Subtitle: The Virtue of Hope.
I am so happy I got to confession yesterday. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the awfulness of my sins.
Part of making one’s confession is to think of ways not to fall into the same sins again. This is part of having a firm purpose of amendment. So I was thinking about various ways of doing that, for my more troublesome and persistent faults.
Then I remembered something a good priest once told me: it’s good to weed the garden, but sometimes it’s better to plant more plants. The point is to fill the garden with so many virtues and good habits, that the sins have no room to grow.
Then I remembered the saying of one of the saints, that to grow in perfection in one virtue helps us to grow in perfection in all the virtues. I’m an engineering graduate, so I like efficiency! So, I decided to choose one virtue to focus on.
The logical choice would be temperance: meaning to keep right order during the day and performing my duties in a timely way as much as possible. But… oh dear! Let’s choose another!
Let’s choose one I already have a bit of. Well, I recently fought the hardest battle of my life – and by the grace of God, I won. A victory never to be forgotten! But most of all, once I knew for certain that it was God’s will to help me solve this problem, I never, ever lost hope. Not once, as far as I can recall. I got mad, I got tired… so damn tired. I cried a river. But I knew God would fix it and He did.
Also, at the time, I developed a greater devotion to Our Heavenly Father. My Father. Your Father. From that time to this, I have never felt lonely.
So… hope. Yes, that’s definitely what I need right now and so do many of us.
About a year ago, I had a little extra time on my hands (kind of, sort of) so I started reading more of Peter Hitchens’ blog, which I had been an irregular reader of since about 2010. Reading that blog led me to see a couple of Youtube clips of Christopher Hitchens, his brother.
I had never before had any interest in Christopher at all. Generally, I’m not interested in famous, militant atheists. But there was this one clip, with CH being interviewed by Australian journalist, Jennifer Byrne, which was very enjoyable.
It’s part of a longer interview, but this is really the only section I liked, from memory. Listening to it again, I have to object to the description of his father. I doubt very much his criticism was true and in any case, it’s a violation of the Fourth Commandment.* He then described how women are better at looking after babies than men (we are, although men are not hopeless at it, by any means) and how he thought it was his responsibility to look after his wife and children. After watching most of this clip and after having recovered from his saying “… not having any woman of mine…” and after hearing the magic words “…the gentle sex…” and “I don’t think a Mrs. Hitchens should have to work,” I realised I was madly in love with him!
This is very odd in retrospect, but it was very enjoyable at the time. I estimated this lasted for about 29 seconds. It’s ok, I came to my senses.
Of course, it would never have worked between us, this one-sided love affair. After all, there was the smoking thing, and the arrested development thing, and the hating God thing. Also, he was married. I was married, come to think of it. Lastly, he had died, so that really put a dampener on things.
As I say, I came to my senses, but it’s a funny thing that since I enjoyed his old c-span clips with his brother and Brian Lamb (e.g. here) and have watched them a few times, I do think about him surprisingly often. When I do, I pray for his soul.
This is the Virtue of Hope.
I have no idea what the state of his soul was when he died. It is the charitable thing to pray for the souls of the deceased. For one thing, our prayers can help them retrospectively in their last earthly moments. For another, if they are in Purgatory, we can help them by our prayers. The holy souls in Purgatory will not get out until “they have paid the last farthing.” They will be saved “as one who has gone through fire.” They can no longer pray for themselves.
Why should I pray for the soul of one who hated God so much and who has led so many astray? Well, for one thing, I am a sinner and my sins terrify me. I hope someone is praying for me even now.
For another, Jesus died on the cross to save him and you and me. Why should Satan get to keep us? It cost Jesus so much to pay for our salvation. Should we give up on a soul? Not unless we know him or her to be damned for sure. Apart from Judas Iscariot, we do not know who is in Hell. Therefore, we should pray for all the deceased.
What if I pray for a soul who is in Hell, though? Are my prayers wasted?
Not really. For one thing, prayer is about a soul and God. My prayer is about God and my worship of Him. All my prayers are to the benefit of my soul. All my prayers make me more loving and a better person. No prayer is wasted. As for the specific intentions, our prayers can be used by God for others and in any way it pleases Him.
But I would not pray for the dead, or specifically Christopher Hitchens, if I didn’t have the Virtue of Hope.
Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
An Act of Hope
O MY GOD, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I
hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace, and Life Everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.
*The Fourth Commandment, as listed by the Catholic Church, is “Love Thy Mother and Father, that ye may live long in the land.”