So often I find that when I am teaching my students, I am actually teaching myself. I listen to the words come out of my mouth and find that I am convicted to live in a new way. It isn’t as though I talk about the Gospel and the Lord all day long and pat myself on the back. Rather, I find myself over and over having to admit that I am falling short of living the Good News fully.
One of my classes is finishing up a section on martyrs. They researched fairly recent martyrs with most of them living at some point during the 1900s. Then I showed two videos from Chris Stefanick about two priests who lived boldly during times of war. One priest was Fr. Emil Kapaun and the other was Fr. Vincent Capodanno, both of whom are at various stages of the canonization process.
Each video revealed how these men offered hope in situations that seemed hopeless. Fr. Kapaun became a POW during the Korean War and Fr. Capodanno died in a battle in the Vietnam War. In spite of persecution, Fr. Kapaun encouraged the men, leading them in prayer and risking his own safety to help them survive. As a war raged, Fr. Capodanno ran across the battlefield, offering last rites to wounded soldiers and bringing tangible peace with his presence and words. Their ability to provide hope in war changed the people they encountered. For some, it saved their lives and for others, it brought a calm in the midst of the storm.
As we reflected on these priests in class, I found myself inviting them (and by extension myself) to be hope-bearers in this world. High school can be such a difficult place for them, but the frustrations they experience are often carried into life beyond high school. What if they were people that others found hope in? What if we were able to provide a calm in the midst of the storm? A battle rages around us: wouldn’t it be beautiful if others found a place to rest when they were in our presence?
Suddenly, the comparison of these military chaplains didn’t seem so different from the world of high school or from our daily lives. What initially seemed a stretch to consider, running through enemy gunfire and diving into trenches, felt like a rugged comparison to the normal struggles we experience. If we would ever hope to bring peace in the midst of complete chaos, we should practice doing it in the midst of ordinary skirmishes. I found myself greatly desiring to be a hope-bearer. One who doesn’t get swept away by the ordinary chaos or by truly traumatic things, but rather one who responds with hopeful joy, knowing that the world is rooted in something far more firm than it can seem.
When others complain, let us be grateful.
When others live only for the weekend, let us soak in the beauty of the present moment.
When others perpetually see gloom and destruction, let us be rooted in Hope.
Fr. Kapaun and Fr. Capodanno, pray for us to live the faith with zeal in our particular battles with radical hope.