Category Archives: saints

Encountering Mary, A Christian’s Spiritual Mother

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Why would John’s Gospel place the following quote of Our Lord Jesus at the height of his Passion and Death; his final act from the Cross before handing over the Spirit?

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)

Is this simply the act of a loving son, ensuring his mother’s well-being before his death?

Perhaps not. When we look at the actions of Mary in Scripture, we realize how significant a role she has in the life of her Son & his disciples:

  • She is the first person in the New Covenant demonstrating a willingness to cooperate with God’s will (cf. Luke 1)
  • She is the first person in the New Covenant who is filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1)
  • Her first physical act in the Gospel is to serve someone in need (cf. 1:39)
  • She kept and reflected on God’s action in her family’s life. (cf. Luke 2:51)
  • Noticing a need in their community, she prompted Jesus to perform his first public miracle, with cooperation from the servants at her instruction to “do whatever he tells you.” (cf. John 2)
  • She is present during Jesus’ public preaching ministry. (cf. Matthew 12:46, Mark 3:31, Luke 8:19)
  • She is one of the few people still present, at his Cross. (cf. John 19:25)
  • She has a noted presence with the first Christian community at Jerusalem, awaiting the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (cf. Acts 1:14)

Mary was a “young virgin” from Nazareth; a small town. In other words, she was a “nobody from nowhere.” Yet, when we look at her with the eyes of the heart, we see Mary’s cooperation with the Father’s will, her relationship with Jesus, and her prayer life in the Holy Spirit, and her simple love for others. In other words, we see her as the primary, model Christian.

For this reason, it is a mistake for us to approach Mary from either extreme: dismissive or intimidated. When we encounter Mary of Nazareth with the eyes of our heart, Christians can discover a spiritual mother who gently points us toward her Son.

On January 1, Pope Francis said:

At the beginning of the year, we, as Christians on our pilgrim way, feel the need to set out anew from the center, to leave behind the burdens of the past and to start over from the things that really matter. Today, we have before us the point of departure: the Mother of God. For Mary is what God wants us to be, what he wants his Church to be: a Mother who is tender and lowly, poor in material goods and rich in love, free of sin and united to Jesus, keeping God in our hearts and our neighbor in our lives. […]

Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life. Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman. While a man often abstracts, affirms and imposes ideas, a woman, a mother, knows how to “keep,” to put things together in her heart, to give life. If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us.

Dear Jesus, I believe in eternal life through your love, starting with my life right here and now. This year, I want to follow you even better than before. Please help me to encounter your mother as my spiritual mother. Mary, as you praise God from heaven, pray that I would see God’s love for me, today, and every day.

Invitations: Encounter Mary

Tune in as we “Meet Mary” online, on TV, and via radio next week.

Learn more about the Scriptural Praise of Mary during an Evening with Mary at Saint Monica Church in Converse, Texas, Thursday, January 18 at 7pm. This simple, mini-conference is a time to learn, grow in your prayer life, ask questions, and encounter Jesus through the heart of our spiritual mother.

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When Someone Asks, “Do You Know Jesus?”

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Have you ever been asked about your relationship with Jesus?

This question changed our lives. Long before life as an ordained deacon, Tom Fox (our Co-Founder/Co-Director) had a career in hotel management. Once, during their daily lunch together, Tom’s coworker asked him, “Is Jesus the Lord of your life?”

That question gave Tom cause to ponder. He went to church every Sunday, and occasionally went to Confession. But, was faith the primary influence in his life? Honestly, no; it wasn’t.

What about you? The real question is not, “Do you know about Jesus?” but rather, “What does your life tell me about who Jesus is?” Jesus himself, while living on earth, said that merely knowing about him or speaking about him would be useless for salvation, if we do not also witness to him by living our lives as he taught us: Our Father in Heaven…thy will be done.

“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.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

One of our good friends in Heaven, Saint Henry de Osso, believes strongly in the need for an ongoing, personal encounter with Jesus. While living in Spain, he started groups for people of all ages toward this goal, including The Friends of Jesus Club for children. Their purpose? To love Jesus, to talk to him daily, and do what he asks.

Ultimately, our Christian faith really is that simple. The question is: Do we allow Jesus to transform us to be that simple witness, each day?

