Hopeth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

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What is Hope?

Meditation on Hope



Of Seeking the Divine Aid, and Confidence of Recovering Grace

My Child, “The Lord is good and giveth strength in the day of trouble: and knoweth them that hope in Him” (Nahum 1:7). Come thou unto Me, whenever it shall not be well with thee (Matthew Chapter 11).

This it is which most of all hindereth heavenly consolation, that thou art too slow in turning thyself unto prayer. For before thou dost earnestly ask of Me, thou seekest in the meanwhile many comforts, and refreshest thyself in outward things. And hence it cometh to pass that all doth little profit thee, until thou well consider that it is I who rescue them that hope in Me; and that, except from Me, there is neither powerful help, nor profitable counsel, nor lasting remedy.

But do thou, having now recovered breath after the tempest, gather strength again in the light of My tender mercies; for I am at hand, saith the Lord, to repair all, not only entirely, but also abundantly and with increase. Is there any thing hard to Me? or shall I be like one that saith and doeth not? Where is thy faith? stand firmly and with perseverance; be long-suffering, and a man of courage; comfort will come to thee in due time. Wait for Me, yea, wait; “I will come and heal” thee (Matthew 8:7).

2. It is a temptation that vexeth thee, and a vain fear that affrighteth thee. What else doth anxiety about future events bring thee, but sorrow upon sorrow? “Be not therefore solicitous for to morrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself.  Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34).

It is a vain thing and unprofitable, to be either disturbed or pleased about future things, which perhaps will never come to pass. But it belongeth to man’s nature to be deluded with such imaginations, and it is a sign of a mind as yet weak, to be so easily drawn away at the suggestions of the Enemy. For himself careth not whether it be by things true or false that he delude and deceive thee; nor whether he overthrow thee with the love of present, or the fear of future things. “Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Trust in Me, and have confidence in My mercy (Psalm 91:3). When thou thinkest thyself far off from Me, oftentimes I am the nearer. When thou countest almost all to be lost, then oftentimes the greater gain of reward is close at hand. All is not lost, when any thing falleth out contrary. Thou oughtest not to judge according to present feeling; nor so to take any heaviness, or give thyself over to it, from whencesoever it cometh, as though all hope of rising therefrom were quite taken away. Think not thyself wholly left, although for a time I have sent thee some tribulation, or even have withdrawn thy desired comfort; for this is the passage to the Kingdom of Heaven.

And without doubt it is more expedient for thee and the rest of My servants, that ye be exercised with adversities, than that ye should have all things according to your desires. I know the secret thoughts, and that it is very expedient for thy welfare that thou be left sometimes without taste of spiritual sweetness, lest thou shouldest be puffed up with thy prosperous estate, and shouldest will to please thyself in that which thou art not.

That which I have given, I can take away; and I can restore it again when I please. When I give it, it is Mine; when I withdraw it, I have not taken any thing that is thine; for Mine is “every best gift, and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). If I send upon thee affliction, or any cross whatever, complain not, nor let thy heart fail thee; I can quickly help thee, and turn all thy burden into joy.  I am just, and greatly to be praised when I deal thus with thee.

If thou art wise, and considerest what the truth is, thou never oughtest, because of adversities, to cast yourself down and make yourself sad, but rather always rejoice and give thanks to God. Yea, instead consider this thy special joy, that I afflict thee with sorrows, and do not spare thee.  Rather, remember that, “as the Father hath loved Me, I also have loved you.  Abide in My love” (John 15:9).

I said unto My beloved disciples; whom certainly I sent not out to temporal joys, but to great conflicts; not to honours, but to contempts; not to idleness, but to labors; not to rest, but to “bring forth fruit in patience” (Luke 8:15).

Remember thou these words, My Child.

(Thomas A' Kempis, THE IMITATION OF CHRIST, Chapter 30, emphasis added; found in the public domain on the Internet.)

Be comforted and be at peace for “to them that love God, all things work together unto good”(Romans 8:28)!

What is Hope?

