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Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

“To love means to renew our dedication every day, with loving deeds of service”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2015/05/01 at 12:00 AM
“These days”, you were saying, “have been the happiest in my life.” And I answered you without hesitation: that is because you have lived with a little more self-giving than usual. (Furrow, 7)

Remember the parable of the talents. The servant who received one talent could have put it to good use, as his fellow servants did. He could have set to work with his own abilities. He could have made sure that his talent bore fruit. Instead, what is on his mind? He is worried about losing his talent. Fair enough. But, then? He goes and buries it! [1] The talent he received bears no fruit.

Let us not forget this man’s sickly fear of putting to honest use his capacity for work, his mind, his will, his whole being. ‘I’ll bury it,’ the poor fellow seems to be saying, ‘but my freedom is safe!’ Not so. He has turned his freedom towards something very definite, towards the most miserable and arid barrenness. He has taken sides, because he had no alternative. He had to choose, but he has chosen badly.

It is utterly false to oppose freedom and self‑surrender, because self‑surrender is a consequence of freedom. Look, when a mother sacrifices herself for love of her children, she has made a choice, and the more she loves the greater will be her freedom. If her love is great, her freedom will bear much fruit. Her children’s good derives from her blessed freedom, which presupposes self‑surrender, and from her blessed self-surrender, which is precisely freedom.

But, you might say, when we have attained our heart’s desire, our search will be over. Does freedom vanish then? I assure you that it will then be more active than ever, because love is not content with a routine fulfilment of duty. Love is incompatible with boredom or apathy. To love means to renew our dedication every day, with loving deeds of service.

I insist, and I would like to engrave this deep in your hearts, that freedom and self‑surrender are not contradictory. They sustain one another. Freedom can only be given up for love; I cannot conceive any other reason for surrendering it. And I am not just playing with words or phrases. When people give themselves freely, at every moment of their self‑surrender, freedom renews their love; to be renewed in that way is to be always young, generous, capable of high ideals and great sacrifices. (Friends of God, 30-31)

[1] cf Matt 25:18

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“To love means to renew our dedication every day, with loving deeds of service”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2015/02/13 at 12:00 AM
“These days”, you were saying, “have been the happiest in my life.” And I answered you without hesitation: that is because you have lived with a little more self-giving than usual. (Furrow, 7)

Remember the parable of the talents. The servant who received one talent could have put it to good use, as his fellow servants did. He could have set to work with his own abilities. He could have made sure that his talent bore fruit. Instead, what is on his mind? He is worried about losing his talent. Fair enough. But, then? He goes and buries it! [1] The talent he received bears no fruit.

Let us not forget this man’s sickly fear of putting to honest use his capacity for work, his mind, his will, his whole being. ‘I’ll bury it,’ the poor fellow seems to be saying, ‘but my freedom is safe!’ Not so. He has turned his freedom towards something very definite, towards the most miserable and arid barrenness. He has taken sides, because he had no alternative. He had to choose, but he has chosen badly.

It is utterly false to oppose freedom and self‑surrender, because self‑surrender is a consequence of freedom. Look, when a mother sacrifices herself for love of her children, she has made a choice, and the more she loves the greater will be her freedom. If her love is great, her freedom will bear much fruit. Her children’s good derives from her blessed freedom, which presupposes self‑surrender, and from her blessed self-surrender, which is precisely freedom.

But, you might say, when we have attained our heart’s desire, our search will be over. Does freedom vanish then? I assure you that it will then be more active than ever, because love is not content with a routine fulfilment of duty. Love is incompatible with boredom or apathy. To love means to renew our dedication every day, with loving deeds of service.

I insist, and I would like to engrave this deep in your hearts, that freedom and self‑surrender are not contradictory. They sustain one another. Freedom can only be given up for love; I cannot conceive any other reason for surrendering it. And I am not just playing with words or phrases. When people give themselves freely, at every moment of their self‑surrender, freedom renews their love; to be renewed in that way is to be always young, generous, capable of high ideals and great sacrifices. (Friends of God, 30-31)

[1] cf Matt 25:18

Ten Commandments Are Indications For Freedom

In Uncategorized on 2014/08/29 at 12:00 AM

 “The Ten Commandments are not a limitation, but an indication for freedom.”  “The Ten Commandments,” the pontiff affirmed, “are a gift from God. The word ‘commandment’ isn’t fashionable. To today’s persons, it recalls something negative, someone’s will that imposes limits, that places obstacles to our lives. … Unfortunately history, even recent history, is marked by tyranny, ideologies, mindsets that have been imposed and oppressive, that haven’t sought the good of humanity but rather power, success, and profit. The Ten Commandments, however, come from a God who created us out of love, from a God who established a covenant with humanity, a God who only wants the good of humanity. Let us trust in God! … The Ten Commandments show us a path to travel and also constitute a sort of ‘moral code’ for building just societies that are made for men and women. How much inequality there is in the world! How much hunger for food and for truth! How much moral and material poverty resulting from the rejection of God and from putting so many idols in his place! Let us be guided by these Ten Words that enlighten and guide those seeking peace, justice, and dignity.”

