3 Ways to Pray with Confidence

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3 Ways toPray withCONFIDENCE

For the longest time, I was the Catholic who prayed at Mass and only during times of distress. Honestly, my prayer was very focused on my needs and wants when I did not feel that God was giving me what I deserved. Through relationships with very disciplined Catholics, I soon realized that I was not praying with the total belief that God was listening to me and decided to incorporate the following 3 ways to begin praying with confidence.

No Returns

The realization came to me that after laying down my worries and concerns before Jesus, I would return and pick them back up and continue to be stressed about the situation without really giving God an opportunity to answer my prayer. How many times have you asked someone for help, and then end up doing it yourself? In trusting God, we must also have patience and humility understanding that He is working in the timing that is best for all of His children not just our own desires. God is able to answer many people’s prayers at once when we allow him to work through us in the timing that works best for his plan. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. (Matthew 6:34)

Thy Will Be Done

God knows all that you are going through and all of the struggles that you face, so to pray confidently we must believe that he can bless us in ways that we would not think to request. In life, we can easily pray to God for blessings that we think would be helpful, but He can see our lives from a perspective that we can not comprehend. Pray for his will to be done in your life, and do not pray for anything more than for God to bless you in accordance with his will. Fully place your confidence in him by simply allowing him to bless you in the way that would benefit his plan over your own. It does not matter if you are 16 or 60, God can work through you in fruitful ways not just for you, but for the entire world. ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.’ (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

Don’t Wait

After you pray with confidence, thank God immediately, knowing that he will answer your prayer in the best timing for you and everyone else involved. We must not get so caught up in the need to see results that we become negative in our daily journey. Each day, wake up and thank God before you even get out of bed. This allows for you to begin the day focused on God and with a peaceful heart. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Here at the Pilgrim Center of Hope, we are people of hope and make time for daily prayer as a staff. We encourage you to pray confidently through your daily journey and let us know if we can pray for you. You can also look to the Saints for inspiration on praying with complete trust in God. The lives of the Saints give us insight on how to answer God’s call confidently and how to stay strong in faith through trials. Ladies, join us at Afternoon Tea with the Saints each month for a social and spiritual event where our staff introduces you to the life of a Saint!

Finding True Joy!

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How many of us want to experience joy on a daily basis? Wherever you are.. at a demanding workplace, at home with various chores, raising children, or where you are right now. The dictionary defines joy as an intense happiness. We usually don’t ask people “Do you have joy?” – we would rather ask, “Are you happy?”

 

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The search

And when you think about it, joy isn’t experienced in just a moment. It’s a state of being. Many people answer the question by stating concerns or problems they have, rather than thinking about what makes them happy.

I can remember a time in my life when I was searching for true happiness, for consolation in a situation I was going through, specifically, dealing with an incurable illness that caused constant physical pain. My search was like a ‘bull-dozer’…because of my pain and lack of joy, I was insensitive to others.

Then, I met a group of Catholics that took time to pray with me and explain the importance of encountering Christ. This effort, in time, brought peace to my search for true happiness, which I realized was to encounter Christ Jesus and recognize that I needed a Savior. When we encounter Christ Jesus and accept Him into our lives as our Lord and Savior, we experience joy and hope!

Encounter and accept

To encounter is to meet and experience; while to accept is to acknowledge and to believe. Yes, I did “meet” Christ through prayer, through His people who took time to pray with me and I experienced His peace and His healing. Months later, I discovered through a medical exam that my incurable illness was completely healed! Accepting Christ and His teaching was, for myself, the next step that has led me on a journey that has been incredibly amazing, thanks to God and His mercy!

Can I say that I experience joy on a daily basis? When I read this definition of true joy given to us by a Jesuit theologian, Fr. Pierre de Chardin: “True joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” I can answer yes!

It’s a daily choice!

Each day, I act upon my faith in God through prayer and by loving God and embracing His gift to us – the Catholic Church which offers a treasure of tradition, history, teaching, guidance tools, and so much more to help us reach eternal life!

This leads us to Hope!

“The virtue of hope responds to the desire for happiness God has placed in the heart of every person…it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during time of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1818)

A Christian’s definition of hope is far superior to that of the world. Instead of wishing or hoping for something to happen, as Christians, we know our hope is solid, concrete evidence because it is grounded in the Word of God, the Truth.

