Author Archives: Pilgrim Center Of Hope

About Pilgrim Center Of Hope

The Pilgrim Center of Hope is a Catholic evangelization ministry in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Our mission is to guide individuals, families and neighborhoods toward finding a deeper relationship with Christ through evangelization (living and sharing the faith).

Seeking Jesus

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

How does one go about Seeking Jesus? This is a story that I feel must be shared because at one time or another, I believe, all Christians seek truth, seek Jesus. Bill and I had some choices to make in June. We had selected either a Mexico City tour of the museums, or Washington DC to be at the opening of the ‘Art of Engagement’ Exhibit, where one of my images was going to be on display.

It was an unexpected chance: A friend of many years, Mary Jane Fox, announced on Facebook that there were only three spots left on Pilgrim Center of Hope’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was not going to be a sightseeing tour; no, it was going to be a pilgrimage. We were to attend Mass every day and read Scripture at each holy site.

It was an epiphany (an experience of sudden and striking realization)… we knew instantly that this was where we needed to go, where we needed to be. No hesitation, no discussion; just a strong awareness of knowing that this was what we had to do—Seek Jesus.

It was a journey of a lifetime. We visited many holy sites, but I will focus on those holy places that moved me, that confirmed that being a cradle Roman Catholic was my gift from my parents. The Roman Catholics and the Greek Catholics are the two main groups of Christians in the Holy Land. What surprised me was how few Christians live in Israel. Approximately 1.5% of the people that live in the Holy Land are Christians. On this pilgrimage, I learned that the Catholic Church is the vital force in caring for and maintaining the holy churches—be they from Germany, France, Belgium or Mexico.

We visited the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is built over ancient Nazareth. It was overwhelming to see the dwelling where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to a child named Jesus. The image I took is the place where the angel appeared to Mary. As you can see, an altar has been added for the purpose of Mass and for the Angelus to be said.

Before I go any further, it never, ever occurred to me that caves were the homes of the Holy Family, the apostles, and many of the people living in Nazareth and throughout the area, during the time when Christ walked this ancient land. Today, these caves are called grottos.

The gospels mention Capernaum many times, and I often wondered about this particular place. Where is Capernaum, and why is it so relevant? Capernaum became a real place for us, not just a place written in the Bible. It is the Town of Jesus, because his own people in Nazareth did not accept him. He settled in Capernaum with Simon Peter, his apostle, in Simon’s mother-in-law’s house. The new church is built over the ruins of this house where Christ stayed.

Near St. Peter’s House, we visited the ruins of the Synagogue where Christ preached and taught. In this image, you can see Deacon Tom Fox from Pilgrim Center of Hope reading Scripture to us (Matthew 8:14-15).

We next sailed the Sea of Galilee in a wooden boat. The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake, 8 miles by 17 miles and is 120 feet deep. The sea is clear blue and glistens in the sunlight. We were reminded of the Calming of the Storm at Sea (Matthew 8:23-27). The sea had a relaxing effect on me, as I was able to photograph the Sea of Galilee with the Valley of the Wind in the background—where Christ walked from town to town, Cana, Capernaum, and Nazareth. Not only was this a magnificent photographic visual, but also so much to mentally absorb.

Our lunch at a local restaurant was “St. Peter’s fish” served whole. It was totally delicious, and was my number one meal because of the significance, taste, and presentation.

We then traveled to the Church of the Primacy of Peter, located a few feet from the Sea of Galilee. Upon entering the church, the Mensa Christi (the Table of the Lord), a huge rock, is located just before the altar. It is this precise place that Christ, after His resurrection, met with Peter and others, and cooked fish breakfast for them. This is a moment that can give you so much to think about: Christ preparing breakfast for Peter, who had earlier denied him three times (John 21:1-19, John 21:17). “Do you love me?”

