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).

Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary: A Resolution that Wins!

Standard

b-total-consecration

While visiting family over the Christmas Holiday, the teens and twenty-somethings in my family asked me to play an old game that has become new again and is very popular with their age group. It is bean bag toss.

In this latest version of what I remember as Toss Across, you play in 2-person teams and toss a bean bag onto a plank with a hole in it. If your bean bag makes it in the hole it is 3 points and if it lands on the plank, 1 point. Sounds simple, right?

Well, as we are playing I hear my nephew and son working what sounds like a math problem to calculate the points. “What are you doing?” I ask. My nephew tries to explain this complicated (to me anyway!) scoring system in which points are lost, points cancel each other out, etc. with the end goal of earning 21 points and winning the game.

As I toss and keep making point worthy landings, I hear “Ok your team is now at zero.” I look at my son with a, ‘What gives?’ look and he concurs, “Yes, Mom we are at zero.” I respond, “I don’t understand.” These sweet young men patiently explain the scoring to me again but I just get more frustrated and say, “This game has become way too complicated. I’m just going to play and you tell me if we win.”

This trust that I am in good hands, that someone wiser than me knows what is going on (thank goodness!) and that all I have to do is play the game is the same freedom that is enjoyed when one goes through Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. Funny comparison, I know, but this freedom is the #1 reason I so appreciate this Church-honored devotion made famous by the great work of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.

Enthusiastically proclaimed as the quickest, most efficient way to free ourselves from the spirit of the world and put on Christ in every aspect of our lives, this consecration has worked to transform many into saints, including Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Pope Saint John Paul II, who said, “It was the decisive turning point in my life.” The consecration is cited by many priests as the fire that lit the zeal of their apostolates,including previous and future Catholic Women’s Conference speakers, respectfully, Father Nathan Cromly and Father Michael Gaitley, just to name two.

But, if you are like I was six years ago, even this great press would not convince you of the value of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary because a question first begs to be answered, “Why Mary?”

I asked that question before I began the 33-day Preparation for Consecration using St. Louis de Montfort’s way, but with the urging of a friend to ‘just try it,’ I did. I continued to ask the question the entire 33 days and, yes, even after I knelt before the Tabernacle and offered myself to Jesus through Mary in the Consecration Prayer.

I no longer ask that question.

I could list all the many reasons why this Consecration has catapulted me closer than I ever dreamed possible to our Lord, Jesus Christ, but I’ll leave that for the great theologians and priests that have made it their mission to promote it.

For me, it is simply this: my life has completely transformed from chaotic, disorganized and overwhelming to tranquil, orderly and manageable. Though circumstances in life remain difficult and my responsibilities continue to increase, it has taken on a calm that I know is thanks to placing myself into the care of our Blessed Mother. Like the bean bag toss experience, I have discovered the freedom that allows me to play the ‘game of life’ with the assurance that I am in good hands, that someone wiser than me knows what is going on (thank goodness!) and she will make sure I win Heaven!

If you are ready to ‘just try it’ then I encourage you to click on any of the links in this blog to learn much more about the Consecration.

If you are still asking, “Why Mary?” Our next Evening with Mary will answer that very question. Please join us on Friday, January 20th at St. Mary Magdalen Church in San Antonio where Deacon Ed Domowski will answer “Who is Mary? Why Go to Her?”

 

Praying in Unusual Places

Standard

b-praying-in-unusual-places

by Ann Gonsalves

While pregnant, I began praying for my children. That continued daily and once they were in school, I heard about a group of moms who got together and prayed for their children and their school. I wanted to join, but couldn’t as I had a full time job, which required me to be at work when the moms were praying. Once I was able to quit, I joined the group.

What I have witnessed gives me the boldness to state that the single most important task a mom can do is pray for her child.

