Category Archives: papacy

Stones Crying Out: A Message of Hope for Today



“. . . and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out! As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it.”
– Luke 19:37-41


Dominus Flevit

While on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I stood where Jesus spoke these words and wept. From this slope, you can see the old city of Jerusalem. At this vantage point, the Temple which will be destroyed (and where today there is a mosque) is directly in front; to the left is the house of Caiaphas where Jesus was beaten and thrown into the sacred pit, and on the right is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over Calvary and our Lord’s Tomb.

Where I stood, the stones do cry out. To commemorate where Jesus, the Son of God, wept over Jerusalem, longing to gather his people as a hen gathers her chicks (Matthew 23:37), a church made of limestone is built in the shape of a large teardrop as if fallen from heaven. The church is named Dominus Flevit, meaning, The Lord Wept.

I thought of this pilgrimage experience while reading The Agony and the Ecstasy, a fictional biography of Michelangelo, written by Irving Stone. In the 1500s—during a time of great scandal and corruption in the Church, Michelangelo used stones to create masterpieces of sacred art. He painted vivid images from the Old and New Testament on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, using clay crushed into colors for paint. Marble cut from large blocks quarried at Italian mountains became, through his hands, the Pieta; a magnificent sculpture of the Madonna holding her dead Son and offering him to the world.

The stones of that place, and the medium of the time, cried out to bring beauty and glory to God during a dark period of history when many in His Church kept silent.

As I read about the vision of the artist and the vivid descriptions of the Pieta and Sistine Chapel—with magnificent scenes including God separating light from dark, the Deluge and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden; I found myself often picking up my phone to find images on the internet to see them for myself. With just a swipe of my finger, I was brought to Rome on a virtual pilgrimage. Curious about the Scripture that explains the images, I clicked on my Bible app to read and meditate on the Word of God that brought the vision to the mind and hands of Michelangelo.

This ease of finding exactly what I was looking for made me wonder. Could our mobile devices and computers—made of aluminum, cobalt, graphite, nickel, lithium, gold, silver, copper, tungsten and iron—be the stones crying out today?

Think about it . . . as yet another great scandal rocks the Church, and the insidious rise of secular atheism tempts many disciples of Jesus to keep silent, sitting in the palm of our hands and at the touch of our fingertips, the Church doors have been flung open for all. Every person with internet access has a portal to the rich treasure of the Catholic faith—from God’s Word, to images of sacred art, teachings of the Church Fathers, papal encyclicals, lives of the saints, and even a way to have a daily dose of the Catechism of the Catholic Church dropped into your email inbox.

God is using the stones of our day and the medium of our time to paint our senses with His beauty and sculpt our hearts and minds with His Truth. Every soul can be God’s own Sistine Chapel!

At all times, we at Pilgrim Center of Hope answer Christ’s call to evangelize through our Ministry of Pilgrimages, Ministry of Conferences, and Evangelization Outreach using all forms of media. Visit the central hub of it all at

Photo of Dominus Flevit courtesy of James Emery from Douglasville, United States [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Please note: Pilgrim Center of Hope is not responsible for, nor has any control over, any ads displayed on this post.

Finding Hope in Darkness



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!

Why Hope?



People ask us, “Why did you choose the name Pilgrim Center of Hope?” The answer would require a rich story! In light of Pope Francis’ recent focus on Christian hope, however, we would like to offer some words on this topic.

So many people today feel directionless; unable to see any meaning to life. With a great number of tragedies in the news, scandals, not to mention the personal wounds we experience in daily life, it’s no wonder that many walk with their gaze downward.

In his recent General Audiences, Pope Francis has been speaking on the topic of hope. Here is a small excerpt:

It is not Christian to walk with one’s gaze directed downward — as swine do: they always go along in this way — without lifting one’s eyes to the horizon. As if our entire journey terminated here, in the span of a few meters travelled; as if our life had no goal and no mooring, and we were compelled to wander endlessly, without any reason for our many toils. This is not Christian.

