Category Archives: About us

We Trusted God. Here’s What Happened…

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What happens when you choose to surrender your will to control your life, and choose to trust in God? The last 30 years of our lives have been filled with answers to this question…

When we went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land by ourselves, God provided us with strangers who became ‘family members’, guiding and encouraging us on our journey. We encountered Jesus with new eyes, and discovered a new outlook on our Catholic faith.

When we were sent to a priest who heard our confession, then were immediately sent out to jump onto a boat sailing across the Sea of Galilee—without wallet, passport, or personal items; God provided each of us with an unmistakable conviction to leave everything and follow Him.

When we spent six months searching for how to answer God’s call as missionaries overseas, God directed us to our pastor, who invited us to help him begin a home visitation ministry in our own neighborhood.

When discovered that we would be door-to-door ministers, visiting every residence within the boundaries of our parish without any experience as evangelizers, God provided us with encouragement through our pastor. He told us not to worry about what we were to say, but to just listen and tell people that we cared.

When countless individuals urgently needed prayer or a visitor, God brought us to knock on their door. We witnessed the healing power of presence, prayer, and forgiveness. In the first couple of years, we visited over 10,000 families.

When Pope John Paul II issued an urgent call for a “new evangelization,” we knew we wanted to respond, but didn’t know how. After praying in the Garden of Gethsemane for two weeks, we were given the confidence that God was calling us to start an evangelization Center. God provided us with the blessing of our local bishop.

With just the “change in our pockets”, God provided the Teresian Sisters’ former Convent in northwest San Antonio, to serve as a home for the evangelization Center. Each month, a different friend would present us with their contribution towards the rent.

God has provided us with the rent and “our daily bread,” for 25 years.

When the Teresian Sisters decided to sell their property, we began looking for a new home. Instead, God provided us with hundreds of individuals who donated personal gifts ranging from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars, and the property that we’d been renting for two decades was completely paid off.

The Challenge of Trusting God

Yes, for all of us, each day brings new challenges. Sometimes, it is very difficult to choose to place our trust in God, especially when everything around us points toward defeat. A Scripture that resonates deeply with us is, “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) We have learned that the best attitude in every circumstance is to surrender ourselves to God, and to trust in his loving concern for us. Over the last 25 years as an evangelization ministry, Pilgrim Center of Hope has sometimes had to wait for years before receiving answers to our prayers. Other times, the answers have come within minutes of asking. But in every circumstance, God has offered us abundant grace…

Jesus knows how many obstacles human beings face every day, because he lived through them; personal suffering, family trials, and much more. He said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Today, Jesus offers you abundant grace, through the Church that he established upon his Apostles. The Apostles have continued to pass on this spiritual lineage, down to this present day. God invites you to share in his life of love, even amidst daily challenges.

Lord Jesus, you know the trials and concerns that I hold in my heart and mind today. I want to trust in you, my God and Savior. Thank you for teaching us to pray, “Thy will be done;” those same words you prayed before your Passion and Death. Help me to follow in your footsteps today: to take up my Cross, rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, and persevering in prayer. Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.

We invite you to discover spiritual tools and events that will help you increase your trust in God, through Pilgrim Center of Hope.

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Strengthening Men In Christ

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Abuse and gender have always driven the news, but today’s headlines find themselves at extremes. In homes, we see:

…“a society without fathers”. In Western culture, the father figure is said to be symbolically absent, missing or vanished. Manhood itself seems to be called into question. (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia 176)

Our Catholic Church teaches us to think and act using a “both-and” approach, rather than clinging to an extreme position on any social spectrum. Regarding this topic; we both believe in the equal dignity of the sexes, and value the differences between them. Men and women reflect God in similar and different ways. Our human imperfection, however, struggles with this balancing act. We see the resulting confusion in contemporary society.

How can we re-balance and re-focus ourselves, our families, and society?

