When I was in eighth grade (1989/1990), I saw the movie The Shoes of the Fisherman for the first time; it has since become one of my favorites. The 1968 movie stars Anthony Quinn as a Ukrainian archbishop named Kiril Lakota who has been imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp by the Soviet government. The movie begins with Lakota being brought to Moscow and face to face with Soviet Premier Kamenev, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. The crux of the meeting is that the Vatican has brokered a deal for Lakota’s freedom, but before Lakota finds this out, Kamenev asks him if has learned enough in his confinement to face freedom. Lakota responds that he has already been free for a long time because he has spiritual freedom.
This scene has been bouncing around in my mind lately because I have felt like a captive these past weeks due to the public restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m filling to bet that I’m not the only one in the parish who has felt that way. At the same time, in honest reflection, I know that I should not feel that listlessness inside because I have allowed my mind to err concerning what true freedom is and from where it comes. True freedom is not about the things of this world, nor is true freedom something that this world can ever give us.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally nicknamed “Good Shepherd Sunday” because, you guessed it, the Gospel for this Sunday always speaks of Jesus being the Good Shepherd. When I envision a shepherd, two main qualities come to mind: one who protects and one who leads. The Lord Jesus seeks to do both for us. He offers us grace upon grace to aid us in the struggle against evil, sin, and temptation. The challenge for us is to open up and direct our lives to receiving these graces from the Lord. When we do, not only will we have divine aid in our struggle against sin and temptation but we will also find ourselves being led more and more to detachment from the world, and detachment leads us to true freedom in Christ.
If we find ourselves feeling like caged tigers these days, it’s a good time to ask ourselves how attached we are to the world and what belongs to it. Are the world and the things of it bad in and of themselves? No. However, if we seek to attach ourselves to the things of heaven and the life of grace then we will experience greater inner freedom in our lives, the freedom that Lakota knew in The Shoes of the Fisherman. If you have some extra time in these days of isolation, try and find the movie on-line, and, more importantly, ask the Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, to lead you to greater detachment. You will find that the grace of detachment will lead you to greater happiness and peace.
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various leadership roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.