Prepare for Christmas, Spiritually!

Standard

Blog-Image

This weekend, we heard this call: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” What does it mean to be prepared?

Many years ago when Deacon Tom and Mary Jane were going door to door, they met a woman who was in her last stage of cancer and in much pain; death was imminent. Even so, she thanked God for the cancer, because it brought her back to God and the Church. She said it helped to save her soul. Cancer was her wake-up call, to prepare herself for Christ.

If you asked people if they believed they were going to heaven, almost everyone would say yes. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) Jesus says only those who do the will of His Father will enter heaven.

Step 1: How do I know what God’s will is? 

We begin with the Scriptures. Jesus says, “Blest are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” To keep it is to hold it in our hearts, to believe it, and to live it. In a letter from the Bishops of the U.S. they tell us, “…if you have not undergone conversion, you have not accepted the Word of God.

Step 2: How do I undergo a conversion? 

To be prepared is to be changed. Jesus gave his authority to the Church, so that we could have guidance and transforming grace through Her. Through the Church, Jesus gives us the Holy Mass, which is the greatest of all prayers, and he gives us the sacraments as the source of grace we need to discover and do the Father’s will.

We also have the Scriptures, the Word of God, to guide us. Saint Jerome once said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” If we don’t know Christ, we aren’t prepared!

We have the lives of the saints as models of what faithful discipleship should look like. Ignorance of the saints is ignorance of the Church and of the powerful presence of God that it has been through the ages. Let us get to know the saints!

Step 3: What commitments am I willing to make to God?

A commitment to daily prayer is a necessary aspect of our relationship with God. No prayer means no faith. St. Paul says we should pray always; we should begin everything we do with prayer.

Being prepared is not something that will just naturally happen; it’s a choice we must make, and it will take a great deal of effort on our part. We are encouraged knowing that God has not asked something of us that is unreasonable.

Ask: Do I love God more than anything else, and do I love my neighbor as I also love myself? If not, you are not prepared!  Do I have any hatred, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.? If so, you are not prepared!

During the Advent season, we pray for the second coming of Christ with the emphasis on being prepared. The reality is, the same Jesus Christ who will come in glory at the end of time is coming to us in this Mass. Are we prepared to receive him? We will not be receiving just a piece of bread, but the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ! We prepare ourselves by being free of all serious sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and by preparing ourselves spiritually and mentally in our personal prayer before Mass, and actively participating in the Mass. We prepare by choosing to love our neighbor and choosing to love who God made us to be!

How is Advent relevant to actual, daily life?

The purpose is not only to be prepared when Christ comes for us. Advent preparation will help us to experience our greatest happiness now. Being prepared not only has a transforming effect upon us, but on all our family, our relationships, our community, and so on. When we are prepared, we will help others to be prepared. Then we can all say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

Advertisements

December: Month of the Immaculate Conception

Standard

Blog-Image

What is December “the month of” for you?

  • Celebrations
  • Preparations
  • Gifts
  • Family
  • Shopping
  • …Stress…?

In the midst of a consumeristic world, we can find peace by looking at December in the Church’s eyes. This is traditionally the Month of the Immaculate Conception; a month about God’s love & generosity.

The Immaculate Conception is both an event and a title for the Virgin Mary. This title recalls God’s gift to Mary from the moment she herself was conceived in the womb of her mother (whom we know from tradition as Saint Ann). Almighty God, being unconstrained by time and space, took the grace of Christ’s Saving Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and applied it to Mary’s soul at its beginning.

Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

In 1830, a young nun named Catherine had a vision in which she saw the Virgin Mary clothed with the dawn, and in gold, the words: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.” She heard a voice instructing her to create a medal with these words and the images she had seen. Since then, it has become so influential in conversions that it has become known as The Miraculous Medal.

An uneducated shepherd girl named Bernadette was introduced to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858 at a grotto in Lourdes, France. She did not know it was Mary; a young woman clothed in white with a blue sash, near a wild rose bush and surrounded by a brilliant light and a golden cloud, smiling, with her arms extended.

Bernadette continued to see this beautiful young woman and, finally, asked for her name. The young woman responded in Bernadette’s native language, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

These are just two stories among many, illustrating for us God’s gift to us: the Immaculate Conception! God gifted Mary with the grace of salvation, and now Mary extends her arms to us and offers us this grace. Let December remind you of Mary, extending the Infant Jesus to you in her arms, saying, “Come and see how much God loves you! Here is God’s Gift to you!” Dear Mary, with your prayers from Heaven, help me to accept your Son, Jesus, as God’s gift to me. Then help me to share Him with others, as you do. Amen.

