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Evansville, Indiana
March 6, 1998     The Message
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0 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana When hope goes on leave By FATHER HERB WEBER Catholic News Service In any parish there are men and women -- and teens as-well -- who seem to lack any real hope. They face each day with a weariness that presses on them. While their situations in and of themselves may not be hopeless, the experience of facing these situations seems void of hope. Hope is a virtue, and it assures a per- son that he or she is not alone in facing a crisis Or troubling circumstances. Hope helps a person believe and persevere because there is a certainty to life and faith that goes beyond what is apparent. The person of hope can trust in the future. Conversely, the person who lacks hope finds it almost impossible to see any light beyond the darkness. Thi person does- n't have confidence that pain can giv6 way to relief. Examples of the absence of hope abound. One couple shared with me their feeling of abandonment by God as they experienced a miscarriage after years of praying for a pregnancy..They asked very openly whether God even noticed their plight. For others, hope wanes in the face of a spouse requesting a divorce, a teen-age child caught up in drugs or turning his or her back on the parents, or an employ- er announcing an imminent closing of the plant. Caught in a crisis, there are those who lose sight of God as the one who wiU see them through it. I recall Evie saying with great desper- ation: "People keep telling me to trust in the Lord. I've tried, but matters only get worse!" Such hopelessness has to be taken seri- ously by all members of a parish family. Realizing that there are folks in church who are just barely hanging on can spur everyone toward gentle and authentic awareness. Accepting those who are feel- ing empty of hope is a primary task of any f.aith community. Losing hope is not the same as having clinical depression although the two may overlap. Tan, a foreign graduate student in an American university, experienced a loss of hope as his academic career pro- gressed. Being far from home and a fam- ily system that had defined his belief sys- tem and responsibilities, he felt disaffiliated from his faith and from God. He felt alienated, almost as if no one on earth cared whether he lived or died. His heart ached as he struggled to pray. Symptoms of depression were there as well: a lack of focus, an inability to sleep soundly and an overall lethargy. Tan's request for counseling was itself a step forward. He indicated his sense of hopelessness, but also wondered why he felt so depressed. In addition to counsel- ing, I invited him to try to experience his faith by connecting up with the church in our middle-America university set- ting. Once he started to reconnect with a church that had seemed foreign to him, he also began to find God again. There was a resurgence of hope and a reassur- ance that he belonged. What often is needed by those who are experiencing hope's absence is precisely the reassurance that they are not alone. Last summer I wrote an article about the "invisible persons" in our parishes. The divorced, the poor and the gays are some examples of men and women needing to be included  made wel- come  in our parishes. A number of men and women wrote to me afterward to express the sense of hope the article gave them. It was a reminder that they, in their own particular circum- See LEAVE page 11 "Hopelessness has to be taken seriously by all ly," says Father Herb Weber. "Realizing that there are folio are just barely hanging on can spur everyone toward gentle awareness." Why hope makes a difference By FATHER ROBERT L. KINAST Catholic News Service I was part of a team visiting a juvenile detention home one day, trying to inter- est the young men in a work program when they were released. "Why bother?" one of them askeda. ..... l m going to be dead before I turn 20." A week later I met with another group of felons, all of whom had life sentences with no chance of parole. They spoke of earning their GED (general equivalency diploma) through correspondences courses and trying to get a Bible study under way. The difference between the two groups highlights some important characteris- tics of hope and hopelessness. A hopeful person looks forward to the future as a time of positive, mean- ingful experience. But hope is not wish- ful thinking ("If 1 am kind, I will never be hurt by others") or an eape from reality ""u 1 : re yone drink won't renew my craving for alcohol"). A person without hope does not look forward to the future. This person is unable to envision anything but negative experiences in the future. So one sign of hopelessness is a per- son's narrow and negative view of life. A woman whose husband of 25 years asks for a divorce can lose hope in life if she dwells only on her perceived failure in the marriage rather than her success as a mother, as an engaging person with lots of friends and as an excellent teacher, People who truly lack hope persist in their negative assessment of life. They may sometimes give the impression that they prefer being unhappy to consider- ing changes. Sometimes people who lack hope will acknowledge the possibility of change but will not take the necessary steps to achieve it. They appear helpless and apathetic. An employee in his late 50s lost his job as part of a company's downsizing. The effect was devastating to his self-esteem and plans for the future. Although the company provided counseling and financial support for him to acquire new, more marketable skills, the man did not take advantage of them, claiming that no company would want to hire someone his age. Hopelessness is not a passing reaction to life's negative moments. It is a more chronic outlook. When such a person withdraws from life, it is not a calculated, rational move. Rather, the person with- draws because life seems so negative. Consequently, the most effective response to hopelessness is not a ratio- nal argument but a realistic example. This is where a community of faith can play a crucial role. A community of faith nurtures hope because it looks to the future with a con- fidence grounded in GKt's past and pre- sent saving dyeds. If ever there was a time h)r hopeless- ness, it was in the aftermath of Jesus' death. Yet, out of the bleak experience came the astounding new reality of res- ' urrection. The Lenten sea,n is a special time fi,r Christian co deepen their death-resurrection they are not just ual. They are ence which can hope pass over to a ........ Father Kinast is for Theological Beach, Fla. In a When feel the future is i one is cut off, ones es.