Arts and Culture

Stories Filled with Faith, Hope and Charity

While writing this series of columns about how persons freely create their own stories, I have tried to emphasize the presence of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. We are never alone but are always surrounded by God’s loving presence. I have been thinking recently of the virtues of faith, hope and charity and the role they should play as we freely create our stories.

Often in commenting in homilies on the virtue of faith, I refer to it as a special light offered to people by God. The metaphor of light helps me to see how the virtue of faith helps us to see more deeply into reality. There is no reality that faith cannot illuminate.

Faith tells me who I am, who my neighbor is and who God is. I believe that the most profound truth about me is that I am unconditionally loved by God. I do not have to win this love or earn this love. It is a gift. No matter what I do, God will never withdraw this love. God has made a commitment to me. Whatever else is true about me, whatever talents I have, whatever good I have done, whatever accomplishments I have achieved, pale in comparison to the astounding truth that God loves me unconditionally.

Faith reveals the deepest truth about every person I meet. There are some people whose personality I find attractive, others I might find unattractive. God’s unconditional love of every person I meet should color how I view them and greatly influence how I relate to them. There are no unimportant people. Because of God’s love for people, every person I meet can be to me like a gift from God. Meeting a person in whom the Holy Spirit resides can be something like receiving a sacrament. Depending on how I relate to someone, I can be greatly blessed through an encounter with another person.

The French Catholic novelist, Francois Mauriac, claimed that a chance meeting with someone can have implications for eternity. My faith tells me that Mauriac’s statement expresses a profound truth about interpersonal relationships. 

I think faith can shed light on all of reality. It can shed light on literature and other arts, on government, on politics, on the media, on international relations. There is no area of reality in which God is not present, and faith can help us be sensitive to God’s presence anywhere.

Hope is extremely important if we are going to experience a deep Christian joy. I suspect that the pandemic has offered to us new experiences,  which can reveal just how important the virtue of hope is. Our basic attitude toward God should be gratitude. Hope reveals that eventually we are called to surrender to God. We do not save or redeem ourselves. We are called to place ourselves in God’s loving presence. Whatever evils we experience in our lives, whether spiritual or physical, they are not as powerful as God. Our hope and trust in God should make us confident in God’s final victory and, because of our relationship with God, of our share in God’s final victory.

The French Catholic poet, Charles Peguy, has a book of his poems which is entitled God Speaks (New York: Pantheon Books, Inc., 1945, pp.123, $3.00).

In each poem, Peguy imagines God speaking. There are ten poems in the collection. One of my favorites is “Hope.” Peguy writes the following:

“I am, says God, the Lord of Virtues.

Faith is a church, a cathedral rooted in the soil of France.

Charity is a hospital, an almshouse which gathers up all the miseries of the world.

But if it weren’t for hope, all that would be nothing but a cemetery.” (p.94)

“I am, says God, the Lord of virtues.

Faith is the sanctuary lamp

That burns forever.

Charity is that big beautiful log fire

That you light in your hearth

So that my children the poor may come and warm

Themselves before it on winter evenings.

And all around Faith I see all my faithful

Kneeling together in the same attitude, and with one voice

Uttering the same prayer.

And around Charity, I see all my poor

Sitting in a circle around that fire

And holding out their palms to the heat of the hearth.

But my hope is the bloom, and the fruit,

And the leaf, and the limb, and the twig, and the shoot, and the seed, and the bud.

Hope is the shoot, and the bud of the bloom

Of eternity itself.”  (pp. 102, 103)

As we try to freely write our life stories with God, faith and hope are very important but if it is true that God is love, then charity or love has a special role to play.

Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica. He presents two 15-minute talks from his lecture series on the Catholic Novel, 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday on NET-TV.