Learn about our Evenings with Mary; mini Marian conferences for parishes.

 

Our Bishops, Beloved Shepherds

Standard

Blog-Image

As we reflect on our upcoming 25th anniversary year, and celebrate a visit to Pilgrim Center of Hope this week by Archbishop Gustavo, we cannot help but recall the many moments of encouragement and challenge given to Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH) by our bishops. We hope the selected memories below inspire you to thank your local Shepherd!

Bishop Joseph Galante – We are infinitely grateful for our friendship with Bishop Galante. Since the beginning of 1993, Bishop Galante worked closely with Tom and Mary Jane to develop Pilgrim Center of Hope as an evangelization center. That summer, he celebrated Mass at PCH. We recalled this momentous occasion in our first newsletter:

During his homily at the Consecration Mass of the Center on June 22, Bishop Joseph Galante described the Church’s term of the laity. He said that the Vatican II Council reminded us again that we are a PILGRIM people and that we really don’t understand fully what it means to be a pilgrim people. He explained that if we think about pilgrims and we talk about ourselves being a pilgrim people, we are going back to the time of the Israelites in the desert. Pilgrims are people who believe God’s promise and set out through the desert depending only on God with no itinerary, trusting that God will fulfill that promise which God has made to them, and following God wherever God is leading them. Bishop Galante blessed and consecrated this new ministry and its new location to Our Lord and Our Lady.

DTMJ-Galante_1993-June-22

The Foxes with Bishop Galante

Archbishop Patricio F. Flores – Were it not for our dear Archbishop Flores, PCH would not exist. It was during his service as shepherd of the Archdiocese of San Antonio that we wrote him and asked for permission to follow, what we had discerned to be, God’s call. He never ceased to provide us with paternal guidance and prayerful discernment.

Pray for us, Archbishop Flores… May we be reunited in the Eternal Jerusalem!

Archbishop José H. Gómez – After Pilgrim Center of Hope had completed its first ten years of ministry, San Antonio was blessed with the assignment of Archbishop Gomez. During his over five years as our local shepherd, he provided us with support and encouragement. We especially remember his involvement in the Catholic Men’s Conference and Catholic Women’s Conference, as both a Mass celebrant and a poignant speaker who opened up the Scriptures for hundreds of participants.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS – Archbishop Gustavo has been a “pilgrim bishop” for us. Our relationship began with the privilege of organizing the archdiocesan pilgrimage to accompany him to Rome, where he received the pallium—the official symbol of his authority—from Benedict XVI. Our pilgrimage included many members of his family, as well as members of his previous Chicago flock and new San Antonio family. Our time in Rome was preceded by a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, for which then-Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantu served as spiritual director. Some pilgrims continued their journey after the pallium ceremony, to include some tranquil time in Assisi.

Mass in Basilica of OL of Angels in Assisi.JPG

Pilgrim Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi

Inspired by the grace and dignity with which Benedict XVI abdicated the papacy on February 28, 2013, our beloved archbishop issued us a prophetic challenge: begin a Catholic Seniors’ Conference. With a keen eye and heart for his people, Archbishop Gustavo expressed his concern amid a ‘throwaway culture’ that seniors realize their enormous value and personal dignity, and be reminded of their crucial role in the Church family.

Our first conference for seniors was organized over the next year, and was held thirteen months after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s inspiring action: April 5, 2014. Participants expressed great surprise and encouragement upon learning the Church’s message. One wrote: “Definitely I had come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church didn’t care for the elderly who were once young & very active in our Church, but I realized through this conference we are the building blocks of our church.”

Each day as staff, we gather in the Chapel and begin our prayer with the Consecration to the Holy Spirit, which Archbishop Gustavo has asked all the faithful of the local Church to pray. Ven Holy Spirit, ven!

So many other wonderful bishops have walked with us in ministry, including Bishop Patrick Zurek—who has supported many pilgrimages as a spiritual director, Bishop Oscar Cantú—who has encouraged and been involved in a large portion of our work including the Ministry of Pilgrimages and of Conferences, and now-Archbishop Paul Etienne—who, after blogging his Holy Land pilgrimage with us as spiritual director, is spreading the word about our Mother Church there.

