The Joy of the 99

Shepherd and Sheep (1888) by Camille Pissaro

Shepherd and Sheep (1888) by Camille Pissaro

Being a disciple of Christ means being always for the Other.

The problem is we often do not like the other. The mere thought of putting someone else first repulses us. We think it means we will lose out. Our culture is steeped in the ‘me’ and has promoted for decades that ‘I’ come first. It is a societal belief that we have to look out for ourselves because no one else will. Especially in the United States, where clichés such as “Looking out for number one,” “Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps,” and “ God takes care of those who take care of themselves,” is the power that drives the engine of our culture. We may serve homeless meals to the sick, we may visit seniors in nursing homes, but if we are honest with ourselves, we still view these people as separate from us.

But this is not how disciples of Christ are to be. We are to be one with our brothers and sisters, no matter how annoying or repulsive. This is our calling. I confess, I have often fallen short of this call.

I love the idea of just Jesus and me. I love thinking of myself as the lost sheep in the Gospel (Lk 15:1-7). I imagine our Lord searching through the thorns of my life and scooping me up. There I am safe and secure on His strong shoulders high above those other smelly sheep. I am afraid if He puts me down and looks for another, He will forget about me.

Thanks to one of the treasures of our Catholic faith, the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I am growing into our Christian calling. In a prayer series based on the exercises called, Lord, Teach Me to Pray, a group of women and myself weekly share about our personal prayer life. Each day we are given Scripture or a mediation to pray alone with God from between 15 to 60 minutes.

Once a week, we gather as a group and share what has happened in our personal prayer life, our daily encounters with Christ. We do not comment on each other’s sharing; we only share what the Holy Spirit is doing in our own life. This dynamic is transforming as it offers the freedom to witness and share faults, sinfulness and weakness in the Light of God’s Love. We discover the joy of the 99 sheep that brings us closer to Christ and to each other as we realize every single one of us is infinitely and personally loved – and every single one of us smells! We discover that though He constantly searches for the lost, He never takes His gaze off of us, His found.

None of this is possible without encountering each other and ourselves in Christ through a daily time devoted to personal prayer. In a culture that loves to separate, it is imperative that we spend each and every day talking with God who desires only to bring us all together as one. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are just one of the many ways our Catholic faith offers encounters with Christ.

I want to share Consuelo’s testimony from this year’s Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference. I am so encouraged by her story of how she brought her obstacle to ‘being repulsed by the other’ to prayer and discovered in this encounter with Christ, the beauty of the 99.  Here is her story

To learn more about Lord, Teach Me to Prayer, go to

To learn more about the variety of ways the Pilgrim Center of Hope answers the call to the New Evangelization by providing encounters with Christ, visit us at

Praying to Save Souls

The Souls - Joža Uprka (1897)

“The Souls” by Joža Uprka (1897), from a series of paintings depicting Czech All Souls Day prayer

“Jesus, I love you, save souls!” My husband, Tom, and I often say this prayer because we love Jesus and because we, too, are concerned for the salvation of souls.

Why should I care about others – whether they know about God? Whether they go to Hell or Heaven?

My answer has two parts: one is based on the two greatest commandments given to us by Jesus:

When a doctor of the law approached Jesus asking him “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”, he said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the fist commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40).

The second part to the answer is knowing Jesus Christ! Once you have encountered Jesus, Son of God, Lord and Savior, you want others to meet Him! You begin to have a desire for others to have the opportunity of receiving healing, peace, and hope.

I remember when I first began my search for God, it wasn’t long after that initial decision that I met Jesus through prayer, and a group of people who took time with me to speak about Him and pray with me. If you can only imagine the immense peace and joy I received when I pictured Jesus before me, extending His hand towards me. Yes, it was the grace of God.

“Grace is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit in our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1999).

This encounter with Christ brought about a desire to learn more about Him, the Scriptures and about the Catholic Church.