Making sure they have proper rest and diet, encouraging their academic achievement and carpooling to sporting or music events, taking them to the doctor when they are sick, are all part of being a good mother, of course. But, as I have watched other children grow, I have noticed that those children with praying parents, seem to flourish and grow to full expectation. As it says in James 5:16, “The fervent prayer of a righteous (faithful) person is very powerful.”

Praying Everywhere

Both of my sons attended public schools, where praying was banned over 30 years ago. This is a shame, as that was the only exposure to prayer that some children received. I heard about and attended “Prayer Around the Flagpole” events at several schools with other parents and their children. This gave me an idea to meet other parents who wanted to pray at the school, before school terms started. We would walk the halls, parking lots, sporting venues and I would sprinkle Holy Water in the bathrooms (weird stuff happens in school bathrooms). What a sense of peace and calm, knowing that the school was covered in prayer.

Encouraging our athletes

sunset-people-sun-menI contacted the football coach and asked if we could pray in the locker rooms. One young man, who played football with my youngest son had suffered injuries every football season since middle school. This included broken fingers, collarbone, ankle and arm. Every season they were in the emergency room getting him treated for injuries. I stood before his locker, before his senior year and gave him to the Divine Protector, Our Lord Jesus Christ. I prayed over every limb in his body and sprinkled his locker with Holy Water. He was the starting middle linebacker for the second year in a row, but praise God, that season he did not sustain injury. This confidence in God’s grace inspired us to continue our prayer over the football team, attaching Bible passages to their lockers such as, “I can do all things through God who strengthens me,” (Phil 4:13) and “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith,” (2 Tim 4:7). It wasn’t always a winning season, but injuries were minimal and team spirit was good. The boys knew they were covered in prayer and that God spoke to them, providing words of encouragement through Scripture.

We all need reminders sometimes

I made it a part of my prayer tradition each week to let my sons know they, their friends and their school had been prayed for by this group of moms. I told them how each child is named, and his or her needs are handed into God’s care. I shared with them how much we rely on God to help us be parents worthy of so special a gift as our children and how we seek his guidance in how to raise our children to grow into the men and women our Father has created them to be. Sure, they gave me strange looks at first, but over time it just became a normal part of our conversations. They see their dad and me praying for them and it has become a natural part of our family life. I pray one day they give the gift of praying parents to their children.

All Grown Up

My children are young adults now and I shall continue to pray for them until my last day on earth. I encourage all mothers to talk to their friends and pray together, because where two or more are gathered, Jesus is present (Mt 18:20). Be bold.

In his 1995 Letter to Women, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, “Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.”

Ann Gonsalves is the database coordinator at the Pilgrim Center of Hope. This article was written for Today’s Catholic newspaper. The Pilgrim Center of Hope, Catholic evangelization apostolate, is the founder of the annual Catholic Women’s Conference. Save the date for CWC 2017: July 28th & 29th.

Another Year, Another IWFS 5K Fun Run Coming Up!

Standard
From the 2013 IWFS 5K Run/Walk

From the 2013 IWFS 5K Run/Walk

Christmas brings joy with the arrival of our Savior. As the Angels said to the shepherds, “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2-10)

The Pilgrim Center of Hope has some great things in store for 2015. One of these involves the chance to grow spiritually and physically.

Is it possible to grow spiritually while exercising? Absolutely! In fact, this new wave of Catholic evangelization is spreading its wings toward achieving both spiritual and physical wellness. How can this be done? By preparing for the 2nd “I Will Finish Strong” 5K Run and Fun Walk taking place on Saturday, March 28, 2015.

The training preparation leading up to the event will guide individuals on a spiritual and physical journey that will include incorporating daily scripture, prayer and even a personal meditation with Christ, all while undertaking a wellness activity. The key to this training will be to reach a goal in becoming spiritually strong. Wherever you are with your spiritual base, our mission will be to make it even stronger.

Please encourage family, friends, neighbors and even coworkers to follow this very unique training. Also, for individuals who might have physical limitations that prevent them from participating in the 3.1 mile walk or run, no worries, our training will be designed to help any individual toward achieving their desired goal.

