Category Archives: evangelization

Fortitude, A Virtue We Need Now

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“…these difficult times…”

You’ve probably heard this phrase spoken often by friends, family members, acquaintances, fellow parishioners, celebrities, leaders, political figures, and even strangers. Yes; we’re keenly aware in these present times that challenges face us on all fronts: globally, nationally, in our Church, in our cities, our parishes, our families, and our own personal lives.

Like many of you, I pray about this—often! But I’ve considered that there must be something more that God wants to offer me; another tool to face the strife. I just couldn’t put my finger on it…

…and in his perfect timing, God reminded me about something: fortitude.

Defining Fortitude

I think we’ve all heard the word “fortitude” before, and some of us know it’s a virtue… but how many of us can define it? Often, we simplify it to mean courage, bravery, or the more traditional long-suffering, but it means much more:

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1808)

So, fortitude is the moral virtue that…

  • Strengthens our resolve (determination)
  • Strengthens us to resist temptation
  • Strengthens us to overcome obstacles in our quest to follow Jesus
  • Enables us to conquer fear, even fear of death
  • Enables us to face our trials, bullying, and persecutions
  • Disposes us to renounce and sacrifice our life in defense of a just cause (if we should be called to do so)

To me, then, fortitude is like having the best Spiritual Trainer, Motivator, Coach, Military Leader, and Loved One, all rolled up into one, living within and transforming you.

Are you saying to yourself, as I am, “Wow, I definitely want this!”?

How We Gain Fortitude

While we can train our bodies and minds to have increased strength and endurance, the moral virtue of fortitude is beyond our natural abilities. It is a supernatural grace; a gift.

Isaiah the Prophet tells us that God’s Spirit will rest on the Lord’s Servant, and then proceeds to list the gifts of the Spirit. Included in these is “strength” or fortitudo in Latin (cf. 11:2-3).

So, we gain fortitude through prayer to the Holy Spirit. Let’s (1) ask for the gift, (2) thank God for hearing us, and (3) prepare ourselves to be receptive.

Asking

The stories of Jesus’ healings and mighty deeds always begin with someone’s request of him, or approaching & reaching out to him.

Why do you want to receive the gift of fortitude? What challenges or trials are becoming obstacles in your life? Tell the Lord in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit for fortitude.

Thanking

Giving God thanks for a gift, even when we don’t immediately see the results we expect, is important; it helps us to have an “expectant faith.” In the New Testament, mighty deeds done by Jesus—or by others in his name—are accomplished in persons who trust that God is present and active in their lives. We thank God because we are grateful; we trust that God is generous with spiritual gifts and listens to us with compassion (cf. Luke 11:13).

Preparing

Let’s “till the soil” of our hearts, preparing ourselves to be receptive to God’s gifts. Pope Pius XII suggested one way to do this: each time you receive Holy Communion, remind yourself of God’s closeness and mighty love.

In the sad and anxious times through which we are passing there are many who cling so firmly to Christ the Lord hidden beneath the Eucharistic veils that neither tribulation, nor distress, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor danger, nor persecution, nor the sword can separate them from His love, surely no doubt can remain that Holy Communion which once again in God’s providence is much more frequented even from early childhood, may become a source of that fortitude which not infrequently makes Christians into heroes. (On the Mystical Body of Christ, no. 84)

In his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis also calls us to be “firmly rooted in prayer” as we call on the Holy Spirit for courage to live our faith (cf. no. 259). Let’s examine our typical day, and consider how we can speak more regularly with God—who should remain our Rock at all times (cf. Luke 6:48).

