I was recently asked to write an essay on Christian hope in our time. The essay would be published in a book intended to counter the pessimism spawned by the clergy sexual-abuse crisis in the Church.
As I pondered my assignment, I reflected on the many temptations to despair that confront Catholics today: continuing revelations of sexual-abuse incidents, parish closings and financial shortfalls resulting from costly legal settlements, priest shortages, banal liturgies, religious apathy and a culture of dissent that has undermined Catholic identity in so many schools, hospitals and charities. The Church has no shortage of troubles, it is true.
Yet Catholics also have many reasons for hope. Our new pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, understands the challenges confronting the Church as well as anyone. His papal homilies, first encyclical and dozens of books reveal a unique gift for speaking the truth in love and persuasively proclaiming the Gospel to postmodern pilgrims. Pope Benedict's early efforts to revive the faith in the secular West and oppose injustice around the world have been inspiring, and they bode well for the future of the Church.
The faith of young Catholics is also a sign of hope. As I documented in my book, "The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Ortho-doxy" (Loyola, $19.95), a grass- roots religious revival has begun among young Americans. These "new faithful" Catholics are rejecting the lies of our materialistic culture and the diluted doctrine of dissenting theologians. They are gravitating toward the timeless truths of the Gospel and submitting to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. They are making their mark on the wider culture by promoting Catholic principles in the public square, defending Gospel truth in the mass media and bringing Catholic ethics to bear on their secular work. Most importantly, they are practicing quiet, heroic fidelity in their newfound vocations as husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, religious sisters and brothers and priests. In their commitments we can see the seeds of Church renewal and cultural transformation.
As inspiring as the Church's present and future leaders may be, we know that Christian hope finds its ultimate fulfillment only in Jesus Christ, who founded the Church, pledged to remain with her always and promised us eternal life if we follow him. The promises of Jesus do not make irrelevant our efforts to renew Church and culture. Rather, they inspire us to tackle those tasks with vigor and confidence, liberated from fears about our own inadequacies because we trust that we have the final victory in Jesus Christ.
The joyful hope that springs from the promises of Jesus Christ has inspired my own work through the years and has led me to embrace new projects and challenges, including the creation of "Faith & Culture," a television show that I will host on Eternal Word Television Network beginning this fall. These new pursuits are exciting but time consuming, and they have made it necessary for me to bring this biweekly column to a close.
It has been a pleasure to converse with you in this intimate way and I will miss it. In this Easter season, it seems fitting to conclude "Into the Deep" with this verse from Jeremiah: "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope" (29:11). My Easter wish for each of you is a future full of hope, a hope grounded in nothing less than the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.