National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  December 26, 2003

Time for a few more words on hope

A small light in the darkness … that is what hope is for me. Or perhaps two lights in the darkness. Over the past four years, I have been assisting getting women in domestic violence to get food, clothing and also a day at McDonald’s with yours truly, a Dominican sister, for joy, caring and light moments of laughter.”

Yours truly is Sr. Ave Clark of Bayside, N.Y. She is one of many who responded to a simple query earlier this year: What is hope for you? Where do you find it? How do you express it?

Running out of time on the calendar year, a year during which it would have been easy to become overwhelmed by the continuing scandal stories within the church, not to mention the grief of war and all of the issues war raises, the editors decided it would be a salutary undertaking to dig through the hope file one last time.

Many who sent their thoughts actually sent snippets of books and poems in which they had found hope. Jerry Bechtle, who describes himself as “old and crotchety and retired in northwest Montana,” wrote: “Belden Lane, in his book Landscapes of the Sacred, speaks of crotchety old Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry … [who] knows the restlessness of the American quest for a better place, the ultimate inability of geography to heal, and the deep, deep mystery of home.”

Belden Lane then quotes this poem of Berry’s:

Another place!
It’s enough to grieve me --
that old dream of going, of becoming a
better man
just by getting up and going
to a better place.

“Then Lane says, ‘God meets us where we are, in other words. That’s all he or I mean to say. But finding ourselves where we are is always the hardest part. For that we need others.’ ”

Larry Hoge of Bandon, Fla., sounds almost as if we’d paid him to write a mission statement: “Hope is seeing the possibility of salvation. NCR does that for me in its extensive reports of the many and varied ministries done by people of faith, especially for the poor and disenfranchised.”

Bill Giel of Whitehouse Station, N.J., who said he first consulted the dictionary and found the definition uninspiring, sent along some paragraphs he later read in an article on “The Wisdom Legacy of Paramahansa Yogananda” in Self Realization magazine. In part, the passage says: “Hope is much more than a result of human reason. It is a manifestation of soul consciousness. People hope blindly, or subconsciously, because the latent inner divine voice of the soul intuitively reminds them: ‘All is not lost forever. Death and failure are not final experiences. Behind the dark clouds of temporary disillusionment awaits the silver lining of eternal fulfillment.’ ”

Finally, from Bill Picard in Brecksville, Ohio, we share what he sent along from the late novelist Morris West, words particularly suitable to the season: “What we cannot cope with is the untidiness of the universe, the lunatic aspect of a cosmos with no known beginning, no visible end, and no apparent meaning to all its bustling dynamics. … We cannot tolerate its monstrous indifference in the face of all our fears and agonies. … The prophets offer us hope; but only the man-god can make the paradox tolerable. This is why the coming of Jesus is a healing and a saving event. He is not what we should have created for ourselves. He is truly the sign of peace because he is the sign of contradiction. His career is a brief tragic failure. He dies in dishonor; but then most strangely, he lives. He is not only yesterday. He is today and tomorrow. He is as available to the humblest as to the highest.”

Is hope, then, as Emily Dickinson wrote, “the thing with feathers -- That perches in the soul,” a kind of anticipation and lightness, ever available, or is it, as someone else has written, what is left us in bad times? From all that you have written us, from the remarks and thoughts on hope printed earlier and the letters of readers throughout the year on other matters, one might conclude that hope is both -- and more. It is, apparently, the constant companion of stubborn faith as well as the precursor of bold dreams. It is also, one might add, the product of the shared vision, the shared values and the shared questions of those who gather around NCR. Such hope is the banner of a pilgrim people, of those on journey together. You, dear readers, have enriched the journey as well as our pages during the past year. We at NCR wish you the best for the coming year.

National Catholic Reporter, December 26, 2003

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