Category Archives: People & Relationships

Entries dealing with people and our relationships with them.

“Look Up!” How & Why to Live a Spirit of Watchfulness

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During Advent, we are called to have a spirit of watchfulness.

The dictionary defines watchfulness as: To be more vigilant or alert; closely observant. This definition, and a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, have helped me discover a way to grow in a Christian spirit of watchfulness specific to our world today.

During our pilgrim journey, we were brought to Shepherd’s Field; the very place where Scripture tells us:

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. (Luke 2:8)

7106825805_fd93d4fec3_k.jpgIn this field, we visited and offered Mass at a chapel built inside one of the caves in which shepherds would have holed up for the night. Our pilgrimage guide explained that, with his flock tucked into the cave, the shepherd would remain at the entrance, kneeling as he slept. He did this so that if an animal came preying, the shepherd would be in the perfect position to jump up and defend his flock. The shepherd had to keep watch even as he slept!

Shepherds were often outcasts, shunned by people in the area and unwelcome in the towns they served and yet . . .

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:9-14).

Shepherds Bethlehem

Depiction of shepherds receiving announcement of Christ’s birth (Chapel of the Angels at Shepherds’ Field, Bethlehem)

Why do you think it was to the shepherds that the angels appeared?

I believe it was because they already were on their knees! And, because they already dwelt in the lowliest and loneliest places, and therefore the only way to look . . .  was up!

The Messiah, who was born not far from those shepherds, now sends his disciples to proclaim the good news of great joy. That’s you and me! We are to be a sign that the Lord has come; a sign that is to reach into today’s lowliest and loneliest places.

More and more people are becoming islands unto themselves; isolated from each other by the phones, tablets, and controllers in our hands. It is not unusual to see a family eating together at a restaurant; each looking into his or her phone and none making eye contact, let alone enjoying conversation with each other. A pediatrician told me recently that there are children as young as 7 years old attempting suicide. Experts are coming to the sad conclusion that it is a desperate attempt by the child to simply be noticed.

In a world where most eyes are turned down and in, we followers of Jesus Christ have opportunities galore to call people to ‘look up’ and see the glory of the God who dwells within us. This profound responsibility of the Christian to bring Jesus, our Messiah, does not have to bring us fear. We can respond to this call in many simple ways that we can begin acting on immediately.

We can…

  • Put down our phone when we are with another person. This includes those of us caring for very young children – yes, infants too!
  • Make eye contact with all people we encounter throughout the day.
  • Smile and give a few words of encouragement to everyone we meet.
  • Listen attentively when someone is speaking to us and respond with kindness.
  • Pray for every person we encounter. (Quick prayer offered by Pilgrim Center of Hope chaplain Fr. Pat Martin: “Mary, help [name of person] see God’s love for [him/her] today.”
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Depiction of shepherds rejoicing (Chapel of the Angels at Shepherds’ Field, Bethlehem)

Since I have made an effort to live in the spirit of watchfulness by being vigilant, alert and closely observant of and—more importantly—to others, I have indeed come to notice the glory of the Lord shining around us! I often find myself after an encounter joining with the angels praising God, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:9-14)!

In answering Christ’s call, we at Pilgrim Center of Hope guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. Let us journey with you! Beginning 2019, Pilgrim Center of Hope will be hosting a monthly ‘Meet the Master’ event to better come to know our Lord Jesus, who is the Joy of our Salvation and the Reason for our Hope! Sign up for our email list to learn details when they are publicized.

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In Times of Weakness, Stay Centered in Christ

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As I prepared to write this blog on staying focused on Christ when faced with self-doubt, I thought about the various times in my life when I allowed myself to become problem-centered instead of Christ-centered. Times when I forgot about how crucial it is to run, not walk, toward Jesus whenever I start feeling inadequate. When I got problem-centered, I would focus on things like:

  • I lack in patience and need to react less to the words and actions of others
  • I don’t spend enough time reading and studying Church teachings
  • I lack in self-discipline when it comes to eating healthy and exercising
  • I don’t spend enough time in prayer
  • I am not as virtuous or holy as I should be

At one time or another we all have fixated on what’s wrong with our life, instead of running to the waiting arms of Jesus. When we are weary, we all need to be more like St. John and seek to rest our head on the chest of Jesus. Herein lies the strength we need to persevere with boldness, passion, and joy!

