Category Archives: men

Walking with Mary: The What and the How of the New Evangelization

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We Catholics have a mission to evangelize. We are called by our baptism to work in and through our daily lives, whether professed religious (priest/sister) or as a lay person working and living out in the world, to bring the Gospel message to everyone. This Gospel message is the proclaiming of the Kingdom of God so that all people may be liberated from sin and freed from the Evil One through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Does this surprise you?

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi – On Evangelization in the Modern World. Pope Paul VI writes,

“She (The Church) prolongs and continues Him. And it is above all His mission and His condition of being an evangelizer that she is called to continue. […] Thus it is the whole Church that receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important to the whole, (15).”

If this not only surprises you, but frightens you, take heart! The Church, through Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Francis, have provided what every mission needs to be successful: The ‘What’ and the ‘How.’

What is the Mission of Evangelization in the Modern World?

When Jesus sent His disciples on this mission, He told them, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, (Mat 28:19-20).” And they did! Christianity spread around the globe.

Today, that Christianity is losing ground and many baptized, even those who attend Sunday Mass, do not shape their lives around the one they profess to follow, Jesus Christ. It is to those who Pope Saint John Paul II said we need a New Evangelization.

How do we achieve the Mission of Evangelization in the Modern World?

Pope Francis, who called Evangelii Nuntiandi, “The greatest pastoral document that has ever been written,” gives the ‘how’ of this mission in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium-Joy of the Gospel:

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples, (cf. Mt 28:19) (120).”

Walking with Mary

On this feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we see in her the perfection of the missionary disciple.

Mary of Nazareth was conceived without Original Sin and full of grace, but she still needed to be evangelized to become first a disciple, then a missionary one. Received as an answered prayer to the childless, St. Anne and St. Joachim, she was returned to the Giver at the age of three to be presented at the Temple. There she learned the Scriptures and how to pray. At fourteen, she received the message of God from the mouth of the Angel Gabriel and in turn gave this message to the World in her Son, Jesus Christ.

In the thirty years before Jesus made disciples of many men and women, He evangelized her. Mary learned in the raising of and listening to her Son how to shape the apparent contradiction of her virginal life around the Mystery of being the Mother of God. She made choices to follow her Son wherever He desired to go by making haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth and in escaping to Egypt in confident obedience to her faithful spouse, St. Joseph. Though full of grace at the Annunciation, Mary continued to grow in grace and surely came to understand what she most perfectly witnessed as a missionary disciple: Through discipleship to Jesus; the Son of God, the more you give of the grace given to you, the more you receive in return.

Your Mission . . . Should You Choose to Accept it

As we end this year and look forward to next, take some time to ask yourself if you are indeed a disciple of Jesus Christ. Do you go to Mass every Sunday? Is your daily life shaped by Jesus and His Gospel message? Are the decisions you make – little and big – founded on the Creed? Do you pray every and often each day? Do you frequent the Sacraments? Do you read Scripture and study the rich treasure of our Catholic faith?

If not, then let your first recruit be you! Start by going to Mary, offering a Rosary or even one Hail Mary prayer, asking her to help you become a missionary disciple. She will surely direct you in how to follow Jesus. Perhaps she will:

  • Encourage you to take advantage of opportunities at your parish to learn more about our faith through faith/bible studies.
  • Ask you to join a service group at your parish or another Catholic ministry.
  • Share with you the needs of family and those in your workplace and teach you how to pray to God in how best to witness by example and word.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope is Looking for a Missionary Disciple Just Like You!

The Pilgrim Center of Hope exists to connect men and women to God and His Church through a variety of opportunities that include annual Catholic Men’s, Women’s and Seniors’ Conferences, Afternoon Tea with the Saints, Evenings with Mary, through media with monthly Today’s Catholic newspaper column, Living Catholicism, spiritual tools including books and monthly newsletter, this The Pilgrim Log and a weekly television/radio show, Catholicism Live! . . . just to name a few!

Feel free to contact us or come by and visit the Pilgrim Center of Hope and pray with us in our Gethsemane Chapel, where we offer the Divine Mercy Chaplet each weekday at 3:30pm.

