My friends, here we go again… How did I choose this subject? First of all I want to establish the following… I will not write about doubting God’s existence… I am going to write about all Christians who believe in Jesus Christ. I will be addressing the doubt regarding His promises to us. Another little reminder and as I brought it up before: this sharing of thoughts and understandings of very profound topics of our Faith are meant for me… God is correcting me all along or trying to underline the importance of some themes. He is training me as a servant that needs it and/or making me aware of topics that need rehashing due to their importance.
Well, the theme came to me in Church on Oct 31. I was led to read a certain page in the Bible and it was about the thief on the cross who after hearing others on the ground sneering at Jesus (“He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the chosen one, the Christ of God”),said to Jesus, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” Luke 23: 35-43. This man spoke to Him with disdain and doubt that He really was the King of the Jews. He had no hope at all that Jesus could do anything about it. The “good” thief corrected him and had faith that Jesus was indeed the King of the Jews, as he asked Him not to forget him when He got into His Kingdom.
It was in this way that the great theme of the virtue of hope came to mind. The first thief lacked faith that had crashed his hope and I wonder if this was partially due to the “witness” of those sneering Jesus… At this point I also realized that as a Catholic and forever and ever, I had delved in the subject of hope but in a superficial way. Besides, I never heard this topic discussed in a homily or in a retreat or in a Bible study course ever. I never also heard in a clear way what doubt can do to my spiritual life … Yes, I am not supposed to doubt, but truly I did not have the detail of the why. However, why is it that it did not confuse the good thief? However, it is important to reflect on the fact that our witness of life is a double edge sword. It can help others or sink their faith…
So, this blog will have the following parts:
I. The theology of the virtue of hope from three different perspectives: from our present Pope; what the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states and one from a Protestant source. It will be lengthy because this is the way I was led to review it and from many angles, but of course, for my own edification. In fact, writing this blog gave me the opportunity to jot down all the multiple ideas about the virtue of hope in order for me to keep it for future reference and meditation. However, if you know all about hope, you should bypass this first section.
II. A great example of hope from someone who died in 2002.
III. Doubt and hope relationship and a few stories of what went on this month in my ongoing spiritual awakening/conversion
IV. Sources of hope in my life that convinces me that I must grow in hope for the good of my soul.
I. Theology of Hope
1. Excerpts from encyclical Spe Salvi (In Hope We Are Saved) from
30 November, the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, in the year 2007
TO THE BISHOPS
PRIESTS AND DEACONS
MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS
AND ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL
ON CHRISTIAN HOPE
1. “SPE SALVI facti sumus”—in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey. Now the question immediately arises: what sort of hope could ever justify the statement that, on the basis of that hope and simply because it exists, we are redeemed? And what sort of certainty is involved here?
Faith is Hope
2. Before turning our attention to these timely questions, we must listen a little more closely to the Bible’s testimony on hope. “Hope”, in fact, is a key word in Biblical faith—so much so that in several passages the words “faith” and “hope” seem interchangeable. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews closely links the “fullness of faith” (10:22) to “the confession of our hope without wavering” (10:23). Likewise, when the First Letter of Peter exhorts Christians to be always ready to give an answer concerning the logos—the meaning and the reason—of their hope (cf. 3:15), “hope” is equivalent to “faith”. We see how decisively the self-understanding of the early Christians was shaped by their having received the gift of a trustworthy hope, when we compare the Christian life with life prior to faith, or with the situation of the followers of other religions. Paul reminds the Ephesians that before their encounter with Christ they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Of course he knew they had had gods, he knew they had had a religion, but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths. Notwithstanding their gods, they were “without God” and consequently found themselves in a dark world, facing a dark future. In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus (How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing): so says an epitaph of that period. In this phrase we see in no uncertain terms the point Paul was making. In the same vein he says to the Thessalonians: you must not “grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Th 4:13). Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well. So now we can say: Christianity was not only “good news”—the communication of a hitherto unknown content. In our language we would say: the Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life
The true shape of Christian hope
28. Yet now the question arises: are we not in this way falling back once again into an individualistic understanding of salvation, into hope for myself alone, which is not true hope since it forgets and overlooks others? Indeed we are not! This same connection between love of God and responsibility for others can be seen in a striking way in the life of Saint Augustine. After his conversion to the Christian faith, he decided, together with some like-minded friends, to lead a life totally dedicated to the word of God and to things eternal. His intention was to practice a Christian version of the ideal of the contemplative life expressed in the great tradition of Greek philosophy, choosing in this way the “better part” (cf. Lk 10:42). Things turned out differently, however. While attending the Sunday liturgy at the port city of Hippo, he was called out from the assembly by the Bishop and constrained to receive ordination for the exercise of the priestly ministry in that city. Looking back on that moment, he writes in his Confessions: “Terrified by my sins and the weight of my misery, I had resolved in my heart, and meditated flight into the wilderness; but you forbade me and gave me strength, by saying: ‘Christ died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died’ (cf. 2 Cor 5:15)”. Christ died for all. To live for him means allowing oneself to be drawn into his being for others.
