Category Archives: People & Relationships

Entries dealing with people and our relationships with them.

Have Hope: God Is Present!

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In his Gospel account, Luke explains to us the reason why he has undertaken the task of writing his own account of the Good News of Jesus Christ: so that we all may realize the certainty of the teachings we have received (Luke 1:1-4). Luke’s Gospel gives us insight into how we may understand Jesus’ presence in our own lives.

Awareness of Jesus’ Presence

Luke speaks to us about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and return to Nazareth, where he grew up (4:14-21). In the synagogue where everyone knows him, Jesus reads to them from the Prophet Isaiah. After he reads, he sits down, and everyone is looking at him.  He then says: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”. Jesus tells them that his mission is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus is the one for whom the chosen people have been waiting; He is the Good News.

The best thing that can happen for the people… has just happened! The kingdom of God is made present to them, because Jesus the Word of God is in their midst.

Luke continues: “…all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” They also asked, Isn’t this the son of Joseph? They wonder how this man who has been their neighbor since childhood, can claim to be the Messiah without the proof of miracles?!

As we know from other Gospel accounts, even when Jesus does perform miracles and speaks with unheard authority, few put faith in him. He is the Good News for all time, and yet is often met by rejection.

Why Rejection?

Evidence of Jesus Christ is mentioned in historical writings outside of the Scriptural accounts of his life, death, and resurrection. Yet, two thousand years after his death, the number of people who reject him is growing faster than the population. Despite all the miracles that have happened through the ages, and the positive impact that the Church has had upon the world in areas of medicine, education, and charitable services, along with the undeniable impact of the lives of thousands of saints, there is a rapidly-growing number of people who reject God and religion.

We live in the age of relativism, where individuals want to decide what is important for them personally, without regard to any authority or how one’s own beliefs affect others. Primary contributors to this situation are consumerism and materialism, because they can underscore a capacity to isolate ourselves from others and just live for our self. This situation leads to loneliness (and sadness), because it is contrary to our human needs and purpose.

God’s Presence In Our Despair

However, no matter how far we drift from God, there is always the possibility of discovering his presence if we choose to have the humility to turn to God in our time of need. He can manifest his presence even when all seems lost.

In 1941 during WWII, Maximillian Kolbe was arrested by the Nazis for hiding Jews from them. He was treated with hatred in the prison camp. One day, after a prisoner attempted an escape, 10 men were selected to die of starvation as an example to the others. One of the men begged for his life on behalf of his wife and small children. Maximillian Kolbe offered his life in the man’s place. The 10 men were forced into a small box-like building, where there was only room enough to stand. Instead of the usual cursing that was heard when men were waiting to die, hymns and prayers were heard coming from the box. This caused an unusual peace to settle over the death camp, and gave hope to the other prisoners. In that terrible place, the kingdom of God was at hand for those who believed.

Often, when we are going through a trial or great difficulty, our temptation is to focus on our dilemma, and in our imagination, it becomes bigger than reality and overwhelms us. If, on the other hand, we would turn to Jesus and ask him for his help, we can be assured that he will give us the grace we need in that moment.

  • It may be the grace to see things as they truly are.
  • It may be the grace of humility to ask the right people for help.
  • It may be the grace to surrender your life to God and to put your total trust in him.

Read what he says to us in the Scriptures and be confident in his providential love and mercy. Here is one of God’s promises:

Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

We are never alone; we always have our guardian angel with us. Whenever we turn to our Lord in prayer from our heart, we can be sure that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Concern for People In Our Lives

We all have people we are concerned about, and we should never give up praying for them. Sometimes, it is the prayers of a loved one that finally helps God’s grace to break into our lives—as in the case of Saint Augustine. Amid his life of wild partying, promiscuity, and other poor decisions, his mother’s constant prayers were answered by his powerful conversion. Then, he realized that God’s presence and love was always there.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness…
(Excerpt from Augustine’s autobiographical Confessions)

Jesus assures us many times: Do not worry. We invite you to allow Pilgrim Center of Hope to help you walk daily with hope. An upcoming opportunity is the Catholic Men’s Conference, “Master, I Want to See.” Join us, or invite someone who is seeking answers. You don’t have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.