“Our Christian hope is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”  (Heb 11:1). It is a hope that, like faith, cannot be moved by circumstances because of our encounter of Christ and of our desire to love Him and worship Him, the One True God who knows and loves us.

When we feel hopeless

Sometimes, we fall into a “rut” or make excuses. It is because we prefer to do what comes natural. It is so easy to gravitate to what might seem to be logical, or “feels right”. Don’t waste time – run to Christ! He is always there with open arms to receive you. And remain with Him!

The Christian faith is a full and sincere adherence to Jesus Christ, and the decision to walk in His footsteps is to make oneself a disciple of Him. Once brought to this decision, people have a desire for more – to be taught the fullness of divine revelation and to enter into the full sacramental experience of the Church.

Come and see

St. Edith Stein, who was once an unbeliever, encountered Christ and became a Catholic and later a Carmelite nun said – “If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him.” Yes, I too, want to lead others to Him so they can experience true joy and happiness!

Have you found joy and want to lead others to God also? Are you still searching for joy? The Pilgrim Center of Hope Ministry of Conferences and Pilgrimages have many opportunities to discover and share the treasures of the Church. Learn more at PilgrimCenterofHope.org

Burning Bridges: A good thing?

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13th Sunday in Cycle C

Who do we follow?

When Elisha decided to follow Elija he went back and killed the oxen and burned the plowing equipment that supported his previous occupation. He burned his bridges, so to speak, so that he would not be distracted from his new calling. We are all called to follow Christ without reservation.

What is it that we need to burn?

In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians he says:

“For the flesh has desires against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. These are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.”

Jesus Christ came into the world to show us how to live in relationship with our Heavenly Father. He came not to do his own will, but the will of the One who sent him. Our vocation, our happiness is realized in our faithfulness to God’s will, as He has revealed it through the Church and the Scriptures. We cannot just do what we want; we must be faithful to His plan.

So, what is His plan?

We must love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. There can be nothing more important in our life than our relationship with God, and this relationship depends upon our daily commitment to prayer and faithfulness to the Gospel.

If we love God above everything else then we will be able to love our selves and our neighbors, which demands self-denial on our part and a generous use of the gifts God has given us. Because this life of self-denial and generosity does not come natural for us, Our Lord has given us the Church and the Sacraments as the source of grace we need to live a supernatural life – beyond our human tendencies. We can only be faithful to His plan with His help.

If we would have the humility to learn from Biblical history, human history and our personal history, it should be obvious that when we insist on doing things our own way with no regard for the will of God, we end up experiencing personal and social unhappiness, confusion and hopelessness.

What’s going on today?

Atheism is growing faster than ever before and we have allowed that influence to remove prayer from our public schools and public assemblies and any reference to God or use of Christian symbols is often treated as a criminal act. The most dangerous place on this earth is the mother’s womb because that is where most life is intentionally and legally terminated and there is little mention of the suffering of those who have made the choice to abort a baby.

The entertainment industry and the media have held up sexual gratification as a necessary condition for happiness and our secular educational system and our government have made an all out effort to push the homosexual agenda and to re-define marriage, rejecting God’s own definition of marriage in Holy Scripture.

What can we do?

This country was founded on Christian principles which are now being threatened by our government. We must pray for the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, for the sanctity of marriage as between one man and one woman as defined by God, and for religious freedom from government intervention that violates our rights to fulfill our God given mission to serve Him and His people and for just immigration reform.

That is why for the last five years the bishops of the United States have asked Catholics to recognize June 21st through July 4th as the fortnight of religious freedom. A call to prayer and discussion of this important issue.

What did Jesus know?

In the Gospel, Jesus is approached by those who want to follow him, but they have excuses why they cannot follow him “now”. There is no convenient time to follow Jesus; the time for all of us to follow him is now. He says: “No one who sets his hands to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”  We cannot be Jesus’ followers and look back to living our life according to our own will, by just doing what we want.

Jesus of course knew the temptations we would be confronted with when he said, “If you are to be my disciple you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” If we allow our appetites and desires to control our lives, we will not be able to discover and live the great plan God has for us.

What do we pray for?

