Category Archives: peace

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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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.

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!

October: San Antonio Rosary Congress

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An image of Mary offering us the Rosary

Image of Our Lady of the Rosary by Ken Fox. Used with permission from the artist.

October is the month of the Holy Rosary, a prayer that is also known as “the Gospel Prayer.” As we pray it, we meditate on the lives of Jesus and Mary, using prayerful verses that are either directly from, or rooted in, the Gospel. This prayer brings us closer to Jesus, through the eyes of his Mother.

We invite you to join us this month: Pilgrim Center of Hope will provide spiritual reflections during a special Rosary Congress in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions at Fatima, Portugal. The anniversary, which celebrates the apparitions’ focus on conversion and prayer, has been marked by Pope Francis and by Catholic faithful around the world.

Beginning on October 7, 2017, several Catholic parishes in the San Antonio area will take turns hosting events for the Congress; an intense period of seven days offering around-the-clock Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and hourly, vocal praying of the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The Congress will conclude with an opportunity for families to consecrate themselves to Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Saturday, October 7, Feast of the Holy Rosary – Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church (Selma, TX)
Opening Mass at 5:30pm
Marian Presentation at 7:00pm by Anthony Mullen (Flame of Love Movement of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, EWTN guest speaker)
Followed by Eucharistic Adoration and hourly recitation of the Rosary & Divine Mercy Chaplet

Sunday, October 8 – Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church (Selma, TX)
Same as above

Monday, October 9 – St. Pius X Church (San Antonio, TX)
Mass at 6:30pm
Marian Presentation at 7:30pm by Mary Jane Fox, Pilgrim Center of Hope
Followed by Eucharistic Adoration and hourly recitation of the Rosary & Divine Mercy Chaplet

Tuesday, October 10 – St. Matthew Church (San Antonio)
Marian Presentation at 7:00pm by Karen Robertson, Pilgrim Center of Hope
Followed by Eucharistic Adoration and hourly recitation of the Rosary & Divine Mercy Chaplet

Wednesday, October 11 – St. Margaret Mary Church (San Antonio, TX)
Mass at 6:00pm
Marian Presentation at 7:00pm by Deacon Ed Domowski, Pilgrim Center of Hope
Followed by Eucharistic Adoration and hourly recitation of the Rosary & Divine Mercy Chaplet

Thursday, October 12 – Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower (San Antonio, TX)
Mass at 6:00pm
Marian Presentation at 7:00pm by Mary Jane Fox, Pilgrim Center of Hope
Followed by Eucharistic Adoration and hourly recitation of the Rosary & Divine Mercy Chaplet

Friday, October 13, Anniversary of Fatima 6th Apparition & Miracle of the Sun – Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower (San Antonio, TX)
Closing Mass at 6:00pm
Followed by Consecration of Families to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Experience that Put Me More In Touch with Jesus

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Are you wanting to rekindle or strengthen your relationship with Jesus? Perhaps it has been put to the side after many responsibilities, or weakened over time. Today, we share Pablo Garcia’s story; how God surprised him and helped strengthen his personal connection with Jesus – as he journeyed with us to the Holy Land in 2012.

I was praying to go to a pilgrimage to Rome…

“God, please please!”

…and all of a sudden, I had an opportunity to go to the Holy Land.

“Huh? I didn’t pray for that!”

As always, it’s not what we want; it’s what God has planned for us. The opportunity came, but still I had that yearning inside of me (I wanted to go see Padre Pio in Italy!). I went to the Holy Land not knowing what to expect. I just said, “Yes, I’m going,” and when you add it all up, it was a great blessing. It helped me resolve to actually walk in the footsteps of Christ. We had a great spiritual team and spiritual director.

6830173208_663fc64701_zWhat changed me was, in the mornings at the Mount of Beatitudes, staying at the hotel, early in the morning I’d walk as far down as I could to the shore. There was a big, flat rock there. Just sitting there, praying the Rosary, waiting for the sunrise to come up, you heard the birds chirping through the groves.  You could hear men or somebody down by the shoreline. I would realize, “Oh wow… it’s fishermen.” As I closed my eyes, praying the Rosary, I thought, “I’m right next to Jesus!” You could actually feel him, right by the shore, and smell it… That put me more in touch with Jesus. Just watching the first rays coming out of the mountain… that’s what did it for me.
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We got to rest two hours at the Gethsemane Hermitage. Even before I came on pilgrimage, I thought, “That’s going to be my number one spot.” When you went in there, it had all these different levels. I thought, “Oh wow. Where am I going to go?” I just let myself go and prayed, “Just guide me.” I went around… everyone else went to different places. I saw this bent olive tree, hanging over, and there was a nook and cranny. I sat on the ground and leaned against it. For two hours, I just sat there and reflected on Jesus, overlooking the wall of Jerusalem. That was the number one spot for me, right there. It was fabulous.