How are you seeking Jesus today? No matter what your life is like right now, Jesus wants to journey with you.  He 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.” (Matthew 20:)

Let us pray: Jesus, show me yourself. I open entire myself and my life to you. Help me to discover all the gifts you are offering me at each moment. I ask this in your powerful Name, Jesus. Amen.

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The Experience that Put Me More In Touch with Jesus

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Are you wanting to rekindle or strengthen your relationship with Jesus? Perhaps it has been put to the side after many responsibilities, or weakened over time. Today, we share Pablo Garcia’s story; how God surprised him and helped strengthen his personal connection with Jesus – as he journeyed with us to the Holy Land in 2012.

I was praying to go to a pilgrimage to Rome…

“God, please please!”

…and all of a sudden, I had an opportunity to go to the Holy Land.

“Huh? I didn’t pray for that!”

As always, it’s not what we want; it’s what God has planned for us. The opportunity came, but still I had that yearning inside of me (I wanted to go see Padre Pio in Italy!). I went to the Holy Land not knowing what to expect. I just said, “Yes, I’m going,” and when you add it all up, it was a great blessing. It helped me resolve to actually walk in the footsteps of Christ. We had a great spiritual team and spiritual director.

6830173208_663fc64701_zWhat changed me was, in the mornings at the Mount of Beatitudes, staying at the hotel, early in the morning I’d walk as far down as I could to the shore. There was a big, flat rock there. Just sitting there, praying the Rosary, waiting for the sunrise to come up, you heard the birds chirping through the groves.  You could hear men or somebody down by the shoreline. I would realize, “Oh wow… it’s fishermen.” As I closed my eyes, praying the Rosary, I thought, “I’m right next to Jesus!” You could actually feel him, right by the shore, and smell it… That put me more in touch with Jesus. Just watching the first rays coming out of the mountain… that’s what did it for me.
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We got to rest two hours at the Gethsemane Hermitage. Even before I came on pilgrimage, I thought, “That’s going to be my number one spot.” When you went in there, it had all these different levels. I thought, “Oh wow. Where am I going to go?” I just let myself go and prayed, “Just guide me.” I went around… everyone else went to different places. I saw this bent olive tree, hanging over, and there was a nook and cranny. I sat on the ground and leaned against it. For two hours, I just sat there and reflected on Jesus, overlooking the wall of Jerusalem. That was the number one spot for me, right there. It was fabulous.

What experiences have put you in touch with Jesus? It’s important that we take time to re-visit these experiences every now and then. Take 10 minutes this week to sit and reflect on a time you encountered Jesus deeply: Remember the sights, environment, smells and/or tastes. What were you thinking? What were you feeling? Thank God for that experience. Ask Jesus to renew your desire to walk in his footsteps, as you move forward in your daily pilgrimage.

We Invite You…

  • ‘Come and See’ Informational Meeting – (Thurs., September 21, 2017 at 7pm) Join us to learn about our unique Ministry of Pilgrimages’ next Holy Land Pilgrimage (Summer 2018) and get your questions answered personally.
  • Our Lady of Fatima Veneration – (Weds., September 13, 2017) Grow closer to Jesus by opening your heart to his Mother, Mary. Pray with Our Lady at Pilgrim Center of Hope, in honor of her 100th Anniversary at Fatima. A statue from Fatima, Portugal will be available for veneration. Information about the Plenary Indulgence approved by Pope Francis for this special occasion will also be available.
  • Afternoon Tea with St. Thecla – (Thurs., September 21, 2017 at 2pm) Our role models and heavenly friends are virtuous women and men who’ve walked their pilgrimage before us. Learn about Saint Thecla and how she can help us grow closer to Jesus in our daily lives.

September: Month of Mary’s 7 Sorrows

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Did you know that the month of September is dedicated in the Church’s calendar to the Seven Sorrows of Mary? Let’s explore why an entire month is dedicated to these events.

