We are at the beginning of a brand new year and I want to extend my sincere wishes to you and your family for a very blessed, joy-filled and peaceful year ahead. Turning over the calendar to a new year is a traditional time to reflect on the past with new hopes and dreams for the year ahead. What are you bringing into the new year? For some of us we are bringing aches from losing a loved one. Reflecting on my experience of losing my dad has given me renewed hope for 2018 as I seek to grow in faith, hope and charity.
In February of 2017 my family went through the experience of losing a close family member. My dad had been living with Alzheimer’s making a sudden turn for the worse requiring a move to intensive care and then hospice. Even though doctors gave my dad hours to live, he chose to give us days. In a period of time where people choose to end suffering, my dad blessed our family with his.
I won’t minimize the pain watching someone live with Alzheimer’s or any other disease involving suffering. It’s hard to accept the prognosis. It’s not easy to watch someone die. Why, then, am I telling you my family was blessed through my dad’s suffering? He gave us the opportunity to grow in virtue while we reflected on his. As we prayed together, sang songs to dad, shared familiar stories and learned new ones, we grew as a family in faith, hope and charity.
I was reaffirmed of the power of those virtues when attending a recent funeral for a woman I admired and loved for many years. The family members shared family experiences and final experiences they had with their mom. Even though Alzheimer’s had taken her memories, the disease had not take her virtues of faith, hope and charity. What a powerful witness, again, of how these three virtues can shine like gold even as we die.
Would you like to join me in growing in faith, hope and charity? What is faith, hope charity? I would like to share with you some teaching from Fr. Jacques Philippe. In his book “Interior Freedom” he teaches us:
“Faith is the root of our cure and our liberation, the start of a life-giving process that heals the death engendered by sin.”
“Hope is a choice that often demands an effort. It is easier to worry, get discouraged, be afraid. Hoping means trusting. When we hope we are not passive: we are acting.”
“There can be no charity without hope. Love needs space to grow and flourish; it is a marvelous thing, but in a sense, fragile. The special “environment” it needs is made up of hope. If love does not grow or turns cold, very often that’s because it is stifled by cares, fears, worries, or discouragements.”
“Love is also a decision. Sometimes it comes spontaneously, but very often loving people will mean choosing to love them. Otherwise love would be no more than emotion, even selfishness, and not something that engages our freedom.”
And from his book, “Charitable Life”, Fr. Jacques Philippe writes “The greatest act of charity one can do for others is to encourage them to live in faith and hope. To praise God is a veritable food for the soul.”
As I seek to grow in the three-legged stool of the virtues faith, hope and charity I believe I will begin with praising God more often. I will praise Him in the morning for a new day, I will praise Him in the noontime for the food, farm and family I have and I will praise Him in the evening for the gift of life, love and laughter and I will praise Him as I sleep for the wise men and women have taught me the value of faith, hope and charity.
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