Author Archives: Pamela Mandeville

About Pamela Mandeville

Pam is the Administrative Assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. She moved from Houston with the specific intention of becoming Catholic and getting involved in the Catholic community of San Antonio. Pam says, "Serving in this ministry of evangelization is a dream come true." 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.

Journeying With the Cross

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"The Crucifixion" by Giotto (c. 1320)

“The Crucifixion” by Giotto (c. 1320)

A beautiful wooden crucifix from Jerusalem hangs in a prominent place in my living room – a gift from Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox from one of their Holy Land Pilgrimages. It serves to remind me of the extraordinary power in the cross.

The Evil One wants us to stay away from the cross at all costs. I doubt he really cares what does the trick – any worldly distraction that keeps our minds elsewhere will do, just as long as we don’t think about or meditate upon the cross. Why? Because the cross settles forever the question of how much God really loves us. Just think about it – love was compressed for all history in that singular Person on the cross, who could have called down angels at a moment’s notice, but chose not to – because of us.

This love that God first showed us now calls us, in return, to love the Father. My thoughts turn naturally to St. Paul for, at this time, Mary Jane Fox is leading a pilgrimage to Turkey and Greece “In the Footsteps of St. Paul”. Paul’s zealousness for seeing Christ proclaimed, churches established, and the body of believers built up, gave rise from his ever deepening love for Our Lord. “That I may know Him” was the primary passion of his life. May God grant that we follow in his footsteps.

However, no matter how much of the Bible we know, how many homilies we have heard, or how many hours spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we are all still light-years away from knowing God perfectly. The man who believes that he has “arrived” will not go any further. We must follow in the example of the great saints who all had yearning hearts. Their longing for God all but consumed them, propelling them to great spiritual heights.

Growing in faith is a process and every year we grow, we will find God bigger. As we grow in our knowledge of and relationship with Our Lord, He should be seen as more loving, more sovereign, more holy, and more omniscient, than the year before. Of course, it’s not Him changing – it is us who are changing. Refuse to stop at what you already know of God, there is so much more… and this journey of love begins with the cross.

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What Will Be Your Legacy?

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“Cross at Sunset” by BeverLR

A recent ad for Gold’s Gym caught my eye: “What will be your legacy?” I’m not sure what working out has to do with creating a legacy, but it made me think. I believe we all have an inner calling to make a difference in our lives; to have lived a life of significance.

But what constitutes significance – is it success? If that is the case, then I suppose Howard Hughes might be our role model; after all, he was the richest man in the United States, worth 2.5 billion dollars when he died. He owned a private fleet of jets, hotels and casinos. He also spent the last 15 years of his life a drug addict.

Not a single acquaintance or relative mourned his death. The only honor he received was a moment of silence in his Las Vegas casinos. Time magazine put it this way: “Howard Hughes’ death was commemorated in Las Vegas by a minute of silence. Casinos fell silent. Housewives stood uncomfortable clutching their paper cups full of coins at the slot machines, the blackjack games paused, and at the crap tables the stickmen cradled the dice in the crook of their wooden wands. Then a pit boss looked at his watch, leaned forward and whispered, “O.K., roll the dice. He’s had his minute.”

Or is significance proportional to our service to others and in doing the will of God through our daily lives?

In which case, Our Lord Jesus Christ becomes our role model. But how do we follow God’s will? God does not provide MapQuest for his saints so they can be sure to understand the whole path of their pilgrimage here. Almost always He provides only one thing: the very next step. Not the next two steps. Not the next three steps. And like Abraham, He calls us to take the next step wholly blind as to what the next step that will follow.

And make no mistake, being used by God sooner or later turns one’s world upside down. There are many whose lives have been profoundly impacted by their response to God’s highly inconvenient calling upon their lives. He disturbs us at His will. Human arrangements are disregarded, family ties ignored, business claims put aside. We are not asked if it is convenient. The Lord expects to be trusted.

I propose that our legacy, how we will be remembered in this world, ultimately intersects with the fundamental dilemma of being human, always coming back to that one simple and yet often incredibly difficult choice, “My will or God’s will?” A choice we must make over…and over…and over again.

A Church Like That

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Prostitutes Around a Dinner Table – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, c. 1893-1894

This past weekend, the Pilgrim Center of Hope hosted the Catholic Seniors’ Conference. During the Q&A time, guest speaker, Dr. Margarett Schlientz, proposed that we pray for ISIS. This hit a raw nerve with a man in the audience who asked whether she would pray for the Devil. Dr. Schlientz responded that we must pray for all souls. Having been a clinical psychologist for years, she saw many cases of people who were deeply wounded from experiences in their past that shaped their misguided thinking.

