Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day: A Catholic Understanding of the Nature and Call of Freedom

"Freedom is not being able to do whatever you want to do. That is license. If you have license, rather than authentic freedom, your house is built on sand and will collapse. Authentic freedom is the power to do what we ought to do; the power to choose the good, the true, and the beautiful. That will vanquish fear every time. If your concept of freedom is really license, fear will come out on top every time. Freedom has to be united with truth. There is no freedom outside of the truth: No authentic human freedom outside of the truth. “If you are truly my disciples, you will abide in my word. You will know the truth, and the truth till make you free.” – (paraphrased) Fr. John Corapi SOLT

"Why are human beings willing to fight and die for freedom? As Americans, this Memorial Day we will remember those who died in the service of our country. But as Catholic Americans, we will also reflect on the meaning of true freedom and thank God for the Church which is the way to that freedom, a freedom we as Catholics are called to live to the full.

If we want a deeper reflection on freedom than we will get at a typical Memorial Day event or in the media, we need only look to the Church. The Church teaches us that freedom is derived from nature and the whole of our humanity. "Through our physical bodies, we sum up the elements of the material world and bring them to their highest perfection and freely raise their voice in praise to the creator" (cf. Gaudium et spes 14). Thus, we know that we are more than the material world, for we have the capacity to appreciate creation and give thanks.

The perfection of any created thing is to be able to fully act according to what it is, to its nature. And, in this respect, the thing gives glory to its creator. On the other hand, when, for any reason, a thing cannot fully act according to its nature, we correctly view it as lacking in a good. When a person cannot fully act according to their human nature, this lacking in a good can take on a moral dimension and the loss of freedom.

Human beings, by virtue of their reason and free will, are unique among all other created things in that they can freely choose to act in ways that are not in accord with their nature, that is, they can turn away from God and reject their perfection, which is to become fully human and fully alive. However, turning away from God is not true freedom, it is an abuse of freedom. Instead of freeing us; it enslaves us. We need to understand this point because it is critical.

For example, in order to help us understand the significance of the abuse of freedom, Dr. Scott Hahn gives us a general example using a train. It is the nature of a train to run on tracks. As long as the train remains on the tracks, it is able to carry people or needed materials across the country. If, one day, the train viewed its tracks as restricting its freedom and decided to jump its tracks, what would happen? Therefore, acting according to our nature liberates and frees us. Acting against our nature results in a kind of slavery because we are no longer free to "Be all that we can be."

Now, I believe we can try to answer our original question. One reason why we human beings are willing to fight and die for freedom is because the need for freedom is imprinted onto our very nature. By virtue of our ability to reason and our free will, we are impelled to seek truth, especially religious truth. Our creator instilled this drive in us, so that we would seek Him, for He is truth. And having found truth, we are obligated to live it to the best of our ability.

This Memorial Day Catholics rightly honor our fallen brothers and sisters, but we also remember our Church, who has defended the dignity and freedom of the human person for two-thousand years."

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