Monthly Archives: February 2016

Our Weakness. His Strength.

Standard
Our Weakness. His Strength.

Throughout salvation history, God has chosen to accomplish great things through men and women whom he calls into his service beginning with Abraham. In today’s first reading God calls Moses to lead the Chosen people out of their slavery in Egypt. To get Moses’ attention God speaks from a burning bush and reveals his name as “I am who am.” Moses is speaking with the Almighty, He who is without beginning or end and he must take off his shoes in His presence.

Weakness

In the next chapter of Exodus, we will see that even though Moses has heard the voice of God and is given miraculous powers, he still doubts his ability to carry out the mission God has given him. He was focused on his own weakness instead of the power of God.
Especially, in matters of faith, we can be like that.

In baptism, we received the gifts of faith, hope and charity as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, we all start out equal as children of God. We become members of His body, which is the Church, and in this Church we have every means to grow in our faith and discover the gifts that God has given us. Which will be necessary for our vocation and for the building up of the Body of Christ. God expects that the gifts He has given us will bear fruit, but we can stifle those gifts by just living for ourselves and whatever makes us comfortable.

Planted

This brings us to the Gospel and the parable of the fig tree. The purpose of the fig tree is to bear fruit. The owner of the tree wants to cut it down because it does not produce fruit, but the vine dresser asks for more time to cultivate the tree hoping that it will produce fruit. Jesus is the patient vine dresser and we all are fig trees in this parable. In baptism, we are planted in the kingdom of God through water and the Holy Spirit. We receive equally everything we need to come into full maturity and produce fruit according to God’s plan for us. Through the Eucharist and Confirmation, we receive nourishment to sustain us. We are pruned through the sacrament of reconciliation and the sacrifices and reparations that make up our life’s experiences.

Nourished

No matter what our career is, our most important purpose is to produce fruit for the kingdom of God and for this we all have an equal opportunity. Our fruitfulness depends upon our own desire to be faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We cannot produce fruit on our own; we must be connected to God. By having a personal relationship with Him by daily prayer, reading the Scriptures and the lives of the saints, living the sacramental life, and being involved in our faith community.

Fruitful

This is where we discover and use the gifts God has given us and by continuing to be formed in the faith. When we live our lives close to God in this way, we become witnesses of His presence so that others might come to believe in Him. God’s only plan for the salvation of the world is that those who believe in Him will live and share their faith, so that others will come to believe in Him.

Like Moses, we may not feel adequate to play a role in God’s plan of salvation, but like Moses we must say yes anyway, take our eyes off ourselves, keep focused on God and allow him to work through us. It is only in God that we will find the strength we need to carry us through the painful circumstances of our lives and the grace that will enable us to make the difficult choices we know we must make.

This is when our faith truly bears fruit, so that we can experience the peace and hope that only Christ can give! Are you seeking to learn more and grow in your faith? Tune in to Catholicism Live to hear more on Wednesday evenings from 8-9pm on CTSA Channel 15 and on the Guadalupe Radio Network 89.7 FM or grnonline.com! More information can also be found on our website. PilgrimCenterOfHope.org

Advertisements

Why Fast?

Standard

pray-boy-field.jpg

Every Lent, there is a focus on prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Prayer and generosity should be part of our daily routine if we take our faith seriously, but there seems to be less emphasis on fasting. Except for the hour fast before receiving the Holy Eucharist, fasting is almost never mentioned unless in relationship with Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Why is fasting important? However in both the Old and New Testaments, the importance of fasting is very significant especially prayer and fasting together. They, along with sacrifice, were the necessary means of conversion through which individuals and cities were saved.

Take Control

When we think of fasting we often think of food which is the most common application. However, in addition to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, fasting and abstinence can take many forms. We can fast from TV, excessive computer time, or anything we enjoy that begins to take up too much of our time. The idea is that we must take control of our senses, appetites, and passions, so that they do not become addictive or begin to dominate our lives.