Praying in Unusual Places

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by Ann Gonsalves

While pregnant, I began praying for my children. That continued daily and once they were in school, I heard about a group of moms who got together and prayed for their children and their school. I wanted to join, but couldn’t as I had a full time job, which required me to be at work when the moms were praying. Once I was able to quit, I joined the group.

What I have witnessed gives me the boldness to state that the single most important task a mom can do is pray for her child.

Making sure they have proper rest and diet, encouraging their academic achievement and carpooling to sporting or music events, taking them to the doctor when they are sick, are all part of being a good mother, of course. But, as I have watched other children grow, I have noticed that those children with praying parents, seem to flourish and grow to full expectation. As it says in James 5:16, “The fervent prayer of a righteous (faithful) person is very powerful.”

Praying Everywhere

Both of my sons attended public schools, where praying was banned over 30 years ago. This is a shame, as that was the only exposure to prayer that some children received. I heard about and attended “Prayer Around the Flagpole” events at several schools with other parents and their children. This gave me an idea to meet other parents who wanted to pray at the school, before school terms started. We would walk the halls, parking lots, sporting venues and I would sprinkle Holy Water in the bathrooms (weird stuff happens in school bathrooms). What a sense of peace and calm, knowing that the school was covered in prayer.

Encouraging our athletes

sunset-people-sun-menI contacted the football coach and asked if we could pray in the locker rooms. One young man, who played football with my youngest son had suffered injuries every football season since middle school. This included broken fingers, collarbone, ankle and arm. Every season they were in the emergency room getting him treated for injuries. I stood before his locker, before his senior year and gave him to the Divine Protector, Our Lord Jesus Christ. I prayed over every limb in his body and sprinkled his locker with Holy Water. He was the starting middle linebacker for the second year in a row, but praise God, that season he did not sustain injury. This confidence in God’s grace inspired us to continue our prayer over the football team, attaching Bible passages to their lockers such as, “I can do all things through God who strengthens me,” (Phil 4:13) and “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith,” (2 Tim 4:7). It wasn’t always a winning season, but injuries were minimal and team spirit was good. The boys knew they were covered in prayer and that God spoke to them, providing words of encouragement through Scripture.

We all need reminders sometimes

I made it a part of my prayer tradition each week to let my sons know they, their friends and their school had been prayed for by this group of moms. I told them how each child is named, and his or her needs are handed into God’s care. I shared with them how much we rely on God to help us be parents worthy of so special a gift as our children and how we seek his guidance in how to raise our children to grow into the men and women our Father has created them to be. Sure, they gave me strange looks at first, but over time it just became a normal part of our conversations. They see their dad and me praying for them and it has become a natural part of our family life. I pray one day they give the gift of praying parents to their children.

All Grown Up

My children are young adults now and I shall continue to pray for them until my last day on earth. I encourage all mothers to talk to their friends and pray together, because where two or more are gathered, Jesus is present (Mt 18:20). Be bold.

In his 1995 Letter to Women, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, “Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.”

Ann Gonsalves is the database coordinator at the Pilgrim Center of Hope. This article was written for Today’s Catholic newspaper. The Pilgrim Center of Hope, Catholic evangelization apostolate, is the founder of the annual Catholic Women’s Conference. Save the date for CWC 2017: July 28th & 29th.

4 Tips for a Joyous Marriage!

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My niece is getting married…. my mother and I joined her at a local Bridal Shop to show us the wedding dress she had picked.  There was such an exhilaration in that shop as my niece tried on a couple of dresses. The dress she picked was just right for her, and as the salesperson assisted her; my mother shared some of her wedding memories. She began by describing her dress, the ceremony, and her anticipation of starting a new life. Then another salesperson joined us in the conversation, as they listened to my mother; asking “how many years were you married? My mother answered – “I have been married 62 years.”

The two young saleswomen responded with such an astonishing “How?! How did you do it?” Immediately, my mother responded: “You must never go to bed angry, respect one another and be faithful.” She continued to say, “What is really important for a relationship is respect and courtesy!”

Perhaps you may remember when being married 20+, 30+, 40+ years seemed so common. Today, the world needs to see faithful and happy marriages! The temptation today is to give up too quickly, to give up hope in sustaining a marriage.

