Hope Despite the Headlines: 2017 In Review

The one time Jesus commented on the news, he took one lesson from it: Humanity must repent. That is a message of hope.

Hope is impossible without repentance, and repentance is impossible without hope.

Think about it. The only way to believe that sin is not the story of the world is to believe that there is a way to stop it and break free. But the only motivation to stop it is the hope that something better than sin is possible.

Here are the top stories of 2017 and the ways Benedictine College helped recast them as ways to repent and ways to find hope.

January’s big news was Trump’s inauguration, followed immediately by two giant marches on Washington: The Women’s March and the March for Life.

From the very beginning, Trump and the proper understanding of women were linked in the news.

The March for Women was a giant missed opportunity. It made sense for women to be upset about Trump’s ascendancy, after his profane and insulting remarks on an open mic on a television show nearly sank his candidacy. But then the Women’s March banned pro-life groups and marchers featured harsh profanity, calls for violence and explicit signs.

The March for Life showed a better way. The real hope for women is the way of repentance and a new beginning on a footing that doesn’t require the violence of abortion for equality, and a whole new generation is rising up.

As Aleteia reported, Benedictine College marchers and others defied the snow to pray in contrition for abortion.

February through April brought “war and rumors of war.”

North Korea continued its missile tests in February. In March, fighting in central Africa and Yemen sparked “the greatest humanitarian crisis” since 1945. America launched 59 Tomahawk missiles in April to answer Syrian gas attack on civilians, then dropped “the mother of all bombs” on ISIS militants in Afghanistan.

The Catholic position on war is very clear: Violence is sometimes necessary, but never desirable. As Pope Francis put it, “To stop an unjust aggressor is a right of humanity.” Nonetheless, “Responding with war only increases evil and death.”

We know this firsthand from the disillusionment, pain and faithlessness left after World War II and in the wounded warriors who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our faith says “All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.” Mother Teresa said “in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.”

If she’s right, then “think globally and act locally” is just as applicable to peace as it is not environmental degradation. How to begin? As Benedictine celebrated all year long, a special visitor from heaven taught us exactly how.

Then came terrorism, from May to July.

A suicide bomber killed 22 at a May concert in Manchester, England. In June, ISIS attacks killed 17 in Iran. In July, ISIS terrorists were rounded up in Iraq.

The vicious circle of terrorism goes like this: Radical Islamist terrorists see the godless, relativistic West as an existential threat and lash out. Radical secularists who have carefully removed God from the public square answer them by hardening their opposition to religion while offering a relativistic welcome to all people. That only enrages the radical Islamists more.

Truth be told, relativism can never defeat radical Islam. You can’t defeat a half-truth with a lie.

What the world needs most at this moment — as the Muslim population rises inexorably — are not Christians who boldly block Muslims, but Christians who boldly reach out to Muslims.

million Christians in the country of mullahs know this personally, and so does one Benedictine professor who worked to build bridges between the two religions. Terrorism is an opportunity to preach Christ; Ravens in 2017 learned how.

In August and September, we were reminded that nature is more powerful than humanity.

It almost felt like the August 21 Solar Eclipse, blotting the sun out from the sky, began an onslaught of nature vs. humanity. If so, nature won.

August 25 brought Hurricane Harvey, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. In September, Hurricane Irma hit Florida, followed closely by Hurricane Maria laying waste to Puerto Rico. In between, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds and left thousands homeless in central Mexico.

The only thing more frightening than natural disasters were the man-made disasters of the Las Vegas shooting and the Texas church shooting.

They all raise sharp questions about God. But the questions are just concentrated versions of the question we always have: Why must we suffer? Why must children die? Why must I die?

The only answer is found in the death, resurrection and ascension of a Lord who calls us to his side. Benedictine College mobilized student aid, and student prayers for those (including Raven family members) caught in the storms.

Then, from October to November, the year ended with the secular sexual harassment storm.

The secular sexual abuse scandals, from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer, held a mirror up to our faces.

It is easy to see them as indicting someone else: We always knew entertainers were oversexed and that politicians were sleazy. But the frightening reality is not how unlike us these sinners are; but how like us they are. Pornography is the entertainment industry’s biggest money-maker and sex saturates the music we listen to, the programs we watch and even the advertisements we see.

The #MeToo hashtag could apply to any one of us in this culture. But it shouldn’t. Christians’ urgent task is to cultivate a culture of purity of heart. Benedictine College promotes that culture in its Internet filtering policy, its Student Life policies, but reiterated it even before the headlines from this Fall with special training for the residential staff from Christopher West.

Which brings us to December.

In December we once again contemplate Christ in the manger and, on New Year’s Day, his mother.

There, at their side, we rediscover that, at the heart of creation is not chaos and anger and violence but a loving presence for whom “all is calm” and “all is bright.”

And we hear once again that, for those of “good will” — those who repent — there really will one day be peace on earth.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.