“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
St. Pope John Paul II
One of my favorite foods in the world are Roman artichokes, particularly when they are made by my Roman aunt. I have dreamt about them. As luck would have it, they tend not to be in season in the fall when I am typically in Rome, as was the case this week. At dinner Saturday night with the family, I was lamenting, in an overly dramatic way, the absence of my dear “carciofi” and telling my aunt that I “would literally die” for those artichokes. She grabbed my cheeks as she often does and, in Italian said “Danny, there are things to die for, artichokes aren’t one of them.”
The next morning, I attended my very first Byzantine liturgy. A few Eastern rite bishops that I know from the states were also in Rome this week and their seminary was up the street. While I didn’t understand a word of what was being said, it was an absolutely beautiful Mass. After what seemed to be the end of Mass, the celebrating bishops and priests gathered around the altar and began to pray some more. Sensing my confusion, one of my friends came over to me and explained that it was a prayer service to remember the anniversary of a massacre of Polish and Ukrainian Catholics who were persecuted for their faith for decades under the Soviet Union. My aunt’s words from the night before instantly filled my heart and mind.
In the comfort of my suburban, American bubble, will I ever really understand what it means to give my life for what I believe? Would I have the fortitude to worship underground for decades if necessary? Does my freedom to pray as I please, help or hinder my perseverance in the faith? What are the ways I am being called to die to self in my daily life in order to give glory to Christ’s death for me? I have no doubt it involves more than just artichokes.