My husband, Tom and I, have been married 38 years; I often tell other young couples “It gets better each year!”.  Thirty-eight years ago, we received the Sacrament of Matrimony, a covenant of love given to us by God that would last until death and centered in Christ Jesus.

It is never too late to begin anew. Here is a plan that has helped many couples. It is a plan based on Christianity. It is summarized by using the word KNOT.

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K – Knowledge of God & Self

We have knowledge of the one True God – the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This knowledge of God leads us to know who we are – creatures created in His image – to love Him and serve Him.

  • If we do not love God above everything else, we will never reach our potential in loving our spouse or our children. That is by God’s design.
  • If we are faithful to God, we will be faithful to our spouses and all other responsibilities.
  • Read the Bible, the Word of God.
  • Faith is a gift from God, believing is a choice.

N – NOW! You don’t have to be perfect to begin anew with Christ.

  • Live in the present moment.
  • Take time out for yourself, as a couple, as a family when situations, problems arise.
  • Communicate what is going on and pray.

O – Obedience/One: Am I Obedient to God & Church? Am I one with God & my spouse?

  • The fruit of Obedience is Hope.
  • HOPE helps us focus on Christ and on each other’s love, instead of just focusing on the, trials, tribulations and things that make life difficult.
  • If we don’t focus on Christ and implore His grace and mercy…then our imagination can take over and our crisis can become larger than reality.
  • This can affect our communication with each other and even the way we trust each other.
  • If we focus on Christ we will never lose hope!

T – Tools: These four things are important in every relationship!

St. John Bosco said: “Fathers and mothers owe four things to their children: maintenance, instruction, correction and good example.”

Maintenance – means: to protect, to care for and to provide the necessary things of life.

  • Daily prayer
  • Frequently receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Instruction – form ourselves – in Truth and in the Faith.

  • An ongoing process!
  • Go to the proper source for answers – the Church.

Correction – also means to improve.

  • Learn from our mistakes…have hope and move forward.
  • Discipline – an important dimension of love for ourselves and our children.

Good Example – we are to witness our love for God, for each other.

  • Respect and Dignity!

Yes, your marriage can be joy-filled! Focusing on Jesus Christ as the center of your lives and discovering the gifts He has given you can lead you to joy and hope! Celebrate life together!

Have you found joy and want to lead others to God also? Are you still searching for joy? The Pilgrim Center of Hope Ministry of Conferences and Pilgrimages have many opportunities to discover and share the treasures of the Church. Presentations on Marriage, the faith and topics to help you share your faith are available. Learn more at PilgrimCenterofHope.org.

Spiritual Battle – Top 3 Qualities of A Good Soldier

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The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 409)

The Church exists in three realms: Victorious (those members who are in heaven), Suffering (in purgatory), and Militant (on earth). Here amid the Church Militant, we hear about ‘spiritual warfare’ or ‘spiritual battle’, and much of the discussion regards “learning the devil’s tactics” or “gaining strength to resist Satan” or “watching out for signs of the enemy”. Recently, however, I reflected on how soldiers never step onto the battlefield without attending Orientation.

What is the most important quality of a good soldier?

I recently conducted a survey with this question among friends who are current or former members of the armed forces. All soldiers were asked directly. Each responded from his or her own experience, without consulting anyone. I received answers from soldiers varying in rank, age, background, gender; experienced in the United States Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. Amazingly, their answers fit into 3 categories, which correspond well to the spiritual life…

1. Commitment to the Mission – Top Response

Other words used to describe this quality: Discipline, Drive, Courage, Fortitude, Determination

One senior officer elaborated: “I always talk to my Soldiers about having a ‘Why’ Factor: That reason(s) that get you up every morning and make you the best person you can be. […] This can be the next rank, spouse, children, family, better finances, education; whatever it is that reminds them of the importance of what they do and why they strive for greatness each day.”

In the spiritual life, Jesus—our King—clearly states that we must be focused and committed to our mission: accomplishing His Will.

The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s creation, says this:
“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:14-16)

Are you committed to following Christ, or are you lukewarm? Is it love of God that drives you through trials? What is your “Why Factor” for living as you do? If it is not Christ, then start examining your conscience, and determine what dis-ordered desires or other obstacles you must address. A soldier who is neither disciplined nor committed to the mission is a danger to himself and his fellow soldiers.