Why all this work with bishops? Pilgrim Center of Hope is an answer to the Church’s call for a new evangelization, heavily involving the laity in partnership with clergy. We always consider ourselves at the service of God’s people, and take seriously our Shepherds’ authoritative guidance. Looking forward to our anniversary year, we praise and thank God for these spiritual fathers who have taught, encouraged, and challenged us. Let’s all include our bishops in our daily prayers, and thank God for them!

3 Steps to A More Thankful Attitude

Standard

Blog-Image

Pope Francis has said,

If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! … Saying ‘thank you’ is such an easy thing, and yet so hard!

When people pray, their prayer is mostly one of petition and intercession; the prayer of thanksgiving is often left unsaid.

Yet, research has indicated that when people take time to be thankful or grateful, it can make them happier, healthier and aware of counting their blessings each day. Here are three steps we recommend to becoming more thankful.

  1. Say Those Little Words – Pope Francis adds: “If families can say these three things, they will be fine: ‘Sorry,’ ‘Excuse me,’ ‘Thank you.’ How often do we say ‘thank you’ in our families? How often do we say ‘thank you’ to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted!” Make a habit of saying these phrases daily, especially to those closest to you!
  2. Make a List of These 25 Things – Consider writing a list of 25 blessings for which you are thankful. In doing so, you will begin to realize how many blessings, gifts and good things you have received or experienced. There is joy in re-discovering this fact!
    • 5 Living People for Whom You Are Grateful
    • 5 Physical Abilities for Which You Are Grateful
    • 5 Places You Are Happy to Have Visited
    • 5 Things about This Year for Which You Are Grateful
    • 5 Things about the Catholic Church for Which You Are Grateful
  3. Remember that “God Was There” – At the same time, let’s not forget to list the ‘not so good moments.’ They remind us that God was, and is, with us in those moments, as well. How do we benefit from this exercise? Archbishop Fulton Sheen has the answer: “No man can be happy on the outside who is already unhappy on the inside.” For each major ‘not so good moment’ from this year, reflect on how God was present.

Let’s take advantage of the remainder of this month, approaching time with family and friends in deeper gratitude.

Having Hope: More Important Than Ever

Standard

In the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed the destruction of four hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and several mass murders – the most recent in a local church. When we recognize things are beyond control, what should our response be?

Saint Paul offered the answer in Romans 12:12 – “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” When God is our hope, he will also be our strength as we remain connected to Him.

Our first response is to pray for those affected; prayers imploring the mercy of God and the graces needed so that they may persevere in their trust in Him. We can also pray for the deceased; remember this beautiful prayer of the Church – “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. May your Perpetual Light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

In Pope Francis’ final General Audience message on hope, he reflected on Paradise, the aim of our hope.

Paradise is not a fairytale place, much less an enchanted garden. Paradise is the embrace of God, infinite Love, and we enter there thanks to Jesus, who died on the Cross for us. Where there is Jesus there is mercy and happiness; without him there is cold and darkness. At the hour of death, a Christian repeats to Jesus: “Remember me”. And even if there may no longer be anyone who remembers us, Jesus is there, beside us. He wants to take us to the most beautiful place that exists. He wants to take us there with the small or great deal of good that we have done in our life, so that nothing of what he has already redeemed may be lost. And to the Father’s house he will also bring everything in us that still needs redemption: the shortcomings and mistakes of an entire life. This is the aim of our existence: that all be fulfilled, and be transformed into love.

If we believe this, death ceases to frighten us, and we can also hope to depart from this world in a peaceful way, with so much confidence. Those who have met Jesus no longer fear anything. We too can repeat the words of the elderly Simeon; he too was blessed by the encounter with Christ, after a lifetime spent in anticipation of this event: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Lk 2:29-30). At that instant, at last, we will no longer need anything; we will no longer see in a confused way. We will no longer weep in vain, because all has passed; even the prophecies, even consciousness. But not love: this endures. Because “love never ends” (1 Cor 13:8).

Only the light of God’s love can transform the darkness. We can make a difference through prayer and active love. Let us remain steadfast in Hope!

Seeking Jesus – Through the Desert

Standard

Blog-Image

Today, we share Part Three of a personal story about seeking Jesus. We thank Sonja Harris, a professional photographer and our recent Holy Land pilgrim, for allowing us to share these words and images…

SecurityFenceWhat a better way to Seek Jesus than to renew our Baptismal vows in the Holy Land? Everything I experienced was nothing what I expected. Before arriving to our destination at the Jordan River where Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, we were able to see along our route the security fence that divides Israel and Jordan: barbed wire fence, as far as the eye could see, leaving nothing to the imagination that these two countries are in serious conflict. I have never seen such a long security fence…

We arrived at the Baptismal location at the River Jordan and I was astounded first at the unusual vivid green color of the river, then at how narrow this section of the river was.  It’s our understanding that Christ was actually baptized around the bend to the right, which is just downstream, but not accessible to our group that day because it is on the Jordanian side. At about 3am Texas time, Deacon Tom Fox sprinkled water from the Jordan on us as we renewed our baptismal vows as a group.  Time is allotted to the different groups coming to be baptized, and some were in their white shirts actually getting into the river in an area marked by metal rails.