As Christians, we must believe that our happiness can only reach its potential in a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ and we must pray for the leadership of our great country. Prayer is vital to all of God’s work. Here at the Pilgrim Center of Hope, we have dedicated Prayer Intercessors who generously pray for our mission in Catholic evangelization. Each Intercessor receives a monthly letter informing him or her of this apostolate’s urgent needs, concerns, and blessings. We invite you to become a Prayer Intercessor, so that we can be united in prayer for each other and the whole world.

How to Transform Your Burdens

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Sometimes, it seems like the weight of all our difficulties will crush us.  Last Friday, I shared some of my recent challenges with my spiritual director. His response affirmed my general feeling: “Wow. That’s heavy!”

When we consider the central teaching and central action of our Christian faith, we clearly see that struggle is inherent in our Christian way of life:

If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Lk 9:23)

Our ‘cross’ means our suffering. When a convicted criminal carried his cross, he could not drop the cross and run. The cross was his, and he must carry it. Similarly, suffering is a reality in our lives. We may run from it, but we cannot escape it. Remember, too: This is not God’s invention. Suffering is evil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that suffering is a result of original sin (cf. no. 418).

Why, then, does the Son of God tell his disciples to accept and carry such evil?

We find the answer in Jesus’ Cross.  His Cross was placed on his shoulders, bringing the worst imaginable suffering, due to the worst of evils. Yet, Jesus’ Cross was transformed by grace into something that brought about the greatest good: salvation; healing and eternal life for all who accept these gifts. Do we realize that our suffering, too, can be transformed by God? This is why Saint Paul teaches, “God brings all things to good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Rm 8:28). In other words, our daily cross-carrying can actually help Jesus save the world. Sin and suffering may be present, but with our help, God can make even those miserable, ugly things work for good.

everybody-have-their-cross-to-carry-1441015But, how can anything good come from this? Cross-carrying is exhausting! Sometimes, gasping for air, we look up to Heaven wondering, “God, how can I keep going?”

Jesus says: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

Notice that in this oft-quoted Scripture passage, Jesus does not say, I’ll take that yoke from you; you don’t have to carry anything. No. Instead of throwing away our burden, Jesus says: I will offer you a different yoke; a different instrument to carry this burden. When you accept my yoke, I will carry the load with you. Learn from me, and your burden will become light.

What is Jesus’ instrument to carry burdens? What is this mysterious instrument which transforms heavy loads into light loads? Saint Jean-Marie Vianney explained, “The good God does not require of us the martyrdom of the body; He requires only the martyrdom of the heart, and of the will.”  Jesus’ instructions were important: We must first deny ourselves. When we deny ourselves of the desire to control our lives, this is called “denying ourselves.” Jesus did this, too. He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” First, we must hand over control of our lives to Jesus. Then, we learn from him.

How did Jesus teach us to carry our burden? Jesus carried his Cross with love. He did not complain. He did not feel sorry for himself.  He did not look for someone to blame. He just loved. He carried that Cross, loving every person he encountered. He carried the Cross loving you. Love is the instrument Jesus gives us, which turns heavy burdens into light ones. From Jesus, we learn to love.

Jesus, when my cross seems too heavy, send your Holy Spirit to show me how to deny myself. Teach me to give you control. Then, teach me to carry my cross fueled by love. Remind me that Our Father will transform my cross into something good and light, if I deny myself and carry everything with love.

Would you like a weekend to learn about lightening your burdens and becoming free from their weight?  We invite all women to our fifteenth annual Catholic Women’s Conference in San Antonio, Sept. 9-10, 2016. The theme: “Come to me…”  Men, mark your calendar for March 18, 2017, the Catholic Men’s Conference. Especially for seniors, the Catholic Seniors’ Conference will uplift you February 4, 2017.

It’s All How You Look at It!

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A few presidential elections ago, I thought I was being very astute in discerning truth by watching BOTH the conservative AND the liberal news/talk shows. I was of the opinion that by listening to both sides, I could determine where lies are being told and truth is being offered.

I was wrong.

Instead, I discovered that a survey/statistic can be produced affirming whatever a side wants it to; often ‘proving’ the exact opposite of the other side! What this taught me is that what we are told, by often self-described experts, is actually someone’s opinion rather than what actually ‘is.’ As one genuinely seeking to understand, I am forced to choose a world view based on, “Whose opinion do I believe?” What this experience also taught me is that I am so grateful to be Catholic!

