and Crossing the Bridge from Faith to Charity...
Recently I was struck by some of the opening prayers of the Rosary. Specifically, those in which we ask for "...faith, hope, and charity."
After my study of the Catechism last year, it reminded me how this common Catholic set of prayers points us toward great virtue.
Overview of the theological virtues
Specifically, in Catholic theology faith, hope, and charity are called the Theological Virtues. But it might help to define what we mean by each of them quickly1:
"Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief because he is truth itself"
When we discuss faith as a virtue, then, we're talking about our trust in God and his teachings — whether through Scripture, Tradition, or the Magisterium of the Church — as the source for what is true.
"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit."
We're going to focus on hope today, but it's a good start to say it is our motivation to see the promises of God fulfilled for us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
"Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God."2
Charity, then, is the virtue by which our love of God and neighbor is lived out.
If our faith is our belief, and hope our motivation, then charity is the loving acts that arise from both of them.
The Origin of the Order
We don't have the ordering of these virtues by coincidence. The point of asking for faith, then hope, and charity comes from 1st Corinthians 13:13:
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.3”
The Church, in pointing us to these virtues, wants us to move from just having faith to becoming motivated by hope into acts of charity. But I fear we oftentimes get lost in the middle.
Fitting with the Theme
I've been thinking a lot about this in relation to my yearly theme — The Year of Order4 — as I've been trying to focus on ordering my life and time in prayer toward the virtues.
Hope has been the biggest part of that.
This year has had its difficulties, its good times and low moments, and I feel the grace of hope has been sustaining me throughout it all.5
Hope also currently fits in with the focus of the Church as we approach the 2025 liturgical jubilee for which the motto is "Pilgrim's of Hope."
Recovering Christian Hope
In the modern world we are used to not getting our hopes up, utilitarianism and "realism" has pervaded our culture so much that to risk disappointment is unimaginable.
But really, hope is the bridge we need to get from faith to charity. It's the bridge between the beginning and perfection of theological virtue.
We help our neighbor even when it hurts because we hope God will sustain and repay us for our sacrifice.
We go to Mass even when we feel like we're just going through the motions because we hope that God will bring His work in us to completion through our obedience and reception of the Eucharist.
Some may think it seems selfish to do good works expecting a reward, and indeed Jesus warns us away from the vanity of expecting some return or praise from our fellow men.
But Christian hope is different. We are not hoping for gain, but hoping in the God who is just and righteous to save.
Our treasure is where He is.
Heavenly Treasure and Keeping Heart
In Luke 12:34 Our Lord says "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"6 In context He's warning His disciples against anxiety, telling them just a few verses prior that "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."7
He's teaching them to keep heart.
As I said, it's a lesson I've been learning firsthand. Even when things aren't going our way, with people, places, or events, keeping our eyes fixed upward and hearts lifted to the Father is the best cure for the anxious modern mind.
When we feel doubt, we keep our hearts in Heaven, where doubt and death were defeated by the Risen Lord.
When we face trial, we keep our hearts with He who suffered for our sake.
When we feel temptation, we keep our heart with the Lamb who conquered the world.
Hope teaches us to treasure Heaven.
When I feel low — when any of us do — it helps to remember that I have the Lord to lead me, friends both saintly and earthly to pray for me, and "...some work...which He has not committed to another. I have my mission"8
I pray that by rediscovering hope, we may all be given the grace to further ourselves towards virtue and that with virtue we may make it closer to heaven by the day. In the words of Pope St. John Paul II:
I plead with you — never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.
These excerpts are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1814-1823
I love the rest of this paragraph, personally: "Jesus makes charity the new commandment By loving his own 'to the end,' he makes manifest the Father's love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: 'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.' And again: 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'"
This is from the ESV-CE, which translates literally from the Greek the word love, though the Church calls the virtue by charity to denote the type of selfless love that the verse is getting at.
You can read about that here.
I've been blessed to have a community around me that keeps me hopeful and laughing in the low times.