"Love God, and then do whatever you please"

By Tom Quiner

[My ‘conversation’ with the late, great Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the subject of freedom continues.]

QUINER: Archbishop Sheen, in our previous conversation (“Confusing ‘freedom’ with ‘license’ “), you articulated the downside and the upside of “freedom.” What do we do with our freedom?

ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: Freedom is ours really to give away because of something we love.

QUINER: What do you mean?

ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: Everyone in the world who is free wants freedom first of all as a means: he wants freedom in order to give it away. Almost everyone actually gives freedom away. Some give their freedom of thinking away to public opinion, to moods, to fashions, and to the anonymity of “they say” and thus become the willing slaves of the passing hour.

QUINER: There are no shortage of those people these days.

ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: Others give their freedom to alcohol and to sex and thus experience in their lives the words of Scripture: “He who commits sin is the slave of sin.”

QUINER: Sadly, there is no shortage of people addicted to all kinds of things these days. Since you died in 1979, deadlier, more addictive drugs have wreaked havoc on a host of susceptible souls. The damage has been profound. Since your time, pornography is available with the touch of a button in most homes, creating a wave of addicts hooked on sex. Since your time, gambling has spread throughout the nation, creating another category of addicts who can’t control their gambling urges. Please continue …

ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: Others give up their freedom in love to another person. This is a higher form of surrender and is the sweet slavery of love of which Our Savior spoke: “My yoke is sweet and my burden light.” The young man who courts a young woman is practically saying to her: “I want to be your slave all the days of my life, and that will be my highest and greatest freedom.”

The young woman courted might say to the young man: “You say you love me, but how do I know? Have you courted the other 458,623 young eligible ladies in this city?” If the young man knew his metaphysics and philosophy well, he would answer: “In a certain sense, yes, for by the mere fact that I love you, I reject them. The very love that makes me choose you also makes me spurn them — and that will be for life.”

QUINER: Interesting … you’re saying that love is a choice, that it is more than just a feeling. Even more, you’re saying love is a both a positive and a negative.

ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: Love therefore is not only an affirmation; it is also a rejection.
The mere fact that John loves Mary with his whole heart means that he does not love Ruth with any part of it. Every protestation of love is a limitation of a wrong kind of free love.
QUINER: So-called ‘free love’ is very much in fashion. But is it really free?
ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: Love, here, is the curbing of the freedom understood as license, and yet it is the enjoyment of perfect freedom -— for all that one wants in life is to love that person.
QUINER: Explain that a little more to me.
ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: True love always imposes restrictions on itself -— for the sake of others -— whether it be the Saint who detaches himself from the world in order more readily to adhere to Christ or the husband who detaches himself from former acquaintances to belong more readily to the spouse of his choice.
QUINER: So true love is liberating?
ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: True love, by its nature, is uncompromising; it is the freeing of self from selfishness and egotism.
Real love uses freedom to attach itself unchangeably to another. St. Augustine has said: “Love God, and then do whatever you please.”
QUINER: That sounds dangerous!
ARCHBISHOP SHEEN: By this he meant that if you love God, you will never do anything to wound Him.
In married love, likewise, there is perfect freedom, and yet one limitation that preserves that love, and that is the refusal to hurt the beloved.
There is no moment more sacred in freedom than that when the ability to love others is suspended and checked by the interest one has in the pledged one of his heart; there then arises a moment when one abandons the seizure and the capture for the pleasure of contemplating it and when the need to possess and devour disappears in the joy of seeing another live.
QUINER: Thanks for today’s conversation on freedom, Archbishop Sheen. Let’s do this again soon.
[Check back for more ‘conversations’ with Archbishop Fulton Sheen as Quiner’s Diner features another excerpt from his book, “The World’s First Love.”]