A Greek Orthodox Church across the river was having a baptismal ceremony for a baby, and the father waved at us while holding his child. Sitting behind the father on benches were two Jordanian soldiers who, I’m guessing, are guarding the river so no one swims across. There were no visible signs of weapons on the soldiers.

The ride from the Jordan River to the Dead Sea was not long. The Dead Sea is the lowest point in the world at 1,412 feet below sea level.  While it may not have been my favorite place because of the heat, it certainly was an eye opener to the mysteries God provides.  The sea is extremely rich with salt and minerals, so much so that a person cannot sink under the water. The black mud taken from the sea when rubbed on our bodies, then rinsed off, leaves the skin very smooth to the touch.

JerichoJericho dates back to 9000 years B.C., is mentioned both in the Old and New Testaments, and is the oldest city in the world. The walls have long ago crumbled down. In ancient times, Jericho was considered to be the strongest fortress, yet it was conquered by Joshua and the Israelites with God’s help (cf. Joshua 6:1-27). Reading the Bible has become so alive for me now, because I can picture the city and all the ruins.

Still inhabited after 11,000 years, it is very obvious that Jericho has suffered under Israeli occupation. The city has been under the administrative control of the Palestinian Authority since 1994. The political issues are a bit complicated for someone not familiar with the politics of the region. Upon entering the city, there was a large sign stating that a project aiding Jericho was being gifted by the American people to the Palestinian people.  It was good to see this sign, since the city is littered with trash, and poverty seems prevalent because of the occupation. Researching, I found the Palestine-Israel Journal, 2001, with information from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, that 64% of the population living in the Palestinian Territories live below the poverty line.

Before lunch, we stopped in front of the ancient Sycamore tree where Zacchaeus met Jesus. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealth man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:1-10)

We ate our delicious Mediterranean meal at Mount of Temptation Restaurant, where we were showered with hospitality from the staff. I was able to photograph the city from the restaurant’s rooftop. The rooftop gave me an advantage of seeing Jericho at a great distance, and Mount Temptation, where Jesus was tempted by the devil.  To actually see Mount Temptation and photograph it was incredible. Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” (Matthew 4:1-11)

Before arriving to our resting place at the hotel Notre Dame in Jerusalem, we stopped to see Ein Karem, the birthplace of St. John the Baptist. The church is a simple design that was built over the cave where St. John was born. From inside the church, you step down into the cave. Over the entrance is a large painting of St. John baptizing Jesus. Once inside the cave, the place of his birth is marked by a large marble star with the Jerusalem Cross in the center and the Latin inscription,“Hic Precursor Domini Natus Est,” translated, Here was Born the Precursor of the Lord. What an experience, visiting the birthplace of the man who waited to serve our Lord before He went into the world to fulfill Scripture! St. John was beheaded for speaking against immorality.

EinKaremAnd you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:67-80)

This is a beautiful depiction of St. John the Baptist, who spent so many years in the desert. He must have been a rugged-looking man; at least that is how I picture him in my mind. The small plate beneath this painting has these words, ‘Saint John the Precursor in the Byzantine Iconography’.

It’s been two months since our trip to the Holy Land, and I am still processing the holy sites we visited. Looking back and writing about them helps with the enormous task of placing life in order: God, family, and country! Everything else is cotton candy or jalapeño juice…

Little Ways to Transform Your Heart

Standard

What are little epiphanies?

They are “little nothings of every day hope,” and the “ordinary ways to sanctity,” according to Susan Muto, PhD, executive director of Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality, who served as our keynote speaker at the Prayer Brunch benefiting our ministry on Saturday, October 28.

During our weekly staff meetings, we’ve been discussing Dr. Muto’s book, Twelve Little Ways to Transform Your Heart: Lessons in Holiness and Evangelization from St. Therese of Lisieux. To our delight, we discovered the lessons in her book wove perfectly into our ministry’s mission of guiding people to Christ and His Church. We strive to be missionary disciples reminding people that trusting in God provides hope in all the circumstances of our lives.

