Sunday, May 8, 2011

Catholic freedom of choice is freedom from anxiety



As I spend some time with my newly-returned-from-abroad daughter, I thought I would repost something from April 15, 2010 (with slight modifications). This post ran before I had a lot of readers, and yet it's had steady, positive feedback. 


Knowing God's Will, and Catholic Freedom

Among my real life friends and my blogger friends, I've noticed that many devout Catholics get extremely stressed when trying to discern God's will: Should I adopt this particular baby, should I marry this particular man, should I quit my job, should I move, should I (fill in the blank)? How do I make sure that this choice is God's will and not my own? Ack!! Help!

It's a very great thing to want to do God's will in all things, and it's nothing short of inspiring to hear and feel the sincerity of these pure-hearted women (and men, but it's mostly women who worry like this). My friends are my spiritual mentors in so many ways. I have learned and grown so much from them! Hugs and kisses to you all!!

However, I started to notice that many faithful, Magisterium-loving Catholics are so afraid they might somehow step outside of God's will that they become anxiety-ridden. The angst they feel in not wanting to offend God by making the "wrong" choice is severe, and it can be debilitating.

But we are Catholics, and that kind of burden is unnecessary! Here is what is so freeing about our Catholic Faith: When our intentions are good and the choices before us are moral, we are free!

Let me restate it another way: As long as we are not choosing something evil, we are free to embrace any path that God opens before us. So, you are free to choose to adopt that baby, to marry that man, to take (or quit) that job, to move to that city, to buy that house, or any other morally licit option. You are also free to choose not to adopt that baby, marry that man, etc.

This is the beauty of Catholicism. Our free will is the greatest gift God gives us, allowing us the dignity to choose our own path, as long as we do not choose sin. Sin is the only thing that offends God, the only thing that he will not bless, and the only thing that is not within His will for us. If we are not choosing sin, then we remain in a state of grace. This is a beautiful, liberating truth, which leaves little room for fear and anxiety!

But then, of course, the question becomes: How do we choose between two moral options?

Well, remember, we are talking about two moral and licit options (immoral choices are never acceptable). If God places two or more moral choices before us, then we should go with the choice which brings us the most interior peace. If we feel more tranquility at the thought of choosing Option A, then we go with Option A. Option A may actually cause us more external suffering or hardship, but that is of no consequence. It's about the peace we feel in our soul.

But wait! This is important! Even if a soul should "miss" whatever path God may have originally laid out for him (i.e., some people do miss their calling as a priest or religious), that person still has not committed a sin if his intentions were good! This is so important for people to know, especially the scrupulous. God will work with whatever path we have put ourselves on. He is pleased to honor our choices. He is not a puppet master pulling our strings. He is a loving Father who delights in seeing His children choose freely.

Think about it in earthly terms: If I am a healthy parent, I will be happy to support my child whether he chooses to be a doctor or an artist or a carpenter. Those are all honorable goals, and though I might prefer he pick one career over another, it's not my choice to make. (Of course, I will not support my child's decision to be an abortionist, or a prostitute, or a loan shark.)

So, instead of agonizing over every movement and decision, enjoy the authentic freedom of being a Catholic! We are so blessed! We are not shackled slaves whose every move is orchestrated and monitored (as so many people think of Catholics...ugh!). We know that the only slavery is slavery to sin. If you are not choosing sin as an option, then put aside your anxiety, and enjoy your God-given freedom!


"The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted; precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden."  G.K. Chesterton






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28 comments:

  1. I have to be better at keeping this in mind! Searching for a job, figuring out where I'll be living, discerning my vocation, etc... I just want to do God's will but I'm having a hard time figuring out what that is!

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  2. Yes, yes, yes! I arrived at the same conclusion several years ago, after much anguish of mind and a period of spiritual darkness. I had Protestant friends who heard God tell the to move, use a particular curriculum, try a different diet, and so on. I would pray and hear nothing. I felt as if God must not care about me, because he did not answer. I really struggled with this one. And, then I realized two things. One is that when I have really and truly needed him, he has been there. I have heard his voice, felt his presence, known he loved me. The second thing I realized is that all of the times I did not hear him, I was free to decide. As long as I knew him, loved him, and served him and lived out my vocation faithfully, I was free to decide. I still pray before I make big (or even little) decisions, in case God does have a definite answer or desire for me. I still want to be open to hearing him speak, but I no longer worry if he doesn't.

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  3. My motto is plow ahead and pay attention. If it's a path He doesn't want you on - He'll let you know.

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  4. Leila,

    Interesting topic. Before I was Catholic I used to agonize over every decision, and because I was into Wicca I would consult psychics and astrologers for help. I was so afraid of making a misstep somewhere or that I would fall into a catastrophe without being prepared for it. As I became a Christian, that started to change, and God revealed to me that my fear of the future was due to the trauma of my parents´ divorce, which was sprung on us completely unexpectedly. (They never actually fought in front of us, and there were no signs that the marriage was going bad, just one day my dad sat us down and told us they were splitting up...no one could see it coming.) In the end I also came to realize that the only choices that really mattered to God were the ones that kept me close to him: going to confession, not sinning, engaging him in prayer, going to adoration. He would support whatever else I did and help me find the way to accomplish it.

