Picture if you will, the café in Morrissons (a supermarket) in a small mining town in the North of England. A large, middle aged, male customer and solo diner, is provided with the repast he ordered, but seems somewhat perplexed by the plate of fish and chips now infront of him. As a waitress breezes past, he points to his plate and with a wonderful selection of extended vowels and glottal stops announces to the waitress and all the other assembled diners, “Eh Lass, ney payse on ‘yon ‘plehte”. The waitress duly removes the plate and returns it to him with the requisite amount of warm, comforting mushy peas.
I was thinking about this little vignette from my past as I have been pondering the subject of obedience.
Obedience isn’t about pleases and thank yous. Nor is obedience about a written set of rules that must be followed come what may. Obedience is about justice and doing what is required of you, dependent on your relationship to the particular situation. The waitress knew the dish was defective, the diner pointed out the error, the waitress rectified the error. No pleases or thank yous involved, but at the same time no resentment, rudeness or sulking. Obedience, if done properly, is simply the most efficient way through a situation. It does however require both parties to know what is expected of them and it involves trust.
I wanted to include “obey” in my marriage vows. Husband-to-be said no I couldn’t as it was no longer in the text for the marriage ceremony and it was not for me to go and change that text. I obeyed him, oh the irony! (No understanding of the possibility of the EF ceremony back them, more’s the pity.)
I was thinking mainly about obedience with reference to our Bishops. Sometimes our Bishops should be like the waitress in the cafe, they are the servants who efficiently and gracefully see that the work of the Church is done. Sometimes the Bishops should be like the customer, pointing out error, and expecting its rectification. We the laity, are definitely more waitress than diner, the Magesterium means we who are not so ordained cannot point out error and expect its rectification.
My hypothesis is, the lack of obedience/deference that some feel towards our Bishops actually emasculates the Bishops. Any bride to be should ask herself whether she would trust her spouse enough to obey him, if she feels she couldn’t obey him, then it implies her husband-to-be is somehow untrustworthy.
As both Bishops and laity are labourers in the same vinyard (Christ’s not Morrisons), obedience and deference should not be an issue. It is a scandal that division exists.
My remedy? Prayer and penance are obvious choices. Further to this, I have a feeling several Bishops will cross my path this coming year. I will kiss their ring, whether they like it or not.*
*Isn’t the devil at work here? Why does everything to do with Bishops have a smutty double-entendre.