The closing pages of the Bible show us the ultimate horizon of our journey as believers: the heavenly Jerusalem, the celestial Jerusalem. It is envisioned first of all as an immense tent, where God will welcome all mankind so as to dwell with them definitively (21:3). This is our hope. And what will God do, when we are with him at last? He will be infinitely tender in our regard, as a father who welcomes his children who have long toiled and suffered. John prophesies in Revelation: “Behold the dwelling of God is with men…. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away…. Behold, I make all things new” (21:3-5). The God of newness!

This is why we focus on HOPE! We are not aimlessly wandering. Each of us is a called into being by God, who loves us. Each of us is called to walk this earth with purpose, toward an eternal destination of God’s love. We are called to be hopeful people – missionaries of hope! – walking our daily lives with our eyes on that heavenly Jerusalem.

Pope Francis continues:

The Christian knows that the Kingdom of God, its dominion of Love, is growing as a great field of wheat, even if in the middle there are weeds. There are always problems; there is gossip; there are wars; there is illness … there are problems. But the wheat ripens, and in the end evil will be eliminated. The future does not belong to us, but we know that Jesus Christ is life’s greatest grace, is the embrace of God who awaits us at the end, but who is already accompanying us now and comforts us on the journey.

As Christians, we must be people on a journey – moving forward despite the rocky terrain. Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:62). Dear friends, let’s spend our time – not looking behind us, but looking ahead! With hope! This is the purpose of Pilgrim Center of Hope: to guide people to encounter Christ, so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

As Pope Francis exhorts us:

Believe in the existence of the loftiest and most beautiful truths. Trust in God the Creator, in the Holy Spirit who moves everything towards the good, in the embrace of Christ who awaits every man and woman at the end of their life. Believe, he awaits you.

We invite you to learn about joining us as a Missionary of Hope on October 28 in San Antonio at our annual Prayer Brunch!

Pope Francis’ General Audience Series on Hope:

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



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.

“Good Pope John” – Why you shouldn’t overlook Pope St. John XXIII


Despite my membership in the “John Paul II Generation,” I winced a few times leading up to Sunday, hearing questions like, “Are you going to watch the canonization? Of John Paul II and…uh…that other guy?”

Yes, this Divine Mercy Sunday – April 27, 2014 – two popes were added to the Canon of Saints: Pope Saint John Paul II, and Pope Saint John XXIII. It would be a tragedy to overlook jolly John, a simple yet revolutionary figure in the history of Catholicism. From the time I began learning about him, he quickly became one of my heroes.

In John Paul II’s homily for the Mass during which he declared John XXIII ‘Blessed’, he said:

Everyone remembers the image of Pope John’s smiling face and two outstretched arms embracing the whole world. How many people were won over by his simplicity of heart, combined with a broad experience of people and things! The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and to the powerful of the world.

Photo by La Stampa

Photo by La Stampa

Angelo Roncalli was the son of an Italian family (tenant farmers). As a young seminarian, he became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. During World War I, then-Fr. Roncalli was assigned to carry wounded soldiers on stretchers from the field of battle to the field hospital. While a Bishop, he served Vatican City as a diplomat. He was a leader in the Vatican’s efforts that saved hundreds of thousands of European Jews from Nazi deportation. “In Budapest alone, Roncalli rescued at least 50,000 Jews by issuing baptismal certificates” (Catholic World Report). Read his biography; you will be inspired.

This ‘Good Pope John’ has taught me so many lessons. Here are a few:

1. God is calling you to holiness in an unrepeatable way.

Sometimes, I read saint biographies, and I think, “Wow, that is amazing, but that’s not me.” Further, Catholics can get caught up comparing ourselves, our prayer lives, and our talents to Saint So-and-So’s. We can end up more discouraged than inspired.

As a young man, John XXIII kept a spiritual journal, and reflected on this:

“I am not St. Aloysius, nor must I seek holiness in his particular way, but according to the requirements of my own nature, my own character and the different conditions of my life. I must not be the dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, however perfect. God desires us to follow the examples of the saints by absorbing the vital sap of their virtues and turning it into our own life-blood, adapting it to our own individual capacities and particular circumstances. If St. Aloysius had been as I am, he would have become holy in a different way” (Journal of a Soul).

