Author Archives: Mary Jane Fox

About Mary Jane Fox

Mary Jane Fox is the co-founder of The Pilgrim Center of Hope. The Pilgrim Log is the blog of the Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry, providing weekly spiritual reflections to help you journey toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Learn more about the Pilgrim Center of Hope by visiting www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

Listening… In A Noisy World!

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Have you ever said to yourself, If only I can get away for some quiet time! or, Is anyone listening?

I certainly have! These questions usually arise in our thoughts when we want some peace, some quiet time after experiencing a full schedule, or a trial, or simply being busy!

I recently was in the Holy Land on pilgrimage and among the many wonderful and amazing experiences, one was spending time in the Garden of Gethsemane—where Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples when he visited Jerusalem, and where he prayed his hour of agony the night he was arrested; resulting in his Passion.

Today, a large basilica is built next to ancient olive trees that date to the time of Jesus. They are often called the Silent witnesses of Christ’s Agony. Upon entering the Basilica of the Agony, one sees a large area of rock in front of the main altar. This is where Christ prayed his hour of agony, where he sweat blood, and prayed for the will of his Heavenly Father. Imagine sitting in this church commemorating this whole experience—with its mosaics depicting the scenes of the Bible related to his agony and arrest. The light streaming through the alabaster glass windows sheds a somber light in the church, inviting the visitor to ponder what happened here 2,000 years ago.

IMG_6481As I sat, I realized how much I longed for some quiet time with God. To speak with him, and at the same time was hoping for an inspiration from him. The noises of traffic, guides shouting, tourists and pilgrims moving about, and cameras clicking, seemed so distracting at such a holy site.

Yes, it was challenging to attempt to remain silent… You know what helped me?

What helped me were the sacred art, along with my act of touching the very stone where Jesus sweat blood! The large stone area is surrounded by a short, iron crown of thorns. I knelt and bent over the iron crown to kiss the stone, placing both of my hands on the cool, rough rock. I thought, This is where YOU, Lord, prayed for the Father’s will! This is where YOU sweat blood! Help me to listen! While I heard many people around me, the chattering of visitors, traffic noise… that moment seemed to be an eternal moment for me. There seemed to be inner peace. Later, I took some time to sit and simply see the sacred art; the mosaics of Jesus praying, being arrested, even the altar’s shape is that of a chalice.

Leaving this holy place, I thought of sharing this, hoping that others can also be encouraged to seek some quiet time with the Lord. It is possible!

How?

  • Sacred images or art can help us ponder the mysteries of our faith. For example: A stained glass window of a biblical scene can easily help us begin meditating on that Bible passage.
  • Holding or touching a crucifix or a statute can also be helpful. Think about the story in the Gospel of Luke 8 of the woman with the hemorrhage who simply touched the cloak of Jesus and was healed! Jesus tells her it was her faith that healed her!
  • Begin with a desire for some quiet time with the Lord. Ask for a deepened faith. And be consistent. Go to him… in faith and in silence!

Pilgrim Center of Hope is here to help guide you to encounter Christ, so as to live in hope as a pilgrim in daily life. For some quiet moments, we invite you to come visit our 7 acres in the middle of northwest San Antonio. Or, visit our website for more spiritual tools.

“Do You Worship Saints?” – Unexpectedly Sharing My Faith

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As I was getting my hair cut at a new salon, the stylist, a young woman, began asking me how I discovered their salon, what part of town I lived in and where I worked.

Responding about my work, I said, “I work for a Catholic evangelization ministry…” I continued to explain very briefly the ministry adding my excitement about the various things we do.

She bent over, as to almost whisper in my ear: “I am Christian, and I know Catholics are Christians, too… Ummm … Do you worship saints?”

Haven’t you been asked that question?

I responded, “No, we don’t, we ask them to help us through their prayers.” Approaching the subject further, I thought my response would be two-fold; a personal example and a general one. First, I spoke about my father’s photo by my office desk. He passed away last year. I glance over at the photo and remember my father. Sometimes, I take the photo in my hand, place it on my heart, and ask him to pray for me, or to help me in a specific situation.

Then, I explained how the Catholic Church has sacred art like statues of saints, stained glass windows, and so on to remind us of role models who have lived faithful lives: “You may see people kneeling before a statue or touching it; they are taking a quiet moment to pray, asking that saint to intercede for them. As Catholics, we use our senses in prayer, such as touching and kneeling.”

She listened with interest, and then shared that her grandmother was Catholic, but that her mother had married outside the Catholic Church and had fallen away from the Church.

