Category Archives: Prayer

Entries dealing with prayer.

Where is your Bethlehem? Closer than you think.

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Last week I overheard a young woman ask someone if they celebrated Christmas. The person responded “Yes, of course I do!”. The young woman said, “Oh, do you know that some people don’t celebrate Christmas?” Upon hearing this, I began to think about those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Perhaps they haven’t experienced God’s love or mercy directly. Perhaps they don’t believe in God.

A Long Time Ago

What happened in Bethlehem, Palestine over 2,000 years ago has impacted millions upon millions of souls. God, the Creator of the Universe, sent His Son to be born of a virgin in a humble place, a grotto or stable. You have heard the story – Joseph takes Mary from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census held by Caesar Augustus (ref. Luke 2:1).

It is impressive to learn about St. Joseph through John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer. In it he describes Joseph as a just and righteous man who was obedient to the law:

“Journeying to Bethlehem for the census in obedience to the orders of legitimate authority, Joseph fulfilled for the child the significant task of officially inserting the name ‘Jesus, Son of Joseph of Nazareth’ in the registry of the Roman Empire (Jn 1:45). This registration clearly shows that Jesus belongs to the human race as a man among men, a citizen of this world, but also as Savior of the World!” (#9)

Not Very Different From Today

Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary see the hustle and bustle of the town – people arriving from various areas for the census, donkeys and camels in the streets, marketplace busy, Joseph searched for a place at the inn, and perhaps several inns.

No room at the inn for them! So thanks to an innkeeper, they are told they can stay at a grotto where animals are kept. Here, in this simple, humble, and most likely quiet place, the Son of God is born.

“Joseph, together with Mary, is a privileged witness to the birth of the Son of God in the world on Christmas night in Bethlehem. Joseph was an eyewitness to this birth, which took place in conditions that humanly speaking, were embarrassing.” (#10)

The Journey Home

The first time I experienced visited Bethlehem, I was quite emotional because I was able to touch and pray at the place where my Savior was born! My husband and I have led numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land and our time in Bethlehem is very special. The birthplace of Jesus, our Savior, is still there! A church, the Basilica of the Nativity, is built over it to protect it. Thanks be to God for this – now, we can visit this sacred site, where the Son of God was born, where Hope was born!

Do Mary & Joseph have a place in your home?

Oh, but what if one cannot visit Bethlehem in the Holy Land? Bethlehem can be our parish church and our homes where we have a nativity scene set-up.

Parish churches can be called “little Bethlehems”. It is there where we unite with other Christians to worship God and see the Creche, or the Nativity.

Let us approach the Creche with new eyes, not as before, as we casually looked at it and thought it was nice. Let us look at the Nativity – whether it be plastic, clay, metal or whatever it is made of – and see what took place 2,000 years ago in a small town in ancient Palestine.

Have you prepared a place for Jesus?

Imagine the scene! Mary and the Child Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes… Would you be attracted to spend time with this family? The Shepherds did! The Magi did!

A Nativity scene, a Creche – as simple as it may be; this symbolic representation of Christ’s birth can help us meditate and contemplate God’s love for each of us, God’s mercy to give us a Redeemer born so poor and yet majestic, because He is the Savior!

When life throws challenges at us, whether it be elderly parents, sickness, problems with family or work; think about the Holy Family. They certainly faced their challenges!

Oh yes, let us humble ourselves before the infant Jesus. His gifts of peace, hope and joy last forever! The Christmas Season (Dec 25 – January 6) can be our time in “Bethlehem”, let us take advantage of this time to thank Him for His gifts and humbly present ourselves to Him.

The Pilgrim Center of Hope seeks to offer you opportunities to encounter Christ as a gift. We pray that you and your family find ways to encounter Christ wherever you are and have a blessed Christmas season.

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Why did the Angels announce Christ’s birth to shepherds?

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b-shepherds-fieldMy husband and I enjoy watching A Charlie Brown Christmas every year. Who could forget that classic moment, when a deeply perturbed Charlie Brown yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” and Linus recites from the Gospel of Luke? It’s a real tear-jerker.

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

How often have you pictured that scene in your mind: so many angels singing God’s praises, their glory contrasting with the poor, amazed, and simple shepherds? Did you know that even to this day in Bethlehem, shepherds continue to tend their flocks in the very same fields? During my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I was privileged to visit and see this amazing place with my own eyes.

Shepherds’ Field, Bethlehem

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Have you ever realized that this historic event is commemorated during Mass on Sundays and major feast days? Each time we sing, “Glory to God in the highest…”, known as the Gloria, we are echoing those words of the angels that forever changed the world and sent a message of hope for all people! Wow!

However, have you noticed that during Advent, we skip this part of the Mass? Why?

Shepherd of Bethlehem

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jewish people lived under the Roman Empire’s occupation, and they longed for a Savior. They looked for a “Son of David”, because the prophets had promised a Messiah (Savior) from the line of King David. The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus was born into such a family.

Now recall King David’s background: he was a shepherd from Bethlehem. He was the youngest and smallest of his father’s sons—an unexpected new king, yet the most famous and revered of all Israel’s rulers.