Finally, Pope Francis reminds us that each of our lives is unique, and thus, each of us will require fortitude in a unique way. We can look to the saints for guidance; not to follow exactly their personal spiritual & moral activities, but to inspire us to live our faith as our daily activities call us to live. He writes:

Some people nowadays console themselves by saying that things are not as easy as they used to be, yet we know that the Roman empire was not conducive to the Gospel message, the struggle for justice, or the defense of human dignity. Every period of history is marked by the presence of human weakness, self-absorption, complacency and selfishness, to say nothing of the concupiscence which preys upon us all. These things are ever present under one guise or another; they are due to our human limits rather than particular situations. Let us not say, then, that things are harder today; they are simply different. But let us learn also from the saints who have gone before us, who confronted the difficulties of their own day. (no. 263)

Are you ready? Together, let’s seek the virtue of fortitude. Let’s go forth on our daily pilgrim journey, pursuing God no matter what causes us to stumble, fall, or throw us off the Way. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of fortitude!

For more spiritual tools, we invite you to watch Living Catholicism, Pilgrim Center of Hope’s weekly broadcast & video series about walking your unique pilgrim journey each day. Let us journey with you!

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Finding Hope in Darkness

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

Defining Hope

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

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

Words of Hope

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

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

How does hope bring us out of darkness?

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

Let us read the words of St. Paul:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Simple) Ways to Grow Our Prayer Life

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With some of the most wonderful liturgical feasts serving as bookends, October is an excellent month for us to discover ways that Mother Church helps us grow in our prayer life.

We ushered in the month celebrating the archangels on the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael on September 29, followed quickly on October 2 with the Memorial of the Guardian Angels.
How can angels help us grow in prayer?

…With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 329)

Angels work as messengers and servants of God, yet never cease beholding his Face and praising him in Heaven. This is a profound mystery, teaching us that work and prayer do not need to be separated. Every morning, we can say, “Father, I give you my work and all I do today. Through the intercession of the angels, I ask that I praise you through it all.”

At the other end of October, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1.
How can the saints teach us how to pray?

The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were “put in charge of many things.” Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world. (no. 2683)

In our over 10,000 canonized saints, we have many brothers and sisters who have fought the good fight and are ready and willing to help us with whatever we are experiencing. They teach us how to turn our sufferings into prayer and how to intercede through our sacrifices and prayer for our good and the good of others.

With both the angels and the saints, Mother Church encourages us to ask for their help.

Between these two bookends, we benefit from October 7’s Feast of the Holy Rosary, and in fact the entire month of October commemorates this ‘perfect prayer’.
Why is the Rosary called the ‘perfect prayer’?

  • It encompasses our whole being, mind, soul and body, to pray it.
  • It takes the pray-er through the Gospel in its meditation.
    • In the Hail Mary prayer, the angels and saints are invoked as we repeat the words of Archangel St. Gabriel, “Hail Mary full of grace,” and that of saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist with her words, “The Lord is with you,” while her unborn son jumps in her womb with the Holy Spirit.
    • In the Our Father prayer, we offer the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.
  • In the praying of the Rosary, we ask the Virgin Mary to intercede on our behalf who is the Mother of God, the Queen of the Angels & the Saints, and our Mother whom the Catechism calls the, “…the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men” (no. 2679).

How Can We Remember to Pray?

Until prayer becomes a daily habit, reminders can be placed on our phones at regular times throughout the day to stop amidst our busy schedules and:
1. Offer a vocal or mental prayer of praise and intercession.
2. Willfully offer our work and chores for the good of the Church.
3. Lift up an inconvenience, annoyance, or suffering to God as a prayer for the conversion of ourselves and others (a common Catholic practice often called “offering sacrifices for the conversion of sinners”)

There is even an Angelus app you can download that reminds us to pray with the universal Church at 6am, 12noon and 6pm through a less-than-a-minute prayer which commemorates the Incarnation of Jesus.

Want to know more about how the saints, angels and our Virgin Mary can help us grow in prayer? Pilgrim Center of Hope offers monthly Socials with the Saints and regular Evenings with Mary at areas parishes. We invite you to join us for one!

