Of all the sick feelings after the shootings in Connecticut, the one plaguing me the most is hopelessness. I’ve had that lingering feeling for a while now, actually. I feel it toward my fellow Americans, the way a few or even many (Catholics included) think, decide, choose, vote, and act. Of course, few do anything as evil as what this 20-something male did in Connecticut. Nothing compares.

He who plants, sustains

What do you do about something like that? That’s what gives me the hopelessness. It’s helplessness, too. I don’t know what precautions, from gun control, to metal detectors, to arming teachers, to video cameras, to whatever, can stop something like this. I know I’d like to see one thing much simpler, namely, greater parental vigilance. It’s the parents, one would think, who should be the first line of defense in something like this. Mom and dad, is your son stockpiling weapons and acting in an exceedingly bizarre and menacing and foreboding way. If so, could you tell someone?

Could there be some sort of national hotline maybe, a new Amber Alert, to report this kind of suspected, horrific behavior?

I’m not feeling hopeful about my country and my people. I’m convinced that America’s best days are long gone, and you can’t convince me otherwise. In some ways, America—what Lincoln called the “last, best hope”—will be “freer,” and grow in prosperity, but our innocence is gone, and so is much of our goodness.

But, alas, I shouldn’t, as a Catholic and a Christian, feel hopeless. After all, hope is a theological virtue. Like faith and charity, we cannot abandon it. Being a virtue means we must strive for it, which can be hard.

G. K. Chesterton wrote: “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all.” (Chesterton, Heretics, pp. 124-25)

I couldn’t say it better.

Hope is hard right now. But this is when we need to strive for it even more, especially this time of year, when our only hope—our true last, best hope—entered the world as a helpless baby in a manger.

By Dr. Paul Kengor