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel)

Jesus, I want to know you more. Help me to grow closer to you. I want to love you more. Send your Holy Spirit to prompt me daily, to speak with you from my heart. I open my life to you. Help me each day to seek & act on Our Heavenly Father’s will.

Come Encounter Jesus at Pilgrim Center of Hope!
Join us Thursday, January 11, 2018 for a Day / Evening of Hope: prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, spiritual presentations, Q&A, and veneration of St. Henry de Osso’s relic. (Learn More On Our Website.)

 

Let God Love You!

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For Pilgrim Center of Hope’s first Day of Hope with Father Pat Martin, thirteen men and women participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Gethsemane Chapel, enjoyed coffee, sweets, and fellowship; and grew in faith through a morning reflection offered by Father Patrick Martin, the new chaplain of Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Below, we share some of Father’s reflection. Our next Day of Hope with Father Pat Martin will be held at Pilgrim Center of Hope on Thursday, January 11, 2018.

Day of Hope Reflection

Father began the morning reflection with a question, “What was special about the Apostles?” Several gave their responses highlighting the Apostles’ faith, their trust in Jesus, and their hope that Jesus is the Messiah.

Father remained quiet, drawing us all deeper into his reflection. When one of the group said, “The Apostles loved Jesus,” Father responded, “Yes, Love! But, not that the Apostles loved Jesus, but that Jesus loved them. They were His Apostles, because they let Jesus love them as they were.”

Father Pat has been blind since childhood due to meningitis. He shared a personal story of a faith healer who once put his hands over Father’s eyes bellowing, “God wants to heal your blindness!” Father said, “I removed his hands from my face and bellowed back, ‘Then God is a failure!’” The faith healer responded, “Blasphemy!” to which Father said, “You blaspheme, because you are speaking as if you know what God wants.”

Father said, “If God came to cure blindness, then He is a failure, but He did not come to cure blindness nor to end suffering. God came to love us right where we are. The Message of Christianity is this: Jesus loves you. The Apostles were special because they let Jesus love them even in their sinfulness.”

To emphasize this, Father compared the sins of Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. He said that in ranking their sins at the Passion, Peter’s was worse, because he denied knowing Jesus—and even cursed as he did so, whereas Judas did not deny Him, but sinned out of greed.

At that he began to curse and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately a cock crowed. (Matthew 26:74)

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, ‘What is that to us? Look to it yourself.’ Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

Father asked, “Why was Peter able to seek our Lord’s forgiveness? It was that looking at Jesus and His Eyes of Love that drew him out of his sin into God’s forgiveness. He let Jesus love him as he was in that moment.”

[…and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” (Luke 22:51)

“Imagine,” Father said, “If Judas sought Jesus out, instead of the Pharisees?”

Father ended this part of the reflection by saying that God knows we are miserable failures. “We are the ones who keep denying it and trying to earn our worth,” Father said, “God asks only that we let Him love us.”

Father told a story about a time on pilgrimage in the Holy Land with Pilgrim Center of Hope when he was meditating on St. Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Christ. He said, “I asked our Lord, ‘Did she regret all her sins and the lost years?’ Jesus replied, ‘No, she was too busy looking at my Love’.” Father said, “Mary Magdalene saw Jesus’ love for her, and could not get enough of it.”

“How,” Father asked, “Can we be an Apostle? How can we be a Saint? The way is to let Jesus love you.” Father asked another question, “Why do I not love like Jesus?” He then answered, “Because I am deaf and blind to His love for me.”

Father explained a dark moment in his life when he felt like a complete failure. He said in contemplation he was given a prayer to offer, “Mary, help me see God’s love for me today.” He has been praying that prayer every day since, and says, “The more I pray it, the more I see how blind I am to His love, and the deeper I discover His Love for me.”

Father urged us to offer that prayer often. He explained how God’s love is infinite, and we are each loved in a way yesterday that is new today, and will be new again not only tomorrow, but the next minute. He encouraged everyone to pray this prayer saying, “Just watch how God shows you His Love for you anew . . . brand new!”

A question was asked, “How do we help our loved ones find Jesus?”

Father cautioned that we are not to preach, but rather pray for them, suggesting turning the prayer he just shared towards others: “Mary, help (name of loved one) see God’s love for him/her today.”

He also encouraged us to share our personal love story with Jesus. He said, “No one can refute what you personally experienced, and it is this experience that our Lord will use to draw your loved ones to Him.”