One major endeavor in San Antonio working toward that end is Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Ministry of Conferences. Since the early 2000s, we have hosted conferences for men and women to have time away from the chaos of daily life, to learn about their inherent dignity, be encouraged in God’s love for them, and be challenged to use their unique gifts for the transformation of themselves, their families, and society.

This year’s Catholic Men’s Conference (CMC) offers a new take on the event theme, “Master, I Want to See” (Mark 10:51). In additional to Mass with Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller and a Eucharistic Healing Service; Capuchin Franciscan friar and spiritual director, Father John Lager, will address wounds and everyday struggles with which men wrestle. Entrepreneur Tom Peterson will speak to men “from their own shoes” about being blind to God’s mercy, and opening themselves to receiving it. John Bergsma, Ph.D., will speak both as a Scripture scholar and a husband and father, teaching men about reading the Bible as a Catholic man, as well as how God calls and equips each attendee to fulfill leadership roles in their lives.

What if every man were impacted like this young man’s CMC testimony?

I was kinda skeptical about it. I don’t really go to these things, but my dad asked me… I have two twin boys who are fourteen months old, so I’m a new father. It really hit home for me whenever they were talking about family – you know, love God, love your wife, love your kids. I really want to put that in their life.

Share the CMC website or Facebook event with men in your life. Every man needs to be strengthened, encouraged, and challenged. You don’t have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.

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:

Teresa, A Friend of Ours

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In just a couple of weeks, hundreds of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s friends will be gathering at our annual Prayer Brunch benefit event. One of the most exciting things we’ll discuss is the upcoming 25th Anniversary Year of this ministry. Praise God! As we reflect on these years, we reflect on a friend in Heaven: St. Teresa of Avila. She entered eternal life on October 4, 1582.

Perhaps we wouldn’t have Pilgrim Center of Hope, as we know it, without her help. The Center sits on about seven acres of land which we rented for many years from the Sisters of St. Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila)! With the support of hundreds of personal donations, the land was purchased by Pilgrim Center of Hope in 2013. The Sisters left us many of their furnishings and even religious art; including both a small statue and an old painting of Teresa of Avila.

In the painting, she is seated with her hand over her heard, commemorating the extraordinary experience called her Transverberation. That experience is what Bernini infamously sculpted into marble; an angel piercing Teresa’s heart with a flaming arrow. It was a mystical revelation of God’s love in Teresa’s life.

With her right hand, Teresa is writing her most well-known poem. In the painting, it is written in its original Spanish:

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante, 
Todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda;
La paciencia,
Todo lo alcanza,
Quien a Dios tiene,
Nada le falta,
Sólo Dios basta.

Which translates to:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing fright you,
All things are passing,
God never changes;
Patience
Obtains all things,
Whoever has God
Lacks nothing,
God alone suffices.

This painting hangs near our Chapel, where our staff prays each day. It is a beautiful reminder – not only of the message that God is the answer to every concern, but also reminds us of our Spiritual Mother in Heaven who undoubtedly intercedes for this ministry. Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

Not only have we had Teresa on our side, but also her two most famous spiritual daughters, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta! Thérèse has a history of interceding for us, and Mother Teresa wrote our founders a letter encouraging them to continue answering Christ’s call as they were seeking His direction for their lives.

The origin of the name “Teresa” is possibly derived from the Greek meaning “harvest.” That is no surprise to us. We are confident that God has called us to work in His Vineyard, to prepare our hearts and the hearts of many people for His Coming. Amen!

As you continue your daily pilgrimage this week, remember the message of the Saints! Lord Jesus, we place our trust in You.

Where is your Bethlehem? Closer than you think.

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Last week I overheard a young woman ask someone if they celebrated Christmas. The person responded “Yes, of course I do!”. The young woman said, “Oh, do you know that some people don’t celebrate Christmas?” Upon hearing this, I began to think about those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Perhaps they haven’t experienced God’s love or mercy directly. Perhaps they don’t believe in God.