Cooperation

Jesus said that if we are to be his disciples we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. If we are not able to deny ourselves of things that we realize are becoming excessive, we will not be able to carry the crosses, which are a necessary part of our lives. Jesus wants to help us carry our crosses, but he needs our cooperation.

Evaluate

This season of Lent is a time for us to evaluate our relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the source of all that is good and all that we need. All of us can make some improvement if that is the desire of our heart. Spend some time with Jesus in his Eucharistic presence, and ask him to reveal to you an area where you need change if you seek to grow spiritually. Then, ask him for the grace to make the change. We can only reach our potential for happiness by overcoming our selfishness and drawing close to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Want to learn more about the Catholic faith? Would you like to know more about Jesus? Join us on Catholic Television of San Antonio and Guadalupe Radio Network each week on our series – Catholicism Live! every Wednesday from 8:00pm – 9:00pm (CST). You can tune in online from anywhere in the world at www.catholicismlive.com. Check out the various episodes on this website.

“Faith is a gift – believing is a choice!”

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Standard

Daisy

Funny how one can remember rhymes simply because they “rhyme”! Remember this one – He loves me, he loves not, he loves me, he loves me not….?  The person saying this phrase would pick one petal off a flower (usually a daisy). Once the petals on the flower are all gone, the person holding the stem would think of the last words of that petal – Oh he loves me! or, Oh he loves me not!

The month of February is known for St. Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month. As I was thinking about the meaning of St. Valentine’s Day and connecting it with the Heart Health awareness, I thought – “My heart beats because of God!…I am alive because my heart beats!” The reality is that I came into this world through a procreation act of God and my loving parents.

I remember playing the flower game, He loves me, He loves me not with friends as a child. Even at a young age, we knew that even if the words on that last petal was he loves me not, we continued to be attracted to the person we admired. It didn’t matter; the flower game was a game to express our silliness with friends. It didn’t change the way we felt about the one we admired, and we still wrote that Valentine card!

St. Paul writes about true love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror… (verses 11 – 12)

Perhaps over the years, we lose our childlike trust in others and in God; we only think of God as a distant Being, not concerned with what happens in our life.

My husband Deacon Tom and I used to work full-time in a Home Visitation ministry for our parish, St. Matthew in San Antonio. Can you imagine a young Catholic couple spending forty hours per week going door-to-door in the parish? We met many people as we knocked on their doors who told us that they were never home during the day, except that they had to stop by their home to pick up something for their work. Some may call this “coincidental” – we, however, were convinced it was God’s hand touching hearts through our simple visit. Those years of door-to-door visits showed us God’s love and mercy! When the resident of the home would express their surprise at our visit, or would express how odd that someone from the Catholic Church was visiting them, we emphasized the love of God for them and the Church’s interest in them.

As we think about healthy hearts and writing sweet notes this month to our loved ones; let us not forget to thank the Creator of all, our Heavenly Father, for the gift of life. Place your hand over your heart, feel your heart beat. It beats – He loves me! He loves me!

Learn more: The Pilgrim Center of Hope offers Home Visitation workshops to parishes interested in reaching out into the neighborhoods.

Pilgrimage Hidden Within Every Catholic Church

Standard

Have you noticed that, for nearly two thousand years, Catholic churches have been built to create a pilgrimage, from entrance to exit?  Have you realized that each time you travel through your church, you are undertaking a pilgrimage?

Let’s discover this ‘hidden’ pilgrimage together!

The Entrance

In a previous blog, I spoke about the narthex of a church, also called the galilee.  Galilee is the name of the Holy Land region where Jesus spent his youth.  It is also where he called his disciples, and where he called sinners to repentance.

The galilee of our church marks the beginning of our pilgrimage.  It represents those very things: the ‘youth’ of our spiritual life where we experience the call of Jesus, the realization that we are sinners, and our acceptance of Jesus’ invitation to follow him.

