What keeps me Catholic? Hope and prayer
By Mike Daley
Though we know better, it seems to happen every presidential election cycle. The build-up of this or that candidate, from whatever political party, takes on messianic dimensions. The rhetoric rises to such a fever pitch one can almost imagine that the Kingdom of God will soon be realized in all its earthly fullness.
Then reality sets in. Wednesday morning. Come to find out a president was elected, not a savior. Whether one’s candidate was the winner or loser, past excitement and enthusiasm toward the political process quickly gives way to present and future cynicism and despair about the state of the world.
But, as Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, once said, “No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.” How often we confuse the active, participatory, and dedicated theological virtue of hope — a deep and abiding trust in God’s providence — with a passive, noninvolved, and irresponsible understanding of it.
Jesus was hopeful about the coming kingdom of God. He actively sought to bring it forth. Likewise, as disciples, we are called to be hopeful co-creators with Jesus in constructing and building up the kingdom of God.
An advocate on behalf of the poor and marginalized, Day’s life was hopefully devoted to the “un’s:” unemployed, undocumented, unborn, uninsured, unfed, unprotected, unwanted, and unhealthy. She once said in an interview, “If your brother’s hungry, you feed him. You don’t meet him at the door and say, ‘Go be thou’ filled.’ You sit him down and feed him.”
It’s the same today. Whether we’re watching television, reading the newspaper, talking with co-workers, doing volunteer work, the voices of the destitute and forgotten, cry out to us, “Help.” We’re obligated to respond and get involved to the degree that our time and talents allow.
If the New Evangelization stressed by Pope Benedict XVI is about anything, it will find Catholics proclaiming the Gospel not only in words, but as much, if not more so, in deeds. In the process, the dynamism, relevance, and substance of the Christian faith will shine forth for all the world to see.
Unfortunately, however, the kingdom of God’s timeline often doesn’t match our own one year, one month, or one day plans. We demand that results have to happen over-night. Tensions have to be resolved by the end of a mission trip. Actions lasting several hours need to overcome years of neglect and discrimination.
Yet, this is simply not the case. Here I’m consoled though by a prayer by the late Jesuit scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin entitled “Patient Trust.” It reminds me that the kingdom is unfolding not according to my timeframe, but God’s.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to do something unknown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
What keeps me Catholic you ask? Hope and prayer.
Daley is a freelance writer and faculty member at St. Xavier High School.