29. For Augustine this meant a totally new life. He once described his daily life in the following terms: “The turbulent have to be corrected, the faint-hearted cheered up, the weak supported; the Gospel’s opponents need to be refuted, its insidious enemies guarded against; the unlearned need to be taught, the indolent stirred up, the argumentative checked; the proud must be put in their place, the desperate set on their feet, those engaged in quarrels reconciled; the needy have to be helped, the oppressed to be liberated, the good to be encouraged, the bad to be tolerated; all must be loved.” “The Gospel terrifies me” —producing that healthy fear which prevents us from living for ourselves alone and compels us to pass on the hope we hold in common…… This was what he set out to do: to transmit hope, the hope which came to him from faith and which, in complete contrast with his introverted temperament, enabled him to take part decisively and with all his strength in the task of building up the city. In the same chapter of the Confessions in which we have just noted the decisive reason for his commitment “for all”, he says that Christ “intercedes for us, otherwise I should despair. My weaknesses are many and grave, many and grave indeed, but more abundant still is your medicine. We might have thought that your word was far distant from union with man, and so we might have despaired of ourselves, if this Word had not become flesh and dwelt among us.” On the strength of his hope, Augustine dedicated himself completely to the ordinary people and to his city—renouncing his spiritual nobility, he preached and acted in a simple way for simple people.
30. Let us summarize what has emerged so far in the course of our reflections. Day by day, man experiences many greater or lesser hopes, different in kind according to the different periods of his life. Sometimes one of these hopes may appear to be totally satisfying without any need for other hopes. Young people can have the hope of a great and fully satisfying love; the hope of a certain position in their profession, or of some success that will prove decisive for the rest of their lives. When these hopes are fulfilled, however, it becomes clear that they were not, in reality, the whole. It becomes evident that man has need of a hope that goes further. It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for him, something that will always be more than he can ever attain. In this regard our contemporary age has developed the hope of creating a perfect world that, thanks to scientific knowledge and to scientifically based politics, seemed to be achievable. Thus Biblical hope in the Kingdom of God has been displaced by hope in the kingdom of man, the hope of a better world which would be the real “Kingdom of God”. This seemed at last to be the great and realistic hope that man needs. It was capable of galvanizing—for a time—all man’s energies. The great objective seemed worthy of full commitment. In the course of time, however, it has become clear that this hope is constantly receding. Above all it has become apparent that this may be a hope for a future generation, but not for me.
And however much “for all” may be part of the great hope—since I cannot be happy without others or in opposition to them—it remains true that a hope that does not concern me personally is not a real hope. It has also become clear that this hope is opposed to freedom, since human affairs depend in each generation on the free decisions of those concerned. If this freedom were to be taken away, as a result of certain conditions or structures, then ultimately this world would not be good, since a world without freedom can by no means be a good world. Hence, while we must always be committed to the improvement of the world, tomorrow’s better world cannot be the proper and sufficient content of our hope. And in this regard the question always arises: when is the world “better”? What makes it good? By what standard are we to judge its goodness? What are the paths that lead to this “goodness”?
31. Let us say once again: we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is “truly” life. Let us now, in the final section, develop this idea in more detail as we focus our attention on some of the “settings” in which we can learn in practice about hope and its exercise.
“Settings” for learning and practicing hope
1) Prayer as a school of hope
32. A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me anymore, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me.
33. Saint Augustine, in a homily on the First Letter of John, describes very beautifully the intimate relationship between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. “By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him]”. Augustine refers to Saint Paul, who speaks of himself as straining forward to the things that are to come (cf. Phil 3:13). He then uses a very beautiful image to describe this process of enlargement and preparation of the human heart. “Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God’s tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?” The vessel, that is your heart, must first be enlarged and then cleansed, freed from the vinegar and its taste. This requires hard work and is painful, but in this way alone do we become suited to that for which we are destined. Even if Augustine speaks directly only of our capacity for God, it is nevertheless clear that through this effort by which we are freed from vinegar and the taste of vinegar, not only are we made free for God, but we also become open to others. It is only by becoming children of God, that we can be with our common Father. To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer we must learn what we can truly ask of God—what is worthy of God. We must learn that we cannot pray against others. We must learn that we cannot ask for the superficial and comfortable things that we desire at this moment—that meager, misplaced hope that leads us away from God. We must learn to purify our desires and our hopes. We must free ourselves from the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves. God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them. “But who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults” prays the Psalmist (Ps 19:12 [18:13]). Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my incapacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is. If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Yet my encounter with God awakens my conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of me and those of my contemporaries who shape my thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself.
