Reading and Teaching Christian History through the Virtue of Hope

Authored by Derek Rotty in Issue #33.1 of The Sower

Shortly after the time of Christ, St. Paul reminded the Ephesians that they once were ‘strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.’[i] Pope Benedict echoed the same theme in Spe Salvi when he wrote, ‘To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope.’[ii] Thus, we glean that the theological virtue of hope is a necessary lens through which to study and teach the history of the Church; we understand that hope is foundational to the events and developments, including the lives of the saints, which have unfolded over two millennia.

The virtue of hope has two dimensions: eschatological and immanent. Pope John Paul II wrote that hope ‘encourages the Christian not to lose sight of the final goal which gives meaning and value to life,’ and it ‘offers solid and profound reasons for a daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to God’s plan.’[iii] The essence of hope is that it ‘inspires 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’ and it ‘opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude.’[iv] Quite simply: ‘The one who has hope lives differently.’[v]

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