“Jesus, I love you, save souls!” It can be your prayer as well.   Do you think your faith isn’t strong enough? Don’t underestimate your prayer!

St. Therese of Lisieux said, “The Creator of the Universe awaits the prayer from a simple soul to save other souls.” So true! Our prayers (short and simple but prayed often) can help other souls. Susan Tassone, author of Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, writes in her book, “More than 150,000 people die each day worldwide – through natural disasters, accidents, sickness, wars, and sudden deaths. How many die unprepared, not knowing the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father?”

Offer short, simple prayers for others – trusting the Lord will save souls.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope is a Catholic Evangelization Apostolate founded for the purpose to help people encounter Jesus and get connected to the Church through various ministries. Find out more about those opportunities by visiting

Faith is a Gift, Belief is a Choice



The theme for all the annual San Antonio Catholic Men’s Conferences (sponsored by the Pilgrim Center of Hope) is taken from Sunday’s Gospel, “Master, I want to see.”

Bartimaeus was physically blind, but because of his faith the Lord healed him. We chose this theme because we realized that there is a blindness that is worse than physical blindness. It affects not only men, but all of society, and we all need to be healed from it.

As Jesus taught the crowds two thousand years ago he said, “…they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” Mk 4:12

To accept Jesus as our Savior and undergo conversion goes against our nature. We think we know what is best for us and we want to rely on our own resources, our own intelligence, our own understanding. It is from this way thinking that we need conversion and forgiveness.

In baptism we received the theological gift of faith, but what is faith? The theologian St. Thomas Aquinas gives us an insight. He says, “The object of faith is not something seen or sensed; nor, in it self, is this object grasped by the intellect,” (Tour of the Summa).

Perhaps this is what we could call the difficulty of faith. Our intellectual desire is to understand all things, but there are some things that God has revealed to us that are beyond our understanding. Sometimes we must surrender our intelligence to God in order to believe. As we draw close to God we should love more to believe than to understand in matters of faith, because it is our faith that causes us to have hope and live in charity. It has been proven through the ages that true faith in God has inspired men and women to live heroic lives of virtue and experience great happiness that has been the means of hope not only for themselves, but also for others.

Faith is more than saying we believe in God. Again, an insight from Thomas Aquinas: “The internal act of faith is the unhesitant assent of the mind or intellect, under the direction of the will, to the truth that is proposed for belief upon sufficient authority. In the case of religious faith, the authority is God, who is truth itself.”

This internal faith must lead us to an external witness. St. James tells us, “Be assured, then that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath,” (James 3:26). If our faith does not influence our decisions it is dead. If our faith does not inspire us to pray daily, read the scriptures and worship God it is dead. If we are not concerned about discovering what God’s plan is for us and then using the gifts He has given us to build up on the Body of Christ, our faith is dead.

Jesus came to speak about the urgency of the kingdom of God because the kingdom of God is at hand for those who believe, and unbelief leads to hopelessness. If we do not have a sense of the urgency of the kingdom of God, then we have eyes, but we do not see, ears but we do not hear, and hearts that have not yet been converted. The world is as it is because we have not placed God at the center of our lives, at the center of our families.

Our Lord is patient for our salvation, but the longer we take to cooperate with His graces, the greater are the consequences for ourselves and for others.

If we still have enough faith to know that we must make some changes in our lives, then we should say along with Bartimaeus, “Master, I want to see!” The Lord will begin to show us what we must do. It was Bartimaeus who initiated the dialogue with Jesus. Even though he was told to keep silent, he continued to ask for pity, and Jesus said, “Call him!” And when he came forward Jesus said to him “What do you want me to do for you?” – even though he knew he was blind. Jesus knows what we need, and yet he often waits to see if we have enough faith to ask, for ourselves or on behalf of someone else. He begs us to ask him.

He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will give you rest,” (Matt 11:28).

What is it that you want to ask of Jesus? He already knows what you need, but he may be waiting for you to approach him in faith. Remember the words of the disciples to Bartimaeus, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you!”

