Every year, the Margaret F. Grace lecture has the consistent theme of hope. This year the speaker could not have had a more inspirational story.
In Vatican City, the Cardinal William Joseph Levada serves as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. At John Carroll University, the cardinal served as the Grace Lecturer for this year. His topic was how he finds hope.
He is the highest-ranking official in doctrinal matters after the Pope himself and the first American to hold such a high position. His talk on Tuesday is his first major public address since he gained the title in May of 2005.
The Rev. Robert Niehoff, president of John Carroll University, presented Cardinal Levada with an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Theology. Niehoff, after expressing his thanks to the Cardinal on behalf of JCU, said, “You are a young man no longer, but chief defender of the Roman Catholic Church.”
Following Father Niehoff’s remarks, professor of Religious Studies Doris Donnelly introduced the annual theme of the lecture – hope. She said that after six years of the lecture, “hope never seems to go out of style.” The Cardinal, who defends the Catholic faith, also defends the virtue of hope, according to Donnelly.
Levada, formerly Archbishop of Portland and San Francisco, dedicated his remarks of hope to families and survivors of the teachers and students who lost their lives in the Virginia Tech tragedy last week.
Levada said that his inspiration and hope has come from the Pope. He specifically spoke about the Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est and a lecture given by the Holy Father presented at the University of Regensburg titled Faith, Reason and the university’s Memories and Reflections.
The cardinal said that he personally believes that hope is rooted in the statements. “I believe in life everlasting. We look for the life of the world to come,” he said while quoting the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. Levada said that in today’s world there seems to be a “loss of witnessing a great hope in eternal life.”
In speaking of hope as a theological virtue, Levada said that hope is not based on any human calculation, rather on the promise of salvation by God.
Levada also spoke about hope outside of Christian perspectives He said that in this case it is easy for people to find themselves existing without knowing where they come from.
He dubbed this a “state of being on the way,” of always asking questions of the tomorrow and the not yet.
He said, “Hope can only be received as God’s gift and how can we not want to share the gift of hope with faith and love.”
In addition to his current roles in the Vatican, Levada has previously served as the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine.
In 1987 Levada was chosen by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to edit the Catechism of the Catholic Church.