This morning’s question: What is the fourth commandment? Honor thy father and thy mother. Honor in that catechism answer means to obey. Every one of Christ’s children must learn to obey. To obey does not mean to do what you are told. It means to do exactly what you are told. There is a difference there. Maybe this story will help to make that clear to you.
While the great St. Francis of Assisi was alive two men came to the door of his monastery and asked if they could join his order—the Friars Minor. St. Francis asked them several questions and finally said, “Will you keep the vow of poverty?” Both the men said they would. “Will you keep the vow of chastity?” asked Francis. “We will,” replied the men. Finally St. Francis asked, “Will you keep the vow of obedience?” Both said “Yes.” “Then come with me,” said St. Francis, and he led the two men into the garden. In the garden the two men got the correct idea of the religious life and of obedience. St. Francis gave them each, of all things, two carrots and said, “Plant these.” The two began to dig into the ground. “Now, said the Saint, “I do not want them just planted. I want them planted upside down.” One man planted his carrots upside down. The other man scratched his head and said, “Oh, no, Father Francis, you are a very holy man and know many things, but you do not know how to plant carrots. Here’s how you do it. You plant them this way.” And he planted his right side up. St. Francis smiled at him tolerantly and said, “Young man, you would make a very good gardener, because you plant carrots right side up, but you will not make a good Franciscan unless you learn to obey. Now plant them upside down. You must learn that to obey means to do exactly what you are told to do.” But St. Francis was not finished with his lesson on obedience. He said, “What a shame! I’ve made you spoil the carrots that were meant for our supper. There are some nice ones in the next garden. Jump over the hedge and steal two of them.” The man hopped over the fence to steal two of the carrots. Immediately St. Francis called him back and finished the lesson. “To plant carrots upside down is one thing. To steal them is another. You must obey your superiors—but only in things which are not sinful.”
That story shows that obedience means that we should do exactly as we are told as long as we are not told to sin. It does not mean that we may do the thing any old way that we please. If we are told to do our homework now, that means that we must do it now and not after we finish the chapter of the novel we are reading. If we are told to be home at seven o’clock, we do not obey if we just straggle home when we are ready. We must be home on time. If our parents wanted us home at 7:15 they would say 7:15. But they said seven and that meant seven. If we are told to wash the dishes, we do not obey if we put them away without being dried properly. To be obedient we must do exactly what we are told. That means that we must do the things we are told to do (and not something else); when we are told to do it (not when we feel like it) and in the proper manner (not carelessly or sloppily). If you do not do all of these things you cannot call yourselves obedient. Both of the men in the story planted the carrots in the ground but one was obedient and the other was not. One did exactly as he was told. The other did it the way he felt like doing it. Remember this next time you are told to do something. If you are told to plant carrots upside down, then plant them upside down. It is not your mistake if you do what you are told to do. You obeyed and to obey means to do exactly what you are told to do.
~ “Heavenwords,” Imprimatur 1941 ~