Hope, in its widest acceptation, is described as the desire of something together with the expectation of obtaining it. The Scholastics say that it is a movement of the appetite towards a future good, which though hard to attain is possible of attainment. Consideration of this state of soul is limited in this article to its aspect as a factor in the supernatural order. Looked at in this way it is defined to be a Divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God's help, to reach eternal felicity as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it. It is said to be Divine not merely because its immediate object is God, but also because of the special manner of its origin.

Hope, such as we are here contemplating, is an infused virtue; i.e., it is not, like good habits in general, the outcome of repeated acts or the product of our own industry. Like supernatural faith and charity it is directly implanted in the soul by Almighty God. Both in itself and in the scope of its operation it outstrips the limits of the created order, and is to be had if at all only through the direct largess of the Creator. The capacity which it confers is not only the strengthening of an existing power, but rather the elevation, the transforming of a faculty for the performance of functions essentially outside its natural sphere of activity. All of this is intelligible only on the basis, which we take for granted, that there is such a thing as the supernatural order, and that the only realizable ultimate destiny of man in the present providence of God lies in that order.

Hope is termed a theological virtue because its immediate object is God, as is true of the other two essentially infused virtues, faith and charity. St. Thomas acutely says that the theological virtues are so called "because they have God for their object, both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him, and because they are infused into our souls by God alone, as also, finally, because we come to know of them only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures".

Theologians enlarge upon this idea by saying that Almighty God is both the material and the formal object of hope. He is the material object because He is that which is chiefly, though not solely, aimed at when we elicit acts of this virtue - i.e., whatever else is looked for is only desired in so far as it bears a relation to Him. Hence according to the generally followed teaching, not only supernatural helps, particularly such as are necessary for our salvation, but also things in the temporal order, inasmuch as they can be means to reach the supreme end of human life, may be the material objects of supernatural hope.

It is worthwhile noting here that in a strict construction of the term we cannot properly hope for eternal life for someone other than ourselves. The reason is that it is of the nature of hope to desire and expect something apprehended precisely as the good or happiness of the one who hopes (bonum proprium). In a qualified sense, however, that is so far as love may have united us with others, we may hope for others as well as for ourselves.

By the formal object of hope we understand the motive or motives which lead us to entertain a confident expectation of a happy issue to our efforts in the matter of eternal salvation notwithstanding the difficulties which beset our path. Theologians are not of one mind in determining what is to be assigned as the sufficient reason of supernatural hope. Mazzella (De Virtutibus Infusis, disputation v, article 2), whose judgment has the merit of simplicity as well as that of adequate analysis, finds the foundation of our hope in two things. It is based, according to him, on our apprehension of God as our supreme supernatural good Whose communication in the beatific vision is to make us happy for all eternity, and also on those Divine attributes such as omnipotence, mercy and fidelity, which unite to exhibit God as our unfailing helper. These considerations, he thinks, motive our wills or furnish the answer to the question why we hope.

Of course it is taken for granted that the yearning for God, not simply because of His own infinite perfections but explicitly because He is to be our reward, is a righteous temper of soul, otherwise the spiritual attitude of hope in which such a longing is included would not be a virtue at all. Luther and Calvin were at one in insisting that only the product of the perfect love of God, i.e. the love of God for His own sake, was to be regarded as morally good. Consequently they rejected as sinful whatever was done only through consideration of eternal reward or, in other words, through that love of God which the Scholastics call "amor concupiscentiae".

The Council of Trent (Session vi, canon 31) stigmatized these errors as heresy: "If anyone says that a justified person sins when such a one does what is right through hope of eternal reward, let him be anathema".

In spite of this unequivocal pronouncement of the council, Baius, the celebrated Louvain theologian, substantially reiterated the false doctrine of the Reformers on this point. His teaching on the matter was formulated in the thirty-eighth proposition extracted from his works, and was condemned by St. Pius V. According to him there is no true act of virtue except what is elicited by charity, and as all love is either of God or His creatures, all love which is not the love of God for His own sake, i.e. for His own infinite perfections, is depraved cupidity and a sin. Of course in such a theory there could not properly speaking be any place for the virtue of hope as we understand it.

It is easy also to see how it fits in with the initial Protestant position of identifying faith and confidence and thus making hope rather an act of the intellect than of the will. For if we may not hope, in the Catholic sense, for blessedness, the only substitute available seems to be belief in the Divine mercy and promises.