“It is important to remember when God, through Moses, gave the people of Israel the Ten Commandments. At the Red Sea the people had experienced great deliverance. They had seen first hand the power and faithfulness of God, the God who liberates. Now God himself, upon Mount Sinai, indicates to his people and to all of us the way to remain free, a path that is engraved upon the human heart as a universal moral Law. We shouldn’t see the Ten Commandments as restriction upon our freedom; no, not that way. We should see them as signs for our freedom. … They teach us how to avoid the slavery to which the many idols that we ourselves build reduce us. … They teach us to open ourselves to a wider dimension than the material one; to live with respect for others; overcoming the greed of power, possessions, and money; to be honest and sincere in our relationships; to protect all of creation and to nurture our planet with high, noble, and spiritual ideals. Following the Ten Commandments means being faithful to ourselves, to our most authentic nature, and walking towards the true freedom that Christ taught us in the Beatitudes.”

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Sin, An Act of Personal Freedom

In 14 Book Corner on 2014/01/10 at 12:00 AM

A true humanism must recognize that sin is “an integral part of the truth about man” because human beings are moral actors.  Men and women can, and do, commit evil acts, and those acts open up a double wound in the sinner, and in the sinner’s relationships with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, even strangers. (13.1., 13.2, 15.4)

To take sin seriously is to take human freedom seriously, John Paul suggests, and that is why the personal character of sin can never be diminished.  Psychological, cultural, and social factors condition the way people make their moral choices.  those factors, if strong enough , can constrain freedom and limit moral responsibility.  But these facts of life could not be understood in ways that erode a deeper truth – that sin is a result of an act of personal freedom, which is a crucial dimension of human dignity.  (16.1)

John Paul II : “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” signed on December 12, 1984 as a  Post-Synod inspired document.

Cited in Weigel, George WITNESS TO TRUTH (biography of Pope John Paul II)

Freedom, a Paradox By J. Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/08/24 at 9:00 AM

We humans are the only creatures that do not have to act in a predetermined way; we can radically alter the circumstances of our lives if we so wish. A tree will grow in the same spot year after year and follow its prearranged cycles. A dog will never live like a fish and a cat will never fly. Humans have found ways to both live under water and fly.

People have a moral dimension that other creatures do not have. We can produce a Mother Teresa and a Hitler, great saints and great sinners, and every level in between. The reason is that humans have the power of choice, of free will; we can decide to do or not to do something.

The Greeks of the ancient world, who helped lay of the foundation of our own civilization, were the thinkers of their time. They thought about almost every aspect of human existence. They delved into mathematics, physics, medicine, music, and literature. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates, are among the more notable of them. They even had an atomic theory.

Their philosophers pondered the question of free will and its significance. They came to the conclusion that there is a paradox (apparent contradiction) in the matter of free will. They said that there are two kinds of freedom of the will, a “freedom from” and a “freedom to”. The former is negative and the latter is positive. “Freedom from” is the idea that no one should tell us what we can and cannot do, that we are free agents answerable only to ourselves.

The paradox here is that when we set out to be totally free of inhibitions, laws, rules etc, we eventually become, not free, but enslaved to our desires. They very things we thought would show our freedom bind us in a grip of negative habits and vice, and which, under our own power, would be proportionately difficult to overcome. Thus unlimited freedom turns into slavery.

“Freedom to” has its own paradox. In order to be free to accomplish anything of value or anything worthwhile, we must be willing to restrict, limit and restrain our free will. The reason you can read this essay is that I have limited myself to using certain words, in a certain order and arrangement. I could have used many of the other thousands of English words, but the result would be a different message or none at all…jibberish. I happen to enjoy choirs, but only because the choir members agree to follow a certain pattern of notes with no deviations. Imagine what would happen if the choir members decided that “no one was going to tell them what to sing”, and they all sang different hymns at the same time.

Man is the only creature that can conceive of and try to attain goals. No goal is reached in a haphazard way. Plans must be made, and part of those plans are restricted choices we must make to be successful. If one wishes to become a doctor, he/she must, long before, set out on a prescribed  course of study, and restrict himself or herself to whatever aids in the pursuit of the goal.