It may seem like a big risk to ask Jesus for something because we know he may want something from us in return. What he wants from us is our trust. He wants us to experience the joy of being a child of God and living in a relationship with Him in which we will discover our true dignity. There are some things we can do that will prepare our hearts to see and hear our Lord, so that we can be converted and forgiven.

We must make a commitment to pray daily. How much should we pray? Probably more than we are praying now. No matter how much we are praying now, we can do better. Prayer could change the world if we would pray with our hearts.

Our Lord has given us the sacraments because he knows we need his grace to discover and live the plan he has for each of us. Frequent Confession, daily Mass when possible, quiet time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, reading the Scriptures and being united with the Mother of Jesus by praying the Rosary daily will help us to see more clearly the spiritual battle we are involved in each day.

May the grace of God give us all the confidence we need to approach Him with our concerns and petitions, and help us to see and hear more clearly His great plan for us. Remember: Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice.

Our Christian Hypocrisy: The Key to Fighting It


On many a recent lunch break, I’ve opened the newspaper to an opinion piece or letter criticizing hypocritical Christians.  Logging into my social media accounts, I often see a similar theme voiced by friends and acquaintances.  Same on TV.  Same on the radio.  In the Church, Pope Francis challenges us to re-examine our habits and attitudes against our baptismal call.

All these situations prompt me to ask myself: Why am I a Christian? To what extent am I not living like one?  I admit that, not unlike James and John, I often forget why I am a Christian.  It happens in the heat of the moment; and, because of this forgetfulness, I often fail to live like a Christian.

Whenever one of my co-workers calls my cell phone, the ringtone is Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “For the Sake of the Call.”  That song makes my eyes misty.  I chose it for my co-workers because, amid its Galilee imagery, the lyrics dive into the heart of what it means to be a Christian:


Empty nets lying there
told the story that few could believe
and none could explain.

For Jesus had called them by name,
and they answered,
“We will abandon it all
For the sake of the call…”

Not for the sake of a creed or a cause,
not for a dream or a promise,
but simply because it is Jesus who calls,
and if we believe, we’ll obey.

Whenever we make a choice, our motivations are:

  • Out of self-interest (out of fear / desiring comfort or safety / laziness or apathy)
  • Out of love

I find encouragement in the apostles’ own struggle to follow Jesus out of love, rather than for fame or glory.  All Christians must face these questions: Is my primary motivation to ‘gain the prize’ at the end of life?  To avoid the burning alternative? Do I just want to be a member of the ‘winning team’? Am I merely carrying on ‘the family religion’? We may quickly waive those questions off, but each of us answer, “Yes,” to varying degrees. Those “yes’s” are the origin of our sins.

Instead, we must follow Christ, as Chapman sings, “because of the love He has shown.”  Christ’s vicar and people are calling you and me to recognize God’s intense desire to purify our hearts; so that daily activities and decisions come from love and love alone.  This is what it means to be a saint; drawing closer and closer to Love Incarnate, sharing more and more of His life, until we are finally united.

Jesus tells us,

…whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

God showed us how to answer His Call by doing it first; in Christ who lived and died (and continues to live) as pure self-gift. What an immense and intimidating challenge! No wonder Christians are held to a high standard!  No wonder we are hypocrites!  How could we possibly mirror Love Incarnate?

Today, and each day of our lives, can be a step on a journey toward a pure heart—toward sainthood—by making one, small change in the way we love.

We make this daily journey by abandoning our self-interest and opening ourselves to grace—which is just a fancy word for God’s own life.  History illustrates this process with the apostles’ abandonment of their nets—their way of life—and their daily sharing of Jesus’ life.

We are not alone. We make this journey together, as members of a larger Body. Saints who have gone before us call out from Heaven: “With God, nothing is impossible!” Sainthood is a real possibility.

Let’s go!  One step at a time, starting today…

Not for the sake of a creed or a cause,
not for a dream or a promise,
but simply because it is Jesus who calls,
and if we believe, we’ll obey.


