Freedom is one of the fundamental rights of every human being. But it is also a very fragile right; we can lose it if we do not take good care of it. We can speak of two types of freedom: the inner freedom, to act according to one's own reason and will, and the outer freedom, which is regulated by the society in which each person lives, which can limit or even extinguish the individual's right to act. These two types of freedom are constantly under threat.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 1731, defines freedom this way: “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.”
Therefore, to be able to exercise well this power to act or not to act, we need to use our intelligence to discern what is good and strengthen our will to be able to act according to this discernment. “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.” (CCC 1733)
Nobody can take away our freedom
This inner freedom, to act according to our own conscience, no one can take away from us. We only lose this freedom through our own fault, when we do not discern what is good, or when, even knowing what good is, our will does not have the strength to act according to what our intelligence proposes. Giving in to our impulses, we become slaves to them. And instead of acting, we only react.
Father Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, although imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II, kept his inner freedom intact. Although physically limited by prison, he lived with his heart and mind in Heaven. He accepted that circumstance as divine permission and used it to help whoever he could to survive that real hell.
There is no total freedom
Nobody is totally free, because there are several limitations imposed by nature itself. We are not free to choose where we are born, to feel hungry or cold, to be taller or shorter. There are countless circumstances that we do not control and that interfere in our life. But if we try to live the virtues, in time we will achieve a high degree of inner freedom, and these external circumstances will interfere very little in the way we act.
It is said that every day a man passed by a magazine stand and greeted the newsagent. In response, he always received some rudeness. One day his friend asked him why he kept being nice and greeting the newsagent if the answer was always negative. He answered that he was free to do what he thought was right and that it was not the other person's attitude that would affect the way he acted.
In this way, in order not to lose our inner freedom, we need to constantly fight to acquire the virtues, such as patience, temperance, fortitude, prudence, among others. Each of us needs to analyze where our weakest point is, to start this fight that will last a lifetime.
Outer freedom is not in our hands
As for external freedom, we can do very little to remain free. All it takes is a simple decree from a civil authority and we can no longer leave the house or even express our opinion publicly. Of course we should always fight for freedom with the means we have, but in the end we live in a society and in order to have security we give up this freedom and give it to the government.
This should not distress us, for it is no use having outward freedom if inwardly we are slaves to our desires and passions. Let us do all we can to remain outwardly free, but let us fight bravely against our imperfections to possess as much inner freedom as possible.
“Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis enhance the mastery of the will over its acts.” (CCC 1734)