Category Archives: discipleship

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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Renew Your Approach to Lent

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These forty days are a time for all of us to take God seriously and to make a new beginning with the God whom we often take for granted. There are three focal points to help us during this Lenten season; prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Let’s take a fresh look at each of them. Consider how you are living these:

Prayer

No prayer, means no faith. One measurement of our faith is the amount of time we spend in prayer. We should, “pray without ceasing,” as Saint Paul said (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

  • We should begin our day in prayer and pray throughout the day; prayer is our connection to God and we need His help in all we do.
  • We should pray in private, but we also should pray with the people we love.
  • It is critical that husbands and wives should pray together, because in Holy Matrimony, two became one in Christ. It is Christ who will help your marriage and your family to overcome every challenge.
  • Of course, we should pray together with our faith community. The highest form of prayer is the Mass, because it makes present to us the Paschal mystery and gives us the opportunity to receive the real presence of Jesus Christ. If daily Mass is not part of your routine, Lent is a good time to make the effort; you will be glad you did.

Almsgiving

This does not mean dropping a dollar in the collection basket. Almsgiving is having a generous heart because you realize the source of your blessings. We trust that, as we are generous, God will continue to be generous with us.

Almsgiving helps us overcome our temptation to be selfish, as we become more aware of the needs of others. Almsgiving helps us to learn the great lesson of divine providence and develop a profound trust in God.

Fasting

Fasting is denying ourselves of something. The purpose is to take charge of our senses; to gain control of our passions. Without self control, we will never reach spiritual maturity. Jesus said that if we are to be his disciples, we must deny ourselves, and that is exactly what fasting is about.

  • When we think of fasting we usually think of food, but it could take other forms. We could fast from television, from excessive computer time, from things we enjoy but do not need.
  • We could fast from being impatient with the people we love, and with others as well.
  • We could even drive the speed limit as a form of conquering our impatience!

Why We Need Lent

The Church has given us this season of Lent because she knows we need it. Jesus knows we need it. We all need a new beginning with God.

If we take God seriously during these forty days and, from our heart, we “repent and believe in the Gospel,” these could be the best days of our lives because we will certainly draw closer to God-and there is nothing more important than being connected to God, who is the source of our happiness and our eternity.

The ashes that are placed on our forehead today are a reminder of our mortality, and at the same time, they are our testimony that we take our faith seriously and want to be a witness of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Lord, give us the grace to be your faithful disciples.

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.

God’s Surprising Plan for You

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Jesus speaks with an authority that is unlike any other; an authority that astonishes. It is not only what he says, but also what he does: he has power over unclean spirits and power to perform miracles, and “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:28)

If this were the only Gospel message we heard, we would think that all went well with the public ministry of Jesus. However, because we are familiar with the entire Gospel, we know his ministry did not always go well. Even though he spoke with authority and the people were amazed at his power, he was not accepted by most of the people—because his message challenged everyone to change, no matter who they were.

God has a great plan for humanity, but it requires all of us to change—to be transformed. He is the one who creates the change in us with his grace, but he needs our cooperation. Because of the gift of faith we all have received through baptism, Our Lord expects us to develop a trusting relationship with him that will take us beyond our understanding and outside our comfort zone.

The Word of God in the Scriptures is still alive and still speaks to us with great authority. We should be astonished at the Good News that the Lord has for those who believe in him:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Astonishing! Jesus says that those who believe in him will do greater works than he, the Son of God! This is because through baptism, we have become members of the Body of Christ and have received the theological gifts of faith, hope, and charity, as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We are invited to participate in the very life of God and to help the kingdom of God to unfold around us. As a matter-of-fact, we are commanded, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

No matter who we are or what we do, our we are called to:

  • be intimately connected to God through our commitment to daily prayer
  • live the sacramental life
  • read the Word of God
  • continue to be formed in the faith

Only in this way, will we discover the special plan that God has for each one of us, as well as the gifts he has given us for the sake of his Body—the Church. We will only reach our potential for personal happiness when we are good stewards of the time, talents, and treasure we have received through the generosity of the Lord.

God has a great plan for those who believe in him. Do you believe this?

Dear Jesus, I find it hard to believe that you call me to do such amazing things. But I know that you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I believe in your words. Help my unbelief. Send your Holy Spirit to uphold me amidst my daily struggles. Guide me to seek you today. I want to choose your plan for my life today.