2. Integrity

Other words used to describe this quality: Honor, Honesty

Closely related to the top response, Integrity is defined as “moral uprightness”, or “the state of being whole and undivided”. Soldiers who gave this response consistently needed answered with one word. That’s because integrity speaks for itself.

Look at Saint Joseph in the gospels. He is described as “a righteous man”—yet his words are never quoted. Why? The integrity of his character is reflected in his actions, which speak for themselves. If someone were to write the story of your daily life based only upon your actions and the way you respond to God’s promptings, would you be satisfied with that story? As necessary and powerful as our words and vocal prayers can be, Jesus clearly tells us that lip service is insufficient for Victory:

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

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The battle of prayer is inseparable from the necessary ‘spiritual battle’ to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ: we pray as we live, because we live as we pray.” (no. 2752) Start today, soldier! Pray for the grace to be a person of integrity. Seek God’s will so that you can accomplish it: Spend a few minutes daily with Scripture and spiritual reading, and consult a spiritual leader to help provide direction and structure for your spiritual combat training.

3. Teamwork

Other words used to describe this quality: Cooperation, Loyalty, Trustworthiness & Trust

handsA commanding officer elaborated: “I don’t want narcissists that only care about themselves.” Another asserted: “I need this person to foster teamwork, or cooperation. You can be the most patriotic, intelligent, experienced person in the U.S. military and if no one can work with you, or wants to, you’re useless.”

In the Church Militant, it is not good enough to “hang out with Jesus”. As two of Jesus’ closest disciples discovered, we cannot please God if we are jerks, even toward those who oppose us!

 

[Jesus’ messengers] entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him… When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them… (Lk. 9:52-55)

Mother Angelica advised, “Don’t say, ‘If it weren’t for that person I could be holy.’ No; you can be holy because of that person.” What bugs you about people? Are there people who drive you up the wall with their weaknesses or habits? Make it your goal to realize that you cannot win the spiritual war without learning how to love those people. When St. Therese of Lisieux found a particular Sister in her Community completely disagreeable, she employed this tactic: “Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works; then I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved the most.”

Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:34-35)

3 Keys to Victory

  1. Disciplined and Courageous Commitment: Decide to live for Christ, and use this decision to guide all other decisions.
  2. Integrity: Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.
  3. Teamwork: Remember that you are not fighting your fellow man or woman, but rather temptation to sin. Practice selfless love, generosity, and kindness to everyone.

We encourage all men to join us for our upcoming Catholic Men’s Conference. The mission of the Catholic Men’s Conference is to promote a deeper understanding of our dignity as being created in the image and likeness of God, and to provide direction and resources to help transform ourselves, our families and society. You are not alone in your battle. Find strength in numbers at this annual event for men.

#1 Gift Everyone Wants

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Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

In this past weekend’s Gospel, the rich man lives only for himself. It is not mentioned that he is evil in any other way. He lives in luxury and dines sumptuously each day. He is so absorbed in satisfying himself that he doesn’t even notice Lazarus starving at his door. The Gospel doesn’t say that Lazarus asked the rich man for anything, he just sat at his door unnoticed. The self indulgence of the rich man will have eternal consequences.

Was Lazarus being unjust by sitting at the door of the rich man?

The rich man had an abundance of something Lazarus needed, food. Lazarus longed just for the scraps that fell from his table. I recently heard a conversation on the radio in which the host and his guests were talking about how troublesome beggars are. They said, “There should be a law against them. Why can’t they just find a job?”

It might be convenient if we did not have to be bothered with such things, but life is more complicated than that. The point of this Gospel is that, we cannot just live for ourselves. We must be aware of the needs of others, and this is not only about food and shelter and clothing. We all have something that someone else needs and we will never develop spiritually until we share from what we have been given.

What is needed for our own happiness?

First of all we must give God His due, not because He needs it, but because it is necessary for our own happiness. We are created to be in a charitable relationship with God and each other. There will always be disorder in our lives until we love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart soul and strength. When we are connected to God by faith and in prayer He will guide us to make right choices.

