It was a frigid night on K Street, amidst law offices and lobbying shops, just a stone’s throw from the White House itself. It was a packed house, literally standing room only. Were the crowd not a continually cooperative group, willing to push in, people would have run out the door. The assembled throng wasn’t there for a fundraiser or meet-and-greet with the hot politician of the hour. It was there to hear about freedom.
On this night, the topic was not freedom of speech or freedom of religion — two topics much in debate in the Capitol and in the public square at present — but “interior freedom.” The speaker was a French Dominican priest who wasn’t even speaking English. In the last days of the Christmas season, the people gathered at the Catholic Information Center were happy to wait for the nun translating the priest’s words.
The mostly young audience was largely familiar with the speaker, Fr. Jacques Philippe, from his many books on spiritual life, of which “Interior Freedom” is one. “Searching for and Maintaining Peace” is another; both are the work of a lifetime.
Among Fr. Philippe’s most fundamental points is: Don’t go through life expecting from others what only God can give. Such things as security, happiness, even love. By which he means what everyone who’s been to an AA meeting knows: It’s a faith and hope in something beyond everyday human concerns that sustain us and inspire us to help and love others.
Not everyone on K Street is going to buy into this. But at least one young man walked into the event impressed by the scene. “I need to be a part of this,” he said as he entered. Just as a representative democracy needs to be about letting the Little Sisters do what they do as they need to do it. We need that virtue and that service.