By Barbara Santillo
Jackie Kennedy sits alone in Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. She thinks of Emily Dickinson’s poetic line: “Hope is a thing with feathers that perches on the soul.” Even in the midst of unthinkable tragedy, hope emerges to calm the brokenhearted.
The cracks in the cycles of our lives are meant to occur so that the light of hope can shine through and teach us but what, and why at a particular moment? Hope is present every time someone buys a lipstick or a lottery ticket. Indeed, the blessing of hope is as old as time. Is it hard to imagine that Adam and Eve, in the throes of their sorrow at losing Eden, told one another about a hopeful tomorrow in a place much less wondrous than Paradise?
Hope was made part of the human condition to sustain us, to give us a new vocabulary: “if … perhaps … maybe… but.” All of us who know hope have used these words, with more reverence as we get older. Each prayer we say contains in it an element of hope … not just that God will hear us, and answer our prayer, but as a holy reminder that He not only created this gift, but blessed us with it at the moment of our birth. Did Jesus hope? Of course He did. Can’t you see Him in His unrelenting suffering, waiting through the Passion not for Pilate to renege on the death sentence, nor that the soldiers would lay down their instruments of crucifixion, but that the face of Judas might appear in the crowds along the way to Golgotha; that a lost butterfly might light on the crossbeam as a moment of beauty in the overwhelming pain; that He could sustain this endless journey, yet another step.
St. Thérèse was a master of hope. She teaches us in her every word and action about the necessity for, and the inclusion of hope in our daily lives. She is the gardener who thrives on hope, rejoicing in the coming of a long awaited spring. Her face feels the rain, faces the resplendent sun, and both she and her flowers emerge newly born. She is the romantic adolescent mystic in love with her Jesus, as she waits for the letter of acceptance to Carmel. Daily she went to Mass in Lisieux, and then to the nearby post office. Countless days went by without the longed for letter from the Bishop or Mother Superior, but Thérèse went anyway … climbed the steps anyway … asked the postal clerk anyway … and, one fine day, the new life was hers!
“Hope is a thing with feathers that perches on the soul.”
From the moment she entered the cloister, Thérèse hoped that her beloved sister, Celine, would come too, but there were obstacles in their lives, perhaps similar to the ones weal so know. Celine was needed at home to nurse her ailing father, and she was interested in a handsome young man who loved to dance as much as she did. Undaunted, Thérèse hoped, prayed, and waited. After their father passed away, Celine did indeed enter Carmel, and became Sister Genevieve. Her dance had take nona different rhythm.
Through out Thérèse’s Story of a Soul, our Little Flower shares with us how hope in Jesus transcended the 24 years of her life. We know these moments in our lives, too. Each time our feet touch the floor in the wake of a new day, every time we sip the first taste of morning coffee, and whenever we kiss our crucifix in anticipation of the life events to come, we share with Thérèse the exercise of hope.
For all the places hope nests in our lives, perhaps the most valuable ones are those when darkness occurs and all seems lost. Thérèse’s life was not all roses and eclairs.
There was ridicule, criticism, gossip, sleeplessness, gangrenous illness,and the unremitting cold of her room, as well as the cold of her Carmelite sisters. Her gaze, nonetheless, stayed focused on Jesus. She continued to be a humble, wounded warrior with hope as her floating favor.
This adherence to hope was one of the few luxuries Therese allowed herself. It would become her most comforting medicine.When her prayers seemed not to have been answered,and she was questioned about her spiritual tenacity, Thérèse would smile and say, “Jesus is just sleeping. “The hope filled child in each of us believes that, too.
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