“Young minds are the product of the books that they have read.” This is a loose interpretation of a quote that I heard some time ago talking with one of my professors, and I often think about how true this statement is, especially considering this new developing age of technology. I have enjoyed the beginning of my sophomore year here at the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the opportunity to participate in an independent study this semester with one of the long-standing members of the honors program, Mr. P. After much deliberation, we decided on the books we were going to read, and the first was determined to be Josef Pieper’s The Silence of St. Thomas. In this short work, Pieper reflects on three of Aquinas’s essays in which he speaks about the mystery of creation and how the intellect encounters said creation. Towards the beginning of the book, Pieper expands on Thomas’s description of hope. The description is as follows, “[H]ope is a condition of man’s existence as a knowing subject, a condition that by its very nature cannot be fixed: it is neither comprehension and possession nor simply non-possession, but ‘not-yet-possession.’” Although this may seem wordy, this axiom is perfectly apt, and I feel that it captures the real essence of what hope is.
Perhaps it is just my upbringing or personal discussions that I have had, but in my experience I have only really heard an emphasis placed on the other two theological virtues: faith and love. The former of course being necessary to Christians, or really anyone with a religious affiliation, because it describes the undying loyalty that one has to God, and the latter being a word that is commonly used to describe the affection and sacrifice that one makes for his spouse, for example. However, it seems that hope is somehow not emphasized in the same way, which I find to be particularly interesting because the existence of Christian life is, in part, predicated off the hope that is instilled in us. Hope is the reason to have faith, for the loyalty to God spawns from an elicitation of expectation in regards to eternal life. I am hopeful to reach Heaven after I die, and I have faith in Christ our Redeemer to save me if I love while I am on earth.
This is a very roundabout way of saying that I feel this book is critically important to really understand why man needs hope. Towards the latter half of the book, Pieper discusses the importance of subject matters that are timely and relevant. I would say that in an age of ever advancing technology and this incessant desire for material wealth has aligned our hope to the wrong things. Of course, it is naive to think that man does not hope for good health and a loving family, but the theological virtue of hope is particularly vital considering our eternal souls. Pieper highlights this principle very well. The book in general is a way of renewing our hope as well as deepening our understanding of the need for said hope. It is an incredibly modest read but its message is important. I would recommend to essentially anyone who is looking for a quick but insightful read.