I vaguely recall first coming across these three bundled words/names in a magazine article about a set of very old triplets. I had no idea that they were named after martyred Catholic saints, because I was never a Catholic, and hardly a saint nor martyr. Their names sounded so corny and old to me, and I was grateful that at least the only burden I had to live up to with my name was maybe that I would not be as cute as Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island.” Who are these girls, these words, anyway?

Faith. Well, there’s a word I never liked. Faith, feh. The idea of “having faith” always seemed odd to me, trusting in something with nothing to back it up. Is there something noble about that? I say nay. Faith, be gone with ye. Go find another sucker. Faith is a glassy-eyed starched-dress automaton, numbed into a forced smile while serving iced tea and biscuits on a silver tray, because she thought it was “the right thing to do.” She is often used by those who wish to exploit her naivete. She never learns.

Hope. Pal to Faith, just as much of a sucker in the end, but I am more sympathetic to Hope. Poor humans, you are stuck with Hope. Even those who say they are Hope-less, really aren’t. You can be on your deathbed, rattling away, and still Hope sits by, thinking there might be a last-second rally. Logic, reason, pragmatics can lead you down one path, while Hope holds out you might take the fork in the road, or maybe find a hidden stash of gold behind a rock. Hope is in our DNA. Hope is quiet and kind, with big sparkling eyes that are often saddened but never lose their light. She is a listener, a patient friend, someone to hold your hand. She is a natural beauty, never means any harm, but often breaks your heart.

Charity. In her true form, a surprisingly rare commodity. The fake Charity is the one who throws her coffee change in to the stuffed tip jar and feels smug, offers to chair the auction because it’s good for networking, and volunteers at the hospital to plump up a resume. The real Charity, a cheerful and thoughtful sort, never lets anyone in on what she does. Giving to others is easy and normal for her, whether it is helping a discouraged child with his times tables, working two jobs to help her mother pay for her prescriptions, or just being a good and loyal friend. She asks for nothing; moreover, doesn’t even think of asking or looking for recognition. But she is also no martyr, this Charity – her compassion is tempered by the wish to give effectively, not to deplete herself. Fake Charity wears too much makeup and perfume, and has a tight smile that no one really likes. Real Charity is plain in face, dresses indifferently, but is loved fiercely by those who are lucky enough to know her.

The real FaithHopeCharity triplets I read about must be long, long dead, and I imagine they led lives that were pretty much colored by some kind of combination of their three names, along with all kinds of other less Biblically-heavy concepts. I bet they had some good times. I hear that about Catholic girls.