The Right to be Free

Originally published July 1, 2009


One of the greatest culinary experiences I’ve felt is the feeling of being “free” from the restrictions of recipes.  Don’t get me wrong; I still review recipes all the time.  But after a period of studying particular recipes, learning proper techniques, practicing and critically experimenting with different cuisine, and even praying through many trials and errors, I feel confident enough to not be bound by following specific cooking instructions.

One of the Mount St. Mary’s seminarians from the Archdiocese of Atlanta sent me an interesting article about cooking more with a mentality of ratios rather than being enslaved to a recipe.  It’s something that relates to this week’s topic of Freedom.  The analysis indicated that cooking well has nothing to do with whether or not you are using a recipe.  No, Freedom in cooking is not a matter of “either/or,” but rather of “both/and.”

Me with some seminarians filming some webisodes -salmon Florentine!

In a certain sense, this cooking analogy applies to life.  Living the right to be free requires following rules, but also not fearing healthy exploration of things.  Freedom requires learning, study, and practice – as much as cooking, sports, and praying!  Sure, one can cook, play a sport, or go to church without all the trouble of formality and technique.  (And I’m not suggesting we throw away formality!  We need all of that too. )  But we also ought to consider how the true meaning of Freedom in anything requires discipline of learning about it as well as practicing it well enough to the point you’re comfortable doing it without a “recipe.”


Unfortunately, our modern, fast food mentality expects understanding Freedom to come as easy as ordering a Big Mac or a Whopper.  We don’t’ think twice about Fourth of July Freedom and the responsibility that comes with it.

Without discipline, Freedom is easily confused and all too often abused.  Without learning about the power of Freedom, it’s easy to turn Freedom into a destructive force.  If we do not practice the virtues that are required of a truly free person – such as patience, compassion, and humility – it’s easy to take our Freedom for granted and to even misuse it.  It’s easy to see how a confused understanding of Freedom leads to the self-destructive abuse of good things.  A poor understanding of Freedom can lead good things such as food, alcohol, beauty, or freedom of choice to turn into obesity, alcoholism, hedonism, and the death of a child.

We have a lot to learn about the true meaning of Freedom!

Mosaic in lower basilica in Lourdes, France. Jesus freely chose to carry the cross for our sins.

This week our country celebrates Independence Day.  It’s a day to remember how Freedom is an inalienable right that comes from God – not from the government.  We don’t learn Freedom from simply listening to political speeches.  To understand Freedom, we have to put it into practice.  Would you reading a recipe but never cook it?  To understand how Freedom is a right, we must also understand how Freedom is a great gift that requires great responsibility.  In this week’s blast, I’d also like to challenge my readers to consider how exercising Freedom is also a skill that requires practice, just like everything else we may consider important in our life – cooking, sports, a hobby, and praying!

Young child and mother praying at the tomb of St. Monica in the Basilica of San Agostino in Rome

It’s important to make sure that our Fourth of July celebration is more than burgers and barbecue.  Whether your country celebrates an independence day or not, we are all called to live in Freedom.  That that doesn’t mean a life without moral boundaries, legal protections, or even accepting limitations to our desires due to the limited nature of our humanity.  To be free is to ultimately recognize our citizenship in Heaven, and to live our life on earth headed in that direction. 

Angel pointing to the entrance to the Stations of the Cross in Lourdes, France.


Last week, I called into the very popular Sirius/XM radio show, “The Catholic Guy,” hosted by Lino Rulli.  Even though we’re pretty good friends, I never know what he’s going to say or do on air with me.  In fact, when I admitted that Jared, one of his producers is one of my favorite people on his radio show, Lino hung up on me!  I guess he was jealous that I didn’t say that he was my favorite person on his radio show.


Lino sitting across from me, with a group of seminarians traveling through New York.

The reason I called into the show was because he was asking the listeners about their practice of remembering celebrities in prayers.  We’ve had a lot of deaths of very well known people this past week: Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Billy Mays, and of course, Michael Jackson.  My call to Lino’s show was to offer my thought about praying for celebrities.  If we let our Hollywood people know we’re praying for them while they are alive – not in a judgmental way but as a parent or friend would pray for someone headed down a wrong path – then perhaps they would be more inclined to listening to us while they are alive, rather than listening to our prayers once they are dead. 


They definitely need our prayers, because of their public status and, therefore, their responsibility to the public.  Hollywood celebrities need to understand the privileges they have, because of their popular status doesn’t warrant an unbounded Freedom.  In fact, if they see Freedom as a gift, as a responsibility, and as a skill, then perhaps we would not have as many tragic young deaths of these popular figures.  Hopefully, and more importantly, then they wouldn’t have to live such difficult or conflicted lives.  My suggestion is to remember all of the faithful departed in prayer, especially those who have had influential roles in our world’s history and culture.  May they experience God’s Freedom, which the media seems to rob them of once they become famous.


Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, we pray for all of the beloved dead.  It’s always a good thing to pray for the dead because it helps us not to fear death, and in fact learn something important about life.  Namely, that life is temporary.  No matter how great we are in this world, we are still human and won’t live forever.  Therefore, help me to pray a sincere prayer for all of those who have died, especially those who have influence in culture, both great and small.  Have mercy on their souls and grant them Your forgiveness, which is ultimately an invitation to Your heavenly banquet.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Statues in Lourdes, France – Placing Jesus in the Tomb.



This week’s featured recipe:
Perfect for July 4th, enjoy these delicious burgers!
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Posted in Blast from the Past, Holiday, Recipes, Savoring Our Faith | 2 Comments