No matter whether we are rich or poor we all have 24 hours each day and sometimes the best gift we can share is our time. First of all we must spend time in prayer each day to be connected to God and His guidance. After God, comes the people who are most important to you; your spouse, your children, parents, family members. We are obliged to share quality time with the people who depend on us. Lack of quality time destroys relationships.

Why are our gifts are so important?

Our faith community also needs for us to share from our time, talent and treasure. In baptism, we all have been given gifts by God which can only be discovered by being formed in our faith and participating in our faith community. These gifts are not for our own use only, but are meant to build up the Body of Christ, which is His Church. If we fail to contribute to our faith community in a significant way we are stifling our spiritual growth as well as that of our faith community.

One of the greatest gifts we have been given is the gift of faith because it makes it possible for us to have an intimate, personal relationship with God. This gift is only of benefit to us if we develop it, live it and share it. As our faith transforms us, we are expected to be an instrument of transformation for society. St. John Chrysostom once said: “There is no one colder than a Christian who is uninterested in the salvation of others.” When we stand before God, none of us will have an excuse for not sharing from what we have received.

Why can’t we do what we have always done?

It is natural for us to want to live just for ourselves like the rich man in the Gospel, even if we aren’t rich. However, God entered into the world in the person of Jesus Christ to radically change the possibilities of life on earth. That’s why we all must be converted to a new way of thinking and living by accepting the truths of the Gospel and turning away from sin. This conversion is possible only if it is the desire of our hearts and we ask God for the grace to make the changes we know we must make. Conversion is a daily process that is necessary for us so that we can grow in virtue and become spiritually mature.

Conversion is not only necessary for our salvation, it is also necessary for true happiness and peace right now. The Lord has a great plan for us and He has given us His Church to help us live that plan. There is great joy in drawing close to God and believing, living and sharing the truths He has revealed. After all, it is our purpose for being on this earth. Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice.

We enjoy sharing the gift of God with others and one of the special ways that the Pilgrim Center of Hope can achieve this is through our weekly television and radio series, Catholicism Live! Tune-in every Tuesday from 11 – 12 pm CST. You can watch us on Catholic Television of San Antonio via Time Warner Cable channel 15 or via the CTSA Facebook Page! Submit your questions and comments during the show on Facebook or anytime at CatholicismLive.com. We pray that all people accept the gift of faith and believe.

Choice for Catholics

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We hear the word ‘choice’ advertised often these days. . . especially in an election year.

For Catholics, we are blessed at Mass every Sunday to advertise to the world what we believe and who we choose to be when we profess as Church, our Creed.

The Nicene Creed is our Profession of Faith and through our witness in the day to day journey of striving to live it out, we Catholics are easily recognized.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

“Our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last, the beginning and the end of everything. The Credo begins with God the Father, for the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity; our Creed begins with the creation of heaven and earth, for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works.” (CCC 198)

Each Catholic’s free will choice to be what we profess means:

  • We must acknowledge one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who is Creator of all things visible and invisible.
  • We must live out this belief in the Lord, the giver of life, in all circumstances, convenient and inconvenient.
  • We must choose life for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works.

To call yourself Catholic and profess differently . . . is simply false advertising.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope is a Catholic Evangelization Ministry which exists to help Catholics live out their faith and share it with others through a variety of opportunities. Want to know more? We invite you to join us on Saturday, October 29th, 2016 for our annual Prayer Brunch benefiting the Pilgrim Center of Hope. Learn more about what we profess and what we do at PilgrimCenterofHope.org.

It’s All Your Fault

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This past weekend at the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference, I was amazed at how eager women were to go to Reconciliation. Sometimes, I find it hard to forgive others and myself, but especially to seek God’s forgiveness. A few women I spoke with said it had been years since they had been to Confession.

Why do we hesitate to seek God’s forgiveness?

This past weekend at Mass, we heard the Gospel reading that included the parable of “The Prodigal Son”. Upon hearing it after my experience this past weekend, I began to wonder, “Why did the son wait until he had lost absolutely everything and was now tending to the swine of this farm to go home to his father? Why did he put himself through all the turmoil and sleepless nights?” Was it because he knew that He had wasted what had been given to him as a blessing? Maybe, it was due to how he thought his father would react upon his return. Many times, we hesitate for the simple reason of feeling as though we have gone so far away from God that there is no way to find our way back.