What experiences have put you in touch with Jesus? It’s important that we take time to re-visit these experiences every now and then. Take 10 minutes this week to sit and reflect on a time you encountered Jesus deeply: Remember the sights, environment, smells and/or tastes. What were you thinking? What were you feeling? Thank God for that experience. Ask Jesus to renew your desire to walk in his footsteps, as you move forward in your daily pilgrimage.

We Invite You…

  • ‘Come and See’ Informational Meeting – (Thurs., September 21, 2017 at 7pm) Join us to learn about our unique Ministry of Pilgrimages’ next Holy Land Pilgrimage (Summer 2018) and get your questions answered personally.
  • Our Lady of Fatima Veneration – (Weds., September 13, 2017) Grow closer to Jesus by opening your heart to his Mother, Mary. Pray with Our Lady at Pilgrim Center of Hope, in honor of her 100th Anniversary at Fatima. A statue from Fatima, Portugal will be available for veneration. Information about the Plenary Indulgence approved by Pope Francis for this special occasion will also be available.
  • Afternoon Tea with St. Thecla – (Thurs., September 21, 2017 at 2pm) Our role models and heavenly friends are virtuous women and men who’ve walked their pilgrimage before us. Learn about Saint Thecla and how she can help us grow closer to Jesus in our daily lives.

Lent Is for Healing

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Do you ever dread Lent? Do you see it as a burden?

A few years ago, as I was dreading the upcoming Lenten Season —with its sacrifices and spotlight on sin, I began to notice in my prayer life and while reading Scripture that a theme continually jumped out at me. Example from the Psalms:

Look to God that you may be radiant with joy
and your faces may not blush with shame
Psalm 34

Bless the Lord, my soul
and do not forget all his gifts,
Who pardons all your sins,
and heals all your ills,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
and crowns you with mercy and compassion
Psalm 103

and the Prophet Isaiah (53:3)

He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.

Whole? Healed? Joy? Verses like this were a shock to my system. I had been wrestling with a perception of God as a harsh judge who was ready to pounce and condemn. Through prayer, however, the Holy Spirit was showing me that my perception of God was broken, and therefore my understanding of my relationship to God was broken. As Lent approached, I realized that I needed to obey the Holy Spirit. With some encouragement, I began to see a counselor and break free of many hurts and wounds.

This process of being vulnerable with myself, with God, and with my counselor was the most humiliating experience of my life. It was heart-wrenching and psychologically painful. However, I realized that this pain was necessary for healing.

Your Lent and Healing

Think about how often we must experience challenge or pain in order to be healed. Whether through surgery, exercise, or even the humiliation of apologizing to someone, healing and wellness arrive through sacrifice.

Lent is a time of preparation, leading us into the remembrance of Jesus Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. We often hear that Jesus underwent these things for our “salvation” and “to save us”, but what does that mean?

The word ‘salvation’ comes from the Latin salvus, which means ‘in good health’ and ‘safe’.  The official teaching of the Catholic Church in its Catechism is that Jesus “has come to heal the whole man, soul and body” (pp. 1503). This means that Jesus came, not only to keep us from going to hell, but far more than that. We often keep Jesus and his place in our life within that very limited box! No, Jesus himself tells us, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

How to Start

Do not limit your Lent to “giving something up”. Start now; live your Lent as a time of healing. Approach God as Jesus taught us: as your loving Father. Ask, “What is your loving plan for me? What is blocking me from having a stronger relationship with you?” Listen to God’s response, not only in your private prayer, but in the other avenues God has given us. Read from the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the lives of the saints. Speak to someone of faith whom you respect; a grandmother, a person who works in your parish, friend, etc. Homilies on Sundays or weekday Mass can also be a source of direction. What strikes you on a deeply personal level?

Trust that God is a good and loving Father, Jesus wants to heal you, and the Holy Spirit wants to console you. This Lent, embrace a challenge that will help you overcome obstacles to the abundant life and intimate relationship with God that He has in store for you.