Early in Church history, people who were not fully in communion with the Church would remain in the galilee portion of the building.  They may have been in preparation for their baptism, or perhaps were penitents in need of sacramental forgiveness.  Only after they were sacramentally united with the Church community could they move forward from the narthex. So, these individuals were fully aware of the meaning of this space within the church; the galilee.

The Baptismal Font

In a Catholic church building, we next encounter either the main baptismal font (where people are baptized) or small holy water fonts.  These signify the next stage of spiritual journey: baptism.  By this sacrament, “the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1279).  That is why, each time we enter the main body of the church building, we use holy water to renew our baptismal promises—to reject Satan and sin, to believe in the Holy Trinity, the Church, and everlasting life.

Jesus was not baptized in Galilee. He traveled to the Jordan River to be baptized.  He made that physical movement from one place to another.  So we, too, reflect that movement when we move from the galilee to the holy water font.  We follow Jesus.

The Nave

Moving forward in the church building, we enter the nave.  This is the main body of the space, where pews are located for the congregation.  Nave is derived from the Latin word meaning boat or ship.

eCatholic-stock-photo-107

After Jesus’ baptism, he called his disciples from their fishing boats to become “fishers of men”.  Now that we are baptized, Jesus calls us to become “fishers of men” and bring others the Good News.  Thus, we move from the baptismal font to the nave.

In a way, the disciples left one boat for another.  The Catechism tells us that the Church

is that bark (ship) which ‘in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.’ According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves from the flood. (no. 845)

The nave represents the boat which is the Church.  All the people of God are gathered within it, to weather the storms and rough waves of life together.  Our Pilgrim Center of Hope logo reflects this traditional image.

The Confessionals

We know that those waves can be choppy, and along our journey of life, sometimes we fall off the boat!  As we walk along the nave, we find confessionals to the side.

Confessionals are the intimate spaces where we enter and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Each is a place where we encounter Jesus Christ, and receive his mercy and forgiveness.  Consider all the moments in Scripture when Jesus forgives someone: he takes them aside, and speaks with them intimately.  This is what he does for us today, and this is why confessionals are located along the sides of the nave.

The Stained Glass and Art

We are not alone in our journey of life!  As we move through the church and look around us, we see stained glass, statues, and other artwork surrounding us.  These are reminders that the Church includes not only those on earth, but also those in Heaven and Purgatory.  Along our pilgrimage through the church building, we see these depictions of our family members, the saints.  They serve as inspirations and companions along our journey forward.

The Sanctuary

Traveling all through the nave, we come to the elevated place called the sanctuary. Many times in Jesus’ life, we see him go up to Jerusalem.  Quite literally, anyone who visits Jerusalem will “go up”; the city is raised on a higher elevation than its surroundings.  Thus, the sanctuary of our church is a raised area.

In Jerusalem, Jesus prophesies the destruction of the temple as well as his own resurrection (cf. Mk 13:2, Jn 2:19). He calls people to repentance. In the sanctuary of our churches, we often see the ambo from which the Scriptures are read.  The ambo signifies Jesus as Prophet.

In Jerusalem, we also see Jesus as King.  Correcting many of the errant opinions of his followers that he will be an earthly king, Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36).  In the sanctuary of our church, we see the celebrant’s chair which represents Jesus as King.

In Jerusalem, Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples and institutes the Holy Eucharist.  During his crucifixion on a hill in Jerusalem, we see Jesus offering the true sacrifice for sin—himself. In our sanctuaries, the altar represents these very central moments of our faith.  Not only that, but it is where we mysteriously enter those moments.  The altar represents Jesus as Priest.

Truly, the entire, raised sanctuary not only represents the earthly city of Jerusalem, but also the New Jerusalem—Heaven.  In many Catholic churches, the sanctuary is also where the Tabernacle is located.  This is the place where the Eucharist is held.  In the Tabernacle, God dwells among us, as he will in the New Jerusalem.

Each time we process to receive Holy Communion during Mass, we process toward the sanctuary—a mini pilgrimage reflecting our overall pilgrimage of life toward Heaven.