WE INVITE YOU to DISCOVER GOD’S PLAN at…

Catholic Seniors’ Conference – FEB. 24 – Seniors of all ages & family, friends, caretakers: Archbishop Gustavo invites you to this day of prayer, learning, fellowship, and laughter. Come join us and learn about God’s calling for senior citizens; discover a message of joy and hope!

Catholic Men’s Conference – MAR. 16-17 – Men of all ages: Every man is welcome to join over a thousand other men seeking God. Find answers and peace. This is a weekend for you; step away from the busyness and stress of your daily routine. Excellent speakers, food, music, vendors, and more. Come encounter true strength in Jesus.

Jesus, Are You Sure You Want to Send ME?

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Do you feel like you don’t know enough, or aren’t holy enough, to share your faith with others?

Jesus thinks otherwise! He told his confused and doubting disciples—who would abandon him when times got tough, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” (John 15:16)

Yes, it is always good to learn about our faith, but the problem with that ‘excuse’ is that there will always be more to learn! The time to be Jesus’ witness is now!
Now! For the coworker who needs to see someone smile…
Now! For the grocery store cashier who longs to be acknowledged with joy…
Now! For the neighbor who is lonely…
Now! For the family member who is struggling…

“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus…we are always ‘missionary disciples’.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel)

Yes, we will stumble and fall, but God does not leave us in the dust! Jesus said, “I came, not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Luke 5:32) Our personal weakness and sin is why Jesus gave his apostles the authority to forgive sins (cf. John 20:22-24), and that authority has been passed down through their successors as what we call a Sacrament of Healing: the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Jesus calls you to encounter others on his behalf!

Don’t worry; you are not alone on this mission… Jesus sent out the first disciples in pairs and groups. The Holy Spirit descended on the early Church as a spiritual family, gathered in the Upper Room. We are the Church, together. If you are not already active at your local parish, step out in faith! If you need more encouragement, come and join us at one of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s events. As Pope Francis has said, “We are all pilgrims journeying alongside one another.”

Dear Jesus, sometimes I feel like I’m not ready to be your witness. Please stir in me your Holy Spirit. I believe in your promises. I trust in your wisdom. As I go throughout my day today, help me to share you as I encounter others. Amen.

UPCOMING INVITATIONS

Catholic Seniors’ Conference – FEB. 24 – Seniors of all ages & family, friends, caretakers: Archbishop Gustavo invites you to this day of prayer, learning, fellowship, and laughter. Come join us and learn about God’s calling for senior citizens; discover a message of joy and hope!

Catholic Men’s Conference – MAR. 16-17 – Men of all ages: Every man is welcome to join over a thousand other men seeking God. Find answers and peace. This is a weekend for you; step away from the busyness and stress of your daily routine. Excellent speakers, food, music, vendors, and more. Come encounter true strength in Jesus.

Encountering Mary, A Christian’s Spiritual Mother

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Why would John’s Gospel place the following quote of Our Lord Jesus at the height of his Passion and Death; his final act from the Cross before handing over the Spirit?

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)

Is this simply the act of a loving son, ensuring his mother’s well-being before his death?

Perhaps not. When we look at the actions of Mary in Scripture, we realize how significant a role she has in the life of her Son & his disciples:

  • She is the first person in the New Covenant demonstrating a willingness to cooperate with God’s will (cf. Luke 1)
  • She is the first person in the New Covenant who is filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1)
  • Her first physical act in the Gospel is to serve someone in need (cf. 1:39)
  • She kept and reflected on God’s action in her family’s life. (cf. Luke 2:51)
  • Noticing a need in their community, she prompted Jesus to perform his first public miracle, with cooperation from the servants at her instruction to “do whatever he tells you.” (cf. John 2)
  • She is present during Jesus’ public preaching ministry. (cf. Matthew 12:46, Mark 3:31, Luke 8:19)
  • She is one of the few people still present, at his Cross. (cf. John 19:25)
  • She has a noted presence with the first Christian community at Jerusalem, awaiting the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Acts 1:14)

Mary was a “young virgin” from Nazareth; a small town. In other words, she was a “nobody from nowhere.” Yet, when we look at her with the eyes of the heart, we see Mary’s cooperation with the Father’s will, her relationship with Jesus, and her prayer life in the Holy Spirit, and her simple love for others. In other words, we see her as the primary, model Christian.