Is God calling you to go on a journey of faith? Pilgrimages provide an opportunity for people to seek God, healing, spiritual renewal, reparation, forgiveness, and other personal graces—ultimately becoming a mini school of spirituality. Our Ministry of Pilgrimages is here for you; guiding you to a personal encounter with Christ.

The Power of Us: Why I March

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I experienced mixed feelings as I watched news reports from the Women’s March that was held in Washington, D.C. and around the globe on January 21, 2017.

I felt:

Sorrow that so many millions of women have chosen to march under the lies of the culture’s standard that seeks to destroy lives, redefine marriage and family and revels in keeping men and women bound in slavery of sin.  

Joy that though their words often speak the lie of relativism, their actions of motivating and inspiring others to join forces in community to right what they believe are the wrongs, proves they know there is truth and it is worth fighting for.  

Hope that once these millions of women come to know Jesus Christ, the Truth, they will join all of good will in marching under His Standard and together transforming our world from what Pope Saint John Paul II calls a culture of death into a culture of life; a culture where every life is valued and each person from the womb to the tomb is loved in the dignity of who he or she is created to be.

How can I have such optimism?  Because once upon a time, I was one of them.

I lived as a consumer of lies, full of rage and it was as this very angry woman, with fist in air, that Jesus came to me. From this encounter over fifteen years ago, our Lord has brought me into the Fullness of Truth; His Catholic Church, convincing me I am loved, I have a unique dignity as a woman and all that is His on Earth and in Heaven has been given to me.

How God accomplished this great victory in me was through a series of faithful people, over a number of some very dark years, who each in their own way, extended an invitation of some sort:

  • To pray with them.
  • To pray for them.
  • To help them.
  • To listen to them.
  • To attend Mass with them.
  • To be their friend.
  • To join them for lunch/dinner.
  • To share their love for Jesus with me.
  • To listen to me.
  • To attend a conference/retreat with them.
  • To encourage me in what I was doing right.
  • To join a faith/bible study with them.

I did not accept every invitation, and yes there were some that I thought silly at best and that I resented at worst. But in their offer, these ‘sowers of welcome’ planted God’s seeds. Over time all the many ‘little’ invitations became a great ‘power of us’ that slowly but surely altered my direction just enough so that when I was ready, God could scoop me up into His loving Embrace!

I will be forever grateful to God for providing me with these kind and generous companions on my life’s journey who love Jesus enough to include me!  It is thanks to them, I have joyfully joined this ‘power of us’ marching under His Standard!

As Catholics, we often tremble when we hear that we are called to be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ and answer His call to, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” (Mat 28:19-20).

Why is this?

Why are we afraid to share with others what God has done for us?  Why are we afraid to let them know that they are loved by Love itself? Why are we afraid to tell them how much God desires to be their friend? Why are we afraid to be the messenger of the great news that God not only wants to spend Eternity with them, but He has great plans for them here and now?

It is because we fear the response.  We fear their rants turned on us.  We fear being criticized and we fear being ostracized and knowing our Lord has experienced it all gives us comfort, but does not remove the fear.

So . . .  start with an invitation. Join the ‘power of us’ and be one of the ones who helps turn a heart away from sin and toward the Prince of Peace; Mercy Himself.

Think of one person you know who is caught in the lies of this world, struggling under the burden of sin and invite her or him into your life of faith.  Feel free to use the list above for suggestions.

Now I have an invitation for you.  I INVITE YOU to one of our upcoming conferences: The Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Men’s Conference or Catholic Women’s Conference.

Here you will encounter our Lord Jesus Christ in Mass, Benediction, Adoration and Reconciliation. You will learn the wisdom of the Church through inspiring, challenging and encouraging speaker presentations. You will enjoy beautiful and joyful fellowship and you will have opportunities to grow in our rich treasure of Catholic spirituality.  Please join us . . . Jesus will be there and so should you!

Ready to march with us?!  Please consider being one of our Parish Advocates. These are men and women who take on the noble task of ensuring everyone at their parish knows he or she is invited to attend a Pilgrim Center of Hope conference.  To find out more, visit us at PilgrimCenterofHope.org and click on Get Involved.

A Surprisingly Simple Way that We Can Change the World

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A woman surprised my husband and I not long ago, with just a single observation.

We were visiting a local parish, and had just finished giving a presentation for some parents of teens preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. As we were cleaning up, several parents came up to us to thank us, greet us, etc. However, one mother approached us and told me, “I just wanted to say that it was so nice to see you smiling while your husband was speaking, and how you both interacted with each other like you really like each other!” She smiled briefly and walked away.

