When I was a teenager, I thought doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, however I wanted was the definition of true freedom. I wanted to stay out late/early getting into trouble with my friends, sleep all day, and wake up the next afternoon to do it all over again. And I didn’t want a soul in the universe trying to tell me what to do. I fought hard for these “rights” and my mom and I both have scars to prove it. (Sorry, Mom!)
It wasn’t until I was a little older that it finally sunk in there was nothing “free” about the way I was living. My stomach said eat, I ate. My mind said skip studying to party with friends, I partied. My body said ‘let’s have another drink,’ so I did.
I was a slave to my impulses.
This behavior came with real consequences. Gaining 30lbs instead of the typical freshman 15, academic probation, and hangovers to name a few. Thankfully I eventually got it together!
In Mass last Saturday evening we sang, “America The Beautiful” during the procession because Monday was Independence Day. While singing I noticed a line that brought me back to that time in college, when I realized I needed to make a change.
“Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!”
– written by Katharine Lee Bates, composed by Samuel A. Ward
I learned through some painful trial and error that freedom comes from mastery of self rather than giving in to every whim and desire. It comes from following laws that were created for our good.
I think of the cross of infertility my husband and I carry and how grateful I am for the Church’s rules on artificial reproductive technologies. A lot of people struggle with these teachings and their heart’s yearning for a child gets the final say, but by the grace of God, knowing we can’t go there has been a source of peace for me. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been an all-consuming prayer at times or that we want children any less. It does mean we have been spared the heartache, expense, and consequences so many encounter when they go down that path.
This is a rule that has been created for our good, and just like many of the rules my mother made for me growing up, if I follow it, it will help me become the freest, best version of myself.
“Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
– Excerpt from a homily by Pope John Paul II