To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless. – G.K. Chesterton
When I tell friends in Catholic circles about our minute prospects for biological children, and the lack of any ethical medical options to help with conceiving, I sometimes hear responses like, “Remember nothing is impossible for God”, or a suggestion for a particular novena or patron saint of impossible causes, or even, “Don’t listen to that doctor!”
I know, by faith, that these friends are right. Nothing is impossible for God. I’ve witnessed seemingly-hopeless situations changed by Him, and I’ve marveled at hearts transformed and blessings bestowed.
And yet, this modern age is characterized by medical breakthroughs, technological advances, and immediate access to self-diagnosis tools with high statistical accuracy. Frankly, it’s hard to resist the temptation to put my trust in WebMD instead of the Divine Physician. It’s difficult to keep praying for a cause that a doctor with an impressive wall of diplomas has insisted won’t take place. Sometimes I wish I’d lived long ago, where science and technology had not been around to give us our diagnosis. How much more hopeful might I have been, living in the mystery of the unknown!
But then, aren’t I still called to be hopeful? Doesn’t Hope endure every age and any trial? I found myself asking these questions interiorly prior to Advent of this past year. My husband and I came upon an Advent reflection in the Magnificat publication called “Advent Stations: Office of the Ancestors of Christ.” We were surprised and comforted to be reminded of the desolation during the years of infertility endured by Hannah and Elkanah, Abraham and Sarah, Manoah and his wife, and Anne and Joachim. Their stories reminded us of the Truth of hoping in God’s Providence. The same God who saw the struggles of these barren couples now sees us where we are, too. Even with the diagnosis and medical “certainty”, we are still called to trust in Him as we walk into our unknown. Does He not also have a plan for us?
These questions had me thinking about Hope, and how to understand it in our modern age. So I turned to a talk by one of my favorite ladies on YouTube, Mother Angelica, and a talk she gave on “Mother Angelica Live” on Hope. In her characteristically cheerful way, she contrasts hope in the worldly sense (“gee, I hope it won’t rain today”), with the supernatural Hope that is given to us through our Baptism and life in Christ. She says, “Whether things go my way our not, whether I like them or not, whether I understand them or not, is irrelevant. He’s in charge.” Reflecting on the same Sarah and Anne I read about with my husband over Advent, she said “good thing St. Anne or Sarah didn’t have a doctor around…he would’ve said, you can’t have any children! […] Don’t ever tell God he can’t perform a miracle!” With that line, it felt like she was somehow speaking directly to me.
It is this supernatural, theological hope that I pray for: a hope that allows for the miracle of a child, because God can do anything – that same hope which also knows if this miracle child never comes, that God will bring about a miracle of a different kind. Perhaps the miracle will take the form of a conversion in the heart of a brother prayed for, or in an openness to raise children not of my own body, or in helping godchildren to know Christ. As Mother Angelica reminds me, God performs miracles all the time.
When I think of God performing miracles, I often think of Lourdes; shortly before I got married, I made a pilgrimage there with my parents and brother. Not only was I tremendously blessed to share this special time with my family, but I was particularly impacted by the nightly candlelit processions to the Grotto led by the many disabled pilgrims. As I witnessed them line up to bathe in the cold waters (it was October!) with the help of nurses and attendants, I wondered if I could ever have such hope and trust in God. I’ve often recalled that memory and those pilgrims in the years since. Since then, I’m coming to understand that Hope is not dependent on receiving a physical cure in this life. Miracle or no miracle, God brings light out of the darkness, hope out of the hopeless, and new life out of barrenness.
Ultimately, Hope is based on our understanding of eternity – even if we don’t quite understand God’s ways in this life, we believe He will reveal them to us in the next. The Blessed Virgin Mary told St. Bernadette, “I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next.” God, please grant us a miracle if it is your will, and if not, miraculously fill our hearts with the grace to recognize the spiritual fertility you have given us. Give us a spirit of trust in your plan for our lives and a supernatural Hope that endures all things.
Allie is married to her husband of nearly three years and writes from Texas.