He told CNA that there is a difference between being hopeful, in a Catholic sense, and being simply optimistic, sanguine, or naive.
In his book, Bochanski notes that the classic Catholic definition of virtue, which comes from St. Thomas Aquinas, is of a “good habit”— something we repeat over and over, until it becomes second nature.
Some people may be more disposed to be hopeful because of their personality, Bochanski said, but the idea of hope as a virtue means it must be practiced, exercised, and sought.
Hope is one of three “theological virtues,” along with faith and love. Bochanski explained that even though these theological virtues come from God, we still have to work at them by putting them into practice, and exercising them.
“We grow in hope by striving to be hopeful, by letting it shape our actions, and the more we can live with hope, the easier it becomes to be hopeful,” he said.
For Catholics, hope starts with recognizing that God is in charge.
“Hope, for us, means trusting that God has a plan, and that he's working out his plan even if we can't see how it's going to work or if we would prefer a different timing,” Bochanski said.
Jesus models the virtues for Christians, he said, and the fact that Jesus never doubted God's saving mission is a model of hope for us.
“He didn't need to be hopeful in the sense of having any doubts, or not knowing what was going to happen, but he models hope for us in the way that he calmly, perseveringly, carries out his mission,” he said.
In the biblical episode of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, for example, the devil offers Jesus various “shortcuts” around the Father's plan. Jesus, because He knows the Father's plan, rebuffs the devil’s temptations and resolutely carries out what the Father has set before Him.
“That gives us hope when we're faced with our own part of God's plan, but without the omnipotence and omniscience of the Lord,” he said.
“When we're going through personal difficulties, or community difficulties, or things that are scary and violent, the question that naturally comes to mind is where is God?”
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What seems like God's absence or silence is actually God working in ways that we can't yet see or perceive, he said.
“Hope brings us back to that reality that He's never absent. And although I can't see Him at the moment, I trust him enough to wait for Him to show me and to do what I can moment by moment...If we do our part, God will also do his part and carry out his plan for our lives.”
In the midst of crises, it can be easy to take on the same emotional level as the voices we hear on the news, he said.
Being hopeful in the world today has a lot to do with remaining calm— not indifferent or lax, but keeping one's situation in perspective.
“I'm not called to save the whole world. I may not be able to do a lot in the grand scheme of things, but in my vocation, in my family, in my work, in my circle of friends, my job is to keep doing the task that God has given me to do and not to panic,” Bochanski said.
The devil likes to emphasize our apparent powerlessness, he said, or distract us from the smaller, daily tasks and acts of love we've been given to do.