34. For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly. Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, in his book of spiritual exercises, tells us that during his life there were long periods when he was unable to pray and that he would hold fast to the texts of the Church’s prayer: the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the prayers of the liturgy. Praying must always involve this intermingling of public and personal prayer. This is how we can speak to God and how God speaks to us. In this way we undergo those purifications by which we become open to God and are prepared for the service of our fellow human beings. We become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others. Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle to prevent things moving towards the “perverse end”. It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God. Only in this way does it continue to be a truly human hope.
2) Action and suffering as settings for learning hope
35…. It is important to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for. Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere.
37. Let us return to our topic. We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love. In this context, I would like to quote a passage from a letter written by the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh († 1857) which illustrates this transformation of suffering through the power of hope springing from faith. “I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises, for his mercy is forever (Ps 136 ). The prison here is a true image of everlasting Hell: to cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles—are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is forever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone —Christ is with me … How am I to bear with the spectacle, as each day I see emperors, mandarins, and their retinue blaspheming your holy name, O Lord, who are enthroned above the Cherubim and Seraphim? (cf. Ps 80:1 [79:2]). Behold, the pagans have trodden your Cross underfoot! Where is your glory? As I see all this, I would, in the ardent love I have for you, prefer to be torn limb from limb and to die as a witness to your love. O Lord, show your power, save me, sustain me, that in my infirmity your power may be shown and may be glorified before the nations … Beloved brothers, as you hear all these things may you give endless thanks in joy to God, from whom every good proceeds; bless the Lord with me, for his mercy is for ever … I write these things to you in order that your faith and mine may be united. In the midst of this storm I cast my anchor towards the throne of God, the anchor that is the lively hope in my heart.” This is a letter from “Hell”. It lays bare all the horror of a concentration camp, where to the torments inflicted by tyrants upon their victims is added the outbreak of evil in the victims themselves, such that they in turn become further instruments of their persecutors’ cruelty. This is indeed a letter from Hell, but it also reveals the truth of the Psalm text: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there … If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light’ —for you darkness itself is not dark, and night shines as the day; darkness and light are the same” (Ps 139 :8-12; cf. also Ps 23 :4). Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well- nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen—the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil being unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering—without ceasing to be suffering—becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.
40. I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practiced today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it. What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great “com-passion” so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love. Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves. (End of quote from Encyclical)
2. Apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord)
Benedict XVI Sept. 30, 2010
PART THREE VERBUM MUNDO
“No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known” (Jn 1:18)
What the Church proclaims to the world is the Logos of Hope(cf. 1 Pet 3:15); in order to be able to live fully each moment, men and women need “the great hope” which is “the God who possesses a human face and who ‘has loved us to the end’ (Jn 13:1)”. This is why the Church is missionary by her very nature. We cannot keep to ourselves the words of eternal life given to us in our encounter with Jesus Christ: they are meant for everyone, for every man and woman. Everyone today, whether he or she knows it or not, needs this message. May the Lord himself, as in the time of the prophet Amos, raise up in our midst a new hunger and thirst for the word of God (cf. Am 8:11). It is our responsibility to pass on what, by God’s grace, we ourselves have received. End of quote.
1812 The human virtues are rooted in the theological virtues, which adapt man’s faculties for participation in the divine nature (2Peter 1:4): for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object.
1813 The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. (1Cor 13:13)
1817 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 grace of the Holy Spirit. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Heb. 10:23.
1818 The the virtue of 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 by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity.
1819. Christian hope takes up and fulfills the hope of the chosen people which as its origin and model in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice. “Hoping against hope, he believed and thus became the father of many nations.” Rom 4:18.
1820 Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of His Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.” (Rom 5:5) Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul… that enters… where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf. (Heb 6:19-20) Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us… put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (1Thes 5:8) It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.” Rom 12:12) Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.
1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love Him and do His will. (Rom 8:28-30; Mt 7:21) In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” (Mt 10:22) and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” (1Tim 2:4) She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:
St. Teresa of Avila: “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. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.”
2086 The first commandment embraces faith, hope and charity. When we say “God” we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept His words and have complete faith and acknowledge His authority. He is almighty, merciful and infinitely beneficent… Who could not place all hope in Him? …
2090 When God reveals Himself and calls him, man cannot fully respond to the divine love by his own power. He must hope that God will him the capacity to love Him in return and to act in conformity with the commandments of charity. Hope is the confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God; it is also the fear of offending God’s love and of incurring punishment.
2091 The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption. By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. …
2092 There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or His mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).
2657 The Holy Spirit, Who instructs us to celebrate the liturgy in expectation of Christ’s return, teaches us to pray in hope. Conversely, the prayer of the Church and personal prayer nourish hope in us. The Psalms especially, with their concrete and varied language, teach us to fix our hope in God: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps 40:2) As St. Paul prayed: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Rom 15:13) End of Catechism’s quotes.