We live in a “Sez who?” society. Authority at every level, divine, parental, civil, educational, ecclesiastical , is being questioned and/or ignored if anyone so desires; each one becomes his or her own lawmaker. We forget that legitimate authority comes from God, and, therefore, obliges us to obey lawful rules. Too many people in authority have brought disrespect and disregard on themselves. Nevertheless, when we look around us, we see all too often the fruits of the “Sez who? Society”: dangerous addictions, high crime rate, low church attendance, rampant illicit sex, abortion, deficient education, evolution as fact, greed at every level (called “inflation”),  scientism (the belief that only science has all the answers), etc.

The Greeks had it right, BUT, because they did not have the benefit of Revelation, their idea of freedom is valid, but incomplete because they had only human reason to work with. It was not until the coming of Christ that we learned the true meaning of freedom. “The truth shall make you free.”

Because the Greek philosophers’ ideas of freedom were limited,  they relied on human reason alone, and, while they did develop some sound ideas, they were, nevertheless, incomplete and insufficient. They based everything on the idea of restraints and lack of restraints which is valid only to a certain extent. After all, it was a pagan world they lived in. We have the guidance of divine Revelation. It tells us that the real origin and basis for freedom is truth. “The truth shall make you free.”

Christ Himself referred to Himself as “the Truth.” The Gospels tell us that part of the mission of Christ on earth was to tell us how to find complete and necessary truth because it is only in truth that we find real freedom. Ever notice that false gods always seem to reduce freedom? The followers of Islam certainly have diminished freedom.

It does not require much observation to realize that we live in a world filled with errors and lies in all areas of life: ecclesiastical, political, moral, economic, social, scientific, educational, etc. Note also that the more error and falsehood involved, the more freedom is diminished. Ex. Darwinism has become a religion in the scientific world. Any opponent speaks out risks danger of grave consequences to his position and status. The same attitude is developing in the matter of global warming. The elites have decided that it exists, and anyone who questions it is subject to ridicule, ostracism, etc. In both Darwinism and global warming, contrary facts are not given a hearing. This means a loss of freedom to make our own judgments in such matters.

It is truth that makes us free. It is Christ who gives us true freedom. We can better understand this by using the terms the Greek philosophers used, “freedom from” and “freedom to”.  In Christ, we have a “freedom from”

ANXIETY: Christ Himself told us we need not be anxious about anything because God is in control of the world and whatever happens in it. With Him as our guide, we are assured that whatever comes to pass, good or bad, it will be to our advantage eventually.

ERROR:    Using the inspired Word of God and the  Catholic Church as a beacon of truth and  standard of behavior, we can judge and evaluate the myriad false ideas being tossed around today.

DOUBT:  The suicide bomber can only hope that his actions will bring him to heaven.(They won’t.) The Christian who believes in Christ and His promises KNOWS what his destiny is.

FEAR OF DEATH: The modern world seems to have a mania for staying alive as long as possible. Of course, the reason is that too many think that the grave is the end of the story. The Christian knows that death for him/her leads to the second and better part of life as  his/her soul goes to meet with Christ while the body remains temporarily on earth.

In short, believing the truth of Christ rescues us from the baneful effects of our sinful human nature, and gives us freedom that the non-saved can’t even imagine.

There is a positive side the God’s freedom, the “freedom to.”

Human freedom is tenuous, and fickle, and can be dangerous when misused; too much freedom often leads to disaster.

God’s freedom is infinite, constant, and eternal.

We are free to be all that God has designed us to be, free to be what no human power can give, free to reach our full potential which is eternal union with God.

The Greeks said that true freedom lies in restraint. So too is it in the Christian life. We call this restraint obedience to God’s will. That is the source of man’s true freedom because it will lead to eternal glory in which human freedom becomes perfect, and a more mentally peaceful existence on earth. That is God’s plan for us.

There will be no “freedom from” in Heaven because there will be no  doubts, fears, anxieties, or errors, etc. The least free person is the habitual sinner. Listen to his last lament.

“The past has deceived me; the present torments me; and the future terrifies me.”

The true Christian, free in Christ, will never need to utter these words.

“The only freedom that can save man is Christian freedom”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2012/08/15 at 9:11 AM

It is not true that there is opposition between being a good Catholic and serving civil society faithfully. In the same way there is no reason why the Church and the State should clash when they proceed with the lawful exercise of their respective authorities, in fulfillment of the mission God has entrusted to them. Those who affirm the contrary are liars, yes, liars! They are the same people who honour a false liberty, and ask us Catholics “to do them the favour” of going back to the catacombs. (Furrow, 301)

We will be slaves either way. Since we must serve anyway, for whether we like it or not this is our lot as men, then there is nothing better than recognizing that Love has made us slaves of God. From the moment we recognize this we cease being slaves and become friends, sons. Then we see the difference: we find ourselves tackling the honest occupations of the world just as passionately and just as enthusiastically as others do, but with peace in the depth of our hearts. We are happy and calm, even in the midst of difficulties, for we are not putting our trust in passing things, but in what lasts for ever. We are not children of the slave but of the free woman’ [1].

