By: Mallorie Gerwitz
What is Freedom? What is your sense of Freedom? This thought of Freedom has been running throughout my prayer in these days and weeks.
In this month of celebrating our Nations Freedom from England, on July 4th and thinking of all those, not only militarily, but martyrs, thinkers, philosophers, theologians, educators, scientists, the list goes on, who have shared knowledge and insight and as the saying goes, “Truth shall set you Free”.
As a young woman in initial formation I look to the past and think of all of those mentioned above and our Founders and Foundress’ who I stand on the shoulders of and think, “If it were not for their strength, belief and providence in God – the freedoms that I have would not be here - for me to embrace, to rejoice and to be blessed with.
As I think back through the ages of Christian History I think of the many voices who rose up to refine our practices of faith which we as Christian people practice today, the doctrines, the sacraments, the awe, reverence and deep freedom to be able to practice our beliefs as Christian Brothers and Sisters in this world. There is a part of our history as Catholics where being able to have that Freedom was not always there, and even in our 21st century Christians around the globe are being persecuted for their belief in their God.
I was recently back East in upstate New York visiting family. On my journey back from Albany, my dad and I stopped at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha’s birthplace - The Shrine of Martyrs, located in the beautiful Mohawk Valley in Auriesville, NY,
As I was walking these holy grounds, I thought of Kateri’s life, of the Jesuit Priests, Isaac Joques and St. Hon Lalande, who introduced Catholicism to her, and ultimately were martyred.
Freedom came at a great price for Kateri. She was not able to practice her faith openly. She learned in secret as her Native brothers and sisters were quite skeptical of the learnings and the priests. She ultimately had to leave all she knew at the age of 18, and head for Canada.
Freedom to Kateri meant being able to go and live in peace praising her God. She had already known great loss - losing both her parents and brother to smallpox. Could this loss have marked, for her, God’s profound strength in her life? Her courage to stand in the face of what she knew to be true; which was, for her, freedom to love her God, as a Christian Catholic woman.
As I continue to pray with God, searching out my heart, asking myself more and more how the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience bring freedom to my life, as well as community life, I find that it allows me to be authentic, to focus on what’s most important. Community binds us together in deep prayer, intention and focus as we work together to do our part in sharing in God’s plan. Freedom for me is the everyday remainder that I am for God. God chose me, God asks of me. God Free’s me, to love, to serve, to follow.
In light of our Nations Birthday and a tip of my hat to JFK, I quote: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” – In my translation of JFK’s haunting and inspirational words I say and ask myself, with the freedom that God has given me, Ask not what God can do for you, But what you can do for God!
As we celebrate this month of our nations freedom Saint Kateri Tekakwitha’s feast day may we be mindful of the deep freedoms that being a woman religious in this 21st century frees us to. May we be grateful for the shoulders we now stand on and may we face the future saying YES to these Freedoms with courage and deep reverence.