In summary, hope is the confident expectation, the sure certainty that what God has promised in the Word is true, has occurred, and or will in accordance with God’s sure Word and that we have to proclaim it in order to pass on this confident expectation to others.
4. Protestant description of hope
From: “A Retired Preacher”
A definition of Hope
What is hope? Is it a wishy washy maybe or a kind of unsure optimism? The modern idea of hope is “to wish for, to expect, but without certainty of the fulfillment; to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.”
In Scripture, according to the Hebrew and Greek words translated by the word “hope” and according to the biblical usage, hope is an indication of certainty. “Hope” in Scripture means “a strong and confident expectation.” Though archaic today in modern terms, hope is akin to trust and a confident expectation.
II. Story of Hope: ROME, October 22, 2010 – (Zenit.org) The diocesan phase of the canonization process opened today in Rome for Cardinal François Xavier Nguyen van Thuân (1928-2002), who is remembered by his countrymen as an example of hope.
Cardinal Van Thuan was born in 1928 in Hue, a small city located on the central coast of Vietnam. He received his priestly ordination in 1953. He was bishop of Nha Trang from 1967 to 1975, the year in which Pope Paul VI appointed him archbishop coadjutor of Saigon (today Ho Chi Minh). He was arrested that same year. While serving as the coadjutor archbishop of Ho Chi Minh, the prelate was arrested in 1975 and detained for 13 years in a Communist re-education camp in Vietnam. In 1988, he was liberated and forced into exile. Of the 13 years, nine were in total isolation. He celebrated Mass daily with three drops of wine — he said he needed it as medicine for stomach pains — and a drop of water in the palm of his hand.
While there he wrote books in which he recounted his experiences during his captivity with reflections on the value of forgiveness and the need to live the present time with realism. He also wrote on the power of prayer and love of the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II welcomed him to Vatican City and entrusted him with responsibilities in the Roman Curia. The Vietnamese archbishop served as vice-president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1994, and was its president from 1998 to 2002. He was made a cardinal in 2001. He died in September 2002.
For Sister Assunta, of the Institute of Mary Help of Christians, what was most admirable about Cardinal van Thuân was his "immense charity," as well as his "very profound hope."
Among his writings these are some titles: "Prayers of Hope, Words of Courage," "Five Loaves & Two Fish," and "The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison." He also wrote "Testimony of Hope: The Spiritual Exercises of Pope John Paul II."
In this section I will share some moments of enlightenment that I had during this past month on this subject matter.
October 31. As mentioned before, I was given the topic for this month, and on this same day, I found two objects that were lost since last June. Sometimes I tell my son how real Satan is, at least for some of us, and this topic I cannot talk much about it with others because chances are they would not understand my experience with this evil angel… For years, he hides things for me, or destroy things that are very important.
Example: in 1996 I had written meditations for all 15 mysteries of the Rosary, and later in 2003, I did the same when we received the Luminous mysteries. I made a booklet with these meditations and pictures of each mystery. I gave a few away through the years. However, my own copy disappeared once in 2006. It was probably left in church and someone took it, even that it had a note to return it in case it was lost… I made another one copying at Kinko’s the pictures from a copy given to a friend. This time, it never arrived from Toledo to this side of the country … So, now I am in the process of remaking it, this time trying to find pictures of each mystery in different places, short of borrowing a copy of those given away back in Toledo, OH.
Once in a while I like to look at the pictures just to wire my brain up with real images so that I can easily enter this meditation. In the same fashion, when I need to pray many Rosaries in a row, like for national elections day, I know that it works better if I use the audio cassette where I dictated the whole Rosary intertwined with the Chaplet of Mercy, and added in the middle of each Hail Mary the actual mystery, as I have mentioned before, or so called, the German model. It does keep me focused while I pray several of them for special occasions, and this way, avoiding my mind to wonder away from the mystery. So, on March 26, 2006, I dictated the whole Rosary/Chaplet of Mercy, adding also a prayer to the Holy Spirit between mysteries. Last June, I took it during our 26 hours car trip to Omaha in order to pray at times in a quiet way by connecting the audio cassette player to my ears. After this trip, I never found the cassette player or Rosary/Chaplet of Mercy audio cassette nor my second pair of glasses which I always have available just in case the present pair breaks in whatever way. We took just a few pieces of luggage, so it was not difficult to look for these things at all. Yet, they were not found after repeated attempts!
I realized that I needed them for my hours to be spent in church on November 2, praying for the will of God to be done during our mid term elections. On this day, Oct. 31, I clearly understood where they were… I went to check inside this rather small piece of luggage and sure enough, they were there. I had checked it many times before and over and over and to no avail… In retrospect, this gave me so much hope… So much because God was in charge… Satan has done this many times before and God knew that I truly needed them for the benefit of others.
