I came across this story relating to Fr Benson, the founder of the Society of St John the Evangelist. SSJE, often known as the ‘Cowley Fathers’, after their Mother House in Oxford, was the first men’s religious community in the C of E after the Reformation.

As Fr Benson grew  old his eye-sight started to fail. He had long since ceased to be Superior of SSJE. It was his practice to say Mass every day, and on Sunday night the brother who cared for him would go to the Chapel board and note the place and time of his private Masses for the week. Until the day came when, the Superior having decided that Fr Benson could no longer safely say Mass, there was no provision made against his name. His brother carer duly reported this, and Fr Benson said nothing. This happened again the following week, but on the third week Fr Benson did not ask again.

Now I have no doubt that Fr Benson grew greatly in grace and humility through his acceptance, but I asked myself what this did to the new Superior, who imposed this on him. Why did he not come to speak with the old man, and why did he provide no explanation? Did he feel that it was his responsibility to test the Father Founder – in which case could he be so sure of his own soul?

I suppose it would not happen in community life nowadays. Is this a good thing? As we approach Holy Week we surely ask ourselves about the nature of obedience, and how we may pattern ourselves on the Saviour. Is obedience always rational, and is it ever ‘blind’?


About Scott Anderson

Formerly an Anglican priest (ordained 1975) received into the Catholic Church in February 2012, and ordained to the Diaconate on 27th July 2013. I took early retirement, and divide my time between London and northern France. I am deeply committed to the Ordinariate as a gift of the Holy Spirit in the search for unity. Like many Ordinariate members I feel a personal gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict, together with loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. My blog tries to make a small contribution to the growth of the Ordinariate by asking questions (and proposing some answers) about the 'Anglican Patrimony'. I have always been fascinated by the whole issue of growth and decline, and therefore concerned for appropriate means of evangelisation in western Europe. I believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing the People of God and that we must be open to him. My love of music and motorcycles will occasionally surface in my posts. On Saturday 19th October 2013, I was ordained to the Priesthood at Most Precious Blood, Borough, by the Most Revd Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, for the service of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham. I continued to serve the Ordinariate group and Parish at Most Precious Blood until the end of 2014. Subsequently, I helped in the care of the Ordinariate Groups at Hemel Hempstead and Croydon, and in the Archdiocese of Southwark, until the beginning of September 2015. With the agreement of my Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, the Bishop of Amiens appointed me Administrator of the Parish of Notre Dame des Etangs (Pont Remy) in Picardie, France. This appointment is to last for a year, to give the Bishop the opportunity to assess the future of the parish.
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One Response to Obedience

  1. P.Watson says:

    What a wonderful story! I would imagine that Fr. Benson would never dream of questioning his superiors decision, even though it must have caused him great regret. His view was probably that the decision had been taken after much prayer, and how could he presume to question the guidance of God to his superior? Whether the superior was correct to act as he did, was entirely a matter between God and himself.
    By today’s standards this is very harsh, but then today, we are not particularly noted for our humility and obedience to Gods will, are we?

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