St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Theological Virtue of Hope
grace of the Holy Spirit. 'Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful' (Heb. 10:23). 'The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life'" (Titus 3:6-7; CCC 1817).
"The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity" (CCC 1818).
St. Maximilian Kolbe provides us with a portrait of the theological virtue of hope. In his life, we see not only the external, human manifestations of the virtue of hope, but also learn not to embrace those capitol errors so common in the present age: the unawareness of or disbelief in God's immanent presence; doubt of God's all inclusive plan of divine love; the apparent inability to trust in God's help; and the growing uncertainty that God intervenes in human history and in the daily lives of his children.
The Circumstances and Events in Life Cannot Be Mere Coincidence
Further, the example of St. Maximilian's life teaches us not to fall prey to the temptation of thinking life's tragedies are somehow entirely random coincidences, outside of Providence, which cannot possibly in any way be linked to our destiny of eternal happiness in God. For the Christian, nothing in life is merely a fluke. Even the very worst of circumstances, such as the horrors found in the death camp of Auschwitz, can ultimately be the very path toward permanent, supernaturally infused bliss and the unending reception of divine love, provided we open our hearts in hope to God and make every effort to live according to his will.
"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Rom. 8:28-30).
St. Teresa of Avila wrote, "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" (qtd. from CCC 1821).
Nearly all of us, at some point or other, realize that we are not in complete control. We may find ourselves, one day, suddenly immersed in some unsolvable tragedy or circumstance for which it seems there can come no good end. Caught up in the situation, all our efforts often become concentrated on attempting to extricate ourselves from whatever seems opposed to our immediate, temporal happiness, while in the process we lose sight of the eternal landscape that lay on the horizon. We can begin to misunderstand our purpose, and overlook the connection between the reality of our life and its events and God's providence. It is not unlike walking along a path while our gaze remains stubbornly riveted at our feet: our eyes fail to raise upon the rich meadows at our side and the magnificent sunrise that lay beyond. Unnoticed is the sky and the heavens above, infused with an astounding light reflecting the divine Other, whose unceasing whisper beckons us to direct our earthly pilgrimage toward the shores of an unseen yet tranquil, lasting home where the "night shall be no more" (Rev. 22:5).
Christ crucified beckons us to see in hope the "now" and beyond it into eternity. In doing so, aided by the Spirit and thus empowered to live in a new, even astonishing, recreated and transformed way, we join our voices confidently and with conviction to St. Maximilian Kolbe's: "I wish to die for that man."
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: St. Maximilian Kolbe, Fr. Kolbe, hope, theological virtues, theological virtue of hope, virtue of hope, trust in Christ, F. K. Bartels
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