General Audiences - Wednesday, September 20th, 1978
TEOLOGAL VIRTUE OF HOPE
For Pope John, the 'second lamp of sanctification' was hope. Today, I am going to talk you about this virtue, that is compulsory for all Christians.
Dante Alighieri, in his Paradise (songs 24, 25 and 26), has imagined to appear in front of a test of Christianity. There was a magnificent court. 'Have you faith?', St. Peter asked him, at first. 'Have you hope?', St. Jacob continued. 'Have you charity?', St. John ended. 'Yes' – he said - I have faith, hope and charity'. He has demonstrated it and passed the test with the highest qualification.
Abraham' s testimony
Hope: a necessary virtue, too. Compulsory: but not for that reason is unpleasant. Still more, who has hope is travelling in a climate of confidence and abandonment in God, as when one is reading the psalmists: 'Lord - it is said with the psalmist -, You are my rock, my shield, my strength, my refuge, my lamp, my shepherd, my salvation. Even when a whole army was camped against me, my heart will not fear and if the battle rises against me, then my confidence will not be diminished'.
Perhaps you will say: But this psalmist, is not he being exaggeratedly enthusiastic? Is it possible that all the things have always been going well for him? No, they have not always been going well for him. He knows and he says it, that in this world the bad ones are often lucky and the good ones oppressed. And he complains about this with the Lord. He even says: 'Why are You sleeping, oh Lord? Why do You shut up? Wake up, Lord. Listen to me, Lord!'. But hope remains: steady and unshakeable. To him and to all those who are waiting, it is possible to apply what St. Paul said about Abraham: 'He has believed waiting against all hope' (ROM. 4, 18).
It is Him, the Lord, who lights in us this confidence and who is making you go ahead in life. One asks: How can this happen? It happens because we hold tight to three truths: God is Almighty, God loves me immensely, God is faithful to His promises. Then, this confidence lit by God of mercy; I do not feel alone, neither useless, nor abandoned, but I feel involved in a salvation destiny, that will end one day in Paradise with the Lord' s help.
The example of the Saints
I have talked about Psalms. The same sureness also vibrates in speeches, in the Saint' s books. I would like you can read a homily preached by St. Augustine at Hippone one day of Easter. He explains the Aleluya. The true Aleluya -- he says more or less -- we will sing it in Paradise because we will say it with a heart full of love. Here, the Aleluya we sing is the Aleluya of the hungry love. That is what is hope for Augustine: hunger of God' s love.
Someone can say: But, if I am a poor sinner? If I have so many sins? I will answer him as I have answered many years ago to an unknown lady who came to confess with me. She was discouraged, because – she said -- 'I had had a morally stormy life at my back'. 'May I ask you, madam -- I have told her -- how old are you?' - 'Thirty five years old' - 'Thirty five! But you can still live aother forty or fifty years and still make a lot of good things, madam. Then, regretful as you are, instead of thinking about the past, think about the future and change your life with God' s help. You will see'. And, in that occasion, I mentioned St. Francis of Sales, who speaks about 'our dear imperfections'. Imperfections, but dear. And I explained: 'Listen, madam, God detests faults, because they are faults. But, on the other hand, He loves, in a certain sense, our faults because they are an occasion for Him to show His mercy and for us to keep down, to keep humble, to understand and to have pity of the others faults.
The lessons of the Council
You see that the Pope is enthusiastic and feels so much sympathy for this virtue of hope. I know that not all are agree with me. Nietzsche, German, is not agree. For him, hope is the 'the virtue of the weak'; and it would make of Christians as useless beings, irresolute, uncertain, lonely, people that resign to fight in favour of social progress. Others speak about 'alienation', that prevents the contribution of Christians from the human being promotion. But the Council doesn' t think the same. It said: 'The Christian message, not only is not exempting Christians from building a better world, but it is still obliging them with a more severe determination' ( Gaudium et spes nr. 34, cf. nr. 39 and 57, as well as the Message to the world of the Council Fathers, October 20th, 1962). It is right. We are still more obliged than the others to be determined in this.