It is a truth constantly acted upon in Catholic life and no less explicitly taught, that hope is necessary to salvation. It is necessary first of all as an indispensable means (necessitate medii) of attaining salvation, so that no one can enter upon eternal bliss without it. Hence even infants, though they cannot have elicited the act, must have had the habit of hope infused in Baptism. Faith is said to be "the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews, ii, 1), and without it "it is impossible to please God " (ibid ., xi, 6).

Obviously, therefore, hope is required for salvation with the same absolute necessity as faith. Moreover, hope is necessary because it is prescribed by law, the natural law which, in the hypothesis that we are destined for a supernatural end, obliges us to use the means suited to that end. Further, it is prescribed by the positive Divine law, as, for instance, in the first Epistle of St. Peter, i, 13: "Trust perfectly in the grace which is offered you in the revelation of Jesus Christ".

There is both a negative and a positive precept of hope. The negative precept is in force ever and always. Hence there can never be a contingency in which one may lawfully despair or presume. The positive precept enjoining the exercise of the virtue of hope demands fulfilment sometimes, because one has to discharge certain Christian duties which involve an act of this supernatural confidence, such as prayer, penance, and the like. Its obligation is then said, in the language of the schools, to be per accidens. On the other hand, there are times when it is binding without any such spur, because of its own intrinsic importance, or per se.

How often this is so in the lifetime of a Christian, is not susceptible of exact determination, but that it is so is quite clear from the tenor of a proposition condemned by Alexander VII: "Man is at no time during his life bound to elicit an act of faith, hope and charity as a consequence of Divine precepts appertaining to these virtues". It is, however, perhaps not superfluous us to note that the explicit act of hope is not exacted. The average good Christian, who is solicitous about living up to his beliefs, implicitly satisfies the duty imposed by the precept of hope.

The doctrine herein set forth as to the necessity of Christian hope was impugned in the seventeenth century by the curious mixture of fanatical mysticism and false spirituality called Quietism. This singular array of errors was given to the world by a Spanish priest named Miguel Molinos. He taught that to arrive at the state of perfection it was essential to lay aside all self-love to such an extent that one became indifferent as to one's own progress, salvation, or damnation. The condition of soul to be aimed at was one of absolute quiet brought about by the absence of every sort of desire or anything that could be construed as such.

Hence, to quote the words of the seventh of the condemned propositions taken from Molinos's Spiritual Guide, "the soul must not occupy itself with any thought whether of reward or punishment, heaven or hell, death or eternity". As a result one ought not to entertain any hope as to one's salvation; for that, as a manifestation of selfwill, implies imperfection. For the same reason petitions to Almighty God about anything whatever are quite out of place. No resistance, except of a purely negative sort, should be offered to temptations, and an entirely passive attitude should be fostered in every respect.

In the year 1687 Innocent XII condemned sixty-eight propositions embodying this extraordinary doctrine as heretical, blasphemous scandalous, etc. He likewise consigned the author to perpetual confinement in a monastery, where, having previously abjured his errors, he died in the year 1696. About the same time a species of pseudo mysticism, largely identical with that of Molinos, but omitting the objectionable conclusions, was defended by Madame Guyon. It even found an advocate in Fénelon who engaged in a controversy with Bossuet on the subject.

Ultimately twenty-three propositions drawn from Fénelon's Explanation of the maxims of the Saints on the interior life were proscribed by Innocent XII. The gist of the teaching, so far as we are concerned, was that there is in this life a state of perfection with which it is impossible to reconcile any love of God except that which is absolutely disinterested, which therefore does not contemplate possession of God as our reward. It would follow that the act of hope is incompatible with such a state, since it postulates precisely a desire for God, not only because He is good in Himself, but also and formally because He is our adequate and final good. Hope is less perfect than charity, but that admission does not involve a moral deformity of any kind, still less is it true that we can or ought to pass our lives in a quasi uninterrupted act of pure love of God. As a matter of fact, there is no such state anywhere identifiable, and if there were it would not be inconsistent with Christian hope.