2. Maintain a healthy sense of humor.

Shortly after his election, John XXIII was walking in the streets of Rome. A woman passed by, noticed him, and said to her friend, “My God, he’s so fat!” Having overheard, he turned around and replied, “Madame, I trust you understand that the papal conclave is not exactly a beauty contest.”

Famously, a journalist once asked him, “How many people work in the Vatican?”

He responded, “About half of them.”

3. God is in control; it’s OK to relax.

You think your life is stressful? Imagine being the Pope…the man elected to lead 1 billion Catholics around the world, who are facing all types of challenges, living in all different cultures, and with so many needs. Imagine holding the title, ‘Vicar of Christ on Earth’!

John XXIII said, “It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it.  Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope…”  Talk about pressure! How did Good Pope John deal with it? At the end of a long day, he is said to have prayed, “Well, Lord, it’s your church. You take care of it. I’m going to bed.”

Simple as that.

4. “I am your brother.”

Having worked in evangelization for several years, I still find it hard to preach the Gospel. Loving others and speaking the truth to them requires us to get our hands dirty; to be present to people wherever they are; to be vulnerable. I fear ridicule, or failure. John XXIII maintained a very simple but profound attitude. He often greeted people saying, “I am your brother.”

Somehow, that phrase changes my perspective. I’m overwhelmed by the thought of approaching people with the Gospel, but when I remind myself, “I am their sister,” my eyes are opened to the simplicity of God’s call. Just be a brother.

5. Most of all — Do not worry. Do not be afraid.

Elected pope at 77, everyone expected John XXIII’s pontificate to be quick and forgettable. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, John’s turned out to be one of the most revolutionary pontificates in history. Most notably, he called for an ecumenical council: a meeting of the entire Church. In Christianity’s 2,000-year history, only twenty of these had been organized. So, why did he do it?

He said this in his opening address at the Second Vatican Council: “In the daily exercise of Our pastoral office, it sometimes happens that We hear certain opinions which disturb Us—opinions expressed by people who, though fired with a commendable zeal for religion, are lacking in sufficient prudence and judgment in their evaluation of events. They can see nothing but calamity and disaster in the present state of the world. They say over and over that this modern age of ours, in comparison with past ages, is definitely deteriorating. One would think from their attitude that history, that great teacher of life, had taught them nothing. They seem to imagine that in the days of the earlier councils everything was as it should be so far as doctrine and morality and the Church’s rightful liberty were concerned.

We feel that We must disagree with these prophets of doom, who are always forecasting worse disasters, as though the end of the world were at hand.”

Rather than flee from the world and lock the church doors behind us, John XXIII envisioned a Church that was empowered by the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and bring God’s love. Because John XXIII was unafraid to start a revolution, unafraid of the doom-and-gloom, and unafraid of what people might think of him, today we have a more lively, educated, enthusiastic, culturally-rich Catholic Church.

What a debt we owe him.

In my life, how do I ‘see the fruits’ as Jesus says?



In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), together let’s reflect on today’s Gospel reading. Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep´s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

Today, we reflect:

What do grapes, thorns, figs, and thistles have to teach us about the kingdom of God? The imagery used by Jesus would have been very familiar to his audience. A certain thornbush had berries which resembled grapes. And a certain thistle had a flower, which at least from a distance, resembled the fig. Isn’t it the same today? What we “hear” might have a resemblance of the truth, but, in fact, when you inspect it closely, it’s actually false. False prophets or teachers abound today as much as they did in biblical times.

What’s the test of a true or false teacher? Jesus connects soundness with good fruit. Something is sound when it is free from defect, decay, or disease and is healthy. Good fruit is the result of sound living – living according to moral truth and upright character. The prophet Isaiah warned against the dangers of falsehood: Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20). The fruits of falsehood produce an easy religion which takes the iron out of religion, the cross out of Christianity, and any teaching which eliminates the hard sayings of Jesus, and which push the judgments of God into the background and makes us think lightly of sin.

