Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)
Usually, the word “hope” is used in a secular context. “I hope mom makes pizza for dinner.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m more interested in the theological virtue of hope.
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa writes about the virtue of hope in Mary, Mirror of the Church. Mary at the foot of the Cross is not only the “Mother of Sorrows,” but she is also the “Mother of Hope.” At the foot of the Cross, she “hoped against hope.”
“Hope against hope,” is explained this way by H. Schlier in Der Romerbrief: ” without having any reason whatsoever for hope, in a situation that, humanly speaking, is entirely hopeless and in total contrast with the promise made, one never ceases to hope solely in virtue of the word of hope, uttered at the time by God.” Mother Mary hoped in the resurrection. By her example, we too hope in the resurrection.
It’s through the virtue of hope that we can begin to understand suffering. Fr. Cantalamessa reminds us that it isn’t enough to pity sufferers or try to alleviate suffering. Anyone can do that. What the Church is called to do, by Mary’s example, is to “transmit hope, proclaiming that suffering is not absurd, that it is meaningful, because there will be a resurrection after death.”
As I continue to read Fr. Cantalamessa, I have many more questions about hope, especially since relieving pain and suffering is something I’m called to do, not just personally, but professionally. With Wise Friend’s spiritual direction and his constant reminder of “Jesus is our life; Mary is the way,” I’m slowly beginning to understand.
Here’s a prayer by St. Claude De La Colombiere that Wise Friend has directed me to say every morning after praying the Liturgy of the Hours:
My God, I believe most firmly that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee, and that we can want for nothing when we rely upon Thee in all things: therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties, and to cast all my cares upon Thee.
People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honours; sickness may take from me my strength and the means of serving Thee; I may even lose Thy grace by sin; but my trust shall never leave me. I will preserve it to the last moment of my life, and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me.
Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents; let them trust to the purity of their lives, the severity of their mortifications, to the number of their good works, the fervour of their prayers; as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope. “For Thou, O Lord, singularly has settled me in hope.” This confidence can never be in vain. “No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded.”
I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness, for I firmly hope for it, and all my hope is in Thee. “In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded.”
I know, alas! I know but too well that I am frail and changeable; I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue. I have seen stars fall from heaven, and pillars of firmament totter; but these things alarm me not. While I hope in Thee I am sheltered from all misfortune, and I am sure that my trust shall endure, for I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope.
Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty, and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee. Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations; that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assaults of the evil one, and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies. I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me, and that I shall love Thee unceasingly. “In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded.”