Recently we received a notice from our electrical company that our service would be turned off for a couple of hours in order to install upgrades to the system. Sure enough, at the designated time, the power indeed went off.
It got me thinking about power and where it comes from. There’s man-made power, like the light my electric company provides, and there’s God-made power, like the light the sun provides. One is, of course, far superior to the other. The latter give better light and is more reliable.
Problems arise when we consider man-made power as good as the God-made kind. That’s why you get women who think the Church is wrong in denying them the priesthood—they believe the power to confer Holy Orders comes from man.
What’s worse is that they think becoming priests will make them powerful. Any Catholic priest worth his salt must find that idea laughable, and I mean rolling-on-the-floor-in-hysterics laughable. Becoming a priest is taking a vow of obedience. It’s reducing oneself to the status of, as St. Paul calls himself, “a slave of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1). It’s being available, if necessary, 24/7/365 to the members of his parish.
But, these women say, look how powerful the pope is! Yet the pope is, by his own admittance, “the servant of the servants of God.” As Jesus tells us, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
So, if the power is not coming from man, where is it coming from?
It’s necessary to be plugged into the electrical grid to receive the man-made power it produces. And it’s necessary to be “plugged into” God to receive the God-made power He produces.
Power, in other words, lies in obedience to God’s will.
If you think the pope is the most powerful person in the Church, consider what happened in 1376 when the papacy was in Avignon, France. The pope had made a private vow that he would return the papacy to Rome—a vow he had not fulfilled. It took a woman, Catherine of Siena, to make him be good to his word. She was one of the most influential persons of the 14th century, was later canonized a saint and made a Doctor of the Church. Yet almost nobody remembers the name of the pope in question. (You don’t have to look it up. It was Gregory XI.) Which of them was the more powerful?
Or consider this story about St. Faustina: She writes in her Diary that one of the deceased sisters who was suffering in Purgatory spoke to her. She begged Faustina to fast for a day because that was all she needed to be delivered from her suffering into Heaven. Well, because she had taken a vow of obedience, Faustina needed Mother Superior’s permission to fast—a permission which was not granted because Faustina had been sick. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for this simple nun to go to breakfast, shove the food into her mouth, chew, and swallow. But imagine her surprise when the deceased sister spoke to her again and said that if she had fasted she would have been delivered that night but because she was obedient, she instead received relief at once. “Obedience,” the deceased nun added, “has great power.” (Diary, 1185-1187)
It’s my sincere wish that, like St. Catherine and St. Faustina, I’ll always be plugged into God’s will.
I would never want to experience that kind of power outage.