As Catholic Christians, we tend to be rule followers. Rules are important in a civilized society. They give clarity and direction, and not having a clear set of principles and guidelines can lead to confusion. Among the rules we follow are the Ten Commandments and the Eight Beatitudes. We are comforted in receiving the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit, the Seven Sacraments, and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. We also know we are tempted by the Seven Deadly Sins (more on this one next week). We also embrace two sets of virtues: the cardinal virtues – prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; and the theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity (love).
While scripture says that “…the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13),” I think in recent years, even pre-pandemic, hope has become such an important virtue for all of us, especially for children. Hope, in Catholic custom, refers specifically to the understanding that God will grant us eternal life after death. Certainly, in the last year, we have kept our eyes toward the future, waiting patiently for pandemic restrictions to ease, and it is hope that has kept us going. We do not think our current situation will last forever (although of course it has lasted far longer than we ever anticipated), and it is hope for a better tomorrow that helps us manage the struggles of each day.
Some children embrace hope better than others. To rely on metaphors, they have a “glass half-full” or “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” attitude. They are able to be sad, disappointed, frustrated, and discouraged, but are able to wake up to a new day and start fresh. Some children, however, cannot. Over the past several years, we have seen a rise in anxiety and depression among children.* Social Emotional Learning is being added to the curricula in many schools to help children cope with their emotions. Suicide rates have sky-rocketed, and the pandemic has only made this worse. This is where, I believe, our faith plays such an important role. If we develop a relationship with Christ through daily prayer, regular reception of the Sacraments, and focus on all of the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, perhaps our ability to be hopeful in times of adversity will be strengthened. One of my favorite scripture passages is from Jeremiah (29:11), “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” As we look forward to life gradually returning to normal in the weeks, months, and years to come, we know that hope will carry us through time and time again.
*According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of 12/2/20, 7.1% of children aged 3-17 (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety, and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression.
In closing, I want to congratulate our Academic Decathlon Team for their success this past weekend at the 25th Annual Junior High Decathlon competition in the Diocese of San Diego, this year conducted virtually of course. The team, along with their coach, Lisa Matens, spent every Friday afternoon since the beginning of October (and much individual time) studying, practicing, and preparing for the competition. No doubt they were sometimes discouraged, but they persevered, and remained hopeful that they would succeed. I am proud to announce that the team earned two first place individual medals (Emma in Science and Nathan in Math), two second place individual medals (Hannah in Fine Arts, and Frances in English), and one third place individual medal (Elizabeth in Religion). In addition, the team placed second in the grueling Super Quiz event (50 questions in Fine Arts, Literature, Religion, Science, and Social Studies, Science, Religion, and Math), and second place overall. Go Crusaders!