The Power of Hope

posted Jan 21, 2015, 8:44 AM by Vidal Martinez

by Friar Jeremy Harrington, O.F.M.

The loss of hope is a terrible thing. It can be lethal. But for most of us, a deficiency of hope shows itself in more subtle ways: discouragement, putting our trust in everything but God, or focusing too much on the negative in the world.

This month, I find hope. I’m inspired by three things: young people marching for life, Martin Luther King Jr., and Louis Zamperini.

For six years, I lived in Washington, DC, and marveled at the dedication and sacrifice of thousands of young people who come each year in January for the March for Life. A typical schedule for many of them is boarding a bus at the end of the school day and riding 12 to 14 hours overnight to DC. When they arrive in the morning, they may tour the Capitol or the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, which is where I lived. That evening, young people pack the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, wall to wall, for a Mass. Many sleep that night in a school gym.

On their second day in Washington, in the morning they attend a youth rally and have Mass at one of several places: the Verizon Center, DC Armory, Cathedral of St. Matthew, or the Patriot Center at George Mason University. At noon, young and old gather at the National Mall—often in very cold weather—for the March for Life to Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court. After that, many groups get on their bus for an overnight ride home. I am inspired by these enthusiastic, dedicated, religious young people and by teachers and parents who accompany them.

Maybe they found a few minutes to visit the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. near the Mall. The sculpture of King stands on the “Stone of Hope.” In his 1963 “I Have a Dream” address on the Mall, he said, “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” In all the fierce opposition he faced in his nonviolent struggle for civil rights, he needed a stone of hope. He is my second source of inspiration this month.

The third is Louis Zamperini. The movie Unbroken, based on the biography by Laura Hillenbrand, shows his strong hope. In World War II, he was a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator. One flight damaged by enemy flack barely made it back to the base. Another flight crashed into the Pacific, and he and two others survived 47 days in a life raft.

Rescued by the Japanese, for two years Zamperini bore brutal treatment as a prisoner of war. He grew up Catholic, but said it was the message of Billy Graham at a revival that caused him to turn his life around after his return. Zamperini then went back to Japan to express his forgiveness to his tormentors. That takes faith, hope, and love.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the blessings of hope: “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” (1818).

Please, God, give me lots of hope!