A Long Time Ago

What happened in Bethlehem, Palestine over 2,000 years ago has impacted millions upon millions of souls. God, the Creator of the Universe, sent His Son to be born of a virgin in a humble place, a grotto or stable. You have heard the story – Joseph takes Mary from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census held by Caesar Augustus (ref. Luke 2:1).

It is impressive to learn about St. Joseph through John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer. In it he describes Joseph as a just and righteous man who was obedient to the law:

“Journeying to Bethlehem for the census in obedience to the orders of legitimate authority, Joseph fulfilled for the child the significant task of officially inserting the name ‘Jesus, Son of Joseph of Nazareth’ in the registry of the Roman Empire (Jn 1:45). This registration clearly shows that Jesus belongs to the human race as a man among men, a citizen of this world, but also as Savior of the World!” (#9)

Not Very Different From Today

Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary see the hustle and bustle of the town – people arriving from various areas for the census, donkeys and camels in the streets, marketplace busy, Joseph searched for a place at the inn, and perhaps several inns.

No room at the inn for them! So thanks to an innkeeper, they are told they can stay at a grotto where animals are kept. Here, in this simple, humble, and most likely quiet place, the Son of God is born.

“Joseph, together with Mary, is a privileged witness to the birth of the Son of God in the world on Christmas night in Bethlehem. Joseph was an eyewitness to this birth, which took place in conditions that humanly speaking, were embarrassing.” (#10)

The Journey Home

The first time I experienced visited Bethlehem, I was quite emotional because I was able to touch and pray at the place where my Savior was born! My husband and I have led numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land and our time in Bethlehem is very special. The birthplace of Jesus, our Savior, is still there! A church, the Basilica of the Nativity, is built over it to protect it. Thanks be to God for this – now, we can visit this sacred site, where the Son of God was born, where Hope was born!

Do Mary & Joseph have a place in your home?

Oh, but what if one cannot visit Bethlehem in the Holy Land? Bethlehem can be our parish church and our homes where we have a nativity scene set-up.

Parish churches can be called “little Bethlehems”. It is there where we unite with other Christians to worship God and see the Creche, or the Nativity.

Let us approach the Creche with new eyes, not as before, as we casually looked at it and thought it was nice. Let us look at the Nativity – whether it be plastic, clay, metal or whatever it is made of – and see what took place 2,000 years ago in a small town in ancient Palestine.

Have you prepared a place for Jesus?

Imagine the scene! Mary and the Child Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes… Would you be attracted to spend time with this family? The Shepherds did! The Magi did!

A Nativity scene, a Creche – as simple as it may be; this symbolic representation of Christ’s birth can help us meditate and contemplate God’s love for each of us, God’s mercy to give us a Redeemer born so poor and yet majestic, because He is the Savior!

When life throws challenges at us, whether it be elderly parents, sickness, problems with family or work; think about the Holy Family. They certainly faced their challenges!

Oh yes, let us humble ourselves before the infant Jesus. His gifts of peace, hope and joy last forever! The Christmas Season (Dec 25 – January 6) can be our time in “Bethlehem”, let us take advantage of this time to thank Him for His gifts and humbly present ourselves to Him.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope seeks to offer you opportunities to encounter Christ as a gift. We pray that you and your family find ways to encounter Christ wherever you are and have a blessed Christmas season.

Living Our Beliefs – and What Happens When We Don’t

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If you had a message of great importance that you wanted the whole world to know about, who would you choose to deliver it? In the Mass readings this Sunday, we saw that God’s ways are not our ways. God can choose whoever He wants to accomplish the things He wishes to accomplish, as we see in the first reading. Moses complained to God that the mission of guiding His Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So, God shares the spirit that He had given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God. The spirit of God is more important than the instrument He chooses.