  1. Prophecy of Simeon – When Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to the temple according to Jewish law, they encountered Simeon. He prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart.
  2. The Flight to Egypt – With their child endangered by the local authorities, Joseph and Mary sought refuge in Egypt. Refugees in a foreign land, they remained there until God revealed to them that it was safe to return to Galilee.
  3. Jesus Goes Missing – Returning home in a large caravan from their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph realize that the child Jesus is missing. For three days, they search anxiously for him. Finally, they find him in his Father’s house, the Temple.
  4. Jesus Carries the Cross – Always by her Son’s side, Mary witnesses his pain as he is mocked. She must stand by as her Son experiences the most horrible and shameful punishment, reserved for the worst criminals.
  5. Jesus’ Crucifixion – Mary watches as the soldiers nail her Son’s body to the Cross. What torture she must have felt, watching him die.
  6. Jesus’ Death is Confirmed – A centurion pierces Jesus’ heart to finalize his death, but He is already dead. Simeon’s prophecy is fulfilled as Mary receives her Son’s lifeless body taken down from the cross.
  7. The Burial of Jesus’ Body – Perhaps not even 50 years old herself, Mary experiences her own Son’s brief funeral just a few steps away from the site of his bloody torture and death.

As we meditate on the Sorrows of Mary, we can see just how much the Blessed Virgin Mary understands about our own sorrows. She was a simple, young mother who experienced tremendous suffering.

Our journeys to the Holy Land have helped us to grow even closer to Our Blessed Mother. The video below shows a glimpse of what pilgrims see after climbing Mount Calvary today. Right next to Calvary is an altar dedicated to Jesus’ Sorrowful Mother.

“Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation and maintained it without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever since, her motherhood has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son ‘who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties.’ Jesus, the only mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she ‘shows the way’, and is herself ‘the Sign’ of the way, according to the traditional iconography of East and West.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2674)

Let us pray: Dear Mother Mary, help me on my daily pilgrimage of life. Through your experiences of sorrow, help me to see God’s grace amid my own sorrows. Teach me to reflect on all these things in my heart, and to seek the Father’s will in everything. Jesus, I want to follow you today. Holy Spirit, remind me of your constant presence. Amen.

Join Us this Month for:

  • “Come and See” Marian Shrines – 9/9 – All are welcome to this Informational Meeting about our 2018 Marian Pilgrimage (April 3-14) to Fatima, Lourdes, Paris, and Lisieux. Learn about the Marian shrines in these locations, and discover what is important to consider when discerning a pilgrimage. More details here.
  • Our Lady of Fatima Veneration – 9/13 – Pray with Our Lady at Pilgrim Center of Hope, in honor of her 100th Anniversary at Fatima. A statue from Fatima, Portugal will be available for veneration. Information about the Plenary Indulgence approved by Pope Francis for this special occasion will also be available. More details here.
  • “Come and See” Holy Land – 9/21 – All are welcome to this Informational Meeting about our 2018 Holy Land Pilgrimage (June 25-July 7). Learn about the holy sites, and from our 30 years of experience, what’s important when discerning a Holy Land pilgrimage. More details here.

Battling Cancer, We Found Peace from the Divine Physician

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Oftentimes, illness can rob us of our peace. Today, we share Gene and Terri’s testimony about their journey with cancer, and how they see Jesus’ hand in it all. Terri reflects:

Last fall, my husband was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and I thought my world had been crushed. I had recently retired from nursing, and was very much aware of the implications of bladder cancer. A nun friend of mine was going to the Holy Land, and I asked her to take a prayer intention for me and give it to a caregiver at a holy site. While she was on pilgrimage, my husband underwent surgery for bladder cancer (stage 2) and was prepared for the worst—from bladder removal, stents, and possible metastasis. I prayed Rosaries during his surgery.

The surgeon finally came out with a smile, and I said, “Thank you, Mother of God, and my Lord.” He informed me that it was cancer and did not appear invasive. The pathology report confirmed it as non-invasive carcinoma. It is being followed every 3 months with cystoscopy for reoccurrence. He will undergo this procedure for 2 years.