This remark continues to impress Dan and I.

Several other times, we’ve had strangers approach us and marvel aloud at how Dan opens the car door for me. “I sit here outside and watch everyone come and go,” one neighbor told us. “You never see that anymore. He is such a gentleman. I like that.”

Why do people make these comments to us?

In 2014, an extraordinary general assembly of the world’s Synod of Bishops was wrestling with the problem of how to authentically reach today’s families with the Gospel. The bishops answered with these words:

A key point [… ] seems to ultimately rest on a couple’s witness of life, a witness which is consistent with not only Christian teaching on the family but also the beauty and joy which permits the Gospel message to be embraced in marriage and lived as a family. […] A witness which attracts others simply because the family lives the Gospel and is constantly in union with God. This entails “showing that to believe in and follow him [Christ] is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties”.

Since my husband and I do not have children, I often wonder how God plans to work through our marriage. But as I sit and reflect on these many comments that people have made to us, I realize that God is working through our marriage by the sheer beauty described above by our bishops.

Nowadays, we see constant debates in media and public forums, about what is right and what is true in regard to marriage and family life. We are often swept up in these arguments, forgetting about the crucial third transcendental value: What is beautiful?

Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation […] which both the child and the scientist discover — “from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator,” “for the author of beauty created them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, pp. 2500)

Let’s ask ourselves: “How do I treat family members? My spouse? My neighbors? My coworkers? Those with whom I do not agree?” Let’s strive to answer God’s call, and choose the beautiful way of living. Let’s remember and embrace the silent power of a glance, a respectful regard, a loving gesture, a smile, and a kind word. This, too, is evangelization.

In contemporary America, most people are not moved by claims of truth or goodness. Relativism has made truth to be whatever you want, thereby turning the good into whatever makes you feel good. So how can you engage the average nonbeliever? How can you place him on the road that would lead him back to the Truth and the Good?
Though the post-modern heart may be darkened to what is true and good, it is still captivated by beauty revealing love—and this may be its road to Christ.

Msgr. John Cihak, Professor – Pontifical Gregorian University

So, how can we help one another evangelize continuously in this way? Friendly reminders and spiritual tools are a great way to stay encouraged on your journey. Our free newsletter is created for this reason and to make sure you know about all of the inspiring events we provide. Sign up to receive this wonderful spiritual resource. It is our sole mission here at the Pilgrim Center of Hope to guide people to personally encounter Christ!

Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary: A Resolution that Wins!

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While visiting family over the Christmas Holiday, the teens and twenty-somethings in my family asked me to play an old game that has become new again and is very popular with their age group. It is bean bag toss.

In this latest version of what I remember as Toss Across, you play in 2-person teams and toss a bean bag onto a plank with a hole in it. If your bean bag makes it in the hole it is 3 points and if it lands on the plank, 1 point. Sounds simple, right?

Well, as we are playing I hear my nephew and son working what sounds like a math problem to calculate the points. “What are you doing?” I ask. My nephew tries to explain this complicated (to me anyway!) scoring system in which points are lost, points cancel each other out, etc. with the end goal of earning 21 points and winning the game.

As I toss and keep making point worthy landings, I hear “Ok your team is now at zero.” I look at my son with a, ‘What gives?’ look and he concurs, “Yes, Mom we are at zero.” I respond, “I don’t understand.” These sweet young men patiently explain the scoring to me again but I just get more frustrated and say, “This game has become way too complicated. I’m just going to play and you tell me if we win.”

This trust that I am in good hands, that someone wiser than me knows what is going on (thank goodness!) and that all I have to do is play the game is the same freedom that is enjoyed when one goes through Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary. Funny comparison, I know, but this freedom is the #1 reason I so appreciate this Church-honored devotion made famous by the great work of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.

Enthusiastically proclaimed as the quickest, most efficient way to free ourselves from the spirit of the world and put on Christ in every aspect of our lives, this consecration has worked to transform many into saints, including Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Pope Saint John Paul II, who said, “It was the decisive turning point in my life.” The consecration is cited by many priests as the fire that lit the zeal of their apostolates,including previous and future Catholic Women’s Conference speakers, respectfully, Father Nathan Cromly and Father Michael Gaitley, just to name two.

But, if you are like I was six years ago, even this great press would not convince you of the value of Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary because a question first begs to be answered, “Why Mary?”