It is precisely because of our weaknesses, our sinfulness, and our imperfections that Christ died on the cross! In these moments when we feel unworthy and like throwing in the towel, we need to fix our eyes on Christ:

  • Salvation History – from his Incarnation to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection
  • Scripture – the Living Word, his instruction on how to overcome sin and temptation
  • His Triumphant Return – when he will bring salvation to those who eagerly await him

When we are Christ-centered, it not only opens our eyes, but it gives us confidence and the ability to put our total trust in God, no matter what the crisis, challenges, or obstacles.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. – Hebrews 4:16

Saint Paul, who was afflicted at times by a sense of brokenness, failure, and persecution, gave us some powerful words of consolation and encouragement:

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.  – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

At one of our recent Socials with the Saints, I reminded everyone why we turn to the saints for inspiration to continue on our pilgrim journey toward the Heavenly Jerusalem:

A saint is not someone who never sins, but one who sins less and less frequently and gets up more and more quickly. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Just like the saints, all of us – no matter how unworthy we feel at times – can achieve holiness:

…In spite of the fact that we have all sorts of shortcomings and sins and so forth, if we are striving to love our Lord with our whole strength, that is a growing in the sanctity of life. – Fr. Jerry Gehringer, Being a Saint in the World

Second Corinthians, Chapter 12, Verse 7 tells us that St. Paul was given a thorn in his flesh, not an actual thorn, but a source of real pain (frustration) to keep him humble. Since we are not told exactly what the thorn was, let us equate this thorn with whatever chronic difficulty or problem we may struggle with. Here is what God told Paul, after he begged God three times to take the thorn away:

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness (12: 9)

Paul’s response was to say, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

We are weak, but we must be courageous in our weakness. And often our courage must be expressed in escaping without looking back, so as not to fall into the trap of wicked nostalgia. – Pope Francis (Homily, July 2, 2013)

Pilgrim Center of Hope is here to provide you with the life-lines (presentations, tools, and resources) that can lead you out of times of turbulence (problems and moments of self-doubt) to encounters with Christ that will restore order and hope in your daily life.

Please join us for our next Day of Hope, on Thursday, November 29, from 10am until 5pm. You will have the opportunity to venerate relics of St. Padre Pio, including a glove worn by the Saint with blood from his stigmata. Mass will be celebrated at 9am. Click on the link above for details.

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!

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.

Speaking to God: Advice from Experts

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If you’ve ever tried talking to God, you’re not the only one.

In fact, in the United States, about 75 percent of adults report speaking to God/Higher Power, according to a December 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

Prayer: A Quick Refresher Course

Do you ever feel like you’re “praying wrong” or don’t know how to start praying? I can assure you from our ministry experience at Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH)…

Don’t worry: Almost everyone feels this way!

Even Jesus’ disciples wanted to know how to pray. They asked him, “Teach us to pray.” So, Jesus outlined the most fundamental prayer for them, known today as the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. Each line of this prayer teaches us something important about prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed (holy) be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
(Matthew 6:9-13)

We could meditate on what each line of this prayer means, and still would find new insights with each day.

Maybe we need more clarification. One of the greatest treasures we have is the model of the saints, who were human beings just like us—with complicated lives, struggles, challenges, joys, and sorrows. Through practice, they became prayer experts. At Pilgrim Center of Hope, we mine their treasured insights like the spiritual gold and jewels that they are, especially through our monthly Days & Evenings of Hope, and Socials with the Saints events.

Here are some of our favorite pieces of advice:

Four Simple Attitudes

St. Anthony of Padua was known for his teaching style that would captivate the listener. Here’s what he taught about how we should pray:

  1. Open your heart confidently to God.
  2. Speak affectionately with God.
  3. Present to God your needs.
  4. Praise and thank God.

In Difficult Times

When we face challenges, prayer can become more difficult. Recently, we at PCH learned from someone who understands this well, St. Mary MacKillop. Like Jesus, Mary MacKillop experienced the rejection of her own religious leaders, through an unjust excommunication.

We were in awe during a recent Social with the Saints, as we read that Mary would often say, “Today, God has been so good to me.” Considering her tremendously difficult circumstances, what an insight this was for us, into maintaining a prayerful attitude. She advised, “Let us study the Heart of God and, in doing so, we shall learn many beautiful lessons of patience and love.”

Of prayer, she said, “Let me humbly place myself in the presence of my God, of my God who created me, my God who redeemed me, my God who sanctified me.”

When Words Fail

What about when we simply cannot express ourselves in words? St. Teresa of Avila assured us, “Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.”

St. Paul further reminds us that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together to communicate with us, as long as we open our hearts to God: “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27).

Don’t worry; “the holy ones” in this context does not leave you out. “Holy” means “set apart,” and when we choose to pray, we are setting ourselves apart. Jesus encourages us: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day” (John 6:40).

Start Now –

Do not be afraid; simply choose to pray. Picture Jesus in your mind. Ask for guidance. You have nothing to lose! God is eager to enter this journey with you.

Take advantage of upcoming opportunities to gain more insights and to practice prayer. We invite you to browse our Events Calendar.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

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.