Reflecting on my conversation with this young woman, I wondered how many people may be in the same position as this young woman; through no choice of their own, their lives are directed outside a firm foundation of the Catholic faith.

Conveying our faith to another person is important, and can be simple. A good start can be to speak briefly about a personal experience that helped you realize the love of God.

The world needs a message of hope, an encouraging word that will initiate a desire to begin a search for God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta expressed it well:

The reason for our existence is to quench the thirst of Jesus. When he asked for water, the soldier gave him vinegar to drink—but his thirst was for love, for souls, for you and me.

Next time you are given an opportunity to express your faith, remember: Keep it brief, simple, and focused on God. Your time and sharing with that person may be just what they needed to hear, to motivate a desire to search for God.

Only if people change, will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly (on the night of Christmas) entered into our night. – Pope Benedict XVI

Would you like a friendly and casual introduction to the saints? We invite you to a Social with the Saints; a monthly, informal gathering at Pilgrim Center of Hope, wherein we learn about a saint over a cup of tea and sweets, discuss the person’s life and their relevance to our daily paths, and end with prayer. Socials are posted on our website Events Calendar and Facebook page. All are welcome. See you there!

Finding Hope in Darkness

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How many of us have used the expression, “I need hope!” or “I am so desperate, I can’t seem to find any happiness or see a light in this situation!” …? I believe many of us have expressed these words or some very similar.

Defining Hope

Christian Hope is the confident “desire (for) the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1817)

Pope Francis explained that Hope comes with trusting in God, not with power or wealth. He continued to explain that it is knowing that, “‘I hope, I have hope, because God walks with me.’ He walks and he holds my hand.” (cf. General Audience, December 7, 2017)

Words of Hope

One of our favorite scriptures is Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” These words should give us hope!

  • Rejoice in hope – Because of hope, we can experience peace and, yes, a joy by realizing that God loves and knows me.
  • Endure in affliction – This may be difficult. We may be experiencing some darkness, depression, anxiety, and yet these words Endure in affliction are telling us to remain strong! To have courage in situations we are unable to control. This brings to my memory a common saying … This, too, shall pass! While those moments of darkness may seem like an eternity, enduring with hope, with the necessary elements given us in those situations, can help us endure.
  • Persevere in prayer – Without prayer, we cannot sustain our faith or a relationship with God. To persevere is to continue and stick to what we believe. To believe that God is loving and merciful. To persevere is to choose to move forward. That is why I like the term used by the Church to describe the people of God; we are a pilgrim people. Each day, we make choices that will bear fruit in our lives. Whether small or enormous, the actions or situations we face can be done as we persevere—humbly and in prayer.

How does hope bring us out of darkness?

God’s promises are there for us. Let us not forget! Darkness cannot bring you out of darkness – only the Light. The Light is God and Truth: “Jesus spoke and said, ‘I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 8:12, 14:6a)

Let us read the words of St. Paul:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

This is our choice: Do we want to believe that the God of hope can fill us with peace?
Christianity is about a person – Jesus Christ; it is not just a formula to use when we need something in our lives! Christianity is about you and me choosing Christ, the One who knows you more than you know yourself; He is God!

Pope Francis told a crowd at St. Peter’s Square: “Let us now imagine the Crucifix and let us all together say three times to the [image] of Jesus Crucified: ‘You are my hope.'” The Pope explained that we must really believe that in the Crucified Christ our hope is reborn. Love and hope come together on the cross of Christ. (cf. General Audience, April 12, 2017)

We have to surrender to God! Hope sustains us. Prayer will lead us to Hope. Hope leads us to trust.

Here are a message of hope and a prayer for you to cut and place by your workplace, your mirror, somewhere to remind you to rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, and persevere in prayer…

“I plead with you: Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” (Pope St. John Paul II)

Heavenly father, we are your humble servants.
We come before you today in need of hope.
There are times when we feel helpless.
There are times when we feel weak.
We pray for hope.
We need hope for a better future.
We need hope for love and kindness.
Some say that the sky is at it’s darkest just before the light.
We need your light in every way.
We pray to be filled with your light from head to toe. To bask in your glory.
Help us to walk in your light,
and live 
our lives in faith and glory.
In your name we pray. Amen.

To find tools to help you build up your hope, we invite you to listen to Journeys of Hope and watch Living Catholicism, our weekly broadcast media programs. Let us journey with you!

