As a Catholic, it is easy to get discouraged by the constant stream of bad news — scandals, priest shortages, churches closing, and people drifting away to other faiths or even atheism. Yet we know how it will all end up! Jesus Himself told us, “… on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) He also assured us that “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) So why should we get discouraged? Have we forgotten that despair is a sin against hope, one of the three cardinal virtues?
The Catechism defines Hope as “the confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God; it is also the fear of offending God’s love and of incurring punishment.” (CCC 2090) When we wallow in despair, we doubt God. Despair and discouragement invites a focus on the negative, while hope seeks out the positive and the good.
I have been in a unique position to observe the positive and the good in our nation and our faith because my family and I spent the last four years traveling throughout the country in an RV. I have visited Catholic churches from California to New York, and from Texas to Wisconsin. I have met people from many different faiths, races and walks of life. The vast majority are genuinely good-hearted folks, and I am continually amazed by the proverbial kindness of strangers. People we barely knew loaned us their cars, opened their homes, cooked us meals and brought gifts to our children. Complete strangers helped us find our way when we were lost, even when we didn’t ask for help.
Many Catholic churches throughout America are overflowing, and we frequently had a tough time finding a parking spot on Sundays. No matter where we stayed, I could always find a church within 10 miles of our location. Lines for the Confessional wrap around the walls of chapels, and perpetual adoration is becoming increasingly common, as are Latin Masses. The families in the pews are bigger than ever with four, five or even more children increasingly common.
I have seen Priests of all ages inspiring their congregations to pray, practice charity and increase their faith. Many a Priest has passed me by, looked directly into my eyes and humbly implored, “Pray for me!”
Our faith is alive and well! Since we are human, mistakes will be made, sins will be committed, scandals will erupt, and Satan will continue to plan and execute attacks, but we know how it will end. We must continue to pray, study and act, but we must do so in the light of hope and not in the darkness of despair.