I also know that, in the past, in the course of history, there were situations, affirmations of Christians, of Catholics too much pessimistic regarding man. But such affirmations have been disapproved by the Church and forgotten thanks to a big group of glad and active Saints. Think about Don Bosco... It was written a book titled 'Don Bosco who laughs'. About St. Alphonse Mary of Ligouri, another book titled 'Monsignor has fun'. This pessimism was forgotten thanks to a Christian Humanism, to a group of ascetics writers to whom the French Saint-Beuve could called them 'les doux' (the sweet), especially thanks to a comprehensive theology. St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, includes between the virtues the iucunditas, that is: it makes that the Christian can take occasion of what he is seeing, of what he is feeling, to be glad, to smile gladly (cf. II-II, q. 168 to 2). When I taught at school, I told my boys: 'He was glad that Irish bricklayer, who fell down from the second floor of the scaffold. He broke his legs. Lead to the hospital, the doctor and the religious nurse came. 'Poor you -- said the Nun – have you hurt yourself while falling down?' 'No, Mother, not rightly while falling down but arriving to land, I was hurt'. It is a great virtue to take profit from the legs to smile and to make the others smile. St. Thomas, and all the Theology, taking the smiling, playing jokes to become a real virtue, was agree with Christ, who has preached the Gospel, with St. Augustine, who has recommended ilaritas so much. He defeated pessimism, he has dressed of joy Christian life, and, first of all, he has invited us to be animated with every day joys, those good, understand, that the Lord never stops giving us even when they are mixed with some pain in the life.
When I was a boy, I read something on Andrew Carnegie, a Scot who went to America with his parents, where little by little, he became one of the richest men of the world. And he says: 'I was born in misery, however, I would not change my childhood memories for those of the rich ones, the millionaires children. What do they know about familiar joys, about the sweet figure of mum who reunites in herself the functions of baby-sitter, launderer, cook, teacher, angel and saint?'. The employee was Andrew Carnegie, employed in Pittsburg, with a wage of 56 miserable lires a month. One afternoon, the cashier has told him: 'Stop!' And Andrew Carnegie: 'Now, they are dismissing me'. On the contrary, after paying the others, the cashier told him: 'Andrew, I have watched your work; you are producing more than the others. I have decided to increase your payment from 56 up to 67 lires'. Carnegie came back home running. Mum was weeping of joy. 'You talk me about millions, but I… I have made millions. I would not change them for those 11 liras of increase earned that time'.
Necessary… with Christian hope these purely human joys are good, too, but the Church has not made of them something absolute. They are something, not everything; they are useful as means, they are not the supreme objective, they do not last always, but just a short time. 'Use them - wrote St. Paul – but why didn' t you use them?, because the scene of this world passes' (cf. 1 Cor 7, 31). And first, Jesus had said: 'Fist of all, look for the Kingdom of God and then the rest' (TM 6, 33).
The authentic Christian liberation
In order to finish, I wanted to make a reference to a hope, that some people proclaim as Christian, but it is only Christian to a certain extent.
I will explain myself. In the Council, I have also voted the 'Message to the world' by the Council Fathers. We said there: 'The main task of deifying, does not exempt the Church from the task of humanizing. I also voted Gaudium et Spes; I was moved and excited when the Populorum Progressio appeared. I think the Church Teaching will never insist enough on presenting and recommending the solutions of the great problems of freedom, justice, peace, development. And Catholic lay people will never fight enough to solve these problems. It is a mistake, however, to affirm that political, economic and social liberation agrees with salvation in Jesus Christ; that the Regnum Dei identifies with the Regnum hominis; that Ubi Lenin, ibi Jerusalem.
In Fribourg, during the 85th Katholikentag Meeting, it has been talked, few days ago, about the subject 'The future of hope'. It was talked about the 'world' to improve and the word 'future' fitted well. But if from hope for the 'world' one goes to which that affects the single souls, then it is necessary to speak about 'eternity', too.