Wounded and twisted, but only God can know if they are beyond redemption or hope. And so we pray for even those who are the worst among us. And I ask myself, “Do churches and religious people make friends easily with those who are looked down on in society: jailbirds, prostitutes, drug addicts, drunks, thieves?” After all, “they” are surely not as close to God as the sinners who attend church. I’d like to tell you a true story…

Tony, a college professor of sociology, told the story of his visit to Honolulu. On his first night, he awoke at 3:00 am and left the hotel in search of something to eat. Tony found himself the only customer in a coffee shop until, suddenly, the place was filled with girls. From their conversation he learned a lot about Honolulu’s night life, for the girls were discussing their night’s work and their male clients. These girls were prostitutes.

Tony overheard Agnes, the girl sitting beside him, say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be thirty-nine.” Her friend responded in a nasty tone, “So what do you want from me? A birthday party? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday?'” Agnes responded, “Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?”

When he heard that, Tony made a decision. After the girls left the restaurant, Tony and Harry, the manager, discussed throwing a surprise birthday party, after all the girls came in there every night. The men got together in the afternoon and decorated the place and prepared a beautiful cake.

The next day, at 3:30 am, the door of the diner swung open and in came Agnes and her friends. Everyone screamed, “Happy birthday!” Tony said he had never seen a person so flabbergasted…so stunned. Agnes’ mouth fell open. Her friend grabbed her arm to steady her. Then everyone sang “Happy Birthday.” Her eyes moistened. When the birthday cake with all the candles was carried out, she lost it and just openly cried.

Agnes looked down at the cake. Then without taking her eyes off it, she softly said, “Is it OK with you if I keep the cake a little while? I mean is it all right if we don’t eat it right away? I live just down the street. I want to take the cake home, OK? I’ll be right back. Honest!” And, carrying it like it was the Holy Grail, walked slowly toward the door. When the door closed there was a stunned silence. Not knowing what else to do, Tony said, “What do you say we pray?” And they prayed for Agnes.

When finished, Harry said, with a trace of hostility in his voice, “Hay! You never told me you were a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?” In one of those moments when just the right words come, Tony answered, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning.” Harry sneered as he answered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that!”

And perhaps if he found a church like that he would give himself to a Savior like that.

The Spiritual Battle

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“St. Michael dedicating his weapons to the Virgin” by the Le Nain Brothers

Sometimes I wonder whether to turn on the news …it’s just so gloomy: terror strikes the heart of Paris, forces of Isis gathering strength, etc. It serves to remind me that this precious life we have been given is a gift to be cherished and lived well, but it is not all fun and games. There are lessons to be learned, souls to be saved, and battles to be won.

But still we cry, “Why Lord? Why do you allow these things to happen?” God does not fed-ex His grace ahead of time to alleviate the discomfort of what we ourselves must do.   In fact, we are called to action. Did you ever notice how our Lord never seems to show up too soon but “just in the nick of time”? That is, not until we are on the verge of moving forward in His will for us does He send His assistance.

We are called upon to make a better world better, to actually engage in spiritual combat with the forces of darkness; seeking to rescue, through the power of God, lost souls held captive by the enemy of our souls. Pray – and never underestimate the power of prayer.

We only have one opportunity for all eternity to attack the gates of hell: Right here…right now. But so many of us underestimate this high calling that is entrusted to all the people of God and not limited to the clergy and religious.

In Holy Spirit’s perfect timing, as I was writing this blog, I received an email from the office of Alan Ames (Catholic mystic, writer and healer) with a similar message:

“It is in this spiritual battle where we persevere with our prayers for peace and for the conversion of others that he (the evil one) is losing and this he hates. So his hatred is poured out on the world through those he can get to do his will. Let us not be cowered by evils actions in the world. Let us all stand firm in our love of God and of others as warriors of faith who fight for the eternal souls of our brothers and sisters around the world. Our weapons are love of God and of others; the Sacraments, Holy Scripture, prayer, forgiveness and obedience to God’s will no matter what the cost.” – Alan Ames

Wake Up the World!