Where does our freedom come from? It comes from Christ Our Lord. This is the freedom with which he has ransomed us [2]. That is why he teaches, ‘if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed’ [3]. We Christians do not have to ask anyone to tell us the true meaning of this gift, because the only freedom that can save man is Christian freedom.

I like to speak of the adventure of freedom, because that is how your lives and mine unfold. I insist that it is freely, as children and not as slaves, that we follow the path which Our Lord has marked out for each one of us. We relish our freedom of action as a gift from God…

We are answerable to God for all the actions we freely perform. There is no room here for anonymity. Each one finds himself face to face with his Lord, and he can decide to live as God’s friend or as his enemy. This is the beginning of the path of the interior struggle which is a lifelong undertaking because, as long as we are on this earth, we will never achieve complete freedom. (Friends of God, 35-36)

Repair My House: Renewing the Roots of Religious Liberty

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2012/07/05 at 9:11 AM

+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Indianapolis, 6.20.12

I’ve known Greg Erlandson as a friend for many years. So I was glad to accept his invitation to join you tonight. And I’m very glad to speak on the theme of religious liberty because events in our country have made it an urgent concern. I can sum up my remarks tonight in five simple points.

First, religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American experience. This is so obvious that once upon a time, nobody needed to say it. But times have changed. So it’s worth recalling that Madison, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson – in fact, nearly all the American Founders – saw religious faith as vital to the life of a free people. Liberty and happiness grow organically out of virtue. And virtue needs a grounding in religious faith.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, the historian, put it this way: The Founders knew that in a republic “virtue is intimately related to religion. However skeptical or deistic they may have been in their own beliefs, however determined they were to avoid anything like an established Church, they had no doubt that religion is an essential part of the social order because it is a vital part of the moral order.”1

Here’s my second point: Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship. The right to worship is a necessary but not sufficient part of religious liberty. Christian faith requires community. It begins in worship, but it also demands preaching, teaching and service. It’s always personal but never private. And it involves more than prayer at home and Mass on Sunday – although these things are vitally important. Real faith always bears fruit in public witness and public action. Otherwise it’s just empty words.

The Founders saw the value of publicly engaged religious faith because they experienced its influence themselves. They created a nation designed in advance to depend on the moral convictions of religious believers, and to welcome their active role in public life.

Here’s my third point: Threats against religious freedom in our country are not imaginary. They’re happening right now. They’re immediate, serious and real. Earlier this year religious liberty advocates won a big Supreme Court victory in the 9-0 Hosanna- Tabor v EEOC decision. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news. What’s stunning in that case is the disregard for religious freedom shown by the government’s arguments against the Lutheran church and school. And Hosanna-Tabor is not an isolated case. It belongs to a pattern of government coercion that includes the current administration’s HHS mandate; interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers and private employers, as well as individual citizens; and attacks on the policies, hiring practices and tax statuses of religious charities and ministries.

Why is this hostility happening? A lot of it links to Catholic teaching on the dignity of life and human sexuality. Catholic moral convictions about abortion, contraception, the purpose of sexuality and the nature of marriage are rooted not just in revelation, but also in reason and natural law. Human beings have a nature that’s not just the product of accident or culture, but inherent, universal and rooted in permanent truths knowable to reason.

The problem, as Notre Dame law professor Gerry Bradley points out, is that critics of the Church reduce all these moral convictions to an expression of subjective religious beliefs. And if they’re purely religious beliefs, then – so the critics argue – they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. In effect, 2,000 years of moral tradition and religious belief become a species of bias. Opposing same-sex “marriage” thus amounts to religiously blessed homophobia.2

There’s more though. When religious belief gets redefined downward to a kind of private bias, then the religious identity of institutional ministries has no public value — other than the utility of getting credulous people to do good things. So exempting Catholic adoption agencies, for example, from placing kids with gay couples becomes a concession to private prejudice. And concessions to private prejudice feed bigotry and hurt the public. Or so the reasoning goes. This is how moral teaching and religious belief end up getting hounded as hate speech.

Here’s my fourth point: Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’ll lose it. It’s already happening in other developed countries like Britain and Canada.3 The U.S. Constitution is a great document — historically unique for its fusion of high ideals with the realism of very practical checks and balances. But in the end, it’s just an elegant piece of paper. In practice, nothing guarantees our freedoms except our willingness to fight for them. That means fighting politically and through the courts, without tiring and without apologies. We need to realize that America’s founding documents assume an implicitly religious anthropology – an idea of human nature, nature’s God and natural rights that many of our leaders no longer really share. We ignore that unhappy fact at our own expense.