Let Nothing Disturb You

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Distractions are everywhere, from our “always on” culture bombarding us with information, to the political-divide in our country, to the pursuit of monetary gain and social status. And then there is contending with injustice, racism, and discrimination, not to mention keeping up with our family and work commitments.

It is harder than ever to stay focused on God. Whenever I find myself feeling overwhelmed or exhausted by distractions or challenges, I immediately turn to two of our “go to” quotes here at Pilgrim Center of Hope:

Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer – Romans 12: 12

Do not be afraid… Put out into the deep and let down your nets – Pope St. John Paul II

Both of these quotes have to do with having total trust in God, no matter what the circumstances are, no matter how bad things might get. Throughout the Bible, there are actually 365 mentions, one for every day, of the message “do not be afraid.”

This past Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that:

For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God – Mark 10: 27

Interestingly enough, this week we celebrate the feast of St. Teresa of Avila (October 15). St. Teresa lived a pressured life, marked by poor health, opposition, and an endless workload. Yet, she reformed the Discalced Carmelite Order and wrote some of the most powerful guides for spiritual development, like The Interior Castle and The Way to Perfection. When it comes to remaining focused on God in the midst of a storm, her “God Alone Prayer” says it all:

Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing. God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things. If you have God
you will want for nothing. God alone suffices.

When I was a young adult, before I came to know the “God Alone Prayer,” I let the smallest things disrupt my relationship with God and my spiritual life. Years later, whenever I am under pressure and short on time, I depend on God and prayer to see me through, because I have every confidence that God will show me the way.

Also from this past Sunday’s readings:

I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me – Wisdom 7:7

Aside from turning to this Pilgrim Log for your weekly inspiration, I encourage you to watch our weekly television program Living Catholicism, which airs on Tuesdays, from 11–11:30am on CTSA, Spectrum channel 15.

Each week’s program includes a Message of Hope, an inspirational quote from Scripture, a pope, or a saint, that will help you to stay focused on God, so as to live in hope, as a pilgrim in daily life.

TeresaOfAvilaEvery day, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:30am–5:30pm, you are welcome to come and visit our Gethsemane Chapel for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Just outside our chapel, you will be greeted by an antique painting of St. Teresa of Avila holding a scroll with the “God Alone Prayer” in Spanish.

In closing, I want to direct you to the powerful talk presented by Fr. Bruce Nieli at our recent 25th Anniversary Prayer Brunch. Fr. Bruce, Pope Francis’ Missionary of Mercy, will re-awaken you to the hope that God gives!

Conversation with God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-Focusing Our Lives

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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 our readings at Mass this Sunday, it is clear that God’s ways are not our ways.

How God Confounds Our Logic

God can choose whoever he wants to accomplish the things he wishes to accomplish, as we see in the first reading, when Moses complains 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 has 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.

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 with her studies in school. Yet, she was entrusted with a message from Heaven. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago, a bishop was celebrating Mass near the Grotto, and during his homily he 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, a simple girl from a tiny village.” 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 – thinking 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 the exorcist was not an apparent follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises him, 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.

How to Re-Focus

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 in the sacraments of the Church, which are the source of the grace that we need to live a life 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 we know that 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 be Catholic and have what we have?

About 30 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 that 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 that I wasn’t really sure of what I believed. As I pondered that for a few days, I realized that I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a “one-hour-a-week Catholic,” and 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, Mary Jane. 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. Now, our important decisions are influenced by our relationship with God, and we have great hope.

I challenge you now to pray the Creed, and while doing so, reflect on the words we say. 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.

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

Remembering God’s Love for You

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Have you ever wondered whether maintaining an attitude of hope is really worth the effort? “What if, in the end, my hope for salvation was just a thought in my brain? What if the end of my life is just six feet under, end of story?”

Yes, all these thoughts are natural. However, being a Christian means living a super-natural life. If I have a relationship with Jesus Christ; believing, trusting, and following him who said, “(God) the Father and I are one” (John 10:30), then we are making a choice to live beyond what is natural or empirically evident.

