Fr. Fergal Cummins after his Ordination.
The newness of life is the birth of hope.
This month of October we pray for the gift of hope that is so much needed in our time. We pray that our children may
know the meaning of hope in their little lives and that they too will be bundles of hope to all they meet.
Hope in Life and Death
As adults, and adults who are parents growing old,
events it seems begin to overtake us. Life takes on new and different meanings; or perhaps we just see things differently. When our children were young, they were at the centre of our universe, monopolising our love, time and energy, demanding our attention,
needing our support. Occasionally, they defied us, eventually left home, made their way in the world, and returned to us for special occasions – our birthdays, their birthdays, Christmas and funerals.
Photographs and memories. We have plenty of
both, one usually generating the other. With modern technology and rose-tinted memories, it is possible to preserve them and remember, revive even, the hopes we had for ourselves and our children when we were young. Life was especially brimming with hope upon
each birth, a fresh addition to the growing family, the community. In the middle of all the budgeting for their pressing needs, we had dreams for them; and when they got older, they developed their own aspirations and desires.
For most of last month,
we waited for the arrival of our first grand-child. He was in no hurry. He missed his date, by ten days. His great grandmother-to-be wasn’t well and we were exhorting her to hang on until he arrived. He did eventually, all hale and hearty, a bonny baby.
The first photographs arrived by e-mail minutes after he emerged, and he succeeded in changing the status of several people, although some of the younger, new aunties slightly flinched at their titles. And the great grandmother lived to see pictures of her
great grand-child, and now our exhortation is that she must hang on, at least until she holds him in her arms.
Almost simultaneously, one of the new baby’s grand-aunts died, quite suddenly in the end, after a brief illness, which may have been
short on suffering, but allowed little time for saying a final goodbye. This had been unexpected and had hidden, tucked away beneath all the other dramas in the extended family. She had time, just, to see the pictures of her great grand-nephew, which brought
a smile to her emaciated but graceful features. We buried her in the family plot, on a mild Autumn day, in the last week of September. At least, it will be hard not to think of her, when the little child is foremost in our thoughts.
On the very last
day of September, when the cloud almost but not quite succeeded in blotting out the sun, and the trees had almost fully donned their autumnal coats, we attended an ordination. The young man was known to us, having visited the aforementioned great-grandmother,
the joy at his presence bringing some relief from her pain that day. Indeed, after her oft-repeated enquiry about the birth of her great grand-child, her second most-repeated question was about the ordination of the new priest.
The new diocesan bishop
presided at his very first ordination. Standing graciously at his side was his predecessor in the role, making the occasion just a little more memorable for those whose many children he had confirmed over the years.
The sun broke free from the clasp
of the clouds just as the new priest received his Holy Orders. It shone too as he was being dressed in his vestments by his proud, loving family. Warmth accompanied the light as the bishop gave thanks for the new addition to the ranks, enabling the continuation
of a tradition which had had its origins with Jesus Christ, and perhaps even before that. As mass continued, the new priest took his place at the side of his bishop. Fittingly, the church choir sang about ‘The Joy of Love’.
Hope, O my soul, hope.
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. Cf. (CCC 1817). 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. Cf. (CCC 1818).
Hope springs eternal
Hope and anxiety are sometimes twinned. Certainly, they continue to preside over family events, and after a period of waiting,
manifest themselves in an elatedness of spirit, expression of relief or disappointment. But it is hope which must endure, the theological virtue responding to the aspiration to happiness, whether at the arrival of the new-born child, or the passing of a loved
one to eternal life with God in Heaven. (The virtue) takes up the hopes that inspired a young man to enter the priesthood, and opened his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Hope gives encouragement to the Church and its faithful congregation, sustaining
each during times of challenge and abandonment. Hope preserves us from selfishness as we dedicate our lives to our children, happy in their achievements, the sacrifice worth it. Hope is forever, giving us the strength to accept the finality of our earthly
existence, and to desire the Kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness .