Hope in darkness

Grotte-de-Lourdes-la-nuitFrom Hopes to Hope

Many years ago, as I was standing in the rain in front of the grotto at Lourdes on a cold February morning, Chanoine Croset, the saintly old priest whose anniversary of death occurs today, told me that it was time for me to pass from having hopes to having hope. Passer des espoirs à l’espérance. He said something like, “Little brother, now it is time for you to let go of your hopes so as to live in hope.” It is a fearful thing to die to one’s cherished hopes, to pass from clinging to one’s own hopes so as to practice unconditionally the theological virtue of hope.

Darkness and Light

Father Croset practiced the virtue of hope to an heroic degree.  As a young priest, successful in his diocesan ministry and full of promise, he was maligned by an unbalanced person. Overnight, his reputation was ruined. Without being given a hearing, he was exiled from his diocese and told never to return. Thus did he enter into years of profound moral suffering and, paradoxically, an extraordinary fecundity in the care of souls who sought him out for spiritual direction. Fifty years after the shame of being banished from his diocese, his case was reviewed by the bishop then in charge. The old accusations were proven false and Father Croset was declared innocent. Father Croset was invited to return to his diocese on 7 October 1986 in order to concelebrate with Pope John Paul II who was there on pilgrimage.

I cannot help but relate the life and sufferings of Father Croset to the magnificent Act of Hope written by Saint Claude La Colombière:

An Act of Hope and Confidence in God

My God, I believe most firmly that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee, and that we can want for nothing when we rely upon Thee in all things; therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties, and to cast all my cares upon Thee.

People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors; sickness may take from me my strength and the means of serving Thee; I may even lose Thy grace by sin; but my trust shall never leave me. I will preserve it to the last moment of my life, and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me.

Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents; let them trust to the purity of their lives, the severity of their mortifications, to the number of their good works, the fervor of their prayers; as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope. “For Thou, O Lord, singularly has settled me in hope.” This confidence can never be in vain. “No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded.”

I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness, for I firmly hope for it, and all my hope is in Thee. “In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded.”

I know, alas! I know but too well that I am frail and changeable; I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue. I have seen stars fall from heaven, and pillars of firmament totter; but these things alarm me not. While I hope in Thee I am sheltered from all misfortune, and I am sure that my trust shall endure, for I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope.

Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty, and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee. Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations; that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assaults of the evil one, and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies. I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me, and that I shall love Thee unceasingly. “In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded.”

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