Bernadette Soubirous in 1863

A more current example is Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. This thirteen-year-old girl, who lived in poverty with her family, was of poor health and had difficulty in school. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago, a bishop celebrating Mass near the Grotto said, “If you wanted to give a message to the whole world who would you choose; someone of great importance from a large city? Our Lord chose Bernadette from Lourdes. Through the ages God has chosen people of little significance to be His instruments. His ways our not our ways.” There are some who still reject the Blessed Mother as a messenger of God in spite of the miracles connected to her apparitions. They think that the works of God are confined to their own understanding. Sometimes we also can be like that.

We see something similar in Sunday’s Gospel. John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving out demons in Jesus’ name because that person was apparently not a follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises John and tells him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” What is important is why and how things are done. If they are done out of love of God and neighbor, we should be cautious about rendering judgment. It is not always obvious why people do certain things unless they are clearly good or clearly evil.

Our focus must be on why we do what we do. God has revealed His plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church: We know that through baptism we become children of God and receive the gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We know that we can encounter Christ in a deep and personal way through the Sacraments of the Church, the sources of the grace we need to live close to God in prayer and to discover His plan for us. We know that God wants us to be holy and has made it possible for us to be holy if we are faithful to what He has revealed to us, and this faithfulness will help us reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity.

We can be certain that this plan is true because it has been discovered and lived by saints through the ages who have been heroic witnesses of the love of God. There are consequences for us when we do not live this plan. Jesus said that if we live for our self, we will lose our life; and not only our life because we will give scandal to others. We must remove everything that is an obstacle to salvation.

There is no one on this earth more blessed than Catholics because God has given us every possible means to live a life close to Him. We have His Divine Word, the Scriptures; we have His Church to guide us and strengthen us with the Sacraments. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to intercede for us. We especially have the Holy Eucharist in which Jesus gives us himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity because he loves us that much. Why would the whole world not want to Catholic and have what we have? Could it be because we have scandalized the world by not living what we have received; by following the ways of the world instead of the Gospel? How can we expect others to believe what has been handed on to us by the Apostles and there successors if we are not witnesses of what we profess?

About thirty years ago, someone asked me why I was Catholic. I was glad to be Catholic and knew I would never want to be anything but a Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and to confession occasionally, but I realized at that time I never really gave much thought to the importance of my faith. Actually, I hadn’t learned anything about my faith since graduating from a Catholic high school. At that moment, I knew I wasn’t really sure of what I believed. As I pondered that for a few days I realized I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a ‘One-Hour-A-Week’ Catholic; my decisions were not influenced by my faith at all. Thank God for the wake up call. It was not long after that, that I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group with my wife. We began to pray together and study our faith, and a new joy came into our lives. I guess you could say that was the beginning of the rest of our life together and opened up new possibilities and now our important decisions are based on our relationship with God and we have great hope.

When we profess our creed together, let us reflect on the words we say, and ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with gratitude for being recipients of Almighty God’s great plan of salvation and the intimacy He offers us in His Church. Let us pray then for the grace to be witnesses of what we believe.

This blog was originally preached by Deacon Tom Fox as his homily for 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B) at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas.

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

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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 tradition for the Godmother to hold the baby while the priest pours water over the child’s head and says the words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Through Baptism, this child receives the grace of God, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit along with the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

After the Baptism, I held that small child in my arms and as looked at her, I asked our Heavenly Father to bless this daughter of His, to guide her through life and to give her the grace needed in the vocation He is calling her to live.

What Is Baptism?

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops defines this gift of the Sacrament of Baptism:

The origin and foundation of Christian Baptism is Jesus. Before starting his public ministry, Jesus submitted himself to the baptism given by John the Baptist. The waters did not purify him; he cleansed the waters. “He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake . . . to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water” (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Liturgy of the Hours, I, 634).

Jesus’ immersion in the water is a sign for all human beings of the need to die to themselves to do God’s will. Jesus did not need to be baptized because he was totally faithful to the will of his Father and free from sin. However, he wanted to show his solidarity with human beings in order to reconcile them to the Father.