Beating Culture War Swords Into Plowshares



Bl. Mother Teresa told this story when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979:

I had the most extraordinary experience with a Hindu family who had eight children. A gentleman came to our house and said: Mother Teresa, there is a family with eight children, they had not eaten for so long – do something. So I took some rice and I went there immediately. And I saw the children – their eyes shinning with hunger – I don’t know if you have ever seen hunger. But I have seen it very often. And she took the rice, she divided the rice, and she went out. When she came back I asked her – where did you go, what did you do? And she gave me a very simple answer: They are hungry also. What struck me most was that she knew – and who are they, a Muslim family – and she knew. I didn’t bring more rice that evening because I wanted them to enjoy the joy of sharing. But there were those children, radiating joy, sharing the joy with their mother because she had the love to give. And you see this is where love begins – at home.

I think of this as I reflect on Simcha Fisher’s article at Aletia, Poor Family! Dear Synod Fathers, the Faithful Sheep Are Suffering, Too. In it, she covers a lot of ground on behalf of the suffering faithful who, obedient though they are, never escape the various crosses that come for us all.

“Last week, I shared “Married to an Angry Man, an open letter to the Synod Fathers, a guest post by Monica More (a pseudonym). Monica does not want an annulment, easy or otherwise. She just wants someone with authority to tell her angry husband that it’s a serious sin to scream and curse at her, to belittle her, to allow his rage at the world to explode inside the walls of their Catholic home.”

Fisher continues,

“Then I got an avalanche of letters from women who are living Monica’s life. They aren’t trapped in some irregular marital situation. They’re just brokenhearted. They want someone to acknowledge that conventional, domestic sins can devastate a family. They want someone to hear their sorrow. Poor families! We can become so caught up in the great cultural and spiritual wars of our era — wars that swirl around avant-garde sins begging for extravagant mercy — that we forget the family back home, the poor family, the ones we’re defending when we go out to fight.

We live among tribes that fight viciously for our attention. Every day there’s another story about how society is so much closer to its collapse, and it’s all those people’s fault; or how the other side will finally be destroyed by some new artifact of the news cycle. The Culture War divides everything up into mutually exclusive sides and constantly demands support in the form of collective outrage.

But while we stare at the television and shake our heads, we are hungry, and our neighbors are hungry. I know this because I’ve been hungry, and I’ve lived with and befriended people who are hungry for understanding, to be known, cared about, affirmed that they are good and worth something. People are hungry for someone to treat them like human beings – whether it means visiting them when they’re in a community home, or talking about the Cowboys and having a beer.

Some people are basically okay, but they’re lonely. Some people are worried about their finances or their children. Others are miserable because their spouse makes life entirely too painful to bear, and refuses to change. So many suffer quietly, without the bonds of family and community to help ease the weight of their cross.

Why? Why is it that a Hindu woman in India can carry some of her first meal in much too long to her Muslim neighbor, while so many families in the U.S. languish in isolated misery? “What struck me most was that she knew,” Mother Teresa said. “[A]nd who are they, a Muslim family – and she knew.”

Perhaps it was because the Hindu woman had fewer distractions in her life. I’m utterly convinced that the Culture Wars are soul-sucking. There are real concerns to have, yes, but when Catholics allow ourselves to be blown about by every gust of manufactured outrage that TV’s talking heads bellow about, we’re submitting to the utter distraction of toxic windbaggery that God is not in.

It’s time to go where politicos dare not tread: the heart of the world in our neighborhood block and the withered branches of our family trees – without an ideological agenda. It’s time to beat our culture war swords into plowshares. Do you know what your neighbors need? If not, try finding out over a barbecue. Or maybe just take a plate of food over because you made too much for your household. Be creative, but not fancy. Be patient and good-natured, forgiving and considerate. If your neighbors are pretty much fine and don’t really need your help, great! Be friendly anyway. It’s not likely they’ll come asking for help when they need it if they don’t know you, and vice versa.