The question as to the necessity of hope is followed with some natural sequence by the inquiry as to its certitude. Manifestly, if hope be absolutely required as a means to salvation, there is an antecedent presumption that its use must in some sense be accompanied by certainty. It is clear that, as certitude is properly speaking a predicate of the intellect, it is only in a derived sense, or as St. Thomas says participative, that we can speak of hope, which is largely a matter of the will, as being certain. In other words, hope, whose office is to elevate and strengthen our wills, is s said to share the certitude of faith, whose abiding place is our intellects.

For our purpose it is of importance to recall what it is that, being apprehended by our intellect, is said to do service as the foundation of Christian hope. This has already been determined to be the concept of God as our helper gathered from reflecting on His goodness, mercy, omnipotence, and fidelity to His promises. In a subordinate sense our hope is built upon our own merits, as the eternal reward is not forthcoming except to those who shall have employed their free will to co-operate with the aids afforded by God's bounty. Now there is a threefold certitude discernible.

1. A thing is said to be certain conditionally when, another thing being given, the first infallibly follows. Supernatural hope is evidently certain ain in this way, because, granted that a man does all that is required to save his soul, he is sure to attain to eternal life. This is guaranteed by the infinite power and goodness and fidelity of God.

2. There is a certainty proper to virtues in general in so far as they are principles of action. Thus for instance a really temperate man may be counted on to be uniformly sober. Hope being a virtue may claim this moral certainty inasmuch as it constantly and after an established method encourages us to look for eternal blessedness to be had by the Divine munificence and as the crown of our own merits accumulated through grace.

3. Finally, a thing is certain absolutely, i.e., not conditionally upon the verification of some other thing, but quite independently of any such event. In this case no room for doubt is left. Is hope certain in this meaning of the word? So far as the secondary material object of hope is concerned, i.e. those graces which are at least remotely adequate for salvation, we can be entirely confident that these are most certainly provided.

As to the primary material object of hope namely, the face-to-face vision of God, the Catholic doctrine, as set forth in the sixth session of the Council of Trent, is that our hope is unqualifiedly certain if we consider only the Divine attributes, which are its support, and which cannot fail. If, however, we limit our attention to the sum total of salutary operation which we contribute and upon which we also lean as upon the reason of our expectation, then, prescinding from the case of an individual revelation, hope is to be pronounced uncertain. This is plainly for the reason that we cannot in advance insure ourselves against the weakness or the malice of our free wills.

This doctrine is in direct antagonism to the initial Protestant contention that we can and must be altogether certain of our salvation. The only thing required for this end, according to the teaching of the Reformers, was the special faith or confidence in the promises which alone, without good works, justified a man. Hence, even though there were no good works distinguishable in a person's earthly career, such a one might and ought, notwithstanding, cherish a firm hope, provided only that he did not cease to believe.

Assuming that the seat of hope is our will, we may ask whether, having been once infused, it can ever be lost. The answer is that it can be destroyed, both by the perpetration of the sin of despair, which is its formal opposite, and by the subtraction of the habit of faith, which assigns the motives for it. It is not so clear that the sin of presumption expels the supernatural virtue of hope, although of course it cannot coexist with the act.

We need not be concerned about if a person could continue to hope if his eternal damnation had been revealed to him. Theologians are agreed in regarding such a revelation as practically, if not absolutely, impossible. If, by an all but clearly absurd hypothesis, we suppose Almighty God to have revealed to anyone in advance that he was surely to be lost, such a person obviously could no longer hope.

Do the souls in Purgatory hope? It is the commonly held opinion that, as they have not yet been admitted to the intuitive vision of God, and as there is nothing otherwise in their condition which is at variance with the concept of this virtue, they have the habit and elicit the act of hope.

As to the damned, the concordant judgment is that, as they have been deprived of every other supernatural gift, so also knowing well the perpetuity of their reprobation, they can no longer hope.

With reference to the blessed in heaven, the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas, holds that, possessing what they have striven for, they can no longer be said to have the theological virtue of hope. The words of St. Paul (Romans 8:24) are to the point: "For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for?"

They can still desire the glory which is to be proper to their risen bodies and also by reason of the bonds of charity, they can wish for the salvation of others, but this is not, properly speaking, hope. The human Soul of Christ furnishes an example.