By commanding his disciples to baptize all nations, he established the means by which people would die to sin—Original and actual—and begin to live a new life with God.

What are the Effects of Baptism?

The Bishops continue by showing us what Baptism does:

  • Baptism makes us “members of one another.”
  • Baptism leads us to imitate Christ’s example.
  • Baptism makes us disciples to the world.
  • Baptism calls us to live in the world, seeking the Kingdom in our daily lives.
  • In Baptism, we profess our commitment to the Church’s beliefs, values and vision.
  • Baptism invites us to a vocation of holiness and the practice of charity.
  • Baptism incorporates us into the life, death and resurrection of Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the world.
  • The baptized are to live as “lights in the darkness.”

Baptism is truly a gift from God! It is God’s “touch” on our souls! One that will remain with the baptized forever. In the Book of Isaiah, chapter 43, verse 1, we read: “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, …’Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!'”

So, if you are asked to be a Godparent, think about the wonderful role you will have in the life of the person being baptized, encouraging them with hope to be a faithful disciple of the One who called them by name.

Living Stones

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How many of us enjoy collecting things from special places we visit? Some collect souvenirs, postcards, photos, or rocks; reminders of experiences of a vacation, a retreat, or a pilgrimage.

Just a few days ago, Tom and I returned from leading a group of 39 pilgrims to the Holy Land. We saw many of the pilgrims picking up stones from the Sea of Galilee, olive leaves from the Garden of Gethsemani, and even water from the River Jordan. When visiting these holy sites, you want to grab something from these places that will help recall the site. One of our favorite places to collect stones is the Sea of Galilee; after all, these stones are from the waters in which our Lord and His Apostles spent much of their time. For the pilgrim, these stones are precious, perhaps moreso than any souvenir you can purchase in the Holy Land. Bringing these stones home with us are like bringing back a part of the Holy Land.

“Living Stones” – Palestinian Christians

What Are Living Stones?

The pilgrimages organized through our Ministry of Evangelization includes an important component to the experience of the Holy Land – encountering the “living stones” of the Holy Land. The “living stones” are the Christians of the Holy Land; they are Palestinian Arab Christians. Many of them are asked, “When did you convert from Islam?” They answer quite passionately by saying that they are the descendants of the early church. Yes—they were present at Pentecost (Acts 2:11) at the birth of the Church and have been present for 2,000 years. Some say humorously, “Our ancestors may have drank tea with the Apostles!”

They are called “living stones” because they keep the Church alive in the Holy Land. Many are parishioners at churches in Cana, in Nazareth, in Bethlehem and in Jerusalem! And many depend on tourism and pilgrimages for their income through hotel management, restaurants and shops. Their deep faith and hope, their warm hospitality, diverse gifts and command of languages make up who they are as the “living stones” of the Holy Land. The local Church leaders call them “bridge-builders” between Islam and Judaism, because they can be instrumental in creating dialogue and peace between these two cultures. They bring the message of peace, love, forgiveness and hope to a world filled with prejudices and misunderstandings.

Living Stones’ Message for You

Christians used to constitute 18% of the Holy Land’s population in 1948 and over 50% of Jerusalem’s population. Now, they are below 1.5%. Why such a low number? They are leaving due to the Israeli occupation and military check-points which prevent movement and lack of freedom in certain parts of the Holy Land such as the Palestinian Territories. When asked the question, “What would you like to tell American Christians?” They all answer, “Don’t forget us!” They ask for prayer and for future pilgrims to take time to visit with them.

Tom and I have many stones from the Holy Land, but the “living stones” make up an important part of our lives. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and many have become very dear friends. To learn more about the Church in the Holy Land; go to: http://www.pilgrimcenterofhope.org/HolyLand.php.

