Date Published: Monday, May 18, 2020
With evenings now free from events, I, like many others, have taken the occasion to read books and stream films. Last week, I re-watched Roberto Rossellini’s great 1944 film, Rome, Open City, about the final period of the German occupation of the city during WWII. It is a remarkable film, with moments of startling and heartbreaking violence mixed with scenes of great human warmth and inspiring faith. What is especially striking is the resilience and hopefulness of ordinary Italians in the face of grave threats to civilization.
We are not currently facing an enemy like the Third Reich and have not witnessed the devastation that was wrought across Europe. But this generation will be marked by the pandemic in ways we cannot yet fathom and in ways that will shape, for better or for ill, the self-understanding particularly of youth.
Dare we speak of hope in this time of pandemic? Dare we speak of it for this year’s graduates, who have been on a most unusual online odyssey? Graduates, especially in high schools and universities, have had many of the rituals of senior year disrupted or canceled altogether. They have seen a vibrant job market vanish overnight. They are also entering a world in which trust in our major institutions — from politics to journalism and from churches to corporations — is in steep decline. The challenges are daunting.
What Aquinas has to say about hope is clarifying. For him, hope is not about easily acquired or naturally expected goods; it regards “difficult future goods.” It is most needed and most evident in situations in which the odds seem to be against us.
At one point in the film, a young engaged couple discusses the war. One comments on how long the war has gone on and how contrary this was to their expectations: “Everyone foolishly thought it would be over quickly and that we'd only see it on newsreels.” He adds, “The road may be long and hard, but we'll get there, and we'll see a better world. And our children especially will see it.”
Like Rome, Open City, the great stories — from antiquity and the Middle Ages up to the last century, many of which UD students study — are tales of courage and hope in the face of daunting odds. As believers, we are succored even more by the infused virtue of hope, which regards the ultimate good, eternal life with God.
Finally, I hope you take a moment to read the stories of eight remarkable seniors who tell of their UD experience and their future plans.
Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83