Were there to be no support in the whole history of ethical and moral thought, were there no acknowledged confirmation from medical science, were the history of legal opinion to the contrary, we would still have to conclude on the basis of God's Holy Word that the unborn child is a person in the sight of God. He is protected by the sanctity of life graciously given to each individual by the Creator, Who alone places His image upon man and grants them any right to life which they have.
I'm in Nashville this weekend to meet some supportersof
HLI and give a brief presentation for the Trail Life USA convention. I
accompanied HLI board chairman Stuart Nolan, Jr., who also serves on
the Trail Life board and directs the local troop in our hometown of
Front Royal, Virginia. Richard Mathews, an HLI board member who also
serves as general counsel to Trail Life, also joined us in Nashville.
The comradery is strong with this young organization, which was started
by concerned Christian leaders in response to the moral collapse of
the Boy Scouts of America. I recommend checking out Trail Life USA if
you haven't already-they are building something very important for our
boys and our society.
hope is ultimately only in Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the second Person
of the Holy Trinity, the One through whom all things were made. Those
who serve him faithfully come to embody this hope, and share it with
the world, which is why it is good to see efforts like Trail Life USA
start to bear fruit. Many other small-and not so small-efforts have
been blessed and are bearing fruit precisely to the extent that they
remain faithful and speak the truth boldly and in love.
the last few weeks I have shared about how some of HLI's efforts in
Africa are doing the same, for which we are grateful. As with our
partners in Latin America, Asia and Oceania, and Europe, there are
glimmers of hope for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
is why, even considering the huge advances of the Culture of Death
inside and outside the Church, I do not despair. I can't. Neither can
you. It isn't up to us, as it involves an intentional abandonment of the
virtue of hope, and even of faith. It is the sin of Judas, who, struck
with the gravity of his betrayal of Christ, could not avail himself of
God's mercy and ended up taking his own life. New Advent's Catholic
Encyclopedia has an excellent and brief entry on despair, including a striking reminder of some of its potential consequences should one fall into its embrace:
The sin of despair may sometimes, although not necessarily, contain the added malice of heresy in so far as it implies an assent to a proposition which is against faith, e.g. that God has no mind to supply us with what is needful for salvation.
is different than downheartedness or sadness, both of which are very
human emotions and legitimate responses to a host of personal or social
problems. There is something wrong with the person who is not sad at
hearing of the suffering or death of a loved one; or of hearing yet
another Catholic politician embrace evil and lead others into scandal.
Anger is another legitimate response to such problems.
But just as we cannot let legitimate anger harden into hatred, we cannot let sadness harden into despair.
I don't think I will ever tire of pointing people to Pope Benedict's great encyclical, Spe Salvi.
Again and again I return to it to meditate on some of the most
beautiful and profound Magisterial writing on hope that the Church has
Pope Benedict built his letter to all of us on the fact that true hope is inseparable from--indeed, is the same as--faith:
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."
the Holy Father recalled, the reason that such saints as Augustine and
Josephine Bakhita radiated a joyful hope wasn't because they did not
understand evil. From their own experiences, they knew the evil of
humanity too well. We look at the redemptive arc of their lives with
gratitude and consolation in our hard times, but we can't forget that
at many points as they were living their own lives, they did not see
earthly reasons for hope. They responded with fidelity and gave
themselves in radical love to Our Lord, and saw more clearly than most
of us the fruits of His gift of salvation to us.
said in this column many times that I when I travel the most common
question I hear-from laity, seminarians, and priests alike-is How do we
endure when society is collapsing before our eyes, and when it seems
at times that the Church is standing by indifferently? I understand the
doubts, and share the disappointments. I get this.
answer is always in our faith in Christ Jesus, who died and rose for
our sins, and who offers salvation to all who love and follow Him.
Remember that we are also the Church! Even if we see her problems, we
cannot let the problems define her, or us.
is your faith? That is where your hope is! We don't have to deny the
reality of the problems to acknowledge the reality that Our Lord is
bigger than any of them. He doesn't withhold his mercy because we've
sinned, he makes it available to all who would receive it-that is all
who turn to Him with a contrite heart, seek forgiveness, and resolve to
amend their lives. Thank God for the gifts of the Sacraments of
Confession and the Holy Eucharist. He gives us all we need at any
time-His love is overflowing. To despair is to lose faith and hope in
the love and mercy of God our Father.
have an active role to play in this. We don't just say "yes" to God's
love and mercy and stay stuck in our ways. We let His love transform
our lives. Our receiving of His gifts of faith, hope, and love takes
the form of our efforts, strengthened by Christ in His Word and the
Eucharist, to share this hope with the world. It is an act that we
participate in with God Himself, with the Church militant and
triumphant. As Pope Benedict says, real hope has a "performative"
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.
If you look around and cannot muster this kind of hope, don't despair.
Make room in your life today to return to the sacraments, to deepen
your prayer life. Ask God for the virtues of faith, hope, and love.
These are virtues that inform action, not emotions that passive was
over us. Get your prayer life in order today and get to work. Ask for
the gifts you don't already have, and receive these gifts by letting
them transform your life to one of joyful action and witness to the
Love that moves heaven and earth.
is what hope looks like. Give everyone who sees you the gift of seeing
a life lived in true hope, the gift of God, in trust of his complete
goodness. Rejoice when you see faithful Christians giving witness to
this hope as well, for Our Lord is alive in all who love and follow