Do not be afraid to preserve your Christian presence and heritage in the very land where the Savior was born! (John Paul II in his homily, Bethlehem, March 2000 during his Jubilee pilgrimage to the Holy Land)

When I First Kissed the Empty Tomb

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Three Marys at the Tomb, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

We are in the middle of the Easter Season – the Catholic Church’s 50-day liturgical season. It’s a time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and it’s my favorite season in the Church’s calendar year. The scripture readings proclaimed every day during Mass are about Jesus’ Resurrection, His apparitions before His ascension to Heaven, His Promises and the beginning of the early Church. It also reminds me of the Holy Land.

When Tom and I first traveled to Jerusalem several years ago, we were searching to learn more about the land of the Bible, about the land where Jesus walked. While in Jerusalem, we were able to attend Mass in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher that is built over the Tomb of Christ, Calvary and the surrounding area. After Mass, we had the opportunity to enter a large marble edifice built over the ancient tomb of Jesus. Upon entering, there is a small chamber called the Chamber of the Angel, where the Angel stood and addressed Mary Magdalene and the others, “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:6). Then you must bow very low to enter a smaller area where five persons can fit in tightly. To your right, you see the place where the body of Jesus was placed, wrapped in linen cloth.

Edifice surrounding the Tomb of Christ

Here is where Jesus was raised from the dead, where the Resurrection occurred! You can imagine the feelings we felt as we touched this place, and recalled the Gospel stories in our minds. We knelt and kissed where His body laid, we placed our arms on this stone slab and thanked God for this moment! We thanked God for allowing us to kiss His empty tomb. I remember thinking, “Lord, you know we are here!” It was as if time stood still for us both, recalling what occurred there 2,000 years ago! And what indeed occurred there affected us and millions of others.

Even after visiting the Holy Land numerous times, leading pilgrims on pilgrimages; our time spent in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher is always a highlight, as it would be for any Christian! Our pilgrim groups have Mass in the Tomb, we read the Resurrection story from the Gospels, we pray, and we receive Eucharist in the Tomb. After leaving the Tomb, we are filled with great joy, with peace. Does it remain with us? Yes! If we continue to follow Him in our daily lives.

When I am distraught, or experiencing a trial; I remember my time in the empty Tomb! Today, April 23rd, I will have major hip surgery. Before going under anesthesia, I will certainly call upon the Risen Lord and recall my time in His empty tomb and other sites in the Holy Land where He lived.

Whenever you need to be reminded of His presence under dire circumstances, think about your favorite scripture story, or a spiritual experience that reminds you of His presence.

Feeling Overwhelmed? – An Expectant Mom’s Reflection

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The Holy Family with St. Ann, by Luca Cambiaso (16th century)

Yesterday, my husband and I spent the day in the baby’s room. You see, we are expecting our first child; I’m 7 months pregnant. We were putting away gifts that were given to the baby at a baby shower I just had on Saturday.

It finally dawned on us after looking over the baby’s room that it was no longer going to be just the two of us – but that another person was going to be a part of our life now. This little baby was going to rely on us to take care of her, feed her and love her. I started to think about the huge responsibility that was going to entail.

I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by it all when I began to think about the Holy Family. What was it like for Mary when she was preparing for Jesus? Did she feel like me? How was Joseph feeling about becoming a father soon? Did they have everything they needed to care for Jesus? I know that they were both people of great faith. I have faith too, but mine doesn’t compare to the faith they had. Even though I pray, I still think of how I will be as a mom. How we will be as parents to this precious baby girl?

I’ve been asking Mary to help me throughout this pregnancy to be that loving mother to my daughter as she was to Jesus. I’ve been praying to Joseph, too, and asking him to help my husband be the father he is supposed to be for our daughter. Even though Joseph and Mary don’t speak to me personally and tell me how they felt or tell me that all will be OK, I do know that they put people in mine and my husband’s lives that will help us. In fact, those people are already helping us by providing us with not only items that will help us care for the baby but also with their love and support.

I truly feel blessed that we are surrounded by the love of family and friends – on earth and in heaven.