St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Theological Virtue of Hope
The infused theological virtue of hope compels us onward in trust of Christ's promises and his unfailing help, strengthening us to live fruitful lives as children of God.
"We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ" (CCC 1821). It was hope in the love of Christ that compelled St. Maximilian Kolbe to confidently step forward and say, "I wish to die for that man."
The story is well known. In his labors to protect many Jewish refugees, Kolbe found himself a Nazi target, was arrested, and sent off to Auschwitz in 1941. There, in the midst of the death camp's unimaginable daily horrors, he worked to encourage his fellow prisoners by setting an example of faith and hope.
One day a prisoner escaped, and, in order to bring an end to any future plans of the same, the guards decided to punish 10 inmates of cellblock 14 by condemning them to death by starvation in an underground bunker. One of the ten was Franciszek Gajowniczek, who began to weep and cried out, "My poor wife and children! I will never see them again!" At that moment, Fr. Kolbe calmly and purposefully stepped forward.
"I wish to die for that man. I am old; he has a wife and children." Such an unusual offer surprised the deputy commandant, who asked Kolbe to identify himself. His response was simple and direct: "I am a Catholic priest." Those words said far more about the saint than any name possibly could. The commandant agreed to grant the request.
Thrown into the dank, crowded underground bunker with the other men, Maximilian Kolbe continued to set an example of faith and hope, leading them in prayers of praise and adoration to God, singing hymns, and encouraging them to focus on the certain and irrevocable promises of Christ. Looking back on those events, we see that Fr. Kolbe's food, in imitation of the Savior, was to do the Father's will (see Jn 4:34), for weeks later it became necessary to kill him by lethal injection.
Maximilian Kolbe, a martyr for charity, was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 10 October 1982, with the surviving Franciszek Gajowniczek present. As is normally the case, we begin to glimpse the sublime mystery of God's loving providence by looking into history, whether it is our own, another's, or that of humankind collectively, as we cast our eyes and hearts upon the unfolding landscape of salvation in Christ.
The Life of Hope
While there are many things we can learn from the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, one which stands out above others is the power of hope. Here we do not speak of hope as a natural human virtue, such as we might find in the personal conviction that we will somehow "get through the day" or complete a difficult task, but rather as one of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity that are infused into the human person by God. St. Maximilian's hope did not originate from within himself, but from outside of himself, as a supernatural gift bestowed by the divine Other, from Father to adopted son. It was the virtue of hope that allowed St. Maximilian to continue to trustingly walk forward, even when faced with death itself, confident in the promises of Christ, enabling him to live as a child of God.
The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity "adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature" and "directly relate to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity," and have as "their origin, motive, and object" the Triune God (CCC 1812). The theological virtues, then, are "infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life," and thus are "the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being" (CCC 1813).
We could not live and function as God's children in absence of the infused theological virtues. For instance, devoid of hope, we would lack the ability to trust in Christ's promises, which would overpower any desire for the kingdom of heaven and eternal life with God as the culmination of human fulfillment. Therefore the joy experienced in looking forward to a life of unending happiness with God would be replaced by the darkness of discouragement -- if such a sad state of existence were not supplemented by created objects as distractions, it would become truly unbearable. However, God provides us with unceasing encouragement through the virtue of hope, even in the midst of the greatest difficulties, providing us with not only a thirst for what he has planned out of his superabundant goodness, but the certitude that he himself will aid us in journeying ever-more-deeply into his life of love.
"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Christian Saints & Heroes News
- St. Catherine of Sienna Calls Each One of Us to Love God Right Where We Are
- After the Corned Beef: St. Patrick Challenges Modern Christians to be Missionaries
- Bet you didn't know these 10 things about St. Patrick and Ireland!
- The Vision of St. John Bosco and the Papacy of Benedict XVI
- St. Thomas Aquinas is a Model for the New Evangelization
- Saint John Neumann Calls us all to Apostolic Charity and Courageous Christianity
- Who are you? John the Baptizer, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen Call Christian Men to Live as Friends
- Prophetic Pope Paul VI, a Champion of Human Life, Now Venerable
- Feast of St Francis Xavier Calls for New Evangelization Missionaries For the West
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
Catholic Online offers the largest searchable database of Catholic Saints on the internet.
|A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z|
|A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z|