In her presentation on Sunday, Dr. Muto expanded on four of the ‘Little Ways’ listed in her book:

1. Little Way of Hiddenness

Dr. Muto said, “That the majority of us will never be famous, in the news or on any headline, so it is in the hiddenness of life we are to seek our sanctity.” She calls it the, “Nazareth of Everydayness;” many opportunities each day to be with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and live in hope. Hiddenness is where we can count on the grace of our baptism to give us the hope we need to love our spouses, raise our children, cling to our faith, and never give up.

2. Little Way of Abandonment to Providence

This is where we are to let go of our plans in life, and surrender in trust to God’s providence. St. Therese reconciled her burning desire to be a missionary, with the reality of life in the cloister and in growing illness, by cultivating a spirituality that, “surrenders like a little child in her Father’s arms,” trusting He would never give a desire He would not fulfill. We can practice living in this hope by consciously turning our plans over to God like, “twigs into a fire.” We will witness the, “flames of trust grow higher with each twig of surrender.”

3. Little Way of Simplicity

In a world that is full of complications, we can act in simplicity by defying our, “culture of the lie,” and living, “without guile; which means we say what we mean and mean what we say and that our yes should mean yes and our no should mean no.” Forgiveness is the key to living in simplicity, and though sin complicates our lives, we can find hope in understanding that, “God gazes at us always, slicing through the layers of sin and seeing directly into our souls.”

4. Little Way of Unceasing, World Redeeming Prayer

We can plug into God’s plan for salvation by choosing as St. Therese did to, “Read the text of daily life,” through an acceptance and offering of our little annoyances and big struggles. Muto shared several stories demonstrating how St. Therese took every opportunity to engage in the, “Serious business of prayer by hesitating before reacting, asking for grace, and trusting God that what He has called us to, will be disclosed to us.”

Dr. Muto ended her presentation with a prayer of St. Therese, and thanked God for Pilgrim Center of Hope and the blessing of our respective ministries.

You can meet Dr. Susan Muto and hear her speak at our Catholic Seniors’ Conference on February 24, 2018 at St. Matthew Church McDonald Center.

Pilgrim Center of Hope founders Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox, with Dr. Susan Muto

Why Hope?

Standard

Blog-Image

People ask us, “Why did you choose the name Pilgrim Center of Hope?” The answer would require a rich story! In light of Pope Francis’ recent focus on Christian hope, however, we would like to offer some words on this topic.

So many people today feel directionless; unable to see any meaning to life. With a great number of tragedies in the news, scandals, not to mention the personal wounds we experience in daily life, it’s no wonder that many walk with their gaze downward.

In his recent General Audiences, Pope Francis has been speaking on the topic of hope. Here is a small excerpt:

It is not Christian to walk with one’s gaze directed downward — as swine do: they always go along in this way — without lifting one’s eyes to the horizon. As if our entire journey terminated here, in the span of a few meters travelled; as if our life had no goal and no mooring, and we were compelled to wander endlessly, without any reason for our many toils. This is not Christian.

The closing pages of the Bible show us the ultimate horizon of our journey as believers: the heavenly Jerusalem, the celestial Jerusalem. It is envisioned first of all as an immense tent, where God will welcome all mankind so as to dwell with them definitively (21:3). This is our hope. And what will God do, when we are with him at last? He will be infinitely tender in our regard, as a father who welcomes his children who have long toiled and suffered. John prophesies in Revelation: “Behold the dwelling of God is with men…. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away…. Behold, I make all things new” (21:3-5). The God of newness!

This is why we focus on HOPE! We are not aimlessly wandering. Each of us is a called into being by God, who loves us. Each of us is called to walk this earth with purpose, toward an eternal destination of God’s love. We are called to be hopeful people – missionaries of hope! – walking our daily lives with our eyes on that heavenly Jerusalem.

Pope Francis continues:

The Christian knows that the Kingdom of God, its dominion of Love, is growing as a great field of wheat, even if in the middle there are weeds. There are always problems; there is gossip; there are wars; there is illness … there are problems. But the wheat ripens, and in the end evil will be eliminated. The future does not belong to us, but we know that Jesus Christ is life’s greatest grace, is the embrace of God who awaits us at the end, but who is already accompanying us now and comforts us on the journey.

