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On this the first Sunday of Lent, we invite you to journey with us as we study the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. “A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (803). Further, the “theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity” (1813). “Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us,” and it is by faith that “‘man freely commits his entire self to God’ (Dei Verbum, 5)” (1814).

In The Gift of Faith, Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer writes:

The desert is not a dwelling place; it is only a path, a road on which one comes to know the merciful love of God. Everyone who seeks God must pass through it since the experience of the desert is closely related to the deepening of our faith in His mercy.

A desert experience is a time when a person becomes formed according to the rule that only what is difficult and gives resistance molds a person…The desert is not only a place where our faith is born, but it ultimately becomes the birthplace and dwelling place of our contemplation. (145)

True Story by Dennis Wingfield

After 10 years of marriage, my wife, Therese wanted out. Although we were divorced civilly, I knew that God expected me to honor my marriage vows until death separated (cf. Rom 7:2). Marriage is a covenant between husband, wife, and God. Even if one spouse ignores the marriage vows, God honors the covenant. He expects husbands and wives to do the same. I chose to honor the covenant and knew that God would give me the grace to do so.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

With the Lord at my side, I stood for the healing of my marriage. The story of the Israelites escape from oppression in Egypt and subsequent journey through the desert taught me that God is faithful in keeping His promises. God was a partner in my marriage covenant so I walked in faith. I faced opposition from family, friends, fellow Christians and even my parish priest. God never failed to meet my needs during this desert experience. Time after time He demonstrated His love for me and my family.

After eight years, and many detours along the journey, God brought Therese home. I had reached the Promised Land of a restored marriage. But the journey was far from over. The totality of God’s plan for our marriage was yet to be fully accomplished.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Two years after my family was restored, Therese started to have shortness of breath. This was highly unusual for a long-time aerobics instructor. She grew tired just walking up the stairs in our home. The doctors determined that radiation treatments for lymphoma 25 years earlier had caused scar tissue around her heart and one lung. The scar tissue was preventing proper heart function. Attempts to remove the scar tissue failed. The doctors described the scar tissue as being like “concrete.”

I spent as many hours as I could with Therese in the hospital. I took care of her every need from helping her with physical and occupational therapy to cleaning tracheotomy tubes. One night after dressing bed sores and wiping her bottom, Therese looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “This is what love is.” It was at that moment that she came home emotionally, not just physically, to a loving husband who would not give up. Within four months, the cure for cancer claimed her life. I am thankful that God chose me to be an instrument of grace for my wife.

As Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer said, the desert is “a road on which one comes to know the merciful love of God.” Through my desert experience of divorce and the death of my wife, I came to know God’s incredible tenderness, love, and mercy. We pray that as you reflect on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love this Lent that you may know it too.

Prayer for Faith

Heavenly Father, please grant us the faith to believe in you, believe all that you have said, all that you have revealed to us, and all that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because you are truth itself. Help us by your grace to freely commit our entire lives to you and to seek to know and do your will. Animate our faith with the virtues of hope and love, so we may be united to your Son, Jesus Christ, in thought, word, and deed. Amen.