Why do we put ourselves down?

At times, we feel so bad about our choices that we only focus on our emotions, and our brain gets left behind. We forget to remember the truth of the matter, and begin to think that there is nothing we can do to retain what we once had. Then, it becomes easy to think that even if we could retain it, we do not deserve it.

But, how did the Prodigal Son finally remember the truth?

Jesus tells us, “Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.” At this point, he stopped focusing on what he had done and remembered who his father was. He knew that his father took care of the people around him, and he realized that he wanted to once again be near him.

What do you expect from God?

Only asking for his father to give him what he deserved after wasting what had been given to him, he did not expect his father to receive him with such joy. Jesus wants us to know that through God, we are made new! God is always looking out in hopes to see you on the horizon. Do your expectations of God truly reflect who God is? Or do they reflect who you are and how people have treated you?

Sometimes, we turn to God out of anger, frustration, or fear. It is at times like this that I remember a line from one of my favorite Pixar movies “The Incredibles“. As Mr. & Mrs. Incredible run off to save their children, Mrs. Incredible shows her frustration for what has just happened. Meanwhile, Mr. Incredible thought he had just heard his wife and kids die in a plane crash, and was amazed when he saw that she had not died. He tells her, “You keep trying to pick a fight, but I’m still just happy you’re alive!”

Who do you blame?

I know at times, we want to blame God or our neighbor for our pain, suffering or inconvenience. I feel like God may say, “Blame me all you want, I am just grateful that you are here with me. I love you!” None of us can truly imagine the incredible love that God has for us, but we must always remember that He simply wants to spend time with us. So, don’t hesitate to come back to the only Father that can fulfill your need to be loved at all times.

Here at the Pilgrim Center of Hope, we are so thankful that many women chose to come back to Christ this past weekend. We look forward to our Catholic Men’s Conference, which will take place on March 18th, 2017. Visit our website and learn about all of the ways that this ministry helps others find their way back to Christ.

Finding True Happiness

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18th Sunday in Cycle C

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“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Mt 6:21

Where have you placed your heart?

The readings today point out the futility of putting the good things of the world before the good things of God. Much of what the world has to offer is good, but if it is not placed at the service of the kingdom of God it can cause disorder and confusion.

Jesus Christ came into the world to show us how to live in relationship with our Heavenly Father. He came not to do his own will, but the will of the One who sent him. Our vocation, our happiness is realized in our faithfulness to God’s will as He has revealed it through the Church and the Scriptures. We cannot just do what we want; we must be faithful to His plan.

Where do we turn?

When we read the lives of the saints, we see what God’s plan for humanity looks like. Although their lives were different, they all, with the help of God’s grace, were able to overcome the temptations of the world and live a life close to God which brought them great joy and peace even under extreme difficulty. God’s plan for us is the same.

“St. Francis Xavier, in the midst of his labors in India for the glory of Jesus Christ, was so replenished with divine consolations they he exclaimed: “Enough, O Lord, enough.” Where, I ask, has any lover of this world been found so satisfied with the possessions of worldly goods as to say: Enough O world, enough; no more riches, no more honors, no more applause, no more pleasures? Ah no, worldlings are constantly seeking after higher honors, greater riches, and new delights; but the more they have them, the less are their desires satisfied, and the greater their disquietude.” St. Alphonsus Liguori

All of the saints have discovered their true happiness in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the plan for all humanity without exception, and yet we find it so difficult to surrender to God and put our total trust in him. Of course we have our careers but we should discover them in prayer with the help of God’s grace.

The question for each of us is, do we believe God has a plan for us personally? If we do not believe that, we will not ask for His help and we will never become completely fulfilled. If we do believe that, then we must follow the proven path to discover His plan.

So what is His plan?

We must love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. There can be nothing more important in our life than our relationship with God, and this relationship depends upon our daily commitment to prayer and faithfulness to the Gospel. If we love God above everything else then we will be able to love ourselves and our neighbors, which demands self-denial on our part and a generous use of the gifts God has given us. Because this life of self-denial and generosity does not come natural for us, Our Lord has given us the Church and the Sacraments as the source of grace we need to live a supernatural life – beyond our human tendencies. We can only be faithful to His plan with His help.