Why?

Because to discover what really ‘is,’ the reality of a situation, it only makes sense to go to the One who created the world and to His Church, which He gave as His promise to not leave us orphans. To view the world through ‘Catholic eyes’ is to see through God’s eyes, and to see through God’s eyes is to see Reality.

One of women of the Bible, Martha of Bethany, discovered the same thing . . .

As they continued their journey he [Jesus] entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

In our ministry to women, I have found many women identify with Martha and think, as she does, that Jesus does not care. But if we look at this situation from Jesus’ perspective, we may just change our opinion.

Dutch_Painting_in_the_19th_Century_-_Cornelis_Kruseman_-_Christ_with_Martha_and_MaryFirstly, Jesus does not hesitate to respond; turning from everyone else in the room and calling Martha by name, not once, but twice! He is very present to her. He then reveals to Martha that it is not just her sister, but many issues that are troubling her. In God’s generosity, He is not going to simply address her issue at hand. He lavishes her with His personal knowledge of everything she is going through. He sees her! When He tells her that Mary has chosen the ‘better’ part, He is not criticizing, but rather leading Martha to see that she did ‘good’ in welcoming Him and coming to Him but chooses ‘better’ by listening to Him. He is drawing her.

Our Lord is encouraging, teaching and challenging Martha to a different world view. Like a prism, He is moving the lens showing another perspective, God’s perspective.

How does Martha respond? Soon after, during her deep grief in losing her brother Lazarus and trying to comprehend why her friend, Jesus, did not show up in time, according to her and everyone else’s opinion, we hear her exclaim, “Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world,” (John 11:27) And, she says this before He even raises her brother from the dead! This tells us that Martha has made her choice Whom to believe.

So how do we become like Martha when bombarded with the thousands of opinions we receive daily from sources both outside and in? How do we discern fact from fiction?

Our Catholic faith teaches that one way is through Scripture. By dwelling daily in the Word of God, we learn God’s language, and are able to see what often seems like a rebuke, is in Truth God calling us to something much greater and much deeper.

All the ways Christ is present to us is taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name, in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species.” (1373)

And, all these ways are found at our annual Pilgrim Center of Hope Catholic Women’s Conferences, Catholic Men’s Conferences and Catholic Seniors’ Conferences.

At these one and two-day events, women and men are given opportunities to welcome Christ and come to Him. In these encounters with Christ, we are encouraged in our unique dignity as children of God, taught the Truth of God’s love and challenged to live this Reality, bringing hope to our very hurting world. We invite you to join us.

So . . . what do you think?

Christianity as Human Story

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“The Burning of the Darkness” by Nicholas Roerich

The late great French intellectual Rene Girard is known for developing an anthropological philosophy around a few key ideas. The most famous of these are the fundamental roles of mimetic desire and scapegoating in all societies.

Mimetic desire is the concept that human beings, aside from natural instincts, learn to desire what we see other people desiring. This idea–that we want what other people want–is not new, but Girard places it at the center of human life, and so reframes the way we understand the working of human relationships, from the interpersonal to the societal.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with Christianity, bear with me. That’s coming up fast. Girard observed that this basic motivation creates competition and rivalry whenever two alike people end up desiring an object that cannot be shared. The tensions that result tend to erupt in violence, which threatens the fabric of communities that depend on peace and stability.

Here’s where Girard’s second basic notion of scapegoating enters. Looking at literature and history from societies around the world, he observed that when tensions threatened to drown communities in their own violence, inevitably and unconsciously, they chose either one person or a particular type of people to transfer their animosities to. In other words, they substituted a scapegoat who would suffer for the collective violence in the hearts.

And because this was an unconscious transfer, the resulting catharsis would be so baffling that it occurred to the people that their violence must have been planned by a divine being. It must have been a kind of sacrifice that the gods were teaching them to repeat, and the ritualization of this violence was believed to serve a social purpose: to keep the peace, to insure rains for their crops, to keep the sun happy, etc.

Likewise, by deeming a certain kind of sacrificial violence as sacred, it made it possible for societies to express their thirst for violence without tearing one another apart. Only one or a few people had to die, and doing so they would “save” everybody from the same fate.