How do we avoid falsehood in our personal lives? By being true – true to God, his word, and his grace. And that takes character! Those who are true to God know that their strength lies not in themselves but in God who supplies what we need. The fruit of a disciple is marked by faith, hope and love, justice, prudence, fortitude and temperance. Do you seek to cultivate good fruit in your life and reject whatever produces bad fruit?

May this be our prayer: “Lord Jesus, may I bear good fruit for your sake and reject whatever will produce evil fruit. Help me grow in faith, hope, love, sound judgment, justice, courage, and self control.”

How I learned the Good News – and then some Better News.


Have you ever heard this one?

The Good News is: There’s a Messiah!
The Even Better News is: It’s not you.

frustratedI think I need to write this joke on my mirror, because I often feel like everything’s up to me: I’ve gotta write that email! I’ve gotta be involved in that meeting! I can’t get sick or rest, because if I do, everything’s gonna fall apart!!!


Recently, we’ve all gained a hero in this regard. By his abdicating what’s arguably one of the most powerful seats in the world, the Chair of St. Peter, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI made everyone stop and think, ‘Hold on…did he really just do that?’ And yes, he did. Taking all the consequences into consideration, he decided to step down from being THE POPE. The leader of over 1 billion people. The Vicar of Christ on earth. Yes, he did it.

That decision took an almost-unbelievable amount of humility, a virtue quite rare in our modern world. Today, people give up their privacy, safety, and health for just minutes of fame on TV. In politics, business, and even schools and churches, we accept cherished leadership positions for which we’re not prepared, qualified, or to which we cannot dedicate our time. Social media, while giving voices to once-voiceless minorities, have also contributed to a culture of vanity, egoism and pride.

Where did we go wrong?

jesus-and-the-disciples-going-to-emmausUndoubtedly, you and I have responsibilities; we’ve each been entrusted with a mission from God that no other person can accomplish. He ‘calls us by name’ and sends us forth to accomplish this mission (cf. Isaiah 43:1). However, Jesus teaches us repeatedly in the Gospels that we are stewards. We have a mission, but God provides the mission and the means to accomplish that mission. To make this point, he asks his disciples, “‘When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?’ ‘No, nothing,’ they replied.” (Luke 22:35)

When we begin congratulating ourselves for what God has helped us accomplish, we start nudging God out of the picture. Certainly, we should have joy and ‘take pride’ in skills, talents and abilities that we’ve refined with hard work. But we cannot lose sight of the Source of every good thing in our lives: Our Heavenly Father.

God has taught me this lesson by allowing me to suffer greatly over the past several years, in my body, my mind, and my spirit. The pain often led me to immense frustration with God. Over time and with prayer, however, my pain helped me realize how little, weak, fragile and frail I am. I realized that I couldn’t accomplish anything without God’s help. God had given me my body, my soul, my spirit. He filled me with talents. He provided me with wonderful opportunities, a family, and friends. With every sunrise, He’s brought me a new day of life.

We cannot live the Good News without remembering “the Better News,” as the joke calls it. God lives! And despite how everything may appear to you, He is taking care of everything. So, cultivate your sense of gratefulness. Start your own ‘ritual’ of daily offering; for me, that means getting on my knees every day and saying, “Lord, I love you. I thank you, and I give you everything that you have given me. Help me serve you well today.”

Let God be God. You, be you.

I always knew that the Lord is in the ship, that the ship of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.
– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, during his final General Audience

Simple and Complicated: Thoughts on Pope John Paul II and the Walking Dead


G. K. Chesterton, English writer, thinker and Catholic convert wrote many books and essays on the nature of man, God and life. On his deathbed he summed it up in one sentence: “It is between light and darkness, and everyone must choose his side.”

A friend of mine once spoke of how complicated our Catholic faith is. I have come to realize that both Chesterton and my friend are correct. The Catholic faith is both complicated and simple.