November 1. On this All Saints Feast day I had planned a consecration to my Mother… I wanted to affirm my love for her because on this same date but in 1992, I was going to be visiting Mexico with a group of friends and it was my first visit to Mexico and to her at Tepeyac. In the 1980’s, when my sons were going through their Confirmation celebrations and choosing a name, which I did not do because I was confirmed at age 4, I decided to choose Guadalupe for my Confirmation name, even many years later. Before my trip to Mexico I had prepared with St. Louis de Montfort’s 33 day format to do this consecration, and although it was not the first time that I had done it, it was special because I would be there with her. I did so, and even bought an expensive gold medal with her image and right in the store, they printed in the back my name and date…
So, this Nov. 1 of 2010 and after 6:30 AM Mass, I did the consecration to Our Lady, this time using my own format that I put together in the mid 90’s and in it, I found myself asking her for intercession with the following words: “get me faith to quench my fears; hope to quench my doubts and love to guard me from indifference, and all to be obtained for the glory of God and the salvation of other souls.” I was impressed by such statement even that I have said it many times before, and where the theological virtues were mentioned, one day after I had received the topic for this blog. I then wondered how I could remain sitting for so many hours on the following day. The pews were recently refurbished and a wooden piece well padded was placed on each pew. The extra piece raised the seat about one inch, but now for my 5’ 4” height, if I extend my legs they get compressed in the back by the hard wood part of the addendum. I thought of moving a chair from the choir area to a “hidden” corner right in front of the Tabernacle, in order to avoid such compression for too long…
As I came out of church after Mass and just finishing the consecration, I had asked the Lord to place someone from the parish staff in my path to ask for permission to do the above moving of the chair. I did find a person in my path who was hurrying out of the building; permission was granted but with some hesitancy and maybe with a reason since other people could see me and try to do the same in the future; unfortunately everything happened so fast that I had no time to explain the why I needed to do it. As I left in my car, my hope was curtailed but just for a few seconds when I felt like aborting the Holy Hours, except for just one after 6:30 AM Mass; my plan had been to pray all morning and attend the 12 noon Mass as well… At this moment I realized it was a temptation and from then on, I smiled all the way home… Not a chance that I would not do what I have done before: to comply with a civic and moral duty…While driving I further understood that to love God means NEVER TO DOUBT that He is with me and in charge of everything and further more, that He had allowed this to happen for a reason. Then, many Biblical stories came to me as I arrived home.
1. I remembered that St. Peter doubted the love of God, Jesus, when asked to walk on water. Doubt destroyed his hope and almost drowned… and Jesus scolded him for doubting!
2. St. Thomas doubted that Jesus had resurrected and also was scolded.
3. Moses doubted that God’s love was so merciful that just one hitting of the rock for water would be enough. He lost the opportunity to enter the Promised Land, despite the fact that he was the one working for 40 years with the Israelites during their many times of doubt on God’s love for them, despite having been rescued from slavery!
October 2.I was full of hope as I left my home for the 6:30 Mass, with my audio cassette machine and Rosary cassette at hand… I was full of hope because God is just and merciful and while on earth, He always prayed before major decisions… After Mass, I started to pray the four rosaries with intertwined chaplets of mercy and after each mystery I prayed on behalf of our voters: “Come Holy Spirit and enlighten our hearts to see the things that are of God. Come Holy Spirit into our minds that we may know the things that are of God. Come Holy Spirit into our souls that we may belong only to God. Sanctify all that we say, think and do that it will be for the glory of God.” After about 2 hours my back and legs started to give me problems, but I also realized that the importance of this vote had be approached with prayer united with sacrifice… Of course, that was the reason why I did not have to seek a more comfortable position! God was in charge, and my hope grew even more.
I wanted to continue saying Rosaries but I understood that He did not want more Rosaries said for the moment. I felt He needed praise and adoration. I heard Him saying, “It is not the number of Rosaries but how devoutly you say them.” So, I used another cassette with Taize songs and adored Him for 90 minutes, with songs that were excellent for the moment, like, “Lord, hear my prayer, Lord hear my prayer; when I ask please answer me,” or “Adoramuste Domini.” Finally, I had time for two more Rosaries and stayed for the noon Mass. At no time I asked for any particular political party to win; I only asked for His will to be done. Six hours were offered to invite His mercy to protect us as a country. I am sure thousands of people were praying. Yet, I also know that several times and as I prayed, I purposely mentioned that I was an old widow but in this case in front of a just judge, and that I expected justice! I wondered how many other widows were doing the same thing. I also used the occasion to earn some plenary indulgences and applied them to souls in Purgatory, being that it was their feast day, and also asked them to intercede for the elections for God’s will to be done.