Does this sound familiar yet? You may recall this passage from John’s telling of the Passion of Christ (Jn 11:45-53):

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”

Some might read this and think that Rene Girard was an atheist trying to debunk Christianity, or explain it away as just one myth among many similar others. The truth is quite the opposite: Girard was a devout Catholic convert, who saw the genius of Christianity in turning this dark dynamic on its head.

In relationships where mimetic rivalry leads to violence, and especially where the restrictions of society channel violence onto more acceptable victims, the constant delusion is that the recipients of violence somehow deserve their fate. They must have had it coming to them, and they must be punished so that peace–the illusory peace “as the world gives” that Christ disregards (Jn 14:27)–would reign with righteousness restored to the community.

Girard sees this dynamic throughout human societies, from ancient myths to the modern world. In the Bible, however, this delusion of a guilty victim is repeatedly unmasked, leading up to the ultimate revelation of the innocence of scapegoats in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We see, for example, that jealousy leads Cain to kill his brother Abel. Mimetic desire at work: Cain wanted to please God with his sacrifice, as Abel had pleased God. But where Greek and Roman tragedies end with the hero’s tragic flaw resulting in his demise, Abel is presented as a truly innocent victim. And even Cain, who is guilty of murdering his own brother, is saved by God from mob justice. Despite God’s outrage (“What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!”), the Lord “put a mark on Cain, so that no one would kill him at sight” after banishing him from his home (Gen 4:10,15).

In the story of Job, we see the accusations of guilt on account of his sufferings by his so-called friends. “Reflect now,” Eliphaz says, “what innocent person perishes? Where are the upright destroyed? As I see it, those who plow mischief and sow trouble will reap them,” (Job 4:7-8). But despite wavering under immense grief, Job holds firm to the knowledge of his innocence and fast to his trust in God. In the end, God rewards him with wealth beyond his losses.

There are other biblical stories centered on innocent victims whose faithfulness bears fruit. Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery, eventually became a magistrate of Egypt whose gift for prophesy saved many from starvation. When his brothers came to collect grain for their family, it was Judah’s self-sacrificial offer to stay in place of his brother that impressed Joseph, and led to his rewarding the whole lot.

Rather than focusing on punishments as a means to achieve justice–which Girard says is the mask people place on the process of mimetic rivalry and scapegoating–God, through the prophets and ultimately in Christ, says, “If you want to help restore the balance, if you want to bring true peace and reconciliation, be imitators of me. Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect, merciful as he is merciful. Take up your cross, those obstacles to love, and follow me. I love you. I am not your rival.”

The spotless One who sacrificed himself for our sake and, as Hans von Balthasar said, is so fully alive that he can afford to die, did die so that our self-sacrifices would unfasten our closed selves to receive his divine life. His grace is what opens up the dramas of life, so that they arc toward infinite, eternal life.

The life of Christ, indeed, is so attractive in its vibrancy and compelling in its breadth, that those who embody the Gospel evangelize by their own depth of life. Their stories are more than tragedies or comedies or morality plays. They’re love in flesh and blood. They’re sacrificial deaths and resurrections. They’re little gospels. They’re little bodies of Christ.

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If you would like to know more about how the saints mirrored Christ, consider joining us for an Afternoon Tea With the Saints at the Pilgrim Center of Hope! Enjoy tea and cookies, and a conversation about St. Josemaria Escriva on June 16th at 2:00 pm. Click here for future dates.

What should we eat?

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On the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

bread-food-healthy-breakfastIn today’s Gospel, Jesus multiplies the fishes and loaves. When the apostles ask Jesus to dismiss the crowds so that they can get something to eat he tells them, “Give them some food yourselves.” He knows what he is going to do, but he wants his apostles to be involved in what is about to happen.

This miracle of Our Lord’s providence often reminds me of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer; “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is not only about bread, it is about all that we need to sustain our life in Him.

In another place he says, “Do not worry and say, what are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear? All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these will be given you.” The most important part of our relationship with God is our total trust in Him. There are a multitude of Scriptures where Jesus says such things as,

“Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest,”
“Do not be afraid,”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,”
“My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you;” and so many more.

These are not empty words. These words are for anyone who will receive them in humility. If we allow the words of Jesus to touch our hearts, they can transform us from sadness to joy. It is a response to the promises of Jesus that creates saints and even martyrs.