My husband and I were signed up for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May 2017 with Pilgrim Center of Hope; something I had long prayed that we would be able to do.  A few weeks before our pilgrimage, I had a severe dizzy spell (vertigo) just out of the blue. I could not walk without holding onto something. My husband took me to the Emergency Room, where labs and scans were done. I appeared to be in good health, except for a significant thyroid nodule. After multiple needle aspirations to check for thyroid cancer, the results were inconclusive, unable to determine if it was cancer. I, for one, could not believe that both my husband and I could have cancer at the same time. I informed the endocrinologist that I was going to the Holy Land regardless. He agreed that would be fine and could follow up when I returned. I said, Jesus will figure it out, and I trust in Him.

Upon our return from our pilgrimage, I ran into a friend of mine, an ENT surgeon. I told him what was going on, and he sent me to a pathologist friend of his to do the needle aspirations and biopsy. It was benign. Jesus took care of us again, as we trusted Him again. I often recall sitting by the Sea of Galilee in peace, praying and splashing water on my neck. It was a wonderful moment, because I felt at peace. After all, I was in the Holy Land walking in the footsteps of Jesus; our Loving Jesus and Great Physician.

Since our pilgrimage, we have more peace, no matter what the circumstances. The mysteries of the Rosary are alive and more meaningful than ever. Family gatherings with our busy, married children have become more frequent and more special than ever.

Yes, Christ heals today! But the greatest miracle is not bodily healing. Jesus reminds us that what is most important is our peace and union with God (cf. Mt 10:28). We often focus on our worries and wounds. Today’s saint, Augustine, directs our attention past these things, to Jesus: “Have confidence, you who are infirm. Such a physician has come, and you despair? Serious was the sickness, the wounds were incurable, the pain was hopeless. Do you consider the seriousness of the evil, and not the omnipotence of the Physician? You are despairing but he is omnipotent; those who made known the Physician and were the first to be cured are witnesses to this” (Comm. Ltr. Jn., 8,13). Jesus, come and heal me where I most need healing.

Pilgrim Center of Hope Ministry of Pilgrimages – We invite you to see our upcoming journeys of faith.

Mary, Joyful Mother – A Bishop’s Jerusalem Reflection

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During his 2015 pilgrimage with us to the Holy Land, Archbishop Paul Etienne blogged his experiences! He welcomed our sharing his words with you:

One place from our visit that is connected with the Blessed Mother is the Dormition Abbey. This Church is located on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. It is believed to be the site of the home of the Apostle John. As we know from Sacred Scripture, from the cross, our Lord entrusted the care of his mother to the Beloved Disciple, John. It would be easy to believe that Mary lived here with John after the resurrection and ascension. Even though the greater tradition is that after Pentecost, John and Mary went to Ephesus and that Mary was assumed into heaven from there, there is also a lesser tradition that says that eventually, John and Mary returned to Jerusalem, and her Assumption took place in this location.

So, dormition means ‘sleeping.’ One of the dogmas of the Church regarding our Blessed Mother is that she did not undergo death and the corruption of the grave, but rather fell asleep and was assumed into heaven and crowned Queen of heaven and earth.

DormitionHave you ever wondered what a bishop thinks about during Mass? Archbishop Etienne recalled:

Our group also celebrated at Mass at this beautiful church, which is now entrusted to a group of German Benedictine monks. Here I reflected upon just how much the Church needs a Mother; our Mother Mary. I was also very aware of just how much Mary wants and desires that we turn to her in our need. She is anxiously waiting to help us, and of course her deepest maternal instinct is to lead us to her Son, Jesus…

Besides Mary’s desire to lead us to her Son, there also exists a close association between Mary and the Holy Spirit. Mary and the Holy Spirit desire us to know Christ more intimately. They are constantly working so that we can all serve God, serve the Church, and God’s people with greater intensity and joy.