Are you doing it all on your own?

Prayer must be a priority. In his booklet, “Into the Breach“, which Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix wrote as a challenge for men to become spiritual leaders, he says, “Until you realize that prayer is the most important thing in your life, you will never have time for prayer.”

A commitment to prayer is necessary to discover and live the great plan God has for us. It is important for husbands and wives to pray together so that Christ can be the center of their marriage and for parents to pray with their children daily. Like the saints we must discover the profound gift that God has given us in the Holy Mass and prepare ourselves to properly receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ who loves us so much that he gives us himself in this Holy Sacrament. We should receive the sacrament of reconciliation frequently, even monthly because we need this encounter with Jesus to help us overcome sin and grow in virtue. We also must be generous with what God has given us and participate in the life of our faith community. In the Church we have everything we need to remain close to Christ, but we must make it our priority; if we do not we will not be able to overcome the temptations of the world.

Living out your faith takes practice and willingness to allow God to help you. There are many resources out there to help you on your faith journey. Tune-in to “Catholicism Live!” every Wednesday from 8-9 pm CST, this weekly show is brought to you by our non-profit The Pilgrim Center of Hope to help you keep your faith alive! Visit CatholicismLive.com to listen to past episodes or see what topics we will cover this month.

Amid chaos: Having peace & trusting God

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Last week, I was standing in the Southwest Airlines ticket counter line at the San Antonio airport. My husband and I were eagerly awaiting our flight to a family get-together.

But our mood was disturbed as a woman furiously pulled her luggage into the line behind us.  From her loud phone conversation, we immediately knew that her flight home had been cancelled due to tornado warnings elsewhere. After hanging up, she began spewing expletives into our shared air, seemingly unaware of the folks around her. My annoyance turned to sadness for this woman, when she (angrily) revealed to an agent that she had an ill family member at home, with whom she needed to be present.

Whether by a trip to the airport, the grocery store, or even a walk around our neighborhood, it’s easy to see how chaotic our lives can become: people get sick, accidents happen, tasks need accomplishing… As life piles up, how can we maintain peace and trust in God?

pexels-photo-26980In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples think they’ve got it made. We get it now, they say.  We understand you and your message now!  But Jesus hands them a reality check:

Do you believe now?
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.
But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.

Just when we feel strong in faith, we get a reality check: something doesn’t go according to plan, and we panic.

Look at our first pope, Peter. As guards arrested Jesus, Peter fought back; cutting off a man’s ear! Then, he tried to escape the situation; denying three times that he ever knew Jesus. At the Crucifixion, Peter was nowhere to be found.  What happened to him later in life, so that Peter finally had peace amid chaos? How was he finally able to “take courage” and face his own persecutors and death?

Peter learned to surrender.

Typically, that word invokes negative connotations. “Surrender” seemingly epitomizes weakness…and who wants to be weak? Yet, the centrality of surrender amid suffering is the message that Peter hammers home in his letters, which are now books of our Bible (1 and 2 Peter).

Why surrender? Last month, my spiritual director instructed me to start reading a spiritual classic: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Its revered author directly addresses our desire to fight or escape God’s will:

If that which God Himself chooses for you does not content you, from whom do you expect to obtain what you desire? If you are disgusted with the meat prepared for you by the divine will itself, what food would not be insipid to so depraved a taste? No soul can be really nourished, fortified, purified, enriched, and sanctified except in fulfilling the duties of the present moment. What more would you have? As in this you can find all good, why seek it elsewhere? Do you know better than God? As he ordains it thus why do you desire it differently? Can His wisdom and goodness be deceived?

Wow. I am beginning to learn in the “School of Surrender” that the first step to maintaining peace is to see my daily life as a personalized gift from an All-Good, All-Loving, Most-Wise and All-Powerful God. If my day is filled with challenges, those challenges were tailor-made for me to overcome.  If it is peppered with good things, God has willed those good things exactly for me at that moment.