Stay tuned! This will begin at the start of Lent 2015 and continue through race day. Our goal is guide you spiritually and physically through Lent in an effort to “Finish Strong” .

Father Pablo Straub (1932-2013)

Standard

The following is a guest blog from Elizabeth Boyle-Contreras, member of the Catholic Women’s Conference Steering Committee.

Image

Fr. Pablo Straub was a very special and holy priest from the order of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as the Redemptorists.  He was a priest for 55 years, and could be seen on EWTN hosting a variety of series and retreats.

Fr. Pablo was especially well known for two things: his voice – recognized all over the world for its one of a kind tone, quality and accent – and carrying a large crucifix wherever he went.

I was blessed to hear him speak in 2006 at the EWTN 25th anniversary celebration here in San Antonio.  I did not get to meet him that day, but just hearing him speak left such an impression on me.  From that day forward I followed him on EWTN whenever I could, and his voice always made me feel at peace, loved by Jesus. 

Doug Keck, President & COO of EWTN, said this about him:

“Father Pablo carried the cross of Christ with him throughout a life spent professing our Lord’s all-merciful love to the multilingual Catholic masses of the Americas.”

Anna Latesta, a personal friend of Fr Pablo, said,

“He personified mercy. He was so radiant with the love of Christ.  And he exuded joy. He had that childlike quality even though his teachings were profound.  He had that twinkle in his eye that made you want to be in his presence.  You had that wonderful realization that you were in the presence of Jesus.”

The following is a prophetic statement that he gave during an interview in the late nineties. For those of us who knew about him, these words will allow you to hear his voice one more time. For those who did not know him, these words will allow you to see the holy priest that he was:

“The glorious strengthening of the Church is going to happen quite soon in history. We must love the Church and work in and for Her.  We must believe in the Holy Father.  We must believe in the Holy Father, the bishops and the priests and know that the Church shall engender, give birth, in the world, to a new civilization, a civilization of life and of truth and of love.  It may not be in my lifetime but I see its stirrings already. Her beauty shall be seen and Her voice shall be heard and it shall be a more magnificent beauty and clearer voice than has ever been heard in history before.”

(image source)

Totally Yours — My Experience of Marian Consecration

Standard
Elizabeth Boyle-Contreras

Elizabeth Boyle-Contreras

The following is a guest blog from Elizabeth Boyle-Contreras, member of the Catholic Women’s Conference Steering Committee

I am just finishing a Marian Consecration using the book written by Fr. Gaitley called 33 Days to Morning Glory. To sum up what this book is all about, I quote Fr. Gaitley: “to Mary…for the sake of Christ, for the sake of God, for the sake of the Trinity.” Anyone can deepen their relationship with Jesus through Mary, no matter where you are in your spiritual walk. If you can commit to 10-15 minutes/day for 5 weeks your life can and will be transformed through this amazing do-it-yourself retreat. I even was inspired to lead a group of 13 women from all over the United States (complete strangers) to do this as a small group online in the comfort of our own homes. What a blessing this was for me and the other 13 women to share, reflect, learn, and grow through our daily readings.

In this book Fr. Gaitley shares four “Marian experts”: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, & Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul II. Each week, one of these “experts” shared their devotions to our Lady and helped us to grow more in love with Mary’s Most Immaculate Heart. If you want to grow closer to Mary, this book will allow you to see with her eyes, hear with her ears, and love with her heart.

Here are my top quotes/passages from the book — a few snippets from each Marian expert, giving you a taste of this book.

“She (Mary) supports him with her power, she illuminates him with her light, she inflames him with her love…in a word, as that consecrated person is all Mary’s, so Mary is all his.” – St. Louis de Montfort

St. Maximilian Kolbe answers the question ‘How Do I Become a Saint?’ with a simple but powerful equation: W + w = S (W=God’s will, w=our will. When the two wills are united=Sanctity. He said, “I don’t just want to give God great glory but the greatest glory.”

“Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you—you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for him.” “Immaculate Heart of Mary, keep me in your most pure heart, so that I may please Jesus through you, in you, and with you.” – Blessed Mother Teresa

“Let there be revealed, once more, in the history of the world the infinite saving power of the redemption: the power of merciful love! May it put a stop to evil! May it transform consciences! May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the Light of HOPE!” – John Paul II

33DaysToMorningGloryThe main message that has really struck a chord within me came from St. Maximilian Kolbe. He exclaims, “Teach others this way! Conquer more souls for the Immaculata!” It starts by first living out the consecration in my life but then I personally feel called to share it and bring it to others. Fr. Gaitley says, “If this is the quickest, easiest way to become a saint, then it’s also the quickest, easiest way to conquer the whole world for Christ, if ONLY we teach OTHERS about it.”

I feel moved by this message and feel a calling within to SHARE this book and the Hope that is waiting for you. I am leading another consecration group online this fall. We have 10 women already signed up but would love to add more women to the growing list. If you are interested in joining us please email me at eboylecontreras@gmail.com for details.

Fr. Gaitley’s words sum up this consecration on how we can belong to Mary in an ever-perfect way, “by relying on her (Mary) powerful intercession, experiencing her tender care, speaking to her from our hearts, letting ourselves be led by her, having recourse to her in all things and trusting her completely.” My prayer for each and every one of you reading this is that you allow yourself the opportunity to grow closer to our Lady who will always lead you straight to Jesus!

What is the role of a Godparent? What does Baptism do?

Standard

On the occasion of the Feast of St. John the Baptist, we share with you a previous blog about our baptism’s effect on us, and the role of godparents.

The Pilgrim Log

My husband Tom and I were asked by our friends to be the Godparents of their firstborn child, their daughter, at her Baptism. It’s an honor to be asked to be a Godparent to a child, and it’s also a commitment for life! So what is the role of a Godparent?

It’s a response to the invitation of the infant’s parents in making a Profession of Faith in the child’s name and accepting the responsibility of assisting the parents in instructing the child in the Faith.

Especially for Tom and I this is an honor, since we don’t have children of our own, and because we love the Lord and the gift of the Church! In the 34 years of our marriage, we have become Godparents to other children and believe it is a blessing for us to become a part of their lives.

During the Baptism, it is the…

View original post 507 more words

Preaching the Gospel

Standard

by Daniel Quintero, former Media Ministry Assistant

Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.

Many of you may be familiar with this quote, often attributed to St. Francis. There can no doubt that he lived the meaning of those words. After reflecting on this quote one day, I came up with a couple of reflections I would like to share:

Preach the Gospel– This can take the form of many actions; from community service and charitable work, to simply putting a smile on and waving to strangers while in a public area. How often do we see people whose faces are looking down, afraid to even have eye contact with others whom they do not know?  While in college, I would see this situation many times. Just a simple nod to another person or even better, a smile and a hello, can add a bright moment to any one’s day. We preach the Gospel when we echo the message of Christ.

At all times– This means every single second of our existence on earth. Every fragment of our interior disposition and outer actions must be pointed to helping others see the Good News of Our Lord. Isn’t it an exciting challenge? One that Our Lord calls us to take, one that Saints inspire us to succeed in. Our message is one of urgency.

Use words if necessary- Sometimes, words are needed to preach the message. This quote doesn’t say that words are bad, but that they are useful only when they are required. We are called to speak the truth, by how we act and by what we say. Words are powerful in themselves, but become indestructible when the actions of the speaker reflect the same message.

There can often exist a perception of a conflict of preaching with words vs preaching with actions. But just like faith and reason are both needed and promoted in our Church, so too must our faith be enshrined with the words of hope and the actions of charity.

Catholicism: A Love Story

Standard


by Daniel Quintero, former Media Ministry Assistant

There are many beautiful treasures that our Church possesses to which the Holy Spirit can call people.  For me, it was the intellectual richness of the Catholic faith which drew me to appreciate it again. My mind was absorbed in the vastness of what our Church taught and how we came to that belief. Yet despite the mental feast, I still was not in love.