Because of the Hypostatic Union, His Soul was already enjoying the Beatific Vision. At the same time, because of the passible nature with which He had clothed Himself, He was in the state of pilgrimage (in statu viatoris), and hence He could look forward with longing to His assumption of the qualities of the glorified body. This however was not hope, because hope has as its main object union with God in Heaven.


Meditation on Hope


Confidence in God - Its Certitude

Since we have spoken of the spirit of faith, it is fitting that we consider what hope in God, or confidence in Him, should be in proficients, and that we state precisely what must be understood by the certitude of hope, which is based on that of faith and has a character sui generis which it is important to note.

Infused hope, no less than faith, is necessary to salvation and perfection. Moreover, to have a generous interior life, it is not sufficient to hope in God weakly and intermittently, as so many Christians do. His often obscure and occasionally disconcerting good pleasure must be loved, accepted with a spirit of filial submission, and the divine help awaited with a firm, humble, and persevering confidence.

Defects to Be Avoided

In connection with this virtue, we should avoid two contrary defects: presumption and discouragement. By noting them at the beginning of our discussion, we may see more clearly the true nature of hope, which rises like a summit between these opposing deviations.

There are two kinds of presumption: either man relies excessively on his own powers, like the Pelagians, not asking as much as he should for the help of God, not recalling sufficiently the necessity of grace for every salutary act; or, on the other hand, he expects from the divine mercy what God cannot grant: for example, pardon without true repentance, or eternal life without any effort to merit it. These two forms of presumption are mutually contradictory, since the first presumes on our strength, whereas the second expects from God what He has in no way promised.

Moreover, when trial and contradiction come, the presumptuous fall into the opposite defect, discouragement, as if the difficult good (bonum arduum), which is the object of hope, becomes inaccessible. Discouragement might lead to spiritual sloth, to acedia, which makes a man judge the work of sanctification too difficult and turns him away from every effort in this direction. He might thus even fall into despair. Many souls oscillate thus between presumption and discouragement, and never succeed in arriving, at least practically, at a true notion of Christian hope and in living by it as they should.

The True Nature of Christian Hope

Less is said about the virtue of hope than about faith and charity. Yet hope is of great importance. Most certainly Christian hope, as an infused and theological virtue, is essentially supernatural, and consequently immensely surpasses the natural desire to be happy and also a natural knowledge of the divine goodness.

By infused hope we tend toward eternal life, toward supernatural beatitude, which is nothing less than the possession of God: seeing God immediately as He sees Himself, loving Him as He loves Himself. We tend toward Him, relying on the divine help which He has promised us. The formal motive of hope is not our effort, it is God our Helper (Deus auxiliator et auxilians), according to His mercy, His promises, His omnipotence.(1)

Thus we desire God for ourselves, but first for Himself; for He is the last End of the act of hope, which should, moreover, be vivified by charity: (2) in other words, by hope, we desire God, our last End, not by subordinating Him to ourselves, like the food necessary to our subsistence, but by subordinating ourselves to Him. Thus it is evident, in contradistinction to the teaching of the quietists, that hope, although inferior to charity, contains nothing inordinate. It is a lofty virtue, though not the greatest of all.

Since, in fact, among the moral virtues, acquired magnanimity, and especially infused magnanimity, has a high place, so far as it makes us tend to great things (as we see in the founders of religious orders, in their works and struggles); with even greater reason, infused hope is a lofty virtue that makes us tend not only toward great things, but also toward God Himself to be possessed for eternity. This truth is emphasized by the fact that hope does not make us desire only an inferior degree of supernatural beatitude, but eternal life itself without fixing the degree. Indeed it leads us to advance always more generously toward God by giving us a greater desire for Him.

The Certitude of Hope

In this tendency of hope toward eternal life, there is at one and the same time a mystery still unknown and a certitude, about the nature of which some are deceived. St. Thomas explains it clearly, as he also explains the different types of certitude: those of knowledge,(3) faith,(4) prudence, (5) and the gift of wisdom.(6)

He raises first the following objection: (7) No man can be certain of his salvation without a special revelation,(8) which is rare; it seems, therefore, that hope cannot be certain. Moreover, it is not true that all who hope will be saved; it happens that some among them become discouraged in time and finally are lost. It seems, therefore, that hope is not truly certain.

