Finding Hope in Challenging Times

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts on Sunday and Monday,  Sister Jeannine Gramick and I were in Washington State last week making presentations about Catholic support for marriage equality there.  The state legalized marriage equality in February of this year, the bill being signed into law by the Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, but now it is being challenged in a referendum on election day in November.

During the Q and A at one of those gatherings, a questioner asked what is probably the most common question that I get asked:  “How do you maintain hope for justice for LGBT people in the face of so many challenges?”  I wish I had a simple and easy answer for that one.  I have no magic pill or easy fix to these challenges.  They must be faced and responded to, time and again.

Some things, however, have worked effectively over the years, and I shared some with the questioner and folks that night.  I thought I’d share them here, too, with the hope that in the “Comments” section of this post, readers will contribute their own processes for maintaining hope.

Most important for me is looking toward the positive that has occurred and is occurring.  In the gospels, Jesus declared the reign of God is already here, despite all appearances to the contrary.  I think one of our challenges as followers of Christ is to look for the signs of God’s reign of justice in the world in which we live.  It may be difficult to do so, especially at first, but, with practice, it becomes easier to do.  Just like any form of prayer.

The purpose of this exercise is not to look at the world with rose-colored glasses, but to provide a reality check on the world around us.  When bad news happens, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that ONLY bad news happens, when, of course, that is not the case.  Stopping to look for God’s reign of justice in our world serves as a good reminder against our penchant to catastrophize.

More importantly, this exercise also serves as a reminder to me that God is actually the one in charge, not me.  I’m reminded that God operates on a separate clock and calendar than I do, and that there is a time and a season for God’s actions in the world.  I’m reminded that any good that happens comes from God, not from my actions, and that anything that is seemingly bad is an opportunity to look for a way to “birth” Christ into our world.

I feel that often times I have a privileged position in regard for this kind of thinking.  People tend to think that since I work at New Ways Ministry, I am barraged daily by negative messages from the church hierarchy and from homophobes in the secular world.

The exact opposite is true.  My work at New Ways Ministry brings me into contact with thousands of  Catholics who are working to make God’s reign of justice and equality a reality in their parishes and communities.    Instead of seeing negative things happening in the church, I am privileged to see Catholics who work tirelessly and courageously to make that LGBT people are welcomed, accepted, loved, and included.

This experience of seeing so many Catholics do so much good helps me to remember that the church truly is ALL the people of God, not just the hierarchy and the clergy.

Again, I stress that all of these exercises take time, practice, and patience, but I think they are all things that people can easily do to maintain hope in our precarious and challenging times.

How do you maintain hope?  What inspires you to keep on working for justice despite so many challenges?  Maybe you get hope from a Scripture passage, a book you read, a person you know, a community you belong to.  Please add your thoughts to the “Comments” section of this post.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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9 Responses to Finding Hope in Challenging Times

  1. You’re absolutely right, Frank. There’s an enormous amount of good news around to give us hope and confidence – in the scriptures, in the history of queer saints and martyrs, in the remarkable progress to inclusion in other denominations, in the emergence of openly gay/lesbian theologians, in the simple acceptance and friendships we can find in most local parishes – and as you note, in the very many ordinary Catholics, priests and sisters who are working actively for justice, in all its forms.

    The difficulty is that precisely because so much of this is routine, local and incremental in scale, it seldom hits the headlines – but the setbacks do. Notable examples were the Boulder exclusion from Catholic school of the kids with two moms, or the denial of communion to a lesbian at her mom’s funeral. Both of these resulted in headlines which created an impression that the Catholic Church is inherently hostile, but the reverse is true: they only hit the headlines because they were exceptional.

    For balance, we need to actively promote the good news stories, wherever we find them.

  2. Brother Benilde Montgomery, O.S.F. says:

    As you suggest we need to do lots of things not to maintain hope but to stay in touch with it. One thing I do is to remember our Jewish roots and to keep in mind that the Holocaust deepened the faith and maintained the hope of so many of our brothers and sisters: God is far more mysterious than the human mind, especially mine, can ever imagine. Even to remember God in the midst of such horror is a sign of our hope and God’s love. Another thing I do is recite Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is a thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul/And sings a song without the words/And never stops at all….”The Dickinson and the Jewish approach seem to match up.

  3. Donna J. High says:

    Inspiration can be found in the book “Just Love”, the title alone tells the story in more than one way within a very christian writing style by someone who is well educated and rather brilliant. Also hav friends openly gay (not Catholic) performing musicians who r very well educated and talented, and some of whom r working professionals in other churches. Even found one living with a partner, playing the organ for a Catholic Church in OK —wow.

  4. Thanks, Frank, for reminding us of the ever-present need to be a people of hope! For me, one of the things that I think is so important in the Catholic LGBT community is that we never, ever demonize those others who might prefer we simply went away. Whether these others are our brothers and sisters in the pews, or — more likely — those who exercise power and authority in the Church — it’s important for us to realize that harsh rhetoric that strays from the the truth we try to share in itself can create further wounding. It’s oh so easy for us to respond to official pronouncements of exclusion by becoming even more angry or — increasingly — simply dismissive.

    The truths of our humanity and our lived experience are what will make a difference and help write a new chapter in the life of the Church. While we must find ways to express our angers and hurts, we must do so in ways that always respects “the other,” even when we feel disrespected in return. In short, we must allow the Christ within our hearts to see the Christ in every other — even those others whose eyes have yet to be opened on the issues we find so essential.

  5. I was able to regain hope, after years of being put down, when I found the Ecumenical Catholic Communion. ECC is extremely GLBT friendly, we actually nuture. For example, headline on the front page of the local paper read, “First Lesbian Ordained …” We also have same-sex marriage when requested.

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