Why Shepherds are Significant

Imagine spending your days and nights outside with a flock of sheep…not the most exciting gig in the world! Shepherds were servants, hired by landowners to tend their flock. An ideal shepherd was a patient, loyal, strong person, willing to stay with his job despite boredom, bad weather, and the occasional predator or wandering sheep. To these simple servants, the host of heaven revealed itself!

Similarly, we ourselves are charged by our Master to go about our everyday lives accomplishing the tasks he gives us. Under blue skies or gray, rain or shine, in boredom or danger, we are called to be out in the fields, doing our duty.

Advent is a time of preparation and waiting. Unlike the world around us which is already celebrating Christmas, we are called to patiently wait for our Savior. Just like the shepherds, we must stay awake and alert. Then, finally, when eternity explodes into our lives—either by death or Second Coming, we will be ready to run and greet Christ!

So, during Advent, we do not sing the Gloria as a reminder that we are waiting, like those shepherds. For me, Christmas Mass is one of the most emotional of the year, because I can sing the song that, along with millions of other Catholics, I have been waiting so long to sing. Together, our Church family sings the song that brought hope to a people longing for a savior; the song that the host of heaven sang to some humble little “nobodys”…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will!

If you’d like to walk across Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem and sing the Gloria where it was first sung, join us for a journey of faith to the Holy Land! I invite you to learn about the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s unique Ministry of Pilgrimages and view upcoming pilgrimages on our website.

10 Questions to ask yourself this Advent season

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Homily for 1st Sunday in Advent

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Am I living for myself or for God?

“As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

People were living as if the only thing that matters is the way they are living. They were living for themselves; not for God and neighbor. They were swept away by the flood.

As Jesus says, it will be the same when the Son of Man comes; in the field and in the mill –one will be left and one will be taken. Was God`s choice of who He would take arbitrary? Were both men the same and both women the same?

Jesus then says, “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come….So to, you also must be prepared…”  It seems that the ones he took were prepared.

What does it mean to be prepared?

Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Mt 7:21.

If you asked people if they believed they were going to heaven, almost everyone would say yes. And yet Jesus says only those who do the will of His Father will enter heaven.

How do you know what God`s will is?

We begin with the Scriptures. Jesus says, “Blest are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.

To keep it is to hold it in our hearts, to believe it and to live it. In a letter from the Bishops of the U.S. they tell us “…if you have not undergone conversion, you have not accepted the Word of God.

In what authority do we place our trust?

To be prepared is to be changed. Jesus also gave his authority to the Church so that it could guide us, but if we refuse to listen to the Church how can we know the will of God?

Through the Church, Jesus gives us the Holy Mass, which is the greatest of all prayers and he gives us the sacraments as the source of grace we need to discover and do the Fathers will, which is often in conflict with our will.

We have the Scriptures, the Word of God to guide us. St Jerome once said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” If we don’t know Christ we aren’t prepared.

We have the lives of the saints as models of what faithful discipleship should look like. Ignorance of the saints is ignorance of the Church and the powerful presence of God it has been through the ages.

What commitments am I willing to make to God?

A commitment to daily prayer is a necessary aspect of our relationship with God. No prayer means no faith. St. Paul says — “we should pray always; we should begin everything we do with prayer”.

Being prepared is not something that will just naturally happen; it’s a choice we must make and it will take a great deal of effort on our part. God has not asked something of us that is unreasonable.

Do you need a wake-up call?

Many years ago when we were going door to door we met a woman who was in her last stage cancer and in much pain; death was imminent. Even so she thanked God for the cancer because it brought her back to God and the Church. She said it helped to save her soul. In that sense cancer, or any crisis can be a blessing because it can help to save souls.

Do you have any hatred, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.?

If so you are not prepared!

Do you love God more than anything else and your neighbor as yourself?

During the Advent season we pray for the second coming of Christ with the emphasis on being prepared. The reality is, the same Jesus Christ who will come in glory at the end of time is coming to us in this Mass; are we prepared to receive him. We will not be receiving just a piece of bread, but the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ! We prepare ourselves by being free of all serious sin through frequent of the sacrament of reconciliation and by preparing ourselves spiritually and mentally in our personal prayer before Mass and by active participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. This is the best preparation for the coming of Christ.

What is the purpose of all of this?

The purpose is not only to be prepared when Christ comes for us. This preparation will help us to experience our greatest happiness now. Being prepared not only has a transforming effect upon us, but on all our relationships, our community and so on. When we are prepared we will help others to be prepared. Then we can all say, “Come Lord Jesus, come! “

How can I serve this Advent season?

We invite you to give your time, talent, and treasure to a cause that means something to you this Advent season. As a non-profit, we are very grateful when people offer themselves or their resources to help us help the community. When we work together, great things happen. Find out more about how you can volunteer at the Pilgrim Center of Hope. May you have a blessed Advent and Christmas season!

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.

Pray First. Act Second.

