Monthly Archives: September 2018

Remembering God’s Love for You

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Have you ever wondered whether maintaining an attitude of hope is really worth the effort? “What if, in the end, my hope for salvation was just a thought in my brain? What if the end of my life is just six feet under, end of story?”

Yes, all these thoughts are natural. However, being a Christian means living a super-natural life. If I have a relationship with Jesus Christ; believing, trusting, and following him who said, “(God) the Father and I are one” (John 10:30), then we are making a choice to live beyond what is natural or empirically evident.

Scripture tells us:

…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

This is like Saint Paul’s explanation of God’s love, the Holy Spirit, as our down payment on salvation. In other words, salvation – our total and perfect healing from all hurts, wounds, pains, shortcomings, and sins; our total union with God, is reason why each of us maintain the virtue of hope. Although we cannot empirically prove that salvation will come, God has provided us with a foretaste: the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts. We believe that the Holy Spirit is God, who is love.

When you and I struggle with doubt, temptation, or other trials, it is more important than ever to remember God’s love for us.

Reflect on these questions:
When was a time when I experienced authentic love?
When did I feel very close to God?

Look at a crucifix, and thank God for those moments. You are not alone in your difficulties. Jesus also experienced deep sorrow, agony, and the pain of abandonment on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) That, however, was not the end of the story. Before dying on the Cross, he was united completely with God the Father: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

I invite you to dive deeply into God’s love for you this week. As a special opportunity, this Thursday, Pilgrim Center of Hope is offering a Day & Evening of Hope during which you can visit our Gethsemane Chapel and touch a piece of Calvary, the hill where Jesus died out of love for you. I hope you will join us, and that you will be renewed in hope this week. May God’s peace be with you.

Calvary

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My Story of Hope

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Five days before Pilgrim Center of Hope celebrates its 25th year of guiding people to Christ and His Church, I would like to share my Pilgrim Center of Hope Story.

It actually began in Mandeville, Louisiana, in the year 2010. My family was making a move back to San Antonio, Texas, and once my sons were settled back into school, I needed a part-time job. One day, I walked into the small Adoration Chapel at a local parish and, in front of Our Lord and Lady, I boldly presented a list of what I wanted. At the time, I was blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, and I loved it. Through an encounter with Jesus, I was brought back into the Catholic faith that I had left 20 years before. I discovered the richness of the faith and God’s great love for women in the Church. I was involved with parish groups, and simply hungered for God. I was not at all happy to have to possibly stop what I love for a job.

Having learned the power of prayer, I went to God and told Him,

If I have to work, then so be it, but this is what I want: I want flexible hours, so that I can be available for my sons. I want to be able to go to daily Mass, participate in faith studies, and to work out. I want a job where I can write. And, lastly, wherever you place me, please allow me to share the beauty of the Catholic faith with women.

Fast forward one year later: I found myself still looking for a job. For one reason or another, nothing came through.

As my life was very busy with my sons’ sports schedules, it took the invitation of three different women to convince me to attend my very first Catholic Women’s Conference. Knowing that the Holy Spirit confirms in 3s, I took the third invitation as a sign. At the conference, I felt guided to simply observe.

A month after the conference, I saw in a Pilgrim Center of Hope newsletter an advertisement for a part-time job as the Catholic Women’s Conference coordinator. I met with Mary Jane Fox and, along with discussing my experience and skills, I found myself sharing with her my love for God and my faith. Though Mary Jane told me she had a few more people to interview, I was confident that the job was mine. All my ‘wants’ had been checked off. I knew God had planned this, and he was answering my prayer in his time.

Answered Hope

Now, here we are in 2018. Two months ago, I coordinated my seventh Catholic Women’s Conference.

I share this story because it is a story of answered hope, and Pilgrim Center of Hope was a big part in God’s plan to make it a reality.

In the seven years that I have worked at Pilgrim Center of Hope, I have witnessed numerous lives change through God’s gift of hope. Here are just a few . . .

  • There is the story of my niece, who was struggling in her first year of marriage. She felt overwhelmed with what everyone was telling her a wife is supposed to be. She attended a Catholic Women’s Conference and discovered who God created her to be. This experience led to a great healing in both her and her marriage.
  • There is the couple who were lukewarm in their faith and went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. They returned on fire with love for Jesus, and have become prison ministers to bring the hope they received to others. They tell of the prisoners’ tears that flow onto the olive wood crucifix they hold in their hands as they describe how Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa and died on the Cross, for their true freedom.
  • There is the story of the man named Jose who walked in off the street during a Day of Hope held at Pilgrim Center of Hope. He said he was driving down the street and felt called to pull in. He had no idea an event was happening. He sat in the chapel in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He listened to the presentation about hope, and he left. What has become of him, I do not know. But I know, like me, he was guided by the Holy Spirit to Pilgrim Center of Hope. I am grateful Pilgrim Center of Hope was here to be a place of hope for him along the way.

Living with Hope

For 25 years, Pilgrim Center of Hope has been answering Christ’s call that was first put on the hearts of Tom and Mary Jane Fox; a call to guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

If you need hope, call us. If you are growing weary and beginning to despair hope even exists, call us.

If you want to know more about Pilgrim Center of Hope, consider joining us on Saturday, September 22 for our 25th Anniversary Prayer Brunch. We will present on the 25 years of hope and on “Becoming People of Hope”! We invite you to be a part of it… to become a Person of Hope.