It was a response to the promises of Jesus that inspired a woman I visited in the hospital many years ago, to say that she thanked God for the cancer that was bringing an end to her life because it helped save her soul. In her illness, she turned to God and the Church and found peace in her preparation for death.

Jesus tells us, he is the Way, the Truth and the Life because he is the only answer to that which we need the most. Perhaps the most important words of Jesus which we must believe is when he said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

The mission of Jesus Christ was to be obedient to the will of the Father and to give himself to us. He gave us himself when he was born of the Virgin Mary; he gave us himself when he died on the cross, and he continues to give us himself in the Holy Eucharist. He loves us so much that he longs for us to receive him in this holy sacrament.

A couple weeks ago, I assisted at a Mass for children who were receiving their first Holy Communion. When the child comes forward to receive the Lord for the first time the whole family comes forward with him or her. I was surprised that almost half of the family members that came forward did not receive Communion, but a blessing instead.

I believe the most urgent message of evangelization to the Catholic community is that the Holy Mass is the most important prayer we can pray because the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are made present to us by the power of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the priest who presides and represents Christ himself.offering

Saints have been privileged to witness the presence of the heavenly hosts as Mass is being celebrated. We may not see them, but we will be surrounded by angels and saints during the consecration as bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. What will you do today that will be more important than what we are doing right now? What is more important than receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ?

Of course, Our Lord wants us to be prepared to receive him. First, we must truly believe that we are not just receiving bread and wine, but we are in reality receiving his body and blood. He also wants us to be free of serious sin, which is an obstacle to his love. For this reason he has given us the sacrament of reconciliation in which Jesus himself forgives our sins through his minister the priest. Sin weighs us down and causes us to be unhappy if we do not use the means that God has given us to be reconciled to him.

If you know of anyone who has left the Church because they are divorced and remarried civilly, encourage them to speak with their local pastor. Most marriages can be con-validated. There is nothing that should separate us from this wonderful gift from God if we have the humility to seek His help through the Church. You can learn more about gifts of Catholicism through our weekly series Catholicism Live!. Visit our website for more information or to listen to previous episodes.

How the Blind see the Holy Land

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You may have heard at least once the song Amazing Grace. The song was written in the late 1770’s by John Newton, a British sailor and former slave trader. He wrote about one of his experiences at sea during a violent storm; thinking the ship would sink and would be lost, he shouted to the Lord for His mercy. Surviving the storm, he realized the grace of God and wrote the song Amazing Grace.

I have listened to this song so many times, and often think of the words “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see” relating to my own encounter with God’s mercy.

Meet Alco

My husband, Deacon Tom and I, led a group of 40 persons on pilgrimage to the Holy Land a few weeks ago. The Spiritual Director, Fr. Pat Martin, for this pilgrimage is a blind priest with a special ministry. He travels throughout North America and Ireland presenting parish missions about the mercy of God’s love. Also among the group, was another blind person, Alco, a woman who was born blind.Alco

She had searched for an organization or a group that would welcome her, a single blind woman with the desire to experience the Holy Land as a pilgrim. When I first met Alco, by phone, I was most impressed with the enthusiasm and joy expressed in her voice. She explained how, for years now, she wanted to go to the Holy Land and it was most apparent in her voice! I, too, was excited about the opportunity to introduce her to the Holy Land! Isn’t it interesting to discover and observe “God’s hand” in situations? One must believe at this point, this was no “accidental” phone call!

Alco visits the Holy Land

Alco joined us on this pilgrimage, I greatly enjoyed walking with her, arm in arm, I was able to describe the various holy sites related to the life of Jesus in Galilee, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. She was able to touch the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem, kneel at the Tomb of Christ and kiss where His Body laid and resurrected among many other holy sites. One of my favorite sites is Nazareth, a city in the Galilee Region, known world-wide because it is the hometown of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph). The Grotto, or the home of Mary, the Mother of Jesus is here; it has become through the centuries, a destination for many Christians who want to see, touch her home and ask her intercession. Today, a large Catholic Church called the Basilica of the Annunciation is built over this Grotto to protect it.