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“Anglers”, Raol Dufy

“Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:19
“Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Acts 8:4

What is at the heart of Pope Francis’ decree to “Wake up the world”?…..Evangelism! But what does that mean? I submit that Evangelism is found not only in formal preaching but, more dynamically, in the common lay person – you and me – informally chatting with our friends, neighbors, strangers at home, in the grocery store, at work, on a walk. Everywhere, speaking enthusiastically about the good news, sincerely and with conviction…thus being taken seriously.

Evangelism, at its core, is nomadic. At its heartbeat is a community of scattered saints, men and women on the move, going forth to spread the net of the gospel into the waters where unbelievers swim.

Isn’t that the way it was “in the beginning,” when the apostles scattered to the four winds and every follower of Christ was viewed as being in full-time ministry; a time when each believer saw their workplace and neighborhood as their designated mission field? There is no greater service in life than becoming a fisher of men, but that can only happen by frequenting their waters.

Water is often used in scripture as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. “He who believes in Me (as the Scripture has said) out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” And the Holy Spirit can and will use each of us as His personal suit of clothes through whom He can serve others. He can look through our eyes, hear through our ears, think with our mind, speak with our tongues, walk with our feet and, most of all, love through our hearts.

Next time you say a prayer, watch how Holy Spirit answers that prayer, more times than not, through another person. Someone says just the thing you need to hear, offers you a helping hand, or spontaneously shows up with the very thing that you need. When that happens, I like to point out to that person that they were just the instrument of the Holy Spirit in answering my prayer.

You don’t have to look further than you and me to see how God weaves His blessings in the world. That is why we are laity – so we can be in the world and change the world from within.

So…”Wake up, wake up, shine His light on a weary world!”

Casting Your Ballot

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One can never find all of life in life. Being born, growing up, obtaining an education, finding a job, marrying, raising a family, eating, drinking, playing a sport, enjoying a hobby; these are all wonderful facets of our temporary pilgrimage on Earth. But none of them have the capacity to provide LIFE as God created and intended it.

The reason is God has rigged this thing we call “life”. Rigged it so that the best life has to offer is never big enough to fill the vacuum in our souls. Rigged it so that we can never be fully satisfied by anything less than the presence of God.

Within every one of us is an innate, inextinguishable yearning. If we do not allow the cry of our soul to be answered by God, we will begin dialing other numbers. The appeal for some confused souls to join ISIS, a terrorist movement, or to be connected to a gang, are, I believe, an attempt to fill this void.

But none of those numbers can deliver what they offer. Saint Augustine expressed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Elsewhere he writes, “Sin is energy in the wrong channel.”

Since I became Catholic, just a little over a year ago, I have spent more time in prayer than I ever had before. This, enhanced with attending Mass regularly, has deepened my awareness of my dependence on God. We now have an ongoing conversation – all the time and about everything. This simple act of making Him the center of my life is what gives me the greatest feeling of wholeness.

Indeed, this internal thirst will either drive us deeper into the arms of God or those of His rival. The choice is ours.

Entwined in the Walking

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But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Is. 40:31

What does that mean, “wait on the Lord”?  It sounds like I’m waiting for Him to solve my problems.  So I looked it up.  The Hebrew word for “wait” literally means to “wrap or entwine oneself around” – like a rope that is wrapped around a pole.  Perhaps the emphasis of this statement is not so much upon the activity of waiting, but the object of waiting.  It is about the Person we are waiting on – wrapping our lives around Our Lord at the center. 

Think about it.  We all wrap ourselves around something or someone. For some of us it’s alcohol, food, drugs, illicit sexuality, the internet, owning the latest and greatest (fill in the blank here….car, house, trophy wife…), or the pursuit of any other number of false gods and graven images in our lives.  The problem is that all of these have a shelf life for filling the hole in our soul and eventually end up draining our vitality rather than renewing it.

And what about the rest of the statement?  Sometimes we fly through Life.  The song from “South Pacific” comes to mind: “I know how it feels to have wings on your heels and to fly down the street in a trance.”  At these wonderful times we seem to “mount up with wings like eagles.” Then there are those times when life is more like running (running to or away from something), “they shall run and not be weary.” But if we’re honest, most of the time life is simply a matter of walking and perseverance, “they shall walk and not faint.”

Missionary and author, Dr. John Oswald Sanders has something to say on this:

“The hardest part of the journey is neither the start nor the finish, but the middle mile. There is the enthusiasm of a new undertaking that buoys you at the beginning and there is the thrill of reaching the goal that carries you down the home stretch; but it is the middle mile—when you are a long way from the start and home is still distant—that tests the mettle of the traveler.” 