Father ended the Day of Hope by sharing the song our Lord gave him when Father asked to see Jesus. The song, “He Loves Me,” has been copyrighted by Father, and is available for all at no charge. Contact Pilgrim Center of Hope to obtain a copy.

He Loves Me

 

He loves me! He loves me!
He loves me as I am,
Oh yes, He loves me!
Yes, He loved me yesterday,
And yes, He’ll love me still tomorrow,
For He loves me just today, the way I am!

He loves me! He loves me!
And all He asks is that I let Him love me!
Let Him love me as He chooses,
With no thoughts for wins or loses,
Let Him love me as I am is all He asks!

He knows me! He knows me!
Better than I know myself,
Oh yes, He knows me!
Who I was the other day,
And who I will become tomorrow,
But He loves me just the same the way I am!

He calls me! He calls me!
He calls me as I am to spread His love!
Knowing well who I have been,
Who I will be, who I am,
Yet He calls me just the same to spread His love!

He frees me! He frees me!
He frees me to say YES whenever He calls me!
Showing me His own compassion, love and care and understanding,
He frees me to say my YES when He calls me!

He loves me! He loves me!
He loves me as I am
Oh yes, He loves me!
Finding me wherever I am,
He gently guides me by the hand,
For He loves me as I am, oh, He loves me!
For He loves me as I am, oh, He loves me!

Little Ways to Transform Your Heart

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What are little epiphanies?

They are “little nothings of every day hope,” and the “ordinary ways to sanctity,” according to Susan Muto, PhD, executive director of Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality, who served as our keynote speaker at the Prayer Brunch benefiting our ministry on Saturday, October 28.

During our weekly staff meetings, we’ve been discussing Dr. Muto’s book, Twelve Little Ways to Transform Your Heart: Lessons in Holiness and Evangelization from St. Therese of Lisieux. To our delight, we discovered the lessons in her book wove perfectly into our ministry’s mission of guiding people to Christ and His Church. We strive to be missionary disciples reminding people that trusting in God provides hope in all the circumstances of our lives.

In her presentation on Sunday, Dr. Muto expanded on four of the ‘Little Ways’ listed in her book:

1. Little Way of Hiddenness

Dr. Muto said, “That the majority of us will never be famous, in the news or on any headline, so it is in the hiddenness of life we are to seek our sanctity.” She calls it the, “Nazareth of Everydayness;” many opportunities each day to be with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and live in hope. Hiddenness is where we can count on the grace of our baptism to give us the hope we need to love our spouses, raise our children, cling to our faith, and never give up.

2. Little Way of Abandonment to Providence

This is where we are to let go of our plans in life, and surrender in trust to God’s providence. St. Therese reconciled her burning desire to be a missionary, with the reality of life in the cloister and in growing illness, by cultivating a spirituality that, “surrenders like a little child in her Father’s arms,” trusting He would never give a desire He would not fulfill. We can practice living in this hope by consciously turning our plans over to God like, “twigs into a fire.” We will witness the, “flames of trust grow higher with each twig of surrender.”

3. Little Way of Simplicity

In a world that is full of complications, we can act in simplicity by defying our, “culture of the lie,” and living, “without guile; which means we say what we mean and mean what we say and that our yes should mean yes and our no should mean no.” Forgiveness is the key to living in simplicity, and though sin complicates our lives, we can find hope in understanding that, “God gazes at us always, slicing through the layers of sin and seeing directly into our souls.”

4. Little Way of Unceasing, World Redeeming Prayer

We can plug into God’s plan for salvation by choosing as St. Therese did to, “Read the text of daily life,” through an acceptance and offering of our little annoyances and big struggles. Muto shared several stories demonstrating how St. Therese took every opportunity to engage in the, “Serious business of prayer by hesitating before reacting, asking for grace, and trusting God that what He has called us to, will be disclosed to us.”

Dr. Muto ended her presentation with a prayer of St. Therese, and thanked God for Pilgrim Center of Hope and the blessing of our respective ministries.

You can meet Dr. Susan Muto and hear her speak at our Catholic Seniors’ Conference on February 24, 2018 at St. Matthew Church McDonald Center.

