Water ran across the brow of the little Eleanor while the priest pronounced the sacramental form of baptism, thus making her a child of God. The Blessed Trinity now lives in the soul of this pretty porcelain doll who, after the emotions of the ceremony, fell back into her gentle slumber. With her life, God has also given her three great virtues, the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Faith and charity are quite familiar to us, but hope is often forgotten. That being said, we should dispose ourselves by actions in our daily life to grow in this virtue, operated by the power of God.
The act of hope which children learn as they grow is good to repeat every day. We teach is thus: “We expect from God, with a firm hope, Heaven and His grace upon earth in order to obtain it.” This is the attitude of the child: we lean upon God in order to go to Him and receive what we need from Him. For a child raised in an authentic Christian family, this virtue will be understood more easily. Does a child not rely on his father and mother to make progress in all domains and thus attempt to please his parents? Does he not have need of them for all things?
According to children, two main faults can constitute an obstacle to the virtue of hope as they grow up. Certain children will tend to have exaggerated self-confidence. It is necessary that children take up initiatives little by little, but while maintaining dependence upon God and their parents. Without this disposition, presumption will reign and pave the way for laziness. “Why do I have to learn this lesson? I already know it and understand it! I don’t need to take a test.” Sometimes the child must undergo certain trials in order to understand his errors with the aid of his parents: “You see, Thomas, you thought that you could do it all by yourself, but that’s not the case. Now, you need to remember that sometimes you need your father’s help—he is always here for you!”
Other children will be tempted by discouragement: “I can’t do anything; never, I’ll never be able to do it.” Dear mothers, your smile and your goodness will be the first-aid treatment to this terrible evil that can cause so much damage. The very first efforts of the child, his first steps and diverse progresses will build upon your encouragements. The words you employ and your facial expression will be powerful contributions: children are very sensitive, even at eight or nine years old. After a correction, don’t forget to put a little bit of balm on their wounded heart: “It’s all over now and abandoned in the heart of Jesus. Let us ask for His help and I’m sure that you will do better next time!”
The world today is hardened and difficulties are abundant: the media works to transmit as much darkness as possible in a world without God and tries, therefore, to kill the Christian spirit. Let us be watchful over our worries, political or economic problems, misunderstandings between parents, criticisms, etc. so that it does not infiltrate the atmosphere of our homes. Of course, we must not live in an illusion. But our children could feel crushed under this mass of depressing information that kills all hope. Little by little, with the aid of their parents, children will learn to regard the quantity of disaster with a Christian spirit. This spirit considers not so much the number of evils in the world but the indefectible support of God for His creature. The beauty and the grandeur of a soul in the state of grace who loves his Creator and Father and wants to serve Him is without comparison in a transient world full of problems.
The virtue of hope helps us to desire Heaven, which is very mysterious for us who are pilgrims upon this earth and who have not yet contemplated this happiness. How then are we to present Heaven to Eleanor and give her the desire to go there? If, since the earliest age, her mother taught her to love Jesus, to do little things that would give Him pleasure, Heaven will be the place where one finds Jesus in order to be with Him forever. “With Jesus, one is always happy; one can no longer suffer; one can only love.” In the end, Heaven and the Christian life is before all things a question of love. Your little ones, dear mothers, are very open to this, more than we can imagine! Upon the occasion of a death in the family, the question of the afterlife can easily be brought up. “Grandpa won’t be sitting in the corner next to the fire anymore. His place is better in Heaven than upon earth: he has only left us here to go to God!” says the poet Louis Tournier beautifully and justly.
If hope flourishes within the fertile ground of our families in these troubled times, your little ones will become zealous apostles and joyous Christians of this beautiful virtue. How can we be anything else when we know that our Father in Heaven knows all things, can do all things, and loves us?