Fall Conference: ‘Hope builds on hope’

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Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

How to grow in hope – a timely lesson for a year shaped by a global pandemic – was the theme of Fr. Adam Laski’s keynote address for the Diocese of Superior’s virtual 2020 Fall Conference.

Accessible to anyone on the diocesan website, the talk can also be found directly on Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x56hZpWF9UU.

Fr. Laski is the associate pastor of the Rice Lake cluster and recent canon law graduate of St. Paul University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He also serves as the adjutant judicial vicar for the diocese. His home parish is in Haugen.

After leading off with a prayer, Fr. Laski began by considering what is at stake.

“We see the problem of hopelessness,” he said. The current cultural environment, a global pandemic and the difficulty of watching children walk away from the faith or not accept the Gospel are all problems that may overwhelm us.

“It might seem that sometimes our faith is really challenged, and we don’t know how to continue persevering,” he added. “We don’t know how to live with hope.”

He looked at the problem, effects, the remedy and the application of the virtue of hope.

First, he observed, despair leads us to seek the pleasures of this world. It can be tempting to say if only I had more wealth, pleasure, influence, etc., that would jostle me out of despair and into new happiness.

“Ultimately, anybody who’s tried to live life that way finds out how empty that experience is,” he concluded. “I think that’s why the message of hope is so imperative.”

Faith, love, hope

In Scripture, “faith is the substance of things hoped for,” he said, “it’s the evidence of things unseen.”

We’re always talking about love, he added, and “love is a pivotal player in our relationship with God.”

To understand what it is to be with God, we have to understand love, he continued. Love is beautiful, purifying, self-sacrificing, God-given.

God gives strength to believe, he said. But Christian hope is not the same as optimism, and hope has to pass by the way of the cross. The data of Christian faith is the data of Jesus sent to suffer and die.

Fr. Laski compared worldly pleasures to “cheap plastic” in view of the “banquet that is being prepared for us.
Counterfeits.”

God could have given us some other visible sign of hope, but in Scriptures, it is always the Holy Spirit that accompanies hope, he said. It’s not a thing, but a person – he compares it to the winch on a truck, hauling us up to heaven.
The darkness of the world can lead to doubt, bitterness and despair, and “in that world, brothers and sisters, we are called to be that witness to Christ. To be that witness to hope.”

We are called to pray, love and trust in what is coming.

“The more we pray, the more he carves in us deep wellsprings of hope,” he added, and “hope builds on hope.” The more we practice it, the more we grow in hope.

“Hope depends on God,” the priest said. To grow in hope, “I have to ask, in a simple way, and I have to let my desire be deepened for that hope.”

Fr. Laski continued, “The silence of Holy Saturday” might be where we are today. “When the dark night covers our life with its blanket of fear and uncertainty,” we wonder whether things will get better. Are there better days to come? How can we endure? What if hope doesn’t arrive?

Hope comes by recognizing the gift of sharing the cross of Jesus, he added, and that Christ will lead us from death to new life. The hope of Jesus rising from the dead does not grow dim with all the darkness in the world. It triumphs over sadness.

Fr. Laski told the story of Bl. Jacques Fesch, a Frenchman born in 1930 who lived a frivolous, aimless life of pleasure, killed a police officer in a botched robbery attempt and converted while in prison. He was guillotined in 1957.

Although his life was considered worthless, “the work of God in his life was profound,” Fr. Laski said. “At the last moment in Jacques Fesch’s life, he gave his life as a gift, as a beautiful sacrifice to God.”

Change can happen, he affirmed, and the fruits of prayer can be experienced by those who are furthest from God.

How can we practice hope? “One fruitful phrase for us is ‘begin again,’” he commented. No matter how many times a day we fail, feel discouraged, lose patience or sin, if we start again to walk to God, we begin again.

We can live in hope practically by making some small change in life, which helps us grow in goodness, patience and other fruits, he explained. Endurance is built by enduring. Love causes us to move towards faith and hope; practicing the other virtues leads us, ultimately, to grow in hope.

Fall Conference materials

Other general Fall Conference resources available to everyone include a six-minute video of Chris Hurtubise, associate director of Catholic formation, asking Fr. Laski questions about his talk, references to hope from Scriptures and the Gospel and more. There are also reflection questions based on Fr. Laski’s keynote.

Webinars for educators from Marzano Resources – many of them focused on standards-based learning – are also posted on the diocese’s Fall Conference page, and a series of power point webinars for parishes and catechists include such titles as “Reaching Adolescents with the Good News,” “Families, Evangelization and the Future of Catechesis,” and “The Art of Accompaniment.” The power points are available to all viewers.

Fall Conference was initially set to take place Oct. 30; Office of Catholic Formation Director Peggy Schoenfuss announced in September the conference would be virtual. In lieu of the diocesan-wide event, she asked parishes, clusters, regions or schools to host an in-service day as a retreat and development opportunity for staff.

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