In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory. (CCC, no. 1090)

Going Forth

Yet here on earth, we do not stay in the sanctuary.  It is the penultimate destination on our pilgrimage.  Like the disciples of Christ, we hear from the elevated sanctuary, “Go forth!”  We are sent out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, “glorifying the Lord by our lives”.

We exit the church building, by way of the galilee. Both Matthew and John tell us that, before Jesus ascended, he met the disciples in Galilee and commissioned them there (cf. Mt 28:16-20, Jn 21).  Galilee was the place where their journey had begun.  For us pilgrims, too, exiting the building, we pass through the place where we began.  Perhaps the next time we leave our church building and exit through the galilee, we can contemplate how we have changed—from the person who first entered through the galilee, to the person we are now, having encountered the Risen Jesus.

If you would like to learn more about pilgrimages, we invite you to contact us at the Pilgrim Center of Hope.  Our Institute of Pilgrimages provides local and international pilgrimages as a ministry to help you grow in a deeper relationship with Christ.

What’s a Jubilee Year? Come and See!

Standard

San Fernando Cathedral Holy Door of Mercy

Do you sometimes hear something about our Catholic Faith and wonder, “I’ve been Catholic all my life and I was never taught that?!”

I believe this happens for two reasons: the Catholic Faith is…

  1. So rich and full a treasure of teaching, it is not possible to live a generation and hear it all.
  2. An invitation to enter. It requires not passive hearing, but a walking into and an active discovery.

When I walked into my parish last month and discovered, erected in the Gathering Space, a beautiful door decorated with a Franciscan Cross and an invitation to walk through the Door of Mercy, I thought, “What is this all about?” Our pastor told us that Pope Francis has called this year between December 8 and November 6 a Jubilee Year of Mercy, and invited us to enter the door as often as we want, to experience God’s endless mercy.

This is a perfect example of our Catholic Church taking action, but leaving the discovering and following for us to choose. It is done this way for a reason, and was so from the beginning, when Jesus invited His disciples to “Come, and you will see.” (Jn 1:39)

The highlight of my Catholic journey to date is going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was there I discovered our God as One who came looking for us; traveling by foot, hundreds of miles over rough terrain, to tell us of the Father’s mercy and how this mercy is for every one of us, if we choose to accept it.

When I heard my pastor speak of the Door of Mercy, and how we can physically go through it and experience for ourselves the mercy of God, I became intrigued to discover, “What is a jubilee year?” and “How I may take this opportunity to make a spiritual pilgrimage?”

A little journey on the Internet brought the discovery that the celebration of a Jubilee as a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon has its origins in the Biblical book of Leviticus, in chapter 25, verses 8-55. A Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fifty years, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.

Pope Francis has called for a Jubilee Year of Mercy at the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II and announced special indulgences, which our Catechism of the Catholic Church defines as a “remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church […] and can be applied to the living or the dead.” (CCC 1471)  To which I enthusiastically respond . . . Cool!

Just a week before, I’d had no idea that our Church had a history of jubilee years, or that a pope can call a special one, or that we disciples and our family and loved ones – living or dead – may benefit eternally from our participating in it! These are just a few jewels in the infinite treasure chest of our faith, and what I love is, just like Jesus did with His Apostles, we are invited by God to walk with God to God . . . a pilgrimage!

For my own personal Year of Mercy pilgrimage, I have chosen to visit one of the sixteen Holy Doors of Mercy in the Archdiocese of San Antonio each month and receive God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I want to experience what the door symbolizes, which is the passage from sin to grace and slavery to freedom with the One who said, “I am the gate [door]. Whoever enters through me will be saved…I came so they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”(Jn 10:9-10)

Does the idea of a pilgrimage intrigue you? Then contact us at the Pilgrim Center of Hope. Through our Institute of Pilgrimages, we offer international and local pilgrimages, as well as pilgrimage presentations. Contact us at 210-521-3377 or our website for more information.