This holy site was visited by the Archangel Gabriel, when he addressed Mary as “Hail, favored one, the Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28), it is humble place where today a small altar is located in the center with an inscription in Latin in front of altar  “Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est“; translating – “Here the Word was Made Flesh”. There was complete silence, we imagined seeing Mary as a young woman here. Our pilgrim group spent time in silence and implored Mary’s intercession.
As I looked at Alco, she had a big smile on her face. Do you know something? Alco not only saw with the eyes of her heart, as she listened to the descriptions, because of her open heart and zeal for her faith, she sensed a deep presence of Mary and God.IMG_2227

This experience among many others with Alco and Fr. Pat, the blind priest, taught me so much. For one – how much we take for granted, even our eyesight. One of Fr. Pat’s favorite response on discovering something beautiful or good is the word “Fantastic!”. Alco’s response is a big, beautiful smile with a sweet laughter. Fr. Pat and Alco, the only two blind persons I have ever encountered opened my eyes. Not only my eyes, but my heart as well. So often our minds are distracted with the noise and busy activity around us, we may fail to truly be aware of God’s presence or the ways He may be “speaking” to us through someone’s message, nature, sacred art, beauty and simply by being present to the moment.

The joy of these two blind persons also gave testimony to their deep love for God, because they have experienced His peace, joy and hope in their lives.

Alco wrote her pilgrimage experience, the following is a part of her article.

“We visited a number of holy sites.  One of the highlights of the trip for me was being able to proclaim God’s Word in the church at Mount Tabor.  An architect, Antonio Barluzzi built churches on many holy sites after World War I.  I understand that the visuals are stunning, but for me, the acoustics in his churches are truly amazing!  I have never sung in churches that magnified sound like that.
All I can share with you is what I observed. However, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked and to meet so many generous, warm-hearted Palestinian Christians as well as the people who went on this pilgrimage; with me.  I never felt unsafe.”

God with Us

These words “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I was once lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see” continue to cause me to praise God for His omnipotent mercy!

Today, take a moment to praise God for His presence in your life, even if you don’t see him – He is there to receive you, inviting you to approach Him!

Join us on a Pilgrim Center of Hope Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Visit here to see our future pilgrimages. Tom and I have been to the Holy Land 47 times in the last 25 years, we would very much like to introduce you to the land sanctified by the Lord Jesus! Come and See! Did you know that the Holy Land is also called the Fifth Gospel?

Can’t Stop Laughing

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As I was reading through the liturgy for Pentecost, I reflected how the Holy Spirit has influenced my life. One of the earliest memories I have of the Holy Spirit happened when I was in high school. I remember sitting on the porch enjoying the cool breeze anticipating the thunderstorm that was predicted to roll through our area in West Texas.

Uncontrollable Joy

As I gazed at the night sky, I realized how happy I was with life at that moment. I smiled, and then I giggled out loud. It caught me off guard, and then I started laughing. Now, anyone who knows me well, knows that once I start laughing I simply can’t stop. So, I sat there on the porch by myself laughing and laughing and laughing. I am sure at least ten to fifteen minutes went by, and just when I thought I could keep it together…it would start all over! It was at that moment that I realized it was not just uncontrollable laughter, but uncontrollable joy ignited by the Holy Spirit! The joy and love for God that I experienced in that moment was exhilarating, and truly a gift.

Once more will he fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with rejoicing. (Job 8:21)

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Share the Joy

Many times, the life of a Catholic is portrayed as strict and boring, with so many rules and restrictions. The challenge falls on each one of us to live our lives with joy, treasure the blessings, serve others with a kind heart, and welcome the Holy Spirit into our everyday lives. These are just a few ways that others can encounter God through us.

So, how can we live a life full of joy? Jesus gave the disciples the recipe for joy.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” John 15:9-12

What an intense commandment Jesus gave us; to love others as He loves! It is up to us to open our hearts enough to welcome the Holy Spirit, so we may be filled with joy and love one another unconditionally. I have seen some people who are going through very difficult times in their life, and still are able to be grateful and full of joy. It is possible! Have confidence in God and trust in His plan for you. The life of a Catholic should be joyous because Our Lord Jesus Christ has given us His peace, His joy, and His love!

Joyous on the Journey

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25)  The strength and dignity that we have been given does not allow for us to be anxious about the future. We do not always know where God will take us, but we do know the Holy Spirit is always with us. I encourage you right now to say a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to guide you on your journey.

