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Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Dear Larry and Susan,

I just read Larry's post on hope. Yes, we must always remember that hope is a virtue, one of the three theological virtues, and the most misunderstood and under appreciated. Hope has always been difficult for me. Only in the last few years, as I approach old age, have I begun to understand how important it is. How I wish they still taught about virtue and vice in school. Faith, hope, and charity, the theological virtues. Prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, the cardinal virtues. How can you cultivate something if you do not even know its name, what it is, how to define it?

Alas, virtues are mostly derided in our culture. Try talking to the average American about chastity and see how they react. They will think you are a religious nut case, if they have ever even heard the word.

Still, since hope is a virtue, we must seek it wherever we can, and nourish it, cherish it. Thank you for your post.

And I completely understand what you mean when you say that "violence is the modern cultural method for preventing and spacing the birth of children."

But I would not always have understood that statement so well, not even after my conversion to the Catholic faith.

When I think how deeply I was immersed in the ocean of lies that is the culture of death, it gives me, paradoxically, hope. Hope because I now begin to understand, comprehend. Only now, as I approach 60 years of age. Yes, when I converted at age 23 in 1974, God gave me the grace of contrition for my sins and a fervent desire to believe all that the Catholic Church holds and teaches. When he sent me my husband I wanted to live the sacrament and promised to accept children from God. We practiced natural family planning and had three wonderful children. I thought abortion was a great evil and sometimes sent money to pro-life groups like Human Life International. But I never went beyond that.

The culture of death is our ocean, the ocean of lies that we swim in, and fish are not aware of water. Most people in our secular culture are like the blind fish in the deepest part of the ocean; the weight of the waters of death keeps them in the dark. If they tried to swim toward the light they would literally explode. Only an infusion of grace can transform them, give them eyes to see and ears to hear and bring them up toward light and life. If I may continue this analogy, I think that God has completely transformed the living saints, the apostles of life like Fr. Frank Pavone and Mother Angelica. They are no longer fish, struggling to understand the water they swim in. I think of them as dolphins. They are still swimming in the ocean of lies, but they understand that trying to breathe in that water means literal death. They can swim to the surface, grab a lungful of life-giving air, and swim back down to communicate with the denizens of the deep. They are trying to help us grow lungs to breathe in the Gospel of Life.

Thanks to these modern apostles and their use of the media I am slowly beginning to understand the immensity of the evil of the culture of death. But because I am beginning to understand, and many other people are beginning to understand, I have hope. If someone like me can change, even a little, I must have hope. God can accomplish all things. Christ has overcome the world. What does that mean, exactly? I don't know, but I believe it. That must mean I have faith. Now if God would only instill in me the virtue of charity, I would have the big three!

Phoebe Wise

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