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May 22, 2018

Parish Missions and Disciples of Hope


Parish Missions and Disciples of Hope
 

What is hope?

Hope, generally speaking, is the feeling or belief that something better lies ahead. We, through our Catholic faith, use hope as a tool to promote optimism and strength. In a world of suffering and cruelty, a world in which love is often overshadowed by hate, it is important that we look ahead to the potential good that is soon to come — the good found in eternal life with the Father.

What is so interesting about this ‘good’ is that we know it exists. In this sense, it is not really potential, but rather, inevitable. During Advent, we wait for the coming of our Savior, remaining hopeful and excited in the house of prayer. And yet, we know that Christ will come. We are optimistic, yet there is also no doubt in his arrival. In the same way, this notion of hope can guide us through the darkest moments of life. Hope is a practice or discipline, and it should be utilized by both clergy and lay people of the Catholic Church.

Faith, hope and charity

These three theological virtues are core to our Christian beliefs and exist within each parish community. And upon further examination, we find that hope plays a crucial role in our set of virtues. St. Paul lists hope as was one of the three theological virtues, reinforced in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Possessing faith in the Lord is to possess hope. The understanding of his love and grace reminds us that we are never truly alone. Therefore, hope must be spread to those around us. And charity — not simply through earthly means, but in the form of spirituality as well — perpetuates this hope.

Most of us have no doubt heard of St. Vincent de Paul. A Catholic priest, he dedicated his life to serving the poor and the downtrodden. In his honor, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was formed and their mission is very much the same. Through various charitable activities — visits to prisons, disaster relief, food pantries, care for the sick and clothing donations — the organization is able to provide spiritual renewal and spiritual growth within impoverished communities. But perhaps their greatest contribution is the thought that someone in the world is thinking of such people — that there is concern and care for those pushed out toward the margins of our society. They have created a light at the end of the tunnel and given hope to those who may not have given up entirely.

Praying for hope

Many times, we pray for saints’ help or intercession in our lives. St. Anthony often comes to mind when we lose our car keys or St. Michael when we are in need of protection. But when it comes to hope, St. Jude is often turned to in times of great strife and suffering. As the patron saint of “lost causes,” Jude is called upon when many are without hope. When there is no faith in oneself or in life, he is the one to which we should turn. We have also no doubt heard of the children’s hospitals named after him that heal and care for those who are sick or dying. Hope has the ability to create positive change, and we are called upon to share it.

Papal encyclicals on hope

Both St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have written encyclicals pertaining to the matter of hope. The former discusses the Holy Spirit, its role in our modern-day life and its effects in our faith formation in “The Lord and Giver of Life.” He writes:

The Church's prayer is this unceasing invocation, in which "the Spirit himself intercedes for us": in a certain sense, the Spirit himself utters it with the Church and in the Church. For the Spirit is given to the Church in order that through his power the whole community of the People of God, however widely scattered and diverse, may persevere in hope: that hope in which "we have been saved".

St. Pope John Paul II compares moments in this passage to sections of the Gospel of John and Revelations. Though we may be scattered across the globe, we can persevere in Christian unity through our hopefulness. We wait for the coming of our Savior and spread the message of Jesus Christ, so that we may pass on this optimism to the rest of the world. A Disciple of Hope is not a singular person, but rather, one who gathers more disciples by both spreading the Word of God and by exemplifying the very virtues and ideals of Christianity.

Pope Francis has also spoken of hope in his encyclical, “The Light of Faith,” writing:

The Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope. Thus wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God.

Again, hope is mentioned alongside faith and charity, highlighting their role in parish life as followers of Christ. Our hope, as Christians, relies on our faith for its existence. And it is through charity, through the love of those with which we inhabit this world, that we spread this hope.

What does it mean to be a ‘Disciple of Hope?’

A Disciple of Hope is one who finds good in the world; one who is optimistic about the future, places trust in the Lord and lives one’s life according to the values of the Gospel. Put simply: our love should be pure and unconditional. And as the Body of Christ, we are called to share it.

And in showing this love, it is vital that we share the Good News of the Gospel. Bring the mission to the people! We are not only followers of this message of hope, but active participants as well. For those who have not heard the message of Christ, those that have not had the flame of the Holy Spirit stir in their soul, are perhaps living in fear and pessimism. And how great it is that we have the opportunity to bring them out of that state of mind!

The Good News lies in the chance for salvation — an eternity with the Father in heaven. It lies in the words of Jesus Christ, who reminds us of the Father’s love for us — an incomprehensible, unconditional love. And it lies with us — as we too can act as the Good News for the world through our actions and deeds.

 

Dan Schutte

OCP Outreach

Through retreats and parish missions with OCP artists, you can foster spiritual renewal and growth within your parish. Our goal is to perpetuate the hope that we share as followers of Jesus Christ.

As a Disciple of Hope, Dan Schutte, beloved composer and former St. Louis Jesuit, has traveled to countless parishes to spread the Good News. And through music, storytelling and personal testimony, he has provided hope to the discouraged.

OCP’s Outreach Team can assist you in planning a parish mission, youth retreat, women’s retreat, day of formation or training. Bilingual events are available in all areas.

To request more information, click here.

Interested in booking Dan Schutte for Disciples of Hope? Check out Dan’s page.