Today, as we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day (and I hurriedly get online between thunderstorms), I have been reflecting on what true freedom is all about. I used to think of freedom in terms of being allowed to do whatever I wanted. My body was my own, and it was no one’s business but my own. My choices were my own, and, by this reasoning, I was the only one impacted by the decisions I made. I used to ask “What’s the big deal, anyway?” a lot. So I speed. So I sleep around. So I live my life. You only get one life, after all. What was everyone’s problem?

Interesting I should ask.

It was in the Catholic Church that I found the answers to these questions, and it was the gentle patience of the man I ended up marrying that showed me how my foul tongue did, in fact, impact other people: when he cautioned me that he didn’t want me talking “that way” around his nieces (his exact words were, “do you think my sisters want their kids around that?”), it was a little light bulb going off in my inner self. Then, there was the example he set for me each week, getting up early and going to Mass (he is not a morning person, and he’s not one for appointment-type group events either).

Freedom is a concept that’s been twisted around, you see. We have free speech, but that doesn’t give me the right to scream venom at you just because I have the right – don’t you have the right to be protected from wack-jobs like that? We have the right to bear arms, but that does not give me the right to go on a shooting spree.

In the same vein, we all have a right to choose our religion and our faith and our moral system. In choosing, though, we do not have the right to take others’ rights away. This is where we all start getting sticky on the topic…is it my body or is it the fetus’s body? On a less controversial note, is it my body or is it my creator’s? Is it my right to flaunt something that is not mine in the first place, something that was given to me? Would you crash your aunt’s car when she loaned it to you for the prom, just because you could?

What does freedom mean? I have come to find the “rules” of the Catholic Church liberating. Instead of having to do all the figuring out for myself (and finding out I figured wrong, which was often the case), here is a set of guidelines: unwavering, unflinching, unarguable. The truth shall set you free…and freedom means you are not chained to your sins anymore! Freedom means you can walk away from that temptation, because you have the muscle of the confessional and the strength of a community of saints behind you. Freedom means that, in your free choice, the path to holiness is clearly lit. (The easy-to-get-there part, though, that’s another matter!)

Today, I hope you celebrated true freedom.