Caution: This column may contain shameless place- and name-dropping.
On a recent Friday, I was at Cardinal Georges North Side residence waiting for him. He had a speaking engagement and I was going to take him. The cardinal was a bit late, hardly unusual for someone whose daily schedule reads like a commuter train: one station after another.
Waiting, I was looking out the windows. Suddenly I was startled by a flash of green clothing. There it was again, popping in and out of view through the foliage, shaded by the afternoon shadows. I recovered my surprise to identify the vision: It was a Rollerblader, zipping along and obviously enjoying the spring weather.
A little farther down the street, the view became clearer and I was shocked by what I saw: The skater was tooling along on twin artificial legs. Nothing remotely anatomically correct about them, either, just a couple of narrow, pipe-like appendages.
Thoughts raced through my mind: There was a touch of pity, then envy, then sorrow, then elation for a man who likely did far better in a bad situation than I ever would.
Finally, though, there was hope tinged with resolve. After all, if a man can accomplish that in the face of such adversity, Im never going to despair again. Never. There is simply too much to hope for.
Hope! Thats the core of our faith, yet its an elusive core. Its easy to get overwhelmed by need, by hurt, by worry. Im hardly immune: we dont sell enough subscriptions to The Catholic New World; budgets are due; my basement leaks. See whats bothering me these days?
But wheres the hope, especially here, deep into the Easter season?
Its there; we just have to look for it, or let it be rooted out by a chance meeting with a legless, but hardly disabled, Rollerblader.
If were a hopeful people, not despairing when things dont seem to go our way, how do we act?
I was reminded of that episode when a letter to the editor crossed my desk. The sentiments were too common, actually. These days, in the wake of what passes for success in Iraq, a lot of people mistake the culture of citizenship for the culture of faith. It wasnt so much what the letter-writer said, it was the matter of fact way he said it:
Im tired about letter-writers talking about peace and love, he wrote, in obvious response to opinions that peace and love are somehow more important than he believes.
To be fair to the letter-writer, his point was that being holy shouldnt mean being simple, and that peace and love arent likely to deter terrorists and warmakers.
Theres some truth to that, certainly, especially the part about not being simple. Thats why the encounter with the Rollerblader reminded me of the more important part: hope.
Faced with a crisis, we can react in several ways. We can lash out and bend others will to ours, often through force and violence. Or we can act justly to change the circumstancesour own or those around us.
If hope is at the core of faith, peace and love arent far behind. And hope does not mean inaction, but faithful action.
Our culture abounds with examples of the lack of peace, love and hope. The churchs goal is to champion those virtues, and challenge those who would deny them.
Thats why Pope John Paul II has spoken about peace (and love) and our violent world. Its why Mary-Louise Kurey, director of the archdioceses Respect Life Office, testified April 30 before committees of the Illinois Senate to oppose bills which would allow unfettered embryonic stem cell research and limit peaceful, prayer witness at abortion clinics. Its why the Illinois Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the church, maintains a constant effort in Springfield to challenge measures that lack peace, love and hope. (For information:
Against the adversities of todays culture, hope is a powerful weapon.