[Updated Nov. 23, 2023 with video link]
The Church of the New Evangelization series Part 3: reflecting on the 2007 encyclical “Spe Salvi” by Pope Benedict XVI
By Jon Perez
In a presentation Nov. 8 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, Bishop Mark Hagemoen lauded the late Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) for its lasting and timely theme in a world filled with despair.
Hagemoen was the speaker for the third instalment of a five-part diocesan Awaken adult faith formation fall series on “The Church of the New Evangelization.”
Saskatoon’s bishop discussed Spe Salvi, the second of three encyclicals written by Pope Benedict – who was a brilliant theologian and philosopher – in which the pope reflected deeply on hope, saying one can grow through prayer, action, and suffering.
“If you have had the chance to go through [Spe Salvi], you can see the many ways that Pope Benedict weaves through historical, biblical, and philosophical developments: (weaving them) into how he approaches the topic of a progressive understanding for the people of God about hope,” said Hagemoen.
“We need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us.” – Spe Salvi #31
Hagemoen shared the observation by Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine that a “crisis of hope” is one of the greatest challenges that society is facing. “Hope sets a real challenge these days. Especially as one looks around, not just the larger worldwide and social context but challenges for the church community,” Hagemoen said.
The bishop began his reflection citing what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the virtue of hope, and pointing to its connection to evangelization, pointing to the passage in the First Letter of Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”
Spe Salvi is divided into sections: “Faith is hope,” “The concept of faith-based hope in the New Testament and the early Church,” “Eternal life—what is it?,” “Is Christian hope individualistic?,” “The transformation of Christian faith-hope in the modern age,” “The true shape of Christian hope,” “Settings for learning and practicing hope,” and finally “Mary, Star of Hope,” a prayer invoking the intercession of Our Lady.
The encyclical is filled with philosophical wisdom and tackles figures and teaching from throughout human history, noted Hagemoen.
Hagemoen shared how the encyclical answered a personal spiritual and psychological crisis he experienced studying the history and brutality of the First and Second World Wars.
“[World War I] featured trench warfare and mustard gas. Then a mere 20 years later, we did it all again, but it was even worse because we had developed the technology. As a young man reflecting on our common history, this broke my heart, and it left me in sort of a spiritual psychological crisis,” he said. “So, to have Pope Benedict brilliantly critique the historical and philosophical development of hope, and then to look at some of the modern manifestations of the problem of the lack of Christian hope today – this answers such a crisis of history and faith.”
Salvation is offered to us, stresses Benedict, and that is certain and real, said Hagemoen, citing Spe Salvi #2: “The Christian message is not only ‘informative’ but ‘performative.’ That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.”
In a discussion session, Bishop Hagemoen asked his listeners to reflect on their own experiences of hope, and how they have experienced the “settings and contexts to learn hope” that Pope Benedict explores, namely: prayer, service, and suffering – as well as the judgment of God.
Video of presentation:
The “Church of the New Evangelization” diocesan Awaken Adult Faith series held in fall 2023 is now available on the diocesan YouTube video channel:
- Part 1 – An overview of Vatican II, with Sr. Mirasol Abala: video / article
- Part 2 – Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), with Marilyn Jackson: video / article
- Part 3 – Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) with Bishop Mark Hagemoen: video / article
- Part 4 – Christefideles Laici (The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful) with Sr. Malou Tibayan: video / article
- Part 5 – Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) with Fr. David Tumback – Video link / article coming soon.
Awaken adult faith programs in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon are supported by gifts to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
Reporter Jonathan Perez is a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.