 

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Why We Need to Know Mary

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This time of year always reinforces and reminds me of how vital it is to have a relationship with our Blessed Mother, the mother of Jesus. My hope is that after you read this blog, you will take courage and comfort when you hear the words, “To Jesus Through Mary,” and every time you pray a Hail Mary.

As she was given the grace to be free from the stain of original sin, as the Mother of God, and as the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Our Lady holds a vital role in our salvation.

She Is Our Mother

Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. “This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 964).”

Sunday’s Gospel reading about the Wedding at Cana should lead us to recognize that Jesus listens to his mother’s pleas—and that miraculous things which lead to our salvation, can happen when we turn to Jesus and, “Do whatever he tells you” (cf. John 2:5).

The servants at the wedding turned to Mary for her help, and Mary led them to her son. In the same way, Mary leads us to Jesus, so that we may do his will.

By turning water into wine, Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah for the first time: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him” (John 2:11). That miracle would ultimately lead people to him and his message of salvation.

She Is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit

Sunday’s second Mass reading from 1 Corinthians also reminds me of Mary’s special role as Mediatrix of all graces merited by Christ, originating of course from God the Father.

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit…distributing them individually to each person as he wishes (1 Cor 12:7, 11).

St. Louis de Montfort, known for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, had this to say about Mary and the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit chose Mary as the dispenser of all he possesses, so that she distributes all his gifts and graces to whom she wills, as much as she wills, how she wills, and when she wills.”

Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord (cf. Luke 1: 46), specifically, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

So, to say “To Jesus Through Mary,” is to say, “To Jesus through the Holy Spirit,” because the Holy Spirit acts only in and through his beloved spouse.

At the moment of her fiat or her yes, Mary became the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The salvation of the whole world began with the “Hail Mary.” Hence, the salvation of each person is also attached to this prayer. – St. Louis de Montfort

Going to Jesus through Mary

I want to leave you with the Marian Prayer of St. Ildephonsus of Spain:

Virgin Mary, hear my prayer:
through the Holy Spirit you became the Mother of Jesus;
from the Holy Spirit may I too have Jesus.
Through the Holy Spirit your flesh conceived Jesus;
through the same Spirit may my soul receive Jesus.
Through the Holy Spirit you were able to know Jesus, to possess Jesus,
and to bring him into the world.
Through the Holy Spirit may I too come to know your Jesus.
Imbued with the Spirit, Mary, you could say:
“I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word”;
in the Holy Spirit, lowly as I am, let me proclaim the great truths about Jesus. In the Spirit you now adore Jesus as Lord and look on Him as Son;
in the same spirit, Mary, let me love your Jesus. Amen.

Evenings with MaryWe are offering mini-conferences available for parishes that lead individuals, couples & families to a deeper relationship with Christ by teaching about Mary, her gifts, and her role in the salvation plan of God & our daily lives.

To learn more about Evenings with Mary or about Our Blessed Mother, we invite you to visit us at our peaceful place in NW San Antonio or at our website.

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

Becoming an Authentic Witness to Hope

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A pilgrim prays at the Jordan River

On a recent trip to visit family in Dallas, my husband and I stop in Waco for lunch. I ask, “Is that Magnolia store around here that is owned by Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper?”  To my delight, we learn it is only 3 blocks away.

We drive up to the corner and see a line of people that snakes from the entrance of the store, back around the parking lot, and down several blocks. I look out my window and see groups of people quickly walking our way from every street in the very brisk 43-degree weather to join them. I look at my husband, and give him the answer he wants to hear: “Never mind, let’s move on.”

If you have ever watched the TV show Fixer Upper, you see homebuilders Chip and Joanna Gaines, and witness what truly appears to be a loving marriage, a happy family, an enthusiastic Christian faith, and a commitment to the good of each other and their community.

Pondering that long line of people waiting to shop, I came to believe that, in this culture of ours that puts a great emphasis on ease and convenience, these people enduring the wait and cold for what had to be hours, are looking for something beyond that home, garden, or wall décor product they can simply purchase online. I believe they are attracted to that which the Gaineses witness: Love, Family, Belonging, Faith, Purpose, and Mission.

What I saw told me that people are starving for what is authentic and genuinely good, and will flock to wherever they witness a hope of it.

It brings to mind the words of Saint Pope Paul VI:

Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. (Evangelii Nuntiandi – On Evangelization in the Modern World, 1975)

In Scripture, one does not have to look for a better example of authentic witness than Saint John the Baptist.