Nan-Back-CWC

An ever-busy coordinator, Nan sneaks in a few minutes to observe from the back of the 2014 Catholic Women’s Conference.

Speaking to God: Advice from Experts

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If you’ve ever tried talking to God, you’re not the only one.

In fact, in the United States, about 75 percent of adults report speaking to God/Higher Power, according to a December 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

Prayer: A Quick Refresher Course

Do you ever feel like you’re “praying wrong” or don’t know how to start praying? I can assure you from our ministry experience at Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH)…

Don’t worry: Almost everyone feels this way!

Even Jesus’ disciples wanted to know how to pray. They asked him, “Teach us to pray.” So, Jesus outlined the most fundamental prayer for them, known today as the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. Each line of this prayer teaches us something important about prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed (holy) be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
(Matthew 6:9-13)

We could meditate on what each line of this prayer means, and still would find new insights with each day.

Maybe we need more clarification. One of the greatest treasures we have is the model of the saints, who were human beings just like us—with complicated lives, struggles, challenges, joys, and sorrows. Through practice, they became prayer experts. At Pilgrim Center of Hope, we mine their treasured insights like the spiritual gold and jewels that they are, especially through our monthly Days & Evenings of Hope, and Socials with the Saints events.

Here are some of our favorite pieces of advice:

Four Simple Attitudes

St. Anthony of Padua was known for his teaching style that would captivate the listener. Here’s what he taught about how we should pray:

  1. Open your heart confidently to God.
  2. Speak affectionately with God.
  3. Present to God your needs.
  4. Praise and thank God.

In Difficult Times

When we face challenges, prayer can become more difficult. Recently, we at PCH learned from someone who understands this well, St. Mary MacKillop. Like Jesus, Mary MacKillop experienced the rejection of her own religious leaders, through an unjust excommunication.

We were in awe during a recent Social with the Saints, as we read that Mary would often say, “Today, God has been so good to me.” Considering her tremendously difficult circumstances, what an insight this was for us, into maintaining a prayerful attitude. She advised, “Let us study the Heart of God and, in doing so, we shall learn many beautiful lessons of patience and love.”

Of prayer, she said, “Let me humbly place myself in the presence of my God, of my God who created me, my God who redeemed me, my God who sanctified me.”

When Words Fail

What about when we simply cannot express ourselves in words? St. Teresa of Avila assured us, “Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.”

St. Paul further reminds us that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together to communicate with us, as long as we open our hearts to God: “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27).

Don’t worry; “the holy ones” in this context does not leave you out. “Holy” means “set apart,” and when we choose to pray, we are setting ourselves apart. Jesus encourages us: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day” (John 6:40).

Start Now –

Do not be afraid; simply choose to pray. Picture Jesus in your mind. Ask for guidance. You have nothing to lose! God is eager to enter this journey with you.

Take advantage of upcoming opportunities to gain more insights and to practice prayer. We invite you to browse our Events Calendar.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Love: Seeing His Face

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A heart that loves God and neighbor (cf. Mt 22: 36-40), genuinely and not merely in words, is a pure heart; it can see God […] Keeping a heart free of all that tarnishes love: that is holiness (no. 87).

Those are the words of Pope Francis, taken from his recent Apostolic Exhortation Guadete et Exsultate – On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World.

At a recent taping of our new radio program Journeys of Hope, our Co-Founder and Co-Director, Deacon Tom Fox, spoke eloquently and passionately about trying to imagine what it must have been like when Jesus Christ looked into the eyes of Matthew and said, Come, follow me (cf. Matthew 9: 9-13).

Matthew was a tax collector; individuals who were looked down upon and treated like prostitutes and the worst of sinners. So, we can imagine Matthew’s surprise when Jesus singled him out.

In this instant, Matthew realized, “Christ is calling me! …He knows me! … He loves me!” The words and the look of Jesus must have washed over Matthew with such warmth that he was overcome by the love, peace, and mercy of Christ.

It is this type of transformative grace that Jesus wants all of us to experience! But in order for the Look of Christ …the Gaze of God… to bear fruit, we must respond with conviction and say, Lord Jesus, be the Lord of my life.

One of my favorite passages from The Imitation of Christ is from the section, “On Loving Jesus Above All Else,” which reads in part:

The love of Jesus is faithful and enduring […] He who embraces Jesus shall stand firm forever. Love Him then, and keep Him as your friend, and when all others forsake you, He will never leave you or allow you to perish. […] Your Beloved is of such a nature that He will tolerate no rival; He will have your heart for Himself alone and reign there as King on His rightful throne. (Book Two, Chapter 7)

And then there is the Greatest Commandment handed down by Jesus:
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10: 27). As Christians, our priorities should be as follows: God, Family, Church, Country, and then Work.

Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness? If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy (Gaudete Et Exsultate, no. 151).

I wish everyone reading this the peace and love of Christ. May you see and experience the Gaze of God.

Lord, give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me. – St. Ignatius of Loyola

Every month, Pilgrim Center of Hope offers opportunities to experience God’s love and grace. We invite you to pray before the Blessed Sacrament at our Gethsemane Chapel, also consider our Afternoon Tea with St. Robert Bellarmine (9-13-18) or our Day & Evening of Hope; venerate a stone from Mount Calvary (9-27-18). For times and schedules visit our website at PilgrimCenterofHope.org.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.