For this reason, it is a mistake for us to approach Mary from either extreme: dismissive or intimidated. When we encounter Mary of Nazareth with the eyes of our heart, Christians can discover a spiritual mother who gently points us toward her Son.

On January 1, Pope Francis said:

At the beginning of the year, we, as Christians on our pilgrim way, feel the need to set out anew from the center, to leave behind the burdens of the past and to start over from the things that really matter. Today, we have before us the point of departure: the Mother of God. For Mary is what God wants us to be, what he wants his Church to be: a Mother who is tender and lowly, poor in material goods and rich in love, free of sin and united to Jesus, keeping God in our hearts and our neighbor in our lives. […]

Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life. Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman. While a man often abstracts, affirms and imposes ideas, a woman, a mother, knows how to “keep,” to put things together in her heart, to give life. If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us.

Dear Jesus, I believe in eternal life through your love, starting with my life right here and now. This year, I want to follow you even better than before. Please help me to encounter your mother as my spiritual mother. Mary, as you praise God from heaven, pray that I would see God’s love for me, today, and every day.

Invitations: Encounter Mary

Tune in as we “Meet Mary” online, on TV, and via radio next week.

Learn more about the Scriptural Praise of Mary during an Evening with Mary at Saint Monica Church in Converse, Texas, Thursday, January 18 at 7pm. This simple, mini-conference is a time to learn, grow in your prayer life, ask questions, and encounter Jesus through the heart of our spiritual mother.

When Someone Asks, “Do You Know Jesus?”

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Have you ever been asked about your relationship with Jesus?

This question changed our lives. Long before life as an ordained deacon, Tom Fox (our Co-Founder/Co-Director) had a career in hotel management. Once, during their daily lunch together, Tom’s coworker asked him, “Is Jesus the Lord of your life?”

That question gave Tom cause to ponder. He went to church every Sunday, and occasionally went to Confession. But, was faith the primary influence in his life? Honestly, no; it wasn’t.

What about you? The real question is not, “Do you know about Jesus?” but rather, “What does your life tell me about who Jesus is?” Jesus himself, while living on earth, said that merely knowing about him or speaking about him would be useless for salvation, if we do not also witness to him by living our lives as he taught us: Our Father in Heaven…thy will be done.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

One of our good friends in Heaven, Saint Henry de Osso, believes strongly in the need for an ongoing, personal encounter with Jesus. While living in Spain, he started groups for people of all ages toward this goal, including The Friends of Jesus Club for children. Their purpose? To love Jesus, to talk to him daily, and do what he asks.

Ultimately, our Christian faith really is that simple. The question is: Do we allow Jesus to transform us to be that simple witness, each day?

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel)

Jesus, I want to know you more. Help me to grow closer to you. I want to love you more. Send your Holy Spirit to prompt me daily, to speak with you from my heart. I open my life to you. Help me each day to seek & act on Our Heavenly Father’s will.

Come Encounter Jesus at Pilgrim Center of Hope!
Join us Thursday, January 11, 2018 for a Day / Evening of Hope: prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, spiritual presentations, Q&A, and veneration of St. Henry de Osso’s relic. (Learn More On Our Website.)

 

Let God Love You!

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For Pilgrim Center of Hope’s first Day of Hope with Father Pat Martin, thirteen men and women participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Gethsemane Chapel, enjoyed coffee, sweets, and fellowship; and grew in faith through a morning reflection offered by Father Patrick Martin, the new chaplain of Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Below, we share some of Father’s reflection. Our next Day of Hope with Father Pat Martin will be held at Pilgrim Center of Hope on Thursday, January 11, 2018.

Day of Hope Reflection

Father began the morning reflection with a question, “What was special about the Apostles?” Several gave their responses highlighting the Apostles’ faith, their trust in Jesus, and their hope that Jesus is the Messiah.

Father remained quiet, drawing us all deeper into his reflection. When one of the group said, “The Apostles loved Jesus,” Father responded, “Yes, Love! But, not that the Apostles loved Jesus, but that Jesus loved them. They were His Apostles, because they let Jesus love them as they were.”