Pilgrim Center of Hope founders Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox, with Dr. Susan Muto

Teresa, A Friend of Ours

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In just a couple of weeks, hundreds of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s friends will be gathering at our annual Prayer Brunch benefit event. One of the most exciting things we’ll discuss is the upcoming 25th Anniversary Year of this ministry. Praise God! As we reflect on these years, we reflect on a friend in Heaven: St. Teresa of Avila. She entered eternal life on October 4, 1582.

Perhaps we wouldn’t have Pilgrim Center of Hope, as we know it, without her help. The Center sits on about seven acres of land which we rented for many years from the Sisters of St. Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila)! With the support of hundreds of personal donations, the land was purchased by Pilgrim Center of Hope in 2013. The Sisters left us many of their furnishings and even religious art; including both a small statue and an old painting of Teresa of Avila.

In the painting, she is seated with her hand over her heard, commemorating the extraordinary experience called her Transverberation. That experience is what Bernini infamously sculpted into marble; an angel piercing Teresa’s heart with a flaming arrow. It was a mystical revelation of God’s love in Teresa’s life.

With her right hand, Teresa is writing her most well-known poem. In the painting, it is written in its original Spanish:

Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante, 
Todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda;
La paciencia,
Todo lo alcanza,
Quien a Dios tiene,
Nada le falta,
Sólo Dios basta.

Which translates to:

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing fright you,
All things are passing,
God never changes;
Patience
Obtains all things,
Whoever has God
Lacks nothing,
God alone suffices.

This painting hangs near our Chapel, where our staff prays each day. It is a beautiful reminder – not only of the message that God is the answer to every concern, but also reminds us of our Spiritual Mother in Heaven who undoubtedly intercedes for this ministry. Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

Not only have we had Teresa on our side, but also her two most famous spiritual daughters, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta! Thérèse has a history of interceding for us, and Mother Teresa wrote our founders a letter encouraging them to continue answering Christ’s call as they were seeking His direction for their lives.

The origin of the name “Teresa” is possibly derived from the Greek meaning “harvest.” That is no surprise to us. We are confident that God has called us to work in His Vineyard, to prepare our hearts and the hearts of many people for His Coming. Amen!

As you continue your daily pilgrimage this week, remember the message of the Saints! Lord Jesus, we place our trust in You.

A Story of Joy: When I Prayed with People from All Over the World

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Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Faith is caught rather than taught’? While many family members struggle to communicate faith to loved ones or friends who no longer practice it, perhaps we should pause to consider that simple saying.

When Mary Cook decided to go on a Marian Pilgrimage with us in 2011, she had been Catholic all her life. While on pilgrimage, however, she experienced unique moments that deeply impacted her faith. Here is a bit of that story:

The first place we went was Fatima in Portugal. We had Mass at the little chapel where Mary first spoke to the children (in her apparitions of 1917), and my husband and I had gotten to read during Mass. We stood right where Mary stood when she appeared to the three children.

At night, we said a Rosary in that same chapel. We were all holding a candle, and it made for a very holy feeling. I counted probably eight or nine different languages that were spoken that night. Someone from each country would lead a decade of the Rosary, and it was beautiful. It helps you realize how the Catholic Church is really a universal Church; a worldwide Church, and we could pray with people from all over the world. We can’t talk to each other—we can’t have a conversation, but we could pray with each other and understand what we were praying.

While we were in Paris visiting a basilica there, a group of nuns approached us and invited us to lunch! They live there, and as part of their ministry, they fix a meal and invite pilgrims to lunch. So, we went to lunch; a very simple, French meal—but it was a lot of food! They served us, and what struck me about them is that they were so joyful. They were so happy whisking around and serving the different people.

The pilgrimage really brought me closer to Mary. I was born and raised Catholic; Mary’s always been there, but I never had a special relationship with her. I got to know her better. I grew closer to her. I consider her my spiritual mother. Catholics are really, really blessed that we have Mary. Everybody else does, too, but they don’t know it.

Going on a pilgrimage is like going on a vacation in Heaven! It’s different from a regular vacation; it’s a pilgrimage—very prayerful, with Mass, praying the Rosary every day, with a group of likeminded people. You get to know the people really well. It’s a lot of fun! I absolutely loved it. I took lots of pictures, but I have so many memories ingrained in my mind. I can go back to those places in prayer anytime.

