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“Man can live forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only one second without hope.” — Unknown
It was Paul’s time. He could see it in the doctor’s eyes. After ninety-two years of life, Paul was ready to go back to God. His last request was to spend a private moment with each special person gathered around his bed.
Three children, five grandchildren, a coworker, and two lifelong friends shared the final hours of Paul’s life. Words of love, appreciation, and forgiveness. Tears of sorrow. Tears of laughter. Each person left the room feeling lighter than they had felt in years. Peace came with each encounter. A peace that only comes from spending time with a life well lived.
Outside, in the waiting area, nervous and a bit scared, Connor waited for his turn. Connor was Paul’s grandson. When Connor was ten, his dad left him, his mother, and his two younger brothers. Connor’s mom, Paul’s daughter, wanted her three sons to have a strong male role model, so she moved the family into her father’s house. A recent widower, Paul was thankful for the company.
In the early years, Paul had taught Connor everything he knew: how to fish, how to live as a man of integrity, and how to pray. In the later years the roles had changed. As Paul’s body began to fail him, Connor had taken his grandfather to Mass on Sunday; he had helped him get dressed in the morning and ready for bed at night; and he had stayed up late with him listening to old Frank Sinatra records when Paul had been in too much pain to sleep. The two men loved each other at a level words could not express.
But Connor wasn’t yet ready to say good-bye. Paul was his rock, his role model, and his best friend. Connor wondered how he would navigate life without him. Connor was the last one to visit his grandfather. He walked in and sat down next to Paul, who had his eyes closed. When he opened his eyes, Paul smiled at his grandson. Immediately Connor began to weep. “I don’t want to lose you!” he shouted and buried his head in his grandfather’s chest.
Paul took a deep breath and savored the moment. He remembered the day Connor had been born, how he had fit in the palm of his hand. Paul thanked God for sending him such a friend so late in life. Paul lifted his grandson’s chin so they could look each other in the eye. “Son, we’ll always be together, you know that. Just pray for me on this side of heaven and know I’ll be praying for you on the other. Then one day we’ll meet again.” He wiped the tears from his grandson’s eyes; they shared a smile and hugged one last time.
That’s beautiful hope.
For some time Brian had been feeling restless, like something was missing. He couldn’t figure out why. He had a good job. He provided well for his wife and two kids. He had a nice marriage. Sure, the passion wasn’t really there anymore, but that happens with age. For the most part, his kids were well behaved. He loved them, and they knew it. On most Sundays the family went to Mass together. Life was good. He was a good guy. So what was wrong? Why couldn’t he just be happy?
On his way to work each day, Brian passed St. Patrick’s, his parish church. Recently something had always seemed to be tugging at him to go inside. For weeks he had ignored it and told himself it would pass. But it hadn’t. The nudging had continued.
Finally, Brian went into the church, not because he thought it would help, but to prove a point. He thought that if he just went in and sat there for ten minutes, nothing would happen, and he could move on with his life. But instead, the stillness swallowed Brian whole. He instantly liked how quiet it was. Everything in his life was so loud; the silence was actually comforting . . . peaceful.
Brian began to daydream about heaven. He wondered what it would be like to stand before God. He wondered how God would feel about the halfhearted way he was living his life. He wondered if God would think he was a good husband and father. And at that thought a deep feeling of dissatisfaction nearly overwhelmed Brian.
Suddenly life felt incredibly short. Work problems, his to-do list at home, and whether or not the Indianapolis Colts would win on Sunday took a backseat in his mind. Brian began to wonder when he had last looked into the eyes of his wife and really listened to what she had to say. He thought of the car sitting in his garage and the promise he had made to his son that they would fix it up together. He thought of his daughter and how they had done nothing but argue for months. He thought about the last time he had prayed to God . . . really, truly prayed.
Brian went back to his parish church the next day. And the day after. And the day after that. He formed a new habit of just sitting in silence. And talking to God. He thought about his life. He thought about heaven. Then he started making a plan with God. He made a plan to change his life.
Not long ago I was at a conference here in Cincinnati, and a woman stopped me. “I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, “but I just want to thank you.”
I stopped walking, and we shook hands. She began to tell me the story of her husband. Of how he had come to one of my Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose events and how God had moved his heart in a powerful way. She told me how the genius of Catholicism had changed his life and how he had become the husband and father she had always dreamed he could be.