No one can deny this prophet’s zeal for preaching repentance & the coming of the kingdom of God, and in allowing the Holy Spirit to guide him from the womb (Luke 1:44) to the desert so that, “At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him” (Matthew 3:5). But what I so appreciate about St. John the Baptist was his own seeking for the authentic, as when we read: “When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to (Jesus) with this question, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?'” (Matthew 11:2-3).

His fearlessness to stand against Herod, and his courage to remain faithful to his death, came from the answer he received: “Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them'” (Matthew 11:4-5).


How, as Catholics, can we measure whether we are witnessing to our faith?

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith provides, through the Profession of Faith, a way to measure our Catholic witness. Ask yourself…

1. Do I believe and profess the Nicene Creed?

2. Do I believe in God revealed through Scripture, Tradition and Church Teaching (Magisterium) as listed below, and do I act accordingly?

With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

3. Would someone know I’m Catholic by the way I speak and act? (i.e. participating at Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation; voting as per the teachings of the Catholic faith)

4. Am I living in a way that reveals Jesus Christ? Such as, am I:

  • Forgiving?
  • Acting in the Beatitudes?
  • Virtuous?
  • Enthusiastic about life?
  • Willing to sacrifice for the good of others?
  • Full of zeal for my faith?
  • Fearless in defense of others who are most vulnerable such as the poor, the unborn, the abandoned and forsaken?  

If your answer is no to any of the above, then:

1. Take heart! As we like to say at Pilgrim Center of Hope, “You do not have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ!” Though raised Catholic, I left my faith in my young adulthood and did not return to the practice of it until well into my 40s. It does not matter when you begin to seek a relationship with Jesus and practice your faith—just so long as you begin.

2. Take action! Take advantage of the new year to begin your journey to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ so as to grow in discipleship to him and as an authentic witness of the hope and joy that is our Catholic faith.

Pilgrim Center of Hope is providing a variety of opportunities in 2019 to help you grow in faith and share it with others:




 

What Can Our Family Learn from the Holy Family?

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We just recently celebrated the Feast of the Holy Family. What can our families today really learn from them?

A Family Trial

The Gospel reading (Luke 2:41-52) focused on an episode in their family life. Mary and Joseph made a pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the feast of Passover, as was required by the Law of Moses. We see in this story that, even though Mary and Joseph were chosen by God to be the parents of Jesus, they did not live a privileged life, free of trials and difficulties. They lived a humble life without any luxuries, and they were obedient to the just laws of God and man. Their humility and obedience was necessary for their intimacy with God; it was the source of their hope and happiness.

When Jesus reached the age of twelve it also became a requirement for him to celebrate Passover and to observe the law. Now that Jesus had become of age, he had his first opportunity to ask questions of the religious teachers in the Temple, who were amazed at his understanding and questions. For this reason, he remained behind. Mary and Joseph had left in a caravan, in which the men and women traveled separately. So, they each thought that Jesus was with the other. When they finally realized that Jesus was not with them, they returned—to find him in the Temple.

Mary and Joseph were troubled by Jesus’ behavior. However, he asked them why they were looking for him. He said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Even though they knew that Joseph was not the real father of Jesus, they lived as if he was. Now that Jesus is of age, his reference to his heavenly Father is a reminder that the purpose for which he came into the world is not far away. As the Scriptures tell us, he then returned with them to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.

Lesson Learned

So, what can we learn from the Holy Family? Even for Mary and Joseph, life was filled with mystery, and they confronted that mystery with humility and obedience. Jesus—who is God himself—was obedient; first of all to Mary and Joseph, and then to his Father in heaven. For Jesus, his whole mission was about obedience.

The most important things we can learn from the Holy Family are humility and obedience to what God has revealed to us. The greatest commandment is that we Love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength, and our neighbor as our self—because it is only in relationship with God that we can experience true and lasting happiness.

Following Their Example

This isn’t complicated, but it is difficult because we naturally want to put our self first. We can only live the greatest commandment with the help of God’s grace, which he makes available to us through his Church and her sacraments.