Scripture tells us:

…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

This is like Saint Paul’s explanation of God’s love, the Holy Spirit, as our down payment on salvation. In other words, salvation – our total and perfect healing from all hurts, wounds, pains, shortcomings, and sins; our total union with God, is reason why each of us maintain the virtue of hope. Although we cannot empirically prove that salvation will come, God has provided us with a foretaste: the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts. We believe that the Holy Spirit is God, who is love.

When you and I struggle with doubt, temptation, or other trials, it is more important than ever to remember God’s love for us.

Reflect on these questions:
When was a time when I experienced authentic love?
When did I feel very close to God?

Look at a crucifix, and thank God for those moments. You are not alone in your difficulties. Jesus also experienced deep sorrow, agony, and the pain of abandonment on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) That, however, was not the end of the story. Before dying on the Cross, he was united completely with God the Father: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

I invite you to dive deeply into God’s love for you this week. As a special opportunity, this Thursday, Pilgrim Center of Hope is offering a Day & Evening of Hope during which you can visit our Gethsemane Chapel and touch a piece of Calvary, the hill where Jesus died out of love for you. I hope you will join us, and that you will be renewed in hope this week. May God’s peace be with you.

Calvary

My Story of Hope

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Five days before Pilgrim Center of Hope celebrates its 25th year of guiding people to Christ and His Church, I would like to share my Pilgrim Center of Hope Story.

It actually began in Mandeville, Louisiana, in the year 2010. My family was making a move back to San Antonio, Texas, and once my sons were settled back into school, I needed a part-time job. One day, I walked into the small Adoration Chapel at a local parish and, in front of Our Lord and Lady, I boldly presented a list of what I wanted. At the time, I was blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, and I loved it. Through an encounter with Jesus, I was brought back into the Catholic faith that I had left 20 years before. I discovered the richness of the faith and God’s great love for women in the Church. I was involved with parish groups, and simply hungered for God. I was not at all happy to have to possibly stop what I love for a job.

Having learned the power of prayer, I went to God and told Him,

If I have to work, then so be it, but this is what I want: I want flexible hours, so that I can be available for my sons. I want to be able to go to daily Mass, participate in faith studies, and to work out. I want a job where I can write. And, lastly, wherever you place me, please allow me to share the beauty of the Catholic faith with women.

Fast forward one year later: I found myself still looking for a job. For one reason or another, nothing came through.

As my life was very busy with my sons’ sports schedules, it took the invitation of three different women to convince me to attend my very first Catholic Women’s Conference. Knowing that the Holy Spirit confirms in 3s, I took the third invitation as a sign. At the conference, I felt guided to simply observe.

A month after the conference, I saw in a Pilgrim Center of Hope newsletter an advertisement for a part-time job as the Catholic Women’s Conference coordinator. I met with Mary Jane Fox and, along with discussing my experience and skills, I found myself sharing with her my love for God and my faith. Though Mary Jane told me she had a few more people to interview, I was confident that the job was mine. All my ‘wants’ had been checked off. I knew God had planned this, and he was answering my prayer in his time.

Answered Hope

Now, here we are in 2018. Two months ago, I coordinated my seventh Catholic Women’s Conference.

I share this story because it is a story of answered hope, and Pilgrim Center of Hope was a big part in God’s plan to make it a reality.

In the seven years that I have worked at Pilgrim Center of Hope, I have witnessed numerous lives change through God’s gift of hope. Here are just a few . . .

