Faith-filled and Hopeful
Faith, hope and love are known to the Christian tradition as the three theological virtues. They underpin our whole understanding of what it is to be human and the nature of our relationship with God.
We have faith in those who are closest to us – our family and friends. This faith grows and deepens over time and as our relationships are tested, sometimes knocked and rebuilt with forgiveness, so they become stronger and more resilient.
We need to have faith in ourselves – that appropriate self-confidence and modest self-esteem which reflect a realistic self-knowledge of the good and not-so-good in us. Faith in ourselves is about integrity.
We should also have faith in the communities to which we belong – our neighbourhood, parish, school, wider society, our country and the international family of all humanity. This faith grows only to the extent to which we engage in and contribute to the common good. It is about having a wider perspective than the just the narrow concerns of our daily lives.
And finally, God invites us to have faith in him and in his son, Jesus Christ. This faith grows if we work at a relationship with God in prayer, by trying to live out the gospel values, and by being part of a community of faith. Teachers in a Catholic school have the responsibility of passing on the living faith story of Christianity, handed down in the collective memory of God’s people.
To be faith-filled is crucial to human wellbeing – faith in myself, my emotions and judgements; faith in others and their faith in me; faith in my family and the communities to which I belong; and, ultimately, faith in God. Faith cannot be taken for granted; it has to be revisited constantly and built up day by day.
Hope is perhaps the most elusive of virtues. It grows out of faith and love – the stronger faith and love are, the stronger our hope will be. When we have strong faith and love today, we have hope for tomorrow. Hope enables us to trust ourselves and those around us with the decisions that will shape our future. Without hope we become insular, lacking in love, and ultimately despairing. Christianity teaches that God is a God of hope: his Christ walks before us, giving us the gifts (the graces) and courage we need to follow.
Children learn to hope by seeing and hearing hope-filled adults. They learn not to be frightened to step out into the darkness of the unknown but to draw on their own character strengths, and of those around them, to face challenges with courage and resolve.
Our challenge in schools is to notice when children drift into lack of faith and hope, when they begin to create prison bars for themselves; and then to step in with encouragement, opening new doors to a better way forward in freedom.