The story is told that one day St. Philip Neri went through the cloisters of his monastery exclaiming in a loud voice: "I am in despair, I am in despair." His spiritual sons, astonished, said to him: "Is it possible, you, Father, who so many times have restored our trust?" Leaping joyfully, St. Philip replied in his characteristic way: "Yes, left to myself, I am hopeless; but by the grace of our Lord, I still have confidence." He had doubtless had a very strong temptation to discouragement, which he overcame in this fashion. He thus experienced the truth that one must be crushed in order to grow, to be configured to Him of whom Isaias says: "He was wounded for our iniquities." (10) St. Paul of the Cross had the same experience over a long period of years when he had to suffer in order to unify the Order of Passionists which he had founded, an order that was to bear especially the marks of our Savior's passion.(11)
Heroic hope manifests itself not only by its firmness, but by trusting abandonment to Providence and to the omnipotent goodness of God. Perfect abandonment differs from quietism because it is accompanied by hope and unwavering fidelity to duty, even in little things, from moment to moment, according to our Lord's words: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in that which is greater." (12) He will receive the divine help to undergo martyrdom if necessary. Unwavering fidelity to the will of God signified in the duty of the present moment prepares the soul to abandon itself with entire confidence to the as yet unrevealed divine will of good pleasure, on which depend its future and eternity. The more faithful the soul is to the divine light received, the more it can abandon itself wholly to Providence, to divine mercy and omnipotence. Thus are harmonized in the soul the activity of fidelity and the passivity of abandonment, above restless, fruitless agitation and slothful quiet. At those times when all may seem lost, the soul repeats with the Psalmist: "The Lord ruleth me; and I shall want nothing. . . . For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they have comforted me." (13)
In its greatest difficulties, the tried soul remembers the holy man Job, who, after losing all he possessed, exclaimed: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. As it hath pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord." (14) The tried soul should also repeat the words of the Book of Proverbs: "Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence. In all thy ways think on Him, and He will direct thy steps." (15) The Psalmist likewise says: "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me never be confounded." (16) When all seemed lost, St. Teresa used to say: "Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou canst do all, and Thou lovest me." To give oneself up to His love and in advance to accept all from this love rests the soul and makes it victorious over temptations to murmur. This temptation is sometimes formulated as follows: "O Lord, why dost Thou not come to my help?" We should remember that nothing escapes Providence, that the Lord watches over us, that there is a precious grace in the cross which He sends us, and that "His commiserations have not failed." (17) St. John of the Cross used often to say: "O heavenly hope, which obtains as much as it hopes for!"
Heroic hope, moreover, rests more and more on the infinite merits of our Savior, on the value of the blood He shed for us. No matter what happens, even though the world should crumble, we should hope in the good Shepherd, who gave His life for His sheep, and in God the Father, who, after having given us His own Son, cannot refuse to come to the aid of those who have recourse to Him.(18)