Faith, Hope, and Charity are theological virtues, gifts given by God to help us in our journey to Heaven where alone we can find perfect happiness.

They are called ‘theological’ because they are received as gifts through God’s power (as opposed to acquired virtues attained through human effort) and because they focus in distinct ways on God himself.

  • The virtue of Faith believes in God and in what God has revealed.
  • The virtue of Charity is a friendly union with God which begins now but reaches its culmination in the life to come.
  • The virtue of Hope grows out of faith and is a manifestation of love, since by hope we move towards perfect union with God in heaven.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Hope as

‘the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.’11

Hope, as a virtue, lies in a mean between the extremes of two vices, Presumption and Despair.

With Presumption, a person assumes that he will be saved.

‘Either man presumes upon his own capacities (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit.)’12   

The dictum, ‘once saved, always saved’ expresses a kind of presumption, for it holds that even if mortal sin (deadly destruction of our friendship with God) is knowingly and willingly done, a person can maintain a good relationship with God both now and into eternity.

‘By Despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to His justice—for the Lord is faithful to His promises—and to His mercy.’13  

We may despair at the loss of many sought goods, but there is no despair like the loss of the greatest of all goods, perfect happiness.

In Presumption, Salvation is considered automatic; in Despair, Salvation is thought to be impossible. Both Presumption and Despair contradict authentic Hope.

Salvation is always possible with God’s help, for God’s Love and Mercy extends even to the most hardened, vicious sinner. However, Salvation is not automatic, for God cannot contradict Himself— giving people the liberty to freely believe in Him and love Him both now and forever and also not giving people that Freedom.

Pope Benedict highlights the key links between Faith and Hope:

‘Hope,’ in fact, is a key word in biblical Faith—so much so that in several passages the words ‘Faith’ and ‘Hope’ seem interchangeable. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews closely links the ‘fullness of faith’ (10:22) to ‘the confession of our hope without wavering’ (10:23).

Likewise, when the First Letter of Peter exhorts Christians to be always ready to give an answer concerning the Logos—the meaning and the reason—of their Hope (cf. 3:15), ‘Hope’ is equivalent to ‘Faith.’14

Hope is indeed always linked to Faith, since one cannot have the Faith (at least a living faith) without also having both Love and Hope. 

Infused with Hope, human beings can endure even the worst of circumstances. Even though Hope primarily focuses on the perfect happiness of Heaven attained through the help of God, we also have earthly hopes that are related to our great Hope of Salvation.

 

Edited and adapted from ‘Man needs Hope to Live’ by Dr. Christopher Kaczor.https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/man-needs-hope-to-live dated 12 October 2011.
11 Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1817
12 CCC 2092
13   CCC 2091

This article can be found in Mirror 0417.