Being Free Is Demanding

"Being free always to choose goodness is demanding, but it will make you into people with backbone who can face life, people with courage and patience." - Pope Francis in "The Church of Mercy"

In celebration of the release of Pope Francis’s book, The Church of Mercy, several of our dotMagis bloggers will be sharing reflections this month based on the words of Pope Francis.
Pope Francis is a Jesuit, formed in the spirituality of the Spiritual Exercises. So it’s not surprising that he zeroed in on one of the central ideas of Ignatian spirituality when he found himself in front of a group of students from Jesuit high schools last June.

That idea is freedom. Each of us has a part to play in the great drama of Christ’s work to save and heal the world, and our challenge is to learn what that work is and to choose to do it. This is what we most deeply desire, but there’s a problem. We desire many things—a rewarding career, friends and lovers, good health, security, comfort, a good reputation, peace of mind, and many more. In the midst of all these desires and options and goals, how do we focus on the most important thing—to love and serve God and other people?

The answer, Pope Francis said, is freedom. We need to be free from what Ignatius called “disordered attachments”—those wants and yearnings, some good, some not so good, that can govern our decisions and ultimately control our lives. It’s no small task. Francis wasn’t kidding when he said that being free is demanding. It requires a great deal of discernment, prayer, reflection, and grace to sort through the confusion of desires and attachments and find what it is that we most deeply desire.

Ignatius believed that our deepest, truest desires have been placed in our hearts by God. So when we finally find what we really want, we find what God wants too. That’s the promise of freedom.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. We spend the greater part of our lives trying to discover who we are meant to be and what we are meant to do.If we do not pause to meet God and experience freedom we never get off that thread mill.

    • Dear Mary, it goes deeper than that. The Jewish mystic Martin Buber talks about the I-Thou relationship between God and the personal “I”. It is a matter of Faith and Reason. Without the slightest inkling of who one is, there will not even be an I-Thou dialogue, because by definition the exercise won’t even get off ground.
      The interesting fact is, in the journey to seek God, we find out even more who we are, especially in times of difficulty such as the Dark Night of the Soul. God has promised He will meet us half-way, even this side of Eternity: Jeremiah 29:13, “You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart”. Chances are, He will exercise His freedom t keep His promise.
      Also, remember the parable of the talents? We are all given different talents in life. Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman recognizes that we all have our own call. And yes, it is OUR responsibility to discover what our talents are and accordingly, how to bring about the Kingdom. Book of Genesis: “Behold, all He made was good!” It’s not a millstone round our neck to try and find out what that goodness is. You have Free Will to choose whether or not you embark upon that journey of discovering God.
      Moses said to the Israelites just before they cross the River Jordon: “Choose Life!” So today, I choose to say to you, Happy Easter, the Lord is Risen! Seek Him with all that He’s given you. Amen! (Easter, 2018).

    • Yes, Cajetan, how true. And God loves us unconditionally even if we feel a bit timid sometimes. That’s when He will say, “Fear not, it is I”. God bless you!


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