Hope is a virtue that is so powerful and pure. But like love, hope has become warped into something much smaller.
This fruit of the Spirit that has been gifted to us for life-changing prayer and encounters has become a synonym for “want”—and in a really basic way. For instance, “I hope we have sandwiches for lunch today.”
Obviously, I am not pointing any fingers. I’m constantly hoping for sandwiches for lunch.
But what I believe in part set the saints apart from the average faithful was their fundamental understanding and treatment of the virtues as virtue.
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” (Saint Padre Pio)
Padre Pio issues what may seem to be the simplest form of this virtue. However, this instruction is actually a fairly big ask. Consider what an enormous task it is to pray. In prayer, we must rend our hearts, truly open ourselves up to hear the Lord answer us, and make a time and space to do both of those things.
We can’t say prayer is easy because it isn’t!
It takes intention and grace to be able to pray.
Now, consider how hard it is to “not worry” as Padre Pio writes. Such a small direction actually holds nearly impossible ramifications. How are we to not worry, when we are surrounded by frightening things, evil people, a mysterious future, and so much we cannot control? Another way we might say “don’t worry” is to say instead, “Trust.”
Here are these two heavy directives from Padre Pio: Pray. Trust.
Padre Pio lumps “hope” in there, too. Let this be a testament to how powerful this virtue is meant to be. Padre Pio gives it the same importance as prayer and trust, two of the most challenging actions we’re called to as Christians. We can take from this, then, the assumption that hope, like prayer and trust, has the strength and grace from Heaven to transform a heart, change a life, reset a path, and impact the world.
If you needed proof that hope is about more than wishing for a bit of temporary joy in this world, look no further.
“Faith lifts the soul. Hope supports it. Experience says it must. And Love says let it be!” (Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton)
We know that hope is important now. We’ve established that. But what role does it play in our spiritual development?
Elizabeth Ann Seton addresses this beautifully. She shows us exactly where this virtue falls in our journey towards holiness.
It’s the job of hope to support the soul. What an incredible feat! Hope acts as the support beams that allow us to stay strong in our other virtues.
Elizabeth tells us that hope is the foundation. Hope is what we can hold onto when our faith seems shaky. If events of our lives make us weary of believing that God has our best interest in store, our faith may waiver. But it won’t fall because even when we aren’t sure (faith), we can hope that the Lord does. Because we know he loves us.
Hope will hold us up.
“God wishes us not to rest upon anything but His infinite goodness; do not let us expect anything, hope anything, or desire anything but from Him, and let us put our trust and confidence in Him alone.” (Saint Charles Borromeo)
When we’re talking about hope, we also have to talk about what the virtue is not. Hope is not a reckless means of carving our own paths, regardless of our call. One of the greatest trials we face in faith is transposing ‘hope’ and ‘request.’
It’s easy to say, “I hope that God will provide me a spouse in the next year!” But that’s not the function of this virtue, and therefore when it doesn’t happen, we consider our hope lost and our voices unheard.
The truth is that hope is far more powerful than a request. It’s the driving force that propels us forward towards what God has already carved out for us!
Here’s the most beautiful truth you’ll read this week: we don’t need to know what we’re hoping for.
Our hope doesn’t determine our future. Our hope gives us confidence that our future exists and provides a map of how to get there.
“To lovers of the truth, nothing can be put before God and hope in Him.” (Saint Basil)
To be a lover of truth means to stand strong against lies. Our world is packed full of lies.
Lies about how to find love, be loved, give love. Lies about identity and the self. About where we come from, what matters most while we’re here, and where we go when we die.
But for us, the lovers of truth, we don’t need to pay any mind to those fleeting earthly threats to our truth. Because we have hope in God. Regardless of the weight of lies burdening our hearts and our world, the strength we have to continue on comes from the power of hope.
It is hope in God that whispers in our ear that we are made for more, are destined for more, are pursuing more. With the power of that virtue, we press on.
“[H]ope produces in the Saints an unutterable peace, which they preserve even in adversity, because as they love God, and know how beautiful He is to those who love Him, they place all their confidence and find all their repose in Him alone.”(Saint Alphonsus Liguori)
Hope is the caveat by which we are able to cultivate other graces. It opens our eyes and our hearts in a way that logic and earthly emotions never could. It’s part of the message written on our hearts that guides us when everything seems difficult.
It’s from this virtue that we can, like the saints, find peace. Because if we have the stability and importance of hope that were promised by Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Padre Pio, we can defy any adversity! That’s what St. Alphonsus is saying here. To know God is to love him. When we love him, we hope in him. To hope in him is to know that regardless of what comes, we have peace secured.
As you move through your week, remember what it means to cling to hope, in prayer, in life and in the pursuit of our futures.