The most well-known Theological Virtues are FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY. I have seen these three words everywhere from T-shirts to necklaces, bracelets, and even graffitied on a bathroom wall. It seems like these three words speak a universal language beyond religion, nationality, or political belief. Many times, these words are misused and are romanticised to an extent that they lose their true meaning.
If you are Maltese you probably know that on 10th June 1940 when Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini joined Adolf Hitler and entered into war with Briton and France, one of his first acts of war was to attack Malta. In fact, it is well known that the next day 11th June 1940, at 7:00 am, ten high-level bombers escorted by fighters bombed Valletta and the Grand Harbour. This was the first of eight raids during that first day. It is also said that on that day Malta only had three ancient Gladiator planes to protect her skies. They were known affectionately as Faith, Hope, and Charity. It is said that one was lost during that first raid and whatever its original name, it was decreed that it should be Charity, for it was said, “Malta never lost Hope or Faith in the final victory.”
…these three words speak a universal language beyond religion, nationality, or political belief.
But what does Hope truly mean, and why is it a Theological virtue? The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “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.”(1) And that “the virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man”.(2) In other words, by hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it. Christian hope means that in every circumstance, each one of us should have faith, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.”
The virtue of Hope reminds us that nothing of this world will bring perfect happiness. Also, hope reminds us that when we are afflicted by tragedy in this earthly life, and feel that it is impossible to carry on, hope, which is faith for the future, lifts our eyes, hearts and minds to the “glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will”.(3) Hope helps us focus on the promises of God, even if the situation may seem unbearable, so we can always hope in what God promised His people. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for faith in the finished work of Jesus and the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. That is how in hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.”
Benedict the 16th says “To come to know God-the true God-means to receive hope.”(4) He emphasises the fact that before meeting God we are lost and it is through this meeting God that gives us true hope. He goes on to give practical advice and says: “Young people can have the hope of a great and fully satisfying love; the hope of a certain position in their profession, or of some success that will prove decisive for the rest of their lives. When these hopes are fulfilled, however, it becomes clear that they were not, in reality, the whole. It becomes evident that man has need of a hope that goes further. It becomes clear that only something infinite will suffice for him, something that will always be more than he can ever attain. In this regard our contemporary age has developed the hope of creating a perfect world that, thanks to scientific knowledge and to scientifically based politics, seemed to be achievable. Thus, Biblical hope in the Kingdom of God has been displaced by hope in the kingdom of man, the hope of a better world which would be the real “Kingdom of God”. This seemed at last to be the great and realistic hope that man needs… we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain.”(5)
That is how in hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.”
Therefore, in conclusion we have seen that true Hope is found in faith in God, and in awaiting and believing the fulfillment of His promises. Not to lose Hope is to believe, even when things get tough, even when the situation is unbearable. Hope remains, and this because it is a gift, a gift that is given in relationship with God.
“Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.”(6)
1-6: CCC 1817, CCC 1818, CCC 1821; Spe Salvi, 3, Spe Salvi, 30-31; St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3