Conversation with God

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Until you realize that prayer is the most important thing in life, you will never have time to pray. Without prayer, a man is like a soldier who lacks food, water and ammunition. – Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix

I recently attended a Christian funeral of a man I met 30 years ago. He was a classmate of my husband, was married, and had a family. As it is traditional at funeral services, I made my way to the open casket before the service to honor our friend and say a prayer. I noticed a prayer book in his hands; it was a thick book, its cover quite tattered and barely intact, with its pages worn and ends curled. Obviously, this man used his prayer book often, and it was a sign that he was committed to his faith in God. His adult children certainly knew their father’s love for God and the Church; it wasn’t a difficult decision for them to have their father’s prayer book placed in his hands.

Funerals, to me, can be a reminder of our mortality and our current outlook on life. They can also be a reminder of our awareness of God. How aware are we, that God knows us? He is our Creator and our Heavenly Father. He procreated with our parents. He is unchanging.

Prayer is choosing to take a moment to raise our minds to God and, from the heart, communicate with him. Saint Teresa of Avila, a renowned contemplative nun who led many people to a life of prayer through her own example, would often say, “Praying is like having a conversation with a friend.” What a friend we can have in God!

If we realize the importance of prayer, then it becomes as important a part of our lives as the air we breathe. Yes, it is possible; I have experienced this in my life.

What can help us be reminded to pray? I suggest the following that has helped me through time:

  • Sacred image(s) can become good reminders. A crucifix is an excellent and consoling image to encourage us to communicate with God, the One who died for us! Place these in areas you often spend time, office space, home, books, or even on your smartphone.
  • A prayer book, pamphlet, or card can be useful. The Catholic Church offers so many; one of my favorites is the Liturgy of the Hours (also called the Divine Office) which contain psalms, scripture, and intercessions. Learn more about this here.
  • Nature can lead us to raise our minds to the One who created it all – God!
  • Begin with a favorite prayer or scripture, as a “jump starter” to assist you as you begin with your own words.

That tattered prayer book was a clear and gentle reminder to all of us present; of the importance of prayer, the importance of believing in God and in His mercy. Believing in the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, leads us to a life of true peace. Prayer is our connection with God and will sustain us in our daily journey to the end.

If you would like more help and simple tools for renewing your prayer life, we invite you to subscribe to Pilgrim Center of Hope’s monthly newsletter; visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

How does Christian Faith Help Me?

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This is a big question!  We must begin by defining the Christian faith.  Faith is trust, assurance and confidence in the one true God; Creator of the Universe.

As Christians we believe in one God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, whom we also call our Heavenly Father.  We believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, who was sent by Father to show us His love. Christ Jesus died for us, resurrected and ascended to Heaven.  We believe in the Holy Spirit called the Counselor, our helper to guide us and lead us in our daily lives.

Who can testify to this Truth?

 

I can!  I was baptized when only a few months old, my parents and family instilled in me the Catholic Christian Faith as I grew up.  Witnessing their faith in God and faithfulness to the teachings given to us through the Scriptures and the Catholic Church.  I remember seeing them pray, attend Mass every Sunday and were involved in church activities from bingo to prayer services.  All this became apart of my life as well.  When the family experienced trials, my parents would light a candle before an image of Christ and His blessed Mother Mary and pray diligently for guidance.

All these things instilled in me the importance of having faith in God who is above all, knows all and grants us the necessary help needed.  I also witnessed and experienced the peace it brought.

Christianity is about a person, Jesus Christ.  It’s about a way of life; choosing to follow Christ and His teachings.  It is our choice; and when we make that first step, whether it be crying out to God from the depth of our heart, or by seeking Him in a community of believers; we can begin to see a difference in our own lives.

Our lives are really short compared to Eternity!

 

Whether we live to be 40, 70, 90, or over 100; faith can lead us to keep our eyes and hearts focused on God; who will always be there for us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“Our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last, the beginning and the end of everything. The Credo begins with God the Father, for the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity; our Creed begins with the creation of heaven and earth, for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works.”  (CCC#1980)

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Begin anew today! Speak to God from your heart;

He is waiting for you!

 

 

You’re invited to Day’s and Evening’s of Hope! The relic of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church,  will be available for veneration at Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Gethsemane Chapel!

Join us on Wednesday, August 22nd,  from 12:30 – 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

 

Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

 

 

 

Silence Can Lead to Peace

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We live in the most talkative age in the history of the world.  It would take millions of men and women in previous ages to communicate to others the same information which one person today provides in a single broadcast.

Do you think that the love of noise and excitement in modern civilization is due in part to the fact that people are unhappy on the inside?  Noise exteriorizes us, distracts us and can sometimes make us forget worries for the moment.  Let’s face it… noise; whether it’d be electronic, people, or even music; it can fill us, but not fulfill us.