November 7. On this day I heard a program about strategies to raise kids. I suddenly realized that in my case, I went into motherhood without plans, without psychological knowledge on the subject matter, and worse, I never stayed home. I had to mix motherhood with a very busy medical practice, although I was fortunate enough to be close to Him in everything I did while God provided two wonderful live-in maids who stayed several years each. When the children were born, and as I have reported before, I instituted a tradition that most likely came from the Holy Ghost (I do not remember the details of why I started it), and presented each child to the Lord as the first thing after coming back home from their delivery. They were given back to Him to take care of. In hindsight, this probably invited the Eucharistic Lord to raise them as if I had done it personally. It filled me with so much hope that His promises are always true. He clearly said that He would be with us and would never leave us… Those babies became men and never rebelled or misbehaved… How true He is to His Word! In conclusion: the best strategy to raise a child is to try to follow Jesus as best as we can, and He takes over! Amazing grace!
On this day and after going through these memories and understanding of His love in everything He allows in our lives, it was obvious that He always has a plan for us and doubting such plan ruins the hope on His promises. Any doubt in His love and mercy for me, a mother who was busy and many times over-worked, would have imprisoned me in fear. I would have lost my freedom to trust in Him and His Word. Fear would also jeopardize my faith in God, in His goodness and justice.
November 8. On this day I continued to understand many things. Jesus asked us to be like children… And it happens that children never doubt their parents. They are always expecting to be protected, loved, and served by their parents. Babies know it and scream accordingly to get what they want. Aren’t we supposed to do the same thing (without screaming!) and expect our Dad to give us everything we need? Doubting God is a huge insult to His love for us!
I realized that every month I normally complain about writing these blogs… I bring up my age and my lack of theology. Last month He was clear in telling me that age has no bearing on anything because my soul is eternally young… Ouch! I lost that excuse. This month, I felt bad that I had complained so much because I doubted that He could guide me to write them and He does it all the time and most especially because this particular subject of hope is probably the hardest of all… It was obvious on this day that I was being called to quit doubting if I wanted to glorify Him…For whatever He wants me to do, He already has given me the grace to do so, and my doubt could set back my ongoing conversion. It sent me back to try to live as close to the present moment as possible, judging every moment as perfect and necessary for my sanctification.
November 11. On this day I understood that there are many weapons to fight the spiritual battle and the top weapon is my own sanctification. The last and possibly dangerous weapon is believing that I can “train” myself to fight the battle through a sanctification that I seek with my self-will intact. The first weapon is formidable because I renounce my plans and give God the reins of the battle. It requires faith in His Word that over and over repeated that I must die in the process in order to produce fruits. But it also requires tons of hope that what He said He will do, and mainly that He will be with me always, as my Master and guide, where I must not worry; where I must not carry a money bag or extra sandals… It is a radical call but one that gives so much joy and excitement!
In the spiritual battle we are in and since Adam and Eve, Satan uses fear and lies to make us doubt of this master divine plan, but we keep neglecting to realize that any doubt and fear on our part gives Satan the upper hand. But why do we do it? I ended up thinking that maybe it is because the world keeps us so wired to all that gives us fun and satisfaction that our identity becomes confused and we feel we could do anything we want if we work hard enough (the usual statement heard and read everywhere). In the next step, if we can become independent of God, one day silently we become doubting Thomas’s. We do not even realize that in our busy lives with shortened attention spans, we are not truly followers of Christ even that superficially we act as Christians. In due time, we are always planning our lives and do what Satan silently wants using ideas through the media and many other ways.
Finally, we start rebelling against the Truth and the worse part of all is that at this point in history, I suspect that even in our Church, we do not have a proven “successful” formal plan to quench doubt and restore hope in the Resurrection! Yes, we have the Truth… Yes, we have the organization… Yes, we have teachers and preachers and interested people. Yet, deep in my heart I feel that the times are screaming for a radical Christianity, where we call each other to live the Truth at all cost, at all times, everywhere. We cannot count with others doing it but I can count on God and my fidelity to His call. I can start by restoring my hope in His plan, and believe that He can do it and no matter what. His mercy will meet me with equal radical graces, and my call to others is not in words and writings, but in my way of life, like it was done by a Francis of Assisi or a Teresa of Avila or the Little Flower. We then become the leaven that becomes part of the Bread of Life, and God will see to it to help us bring others through the gate of salvation.
