College of Arts and Sciences

Sustaining Hope


Each month a member of the University Cabinet offers a prayer to begin the meeting. This week was my turn. 

I offered a prayer—a supplication, really—for wisdom and hope.

I don’t know about you, but I feel myself in need of both.

For all that we face, the decisions that we together and separately will make in the days ahead, it seemed to me that we would all benefit from what the epistle of James called “the wisdom from above” – wisdom that is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17). The same wisdom for which Solomon asked.

No less will we need hope, more I suspect than we already carry with us. 

Here I want to be precise. 

I did not ask for remembered hope, tinged with sadness that the future is not unfolding as we had imagined. I heard a homily recently about such remembered hope, as it was related by the two downhearted apostles on the road to Emmaus on Easter morning.

“They crucified him,” the apostles told their companion, whom they failed to recognize, “but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” – by which they seem to have meant, “we had hoped that he would free Israel from the Romans.” (Luke 24:20-21) 
We of course already have more than enough remembered hopes—not least the hopes we had to congratulate our newest Xavier graduates with fitting ceremonies earlier this month. And yes, even to shake their hands. We had hoped.

Nor, I think, do we need the type of hope that the Czech theologian Tomáš Halík dismissed as “optimism,” namely “the opinion that everything will somehow turn out all right.”

But instead, I asked that we might receive a sustaining hope—one that allows us (in Halík’s words) to “accept reality and its burden,” and nevertheless persist. The kind of hope that gives us the energy to work hard to make the world better. The kind of joy-giving hope that Laudato si’ invokes, even as it describes rather dauntingly the “long path of renewal” ahead for our common home.

And so I offered a prayer, adapted here: 

Dear God: for the community of Xavier University, and especially for the people of the College of Arts and Sciences, we humbly ask for the wisdom from above and for hope to sustain us.


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