Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Catholic Freedom Paradox

I look at the Catechism at times and step back and think...it all looks so complicated. It is so cumbersome, even certain words have only a Catholic Religious meaning. I attended a Bible study of the Sacraments last year, in order to understand their purpose more clearly. The Catechism was being used as the source document of teaching the meaning of the sacraments, with biblical references. In and of itself, the Catechism appears to be laid out in a hypercomplex manner. Initially I went along, best I could, without being obviously irritated. Reading the sacrament descriptive writings at first felt like walking an intellectual knife edge...the "rules" for getting any sacrament to produce results were staggering. Soon into the study, it opened my eyes to the benefit of the massive amount of written "rules".

Fulton Sheen makes this clear in the episode "Conscience". The "rules", requirements, orders, commandments, practices exist because they break us free from our human limitations.

Studying the Bible, the Comandments (more rules) and the examples of following Jesus take a shape of freedom. When we obey and abide, we find ourselves free from guilt, free from indecision, free from the burden of forcing our lives in a direction with an unpredictable outcome, and all that effort and work that entails. The practices, they become meaningful conscious efforts to move us closer to God. The freedom is inherent in practicing compliance and cooperation with rules and orders (read "laws" as well). A perfect analogy is our Freedom based Amercan Society, that is founded on a legislative and governed authority, creating laws which uphold this free environment. So as it is in our Catholic practice, we are put in a mental and spiritual place void of the pressure to measure and compete materially, through grace. When we can use our grounded Christian conscious, our gut, and not our net worth or resume' to make a decision, we have achieved a freedom of immense value.