Each year through the annual Catholic Women’s Conference, we help women appreciate the dignity they have been given and grow deeper in their relationship with God. Visit CWCSanAntonio.com to learn more about the opportunities available for you at the Catholic Women’s Conference.

Amid chaos: Having peace & trusting God

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Last week, I was standing in the Southwest Airlines ticket counter line at the San Antonio airport. My husband and I were eagerly awaiting our flight to a family get-together.

But our mood was disturbed as a woman furiously pulled her luggage into the line behind us.  From her loud phone conversation, we immediately knew that her flight home had been cancelled due to tornado warnings elsewhere. After hanging up, she began spewing expletives into our shared air, seemingly unaware of the folks around her. My annoyance turned to sadness for this woman, when she (angrily) revealed to an agent that she had an ill family member at home, with whom she needed to be present.

Whether by a trip to the airport, the grocery store, or even a walk around our neighborhood, it’s easy to see how chaotic our lives can become: people get sick, accidents happen, tasks need accomplishing… As life piles up, how can we maintain peace and trust in God?

pexels-photo-26980In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples think they’ve got it made. We get it now, they say.  We understand you and your message now!  But Jesus hands them a reality check:

Do you believe now?
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.
But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.

Just when we feel strong in faith, we get a reality check: something doesn’t go according to plan, and we panic.

Look at our first pope, Peter. As guards arrested Jesus, Peter fought back; cutting off a man’s ear! Then, he tried to escape the situation; denying three times that he ever knew Jesus. At the Crucifixion, Peter was nowhere to be found.  What happened to him later in life, so that Peter finally had peace amid chaos? How was he finally able to “take courage” and face his own persecutors and death?

Peter learned to surrender.

Typically, that word invokes negative connotations. “Surrender” seemingly epitomizes weakness…and who wants to be weak? Yet, the centrality of surrender amid suffering is the message that Peter hammers home in his letters, which are now books of our Bible (1 and 2 Peter).

Why surrender? Last month, my spiritual director instructed me to start reading a spiritual classic: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Its revered author directly addresses our desire to fight or escape God’s will:

If that which God Himself chooses for you does not content you, from whom do you expect to obtain what you desire? If you are disgusted with the meat prepared for you by the divine will itself, what food would not be insipid to so depraved a taste? No soul can be really nourished, fortified, purified, enriched, and sanctified except in fulfilling the duties of the present moment. What more would you have? As in this you can find all good, why seek it elsewhere? Do you know better than God? As he ordains it thus why do you desire it differently? Can His wisdom and goodness be deceived?

Wow. I am beginning to learn in the “School of Surrender” that the first step to maintaining peace is to see my daily life as a personalized gift from an All-Good, All-Loving, Most-Wise and All-Powerful God. If my day is filled with challenges, those challenges were tailor-made for me to overcome.  If it is peppered with good things, God has willed those good things exactly for me at that moment.

Here at the Pilgrim Center of Hope, we are dealing with a number of challenges, especially related to the upcoming Catholic Women’s Conference.  Our staff jokes daily about how we “can’t catch a break” this year. But amid what seems like chaos, we gather in Gethsemane Chapel with the CEO (the Lord Jesus). We begin with a Consecration to the Holy Spirit recommended by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller. We pray, “O Holy Spirit…I surrender myself to You…”

In preparation for Pentecost, we should make an effort to address our own daily ways of “fighting” or “escaping from” the everyday duties entrusted personally to us by Our Heavenly Father. Do we complain? Do we whine? Do we drag our feet? Do we simply ignore some duty that we know we should do? Do we attempt to escape through many hours of entertainment?

Come, Holy Spirit.  Help me surrender to you.

God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul […] God has made the attainment of our happiness, his glory. Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls. – St. Alphonsus Ligouri, from Uniformity with God’s Will

We invite all women to our 2016 Catholic Women’s Conference, which takes place on September 9th & 10th. This blessed event is where thousands of Catholic women will come together to refresh their soul. Please take a moment and pray for our ministry of conferences as we continue to grow!

Did you know?   In 2001, Mary Jane Fox founded the Catholic Women’s Conference to educate women on both the teachings of the Catholic Church and of their personal dignity.