Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Hope is the certain knowledge that life's evils have an end—that when we are denied a good, it is because there awaits something greater.

These last few years' suffering has dragged me through the valley of desolation to the threshold of despair. I used to say that the secret to happiness in life was to lower your expectations, but in a way that I can't credit myself, I have learned that my cynical aphorism was backward. The problem is not expecting too much, but settling for too little.

In one film, Abbott and Costello are fishing in a rowboat. Costello catches a fish and uses it as bait to catch a bigger one. He repeats this procedure several times, each time catching a larger fish and using it for bait. Finally he hooks a fish so big that it pulls him overboard.1

Our lives are a big game of double-or-nothing. If we refrain from grasping at our little hopes, eventually the Lord will send us a hope so big that its ecstatic fulfillment will consume our whole being.

There are hopes and there is Hope. Our little hopes rise and fall. Some are fulfilled, some fall by the wayside. Yet beyond these ups and downs is a greater Hope, and winning and losing both have the purpose of opening our hearts to receive it.

Through suffering comes the wisdom of Hope. Hope is the most difficult virtue2 and it is the one we most need in this age that denies purpose and pouts over suffering.

My parents' extreme—even senseless—love has come home to me only in my adulthood. I discovered that they want to give me everything to make me happy—and in fact they have always wanted to give me everything, but feared spoiling me. By denying my desires, they left me a greater gift.

Hope recognizes that God has always wanted to give us everything for our happiness. We err in resting our eyes on glittering goods that cannot satisfy, instead of looking beyond to our true fulfillment.

Ultimately Hope points beyond our senses, far outside this world's shrivelled confines to something, some One.

Hope is the certain knowledge that life's evils have an end—that when we are denied a good, it is because the Lord holds something greater, far greater, for us.

Our suffering purchases a priceless truth. Take this lesson to heart, my child: today's tears will vanish in the radiance of the joy to come.


1. Jean Yarbrough, dir., The Naughty Nineties (1945).

2. Charles Peguy, Portal of the Mystery of Hope, David Louis Schindler, Jr., trans. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1996).


Anonymous said...

Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing make you afraid.
All things pass away.
God never changes.
Patience obtains everything.
God alone is enough.

Dream that the more your struggle,
the more you prove the love that you bear your God,
and the more you will rejoice one day with your
in a happiness and
rapture that can never end.

Hope, O my soul, hope.
You know neither the day nor the hour.
Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly,
even though your impatience makes doubtful
what is certain,
and turns a very short time into a long one.

—St. Teresa of Avila
Poesias 30; Exclamationes del Alma a Dios 15:3

Aurelius Augustinus said...

But hope has for its object only what is good, only what is future, and only what affects the man who entertains the hope. For these reasons, then, faith must be distinguished from hope, not merely as a matter of verbal propriety, but because they are essentially different. The fact that we do not see either what we believe or what we hope for, is all that is common to faith and hope.

The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love, ch. 8

Pliny the Younger said...

Prosperity proves the fortunate, adversity, the great.

Juan Crux said...

Until a soul is placed by God in the passive purgation of that dark night..., it cannot purify itself completely from these imperfections nor from the others. But a person should insofar as possible strive to do his part in purifying and perfecting himself and thereby merit God's divine cure; in this cure God will heal him of what through his own efforts he was unable to remedy. No matter how much an individual does through his own efforts, he cannot actively purify himself enough to be disposed in the least degree for the divine union of the perfection of love. God must take over and purge him in that fire that is dark for him....

-St. John of the Cross
The Dark Night of the Soul, 3, 3

Dietrich von Hildebrand said...

Suppose I make the acquaintance of a person and from my various experiences concerning him derive a conception of his character and of his emotional attitude toward me. Suppose, again, that I arrive at the point of forming the judgment, "I have implicit trust in this person; there is no one I should trust more."

From this moment onward, I no longer judge that person's character from his behavior; I no longer proceed, as it were, from the appreciation of his single acts to a comprehension of his nature or his essential position. Rather I proceed, henceforth, in the inverse sense: I interpret all his acts in light of the definitive concept I have formed of his character.

This implies that, even though his forthcoming acts should seem to contradict the picture I have made of his personality or his attitude to me, I shall keep to this central determination of his essence, telling myself that I must either be mistaken about the facts or ignorant of the particular motives which had impelled the person in question to behave in the way he did, and that they cannot be repugnant to the loftiness of character or the kind depositions toward me which I have ascribed to him.

Let it be admitted that in our relations with a human being, we may again arrive at a point where—be it on the strength of many symptoms or even because of one unequivocal indication that retains its validity after having heard the person in question—the conclusion imposes itself that his central attitude has changed. For every human being may change; he may fall; his love may cease.

Yet in relation to God, "in whom there is no shadow of alteration," who is goodness and mercy, of whom the Psalmist says: "For His mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever," our trust must be absolute; the possibility of its being dislodged by any kind of experience whatsoever must be precluded axiomatically.

Whereas God's merciful love speaks to us in all benefits and blessings which constantly surround us, and above all, in His eternal Word which has become flesh, of which St. Paul says, "the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared," it is by no means an absence of this divine love which manifests itself to us in our misfortunes or failures.

In these we must seek the traces of our guilt on the one hand and the hidden love of God on the other, for we know that "His mercy endureth forever."

Our consciousness of being children of God and of being secure in His all-powerful and all-wise love must provide the central presupposition from which we view everything, be it joy or misery, be it tangible help of God or the apparent failure of our endeavors. He whose confidence in God is genuine will, whenever his failures or his relapses threaten to discourage him, flee into the arms of God with undiminished trust, entreat God's help with increased fervor, and combat his defects with greater vigilance than ever.

—Dietrich von Hildebrand
Transformation in Christ