Sure and Certain Hope
CONTRIBUTOR: Jeff Hausman is the Founder & President of Arrupe Virtual
Of all of the prose used in rituals of the Catholic Church, I find the most beautiful to be a simple statement the priest utters near the end of the funeral Mass regarding the promise of eternal life - sure and certain hope. For me, this paradoxical line sums up well the imperfect journey we are all on.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of hope is "to cherish a desire with anticipation." A hope is not the same as a wish, the difference being the concept of anticipation. We all wish we would win the lottery, but very few of us anticipate it actually happening. When we buy a ticket, we don’t expect to wake up the next morning a millionaire. With hope, however, there is a sense that by continuing to walk down a given path, the desired outcome will eventually be realized. Hope has the capacity to get us out of bed in the morning.
Despair is the absence of hope, and it is easy to see how the pandemic has caused desperation in certain areas of our lives. Most troubling, however, is when this becomes our default orientation - what writer Albert Camus referred to as the habit of despair. My worry is that a number of people, particularly teens, might find themselves on the precipice of habitual despair. Many adults have suffered great loss during this time, however, our life experience provides us the tools to cope, and most can identify at least one area of our lives where hope remains. Most teens are not yet equipped with a full set of coping skills. In addition, during this important age marked by self discovery, relationships, and growing independence, teens have instead been tethered to home, parents, and boredom. For many teens, life as they desire to know it has ended. This is a real and substantial loss. They feel cheated.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will note that I write about hope a great deal. I do so because I believe hope underpins all right-minded pursuits and it fuels perseverance and grit. I also believe it is the currency of Catholic education.
Our Catholic faith animates the work of our schools. We start from the position that Christ succeeded in redeeming the world and thus hope exists eternally in spite of our brokenness. Our actions, then, are not oriented simply on helping students master subject matter, but towards accompanying students as they struggle to find meaning. No Catholic high school student can make it to graduation without confronting their faith life and relationship with Christ. And it is our faith that puts the “sure and certain” in our hope.
This year has been particularly hard for all teens and their families. Schools have struggled too. Still, I believe that when the dust settles, despite numerous missteps, we will see that Catholic schools have shined. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl described despair using the mathematical expression D = S - M; Despair = Suffering absent Meaning. Catholic schools are meeting our students and families in their suffering, and we are doing what we do best - providing meaning.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Spe Salvi, “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.” Have faith, then. Persevere a bit longer. Lean into hope, no matter how hard that may be. And keep walking down the path of hope because the promise of Easter will be here soon.
vol 3 issue 8