How could I not be in love with my Church? The one I knew factually as the Bride of Christ. The one whose treasures I was so eager to study.  I, like many Catholics, couldn’t help but see the Church as merely an institution. Because of this, even though I knew it had the fullness of truth,  I was not allowing myself to be in love with the Church.

Pope Francis has done an amazing job reflecting on the fact that the Catholic Church is not simply an organization, it is not simply a charitable club, but instead is a ‘love story.’

As my good friend and co-worker Angela reflected on at the Catholic Women’s Luncheon, God is always inviting us to a candle light dinner with Him, in the Eucharist.

This is where my love story began. Standing in adoration; being able to allow the information in my mind to pierce through my heart and grasp the full understanding of God’s love for me, as expressed through the Church.

In truth, we love the Church because we love Christ. We are often accused by separated brethren of not having a personal relationship with Christ. I never truly understood that accusation. The entire Church is built on the foundation of a relationship with Him. The Sacraments, for one, usher in an outward presence of a true and inner reality; in a similar way, as physical acts and expressions between couples reflect deeper notions of love. In fact, the greatest mystics of the Church described the intensity of their relationship with Christ in the metaphor of a marital union. This is what St. John of the Cross called a ‘Mystical Marriage’ with Christ.

This is the climax of our spiritual union with God; to be so in love with God through His Church that we become intimately united with Him. This is the journey all of us are called to take in this life. It is a difficult path, but one that will lead to full happiness and holiness. It will lead us to be Saints.

What Toys Taught Me About Discernment

Standard

by Daniel Quintero, former Media Ministry Assistant

Recently, I attended a Vocations Retreat. Each speaker was unanimous: we have to find God first, and through that we find ourselves.

This simple idea is one that many in our society have failed to grasp. As I reflected on what the speakers said,  I couldn’t help but remember learning this message from one of my favorite television shows and my favorite movie.

In the television series The Twilight Zone, there exist an episode entitled ‘5 Characters in Search of an Exit.’ In this episode, five individuals are trapped in a circular room surrounded by a metal wall with the only light coming from the top. The characters have no idea where they are, what is on top, and they have no way of reaching it. But it is open, and thus their only means of hope. The individuals in this story have no names, no identities. In fact, that is the dilemma of the story, characters lost not only in a physical spot, but also in who they are. Their only notion of uniqueness is the character term for what they do. There is the clown, the ballerina, the major, the hobo, and the bagpipe player. Later in the episode, the major had the idea for everyone to climb on top of each other in hopes of escaping from above. They all stood on each other’s shoulders and the major made his way over and out of the room and into a pile of snow. (Spoiler) Then the camera pans out and we realize the major is a doll. The ballerina and the rest of the characters are dolls. And the dark room was a box for dolls to be collected and given to orphans. As the major doll is put back into the box, we, the audience, see tears flow from the ballerina’s face.

These toys were sad, lost, and confused. Contrasts that with the toys in the Toy Story series. Woody, Jesse, Rex, Hamm: they all know they are toys. They know they are created in the image and likeness of toys. Thus, they know their identity as toys and what they are called to do. Even Buzz Lighter finds greater peace when he realizes he is not actually a space ranger. Their purpose is to make kids happy, to be their friend. With that came certain responsibilities. They couldn’t come alive with kids around or else they would traumatize them, as they did with Sid in Toy Story one. They also had to be selfless, staying with the kids that loved them even if there was a chance the kids would outgrow them. But they did it because that was the purpose for them as toys. And for the most part, they were happy.

The dolls in the Twilight Zone however did not know they were toys. They had lost a true sense of their identity and what they were made for. Thus, they created in themselves what the Clown in the show entitled a “hell.” For a loss of identity in a confusing environment can bring the least peace of mind and the greatest temporal dissilousionment.