When I wrote in my diary that we are at a time where morality and goodness are simply just words, and that I could not find strong cells of people radically investing their lives in living the Gospel (outside of convents), I immediately also jotted down that in Christ I lack nothing… I felt this hope and much joy that I only have to seek my sanctification at all cost and according to His plans in order to receive faith, hope and love and ask for His mercy, and that He will answer ASAP. He has a plan. He can do all things. I have only to obey His commandments the best I can and use my talents to serve the Kingdom. The rest will be taken care of because His grace is abundant. His mercy will endure forever. His love is beyond limits and the best of all: He is here with us… He is alive, soo alive…
November 17. The life of John Paul II was shown in EWTN. I have seen this movie several times and like the Passion of Christ, I always end up learning something else. The horror that the Polish people suffered when he was a young man and Poland had been invaded by Hitler and later by Russia, is simply hard to describe. But God was busy forming a future Pope, one who helped bring down Communism. They were surrounded by madness and evil was almost impossible to watch via a TV screen. Now we see this in Africa. And two thousand years ago we saw it in Rome with the destruction of Christians by lions… And in the midst of this horror in Poland, God gave us two champions of His mercy: St. Faustina and future St. John Paul II the Great! And I wondered then if they came to infiltrate our hearts with the hope of God’s mercy for these moments in the history of humanity.
November 18. After Communion I understood that doubting God’s love and mercy leads to loss of hope. Loss of hope leads to indifference. Indifference leads in time to emptiness and the latter leads to despair. One thing that we can do is to give witness of how alive God and His mercy are among us (obviously by following the plan He left us), and this will give us and others encouragement which in turn will give us hope. Hope will increase our faith and both will promote love of God and neighbor. This is a way to fight the spiritual battle. No matter how I looked at the present moment, it all ended with my personal change of heart, my own conversion, my living the Gospel moment by moment without counting the cost, as St. Ignatius of Loyola prayed.
November 19. . On this day I downloaded the Encyclical on Hope of 2007. I did not want to read these 42 pages earlier, trying to be opened to the personal Holy Spirit’s teaching. After this, I checked the Catechism for the topic of hope. I was amazed at how much wisdom we already have at our finger tips!
November 20. I understood one more time that doubt is a silent killer that eventually will reject the grace of faith through the loss of hope. I was led to find out how I end up doubting. I doubt in His love and mercy for me,
1) When I pray and ask for changes of His will in my life.
2) When I ask for whatever I need but with desperation
3) When I spend time telling God what would be best for me or others.
4) When I experience fear for what it is to come
November 23. It was a wonderful day, all day… The feast of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro always gives me so much hope… Before I went to noon Mass, I saw Mother Angelica talking in 1986 with Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. Father Aumann was a spiritual director to me in 1985, the year that I had to stay home after a major and first professional persecution. I was led to his audio tapes on Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, the contemplative life, etc. and never forgot his voice, ever… I still have those audio cassette tapes… I used to hear them when traveling for temporary distant jobs… even after my second major professional persecution. In 2005, I was working in Tiffin, OH for a month. I found one parish with a Dominican pastor. At the same time, EWTN was showing many programs from Dominican priests from this area of Oakland… I felt called to become a Third Order Dominican. The Dominican Order is very prevalent in my home country as well, and as a child, I remember that every day at 6 AM, a Dominican priest and some parishioners would process for some blocks including mine, saying the Rosary out loud! Huh! It took me some time to find a Third Order near Toledo but I did in southern Michigan. I sent an email and nothing happened. In 2009 and already here in the West Coast I received the answer from the woman who headed the group… I smiled. It was not meant to be!
Well, Fr. Aumann had a great conversation with Mother Angelica and I learned much about the Dominican Order compared to other major Orders. But after coming back from noon Mass, I saw LIVE the end of the Mass of installation of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia Siller in San Antonio, TX. The man looked jubilant, holy, charismatic and he was Mexican… But what sent me through the roof was to find out that he belongs to the Order of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit… founded by French Fr. Felix de Jesus Rougier, a priest who worked in Mexico with Servant of God, Conchita Cabrera de Armida, my great friend for many years. The Archbishop Garcia Siller gave me so much hope… He processed last at the end of the Mass, and while waiting for many Deacons, Priests and Bishops with a couple of Cardinals to go first, He sang “Viva Cristo Rey,” just as Blessed Miguel Pro shouted when killed at age 36! He looked joyful but it seemed not a happiness of this world (for being now an Archbishop), but a happiness of the soul who is excited about the Crucified. I had to watch the whole Mass when it repeated later.
I went to the Internet and found a homily he delivered in Medjugorje in 2009 at the parish of St. James. It talks about our duty not to privatize our faith but to pass it on in the power of the Holy Spirit…! I have placed the entire homily in the section of “pages” for you to read if interested. Look it under his name, Gustavo Garcia Siller. But here is just a little part of this homily:
“And it is true as we are here in this place everything is so conducive for us to connect to the Spirit of God, to experience His presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the One who suffered, died and is risen. It is so conducive, and especially with the beautiful presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first disciple of Christ—the first, the first disciple of Christ. So it’s very easy, but sometimes it’s so hard to see and to recognize that the Spirit of the Lord is working all over and in many people in the world. So the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord has won! Has won us salvation.”
