinating for its supernatural qualities – he was known for bearing the stigmata as well as for having the ability to bilocate and read souls – his more “natural,” this-worldly accomplishments were equally signs of his sanctity. Not only did he establish a hospital – now internationally renowned as one of the best research hospitals in the world – but he also displayed a remarkable virtue that we can all emulate: that of respectful obedience to legitimate authority, which happens to be one of the principles enshrined into our school honor code.
The spiritual wisdom of the Church throughout the ages has argued that obedience is one of the highest virtues, requiring as it does self-sacrifice and humility. But there is no doubt that obedience is an incredibly counter-cultural virtue in today’s world. In fact, at a recent professional development in which I participated, during which I suggested that part of the goal of education should be to inculcate rightful obedience, other educators pushed back, insisting that “obedience” was opposed to critical thinking, which they defined as thinking for oneself and drawing one’s own conclusions.
There is no doubt that a call to obedience can be misused in this way. Yet true obedience in the Christian sense is never blind conformity. Rightly understood, obedience means to comply with the commands of a rightful authority in all things but sin. Such a definition requires that we know and can discern, first of all, whether or not something is a sinful command, and whether or not the authority giving the command is rightful. Thus, the proper practice of this virtue requires a well-formed conscience and the use of our reason and intellect. But if something is not a sinful order, and it is given to us by someone who has rightful authority to command us, obedience obliges us to comply – even if such an order is inconvenient or even apparently unfair.
Padre Pio practiced this obedience to an astonishing degree. When Padre Pio first began experiencing the stigmata, several people within the Church began to accuse him of faking the wounds. In response, the Vatican began restricting Padre Pio’s ministry, forbidding him from hearing confessions, providing spiritual direction, and saying Mass publicly. Eventually he was restricted even from meeting people in his friary’s parlor and from writing letters. The accusations against him were unjust, and the restrictions on his ministry unfair, but Padre Pio did not complain or speak out against the Church’s authorities. Instead, he obeyed, uniting his sufferings to Christ, who, obedient unto death (Philippians 2:8), likewise suffered from unjust accusations. Because it was not a sin for Padre Pio to not say Mass or provide spiritual direction, and because the Vatican had rightful authority over his actions as a priest, he complied with the order – despite its unfairness.
Examples of this type of heroic and discerning obedience can be found throughout our Church’s history, from the desert father St. John the Dwarf, who was commanded by his superior to water a dead, dry stick for years, to St. Thomas More, who obeyed Henry VIII’s legitimate authority up until the point that Henry insisted that More sin against the Church. These saints recognized that our obedience is owed properly to God first and foremost, and that our obedience to human authority stems from a recognition that such authority has been placed over us by God for the sake of the common good.
Though, as a parent and as a teacher at Lumen Verum Academy, I pray that I never subject my children or our scholars to the injustice that Padre Pio faced, I also hope that we can help our scholars grow in the virtue of obedience, both by aiding them in the development of their conscience and the use of their reason, and by encouraging them to practice humility and self-sacrifice when they find a legitimate command annoying, inconvenient, or ostensibly “unfair.” Whether it be a request to abide by dress code regulations or to take the last place in line so that others can go first, practicing respectful obedience to rightful authority is a powerful way to prepare us to take up our crosses and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24-26).
May you all have a beautiful week!
Pax et bonum,
Distinguished Guest Lecturer Event
Fall Hike – You’re Invited!
Recent Field Trips
“We can pray perfectly when we are out in the mountains or on a lake and we feel at one with nature. Nature speaks for us or rather speaks to us. We pray perfectly.”
– Pope John Paul II