Whether you’re a liberal or conservative, or neither, know that God smiles about this sort of thing. Jesus likes it. Know that this helps bring about the Kingdom of God in the ruinous City of Man, and stores treasure on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Journeying With the Cross

"The Crucifixion" by Giotto (c. 1320)

“The Crucifixion” by Giotto (c. 1320)

A beautiful wooden crucifix from Jerusalem hangs in a prominent place in my living room – a gift from Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox from one of their Holy Land Pilgrimages. It serves to remind me of the extraordinary power in the cross.

The Evil One wants us to stay away from the cross at all costs. I doubt he really cares what does the trick – any worldly distraction that keeps our minds elsewhere will do, just as long as we don’t think about or meditate upon the cross. Why? Because the cross settles forever the question of how much God really loves us. Just think about it – love was compressed for all history in that singular Person on the cross, who could have called down angels at a moment’s notice, but chose not to – because of us.

This love that God first showed us now calls us, in return, to love the Father. My thoughts turn naturally to St. Paul for, at this time, Mary Jane Fox is leading a pilgrimage to Turkey and Greece “In the Footsteps of St. Paul”. Paul’s zealousness for seeing Christ proclaimed, churches established, and the body of believers built up, gave rise from his ever deepening love for Our Lord. “That I may know Him” was the primary passion of his life. May God grant that we follow in his footsteps.

However, no matter how much of the Bible we know, how many homilies we have heard, or how many hours spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we are all still light-years away from knowing God perfectly. The man who believes that he has “arrived” will not go any further. We must follow in the example of the great saints who all had yearning hearts. Their longing for God all but consumed them, propelling them to great spiritual heights.

Growing in faith is a process and every year we grow, we will find God bigger. As we grow in our knowledge of and relationship with Our Lord, He should be seen as more loving, more sovereign, more holy, and more omniscient, than the year before. Of course, it’s not Him changing – it is us who are changing. Refuse to stop at what you already know of God, there is so much more… and this journey of love begins with the cross.

Who the Lord Chooses



If you had a message of great importance that you wanted the whole world to know about, who would you choose to deliver it? In our readings today it is clear that God’s ways are not our ways. God can choose whoever He wants to accomplish the things He wishes to accomplish, as we see in the first reading when Moses complains to God that the mission of guiding His Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So God shares the spirit that He has given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God.

A more current example is Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. This thirteen year old girl who lived in poverty with her family was of poor health and had difficulty with her studies in school. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago a bishop was celebrating Mass near the Grotto and during his homily he said, “If you wanted to give a message to the whole world who would you choose; someone of great importance from a large city? Our Lord chose Bernadette, a simple girl from a tiny village. Through the ages God has chosen people of little significance to be His instruments. His ways our not our ways. There are some who still reject the Blessed Mother as a messenger of God in spite of the miracles connected to her apparitions. They think that the works of God are confined to their own understanding. Sometimes we also can be like that.”

We see something similar in today’s Gospel. John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving out demons in Jesus’s name because he was not an apparent follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises him and tells him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” What is important is why and how things are done. If they are done out of love of God and neighbor we should be cautious about rendering judgment. It is not always obvious why people do certain things unless they are clearly good or clearly evil.

People were anticipating the visit of Pope Francis this past week with their own hopes of what he might say to the President and to Congress. Listening to the media it would seem many were disappointed that he didn’t give a strong message supporting their position on certain issues. It seemed to me that he said all the challenges that confront us and the world must be solved through mutual respect, charity, humility, patience and a desire to fulfill the will of God. The Pope is not going to fix the world for us. He expects all of us to be engaged in the unfolding of the Kingdom of God; and I believe that is what Our Lord expects as well. The best hope for the world is strong, healthy, holy families; and that is where we are called to make a difference.

God has revealed His plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We know that through baptism we become children of God and receive the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We know that we can encounter Christ in a deep and personal way in the Sacraments of the Church, which are the source of the grace we need to live a life close to God in prayer and to discover His plan for us.

