Traces N.7, July/August 2005

The Meeting of Freedom

Perhaps there is yet another reason to go to the Rimini Meeting this year. The volunteers and workers who are its protagonists, those who visit it, and all those who profess a love of freedom will be challenged by the title chosen by its organizers: “Freedom Is the Most Precious Gift that Heaven Has Bestowed upon Men.” For one entire week, the words of Cervantes’ Don Quixote invite all to expand and deepen the true meaning of the experience of freedom and the gift of freedom, not like those who exercise philosophical means or like certain opinion makers, who love to use the word freedom haphazardly, nor like a certain political leader who, on the day after the Italian referendum against in vitro fertilization, came out with this surprising comment: “The conscience of the Nation is more advanced than that reflected in the referendum. It is more modern, more secular, and more civil.” He had wagered all his authority on the referendum passing. And having been unsuccessful in convincing the people to follow him, he now judges 75% of the voters less “secular, modern, and civil” and thus less “advanced” than that elite which goes by the name “conscience of the Nation.” What justifies this profound lack of confidence in the freedom of people to choose, and to choose what is right?

Freedom is the point. There is a question that runs through like a common thread and connects many facts in the world (the problem of democracy, European unity, wars, the destiny of the family, education, work, etc.). It also pervades and connects much of the personal and public confusion in which we live. It is a question to which everyone gives his own extremely personal answer: What is freedom? Or, more accurately: What do you think and what do you do in order to be free?
In civil and personal life, we continue to speak of freedom both as a right and as something gained. And this is true. In fact, it is the most precious thing we have–we fight for it and we will forever fight for it. Yet, in its name, much confusion and many claims find backing, and these only make people greater slaves of the dominant trends.

Freedom can be experienced, and so we can speak of it, only by meeting people who are free. One begins to understand the nature of freedom by meeting people who carry its adjective–“free”–stamped in their gazes and on their hearts. This was said by the greatest lover of freedom who ever walked the face of the Earth: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It is the truth of Jesus of Nazareth, which is not a formula to be studied in solitude. It is a gift, something greater than the interests of the single person, witnessed by one person to another.
“Freedom is the energy to adhere to the real, to being. It is adhering to something other than yourself that completes you, makes you grow, builds and fulfills your person” (Fr. Giussani). This freedom, which follows the true, the beautiful, and the good that it recognizes as present, is the answer to those who chase the “conscience” of a nation that doesn’t exist, basically scorning the people in the concreteness of its hope for a new human experience. Understanding this more fully is a good reason to drop by Rimini…