Friday, July 31, 2009

Spiritual Freedom

After reading Fr. Dave Pivonka's Hiking the Camino, a friend put me on to his Spiritual Freedom: God's Life-Changing Gift. In the interests of full disclosure, I only read about 3/4 of it. This had nothing to do with the quality of the book. I left it in Nashville. My sincerest hope is that whomever found it is right now enjoying it as much as I did.

Pivonka's language is simple and to-the-point. God wants us to be perfectly free to live the abundant life. Simplicity does not mean, however, that Pivonka sacrifices a good lesson in distinctions. He uses the Catechism and Church documents to explain what God's freedom looks like, over and against our cultural understandings.

The popular understanding of freedom is maximized and unfettered choice. The more things I have to choose from, the more free I become. 3,000 songs for my iPod! 500 interfaces for my blog! 44 flavors of ice cream in the store! 65 menu choices at the local chain restaurant! Pregnant? No problem! Should you choose, no baby is necessary! Should you choose otherwise, 850 outfits for the Little Dear at Target!

You get the point.

Spiritual freedom does not look like this. It is not having 626 religious practices to dip into at your wimsey. True freedom--God's perfect freedom--is to be perfectly in union with Him. Freedom is rooted in the truth, and the truth is that we are infinitely loved by our Creator. All those choices we enjoy from day to day may be taken away (and will be taken away when we die). But nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ crucified. (The late Avery Cardinal Dulles had a beautiful explanation of this concept of freedom in the 1995 First Things.)

When we are free, nothing can compel us to deny God or to imagine he does not care. This means freedom from sin (which is, simply, to deny God) and even from feeling the need for all these little "choices." It is freedom from death--in the soul and also, ultimately, in the body.

All this can become a little heady. Fr. Pivonka does a wonderful job of bringing it down and--most importantly of all--giving flesh and blood to the idea of true freedom. Through stories gleaned from his extensive ministry, he invites the reader to encounter men and women who have chosen the truth. And the truth set them free.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Spiritual Freedom.


Elizabeth Mahlou said...

This sounds like an excellent book. It is interesting the many ways in which freedom can be defined. Some folks coming to the USA from autocratic countries think freedom means the right to do whatever they want. They do not understand what Americans seem to learn along with mother's milk: freedom is a two-sided coin -- rights and responsibilities. Putting this into a spiritual framework is very interesting. I think I shall look for a copy of that book -- not where you left it behind but online.

e2 said...


It is a good book. Again, very simple and very Christ-centered. I hope you do find it (in Nashville or elsewhere). I also hope that most Americans--and many others--do enjoy the sense of freedom you describe. My gloomy-colored glass says not, which is why I need the happier vision of people like you (and the late great Fr. Neuhaus).