Here at the Pilgrim Center of Hope, we are dealing with a number of challenges, especially related to the upcoming Catholic Women’s Conference.  Our staff jokes daily about how we “can’t catch a break” this year. But amid what seems like chaos, we gather in Gethsemane Chapel with the CEO (the Lord Jesus). We begin with a Consecration to the Holy Spirit recommended by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller. We pray, “O Holy Spirit…I surrender myself to You…”

In preparation for Pentecost, we should make an effort to address our own daily ways of “fighting” or “escaping from” the everyday duties entrusted personally to us by Our Heavenly Father. Do we complain? Do we whine? Do we drag our feet? Do we simply ignore some duty that we know we should do? Do we attempt to escape through many hours of entertainment?

Come, Holy Spirit.  Help me surrender to you.

God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul […] God has made the attainment of our happiness, his glory. Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls. – St. Alphonsus Ligouri, from Uniformity with God’s Will

We invite all women to our 2016 Catholic Women’s Conference, which takes place on September 9th & 10th. This blessed event is where thousands of Catholic women will come together to refresh their soul. Please take a moment and pray for our ministry of conferences as we continue to grow!

Did you know?   In 2001, Mary Jane Fox founded the Catholic Women’s Conference to educate women on both the teachings of the Catholic Church and of their personal dignity.

The Secret to Finding Mr. or Mrs. Right

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What eligible man or woman has not asked the question, “How do I know if insert name here is the person I should marry? Increasingly, the young adult generation is asking a more despairing question, “Why should I marry at all?”

According to statistics, 40-50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. The percentage is even higher for subsequent marriages, which proves that most who divorce did not learn from their mistakes how to either select a good spouse or how to be one.

It is no wonder that a growing majority of people are choosing not to marry. Many are the result of broken homes and they know the pain of their parents separating. It has caused deep wounds and they are not willing to enter into the same situation that has already caused them so much suffering.

Our Catholic faith discerned through Scripture, however, professes marriage as God’s will and is clearly stated through this encounter between Jewish authorities and our Lord Jesus Christ:

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying,
Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” (Mat 19:3-9.)

So, how can God expect us to marry and stay married when it is so very difficult?

Because as always, God never asks of us what He does not provide as a way for us to succeed; and this way is the way of virtue.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself (CCC 1803.) St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.”

So, imagine if that man or woman you are dating or are already married to had the goal to always give the best of himself or herself to you. Imagine if you did the same in response. Your marriage would grow in perfection, in holiness!

Sarah Swafford, author, speaker, one-time college dormitory resident manager, and one of our speakers at this year’s Catholic Women’s Conference has listened to hundreds of young men and women lament their romantic relationships and the dearth of worthy partners to date, let alone marry.

couple walkingAfter listening to countless conversations, she began to ask them, “What traits and characteristics do you find most attractive?” Whether she asked men or women, the responses were very similar and the list of attributes lined up with a life lived in virtue.

Sarah has made a chart of the simply irresistible virtuous woman and man and encourages us to take the virtue challenge. What she discovered from the many men and women who have strived to live out the virtues of this challenge, is a movement away from self and towards the other. This human effort striving for good formed characters rich in kindness, confidence, honesty, responsibility, humility, sensitivity, forgiveness and compassion. Who wouldn’t want to be married to someone like that? Who would not want to be someone like that?!

The success of this virtue challenge is that it draws us into the work of God; and whenever we cooperate with His plan for our lives, His grace kicks in perfecting our nature. In other words, our human efforts become super-charged!

Scripture confirms this in 1 Thessalonians, 4:7-8, “For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not a human being but God, who [also] gives his holy Spirit to you.

The secret to finding Mr. or Mrs. Right is to become Mr. or Mrs. Right, or as Sarah says, “Become the man or woman of your dreams and you will attract the man or woman of your dreams!” And this is true whether you are looking to marry or are already married. What joy to wake one day and discover that through your human effort combined with God’s grace, the one sleeping next to you for the last 5, 10, 20 years is growing once again attracted to you and you to him/her!

I encourage you to go to emotionalvirtue.com and take the virtue challenge, and I invite women to see Sarah speak and share more at this year’s Catholic Women’s Conference on September 9-10th!

Painting by Artist, Leonid Afremov “Misty Mood”.