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Jesus gave us the eight beatitudes and two commandments, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We Catholics turned these commandments and beatitudes into the Catechism of the Catholic Church and libraries full of documents, writings and studies on our faith. Our Catholic faith is both complicated and simple because humanity is complicated and God is simple. In fact, God can even reduce His twelve commandments and eight beatitudes into one word: Love

God is Love.

So what is our response to this love? This is where we like to complicate things.

After watching Witness to Hope, a film about the life of Pope John Paul, II, I became intrigued with this man of God who has given the world, Theology of the Body – teachings on how the human body is created to respond to God. As someone who always hated her body; his teachings have turned my Catholic faith inside-out, upside-down and set it on fire.

A few weeks ago I bought the book Witness to Hope written by George Weigel so I can learn by reading what I should have learned by living through.

This book is not light reading. It is thick with facts, but the gems of wisdom are so precious they compel me to painstakingly read every word for fear I will miss one.

A few weeks ago, I am huddled in my corner chair reading the book while my sons and husband watch their favorite show, The Walking Dead. This show set amidst a zombie apocalypse pits a small rag-tag group of survivors against a majority population of walkers; dead people who somehow are still able to walk and eat.

As I’m reading, I find one of the gems of wisdom: Person and Act, a study by JPII. George Weigel writes about it (emphasis is mine):

Our personhood, he argues, is constituted by the fact of our freedom, which we come to know through truly “human acts.” In choosing one act (to pay a debt I have freely contracted) rather than another (to cheat on my debt), I am not simply responding to external conditions (fear of jail) or internal pressure (guilt). I am freely choosing what is good. In that free choosing, I am also binding myself to what I know is good and true. In this free choice of the good and true, Wojtyla suggests, we can discern the transcendence of the human person. I go beyond myself, I grow as a person, by realizing my freedom and confirming to the good and the true. Through my freedom, I narrow the gap between the person-I-am and the person-I-ought to be.

I sit back contemplating this, when I realize it is being played out on the TV:

The leader of the survivors, Rick, has to deal with a situation: A member of his group has been bitten by a zombie walker, but not killed. Fellow group members are yelling at Rick to kill the man before the inevitable occurs. He looks around and sees his wife, son and the others with terror-stricken faces. Rick knows this man will eventually become a flesh-eating zombie, but for now he is still a man and member of their group.

He turns to the bitten man trying desperately to decide what the correct response is. A scuffle begins as some of the others attempt to take matters into their own hands. Rick makes his choice and shuts it all down with the words, “We don’t kill the living.”

In a complicated situation, Rick chooses a simple good.

Our Catholic faith teaches various way to obey God’s simple command to love. It is why our faith is often described as a web because no matter where you land, you can take intricate strands back and forth, up and down but they all eventually reach the middle…God is love.

I have been making a conscious effort to decide how I “should” respond in the decisions and choices I make every day. To know the simple good, I have to know my faith. Because of God’s simple love for us, He provides it in as many complicated ways as we humans need, by way of Scripture and the Catechism.

Though I will never have to encounter zombie life or death, I may face issues in my family of unwanted pregnancy or removing life support. It’s comforting to know that our Lord will provide the simple answer to these complicated decisions. I trust my Catholic faith to narrow that gap between the woman-I-am and the woman-I-ought to be, and show me how to simply choose the good.

What Are We Supposed to DO During the Year of Faith? Pope Benedict XVI’s Road Map.


If you haven’t already heard, Pope Benedict XVI has announced a Year of Faith for all Catholics, which began October 11 and runs through November 24, 2013. If you have heard, you’ve probably guessed that we’re supposed to grow stronger in our faith this year…but, how?

Our Holy Father didn’t just say, “Year of Faith. Tag…you’re it!” and expect us to go our own way. As a good pastor, he wrote us a letter called The Door of Faith (Porta Fidei). In this letter, he gives us a road map for this special Year.