In this problem, there is the element of the unknown, a mystery; yet hope remains certain. This mystery with its light and shade is one of the most beautiful in Christian teaching. As St. Thomas shows clearly, the certitude of hope differs from that of faith since it is not a certitude of the intellect, but a certitude shared in the will and in its aspect as a tendency. "Certitude," says the holy doctor, "is essentially in the cognitive faculty; but it is also by participation in all that is moved infallibly to its end by the cognitive power. . . . In this way we say that nature works with certainty, since it is moved by the divine intellect which moves everything with certainty to its end (the bee builds surely its hive and makes honey). . . . Thus too, hope tends with certitude to its end, as though sharing in the certitude of faith, which is in the cognitive faculty." (9) Likewise, in the order of human affairs, when we have taken the train for Rome, without being absolutely sure of arriving, we are certain of going in the right direction, and we hope to reach the end of our journey.

In other words, by certain hope we have not as yet the certitude of our future salvation, which is not revealed to us (for that we would need a special revelation), but we tend certainly toward salvation, under the infallible direction of faith and according to the promises of God, "who never commands the impossible, but who orders us to do what lies in our power and to ask for help for what we cannot do." (10) The certitude of Christian hope is not, therefore, as yet the certitude of salvation, but it is the firmest kind of certitude that we are tending toward salvation. From this statement spring many practical conclusions on the qualities or properties of Christian hope, which should grow in us with hope.

The Qualities of Christian Hope

How should we hope in God to avoid the twofold presumption that we have spoken of and the discouragement that often follows it? The Council of Trent tells us: "All should have a very firm confidence in the help of God. For if men do not fail to correspond to divine grace, as God Himself has begun the work of salvation in us, He will finish it, working in us 'both to will and to accomplish.' (11) However, 'He that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall' (12) and 'with fear and trembling work out his salvation,' (13) In labors, vigils, prayer, alms, fasts, purity,!(14) according to these words of the Apostle: 'For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.' " (15)

From this admirable doctrine it follows that Christian hope should have two qualities or properties: it should be laborious to avoid the presumption which expects the divine reward without working for it; and it should be firm, invincible, to avoid discouragement.

Hope should be laborious because it tends toward a possible, difficult good, but a difficult, arduous future good, which is the object of merit. We must work at our salvation, first of all, to preserve in ourselves a living hope and not a vain presumption. We must work in the spirit of humility and abnegation to preserve a keen desire for eternal life, for God, our beatitude, a desire whose ardor would be destroyed by the intensity of contrary desires, like those of earthly joys and of ambition. This keen desire for heaven, this ardent desire for God, is too rare even among good Christians. And yet, if there is one thing we should desire with a holy ardor, is it not the divine union? What will we desire ardently, therefore, if we do not have a keen desire for God?

Furthermore, we must work to merit eternal beatitude: to see God as He sees Himself and to love Him as He loves Himself. Without doubt, we need grace to attain this end; but it is given to us, says St. Augustine, not that we may do nothing, but that we may work with continually increasing generosity until the end: "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved." (16) "For he also that striveth for the mastery is not crowned, except he strive lawfully." (17) We must work to remove the obstacles of concupiscence, of sloth, pride, dissension, ambition, and to observe the precepts with always greater perfection according to the spirit of our vocation.

Laborious hope together with the gift of fear, or the fear of sin, saves us from presumption. By this virtue and this gift of fear, is preserved the equilibrium of the spirit in divine things, as a little lower in the order of the virtues, not theological but moral, spiritual balance is safeguarded by humility and magnanimity, which are like the two sides of a scale, that we may escape falling either into pride or into pusillanimity.(18)

Lastly, in the midst of difficulties that may present themselves until death, and even until our entrance into heaven, hope should be most firm and invincible. It should not be broken by temptations, trials, or the sight of our sins. It should never yield to temptations coming from the world, the flesh, or the devil: "If God be for us, who is against us?" (19) God never commands the impossible; more than that, as St. Paul says: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able; but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it." (20)

Hope should not be broken either by the trials which the Lord sends to purify us and to make us work for the salvation of souls. In time of trial we should not forget that the formal motive of hope is God our Helper, Deus auxilians, according to His mercy, promises, and omnipotence. Because Job had the virtue of hope, he declared: "Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him." (21) And in the Epistle to the Romans we read: "Who against hope believed in hope; that he [Abraham] might be made the father of many nations, according to that which was said to him: 'So shall thy seed be.' "(22) Contrary to every human hope, in spite of his great age, he hoped, and even prepared himself for the immolation of his son Isaac, the son of promise, from whom his posterity was to be born.