Father Pat has been blind since childhood due to meningitis. He shared a personal story of a faith healer who once put his hands over Father’s eyes bellowing, “God wants to heal your blindness!” Father said, “I removed his hands from my face and bellowed back, ‘Then God is a failure!’” The faith healer responded, “Blasphemy!” to which Father said, “You blaspheme, because you are speaking as if you know what God wants.”

Father said, “If God came to cure blindness, then He is a failure, but He did not come to cure blindness nor to end suffering. God came to love us right where we are. The Message of Christianity is this: Jesus loves you. The Apostles were special because they let Jesus love them even in their sinfulness.”

To emphasize this, Father compared the sins of Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. He said that in ranking their sins at the Passion, Peter’s was worse, because he denied knowing Jesus—and even cursed as he did so, whereas Judas did not deny Him, but sinned out of greed.

At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately a cock crowed. (Matthew 26:74)

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, ‘What is that to us? Look to it yourself.’ Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

Father asked, “Why was Peter able to seek our Lord’s forgiveness? It was that looking at Jesus and His Eyes of Love that drew him out of his sin into God’s forgiveness. He let Jesus love him as he was in that moment.”

[…and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” (Luke 22:51)

“Imagine,” Father said, “If Judas sought Jesus out, instead of the Pharisees?”

Father ended this part of the reflection by saying that God knows we are miserable failures. “We are the ones who keep denying it and trying to earn our worth,” Father said, “God asks only that we let Him love us.”

Father told a story about a time on pilgrimage in the Holy Land with Pilgrim Center of Hope when he was meditating on St. Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Christ. He said, “I asked our Lord, ‘Did she regret all her sins and the lost years?’ Jesus replied, ‘No, she was too busy looking at my Love’.” Father said, “Mary Magdalene saw Jesus’ love for her, and could not get enough of it.”

“How,” Father asked, “Can we be an Apostle? How can we be a Saint? The way is to let Jesus love you.” Father asked another question, “Why do I not love like Jesus?” He then answered, “Because I am deaf and blind to His love for me.”

Father explained a dark moment in his life when he felt like a complete failure. He said in contemplation he was given a prayer to offer, “Mary, help me see God’s love for me today.” He has been praying that prayer every day since, and says, “The more I pray it, the more I see how blind I am to His love, and the deeper I discover His Love for me.”

Father urged us to offer that prayer often. He explained how God’s love is infinite, and we are each loved in a way yesterday that is new today, and will be new again not only tomorrow, but the next minute. He encouraged everyone to pray this prayer saying, “Just watch how God shows you His Love for you anew . . . brand new!”

A question was asked, “How do we help our loved ones find Jesus?”

Father cautioned that we are not to preach, but rather pray for them, suggesting turning the prayer he just shared towards others: “Mary, help (name of loved one) see God’s love for him/her today.”

He also encouraged us to share our personal love story with Jesus. He said, “No one can refute what you personally experienced, and it is this experience that our Lord will use to draw your loved ones to Him.”

Father ended the Day of Hope by sharing the song our Lord gave him when Father asked to see Jesus. The song, “He Loves Me,” has been copyrighted by Father, and is available for all at no charge. Contact Pilgrim Center of Hope to obtain a copy.

He Loves Me

 

He loves me! He loves me!
He loves me as I am,
Oh yes, He loves me!
Yes, He loved me yesterday,
And yes, He’ll love me still tomorrow,
For He loves me just today, the way I am!

He loves me! He loves me!
And all He asks is that I let Him love me!
Let Him love me as He chooses,
With no thoughts for wins or loses,
Let Him love me as I am is all He asks!

He knows me! He knows me!
Better than I know myself,
Oh yes, He knows me!
Who I was the other day,
And who I will become tomorrow,
But He loves me just the same the way I am!

He calls me! He calls me!
He calls me as I am to spread His love!
Knowing well who I have been,
Who I will be, who I am,
Yet He calls me just the same to spread His love!

He frees me! He frees me!
He frees me to say YES whenever He calls me!
Showing me His own compassion, love and care and understanding,
He frees me to say my YES when He calls me!

He loves me! He loves me!
He loves me as I am
Oh yes, He loves me!
Finding me wherever I am,
He gently guides me by the hand,
For He loves me as I am, oh, He loves me!
For He loves me as I am, oh, He loves me!

Prepare for Christmas, Spiritually!

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This weekend, we heard this call: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” What does it mean to be prepared?