I asked that question before I began the 33-day Preparation for Consecration using St. Louis de Montfort’s way, but with the urging of a friend to ‘just try it,’ I did. I continued to ask the question the entire 33 days and, yes, even after I knelt before the Tabernacle and offered myself to Jesus through Mary in the Consecration Prayer.

I no longer ask that question.

I could list all the many reasons why this Consecration has catapulted me closer than I ever dreamed possible to our Lord, Jesus Christ, but I’ll leave that for the great theologians and priests that have made it their mission to promote it.

For me, it is simply this: my life has completely transformed from chaotic, disorganized and overwhelming to tranquil, orderly and manageable. Though circumstances in life remain difficult and my responsibilities continue to increase, it has taken on a calm that I know is thanks to placing myself into the care of our Blessed Mother. Like the bean bag toss experience, I have discovered the freedom that allows me to play the ‘game of life’ with the assurance that I am in good hands, that someone wiser than me knows what is going on (thank goodness!) and she will make sure I win Heaven!

If you are ready to ‘just try it’ then I encourage you to click on any of the links in this blog to learn much more about the Consecration.

If you are still asking, “Why Mary?” Our next Evening with Mary will answer that very question. Please join us on Friday, January 20th at St. Mary Magdalen Church in San Antonio where Deacon Ed Domowski will answer “Who is Mary? Why Go to Her?”

 

The Gift of Death for Christmas

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For the first time in recent memory, this Christmas’ extended family gift exchange was not a game. Gathered around the fireplace at my aunt’s house, each of her siblings chose a number to determine their turn. Then, in order, each sibling carefully took one of their mother’s precious keepsakes as their own. In a complex atmosphere of bittersweet memories, one person picked the photo of Grandma with her sisters; another selected the Christmas wreath that had hung on her door; and on it went… until nothing was left.

Just five days prior, gathered around a casket in parish pews, we prayed the Rosary in a way we never had before. Grandma’s eldest daughter, in a moment of remembrance after prayer, noted, “My mother’s favorite mystery of the Rosary was the Nativity.” Many times over the next twenty-four hours, we were reminded that Grandma prayed 15 decades of the Rosary daily, entrusting all of us to Jesus through his Heavenly Mother, but also entrusting herself.

The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the ancient litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: “From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord”; to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us “at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, pp. 1014)

Because of the loss of my grandmother, I re-discovered this Christmas. I noted how the Church celebrates—yes, celebrates—St. Stephen’s bloody martyrdom on December 26. On December 27, we celebrate the death of Saint John the Evangelist, who gave up each day of his life completely to God and died a natural death. Then, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28 (those innocent children whom Herod slaughtered in a paranoid rush to protect his sovereignty from a baby King). Thus, we begin the Christmas season by celebrating three martyrdoms: chosen martyrdom by blood, chosen martyrdom of daily life, and unchosen martyrdom of innocent blood.

It is a strange wonder to think that our religion celebrates death at a time like Christmas. Yet, it is not strange when I think back to the end of my grandmother’s Rosary service. Having completed the final prayer, my uncle Deacon John reflected, “We will remember always that now, whenever we pray the Rosary, we pray it along with her.” Jesus’ birthday made possible his self-gift on the Cross, transforming the curse of death into a gift: the hope of abundant and everlasting life.

If you have experienced a loved one’s death recently, I encourage you to take hope. When Jesus explained to his disciples what it takes to enter Heaven, they looked at him in astonishment, asking, “Then, who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

When we see a body lying in a casket, it seems impossible for that person to do anything more. Death appears to be final. Yet, Christians dare to hope in knowing that God—who created that person, who knows all the hidden sufferings and trials of his or her life, and who loves perfectly—is Judge. Therefore, we must pray often in hope and trust, commending his or her soul to God who became Love Incarnate, whose ways and wisdom are far beyond our weak ways and short-sighted wisdom.

God became a human because he could not bear the thought of living without each one of us in Eternity. He was born to show us his love; penultimately expressed by his death and resurrection. That is the gift of Christmas.

“There is no point in being a Christian unless we regard death as God’s greatest gift to us.” –  Fr. Edward T. Oakes, S.J. (1948—2013)

To go deeper into this topic, consider watching our recent episode of Catholicism Live! We invite you to watch Catholicism Live! every Tuesday morning at 11am CST. Find out more about the show that helps you keep your faith alive at CatholicismLive.com.