An excellent description of hope is found in a poem written by Emily Dickinson. She wrote: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all.” * Hope is often mischaracterized as something that is illusive, and at worst it is treated as if it was some sort of ‘wishing for a desired result,’ an attitude which implies that hope is tentative. Spiritually we know that hope is far from that; hope is about utilizing faith and love, (her ‘sisters’ in the three theological virtues given at Baptism), to orient one’s life with purpose toward the promises of Christ. In other words, to hope is to trust completely in what God has revealed and therefore in that which He has promised. It is accepting His will with love as we purposefully live what He has taught, knowing that the end result is life with Him in Heaven forever. Hope is not about having a struggle-free life, but it is believing the message of Jesus and living it as a response of love and humility. It means trusting that in the end, all shall be well. As Dickinson said, hope “never stops at all.”
We should never give up hope for any reason; we should never think ourselves to be ‘a hopeless case’ or to think that of someone else. Simply put, there is no such thing as a person who is beyond hope. That is why the story of Blessed Bartolo Longo is so relevant. If anyone ever seemed like a hopeless case, it was definitely Bartolo, and yet he is now beatified and on the road to sainthood. His story is fascinating: Bartolo Longo (1841 – 1926) was educated as a lawyer, but after becoming influenced by those who hated the Church, and simultaneously being disenchanted with life, he turned to mediums and fortunetellers, eventually ending up as a priest of Satan. He was still deeply unhappy, and invited by a friend to visit a Dominican priest, he repented and eventually converted to Catholicism. Sometime after this, as he began to despair over the thought that he could never be truly freed from being a Satanist priest, (a temptation,) he had a mystical experience in which Mary came to him. Afterward, not only did he find himself freed from guilt, but he began to pray the Rosary regularly and to propagate it as a powerful means of prayer. Becoming a Third Order Dominican, he went on to write books, built schools and orphanages, and with the help of a benefactor (eventually his wife), built a huge cathedral in Pompeii which is known as Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. He was also the inspiration for Pope Pius XII to declare the Doctrine of the Assumption of Mary and for St. (Pope) John Paul II to add the Luminous Mysteries to the traditional Rosary. **
There may be few cases that seem more hopeless than that of Bl. Bartolo Longo, and yet as he desperately searched for meaning, God reached out. He is a magnificent example of why we should never give up hope or ever give up on someone else. And if God never gives up on us, who are we to think we know better than God? The mercy of God is so vast that He continually reaches out to all His children, even the ones who seem furthest from Him; in fact, the gospels indicate that God makes an effort especially for these. That God’s mercy is way beyond our comprehension is exactly why the gift of hope is so important. The world is a tangled web; there is so much that is beyond us, yet we have powerful resources in order to resist attack and enhance spiritual growth: we always have the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, and access to God through our prayer. And in our prayer, we have the Rosary as an excellent weapon, as St. Padre Pio often said in order to emphasize that we have an potent spiritual resource to combat evil and temptation, and through it, we have an immeasurable wealth of spiritual depth. Praying the Rosary daily not only honors Mary and glorifies Jesus, but it also provides a source of meditation upon the mysteries of our faith by drawing us into the Scriptures, unlocking insights as we consider each of the mysteries that comprise the Rosary.
If you have never prayed the Rosary before or if your prayer with it is sporadic, I encourage you to pray it. *** (And if you already pray it regularly, keep it up!) Remember, the repetition of prayers is the means to focus on the events in the life of Mary and Jesus that are important to our faith. Praying it does not mean we will receive everything we desire, but rather that we trust in Mary’s intercession and God’s wisdom. As we make our intentions known we will receive spiritual graces, especially growing in recognition and acceptance of God’s will in preference to own. The Rosary is a dynamic source of consolation and of enhancement of our spiritual growth; Mary’s intercession is powerful and God’s grace is indefatigable. As we see in the life of Bl. Bartolo Longo, the Rosary became his lifeline and then his strength as he put all his hope in the Lord, thus transforming his life. “Hope perches in the soul and sings without words;” that is, the power of prayer is beyond our understanding because the wisdom, mercy, and love of God are wonderfully incomprehensible. And, if we immerse ourselves in hope, “it never stops at all.”
May we never lose hope! May we always rely upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit and all the graces given to us by God! And may we imitate Bl. Bartolo Longo, hoping in God and trusting in Our Lady through praying the Rosary! Let us meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* Emily Dickinson quote, first stanza of the poem:
** For more on Blessed Bartolo Longo go to https://dominicanfriars.org/former-satanist-priest-became-saint/
*** All-in-one prayer resource for praying the Rosary:
Important: I will be taking a bit of a "blog holiday" for a little while. I have been writing for 10 years (yes, indeed) and at this point there are times I need a short break so that I can keep my writing fresh. I will post something new again on November 14. Until then I offer this suggestion for October 17, which would have been the next post date: https://www.catanesesd.com/micheles-blog/countless-mirrors-reflecting-love.
For October 31, I recommend this one: https://www.catanesesd.com/micheles-blog/surrounded-by-friends-we-have-not-yet-met
Remember, my Archives are always available, which means there is 10 years worth of material for you to read at any time you so desire. Thank you for your continued support.
1. My photo, kingfisher on a branch in the Badlands, South Dakota.
2. Photo, Bl. Bartolo Longo at age 22. (From the dominicanfriars.org site referenced above.)
3. My photo of stained glass, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, taken in Nevers, France in the chapel where St. Bernadette Soubirous was first interred.
4. Icon, Mother of God She Who Hears the Cries of the World by Fr. William Hart McNichols. You can find this icon in one of many mediums at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-of-god-she-who-hears-the-cries-of-the-world-106-william-hart-mcnichols.html
5. My photos, Notre Dame Cathedral before the fire. Paris, France. This cathedral is a sure sign of hope as it is being rebuilt.
Note: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Heart Speaks to Heart