Here are the basics:

REDISCOVER. Our Holy Father says this Year is a time to rediscover the journey of faith, “rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves” on the Scriptures (as they are given to us by the Church) and on the Eucharist, “rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith,” rediscover God’s love “day by day,” and “rediscover and study the content of the faith.”

Since that’s a lot to swallow, he breaks it all down further into bite-sized chunks.

1. BE RENEWED. We’re called to renew commitment to our Catholic faith, but true renewal only comes by God’s grace. Our transformation and turning towards God is supernatural! We can’t do it on our own; we have to cooperate with God. The Pope reminds us: “To the extent that he freely cooperates [with grace], man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed” (6). So, we need God’s grace! How do we receive it? As Catholics, we especially receive grace through the sacraments. “Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would lack efficacy because it would lack the grace which supports Christian witness” (11). How will you commit to receiving Confession and Holy Communion more often this Year?

St. Augustine

2. REFLECT. Even when we receive the sacraments, we need to be open to receiving the graces. Are you keeping up walls that have become obstacles to God? This Year, our Holy Father calls us to “reflect on the act of faith” (9). He reminds us that we cannot have any certainty in our lives unless we abandon ourselves into God’s hands (7). We need to reflect: How am I clinging to my wants, fears, and habits? Why am I not trusting God with everything? How can I begin to shed the obstacles that are keeping God out of every area of my life?

3. REPEAT & RECALL. When we allow God in, He can give us the supernatural gift of faith. But we need to cultivate this gift by repeating and recalling the Creed. The Holy Father point us to words by St. Augustine—the former sinner extraordinaire—who tells us that reciting the Creed in church isn’t enough. “In your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts” (9). And Pope Benedict reminds us, “A Christian may never think of belief as a private act” (10). You might start by discovering ALL that our Church teaches, even one paragraph of the Catechism at a time. Perhaps find a letter by a pope on a subject you find interesting. Then, commit to repeating and recalling our Faith in every area of your life.

4. RETRACE. We learn how to constantly “repeat and recall” our faith from the lives of faithful people who’ve gone before us. The Pope says retracing our Faith’s history “will be of decisive importance in this Year” (13). We can do this in a variety of ways. Here are just a few examples:

  • Sign up for a Scripture study about the Old Testament or the Early Church.
  • Read the lives of the saints – buy a book, check out some from your local library, or search online.
  • Attend a presentation on Church history – ask your parish or diocese for ideas.
  • Participate in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land or other holy site – we’re organizing several.

5. RECOGNIZE. Inspired by these models of faith, we are called to “recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love” (14). This means giving ourselves in service to others. Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the Scriptures say, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2), and that Jesus asks us to care for him through “the least” among us (Matthew 25). How will you commit to recognize and serve Christ in others this Year?

6. RELATIONSHIP. Our Holy Father ends with two more pointers. First, that “this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm” (15). Interestingly, he writes in this section about the suffering and joyful experiences in our lives. As with anyone, our relationship with Jesus strengthens when we share our joys and our sufferings with Him—and when He’s the cause of our joy and suffering! When you truly live your Faith, you’ll “have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith…is tested by fire” (1 Peter) like gold. So, how will you commit to share your joys and sufferings with Jesus? You might schedule regular prayer time, keep a journal, practice Lectio Divina, drop into a Eucharistic Adoration chapel, or even place a picture of Jesus in a special place at home or work.

7. RECONCILIATION. Finally, every time we fail to do all of the above, God offers us mercy. Pope Benedict reminds us that the Church is “the visible community of (God’s) mercy” (15). We cannot be the Body of Christ all by ourselves; we are each members who are part of the whole Body (1 Corinthians 12)! This Year of Faith, accept God’s gift of mercy by going to Confession frequently, The Sacrament of Reconciliation. Then, commit to being an active member of your local parish—one who offers the peace and forgiveness of Jesus to everyone.