As Christians, we must be people on a journey – moving forward despite the rocky terrain. Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:62). Dear friends, let’s spend our time – not looking behind us, but looking ahead! With hope! This is the purpose of Pilgrim Center of Hope: to guide people to encounter Christ, so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

As Pope Francis exhorts us:

Believe in the existence of the loftiest and most beautiful truths. Trust in God the Creator, in the Holy Spirit who moves everything towards the good, in the embrace of Christ who awaits every man and woman at the end of their life. Believe, he awaits you.

We invite you to learn about joining us as a Missionary of Hope on October 28 in San Antonio at our annual Prayer Brunch!

Pope Francis’ General Audience Series on Hope:

Teresa, A Friend of Ours

Standard

In just a couple of weeks, hundreds of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s friends will be gathering at our annual Prayer Brunch benefit event. One of the most exciting things we’ll discuss is the upcoming 25th Anniversary Year of this ministry. Praise God! As we reflect on these years, we reflect on a friend in Heaven: St. Teresa of Avila. She entered eternal life on October 4, 1582.

Perhaps we wouldn’t have Pilgrim Center of Hope, as we know it, without her help. The Center sits on about seven acres of land which we rented for many years from the Sisters of St. Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila)! With the support of hundreds of personal donations, the land was purchased by Pilgrim Center of Hope in 2013. The Sisters left us many of their furnishings and even religious art; including both a small statue and an old painting of Teresa of Avila.

In the painting, she is seated with her hand over her heard, commemorating the extraordinary experience called her Transverberation. That experience is what Bernini infamously sculpted into marble; an angel piercing Teresa’s heart with a flaming arrow. It was a mystical revelation of God’s love in Teresa’s life.

With her right hand, Teresa is writing her most well-known poem. In the painting, it is written in its original Spanish:

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante, 
Todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda;
La paciencia,
Todo lo alcanza,
Quien a Dios tiene,
Nada le falta,
Sólo Dios basta.

Which translates to:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing fright you,
All things are passing,
God never changes;
Patience
Obtains all things,
Whoever has God
Lacks nothing,
God alone suffices.

This painting hangs near our Chapel, where our staff prays each day. It is a beautiful reminder – not only of the message that God is the answer to every concern, but also reminds us of our Spiritual Mother in Heaven who undoubtedly intercedes for this ministry. Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

Not only have we had Teresa on our side, but also her two most famous spiritual daughters, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta! Thérèse has a history of interceding for us, and Mother Teresa wrote our founders a letter encouraging them to continue answering Christ’s call as they were seeking His direction for their lives.

The origin of the name “Teresa” is possibly derived from the Greek meaning “harvest.” That is no surprise to us. We are confident that God has called us to work in His Vineyard, to prepare our hearts and the hearts of many people for His Coming. Amen!

As you continue your daily pilgrimage this week, remember the message of the Saints! Lord Jesus, we place our trust in You.

A Story of Hope & Healing at Lourdes

Standard

As a response to the need for hope, we share the stories of fellow pilgrims who journey with our Ministry of Pilgrimages. This week, Velma felt a strong conviction to share her story with you…

God woke me this morning and urged me to write about my experience at our 2011 Marian Pilgrimage.

I went on this pilgrimage in place of a friend who had cancer. My hope and purpose was that this person would be healed as I was going in this person’s place. As we flew over to Europe, I had terrible pains in my hands that I had never had before. I always sleep on airplanes, but the pain in my hands was so bad, that I stayed awake praying for my friend.

Velma (left) with Mary Jane Fox while on pilgrimage in France, stopping to appreciate the Eiffel Tower

The day we went to the baths in Lourdes, there was no women to facilitate the baths, so we could not go in. I was worried that I would not be able to go into the baths for my friend’s healing. However, we went back the next day, and we did get to go. It was an awesome experience I will never forget.

Thanks be to God for His great mercy; my friend has received healing for the cancer and my hands were healed that day! I never asked for anything for myself while there on the pilgrimage, but God healed two of us at once. What a loving, merciful God we have!

Of course, God can and does heal with or without the holy baths of Lourdes. In my mind, part of going into the Lourdes baths was overcoming pride and doing something so simple as being dipped in a bath of cool water. I am so thankful I went!! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!

Remember that in the Gospel stories, Jesus asked, “What do you want?” On your daily journey, He is asking you this, especially when you approach him in the sacraments. Have you asked God to heal you of something, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual? Don’t be afraid to speak to Jesus simply and honestly. Then, be open to his response – whether it is a healing you expect, or perhaps something even greater:

Moved by so much suffering, Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross, Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the “sin of the world” of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross, Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, pp. 1505)