And we are all travelers on this journey to Our Heavenly Jerusalem.  As a new (and enthusiastic) convert to the Catholic faith, this daily decision to put the Lord at the center of my life has made all the difference.  Praise be to God – I no longer run the race alone.

The Holiness of the Ordinary

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“The Angelus” by Jean-François Millet (1814 – 1875)

After listening to a comment made by Archbishop Gustavo as he reflected upon his recent visit with Pope Francis, the following question stuck in my mind, “Is a Pope or a Saint an extraordinary person or a person who does small things extraordinarily well?

There are extraordinary moments scattered throughout my life – a moment of great clarity, an elevated sense of gratitude, a point in time when the most seemingly impossible circumstances come together in the most extraordinary way. However, the truth is most of my life is made up of just ordinary moments. Most days are ordinary. Most weeks are routine.

The word “routine” comes from a Latin root which means “a beaten path”; thus we also get the word “route” from the same root. And so is much of our lives. It is the beaten path of doing common, every day, run-of-the-mill things over and over again: washing the dishes, brushing our teeth, mowing the lawn, making dinner, paying bills, etc. Even when the doing of these things does not seem to make any real spiritual difference. What can possibly be significant about these things?

It seems to me that God calls us, not to avoid ordinariness, but to infuse it with new meaning – to recognize that the ordinary has extraordinary ramifications and possibilities. The real question is, how can we interject the glory of God’s grace into life’s seemingly ordinary and insignificant tasks?

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31)

It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God, but we do not. We are called to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people like you and me. The seemingly small things in life do matter. Let’s not forget that Our Lord was a carpenter for six times as many years as He was a rabbi. He understands and appreciates the common task, and will reward it.

So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

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Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Heb. 12:1)

Our lives are on display to those who have finished their course before us. They are, as it were, cheering us on. And, as we run our race, we do well to remember the stories of those who ran before us. Their legacies. Their examples. We need them for our race.

On Divine Mercy Sunday we celebrated the entry of two such great men, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, into the Communion of Saints. They join the “cloud of witnesses” that ran the race and set the example before us. Also coming to mind…

Peter – crucified upside down around 68 A.D.
James the son of Zebedee – put to death by Herod Agrippa I shortly before the day of the Passover.
Andrew – reported to have been crucified at Patrae in Achaia.
Philip – executed at Hierapolis.
Bartholomew – martyred in India.
Matthew – martyred in Ethiopia.
Thomas – lanced through in Ethiopia
James, son of Alpheus – thrown down from the temple by the scribes and Pharisees and then stoned
Simon the Zealot – martyred.
Paul – beheaded.

I’m not sure that any challenges I am enduring in my journey can begin to compare to the Great Ones who have come before me and walk among us – who carry their cross with dignity and courage. I want to thank you Holy Men and Women of God for the encouragement and inspiration you bring me and have brought countless others over the centuries. Living a life of nobility, sacrifice and service, you re-define what it means to be a human being. You set the bar high. I might be tempted to be discouraged except that I know you walk beside me and are cheering me on. I will finish the race strong.

Dogma Guarantees Adventure

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“La conversión de San Pablo” by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)

I used to be one of those people who claim that church is not for them – “too much dogma.”  Now I affirm that the exact opposite is true: the Catholic faith is rooted in the most exciting drama ever to stagger the imagination of man — and the dogma is the drama.

Have you seen the latest film, Son of God?  The first attempt made in 49 years to cover the full arc of Jesus’s life. It is real and it is moving.  The editing, expansive cinematography, acting, and musical score from Hans Zimmer – weaves a tale of a time when God submitted to the conditions He had laid down, became a man like the men He had made, and the men He had made broke Him and killed Him.  You can’t make stuff like this up!  If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting?

Everything boils down to the primary question which dominated St. Paul’s life, “Who are You, Lord?”  It was the answer to this question that sustained him in his last hours.

“…nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know Whom I have believed…” II Tim. 1:12

I doubt you could convince Paul that theology was dry, dull or impractical.  Easier to convince an adolescent male that sports are boring or a young maiden that she will yawn at her wedding. 

The God Who spoke the universe into existence, Who always was and always will be; and the fact that you and I even exist – have you wrapped your mind around about THAT lately!  Perhaps it is time for a paradigm shift.  Theology, properly pursued, is the greatest adventure entrusted to man.  Is there an earthly drama that can compare to it?