Here’s my fifth and final point: Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith – in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it. Religious liberty is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak. Or to put it more bluntly, if people don’t believe in God, religious liberty isn’t a value. That’s the heart of the matter. It’s the reason Pope Benedict calls us to a Year of Faith this October. The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t “out there” among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us – all of us, clergy, religious and lay – when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy.

Religious liberty isn’t a privilege granted by the state. It’s our birthright as children of God. And even the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of a believing people. But if we value it and want to keep it, then we need to become people worthy of it. Which means we need to change the way we live – radically change, both as individual Catholics and as the Church. And that’s where I’d like to turn for the rest of these brief remarks.

A year ago I was serving happily in Denver, laughing at rumors I was getting moved anywhere. That turned out to be a mistake. Since then I’ve been asked many times how I like Philadelphia. The answer is pretty simple. I don’t “like” it. I love it – or rather, I love the people and clergy of Philadelphia because they’re easy to love. They’re now my family, an intimate part of my life. And I hope that each passing year will draw me deeper into the life of the community because Philadelphia is really more than just a great city. It’s the birthplace of our country and a jewel in our national legacy. It’s also an icon of the American Catholic experience. So it’s a joy and a blessing to serve there as bishop.

“Joy” may seem like an odd word to use, given events in Philadelphia over the past 16 months. Obviously the abuse tragedy has burdened the life of the local Church in a very painful way. Our laypeople are angry, and they should be. Their frustration shows in the pews. In Denver about 40 percent of registered Catholics attended Mass weekly. In Philadelphia, barely 18 percent do. The scandal has caused terrible suffering for victims, demoralized many of our clergy, crippled the witness of the Church and humiliated the whole Catholic community.

That’s the bad news — or at least some of it — and it’s not simply “bad,” but bitter and damaging for everyone involved, beginning with victims and their families, but rippling throughout the community. As a bishop, the only honest way I can talk about the abuse tragedy is to start by apologizing for the failure of the Church and her leaders — apologizing to victims, and apologizing to the Catholic community. And I do that again here, today.

There is also good news. Even now, after all the challenges of the past decade, the Church in Philadelphia plays a very large role in the life of the region, and in many quarters, she still draws — and still earns — great respect. I think the staff Cardinal Rigali assembled last year after the second grand jury report to reach out to victims and prevent abuse in the future is strong by any professional standard. And from what I’ve experienced over the past 10 months, the Church in Philadelphia today has a much deeper understanding of the gravity of sexual abuse and a sincere zeal for rooting it out of the life of the Church and helping anyone hurt in the past.

One reason the Church has survived at all in the current crisis is the extraordinary reservoir of good will and fidelity among the clergy and people of the diocese. Pennsylvania remains a largely faith-friendly environment. Our people have strong prolife and pro-family instincts, respect for religious ministries and a history of saints and excellent Catholic education. The habits of Catholic culture run very deep in the Philadelphia region. Our Catholic health and social services, and our Catholic school system, are among the largest and best in the United States. The Church contributes in a substantial way to the welfare of the general public, and most people on some level understand that.

But the abuse crisis, as grave as it is, masks other problems that also run very deep, and they belong to the same troubled Catholic culture. They began building decades ago. And while they may be especially sharp in Philadelphia, I’d wager that some version of these problems touches many of the dioceses across our country.

Here’s an example. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently owed about $60 million by our own parishes for insurance premiums, assessments and other expenses shared by the whole local Church. Much of this can’t be recovered because the parishes simply don’t have the money. More than two-thirds of our 267 parishes have operating deficits. About 100 are in some form of financial distress. More than 90 parishes minister to fewer than 400 families. And the archdiocese itself has struggled with frequent budget deficits for many years. We’ve reached a point where – if we did nothing to fix the problem – the gap between our projected expenses and our projected income in Fiscal 2013 would exceed $17 million.

That won’t happen. That will end. The Church is finally a family. No family can survive for long if it spends more than it takes in. In the first nine months of Fiscal 2012, the archdiocese spent more than $10 million on legal and other professional fees. But as crushing as that sounds – and it is – the real problems of the Church in Philadelphia are more subtle than money and more chronic than a habit of bad budgets. They’re not even financial. And they’re not at all unique to Philadelphia.

We need to look honestly at the arc of Catholic history in our country. The lessons may not be comforting. American Catholics began as an unwelcome minority. The Church built her credibility by defending and serving her people. She developed her influence with the resources her people entrusted to her. A vast amount of good was done in the process. We need to honor that. But two other things also happened. The Church in the United States became powerful and secure. And Catholics became less and less invested in the Church that their own parents and grandparents helped to build.

