In this winter season, I hope we all may be filled with the gift of hope!
Our beloved Catholic faith describes hope this way: “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the Holy Spirit. The virtue to hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity [God’s love]” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1817, 1818).
Hope is a spiritual virtue only God can give us, and all we need to do is receive it. To receive it, we have to be cautious to stay focused on the reason for hope, even in our times of trial.
St. Paul’s inspired words in his letter to the Romans provide us some keen insight: “We even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
An example where I witnessed hope lived joyfully in the midst of affliction was in a visit and Mass with Father Dana Christensen, a younger priest in our diocese battling ALS. His great desire in his illness was to be able to spend his time in a chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, so some generous souls in our diocese paid for and assisted with the construction of living quarters and a chapel attached to his parents home in Milbank.
The picture included here captures so beautifully the joy, hope and love of God in Father Dana, as even the affliction of ALS did not steal away his faith, hope or love. The amazing love and generosity of those who made his housing arrangements possible, those who pray at his house each week, those who visit him and provide the sacraments, and the TLC of his sister and other family members is a reminder that any of us in any situation have reasons to be filled with hope, because hope, as St. Paul says, does not disappoint.
I hope the stories in this month’s Bishop’s Bulletin give us many reasons to be filled with hope in what God is doing in the hearts and lives of people in our diocese as they open their hearts and discern how to actively live our diocesan vision of Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship Through God’s Love.