Compare that now to society today. Socrates asked us to know ourselves, but society tells us to just be ourselves. Yet how can one be oneself if he has yet to truly discern who that oneself is. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. Our purpose here is to know, love and serve Him. Many are confused, feeling restless of heart. Thus, even if one is being defined by what one does, it may by miles away from knowing who one is.

As Christians, as Catholics, as people, we are all called to begin that discernment to finding God. To know we are made in His image and thus to know we have a purpose and an identity that flows from it. To know we are not just characters in confusion, lost dolls in search of an exit. But instead we are individuals with a purpose. Let us strive to be as mindful of that purpose as the toys are in Toy Story.
“Reach for the Sky!”- Sheriff Woody

How to Have a Better Christmas: Don’t Forget to Wait

Standard

1208573_69660271

by Daniel Quintero, former Media Ministry Assistant

As we begin the second week of Advent, we are reminded again of this time of anticipation. I must admit, there was a time where it was spiritually and mentally difficult for me to fully embark on the Advent Journey. Don’t get me wrong, I loved and appreciated the coming of Christ. Yet there is something about this season I had not fully grasped, something about it that made it difficult to appreciate the excitement of Advent.

The Solution is in the Anticipation

This problem plagued me for many years. Why was I not fully partaking in the spirit of Advent? Then I realized it was obvious: I wasn’t fully embracing Advent, because, I, like the rest of the world, wanted Christmas to come even earlier.

Advent is concealed, hidden away from a world that cannot wait. The world’s celebration of Christmas advances sooner and sooner each year — not because of Christ, but rather for products.

When Advent is Forgotten

Stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day for Christmas shopping; an irony, considering that gifts are supposed to represent love we have for friends and family. Yet on a day meant for families to be together to build that love, the lure of products keeps them apart. Cardinal Timothy Dolan expressed this as a time of  “a further descent into a highly privatized, impersonal, keep-people-at-a-distance culture, one that values having stuff and doing things over just being with people whom we love, cherish and appreciate.”

This was indeed my mindset when I was a younger. At that time, Christmas meant presents, a long break from school, and eggnog. As I grew more in my faith, I started to fall in love more with the real meaning of Christmas. Despite that, I still had difficulty growing in the spirit of Advent. Why? I had to learn the value of patience.

The Beauty of Being Ready

Good things come to those who wait. Just as a dating or engaged couple abstaining from physical intimacy continually offers that up and, through that, grows in love day by day — until the glorious splendor and bliss of their marriage unites them in body and soul, so too is the time of Advent meant to bring us closer in excitement and love to greet the One who is Love. When Advent is decreased, Christmas is decreased.  Advent is a time of preparation; I like to compare it to the season of Lent in anticipation for Easter Sunday. In our Advent time, we can sacrifice in order to grow. As a community, we sacrifice the beautiful prayer of the Gloria (“Glory to God in the highest…”). In our personal faith, we can fast and pray.

In this time of preparation, the Church offers numerous holy days to shape our anticipation. How disappointing it is for the secular world to only know one day of the holiday: December 25th, the first day of Christmas. The Catholic Church has the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the Feast of Saint Lucy,  Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent), and the Hispanic tradition of posadas. These days help advance our salvation narrative, culminating in the arrival of our Savior. There are also the candles on the wreaths, the readings during Mass, the hymns in our songbooks which separate Advent music from Christmas music. Advent is the gem of waiting; the gem that propels Christmas to be understood as fully special and unique. Christmas is so magnificent, it has to be prepared for.

United with Mary 

In conclusion, I invite you to share in the beauty of Advent with the Virgin Mary. I am in awe when I reflect on the beauty of Our Virgin Mother bearing God in her womb.  I often wonder what she was thinking during that preparation. Perhaps she imagined how her Son would look, maybe what activities she would like to do with Him. Mary experienced the first Advent. We too are eagerly anticipating His Second Coming. Let us continue this season in hope and anticipation.  Happy Advent.