I think it’s fair, in part, to blame Church leaders for a spirit of complacency and inertia, clericalism, even arrogance, and for operating off a model of the Church – often for well- intentioned reasons — rooted in the past and out of touch with reality. But there’s plenty of blame to go around. Too many ordinary Catholics have been greedy to lose themselves in America’s culture of consumerism and success. Too many have been complicit in the dullness — the acedia — that has seeped into Church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it.

These problems kill a Christian love of poverty and zeal. They choke off a real life of faith. They create the shadows that hide institutional and personal sins. And they encourage a paralysis that can burrow itself into every heart and every layer of the Church, right down to individual Catholics in the pews. The result is that Philadelphia, like so much of the Church in the rest of our country, is now really mission territory – again; for the second time.

My point is this. We live in a world of illusions when we lose sight of who Jesus Christ really is, and what he asks from each of us as disciples. One of novelist Ray Bradbury’s characters once said, “I wonder if God recognizes his own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar crystal and saccharine.”4 Father John Hugo, a friend and counselor to Dorothy Day, put it even more forcefully when he wrote of our “falsified picture of Jesus [with his] eyes perpetually raised to heaven, soft, even girlish in beauty, [the] very incarnation of impotence.”

The real Jesus, in Hugo’s words, “did not hesitate to condemn the rich, to warn the powerful, to denounce in vehement language the very leaders of the people. His love and goodness were chiefly for the poor, the simple, the needy. And his love for them was not a limp, indulgent love, like that of a silly, frivolous mother. To his friends he preached poverty of spirit, detachment, the carrying the cross. No more did the kindness of Jesus spare his followers, than the kindness of God the father spared his son. We are to drink of the same chalice that he drank of.”5

That’s our vocation. That’s the life of honesty, heroism and sacrifice God calls us to as a Church and as individual believers. And in our eagerness to escape it, to tame it, to reshape it in the mold of our own willful ideas, we’ve failed not only to convert our culture, but also to pass along the faith to many of our own children.

Emerging American adults – in other words, young people in the 18-23 age cohort – are not only skeptical of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, but they often lack the vocabulary to engage in, or even identify, issues that require basic moral reasoning. As a group they have unusually high rates of intoxication, loneliness and sexual alienation. They also, contrary to popular belief, have very little interest in public affairs or political engagement, and a lopsided focus on materialistic consumption and financial security as the guiding stars of their lives.6

Of course, tens of thousands of exceptions to what I just said are walking around right now. We all know some of them. These are young adults of faith and strong moral character, determined to do something worthy with their lives. Just this week Our Sunday Visitor did a portrait of Catholic young adults who live the Gospel with reallywonderful passion and joy.7 Their lives will touch hundreds of other lives. And that should give us enormous hope. God never abandons his Church or his people.

But their good witness only brings us back to the conversion that you and I and the whole Church in the United States need to undergo.

Notre Dame scholar Christian Smith and his colleagues, whose research on emerging adults is so compelling, wrote that “most of the problems in the lives of youth have their origin in the larger adult world into which youth are being socialized . . . [One] way or the other, adults and the adult world are almost always complicit in the troubles, suffering and misguided living of youth, if not the direct source of them. The more adults can recognize and admit that fact, [the] sooner we will be able to address some of young people’s problems more constructively.”8

I suppose that’s obvious. But if it’s really so obvious, then who let it happen? And what are we going to do about it?

We’re becoming a nation where, as Ross Douthat describes it, “a growing number [of us] are inventing [our] own versions of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke [our] egos and indulge, or even celebrate, [our] own worst impulses.”9 And it’s happening at a time when the Church is compromised by her own leaders and people from within, and pushed to the margins or attacked by critics without.

Tomorrow we start the Fortnight for Freedom. It’s a moment for each of us to be grateful to our bishops for doing the right thing – the important and urgent thing – at the right time. If we don’t press now and vigorously for our religious liberty in the public arena, we will lose it. Not overnight and not with a thunderclap, but step by step, inexorably. And each of you as a Catholic media professional plays a key role, a really vital role, in that effort because our prestige news media, with very few exceptions, simply will not cover this issue in a fair and comprehensive way.10

But we also need to remember with Pope Benedict that resistance is “part of the task of the Church,”11 and with Henri de Lubac that it’s “not our mission to make truth triumph, but to testify for it.”12

Scripture says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). We work best for religious freedom by first opening our hearts to God’s will instead of our own; and loving our country and our Church; and renewing the witness of the Church with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives. That freedom, that joy, no one can ever take from us.

From the cross at San Damiano, Jesus said to Francis: Repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Those same words fill this room tonight. How we respond is up to us.