We know that God wants us to be holy and has made it possible if we are faithful to what He has revealed to us. This faithfulness will help us reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity. We can be certain that this plan is true because it has been discovered and lived by saints through the ages who have been heroic witnesses of the love of God. There are consequences for us when we do not live this plan. Jesus said that if we live for our selves we will lose our lives and give scandal to others. We must remove everything that is an obstacle to salvation.

There is no one on this earth more blest than Catholics because God has given us every possible means to live a life close to Him. We have His Divine Word, the Scriptures; we have His Church to guide us and strengthen us with the Sacraments. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to intercede for us. We especially have the Holy Eucharist in which Jesus gives us himself – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – because he loves us that much. Why would the whole world not want to be Catholic and have what we have?

About thirty years ago someone asked me why I was Catholic. I was glad to be Catholic and knew I would never want to be anything but a Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and to confession occasionally, but I realized at that time I never really gave much thought to the importance of my faith. Actually I hadn’t learned anything about my faith since graduating from a Catholic high school. At that moment I knew I wasn’t really sure of what I believed.

As I pondered that for a few days I realized I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a one-hour-per-week-Catholic and my decisions were not influenced by my faith at all. Thank God for that wake up call. It was not long after that that I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group with my wife. We began to pray together and study our faith, and a new joy came into our lives. I guess you could say that was the beginning of the rest of our life together. It opened up new possibilities. Now our important decisions are influenced by our relationship with God, and we have great hope.

Let us reflect on the words of the Creed we say at Mass and ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with gratitude – for being recipients of Almighty God’s great plan of salvation and the intimacy He offers us in His Church. Let us pray for the grace to be witnesses of what we believe.

A War Story: How the Catholic Women’s Conference Helped Lead Me to Victory

Joan of Arc by John Everett Millais (1865)

Joan of Arc by John Everett Millais (1865)

I got hit by friendly fire.

He did not mean to wound me, but he did. The shrapnel of his dismissive words ripped open my heart.

Just two weeks earlier, I had completed another two-day ‘basic training’ at the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s annual Catholic Women’s Conference. The group of conference speakers presented many tactics on how we can stay close to God, or as speaker Sally Robb advises, remain on the right battlefield. She said the wrong battlefield is where we struggle through our own efforts and will always fail. The right battlefield is where we allow God to do the fighting for us.

So, instead of bleeding out and suffering alone as is my usual response to hurt feelings, I choose to follow the tactics presented at the conference.

Dr. Margarett Schlientz spoke on healing buried fears. She said that covering up pain and turning inward only makes us vulnerable to bitterness and resentment. This infection can creep into emotional wounds causing them to fester. I know from past experiences how ugly this can get. I am afraid but I do it: I contact the one who struck the blow and explain my hurt. Exposing the wound to the light of conversation brings healing. The balm of amends calms my emotions and works to restore our relationship.

I am still limping, because we sensitive soldiers do not heal quickly, but I am able to march on. It does not take long however, for my true enemy, the one who seeks only to destroy, to take advantage of this incident and my weakened state to strike.

Before evening arrives, the battle begins.

The evil one joins forces with what speaker, Carol Weiler, calls our selfish self, and together these enemies of human nature storm my sensitivity with ground and air assaults. Suggestions, like missiles, bombard me from all sides. “You don’t deserve to be treated that way” . . . . . “He is supposed to be your consoler” . . . . . “He doesn’t care about you” . . . etc. They are relentless. At bedtime, I cover my head with a pillow hunkering down in the trenches of my mind and beg God to please rescue me.

Morning comes; I open my eyes and first thing offer a ‘Glory Be’ and prayer of thanks for this day. But before my feet hit the ground, the barrage begins again. “No one understands you . . . . . See, you are not special at all . . . . You don’t matter to anyone . . . etc.”

“Lord, make haste to help me.” I plead.

