It was the Eve of the Feast of the Assumption when I got an unexpected positive pregnancy test. I’ve been pregnant every year since 2012 and my youngest child is only ten months old. While I felt joy and excitement that I would get to know and love another tiny human, I had all sorts of other emotions too. I dreaded months of miserable morning sickness. I dreaded all the other aches and pains and complications of pregnancy so soon after a pregnancy. I dreaded another c-section and recovery. I worried about how I would manage three children while pregnant or four with unpredictable health in general. But none of these feelings compared to my worst, deepest, and saddest feeling— but one I’ve had with every pregnancy— I’m afraid of bringing another child into this dark, dark world.
The next morning we woke to some horrifying news about the Catholic Church. The place we call home— our safest, most sacred place— had become a hell for thousands of children and innocents. What we depend upon as our beacon of light, purity, and truth had been used as a hiding place for darkness, corruption, and lies. Our shepherds had abused their sheep.
Later than evening, I happened upon a cloud of smoke rising up into the sky. I figured it was coming from a restaurant, but as I got closer I saw a car in flames. I’ve never seen a car in flames before. I watched as that steel beauty melted into a withered skeleton.
Sometimes there is no philosophical answer to the problem of evil. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make any sense at all. But we always have the opportunity to hope. As Victor Frankl insists in his beautiful memoir of the concentration camps, hope is, quite literally, the only way to survive the pain created by extreme evil. Without hope, there is no reason to stay in the Catholic Church. Without hope, there is no reason to have another child. Without hope, in desperate situations, there is no reason to live.
But hope is a piercing light. When it shines through it shatters the darkness. Every time I’ve had a baby in the womb there’s a part of me that doesn’t want the baby to ever leave. What could feel safer from the evil of the world than a womb? But then I hold that baby for the first time and there’s no going back. And I wouldn’t ever dare go back. Once you start to hope, you can’t stop. It’s addictive. It’s powerful. And it makes life totally meaningful.
Now, hope is not passive. Not at all. It’s not just a nice feeling or sentiment or mantra. Hope is getting up and doing what we are supposed to do even when we don’t feel like doing it. Hope is maintaining good cheer even when we don’t feel cheerful. Hope is loving the people we are meant to love, right here and now, and loving them well. Hope is praying when you don’t feel anything. Hope is going to Mass in a church you’re skeptical of or even angry with if you believe that the sacraments transcend that church and that Jesus will save that church. Hope is not pretending there is not evil in the world. Hope is insisting that I and those around me become a source of goodness. Hope is demanding. Hope is persistent. Hope is fiery. Hope burns a pathway through the valley of the shadow of death. And the people walking on that pathway are singing songs of joy and triumph.
God will win in the end. Horse and chariot he has cast into the sea. I want to walk on that pathway, with all my loved ones with me.