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The Christophers: Hope Allows Us to Cope with Troubles


Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.

 

Vaclav Havel, a playwright who became the President of the Czech Republic after the fall of the Berlin Wall, once said, “Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

Havel’s insight came from his experiences as a member of a people moving from oppression under the communist dictatorship of the Soviet Union to freedom and self-governance. It’s the type of insight that comes from keeping hope alive, even when circumstance and the cold calculations of logic would give cause for despair.

Our Christopher News Note Hold on to Hope shares the triumphs of people throughout history who have exercised hope in the face of overwhelming odds, such as Abraham Lincoln, who was defeated nine times in political elections before persevering to become president and helping bring an end to slavery.

The Christophers’ founder, Father James Keller, M.M., wrote a meditation on hope, which opens with the line, “Hope looks for the good in people, instead of harping on the worst.” It’s a simple sentiment that points to a way of seeing the world with the eyes of Christ. We are all God’s children, and we are made with goodness in our hearts. Sometimes people lose track of the good that is within them, but hope inspires us to appeal to everyone’s better nature and to constantly call them back to the goodness that God has placed within their hearts.

Father Keller’s meditation ends with the line, “Hope is a good loser because it has the divine assurance of final victory.” This is not to diminish the pain of human loss, but it reminds us that hope enables people to cope with loss and to keep going, even amid the worst tragedies.

Our Christopher writer Garan Santicola recently opened a column for Catholic New York newspaper with a description of a painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, writing, “Upon entering The Met’s Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents exhibit, one glimpse, on a far wall in a gallery towards the back of the exhibit, Homer’s 1899 painting The Gulf Stream, which depicts an African American man sprawled across the deck of a tiny sloop, adrift amid a choppy sea. His rudder and mast are broken, and the sail hangs off the edge of his boat, dragging in the water. Sharks circle while a storm brews on the horizon, and a large clipper, seen faintly in the distance, seems to pass him by.”

Mr. Santicola concludes by writing, “Leaning up on one elbow and gazing into the distance, away from the storm and the sharks and the distant clipper on the horizon, he is undefeated at least in spirit. The clipper may pass him by, and the sharks and the storm may finish him off, yet somewhere from within his being is conveyed the most resilient form of hope.”

The hope Santicola describes is not dependent on outcomes. The man in the painting seems to face imminent death, yet he chooses not to focus on the abyss before him. Instead, he looks up and out with an undefeated spirit, clinging to the spark of life within him that can never be taken away. When we are beset by the worst types of troubles in this world, hope is the one thing that can awaken this spark of life that comes from God and can never be defeated.

 

For a free copy of The Christophers’ HOLD ON TO HOPE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org


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