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The Will to be Free

March 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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Interior Freedom (Week 2 of 5)

More often than not, we feel that our freedom is limited by our circumstances: the restrictions imposed on us by society, the obligations of all kinds that other people lay upon us, this or that physical or health limitation, and so on. To find our freedom, we imagine we have to get rid of those restrictions and limitations. When we feel stifled or trapped in some way by circumstances, we resent the institutions or the people that seem to be their cause. How many grievances we have toward everything in life that doesn’t go as we wish, and so prevents us from being as free as we would desire! – Interior Freedom, Chapter I:I, Outward Freedom or Interior Freedom, Paragraph II

The Will to be FREE

I must admit that I'm a sucker for all those “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” kind of stories.  You know…like the one about the king who was ousted from his country, escaped to America penniless, scrimped and saved until he came up with the money for a dry-cleaning business, slept with his family for five years on the floor in the back of his shop, became a millionaire through his propensity to offer great service, lost everything in a fire, and started over, only to become a millionaire again a few years later?

I am so impressed by people who have overcome every obstacle to obtain their goals.  The idea of “overcoming” is exciting, inspirational and as American as apple pie!  I always have this figurative image of someone literally bursting out of the shackles that have burdened them for so long, free to pursue the desires of his heart, despite overwhelming odds.

Juxtapose that image with the notion of interior freedom.  Interior freedom is about overcoming, but not necessarily in a worldly way.  Rather than resulting from breaking out of shackles, it’s about overcoming exterior (or interior) obstacles, infringements, abuses, inconveniences, or situations with the interior joy that comes from knowing Christ, and trusting Him. Knowing that the King of the Universe is in your corner, regardless of how dire things look in the eyes of the “world.”  Rather than merely rejoicing at the external victory, interior freedom offers peace and joy in the midst of trial.

As much as I enjoy reading about people who have overcome great odds, it wasn’t until I read He Leadeth Me, by Walter Ciszek, that I learned the true meaning of freedom.  Captured by the Russian army during WWII, Ciszek was placed in prison for being a “Vatican Spy,” and spent 23 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps, during which time he developed a profound sense of interior freedom.  His story provides an intimate glimpse into his spiritual journey – from his initial capture as a Catholic priest, through his amazing interior transformation, as he learned to live in captivity as a “free” man; and finally, to his release from physical bondage, as a man of great faith and love.

Early in the narrative of his capture, Ciszek would readily admit that he lacked interior freedom. But as his story continues, you can literally see the wheels turning as you watch the peace come over him gradually, almost like a warm blanket.  At some point in the final third of the book, Ciszek shares a beautiful definition of Interior Freedom, wisdom garnered from 23 years of experience:

The body can be confined, but nothing can destroy the deepest freedom in man, the freedom of the soul, and the freedom of mind and will. These are the highest and noblest faculties in man, they are what make him the sort of man he is, and they cannot be constrained. Even in prison a man retains his free will, his freedom of choice. Even in prison, a man can choose to do good or evil, to fight for survival or to despair, to serve God and others or to turn inward and selfish…

…Ultimately, the only absolute freedom we have resides in a man’s free will. And that freedom was given us by our Creator, essentially, so that we might freely choose to love and serve Him. All other creatures serve Him out of exigency; by their very being and existence they witness to His power and His love, or reflect His glory or beauty in some way. Only to man and the angels has He given the power of freely choosing to love and serve Him. He has made us a little less than the angels, has given us intellect and free will – and that is the hallmark of man, at once his crowning glory, his most precious gift, his most terrifying responsibility. Only man can freely choose not to serve his Creator.

It is in choosing to serve God, to do His will, that man achieves his highest and fullest freedom (p. 156-158).

May we all gain the joy and peace that comes from living out God's call on our lives each and every day, regardless of what the day brings.

Reading Assignment:

Week 2: p. 35-60 (Ch. I – Read to end of #3: Accepting Suffering)

Discussion Questions:

1. In your daily life, do you think interior freedom is easier or more challenging to acquire than external freedom (external as in overcoming material obstacles)?  Why do you think that is?

2. Are there times when Interior Freedom comes more easily to you than it does at other times?  If so, when and why?

Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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