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As One Body in Christ, we are called to serve one another. Many people feel inclined to serve others their opinion, but Jesus gives us a model for a different way of life. The kind of life that allows for internal peace throughout an election, while you are stuck in traffic and even when your toddler decides to throw a fit.

An Anxious Traffic Jam

The other day, I was held up in a traffic jam, (which rarely happens in San Antonio …right?) and as I got closer to the reason for the hold up, I saw that an 18-wheeler was trying to turn into a car dealership, but did not have enough room and was not able to go anywhere. The cars behind him could not move, because the cars behind them were creeping closer, trying to get through. It almost gives me anxiety just to type the situation!

Only one car at a time was able to get past this big truck. When it was my turn, instead of impatiently continuing on my way, I stopped and held up traffic from further back so the big huge truck could back up. Then, everyone could continue on their way! This led me to reflect about how our own anxiety does not just keep us from continuing on our way, but also effects those around us. Anxiety can be so contagious.

Along the Way

Imagine how many people God has planned for you to impact today! Will you be a traffic jam, or help others’ days go better? How many times will your presence appeal to someone’s spirit when they see you pray before you eat in public, respond with kindness to your co-worker, smile at a person who feels invisible or walk into Mass alone?

Peace I leave you.pngLet us be a nation of hope and courage, not anxiety and fear. Are we called to be people of prayer? Yes! Are we called to be people of service? Yes! One of the best ways to serve one another is to have internal peace within yourself and strive to maintain that peace through times when people around you are filled with anxiety and impatience.

Jesus gives us His peace as a gift because He knows that we need it and wants us to be at peace. Say this simple prayer.. Lord, I release all my fears and anxieties to you, and I ask that you fill me with your peace. Amen

Many of our pilgrims speak about how when they went on pilgrimage with us, they felt so safe and peaceful. They were able to travel to the hometown of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus for an experience of a lifetime. Is a pilgrimage in your future? Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org to learn more about the land where Our Lord lived. Peace be with you.

 

 

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.

Who’s in Charge?

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Healing the Centurion’s servant by Paolo Veronese, 16th century.

The priest celebrating Mass was struggling. A man was assisting him by holding both his hands so he could slowly rise from his chair and scuffle to the altar for Offertory.

As he spoke the words for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he frequently lost his place. The deacon standing to his right, gently used his finger to bring Father back to the words he missed so he could begin again. We participating at Mass that day patiently waited; many of us praying silently for Father, because we know the Offertory prayers must be spoken exactly as written through the priest to bring about the miracle of ordinary bread and wine being transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, (CCC 1411-1413).

Seeking to Understand

One of the reasons I left the Catholic faith decades ago and one of the areas I struggled with when I returned was the principle of authority. Especially, the authority of the priesthood. But instead of simply disagreeing with it, I poured through the Catechism of the Catholic Church to seek for myself why the Catholic Church teaches what she does.

In doing so, I discovered my unique and unrepeatable place in God’s plan.

For instance, the Catholic Church professes that in the Sacrament of Baptism, every person is anointed as priest, prophet and king. How we are to live that out depends on the vocation we are called to and freely choose. A priest is given authority as a ministerial priesthood by means of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. As a lay woman, wife and mother, I have been given authority under the common priesthood anointed by the Holy Spirit at my Sacrament of Baptism, (CCC 1546-1547).

What does that mean?

It means through the Sacrament of Marriage, we both become one, making sacrifices for each other. We both act in equal authority over each other. At our wedding, we spoke the words that married him to me and me to him. The presiding priest, in persona Christi, was our witness and the Holy Spirit sealed our Covenant. (CCC 1624).

We became parents; anointed in authority through our Sacrament of Marriage, to two sons. Many may have a type of authority over my sons, for instance teachers and coaches, but only with our parental permission either verbalized or through our actions, (CCC 2221-2223).

This is a privilege and it is a great responsibility.

To help us make the best choices, lay people should consider the following hierarchy of responsibility:

  • God
  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Extended Family
  • Career
  • Parish
  • Community

When we choose accordingly, we are given the grace to act through the authority God grants us. When we put these priorities in their proper order, harmony reigns. If we, for instance, put our career ahead of parenting or decide to replace our spouse, we renege on the graces granted us by authority of God in our vocations and Sacraments. We are acting on our own without authority. Our lives become chaotic and often, misery is the fruit. This explains the wisdom of the Church in why she teaches divorce is immoral because it introduces disorder into the family and into society, (CCC 2385).

Living in God’s Grace

Understanding authority as God has planned is important if we want to live our lives truly as His disciples and in peace with each other. Scripture speaks of how best to understand God’s plan in Matthew 8: 5-8:

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.” He said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”

Seeing Vocation as a Gift

Knowing that graces are especially granted in a specific vocation and through the Sacraments authored by Christ should help us to discern how to act; either in subject to or as authority over; and rise to the challenge God asks of us whether we are a centurion, a priest, a wife, a husband or a parent.

To discover more what it means to live the vocation of manhood and womanhood, consider participating at an upcoming Catholic Men’s Conference or Catholic Women’s Conference produced by the Pilgrim Center of Hope.

 

 

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.

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.