The aim of the purification of hope is to free the virtue from all alloy of inordinate self-love, but not to lead us to the sacrifice of the desire of our salvation, as the quietists declared. Such a sacrifice would be equivalent to renouncing our love of God above all for all eternity, and, by sacrificing hope under the pretext of pure love, we would also sacrifice charity. We must, on the contrary, hope against all hope.

Finally, confidence should not be broken by the sight and the memory of our sins. Therefore St. Catherine of Siena used to say: "Never consider your past sins except in the light of infinite mercy, so that the memory of them may not discourage you, but may lead you to place your confidence in the infinite value of the Savior's merits."

St. Teresa of the Child Jesus stated that her immense confidence in God did not come from the knowledge of her innocence, but from the thought of the infinite mercy and infinite merits of the Savior, and that, even if she were the greatest wretch on earth, her confidence in God would not for that reason be diminished. This is a magnificent way of stating that the formal motive of hope, a theological virtue, is not our effort or our innocence, but God our Helper, Deus auxilians, helpful Mercy.

Admirable Effects of Living Hope Confirmed by Trials

After various trials, hope, which has been greatly strengthened, surmounts all obstacles. According to St. Paul: "We. . . glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God. And not only so; but we glory also in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience trial; and trial hope; and hope confoundeth not, because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us." (23)

Commenting on St. Paul's words, St. Thomas says: "St. Paul shows us first of all the grandeur of hope by the grandeur of the thing hoped for (that is, eternal life), then the power, the vehemence of hope. In fact, he who strongly hopes for something, willingly bears for that reason difficulties and bitterness. And therefore the sign that we have a strong hope in Christ is that we glory not only in the thought of future glory, but in our tribulations and the trials which we have to bear. 'Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.' (24) Moreover, the Apostle St. James says: 'My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience.' (25) And from the fact that a man bears tribulation patiently, he is rendered excellent, probatus. We read of the just in the Book of Wisdom: 'Though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace He hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust He hath received them.' (26) Thus trial causes hope to grow, and hope does not deceive us, for God does not abandon those who trust Him. 'No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.' (27) It is evident that the Lord will not refuse Himself to those who love Him, to those to whom He has already given His Son. . . . He has prepared eternal beatitude for those who love Him above all else." (28)

From what has just been said we perceive that, contrary to the opinion held by the quietists, in great trials, instead of sacrificing our desire of salvation, we must "hope against all hope" while loving God for Himself. Thus charity increases greatly; it becomes pure love which, far from destroying confidence, vivifies it.

Certainly these trials serve to purify hope of all self-love, of the desire of our own perfection, so far as it is ours. A servant of God who had desired to become a saint later expressed her desire under a less personal and more objective form: "Lord, may Your kingdom come more and more profoundly in me." She was happy not to have the reputation of being a saint, happy to be but little esteemed by those about her; she thus aspired truly to be always more closely united to our Lord, to be more loved by Him. Thus hope grew as it was being purified.

So Abraham, the father of believers, hoped, when he was tried and prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. He did not cease to believe that this child was the son of promise, that his posterity would be greatly blessed, "accounting that God is able to raise up even from the dead." (29)

St. Philip Neri used to pray: "I thank Thee with my whole heart, Lord God, that things do not go as I should like them to, but as Thou dost wish. It is better that they should go according to Thy way, which is better than mine."

St. Nicholas of Flue admirably expressed in a prayer the union of firmest hope and of pure love: "Lord, take from me all that hinders me from drawing near to Thee; give me all that will lead me to Thee. Take me from myself and give me entirely to Thyself." We can also say, as an expression of hope and pure love: "Give Thyself, Lord, entirely to me, that I may love Thee purely and forever."