As beloved disciples of Jesus alongside John, we receive Mary from Our Lord, to become our spiritual mother. Today’s saint, Pius X, explained, “Nobody ever knew Christ so profoundly as she did, and nobody can ever be more competent as a guide and teacher of the knowledge of Christ” (Encyclical ‘That Most Happy Day’ pp. 7).

Prayer: Dear Mary, be my guide today. I need your maternal guidance. Guide my daily pilgrimage so that I always walk in the way of your Son, listen to the Holy Spirit, and live in the Father’s love. Amen.

Would you like to take a faith journey that helps you grow closer to Mary? We invite you to see our Ministry of Pilgrimages’ upcoming dates.

Finding a Home on Mount Tabor

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In honor of the Transfiguration…

The Pilgrim Log

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At the top of Mount Tabor, on the path to the Church of the Transfiguration, there is a canopy of sweet-smelling shady Eucalyptus trees that lead into a lush courtyard garden. Low and high stone walls topped with ornate iron work and cascading vines separate a patchwork of gardens full of a variety of plants and colorful flowers. Statues and garden objects dot the landscape, the most magnificent being the life-size statue of Christ on the cross bending down towards St. Francis, whom He made custodian of His Holy Land.

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All my life I have been attracted to gardens. As a child I loved collecting rocks and little statues, and as an adult living in New Orleans, I loved touring the ironwork in the French Quarter. I can spend hours at a plant nursery just looking and dreaming of my perfect garden. The garden of my dreams is always filled…

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August: Month of Our Mother’s Heart

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Did you know that the month of August is dedicated in the Church’s calendar to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, recalling the Virgin Mary’s desire to serve God in his ongoing plan to save us? As we begin this special month, we share with you the testimony of Norma Garza. In 2011, Norma journeyed with us on pilgrimage to Marian shrines.

It’s totally different than going on vacation. Being a pilgrim, you feel like you’re going on a retreat – but it’s an extended retreat, and you have to realize that you’re with other people. You can learn from the other people, and hopefully they learn from you. Also, you’re there for a different purpose: to increase your faith, to see things in a different light.

It makes me want to cry… My relationship to Mother Mary has brought me to a place where I never would have been before, because Mother Mary takes you by the hand and she shows you her Son, personally. My relationship with Mother Mary just increased a thousand-fold by going to the places where she appeared, hearing her messages, and understanding why it’s so important for her, as a Mother, to take us to Heaven and to get us closer to Jesus.

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven, she did not lay aside this saving office, but by her manifold intercession, continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. … Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church… (Catechism of the Catholic Church, pp. 969)

This month, we invite you to reach out to Mary as a mother who cares for you. At his crucifixion, Jesus gave Mary as a mother to “the beloved disciple.” The Church not only interprets this passage of Scripture to mean Saint John, but also to all of us who are Jesus’ beloved disciples. Here are some ways to grow closer to Mary this month:

  • Evening with Mary: Power & Promises of the Rosary (August 7 @ St. Benedict Church) – A mini conference about Mary and her relationship to us
  • Evening with Mary & Joseph (August 25 @ St. Matthew Church) – A mini conference about the Holy Family and our families
  • August 13 marks the 100th anniversary of one of Our Lady’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Pray the Rosary on this day, asking Mary to help you be an instrument of peace in the world.
  • Marian Shrines Pilgrimage 2018 – Ask us about our next pilgrimage focused on growing closer to Jesus & Mary by visiting the places where she appeared in Lourdes and Paris, France, as well as Fatima, Portugal.
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Pilgrimage 2018 – Inquire about our next pilgrimage focused on growing closer to Jesus & Mary by visiting her famous shrine in Mexico City.

