Every time I make a batch of oatcakes – a traditional Scottish cookie – I feel like I’m preserving a little bit of the freedom for which my Scottish ancestors worked so hard almost 300 years ago.
Those hardy Scots left a life of hardship, poverty, and lack of dignity under heavy-handed English rule. They boarded over-crowded and often disease-laden ships, spending weeks on the stormy Atlantic in hopes of a brighter future in the promising New World. I’m sure that among their meagre possessions and staples on those voyages were packages of oatcakes, much like the ones I still make in my modern kitchen.
These simple round or square “cakes” of oatmeal, fat, and liquid would have been quick sustenance on their journey to freedom. The updated (delicious!) versions found in many Nova Scotia kitchens and bakeries might be a little sweeter, but still serve as reminders that the fight for freedom is always worth it and should never be forgotten.
Upon their arrival on the shores of what would become New Scotland (Nova Scotia), the Catholic Scots were free to practise their faith without fear of persecution. As a result, the Church has deep roots in this area and we still reap the benefits of the churches and families of faith left by those pioneers.
We talk about freedom a lot this time of year. We just marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the pivotal Allied offensive toward the end of the Second World War that helped turn the tide in favour of the Allies but cost the lives of thousands of soldiers – their sacrifice for our freedom. In the coming weeks, we will celebrate Canada Day, while our neighbors to the south will celebrate their Independence Day on July 4. We give thanks for this freedom because it is a precious gift.
What does freedom mean to a Catholic in 2019?
As Catholics, we are grateful for this gift of physical freedom, though we acknowledge our most important gift of freedom is celebrated on Easter Sunday, our spiritual independence day. Every Sunday we recall the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, who gave up his innocent life to atone for our sin – to free us from the slavery of our transgressions.
But what about the political and religious freedom that those early settlers, revolutionaries, and soldiers died for? What is the Catholic role in that kind of freedom? The Church has always taught that Catholics have a right and duty to defend their own freedom and the freedom and dignity of others. Sacrificing one’s life for another or for the sake of his or her country is a noble thing. Indeed, it is Christ-like. The key is to keep maintaining that freedom that was precious enough to require self-sacrifice.
We have to ask ourselves if we still treasure and even possess that freedom. Do we enjoy the freedom that allows us to speak our minds and practise our faith without fear of persecution? Are we vigilant in defending the freedom that allows us to live according to the morals and values espoused by our faith? Do we safeguard the precious gift of freedom that has been handed down to us?
The truth is we are not as free as we used to be. Christian morals are no longer assumed and are certainly no longer the foundation of our legal or political system. We take our children to Mass every Sunday and they hear that Christ offers them complete freedom. Then, outside of Mass, we have to guard our speech to our neighbour lest we commit the ultimate sin of offending someone who holds different moral standards.
It’s important to remind our kids that true freedom is from Christ and no one can take that away, no matter what political party is in power. A Christian can still be free, even if he or she is in shackles. This is why, over the centuries, saints and martyrs who were imprisoned simply because of their religion or race were able to keep the faith, and even perform heroic acts, because no other human being can rob another of interior freedom. But that freedom of soul has to be cultivated by a life of prayer, virtue, and total trust in God. While physical and mental abuse can break a person’s body, and sometimes the spirit, it doesn’t have to destroy his or her eternal relationship with Christ.
Our children need to know the examples of holy women and men like so many of our ancestors of various ethnicities, who, in times of persecution, found ways to promote the Catholic ideal of the dignity and inherent freedom of every human person. They need to know the example of the soldiers who gave their lives for us in war. They especially need to know, intimately, the Son of God who gave his life for the salvation of our souls – to set our souls free from the slavery that still presses on us from all sides in the form of personal sin, coercion, and persecution.
We can even teach our children that in baking a batch of cookies, we can recall the freedom for which our ancestors sacrificed everything. Tell them freedom, like cookies, is sweet and the recipe is worth passing on.
Lazzuri writes from her home in Nova Scotia, where she lives with her husband, six children and her mom. She can be reached at [email protected]
OAT CAKES RECIPE
1 cup brown sugar 1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup shortening ½ tsp. salt
1 egg ¾ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp vanilla 2 ¾ cup of quick rolled oats
Cream together sugar, shortening and egg. Add vanilla. Sift together flour, salt and soda. Add to creamed mixture. Add rolled oats until easy to roll out on lightly floured surface to about ½ in. thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutter or knife (round or square are traditional). Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit on ungreased cookie sheet or on parchment paper on cookie sheet.
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