As a practical conclusion, let us remember that in our lives there are two parallel series of daily facts: that of the outward events which succeed one another from morning to night, and that of the actual graces which are offered to us and even bestowed on us from moment to moment that we may draw from these occurrences, whether pleasurable or painful, the greatest spiritual profit. If we thought often of this fact, there would be realized increasingly in our lives St. Paul's statement: "To them that love God all things work together unto good," (30) even annoyances, rebuffs, and contradictions, which are so many occasions of lifting our hearts toward God in a spirit of faith and confidence in Him.

St. Francis de Sales says in his Second Conference on Hope: "Although we do not feel confidence in God, we must not fail to make acts of hope. Distrust of ourselves and of our own strength should be accompanied by humility and faith, which obtain the grace of confidence in God. The more unfortunate we are, the more we should have confidence in Him who sees our state, and who can come to our assistance. No one trusts in God without reaping the fruits of his hope. The soul should remain tranquil and rely on Him who can give the increase to what as been sown and planted. We must not cease to labor, but in toiling we must trust in God for the success of our works."


1. The formal motive of a theological virtue cannot be something created, no matter how noble; it can only be God Himself, in this case, God, our Helper.

2. Cajetan says very clearly, In IIam IIae, q. 17, a. 5, no. 6: "Desidero Deum, mihi, non propter me, sed propter Deum." We desire God for ourselves without subordinating Him to ourselves, whereas we desire a fruit, which is inferior to us, for ourselves and for our own sake. The last end of the act of hope is God Himself.

3. Cf. IIa IIae, q.2, a.1, and De veritate, q.14, a.1: The certitude which arises from evidence.

4. Cf. ibid., q.4, a.8: Certitude without evidence, but based on the authority of God revealing.

5. Cf.. Ia IIae, q.57, a.5 ad 3um: Certitude through conformity with a right appetite.

6. Cf. IIa IIae, q.45, a.2: Certitude by connaturality or sympathy with divine things, under the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

7. Ibid., q.18, a.4.

8. The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 13) defined this point against the Protestants.

9. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 18., a.4.

10. Cf. Council of Trent (Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 804).

11. Phil. 2:13.

12. Cf. I Cor. 10:12.

13. Phil. 11: 12.

14. Cf. II Cor. 6:3 ff.

15. Rom. 8: 13. Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. 13 (Denzinger, no. 806).

16. Matt. 10:12.

17. Cf. II Tim. 1:5.

18. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 161, a. I ad 3um, and a.2 ad 3Uffi; q. 162, a.1 ad 3um; q.129, a.3 ad 4um.

19. Rom. 8:31.

20. Cf. I Cor. 10: 13.

21. Job 13:15.

22. Rom. 4: 18.

23. Rom. 5:2-5.

24. Acts 14:21.

25. Jas. 1:2f.

26. Wisd.3:4-6.

27. Ecclus. 2: 11.

28. Comm. in ep. ad. Rom., 5:2. For those who wish not only to distinguish but, as it were, to separate asceticism from mysticism, it is difficult to say, in reading the Epistles of St. Paul and the commentaries of the fathers and doctors, where asceticism ends and mysticism begins. In reality, mysticism commences when the superhuman mode of the gifts of the Holy Ghost begins to prevail, in particular of the gifts of understanding and wisdom: that is, when, under the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, we penetrate and taste the mystery of faith: "Taste and see mat the Lord is sweet."

29. Heb. 11: 19.

30. Rom. 8:28.

(Reverend Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  [b. Auch, France 1877 A.D. - d. Rome, Italy, 1964 A.D.], who taught dogmatic and Spiritual theology for 53 years at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, in Rome, THE THREE AGES OF THE INTERIOR LIFE, Prelude of Eternal Life, Translated by Sister M. Timothea Doyle, O.P., PART 3 -  The Illuminative Way of Proficients, Chapter 18: Confidence in God - Its Certitude).

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“Rejoicing in Hope.  Patient in tribulation.  Instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

“Now the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; that you may abound in Hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost”  (Romans 15:13).

“Charity is patient, is kind: Charity...beareth all things, Believeth all things, Hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7).

“Now Faith is the substance of things to be Hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not” (Hebrews 11:1).

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