She told me about the day of his accident. About what it was like to get a phone call from a stranger saying that your husband had just died. She talked of the heart-wrenching experience of telling their children that their father was never coming home. She spoke of the pain of going to sleep alone that first night.
Then she shared about the day before the funeral and an idea she’d had. In the last year of her husband’s life he had tried to share the love of God with as many people as he could. She laughed as she recalled her children’s embarrassment as their dad shamelessly handed out Catholic books and CDs to anyone and everyone.
She told me that the day before the funeral, she had called our team at Dynamic Catholic in desperation. She said she had begged one of our Mission Team members to rush-order two of her husband’s favorite audio CDs. To honor him, she had wanted to give the CDs as a gift to everyone who attended his funeral.
Before she left she thanked me again. She thanked me for inspiring her husband and helping God change her family’s life for the better. And she asked me to pass a thank-you along to my team for going above and beyond when she had needed it most.
I was deeply moved as I watched her leave. I may never see her again, but if I do, I will be the one who will be thanking her. I will thank her for two reasons.
First, her story reminded me that it’s never too late for a new beginning. Her husband had discovered that. It’s never too late to start over again. It’s never too late to choose to become the-best-version-of-yourself. She reminded me that God wants us to be people of possibility, and people of possibility never give up.
The second reason is that she reminded me why we started Dynamic Catholic in the first place. It’s because we believe our future can be bigger than our past.
If you ever come to visit our team, you will find our mission statement written in large, bold letters when you walk through the front doors of the office. It reads: The mission of Dynamic Catholic is to re-energize the Catholic Church in America by developing world-class resources that inspire people to rediscover the genius of Catholicism.
Our mission statement creates more than just an explanation of what we aim to accomplish. It’s a declaration of what’s possible. It’s a mission of hope.
For this book, we’ve enlisted the help of some incredible people to capture the power of hope. Each author was asked to write on any or all of the following topics: What gives you hope? What sustains your hope? Where does your hope for the Catholic Church come from? What are your hopes for the Catholic Church and humanity? How do you bring hope to others?
Some of the authors in this book are professional authors and speakers, but many are not. Many have never published anything ever before. They are everyday American Catholics doing their best to live the gospel. The reason for this is simple: God’s hope can be experienced and spread at any age, in any state of life, anytime, anywhere. All it takes is an open heart and a willing spirit.
When I first had the idea for this book, I asked members of the team at Dynamic Catholic to tell me about the one person in their life who brought them the most hope. Nearly every single one of them shared with me the person in their life who had suffered the most. Should it be any surprise that the light shines brightest in the darkest night?
These are trying times for people of faith. The Church has been through a lot these last twenty years. As I travel around the country, it seems that we are all less hopeful than we were twenty years ago. We are less hopeful when we think about the future for our families and loved ones. And we are less hopeful for the future of the Church.
If we are to become the people and the Church God dreams of us becoming, this must change. We need hope. After all, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. Hope is the one thing you can’t buy, but that will be given to you freely if you ask. Hope is the one thing people cannot live without.
What we read today walks and talks with us tomorrow. We truly do become what we read. I hope this book walks and talks with you so much that God fills your whole mind, your whole body, and your whole soul with hope. I hope you feel proud to be Catholic. We are a people of hope. And our future is even brighter than our past.
How will you bring hope to others today?
Matthew Kelly is the New York Times bestselling author of The Rhythm of Life and twenty other books, including Rediscover Jesus.
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We live in a culture that produces hopelessness with astounding consistency. When everything seems chaotic and we are faced with a multitude of negative realities, we might be tempted to say that nothing makes sense anymore. But we are not alone—God walks with us and his presence fills us with hope. Because of this we are able to smile in the midst of our difficulties. Despair is defeated because God is with us. Hope does not disappoint!
What gives you hope? What are your hopes and dreams—for yourself, your children, your church, your community, your nation? What sustains that hope and turns those dreams into reality? What are some of the unique ways you bring hope to people in your life? The contributors featured in Beautiful Hope offer intensely personal answers to these questions. Some of them are well-known authors and speakers, but many are ordinary Catholics dealing with everyday life with all its challenges and problems, just like you. Their stories are meant to spark your own exploration of hope and increase its abundance in your life.
Today many are worried about the future and what it holds. Many are concerned about the future of our Church. If we are to become people who can shine the light of faith into the darkness of our world, things must change. We need an infusion of hope so we can see more clearly and live boldly as children of God.
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