“Before all else be free persons”, said Pope Francis to the students. He continued: “Freedom means always choosing the good. Being free to always choose the good is challenging but it will make you persons with backbone, who know how to face life and to be courageous and patient persons”. That is a blueprint for maturity; free to choose good.
On one occasion I was to say Mass at a prison. While preparing the altar, the men were brought in by their guards. However, there was another man who was not a prisoner and not a guard. He came to me and asked if he could lead the men in the rosary, which he did. After the rosary and the Mass, all left except this man. He then identified himself. This gentleman was the warden. He then told his story. It seems that while praying a private rosary, he felt called to share the rosary with the men. Besides being a job, the warden accepted his position as a vocation. Whether the men changed was one thing; but he had changed.” Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance”. Free to choose good.
Pope Francis adds another important element in life. Be magnanimous. “Magnanimous”, he says, “is living with a big heart, having a greatness of soul. It means doing the little everyday things with a big heart open to God and to others”. There was a lady who was paralyzed from the neck down. Her physical illness restricted her to the house. But it did not restrict her spirit. The lady had an open door policy. If someone needed a friend, she was there. If someone wanted to pray, she was there. If someone needed a listener, she was there. If someone needed a counselor, she was there. The woman had a ‘big heart’, a ‘greatness of soul’.
Pope Francis stated that “freedom to choose good is a challenge in today’s world that must be met with courage and resolve”. That is why the Holy Father has given us the example and model of the saints. One of these modern saints is Archbishop Oscar Romero. He was shot dead while saying Mass on March 24th, 1980. Archbishop Romero was called the ‘Voice of the Voiceless’. His prayer was: “Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love. Though we see that waves of violence succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out; it is the only thing that can”. Archbishop Romero was free to choose good.
Fr. Theodore Walsh, C.P.