© +Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Indianapolis, 6.20.12

1 Gertrude Himmelfarb, One Nation, Two Cultures, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1999, p. 85

2 Gerard V. Bradley, “What’s Behind the HHS Mandate?”, The Public Discourse (www.thepublicdiscourse.com), June 5, 2012
3 Ibid.
4 Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1951, 1995, p. 77
5 David Scott and Mike Aquila, editors, Weapons of the Spirit: Living a Holy Life in Unholy Times; Selected Writings of Father John Hugo, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1997, p. 108-109
6 Christian Smith, et al, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, Oxford University Press, New York, 2011
7 Emily Stimpson, “The Next Generation,” OSV Newsweekly, June 17, 2012, p. 9-12
8 Smith, p. 11
9 Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Free Press, New York, 2012, p. 4
10 The website http://www.getreligion.org has done several analyses of the lopsided mainstream news coverage of the HHS mandate and related religious liberty disputes. See for example Mollie Hemingway, “Grading coverage of religious liberty,” May 4, 2012, and “Plotting about ‘religious liberty’,” May 30, 2012, among others
11 Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2002, p. 357
12 Henri de Lubac, S.J., Paradoxes of Faith, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1987, p.72

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“You do not trust yourself at all, but trust in God for everything”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2011/08/16 at 7:11 AM

You have never felt so absolutely free as you do now that your freedom is interwoven with love and detachment, with security and insecurity; for you do not trust yourself at all, but trust in God for everything. (Furrow, 787)

God’s love is a jealous love. He is not satisfied if we come to meet him with conditions. He longs for us to give ourselves completely, without keeping dark corners in our heart, where the joy and happiness of grace and the supernatural gifts cannot reach. Perhaps you are thinking, ‘if I say “yes” to this exclusive Love might I not lose my freedom?’…

Each one of us has at some time or other experienced that serving Christ Our Lord involves suffering and hardship; to deny this would imply that we had not yet found God. A soul in love knows however that when such suffering comes it is only a fleeting impression; the soul soon finds that the yoke is easy and the burden light, because Jesus is carrying it upon his shoulders as he embraced the wood of the Cross when our eternal happiness was at stake [1]. But there are people who do not understand. They rebel against the Creator, in a sad, petty, impotent rebellion, and they blindly repeat the futile complaint recorded in the Psalms, ‘let us break away from their bondage, rid ourselves of their toils’ [2]. They shrink from the hardship of fulfilling their daily task with heroic silence and naturalness, without show or complaint. They have not realized that even when God’s Will seems painful and its demands wounding, it coincides perfectly with our freedom, which is only to be found in God and in his plans.

Such people barricade themselves behind their freedom. ‘My freedom! My freedom!’ they cry. They have their freedom, but they don’t use it. They look at it, they set it up, a clay idol for their petty minds to worship. Is this freedom? What use is this treasure to them, if there is no commitment guiding their whole lives? Such behaviour goes against their very dignity and nobility as human beings. They are left aimless, with no clear path to guide their footsteps on this earth. You and I have met such people. They then let themselves be carried away by childish vanity, by selfish conceit, by sensuality. (Friends of God, 28-29)

Freedom, a Paradox

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/04/09 at 3:12 PM

We humans are the only creatures that do not have to act in a predetermined way; we can radically alter the circumstances of our lives if we so wish. A tree will grow in the same spot year after year and follow its prearranged cycles. A dog will never live like a fish and a cat will never fly. Humans have found ways to both live under water and fly.

People have a moral dimension that other creatures do not have. We can produce a Mother Teresa and a Hitler, great saints and great sinners, and every level in between. The reason is that humans have the power of choice, of free will; we can decide to do or not to do something.

The Greeks of the ancient world, who helped lay of the foundation of our own civilization, were the thinkers of their time. They thought about almost every aspect of human existence. They delved into mathematics, physics, medicine, music, and literature. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates, are among the more notable of them. They even had an atomic theory.

Their philosophers pondered the question of free will and its significance. They came to the conclusion that there is a paradox (apparent contradiction) in the matter of free will. They said that there are two kinds of freedom of the will, a “freedom from” and a “freedom to”. The former is negative and the latter is positive. “Freedom from” is the idea that no one should tell us what we can and cannot do, that we are free agents answerable only to ourselves.

The paradox here is that when we set out to be totally free of inhibitions, laws, rules etc, we eventually become, not free, but enslaved to our desires. They very things we thought would show our freedom bind us in a grip of negative habits and vice, and which, under our own power, would be proportionately difficult to overcome. Thus unlimited freedom turns into slavery.