In Ostia, at the sea shore, in a famous talk, Augustine and his mother Monica, '… forgetting the past and watching towards the future, they wondered what would it be the eternal life'. (Confess. IX nr. 10). This one is Christian hope; Pope John talked about that kind of hope and we also talk about it when we said with the Catechism: 'My God, I hope from your goodness... the eternal life and the necessary graces to deserve it with the good works that I must and want to do. My God, do not let me confused all the eternity'.
To the participants at the meeting of the World-wide European Congress of Religions for Peace
We address a warm greeting to the members of the World-wide European Congress of Religions for peace, gathered these days in Rome.
We thank for your visit because We appreciate your action at the service of peace in the world thanks to the prayer, the efforts of education for peace, to the reflection on the fundamental principles that must determine the relationships between men. So that peace, in fact, can be made, its necessity must be deeply experienced by the conscience, because it is born from a fundamentally spiritual conception of humanity. May this religious aspect take, not only to pardon and reconciliation, but also to the commitment in favour of friendship and collaboration between individuals and people.
May God Father, who loves all the men and who wanted to be Father of everybody, help you in this work!
In this moment, an example arrives to us from Camp David. The day before yesterday, at the American Congress, it burst an applause that we have also heard, when Carter mentioned Jesus' words: 'Blessed those who work for peace'. I would wish that applause, those words, entered the heart of all the Christians, specially inside us, Catholics, and make us become real 'promoters and constructors of peace'.
To a national pilgrimage from Kenya
It is a special joy to have the pilgrimage from Kenya, sponsored by the Consolate Fathers. My prayerful greetings go back with you to all the members of your families, to all your loved ones. God bless Kenya!
To the just married
In Gaudium et Spes , the Fathers did not include a sentence, that is also right and it is in the Code: marriage is a contract. At nr. 48, they wrote, however, agreement of love, a concept that, in the Council documents, is repeated several times. It is a right concept, that has origins in the Bible. Rachel' s father was agree with the marriage request but, said Jacob: ' First, you will have to work for seven years'. The Bible says that those years passed as a lightning, so much he loved her. I wish your love can be like that. The Council says that it is necessary to defend this love, because it is exposed to dangers. Defend it urgently. In the great things and in the little ones. * The Pope told this episode about a woman and his husband: 'We have been married for thirty years. When we were fiances or in the first years of marriage, whenever he made a trip, he brought me a gift, any small thing. Now, however, this happens few times'. It should happen, may that happen always.
To the participants of the International Meeting of Therapeutic Communities
I don' t want to make a great speech as it was announced on some newspaper.
I will expose an experience simply mine. Two months ago, in Venice, a young Salesian Priest went to see me. He makes there, more or less, what in Rome makes Don Picchi, and exposed his difficulties to me. If I can remember well, that Priest wished that there were two concentric communities. He said: 'I am almost alone. It seems to me that I am not understood. It would be necessary that, around me and to whom are making this work, there was a whole chain of hearts that understood me. They are sick, not delinquents; they are poor young people to whom the circumstances of life have marginalized them. They need to be understood, as well as those who take care of them. Then, it is the other more restricted community: the therapeutic community'. That Priest explained me: 'These young people have been approached to drugs or because their family, without any reason, has perhaps not understood them, or because they did not find a centre that was interested on them, or because they did not have serious friendships. In order to recover them, it is enough to make them feel that they are loved. Afterwards, we will be able to send them back to their families, naturally with religion help. Drugs, often, depend on the fact that some young people cannot see clearly which is the purpose of life'. I have told him: 'Dear Don Gianni, I will try to help you'. Then, I have not been able to keep the promise because I was made a Pope. But what I could not make in Venice, I make it now here before the participants of this Congress that includes a little the whole world. It is necessary to support, to understand, to be near these people who sacrifice themselves, mainly, for the young people.