“This ministry [of pilgrimages] is a way to evangelize in a particular way, personally, to each person that goes on pilgrimage; and, in turn, that person brings back home their evangelization to their family and friends and coworkers… and it just keeps spreading!”
– Norma

A Story of Joy: When I Prayed with People from All Over the World

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Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Faith is caught rather than taught’? While many family members struggle to communicate faith to loved ones or friends who no longer practice it, perhaps we should pause to consider that simple saying.

When Mary Cook decided to go on a Marian Pilgrimage with us in 2011, she had been Catholic all her life. While on pilgrimage, however, she experienced unique moments that deeply impacted her faith. Here is a bit of that story:

The first place we went was Fatima in Portugal. We had Mass at the little chapel where Mary first spoke to the children (in her apparitions of 1917), and my husband and I had gotten to read during Mass. We stood right where Mary stood when she appeared to the three children.

At night, we said a Rosary in that same chapel. We were all holding a candle, and it made for a very holy feeling. I counted probably eight or nine different languages that were spoken that night. Someone from each country would lead a decade of the Rosary, and it was beautiful. It helps you realize how the Catholic Church is really a universal Church; a worldwide Church, and we could pray with people from all over the world. We can’t talk to each other—we can’t have a conversation, but we could pray with each other and understand what we were praying.

While we were in Paris visiting a basilica there, a group of nuns approached us and invited us to lunch! They live there, and as part of their ministry, they fix a meal and invite pilgrims to lunch. So, we went to lunch; a very simple, French meal—but it was a lot of food! They served us, and what struck me about them is that they were so joyful. They were so happy whisking around and serving the different people.

The pilgrimage really brought me closer to Mary. I was born and raised Catholic; Mary’s always been there, but I never had a special relationship with her. I got to know her better. I grew closer to her. I consider her my spiritual mother. Catholics are really, really blessed that we have Mary. Everybody else does, too, but they don’t know it.

Going on a pilgrimage is like going on a vacation in Heaven! It’s different from a regular vacation; it’s a pilgrimage—very prayerful, with Mass, praying the Rosary every day, with a group of likeminded people. You get to know the people really well. It’s a lot of fun! I absolutely loved it. I took lots of pictures, but I have so many memories ingrained in my mind. I can go back to those places in prayer anytime.

Witnessing the unity and joy of the Church, and the love of the Blessed Mother and her fellow pilgrims, helped Mary’s faith to deepen. “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses,” wrote Pope Paul VI in 1975. How true this rings today! Ask the Blessed Mother to pray for you, that the Holy Spirit would help you grow as a witness of your relationship with God.

We invite you to consider journeying with us on a Marian Pilgrimage April 3-14, 2018. Learn more on our website.

“A Pilgrim Center of Hope pilgrimage is a faith journey. You’ll never regret it. You will grow in your faith. What you experience in that time period that you’re on pilgrimage, you will carry with you for the rest of your life.” – Mary Cook

How my journey to Motherhood began with Mary

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When we need comfort or guidance, many of us turn to our mother or the mother-figure in our lives. Gloria, one of our ‘pilgrim family members,’ began her own journey toward motherhood while on a Marian pilgrimage with us, strengthening not only her relationship with the Mother of Jesus, but also her young family’s love of Mary.

Here is a taste of Gloria’s story:

It wasn’t confirmed yet by a doctor, but I knew that I was pregnant when I went on pilgrimage. It wasn’t until I returned that I got the confirmation, but the whole time, I was excited to know that I was carrying a baby with me. Even though she couldn’t see the things that I could see, I felt that she could feel the feelings that I was having.

What solidified her name is the fact that I went on the Marian pilgrimage – and everything about Mary that I loved. I thought, “What better way to thank my Mother Mary than to name (my daughter) after Her?” That’s how I chose to name Ava, Ava Marie, because Ave Maria means, “Hail Mary,” and I wanted to give Her the glory of me having this baby.

The pilgrimage experience that stood out for me was being in Lourdes; taking in the Shrine, but actually getting in the baths [of the miraculous spring water]. It was extremely cold, but it was an experience that I’ll never forget! It was very exciting to go through the baths with Ava in my womb.