“Freedom to” has its own paradox. In order to be free to accomplish anything of value or anything worthwhile, we must be willing to restrict, limit and restrain our free will. The reason you can read this essay is that I have limited myself to using certain words, in a certain order and arrangement. I could have used many of the other thousands of English words, but the result would be a different message or none at all…jibberish. I happen to enjoy choirs, but only because the choir members agree to follow a certain pattern of notes with no deviations. Imagine what would happen if the choir members decided that “no one was going to tell them what to sing”, and they all sang different hymns at the same time.

Man is the only creature that can conceive of and try to attain goals. No goal is reached in a haphazard way. Plans must be made, and part of those plans are restricted choices we must make to be successful. If one wishes to become a doctor, he/she must, long before, set out on a prescribed  course of study, and restrict himself or herself to whatever aids in the pursuit of the goal.

We live in a “Sez who?” society. Authority at every level, divine, parental, civil, educational, ecclesiastical , is being questioned and/or ignored if anyone so desires; each one becomes his or her own lawmaker. We forget that legitimate authority comes from God, and, therefore, obliges us to obey lawful rules. Too many people in authority have brought disrespect and disregard on themselves. Nevertheless, when we look around us, we see all too often the fruits of the “Sez who? Society”: dangerous addictions, high crime rate, low church attendance, rampant illicit sex, abortion, deficient education, evolution as fact, greed at every level (called “inflation”),  scientism (the belief that only science has all the answers), etc.

The Greeks had it right, BUT, because they did not have the benefit of Revelation, their idea of freedom is valid, but incomplete because they had only human reason to work with. It was not until the coming of Christ that we learned the true meaning of freedom. “The truth shall make you free.”

Because the Greek philosophers’ ideas of freedom were limited,  they relied on human reason alone, and, while they did develop some sound ideas, they were, nevertheless, incomplete and insufficient. They based everything on the idea of restraints and lack of restraints which is valid only to a certain extent. After all, it was a pagan world they lived in. We have the guidance of divine Revelation. It tells us that the real origin and basis for freedom is truth. “The truth shall make you free.”

Christ Himself referred to Himself as “the Truth.” The Gospels tell us that part of the mission of Christ on earth was to tell us how to find complete and necessary truth because it is only in truth that we find real freedom. Ever notice that false gods always seem to reduce freedom? The followers of Islam certainly have diminished freedom.

It does not require much observation to realize that we live in a world filled with errors and lies in all areas of life: ecclesiastical, political, moral, economic, social, scientific, educational, etc. Note also that the more error and falsehood involved, the more freedom is diminished. Ex. Darwinism has become a religion in the scientific world. Any opponent speaks out risks danger of grave consequences to his position and status. The same attitude is developing in the matter of global warming. The elites have decided that it exists, and anyone who questions it is subject to ridicule, ostracism, etc. In both Darwinism and global warming, contrary facts are not given a hearing. This means a loss of freedom to make our own judgments in such matters.

It is truth that makes us free. It is Christ who gives us true freedom. We can better understand this by using the terms the Greek philosophers used, “freedom from” and “freedom to”.  In Christ, we have a “freedom from”

ANXIETY: Christ Himself told us we need not be anxious about anything because God is in control of the world and whatever happens in it. With Him as our guide, we are assured that whatever comes to pass, good or bad, it will be to our advantage eventually.

ERROR:    Using the inspired Word of God and the  Catholic Church as a beacon of truth and  standard of behavior, we can judge and evaluate the myriad false ideas being tossed around today.

DOUBT:  The suicide bomber can only hope that his actions will bring him to heaven.(They won’t.) The Christian who believes in Christ and His promises KNOWS what his destiny is.

FEAR OF DEATH: The modern world seems to have a mania for staying alive as long as possible. Of course, the reason is that too many think that the grave is the end of the story. The Christian knows that death for him/her leads to the second and better part of life as  his/her soul goes to meet with Christ while the body remains temporarily on earth.

In short, believing the truth of Christ rescues us from the baneful effects of our sinful human nature, and gives us freedom that the non-saved can’t even imagine.

There is a positive side the God’s freedom, the “freedom to.”

Human freedom is tenuous, and fickle, and can be dangerous when misused; too much freedom often leads to disaster.

God’s freedom is infinite, constant, and eternal.

We are free to be all that God has designed us to be, free to be what no human power can give, free to reach our full potential which is eternal union with God.

The Greeks said that true freedom lies in restraint. So too is it in the Christian life. We call this restraint obedience to God’s will. That is the source of man’s true freedom because it will lead to eternal glory in which human freedom becomes perfect, and a more mentally peaceful existence on earth. That is God’s plan for us.

There will be no “freedom from” in Heaven because there will be no  doubts, fears, anxieties, or errors, etc. The least free person is the habitual sinner. Listen to his last lament.

“The past has deceived me; the present torments me; and the future terrifies me.”

The true Christian, free in Christ, will never need to utter these words.