I trudge through the day and minutes feel like hours in a spiritual battle that is quickly taking its toll. To those outside looking in, I am a just a middle-aged woman completing her Saturday chores sweeping the floor, washing dishes and folding clothes, but inside my mind, body and soul, Hell is being unleashed.

I find a quiet place and pick up my Rosary. Along with this powerful spiritual weapon, I also offer prayers of forgiveness. In what will become hundreds of shots fired I say, “I forgive him, Lord. Please forgive me, Lord. Bless us both.”

A deep sorrow flows into all my cuts and with it the gentle assurance of our Blessed Mother guiding me to continue to pray, persevere and hold my position. Margarett Schlientz said crying is the cheapest and most effective psychiatric help, so I cry with abandon.

Morning becomes afternoon. “Come Lord Jesus,” I plead, “Where are You?”

My phone rings and the caller ID shows it is my father-in-law. He is undergoing chemotherapy and being a non-practicing Jew, I worry he may be going into despair trying to fight this illness without the help of God. I sent him a note along with the Lord’s Prayer and wrote, “This prayer has been given to us by God Himself. I hope it brings you comfort.” I brace myself for what I am afraid may be his harsh admonishment to stop pushing my religion on him. Instead of criticism, he tells me, “This is the best gift I have ever received from anyone.” He begins to cry and I cry with him and we finish our conversation sharing our love for each other.

About a half-hour later, the phone rings again. It is my husband telling me he will go grocery shopping for me. He says, “I am finished with my last client so I am going to get groceries before I come home. I know how busy you are and probably don’t have time to go.”

Reinforcements have arrived! Two unexpected allies have rushed to my aid with acknowledgement and affirmation completely blindsiding my enemy and airlifting me to safety into the arms of our Father. In God’s brilliant war strategy I see what speaker Sheri Wohlfert calls, God’s fingerprints. He is all over this laying a siege of grace against our opponent. He gave me the courage to call my friend and gave him the grace of a quick and conciliatory response. He sent our Mother to encourage me not to quit by remaining steadfast in prayer and constant to His Cross.

This rescue operation is not quite complete as our Lord knows me. He knows His sensitive one is quick to get herself trapped again. The enemy must be annihilated.

Our awesome God of Wisdom and Might releases His WMG – Weapon of Mass Grace. Coming up from deep inside the bunker of his bedroom, my teenaged son asks, “Hey, Mom, can we go out and get some lunch together or do you have too much to do?”

I take the advice speaker Noelle Garcia said we should make a daily habit of, and after first whispering it to myself, I tell my son, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

He smiles awkwardly and responds, “Cool . . . does that mean we can go eat?”

Confident my true Consoler has victory won, we go to celebrate. As I close the door behind us, I do believe I can hear the distinct sound of crushing.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The Pilgrim Center of Hope produces three annual conferences to aid women and men on our spiritual pilgrimages. Visit to learn more.

How to Recognize the Miracles in Your Daily Life



Why do we often forget God’s closeness to us?  Why do we often forget that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose?  (cf. Romans 8:28)

The Reason:

For several years, I was a marketing and communications student.  I learned that the average American is exposed to hundreds (some researchers say thousands) of messages in a single day, but we hardly recognize—let alone remember—most of them. Amidst the multitude of messages, our brains’ method of processing and retaining the “loudest” or most extreme messages have an unfortunate result:  We hardly recognize—let alone remember—God’s quiet miracles in our lives.

Amidst the multitude of miracles, we tend to remember only the “most extreme miracles” of the Gospel—

  • Jesus calms the storm
  • He raises Lazarus from the dead
  • He heals the paralytic, lowered from the roof of an overcrowded house

—but most of Jesus’ actions in people’s lives were quiet and ordinary.  Jesus’ first miracle was the unassuming transformation of water into wine.  As he ministered to people, Jesus looked into their eyes.  He smiled at them.  He loved them.  He spoke with them.  Many times, he took them aside by themselves.  These are the quiet, ordinary ways Jesus revealed himself to people’s hearts.

