Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obedience Is Freedom

The rules of religion are, paradoxically, a source of freedom. Without rules and traditions, every day would be similar to the others. I would be working as hard and as late on Sunday as I do on the other days. Day blurs into day, and week into week.

But when authority tells me that I not only shouldn't work on Sunday but that I must not, that this day is to be devoted to study and prayer and family, that this or that day is to celebrate this saint or that doctrine, then I am free to do these things. When I am commanded to go to church on a holy day of obligation, then I am freed up to go to church even in the middle of a hectic workday. Life has so many pressing commitments that a command from authority is needed to open up spaces for prayer and celebration. In this way, obedience (to the church) is freedom (from the world).

It is also freedom from self. Were I to be deprived of the guidance of Scripture and church teachings, deprived of the traditions of holy days and of the Mass - in short, if I were to have no guidance as to how to spend my time or choose my actions - what would life be like? Surely it would be a constant, frenetic chasing of one pleasure after another, never satisfied, always empty and exhausted. But with the constraints and wisdom of an ancient faith, and the spiritual nourishment of Holy Mass each Sunday, life becomes ordered, resilient, festive, joyful, whole.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Like most people, I have high standards for my work and, in some things, certain ways of doing things that I consider to be the Best Way. But in a team, I must accept that other people may have ideas that are equally valid, or ideas that may be deficient in some respects but good enough. But of course, if someone is veering off course, or doing shoddy work, or could benefit from a sugestion, I'll offer my advice.

There is a balance between perfection and good enough, and between strictness and tolerance - between consistency and flexibility, dogmatism and freedom. And they are not necessarily mutually exclusive - one enhances the other, or close observance of one makes the other acceptable. Obviously if things are going too far one way or the other, one must pull back.

So it's a matter of good judgement - making the right call at the right time. I tend toward the strict side of things, and I need to be conscious of when to let up, of when it is more appropriate to be flexible.