  • There is the story of my niece, who was struggling in her first year of marriage. She felt overwhelmed with what everyone was telling her a wife is supposed to be. She attended a Catholic Women’s Conference and discovered who God created her to be. This experience led to a great healing in both her and her marriage.
  • There is the couple who were lukewarm in their faith and went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. They returned on fire with love for Jesus, and have become prison ministers to bring the hope they received to others. They tell of the prisoners’ tears that flow onto the olive wood crucifix they hold in their hands as they describe how Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa and died on the Cross, for their true freedom.
  • There is the story of the man named Jose who walked in off the street during a Day of Hope held at Pilgrim Center of Hope. He said he was driving down the street and felt called to pull in. He had no idea an event was happening. He sat in the chapel in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He listened to the presentation about hope, and he left. What has become of him, I do not know. But I know, like me, he was guided by the Holy Spirit to Pilgrim Center of Hope. I am grateful Pilgrim Center of Hope was here to be a place of hope for him along the way.

Living with Hope

For 25 years, Pilgrim Center of Hope has been answering Christ’s call that was first put on the hearts of Tom and Mary Jane Fox; a call to guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

If you need hope, call us. If you are growing weary and beginning to despair hope even exists, call us.

If you want to know more about Pilgrim Center of Hope, consider joining us on Saturday, September 22 for our 25th Anniversary Prayer Brunch. We will present on the 25 years of hope and on “Becoming People of Hope”! We invite you to be a part of it… to become a Person of Hope.

Nan-Back-CWC

An ever-busy coordinator, Nan sneaks in a few minutes to observe from the back of the 2014 Catholic Women’s Conference.

Serving the Lord

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“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

My wife, Mary Jane and I would often see these famous words from Joshua at the doors of many homes as we went door to door throughout our parish boundaries over thirty years ago. I think Joshua would once again like to rally the people of this generation and ask us who we will choose to serve. However, today the gods are not “beyond the river;” as stated in the first reading; they are in our midst. They are often within our own ideas that are no longer faithful to the Word of God. We have seen the consequences of unfaithfulness to the Word of God in the Old Testament and we can see the consequences in our own time. We know of the powerful work of God in the Old Testament, but we also know of the powerful work of Jesus Christ. We know that he spoke with great authority and worked many miracles to show that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. We also know that he died on the cross for our sins so that we might have eternal life, and he made it possible for us to experience his love and mercy right now and have a personal relationship with him. However, he also says,

“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jn 15:14

In the second reading we get a glimpse of what the love of God looks like. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church.” This is a supernatural, sacrificial love that is only possible if we love “The Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.” If we make God a priority in our lives we will experience an abundance of His love and mercy, and then share His love and mercy with others so that we also might be “holy without blemish.” God can do this in us if it is the desire of our hearts.
In the Gospel we see that many of Jesus disciples found his teaching on the Eucharist too difficult to accept and would no longer follow him. When he said to the twelve;

“Do you also want to leave?” -John 6:68

Simon Peter answered him,

“Master, to whom shall we go? -John 6:68

You have the words to eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” They did not understand the teaching of the Eucharist any more than those who left, but they remained because their faith in Jesus was stronger than their need to understand the mystery he had just taught them. We also are called to believe things we do not understand.
In baptism we received the theological gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts that make it possible to believe the things we do not understand, however, no matter how precious these gifts are, they only benefit us according to our use of them. What we believe right now about anything, especially the mysteries of our faith, is a consequence of the choices we have made throughout our life. Have we chosen to be formed in our faith; to become mature Christians? We saw a statistic stating that less than ten percent of Catholics read Catholic books or periodicals. Our Catholic Faith is the “Pearle of Great Price”, but we must be invested in it if it is to produce good fruit in our lives.

 
In His Church, Our Lord has given is everything we need to remain close to Him and to experience an abundance of his love and mercy. The sacrament of confession is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ through his minister the priest. We not only have our sins forgiven, we receive the grace necessary to make progress in overcoming sin so that we can love God, our neighbor and ourselves with the supernatural, sacrificial love mentioned in the second reading. During Mass we hear the Word of God which is the seed of life that wants to take root in our hearts and souls so that it will bear fruit. However, we must listen with a desire to believe.

