The holidays are known throughout the world for being a season of hope, joy, love and celebration. In a world torn apart by wars, genocide, climate crisis, a continuing pandemic, children dying from starvation, racial injustice, violence and death on the streets of America and hateful dangerous rhetoric accepted as common practice … I rarely find hope. I could write pages filled with the atrocities viewed on the nightly news that give me little hope for the humans on this planet. I see very few positive incidents on the nightly news to confirm that this is truly the season of love and hope.
I am a journalist and an avid watcher and reader of the daily news, and I am often overwhelmed with the state of the world’s nations and people. As a child, my mother often called me a “worry wart.” I do tend to worry and internalize the problems of the world. Retired Episcopal priest Bob Eldan wrote in an essay, “Worry paralyzes us, saps our joy, weighs our hearts down and worry paralyzes.” How true!
Being a stubborn and persistent person, I don’t want to give in to despair, though many days I feel no hope for this world. I decided to reflect on the little things that bring hope to my life and possibly hope for the next generation who are inheriting this chaos.
I began this search for hope several months ago and in reflecting on my journey I have discovered a long-known fact: it is the little moments and experiences not featured in the world news that brings hope to our lives.
In late August, I attended an open house at the property in Huntsville, Utah, where the monks of the Holy Trinity Abbey lived for 70 years. I had written a story for the Herald (Nov.3, 2020) about the statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus, that was restored by local professional art restorer Catherine “Cat” Holt and wanted to see the statue back at the monastery’s cemetery.
My visit to the Huntsville monastery proved to be inspiring.
The Huntsville Monastery was founded by 32 monks who were mostly veterans of WWII. In the 1960s, the monastery served 84 monks and novices who used agricultural production as a form of prayer and devotion. They were active farmers, ranchers, and beekeepers who provided the food for the monastery and also products for sale. The monks became a beloved and respected community to their neighbors, who were mostly members of the LDS church.
The monks’ story is one of men emotionally torn apart by a world war who formed a community of healing, living and working together within a close loving and respectful relationship with Mother Earth and all her species. Perhaps that is why they chose Mary, the mother, as their patron saint.
In August 2017, the monastery officially closed and the five surviving but aging monks now reside in a senior living facility in Ogden, Utah, but plan to return to the monastery for their final resting place where the statue of Mary will watch over them.
Salt Lake City attorney and Huntsville resident Bill White, who had long-term friendships with the monks, purchased the monastery property when the abbey closed to save it from development. White, in cooperation with the Summit Land Conservancy and the Ogden Valley Land Trust, received an $8.8 million grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which will protect the 1,080 acres that was the home to the Trappist Cistercian monks for 70 years. White also agreed to donate much of the development rights to the land so it will remain an agricultural open space.
While at the Huntsville open house, I purchased Michael Patrick O’Brien’s book “Monastery Mornings: My Unusual Boyhood Among the Saints and Monks.” I mentioned to O’Brien how wonderful it was to see the statue back in her home and how happy I was to hear that the land would be preserved.
O’Brien responded to me, “This is a place that just keeps on giving.”
The monastery land is beautiful and seeing the statue of Mary, whom the monks called, “Our Lady of Confidence,” standing watch over 30-plus graves of the monks buried there was inspiring. If there is a god, I lean more toward the feminine aspects, hence my love for the statue of Mary, the mother. Knowing that the land will be protected from development and that the abundant wildlife will have a home there forever is a beacon of hope for me in a world devastated by climate change.
Months later, when I finished reading O’Brien’s book, I was touched by his story of the monks and how they took the time to become positive father figures for a boy devastated by his parents’ divorce. I am not a religious person, though I honor the spiritual in all. O’Brien’s story affirmed for me that, even though I personally do not embrace any religion, there are religious people who do strive daily to practice the teachings of the man called Jesus.
The monks at Holy Trinity Abbey, according to O’Brien’s testimony, “walked their talk.” Amid all the news of the rampant sexual abuse of children by priests and leaders in religions and other well-known institutions, O’Brien’s positive experience with the men within that religious institution shines a small glimmer of hopeful redemption.
Christians are told to follow the golden rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” The Pagan’s creed is: “Do what you will, but harm none and remember whatever you do it will come back to you threefold.”
If only we humans would follow those creeds, what a different world it would be. I can always hope and, more importantly, I can personally attempt to practice love and kindness each and every day. When I find myself cursing someone for a silly misdemeanor, like taking a parking place I was waiting for, I can stop myself and bless them instead.
Above all, young people of today give me the most hope. Greta Thunberg and other young ones across the world who speak out against the destruction of our planet are a bright light of hope. If only our elder leaders would stop clinging to the past ways of dong things and join forces with the passion and foresight of the young to heal our world of the wounds of division and animosity, it would be a bright beacon of hope for all.
There is good news daily, and I am attempting to focus on that: science produced a vaccine that protects us from the COVID virus; dozens of men long imprisoned because of false charges and through the science of DNA are now released; a just verdict for three men who murdered a man who was simply out jogging; Disney movies which portray young heroes and heroines who work together with the aged to triumph over evil; and so much more good is happening — if only we pay attention.
What are the other moments that bring me hope? These are some of my little things: a smile and hug from a grandchild, a phone call or letter from a loved one, a door held open for me when my arms are full, putting up my Christmas tree and decorations, baking bread for my family, a good heart-warming book or movie, family and friends gathering; a roof over my head and food on my table and much, much more.
Why is hope important? Because hope leads to action, and action builds hope … and on it goes. May we all focus on hope and love this holiday season!