November 25. Thanksgiving Day. Part of my family had this celebration in Omaha, but I stayed home since my health is so much better but not ready for holiday travel via airplanes… and this decision was made much before the “pat down” controversy at the airports. In fact, I had to wait for my son to come back to post this blog! I went to 10 AM Mass and was called to offer the Mass for myself… I went to thank God for all the miracles of this year… One of them was to diagnose my illness which is being conquered with oral detoxification; the other one, the biggy one, was to thank Him because my memory is almost all recuperated, also with detoxification. Proper names in Spanish surface all the time with ease. I remember even slang words. There is no question that I found a way to recover my memory… Yet, I understood that thanksgiving was not to be just words, but actions, and I was reminded that I still doubt His will for me; for example, my reticence about writing blogs… And so, I was asked to offer the Mass so that I could truly become more surrendered, knowing very well that when it is time to quit writing, He will tell me and big time!
I was asked, plain and simply to quit doubting! Many things have been hinted to me since 1985 regarding the proclamation of His mercy to the whole world. I have doubted all along that I could really accomplish any of the things to be done. Most of the time I assumed that I was confused, or simply a simpleton who did not know what it takes to make such an announcement but with power! The very sad part of this is that I never recognized that for Him nothing is impossible. In fact, often I hear this counsel: “It does not matter what you end up doing; what matters is that you believe that it can be done through God’s mercy.” Ouch! So, it is evident that I have been persecuted over and over and most likely to purify this hard head of mine because I have been showing zero hope in the power of His Death on a Cross, Resurrection and brutal love shown to me through them… And Moses, Thomas the Apostle and Pope St. Peter were there all along hinting to me how close one can feel His Presence, and yet, fail miserably at the task of believing in His love for us.
IV. Present sources for personal hope
I have cited many instances of events and persons who gave me hope in a new way, now that I understood the mighty importance of living this virtue. But I must take time and place it in a special section, the events that give me the most hope.
1. What gives me the most hope is to enter Church and feeling His Presence. And how do I know this? Because this feeling is unique, is consistent, is spectacular, and because He promised me that He would never leave me… It is simply a huge attraction to be in His Presence. I never try to understand it because “it is” and I know it… And this knowledge becomes joy, peace, happiness, faith, hope and so much love to give Him back.
2. It also gives me hope to understand that when I pray to Him, when I adore Him, when I praise Him, I know so well that He likes it… We relate to each other. He is real and alive. It is not a statement of faith that the Catholic Church invented. He invented it and saw to it to leave a Church that could keep up His Presence among us.
3. But the source of hope is not just the present moment with His Presence. I get much hope when I see that He never left me. He was there in moments of tremendous pain and persecution, and that I never turned around and missed Him. He has raised my sons and saved my spouse with tremendous signs and wonders!
Conclusion. It has helped me so much to identify the ways that He graced me with hope in His love and mercy through all my years on this earth. I never thought that I was living the virtue of hope because I did not even know this virtue’s value and power. Mea culpa! I must say that a fruit of writing these blogs has been to enter into these mysteries, like the grace of understanding this living in hope because of His love.
May you have a wonderful blessed Christmas. I found this Litany to the Infant Jesus from Lackawanna, NY and as a mentioned before. Since we will be celebrating Him as a little infant boy, I felt called to share it with you.
Litany of the Infant Jesus
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Infant Jesus, hear us,
Infant Jesus, graciously hear us.
(Respond to the following with “Have mercy on us.”)
God the Father of heaven,
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, One God,
Infant, Son of the living God,
Infant, Son of the Virgin Mary,
Infant, begotten before the morning star,
Infant, Word made flesh,
Infant, Wisdom of thy Father,
Infant, Purity of thy Mother,
Infant, only Son of thy Father,
Infant, first born of thy Mother,
Infant, Image of thy Father,
Infant, Creator of thy Mother,
Infant, splendor of thy Father,
Infant, honor of thy Mother,
Infant, equal to thy Father,
Infant, joy of thy Father,
Infant, riches of thy Mother,
Infant, gift of thy Father,
Infant, stem of the Patriarchs,
Infant, Word of the Prophets,
Infant, expectation of Nations,
Infant, joy of the Shepherds,
Infant, Light of the Magi,
Infant, Hope of the just,
Infant, Teacher of Doctors,
Infant, Creator of man,
Infant, power of God,
Infant, perfect from thy Conception,
Infant, giving life and nourishing the world,
Infant, terror of hell,
Infant, joy of Paradise,
Infant, desired by the Magi,
Infant, exiled from thy people,
Infant, King in exile,
Infant, destroyer of idols,
Infant, strong in weakness,
Infant, treasure of Grace,
Infant, fountain of Love,
Infant, Author of blessings of heaven.
Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Infant Jesus.
Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O infant Jesus
Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, O infant Jesus.
Let us pray: Lord God, we praise You for creating man, and still more for restoring Him in Christ. Your Son shared our weakness: may we share His glory, for He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.