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Catholic Writers Explore The Power and Meaning of Hope


In a world that many feel has gone horribly awry, where do Catholics turn for hope? That was the question tackled by two professional poets, an essayist and a journalist on March 11.  The panel discussion, “Take Heart: Catholic Writers On Hope,” was presented by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture.

Ben Birmbaun, author of Take Heart: Catholic Writers in Our Time, (Crossroad Publishing) moderated the guests, which included poet, essayist and memoirist Nancy Mairs; poet and St. John’s University law professor Lawrence Joseph; New York Times reporter Dan Barry; and author and professor of religion at Smith College Carol Zaleski. Together, they mused about the ways they find hope for personal issues, as well as those for the human race and the church as an institution.

Birmbaun opened event, which was held in the Pope Auditorium in the Lowenstein Center on the Lincoln Center campus, by noting that in the Bible, hope is the most modest of the three theological virtues. There are 364 references to hope, compared with 825 for love and charity. That’s not surprising, he explained, since it’s also the hardest to grasp.

“Faith is faith, in that one has faith in a higher being; one has faith in God. It’s a light. Sometimes it flutters, but it’s there,” Birmbaun said. “Love is love; we all know what it is. It’s scary and it’s wonderful and I think that it is correct to say that it is stronger than death.

“Hope, however, is kind of this vague virtue,” he continued. “It’s not a thing in and of itself. Once you attain the thing you hoped for, hope disappears. You don’t need it anymore. It’s a catalyst for doing something, for getting from Point A to Point B.”


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