The pilgrimage has had a tremendous impact. Before I went, my faith was strong, but I felt that after the pilgrimage, I really knew Mary. Just being in those locations really impacted me a lot.

I actually did St. Louis de Montfort’s Consecration to Jesus through Mary. I had gotten a little booklet about it at one of the Catholic Women’s Conferences and saved it, thinking, “Oh, I’ll read it later… I’ll read it later.” When I returned, I said, “Where is that book?! I want to look for that book so that I can consecrate myself to Mary.” I couldn’t find it, and I forgot about it. Then, after Ava was born, I found the book! I thought, “I’m going to do it now,” and I did it. If it wasn’t for that pilgrimage, I don’t know if I would have done that, but I felt like I really wanted to be very close to Mary.

I have my mother on earth, but I feel like now, I can just talk to Mary as if she’s with me. I say, “Oh Mom, this and that…” “I’m going through this…” or, “How was it when Jesus was acting this way?” or, “Did Jesus ever…?” I pray a lot more fervently. My husband joins me, and my daughter; she has a rosary, and of course, she doesn’t know what we’re talking about, but when we’re praying it, she’s walking around with her little rosary… It makes it a lot more meaningful.

Do you feel Jesus drawing you closer to his Mother, Mary? “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 487)

Here are some ways you can answer that calling:

Touch and Believe!

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Today, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, known as “doubting Thomas,” the one who demanded that he touch Jesus’ wounds before he believed in the Resurrection of Christ. Our Lord mercifully appeared to Thomas and allowed him to do so. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” God made us beings who are both spiritual and physical. Our sense of touch makes things ‘more real’, and Jesus compassionately allowed Thomas to touch his wounds.

What about us – today? Well, we would like to share with you the story of Jimmy, a recent new member of our Pilgrim Family, who together with his wife, Carmen, recently journeyed with us to the Holy Land:

Arriving in Nazareth, what struck us about this town is that there is an upper Nazareth and a lower Nazareth because of the steep hills. You can see why, when Jesus told the Nazoreans in Luke 4: 29-30 that he had fulfilled Scripture, and they became angry and tried to throw him over the cliff, how easy that would be to do. This is what is so incredible about going to the Holy Land, because the Bible becomes so much more alive.

The Rosary will never be the same for me after this trip. We actually visited 19 of the 20 sites where [the Rosary mysteries] actually occurred, with the only one that we did not visit was the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. I hope that you and I will also see that one as well one day, when we are in our glorified bodies.

In Jerusalem, we stayed at The Notre Dame Hotel, a Pontifical Institute which is owned by the Vatican. We were blessed to have a gorgeous chapel within the Hotel. Carmen and I were able to go to Eucharistic Adoration, and what a great way to prepare oneself for the sites we were about to see. Looking at the old city within the walls reminded me of all the history that has taken place in this city.

We were blessed to have Mass not only in the Holy Sepulcher Church, but at the very tomb of Jesus. During the Mass, Carmen and I were able to go into the tomb for a couple of minutes. Can you imagine that?

As we left Jerusalem, I again was so thankful for the Pilgrim Center of Hope for making this not a site seeing trip but an actual pilgrimage that increased my faith in such a tangible way. Jesus was real and I was able to walk in his footsteps! Reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, listening to the Scriptures in Mass have become alive.

“We too can have tangible contact with Jesus and put our hand, so to speak, upon the signs of his Passion, the signs of his love. It is in the sacraments that he draws particularly near to us and gives himself to us. […] Learn to ‘see’ and to ‘meet’ Jesus in the Eucharist, where he is present and close to us, and even becomes food for our journey. In the sacrament of Penance the Lord reveals his mercy and always grants us his forgiveness. Recognize and serve Jesus in the poor, the sick, and in our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and in need of help.” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Would you like to touch the holy places? Come join us on pilgrimage! See upcoming journeys on our website.