December 13th—the Feast Day of St. Lucy, I stood aside a grave of another unborn child. It is unnatural for a father to bury his child. Standing in a cemetery after the funeral Mass for your miscarried child is truly a surreal and somber experience. When humans encounter death—especially the loss of a family member or close friend—the virtue of hope oftentimes becomes the only stable force in a person’s life.
Theological Hope is Unique
Secular society hijacked the word hope to refer a sort of false optimism. Such chimeric hope is not what theological hope is grounded in. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
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 (CCC 1817).
The virtue of hope is not dependent on the power of man. Instead, it involves a leap of faith. Hope involves trusting in God’s Providence through the power of the Holy Spirit, to carry us to shore during the storms of our lives.
Hopelessness is not the end when we experience loss, suffering, or desolation. This sentiment only leads to despair. Rather, the aim of this article is to demonstrate that Catholics should ask for the virtue of hope in all life events, especially in the valleys of suffering and tumult.
Suffering is Unavoidable
Sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. This statement is Catholic Bible Studies 101. What I find interesting is that I often find the need to continually remind myself of this basic truth.
As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence (CCC 418).
Over the past year, the United States faced a lot of suffering, in particular under the form of natural disaster—i.e. Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Harvey, and the lethal California wildfires. Suffering is part of this reality of life.
People try to flee suffering. Running away from pain and loss is not an answer. It masks and hides the solution. The Agony in the Garden provides a good example of how Jesus Christ dealt with his looming torture and death on the Cross. According to the Gospels, the Son of God felt the full gamut of human emotions as one near death. Jesus asked God in Mark 14:18 if he would be able to forego the test by saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” It is natural for mankind to want to evade pain and suffering. The difference with Jesus is that he remained obedient to the Father’s providential plan of salvation.
Trust in the Lord
Trust is difficult to forge amid struggling times, but through periods of desolation hope and trust in God is confirmed and glorified. Only on the other side of suffering is a person able to recognize this truth. Jesus constantly reminds us, “Do not be afraid”. Matthew 6:25 mentions Jesus urging his followers to not be anxious,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”
St. Maria Faustina became a model for the 20th and 21st centuries on trusting in the Lord at all times. Her mystical encounters with Christ birthed arguably the most recognizable devotion in the Church today—the Divine Mercy image including the phrase: Jesus, I Trust in You.
Jesus graced the Polish sister with this message,
“Your duty is to trust entirely in My Mercy, My duty is to give you all that you need. I am making Myself dependent upon your trust: if your trust is great, then My generosity will be without limit” (Diary 548).
Suffering narrows our field of vision. Blinders go up. The larger picture is lost. Trusting in the Lord is both a frightening and exhilarating experience. Sister Faustina reminded the world of the timeless truth—forgotten in the modern world—that trust in God overcomes all obstacles the Enemy puts in humanity’s path.
Going back to my family’s loss of our unborn child, St. Faustina played an important role in healing the wounds of loss and desolation. We named our unborn daughter Lucia Faustina after St. Lucy (whose feast day the Church celebrated on the same day as her funeral—coincidence, I think not!) and St. Faustina. Trust in the Lord will be a significant theme in our household over the course of the next few months. Placing hope in God’s Providential should be the main goal for all Catholics [and really anyone] suffering in any way, shape, or form.