Almost everyone desires some sense of peace, but we usually look in the wrong places.  Jesus said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  (John 14:27)

Silence is a beginning. Mother Teresa explains it well:

 “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. … If your heart is full of worldly things, you cannot hear the voice of God.  But when you have listened to his voice in the silence of your heart, then your heart is filled.”

How does one find God in silence?  By opening the door of your heart.  A Key that can help open that door:  Our free will to choose to begin!

Okay – so we want to start!

Begin 3-5 minutes daily by simply being, not doing anything or reading. Don’t give up if you are distracted.  Ask God for His help, the grace of silence. Thank God for silence.
Silence in daily life is possible!

  • eliminate radio time while driving, cooking, washing dishes.
  • wake up in the morning in silence,  (without TV news, or  music)

 

Do not be afraid to be in silence.  The fruit of silence can be a deeper desire to pray, to ponder, to think before making choices or decisions.  Silence can lead us to peace in our hearts.   Remember, Mother Teresa’s words:  God is a friend of silence.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope has a Chapel Gethsemane with Jesus in His Eucharistic Presence.  Come and spend time in silence in our Chapel open Monday through Friday; 8:30am – 5:30pm.  We, at the Pilgrim Center of Hope, offer Morning and Evening Reflections for prayer groups, parish churches, organizations.

You’re invited to Day’s and Evening’s of Hope! The relic of St. Benedict of Nusia will be available for veneration at Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Gethsemane Chapel!

Join us on Tuesday, July 31st from 6:00 -8:30 p.m.

Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. 

What Are You Looking For?

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That is the question Jesus asked two of John the Baptist’s disciples who began to follow him.  Let’s read the story:

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  The two disciples* heard what he said and followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi”, “where are you staying?”  He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” (John 1:35-39).

It is interesting that one of John’s disciple that was following Jesus didn’t answer Jesus’ question immediately; he instead said Where are you staying? Perhaps we can relate to this response; not knowing what to answer when asked What are you looking for?

The question Jesus asks is an important one. Whether we realize it or not, that is a question that stirs in the heart of every one of us. More often than not, people are trying to find the answer through accomplishments as measured by society. So then why is it that so many people who have accomplished great things are still looking to satisfy that question? It is not a rare thing to discover in the news that someone who we thought successful has turned to drugs, alcohol or even suicide.

The reality is, we can only find the answer to that question in the One who asked it of the disciples. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; outside of him, the pursuit of our purpose for being on this earth will end in sadness and even hopelessness.  It was St. Augustine who said, “Our hearts are restless O’ Lord until they rest in you”. Some of the most renowned sinners in history have become persons filled with joy, peace and hope by following the One who asked the question, “What are you looking for?”

As you are reading this, believe you are loved unconditionally by our Heavenly Father.   You can begin anew today.  How?  Imagine yourself walking with Jesus; He knows you, he looks into your eyes and sees who you are.  Oh sure, He knows what you have done in the past, but that is the past.  He invites you to begin anew, to follow Him now and begin a new life filled with peace and hope.  Ask Jesus to touch your heart with His healing hand.  Experience his love by accepting Jesus into your heart and then follow him.

 

You’re invited to Day’s and Evening’s of Hope! The relic of St. Benedict of Nusia will be available for veneration at Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Gethsemane Chapel!

Join us on Tuesday, July 31st from 6:00 -8:30 p.m.

“Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.”

A Friend in Heaven

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blog photoDid you ever wonder how it must feel for those competing in sports or games to be cheered by the vast crowds? Have you been in a situation yourself when you were applauded for your efforts, especially if it was a challenging one? These feelings are good and can encourage us to continue our efforts or simply just to be satisfied with the invested hard work.

Actually we can be cheered on each day, not only when competing and accomplishing a challenging project. In Hebrews: 12:1-2, we read: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Leader and perfecter of faith.”

I really like this passage because it is so encouraging for us living our daily lives with the various struggles, challenges, and so on. The cloud of witnesses are those in the glory of Heaven, who have made it! They have persevered in running the race, meaning they have succeeded in pressing on with their daily responsibilities. They have lived their lives sustained by their faith and hope in God and now they can help us.

Pope Francis explains it well: They are like us, they are like each of us, they are people who before reaching the glory of heaven lived a normal life, with joys and griefs, struggles and hopes,… The saints, the friends of God, assure us that this promise does not disappoint. *

Some of the Saints we often hear about are St. Anthony of Padua, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Padre Pio and others. St. Therese was known to say often, I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth.