 
After we profess our creed together in a few minutes, we begin the second part of the Mass, the liturgy of the Eucharist. The Word of God and the Holy Eucharist connect us to Calvary where Jesus shed his blood for us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the passion, death and resurrection of Christ are made present to us as we worship him along with the angels and saints. Through the prayers of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ will change bread and wine into his own body and blood so that we may receive him in Holy Communion. We for our part must prepare ourselves for this holy encounter by being properly disposed and by going to confession if we have committed any serious sin.
Serving God is not a matter of convenience. It is a matter of being faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures. It is the same journey that saints have taken through the ages; there is no easier path. There is also no other path that brings so much peace, joy and happiness. Jesus not only wants to transform our hearts and souls when we receive him during Mass; in his humility he waits for us to visit him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel where we can rest in his presence. We know what Jesus has done for us. What are we willing to do for him? The reality is we cannot do something for him without him doing even more for us. Try spending one hour a week in the chapel for a month and learn for yourself the value of spending time with Jesus. This is one of the best ways to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

A requirement of our faith is not only believing what has been revealed to us, but also sharing what we believe. If we do not share our faith we will be like the seed that produced no fruit. Which is the fundamental purpose of our life and the only way to true happiness.

 

 

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

When God Praises Us

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by Heinrich Hofmann

Color print from a 1930s religious pamphlet. — Image by © PoodlesRock/Corbis

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be praised by God?!

There are several passages in which Jesus praises, compliments and delights in a person. We will read about three below who though very different from one another, all share one attribute . . .

FAITH!

One instance is the story of the hemorrhaging woman who made what had to be a tortuous crawl through the dusty and rocky road in the hope of healing after 12 years of constant disappointment. Just by touching the tassel of Jesus’ cloak, He felt her faith. He felt it as power leaving Him and flowing into her; this broken, grasping, desperate soul who chose to believe He could help her.

God’s praise of her?

“Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering,” (Mark 5:34).

Then there was the centurion, a man who by culture should not believe in God. Who by his status as a citizen and his rank as a soldier of Rome, should have trusted in the world’s power. But, who instead chose to believe in Jesus, asking Him to come and save his beloved servant who was paralyzed and suffering dreadfully.  Jesus offers to come, and the centurion responds,

“[…] just say the word and my servant will be healed,” (Matthew 8:8).

God’s compliment to him?

“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith,” (Matthew 8:10).  “’You may go, as you have believed, let it be done for you.’ And at that very hour his servant was healed.” (Matthew 8:13).

Third, there is the Canaanite woman, who for the love of her daughter and even after a seeming insult says to Jesus,

“Lord, help me […] “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters,” (Matthew 15: 25,27).

God’s delight in her?

 “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish,” (Matthew 15:28).

The Apostle, Paul, defines faith in Hebrews 11:1 as,

“[…] the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen,”

But I confess, that definition has never been clear to me.

I have always needed simpler explanations, so whenever I am in prayer and a word strikes me, I like to look it up in the dictionary on my mobile phone. Our Lord has yet to disappoint, drawing me to the exact definition He wants me to see.

So how is faith defined on my phone?  Faith is confidence or trust in a person.

What the hemorrhaging woman, the centurion and the Canaanite woman all possess is confidence in Jesus.  They put their trust in the hope that this Man is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do.  Which I now understand, is exactly how St. Paul defines faith.

How can we have a faith worthy of God’s praise?

By doing exactly what these three did . . .  we go to Jesus and we choose to believe that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. In the Gospel of John 6:47-51, He most emphatically states,

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

We are blessed to be able daily to come to Jesus where He is Really and Truly Present: in His Sacraments and in the Eucharist. We can do so by receiving Him in Communion at Mass, by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation often and by presenting ourselves to Him in Adoration of the Eucharist. To know more about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, go to: The United States Conference of Bishops answers basic questions about the Real Presence.

If you need hope in finding Jesus, contact us at Pilgrim Center of Hope.  Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.  Let us journey with you.

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

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

 

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