What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end. (Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei 15)

5 Crucial Lessons for Us All, from Pope Benedict XVI’s Visit to Lebanon


This past weekend, Pope Benedict XVI courageously journeyed to Lebanon—neighboring tumultuous Syria, Israel, Iraq and Iran. Why wasn’t this historic visit covered by major news networks? In journalism, “if it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead.” Personally, I’d rather not let mainstream media tell me which stories are important!

Contrary to the conflict in most news stories, Pope Benedict XVI came as “a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs.” Every human being, and especially us Catholics, should heed five important lessons from his various activities in Lebanon:

Youthful crowd meets Pope Benedict XVI in Lebanon (L’Osservatore Romano)

ONE: The World Must Not Forget Middle Eastern Christians

How often do you pray for the Christians in the Middle East? Westerners visiting that region may ask the native Christians, “When did you convert?” To which most Middle Eastern Christians would proudly respond: “Never! I am a descendant of the first Christians!” In our ignorance, we Westerners often forget that Our Lord chose the Middle East to be his homeland; he chose the Jewish and Arab peoples to be the his first disciples!

In Lebanon, our Holy Father expressed gratitude for their faithful 2,000-year witness: “How can we fail to thank God at every moment for all of you, dear Christians of the Middle East! How can we fail to praise him for your courage and faith? How can we fail to thank him for the flame of his infinite love which you continue to keep alive and burning in these places which were the first to welcome his incarnate  Son? How can we fail to praise and thank him for your efforts to build  ecclesial and fraternal communion, and for the human solidarity which you constantly show to all God’s children?”

We would do the Body of Christ a disservice if we failed to love and pray for Middle Eastern Christians.

TWO: In Times of Discord, Solidarity Has Power

Given all the violence that has recently developed in the Middle East, you’d think that the Holy Father would’ve at least thought about cancelling this trip to Lebanon. But his response? “I never took that idea into consideration, because I know that as the situation becomes more complicated, it is even more necessary to offer a sign of fraternal encouragement and solidarity.”

Normally, our human tendency in conflict is: Fight, or Flight. But Christ asks us to go beyond what is natural, to the supernatural. The Holy Father said: “Experiencing together moments of friendship and joy enables us to resist the onset of division, which must always be rejected! Brotherhood is a foretaste of heaven!”

The Pope and President of Lebanon (Vatican Television Center video)

THREE: Mutual Respect is Not Optional

We’re quick to identify enemies, especially in foreign policy and times of strife. Isn’t it easier to say, “Those people,” instead of “My brothers”?

Pope Benedict XVI encouraged tens of thousands of young Middle Easterners gathered with him to be examples of the mutual respect to which God calls us. “Christ asks you,” he said, “to do as he did: to be completely open to others, even if they belong to a different cultural, religious or national group.” The Pope reminded political leaders in the Middle East, “In God’s plan, each person is unique and irreplaceable,” made in God’s image and likeness. Therefore, we are commanded by Christ to love one another.

FOUR: Strengthening the Family Will Strengthen Society

Lebanon’s President was extremely impressed and moved by the Holy Father’s address to government and religious leaders. President Suleiman said, “All the people and the politicians of the Middle East should hear, read and meditate on this speech of the Pope.”

So, what did the Pope say? Fundamentally, he spoke about how to strengthen global society: “A person comes into this world in a family, which is the first locus of humanization, and above all the first school of peace. To build peace, we need to look to the family, supporting it and facilitating its task, and in this way promoting an overall culture of life.”

FIVE: True Religion Spreads Peace

Nowadays, we Americans are used to being engaged in war somewhere overseas—particularly in the Middle East. But as Catholics first and Americans second, we need to examine each war according to Catholic teaching before expressing our support. Pope Benedict XVI gave a counter-cultural message while in Lebanon: “We must promote all possible actions, including material ones, to support the end of war and violence so that all can contribute to the rebuilding of the country,” he said.

Even en route to the Middle East, Pope Benedict XVI asserted, “The basic message of religion must be against violence which is a falsification like fundamentalism,” emphasizing that religion “must be education and the illumination and purification of conscience to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace.”