  • Prayer – It begins with prayer. One way to measure our faith is how we pray; if prayer is not a priority, neither is our faith. If you haven’t been able to develop a discipline of daily prayer, ask God for the grace. You have to have the desire to make changes. Try thanking God when you get up each morning. Pray before meals. Pray with your spouse and children before leaving the house.
  • Spiritual Tools – As Catholics, we have so many resources to help us pray: the Scriptures, Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a treasury of prayers written by saints, and silent prayer in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Have holy water in your home to bless yourself and your family every day.
  • Holy Reminders – It should be obvious that we are Catholic to anyone who would enter our home. A crucifix and other religious images are constant reminders that our home is a “domestic church” where Our Lord is welcome and blesses us with his peace.

Parents should be examples to their children of how to live in relationship with God and one another, because children learn from what they see. When they see the love that their parents have for each other, for God, and for them, they are provided with great security that is important for their development. Praying together as family helps to overcome some of the challenges that are part of life’s experiences. When children see their parents praying together, they will want to learn how to pray also. Jesus promised us that he would be with us whenever we join together in prayer (cf. Matthew 18:20).

Is It Your Family?

Someone asked a priest what inspired his vocation. He answered that as a child, from the time he would see his mother approach a statue of St. Joseph every day, place a piece of paper under his feet, and say a prayer. Her son discovered that these were prayer intentions for him and for the rest of the family. Vocations to the religious life come primarily from faithful families. Our Church is in a desperate need of vocations. Have you encouraged your children or grandchildren to pray about serving God in his Church? When we pray for vocations, maybe it is your family we are praying for! There is nothing more important in this life; we all must serve God, even if it is not through a religious vocation.

When families pray together every day, we will see more peace in homes, less divorces, and more vocations for the Church. Jesus, Mary and Joseph; help us to be humble and obedient to God, so that we may live in happiness together.

Do you need help praying with your family? Pilgrim Center of Hope offers guidance and ideas in our weekly Living Catholicism series. We invite you to click the link and explore!

“Do You Worship Saints?” – Unexpectedly Sharing My Faith

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As I was getting my hair cut at a new salon, the stylist, a young woman, began asking me how I discovered their salon, what part of town I lived in and where I worked.

Responding about my work, I said, “I work for a Catholic evangelization ministry…” I continued to explain very briefly the ministry adding my excitement about the various things we do.

She bent over, as to almost whisper in my ear: “I am Christian, and I know Catholics are Christians, too… Ummm … Do you worship saints?”

Haven’t you been asked that question?

I responded, “No, we don’t, we ask them to help us through their prayers.” Approaching the subject further, I thought my response would be two-fold; a personal example and a general one. First, I spoke about my father’s photo by my office desk. He passed away last year. I glance over at the photo and remember my father. Sometimes, I take the photo in my hand, place it on my heart, and ask him to pray for me, or to help me in a specific situation.

Then, I explained how the Catholic Church has sacred art like statues of saints, stained glass windows, and so on to remind us of role models who have lived faithful lives: “You may see people kneeling before a statue or touching it; they are taking a quiet moment to pray, asking that saint to intercede for them. As Catholics, we use our senses in prayer, such as touching and kneeling.”

She listened with interest, and then shared that her grandmother was Catholic, but that her mother had married outside the Catholic Church and had fallen away from the Church.

Reflecting on my conversation with this young woman, I wondered how many people may be in the same position as this young woman; through no choice of their own, their lives are directed outside a firm foundation of the Catholic faith.

Conveying our faith to another person is important, and can be simple. A good start can be to speak briefly about a personal experience that helped you realize the love of God.

The world needs a message of hope, an encouraging word that will initiate a desire to begin a search for God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta expressed it well:

The reason for our existence is to quench the thirst of Jesus. When he asked for water, the soldier gave him vinegar to drink—but his thirst was for love, for souls, for you and me.

Next time you are given an opportunity to express your faith, remember: Keep it brief, simple, and focused on God. Your time and sharing with that person may be just what they needed to hear, to motivate a desire to search for God.

Only if people change, will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly (on the night of Christmas) entered into our night. – Pope Benedict XVI

Would you like a friendly and casual introduction to the saints? We invite you to a Social with the Saints; a monthly, informal gathering at Pilgrim Center of Hope, wherein we learn about a saint over a cup of tea and sweets, discuss the person’s life and their relevance to our daily paths, and end with prayer. Socials are posted on our website Events Calendar and Facebook page. All are welcome. See you there!

“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).

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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.

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!