Many years ago when Deacon Tom and Mary Jane were going door to door, they met a woman who was in her last stage of cancer and in much pain; death was imminent. Even so, she thanked God for the cancer, because it brought her back to God and the Church. She said it helped to save her soul. Cancer was her wake-up call, to prepare herself for Christ.

If you asked people if they believed they were going to heaven, almost everyone would say yes. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) Jesus says only those who do the will of His Father will enter heaven.

Step 1: How do I know what God’s will is? 

We begin with the Scriptures. Jesus says, “Blest are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” To keep it is to hold it in our hearts, to believe it, and to live it. In a letter from the Bishops of the U.S. they tell us, “…if you have not undergone conversion, you have not accepted the Word of God.

Step 2: How do I undergo a conversion? 

To be prepared is to be changed. Jesus gave his authority to the Church, so that we could have guidance and transforming grace through Her. Through the Church, Jesus gives us the Holy Mass, which is the greatest of all prayers, and he gives us the sacraments as the source of grace we need to discover and do the Father’s will.

We also have the Scriptures, the Word of God, to guide us. Saint Jerome once said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” If we don’t know Christ, we aren’t prepared!

We have the lives of the saints as models of what faithful discipleship should look like. Ignorance of the saints is ignorance of the Church and of the powerful presence of God that it has been through the ages. Let us get to know the saints!

Step 3: What commitments am I willing to make to God?

A commitment to daily prayer is a necessary aspect of our relationship with God. No prayer means no faith. St. Paul says we should pray always; we should begin everything we do with prayer.

Being prepared is not something that will just naturally happen; it’s a choice we must make, and it will take a great deal of effort on our part. We are encouraged knowing that God has not asked something of us that is unreasonable.

Ask: Do I love God more than anything else, and do I love my neighbor as I also love myself? If not, you are not prepared!  Do I have any hatred, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.? If so, you are not prepared!

During the Advent season, we pray for the second coming of Christ with the emphasis on being prepared. The reality is, the same Jesus Christ who will come in glory at the end of time is coming to us in this Mass. Are we prepared to receive him? We will not be receiving just a piece of bread, but the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ! We prepare ourselves by being free of all serious sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and by preparing ourselves spiritually and mentally in our personal prayer before Mass, and actively participating in the Mass. We prepare by choosing to love our neighbor and choosing to love who God made us to be!

How is Advent relevant to actual, daily life?

The purpose is not only to be prepared when Christ comes for us. Advent preparation will help us to experience our greatest happiness now. Being prepared not only has a transforming effect upon us, but on all our family, our relationships, our community, and so on. When we are prepared, we will help others to be prepared. Then we can all say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

3 Steps to A More Thankful Attitude

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Pope Francis has said,

If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! … Saying ‘thank you’ is such an easy thing, and yet so hard!

When people pray, their prayer is mostly one of petition and intercession; the prayer of thanksgiving is often left unsaid.

Yet, research has indicated that when people take time to be thankful or grateful, it can make them happier, healthier and aware of counting their blessings each day. Here are three steps we recommend to becoming more thankful.

  1. Say Those Little Words – Pope Francis adds: “If families can say these three things, they will be fine: ‘Sorry,’ ‘Excuse me,’ ‘Thank you.’ How often do we say ‘thank you’ in our families? How often do we say ‘thank you’ to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted!” Make a habit of saying these phrases daily, especially to those closest to you!
  2. Make a List of These 25 Things – Consider writing a list of 25 blessings for which you are thankful. In doing so, you will begin to realize how many blessings, gifts and good things you have received or experienced. There is joy in re-discovering this fact!
    • 5 Living People for Whom You Are Grateful
    • 5 Physical Abilities for Which You Are Grateful
    • 5 Places You Are Happy to Have Visited
    • 5 Things about This Year for Which You Are Grateful
    • 5 Things about the Catholic Church for Which You Are Grateful
  3. Remember that “God Was There” – At the same time, let’s not forget to list the ‘not so good moments.’ They remind us that God was, and is, with us in those moments, as well. How do we benefit from this exercise? Archbishop Fulton Sheen has the answer: “No man can be happy on the outside who is already unhappy on the inside.” For each major ‘not so good moment’ from this year, reflect on how God was present.

Let’s take advantage of the remainder of this month, approaching time with family and friends in deeper gratitude.