 Here is a story related to St. Padre Pio – a woman was concerned for her brother, an alcoholic, who was also experiencing serious health issues. She had visited the village in Italy where Padre Pio lived and learned about his life. She began asking his intervention on behalf of her brother, and after a few weeks, she called her brother to ask about his condition. His voice even projected a joy she hadn’t notice in a long time. He told her about a dream of a priest blessing him, he described this priest wearing a brown habit and gray beard. His sister knew it must have been St. Padre Pio! He continued to share that he no longer had the desire to drink alcohol and wanted to learn more about this priest. As the story continues, the woman gave her brother a book about Padre Pio and a small statue which he kept until his death.

Think about asking a Saint to accompany you through their prayers. Read about their life story and how their struggles, their joys can teach us to run the race, live out our daily life in faith and in hope. “We should never underestimate the power of holiness.…our own daily ‘little way’, our struggles, our sufferings, our joys…if offered in Jesus, with Him and through Him…they can bear fruit and make us saints.” Hans Urs Von Balthasar

 * The Angelus, St. Peter Square, November 1, 2013

 

Did You Know…this Symbol for the Church?

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Over the last 25 years, some have wondered: Why would Pilgrim Center of Hope, a evangelization ministry in San Antonio, Texas, have a ship as its logo? We enjoy teaching people about the Catholic Church’s imagery in sacred art, illustrating the beauty and truths of our faith.

Did you know that the area in every Catholic Church where the congregation sits, is called the nave? This is from Latin, navis, meaning “ship”! The boat or ship has long been used as a symbol of the Church. As a ship sails to a destination, the Church, with its many members, moves toward her destination of the Heavenly Jerusalem. We are on a journey; each day is a day closer to eternal life. This is why the Church uses the phrase “pilgrim people” to describe the Christian people.

The ship symbol is an invitational one, as well. While the ship contains members of the Body of Christ, she also welcomes those wanting to reach eternal life, the Heavenly Jerusalem. That is why Pilgrim Center of Hope’s logo ship contains persons of all vocations.

Logo Pilgrim Center of Hope guiding people to ChristHave you ever felt ‘sea sick’ from the twists and turns of daily life? “The world is a sea,” wrote third-century theologian Hippolytus of Rome, “in which the Church is set, like a ship tossed in the deep, but not destroyed. For she has with her, the skilled pilot, Christ.” This is why our logo shows the waves of daily life, and the ship led by the gold Chi Rho (“PX”)—an abbreviation of the Greek word Christos, meaning Christ. Jesus, as head of the Church, is the skilled pilot leading us to the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Which image of the Holy Spirit relates to our life aboard ship? The winds! Let’s open the sail of this ship and sail over the waters, as the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, urges us forward! Pilgrim Center of Hope’s logo also includes a blue star above the Ship, representing the Blessed Virgin Mary. “On the morning of Pentecost, she watched over with her prayer the beginning of evangelization prompted by the Holy Spirit: may she be the Star of evangelization.” This beautiful prayer by Pope Paul VI ends his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelization In the Modern World, one of our ministry’s guidebooks. Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, yearns for her children to reach Heaven. She intercedes for our journey with her prayers.

We extend a hand to you: Jump aboard this exhilarating and hope-filled journey with thousands of others who also want to reach the Heavenly Jerusalem! Jump aboard the ship led by Jesus, our Savior; the ship which is led by the Holy Spirit, our consoler; the ship guided by Mary’s intercession; and the ship filled with people of all walks of life! You will not be alone! Be not afraid to jump aboard and begin life anew!

“Christians, on pilgrimage toward the heavenly city, should seek and think of these things which are above. This duty in no way decreases, rather it increases, the importance of their obligation to work with all men in the building of a more human world. Indeed, the mystery of the Christian faith furnishes them with an excellent stimulant and aid to fulfill this duty more courageously…” (Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes, 57)

This is the reason that Pilgrim Center of Hope, an evangelization ministry, has chosen the ship as part of our identity. Jump aboard and hold on; Christ will lead!

Ways to Jump Aboard this Month:

Inspiration from St. Joseph

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“Saint Joseph was a just man, a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.” – Pope St. John Paul II

Joseph, chaste husband of Mary is given the highest compliment in the Bible – he was a just man.

“By saying Joseph was just, the Bible means that he was one who was completely open to all that God wanted to do for him.  He became holy by opening himself totally to God.” – Catholic Online

Let us thank God for St. Joseph, who loved God, was obedient to his calling as husband of Mary and protector of Jesus.  Ask St. Joseph to pray for you, for your family, for the men you know, that he may pray for us to also be open to God’s plan for us.

The Church celebrates his feast day on March 19.