Sisters in Scripture
01/12/2022 Kathleen MacInnis Kichline

I first remember musing on the word "hope” when I was in junior high. I looked out the school bus window at the slushy Connecticut countryside rolling by and weighed back and forth in my mind the relative weight of two words: "wish” and "hope.” Just the night before we’d gathered before the TV for The Wonderful World of Disney. A large, shared bowl of popcorn sat wedged among us on the couch as we dove in for handfuls. A spray of stars showered across our screen as Tinkerbell waved her wand and the music swelled, "When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”

It may be hard to believe today but back then, when Walt Disney said it was true, you believed it was. At least I used to, and my little brother and sisters, no doubt, still did. But I was almost thirteen now and on that particular February afternoon, I pressed my forehead against the foggy window and heard my own voice echo back from the cold glass, "Wishing doesn’t work.” I had made a point of watching for the first star to appear in the evening sky. "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.” That was the star to wish upon and I had, many times. And I’d taught the little song to my brother and sisters, told them to squeeze their eyes closed and make a wish. I still assured them it was true just like I told them Santa was real—all part of an adult conspiracy of which I was now old enough to be a part.

I no longer recall for what I had wished back then that failed to come true. But I remember the deep longing and the question that emerged, what about hope? Is hope the same as wish or is it different? We use them almost interchangeably. "I wish it would snow.” "I hope it snows.” But as I teased those two words apart, I realized that hope was qualitatively different. Most of what I knew about hope was from Religion class. I knew that Hope was one of the three virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love. This, then, was as different from wish as was the Christ Child from Santa. A matter of Belief, this was made of the real stuff, the stuff of grownups. 

It has been many years since that school bus ride, and I am still pondering the nature of hope with much more to be learned. But even then, at that age and in that moment, I knew that hope was deep and strong and true. Somehow, I also knew that it would make demands of me. The difference was that hope didn’t just happen as we expected from a wish. Hope was participatory. It might call for courage, it might test me, even seem unreasonable at times. But a conviction was emerging within me that said it would be worth whatever the investment. Those thoughts were not fully formed in that long-ago moment, but they were nascent, tangible, and as available to me in memory now as is the memory of last night’s dinner. 

Much about that adolescent pondering has held true, even as hope continues to challenge, elude, encourage, and teach me. A new year seems the best of times to reconsider hope. In today’s newsletter, I offer two recent finds. I consider each of these resources particularly credible; they are offered by a post-holocaust Jew and an ecologist in climate change.

The first, Choosing Hope in Times of Trial, is an essay from Reform Judaism's website. I found it both thought provoking and hope inducing:
From Covid and climate change to the erosion of democratic norms and the decline of a shared sense of truth (and the list could go on), two things are clear. First, we are living in an age that tests our ability to sustain hope. Second, if despair dominates hope, we will be unable to meet the challenges that beset us... read more

The second, The Book of Hope, A Survival Guide in Trying Times, interviews naturalist, Jane Goddall. Twelve years ago, I read Jane's book, Hope for Animals and Their World. When I saw this recent one, I wondered how she had sustained hope given the intervening years. This trailer from the book gives you a sense of her message: Book of Hope.

For any of you brave enough and so inclined as to seek hope and work for change in the Catholic Church, I recommend to you a webinar coming up, 8:00-9:30 am PST, this Saturday, January 15th, Journeying Together Toward a Synodal Church. It is presented by With One Accord with whom I have collaborated over these past two years in a variety of ways. This is the kind of difficult and important conversation that lays groundwork for foundational change. It offers stellar presenters on topics such as Sensus Fidei and Magesterium, The Pope Francis Model for Dialogue, The Role of Women as Sign of Hope. To learn more and to register (free), you may go to: With One Accord. (Look below Our Purpose)

As always, I love to hear from you. 
You can contact me directly at my email.

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