    It´s funny, that Chesterton quote on free-will (As well as a Denise Levertov poem) inspired a blog post of mine a few months ago (basically wondering why so many people call the Church "strict", when it´s actually only a handful of things that the Church has strict rules about) You can check it out here...

    http://intimategeography.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/denise-levertov-explains-it-all-for-you/

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  5. I grew up in a tradition where it was expected you prayed and fasted a lot to discern God's will for your life. So, even though I knew God led me to the Catholic Church, I had a hard time in the last few weeks before Easter. You see, I was waiting for a clear, God-given answer if what I was doing was His will. Needless to say, it didn't come. I'm very glad I went through with it without hearing from Him, because the Catholic Church is clearly where I'm supposed to be.

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  6. Your blogs always seem to be just what I needed that day. Thank you, Leila!

    DD

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  7. Thanks for this--very timely for me!

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  8. I grew up in a tradition where it was expected you prayed and fasted a lot to discern God's will for your life. So, even though I knew God led me to the Catholic Church, I had a hard time in the last few weeks before Easter. You see, I was waiting for a clear, God-given answer if what I was doing was His will. Needless to say, it didn't come. I'm very glad I went through with it without hearing from Him, because the Catholic Church is clearly where I'm supposed to be.

    I guess I was lucky. I DID get that sign. Several weeks before Easter I was beginning to doubt whether or not I really wanted to go through with it all, whether or not I really believed, and whether or not what I had trouble believing in would be opened to me. There were 4 of us going through RCIA and all four of us had picked one of our favorite priests (this was in college) to baptize us. Then we found out since the Bishop was coming for confirmation, he was going to be doing the baptism's as well. And while I had no problem with the Bishop, this made me question even more (still not understanding the nuances of the liturgy and the catechism). I kept attending RCIA classes, but I kept wondering if this was really the right thing to do, especially since at the time, they were many things about the Church I still disagreed with; I began to wonder whether or not Satan would entice people to the Catholic Church who were never meant to be Catholic (this sounds absurd now, but I was really concerned about it).

    About a week before we supposed to be baptized, confirmed, holy communion, (two weeks after Easter since we did during college) we were informed that our Bishop could not make it to the Mass, and he had asked the priest that I had wanted to baptize me to do everything. I figured - that's a pretty darn good sign. So I went through with everything. And wouldn't you know. 12 years later I consider it the best decision of my life.

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  9. I think we all needed to hear this one. Wow, so right on, so true.

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  10. This is great! I had never really thought about it in these terms before. I sometimes worry about whether I should do A or B in terms of major life decisions - this helps quite a bit. ^_^

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  11. Thanks! This is helpful. I ALWAYS feel that way and second guess everything I do--"Maybe God doesn't want me to make pasta for supper!!!" Okay it's not that bad but almost! Haha!

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  12. This is such a timely post for me personally and I love the the part when choosing between two legitimate options you choose that which gives you interior peace even if it may be the harder of the two.

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  13. Thank you again Leila for this! This has given me so much food for thought, and lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders.

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  14. beautiful post :) and very true, we dont need to worry so much as long as we are doing the right thing and not for an evil purpose :) also the part of choosing between two moral options, the one that gives u more interior peace even if it is the harder of the two :) i might send a link of ur post on my blog or maybe even copy paste it on mine, if u dont mind :)

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  15. Bethany, you said "I kept wondering if this was really the right thing to do, especially since at the time, they were many things about the Church I still disagreed with; I began to wonder whether or not Satan would entice people to the Catholic Church who were never meant to be Catholic (this sounds absurd now, but I was really concerned about it). "

    This is so very, very recognizable! I had the exact same feelings and thoughts in the last few weeks of Lent.

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  16. If you ever come across an opportunity where you hear a birth mother is looking for a family for her child in New England, could you please let me know?

    I am 44, married for almost for 4 years, and husband and I have been trying for almost four years with no success. I have been diagnosed three years ago with endometriosis stage four. I've had two surgeries so far. My fertility signs have been diminishing and I'm now skipping periods. The doctors say I have low or no chance of achieving a pregnancy of my own. My only hope for a child is through a miracle - adoption!

    I have been a teacher at a daycare for tweenty three years. I adore children and always wanted my own. My heart and arms ache to hold a child!

    Prayers always welcome! I feel like I have been praying to be blessed with a child forever and so far my prayers haven't been answered. I don't know why. I just don't understand it.

    Thank you!

    May God Bless!

    Love,
    Maria In Mass
    prayrosary4life@aol.com

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  17. Leila,

    Thanks for re-posting this. I needed to read this today: very clear and concise. :)

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  18. I needed this too. My mom always said to choose the path that gives the most peace, but I have found that that is not what often happens to me. Sometimes the right choice has not given me peace, similar to what Bethany experienced when she was joining the Church. Something else, grace it must be, keeps me moving toward the right thing, even if doubts upset my peace.

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  19. I love the post! It really puts Catholic decision-making in perspective.

    I knew a lot of people in college who would often be frozen, unable to make a decision! All because they couldn't decide what option felt right, what option felt like it was the option God was calling them to pursue.

    I also knew a guy who had friends like that, and he would go up to them from time to time and say, "Dude, I was just praying, and I got this sense, honestly, I got this sense . . . [pregnant pause] I think God might be calling you to the priesthood."

    What a jerk. . . . ::cough:: Ahem.

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  20. Giuseppe, just wondering who that man might be? ha ha ha!

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  21. Giuseppe, would love to have you around for our dinnertime discussions when all my children are home!

    Leila, this is very timely - the Holy Spirit is speaking through you!

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  22. I never have time to read the meaty posts but I made it a point to skim this one and it was great. There are some great points made that I especially need to take note of and try to remember them when I'm in doubt.

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  23. Thank you! This helps so much...

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  25. Thanks for pointing me to this post, Leila! It is very helpful!

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  26. I'm reading this post because I was reading Lianna's post. : )

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