A new year is always a time for hope, and no new year has been looked to with such anticipation than this one! So we caught up with two of Pauline Books & Media’s favorite authors to see what their “hopes” are for 2021.
Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is a Daughter of St. Paul and the author of Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Emmanuel College, Boston, Massachusetts and a Masters in Theological Studies from Weston Jesuit School of Theology as well as an Advanced Certificate in Scripture.
Kris Frank is the author of Hope Always: Our Anchor in Life’s Storm. He graduated from Franciscan University with a degree in catechetics and theology with a concentration in youth ministry and now has over 10 years of experience in parish and youth ministry.
We started by talking about what’s led us to this moment.
“One huge takeaway from last year is that there are some things in life we just can’t control,” says Kris. “Life will throw things at us we can’t change—but we can change and we can grow, no matter the circumstances.”
Sr. Kathryn agrees. “What’s been helpful to me is reaching into my heart and listening to Jesus there,” she says. “No matter what is going on in the world, I can always find solace there.”
For many people, 2020 was truly a time of darkness. It’s tempting to just say, it’s over, and expect the new year to strip away everything that caused us grief and pain. But just sitting around waiting for better days leaves us reactive, and Scripture encourages us to be proactive. In that sense, the new year is about hope, but hope that we embody, espouse, and seek out. “We don’t last long without hope,” says Kris. “When we lose hope, our strength and joy also fall to the wayside. As Christians, our hope is not placed in a politician, stimulus checks, or a vaccine but in the living God who reigns sovereign over every facet of our lives.”
We asked both authors to offer a few beacons of hope—places where people can encourage their own hearts and those of others.
For Sr. Kathryn, it starts with changing your outlook. “Seek stability of heart,” she says. “Set aside the newspaper, and take up the Gospel. We can wander about in the dark when we look with anxiety at what is happening or what the future might bring, or we can bring all this with us as we approach the Light. The Gospel will show us how God sees what we are living.”
Taking up the Gospel connects naturally with prayer, and that’s where Kris Frank starts his list. “If our hope is anchored in the Almighty, then we must make time to connect with him. Praying the Rosary, meditating on the Scriptures, or spending time in mental prayer can keep us tethered to God.” And that begins in an act of will as well as of love. “Committing to daily prayer means we are committing to a daily act of hope,” he says.
Both authors see self-care as essential. While Sr. Kathryn takes a practical approach, Kris is remembering the touchstone of Catholic life, the sacraments.
Wisdom and experience—along with St. Paul!—tell us to mind our bodies, the temples of God’s Holy Spirit, and Sr. Kathryn has simple advice for doing it: “Take care of yourself with exercise, healthy eating, sufficient sleep,” she says. “Part of hope is doing your part.”
There’s a physicality in her advice, just as there is in Kris’; he reminds us that “as fantastic as it was to see the Mass and prayer services streaming on Facebook and YouTube this past year, it’s always better to be there in person. And though some of us still cannot physically be present in Church, that day is on the horizon!”
Hope is also, in a significant way, about being part of a community—one that helps and sustains you. “If you’re feeling down or depressed or irritable or hopeless, reach out to others for support,” urges Sr. Kathryn, no stranger to depression herself. “You can create networks among a number of friends and colleagues where you support each other, each bringing their gifts: some the gift of humor, others inspiration, some practical gifts, others encouragement.”
Kris agrees. “The pandemic called for social distancing, but social distancing quickly became social isolation for many people; and as God told us early in the book of Genesis, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone’ (Gen 2:18). Though we are still called to be cautious as the virus lingers in society, connecting with friends and family can help keep hope alive.”
Even as our communities sustain us, we’re called to be sustaining to them as well. And helping someone else find hope may be the quickest and most efficacious way to find it ourselves! “If we desire to hold fast to hope, then we must be willing to give it away,” Kris affirms. “No one is coming out of 2020 unscathed, and there are many people who are in need of a helping hand. Perhaps there is a social outreach in need of aid or maybe it is as simple as putting in some extra effort around our own homes, but getting outside our comfort zones, whether in big or small ways, allows us gain perspective and increase hope in our hearts and in others.”
Sr. Kathryn knows how important that service, that reaching out to others, can be, especially after so many negative experiences. “Don’t create death from death,” she urges. “Be a bearer of the light to at least one other person each day through the gift of your love. It can be as simple as a text message or as involved as going shopping for someone else under quarantine. You will be surprised at how you yourself feel stronger."
And, finally, both authors see hope as rooted deeply in gratitude. “Rest in gratitude,” says Sr. Kathryn. “You may feel that you have little to be grateful for right now in your life or you may be amazed at how you have been gifted even in these months of the pandemic. It doesn’t matter. Find anything you feel grateful for from any point in your life and allow the warmth or contentment that it generates within you to become a part of the way you go through life. Gratitude right now is a choice, and making that choice will help you open yourselves to more of the mystery of what God is doing for you right now, it will change your attitude, your intentions, your desires, your choices. Gratitude is a life-saving choice for 2021."
“Gratitude is easier said than done!” exclaims Kris. “Especially coming out of 2020, it is far too easy to become transfixed on what we wish we had or how we desired life to be different. Yet an attitude of gratitude can keep us buoyed above a disposition of dejection. We will always have a list of things we wish were different, but taking a moment to recall the good things can have a drastic effect on our lives. As we roll into 2021, a good exercise for us would be to come up with 21 things we are thankful for; I’m guessing each of us will be able to come up with far more.”
Twenty-one things to be grateful for—that's a far better list than the usual list of New Year’s resolutions. Why not try it today?
by Jeannette de Beauvoir