Witnessing the unity and joy of the Church, and the love of the Blessed Mother and her fellow pilgrims, helped Mary’s faith to deepen. “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses,” wrote Pope Paul VI in 1975. How true this rings today! Ask the Blessed Mother to pray for you, that the Holy Spirit would help you grow as a witness of your relationship with God.

We invite you to consider journeying with us on a Marian Pilgrimage April 3-14, 2018. Learn more on our website.

“A Pilgrim Center of Hope pilgrimage is a faith journey. You’ll never regret it. You will grow in your faith. What you experience in that time period that you’re on pilgrimage, you will carry with you for the rest of your life.” – Mary Cook

Weekly Inspiration from Bl. Charles de Foucauld

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Charles de Foucauld was born in France in 1858; he lived in Paris for some time. After inheriting money from his grandfather, he began living a reckless life and ceased to be a Christian.  His cousin, Marie, lived near his apartment in Paris.  She was a deeply spiritual young woman.  Through her example, Charles began to change and rediscovered his faith in God and love for Christ. Regarding his conversion, Charles said,

The moment I realized that God existed, I knew I could not do otherwise than to live for Him alone.

He returned to the sacraments and lived as a Trappist monk. He was ordained a priest and went to Algeria to take up the life of a hermit in the desert.  His witness of charity, patience, and his deep faith, became a witness to those around him. While attempting to warn two Arab soldiers of danger from a group of rebels, Charles was murdered.

The life of Charles de Foucauld was a seed which had to die before it sprouted.  Today, religious congregations exist based on his example: Jesus Caritas, Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of Jesus, and Little Sisters of the Gospel.  They witness their Christian life in charity and patience.

His Prayer of Abandonment:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:   I am ready for all, I accept all.  Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.  I wish no more than this, O Lord.  Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve,
and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

Feast Day: December 1

Suggested Reading:

  •  Journey of the Spirit by Cathy Wright
  • Two Dancers in the Desert: The Life of Charles De Foucauld by Chalres Lepetit

 

Inspiration from St. Teresa of Calcutta

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“Surrender is true love.  The more we surrender, the more we love God and souls.”

These words of St. Teresa of Calcutta are good for us to take to heart as we begin Holy Week.  These next few days leading to the Sacred Triduum can be a good opportunity to take a few moments of silence each day and meditate on this quote of Mother Teresa.  What does it mean to surrender?  In very simple terms, it is to turn ourselves towards God and choose to follow Him, as we ask Him for the graces needed to follow Him and to desire His will in our lives.

A simple way to begin: Take 3-5 minutes daily to be in silence with the Lord.  Let Him speak to you.  You may begin your silence with these words: “Lord, I love you and adore you.  Fill my heart with your love.”

Feast Day: September 5

Inspiration from St. Bridget of Sweden

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As we approach Holy Week during this Season of Lent, we are reminded of the Passion of Christ: what Christ went through from the time of His last Passover Meal (the Last Supper), the time in the Garden of Gethsemane, His trial, leading to the Crucifixion.

St. Bridget, born in Sweden, had visions of Christ crucified since the age of 7.  These led her to a deep love for Jesus, resulting in a life of prayer and service.  After her husband’s death, she lived a strict life of a penance, giving her land and buildings to found monasteries for men and women.  This group became known as the Order of the Bridgetines, which are still in existence today.

She made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she visited the holy sites related to the Lord’s Passion in Jerusalem.

St. Bridget’s visions of the Lord’s Passion have been compiled; one of the prayers given to her by the Lord is that of the “Fifteen Prayers.”

The Church celebrates her feast day on July 23.

Action: As you approach Holy Week, read the New Testament scriptures related to the Lord’s Passion.  Imagine yourself there in the Garden of Gethsemane, in Jerusalem, throughout His Passion, and think about what you are feeling and thinking.  This meditation may lead you to a deeper experience of Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Inspiration from St. Joseph

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“Saint Joseph was a just man, a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.” – Pope St. John Paul II

Joseph, chaste husband of Mary is given the highest compliment in the Bible – he was a just man.

“By saying Joseph was just, the Bible means that he was one who was completely open to all that God wanted to do for him.  He became holy by opening himself totally to God.” – Catholic Online

Let us thank God for St. Joseph, who loved God, was obedient to his calling as husband of Mary and protector of Jesus.  Ask St. Joseph to pray for you, for your family, for the men you know, that he may pray for us to also be open to God’s plan for us.

The Church celebrates his feast day on March 19.