Last week, Pope Francis reminded us that Jesus continues to act in this way: “Let us remember what (Jesus) did at the wedding of Cana!  Yes, the Lord, if we place ourselves in his hands, will work miracles for us—but they are miracles of everyday life!”

What is a ‘miracle of everyday life’?

For each of us, they look different.  As a wife, I truly believe that most of God’s miracles in my life come through my husband’s love: when he forgives me without hesitation, when he transforms my sadness into laughter, or when he puts aside his own self for my sake. Miracles in my everyday life take place in the kitchen, during a car ride, or on the couch.  But I rarely stop and recognize them as miracles; God manifesting himself in my life.

The Answer:

So, how can we become better at recognizing everyday miracles?

Jesus said, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Matthew 11:25)

Becoming childlike (not to be confused with immaturity, or childishness) means answering Jesus’ simple invitation from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me…”

  1. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Like a child, we must eagerly and often run into God’s arms.  And he will love us.
  2. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart…”  As we begin to trust God, we open our hearts to be guided and transformed by his love.
  3. “..and you will find rest for your selves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  When we are confident that God loves us, we delight in his signs of affection for us.  Our eyes are opened, and we see the miracles all around us.

Each year, “Come to Me” serves as the theme for the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference.  Some people wonder why we’ve kept the same theme year after year.  The answer is simple: God never stops inviting us, and we never stop needing the reminder.

Today, let’s answer his invitation.  What miracles will you see today?

Prophets of Hope

Hope by Paolo Ucello (c. 1435)

Hope by Paolo Ucello (c. 1435)

I, along with 2,300 women, were recently given a challenge to be prophets of hope at the recent Catholic Women’s Conference in San Antonio. The challenge came from Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller during his homily at the Saturday morning Mass. He gave an example of someone who did give hope to many: Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In her love for Jesus and for others, she served with immense joy that spread to those she served, the poorest of the poor in India and wherever she went.

Think about it: the example of Mother Teresa’s life gives hope. She loved God and wanted to obey His two greatest commandments: “To love God first above all and love your neighbor as yourself.” In doing so, her love for God deepened through prayer and trust in Him. Sure, Mother Teresa did a lot, she gave her entire life to God, she founded a religious community, opened houses for those who were dying and suffering without anyone to care for them. She would often express the importance of seeing Christ in the person in front of you.

She definitely is considered a prophet of hope – so many died with dignity and in peace through her care and those of her religious sisters, the Missionaries of Charity. Sure, that’s Mother Teresa!, you may be thinking. But how am I called to be a prophet of hope?

As I listened to the archbishop, my immediate reaction was, “Oh my! What a challenge – but what an exciting one!” You see, my hope is based on my love for God, my husband, and my vocation in evangelization ministry. Twenty-seven years ago, my husband and I left our successful careers to serve God and the Church, after a powerful encounter with Christ Jesus.

Our hope was to build on the immense peace and joy we received through this encounter as we told others about the omnipotent love of God for them, and of His mercy, no matter what our past was or current situation.

Msgr. Paul Glenn  writes: “Hope is the theological virtue by which we aspire with confidence to grace and heaven, trusting God, and being resolved to use his help. Hope looks directly to our eternal happiness. … We pin our hope in God, not man.” (Tour of the Summa)

My definition of a prophet of hope is a person who has been baptized and through that beautiful initiation into the family of God, with the authority given by Christ, becomes a messenger of hope in the world filled with confusion, questions and suffering. A smile and a listening ear are among the numerous simple ways to be messenger of hope today.

Yes, you can become a prophet of hope now. Take Mother Teresa’s words to help you: “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.” Often our concern about being successful can become a stumbling block that will prevent us from being a prophet of hope. Remember, the One in whose name you were baptized is with you always!

The Pilgrim Center of Hope was founded in 1993 to be a source of hope for others, and to help people encounter Christ through experiences such as conferences, pilgrimages and media.