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.)
Did you know that January is traditionally dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus?
The name of Jesus is radical! On one hand, proclaiming the name of Jesus can call down the power of God and drive out demons. On the other hand, many people today use the name of Jesus as they curse.
We’re reminded of an amazing story from one of our pilgrims. When her superior used the Lord’s name in vain during a meeting, our pilgrim confronted her boss (who was not a Christian) and told her how much this offended her. She also assured her, “I will be praying for you.”
Time passed, and our pilgrim grew closer to her Holy Land pilgrimage journey. She approached her boss and said, “I’m going to the Holy Land soon, and I would like to leave a prayer intention for you at the Wailing Wall.” Her boss replied, “Not just there; pray for me everywhere you go.”
So, our pilgrim did just that: At every holy site we visited—most of which are related to the life of Jesus, she prayed.
Not long after our return from pilgrimage, her boss approached our pilgrim and said, “Thank you for praying for me. You helped me to discover God.” She joined the Church!
Jesus means in Hebrew: “God saves.” At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, “will save his people from their sins”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 430)
This month, try a simple prayer: Speak the name, “Jesus,” slowly, and with reverence.
Dear Lord Jesus, help me to be your witness. May I always speak your name with humility, devotion, and trust.
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.
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!
This weekend, we heard this call: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” What does it mean to be prepared?
Many years ago when Deacon Tom and Mary Jane were going door to door, they met a woman who was in her last stage of 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. Cancer was her wake-up call, to prepare herself for Christ.
If you asked people if they believed they were going to heaven, almost everyone would say yes. 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) Jesus says only those who do the will of His Father will enter heaven.
Step 1: How do I 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.”
Step 2: How do I undergo a conversion?
To be prepared is to be changed. Jesus gave his authority to the Church, so that we could have guidance and transforming grace through Her. 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 Father’s will.
We also have the Scriptures, the Word of God, to guide us. Saint Jerome once said, “Ignorance of Scripture 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 of the powerful presence of God that it has been through the ages. Let us get to know the saints!
Step 3: 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. We are encouraged knowing that God has not asked something of us that is unreasonable.
Ask: Do I love God more than anything else, and do I love my neighbor as I also love myself? If not, you are not prepared! Do I have any hatred, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.? If so, you are not prepared!
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 the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and by preparing ourselves spiritually and mentally in our personal prayer before Mass, and actively participating in the Mass. We prepare by choosing to love our neighbor and choosing to love who God made us to be!
How is Advent relevant to actual, daily life?
The purpose is not only to be prepared when Christ comes for us. Advent preparation will help us to experience our greatest happiness now. Being prepared not only has a transforming effect upon us, but on all our family, 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!”
In the midst of a consumeristic world, we can find peace by looking at December in the Church’s eyes. This is traditionally the Month of the Immaculate Conception; a month about God’s love & generosity.
The Immaculate Conception is both an event and a title for the Virgin Mary. This title recalls God’s gift to Mary from the moment she herself was conceived in the womb of her mother (whom we know from tradition as Saint Ann). Almighty God, being unconstrained by time and space, took the grace of Christ’s Saving Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and applied it to Mary’s soul at its beginning.
Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
In 1830, a young nun named Catherine had a vision in which she saw the Virgin Mary clothed with the dawn, and in gold, the words: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.” She heard a voice instructing her to create a medal with these words and the images she had seen. Since then, it has become so influential in conversions that it has become known as The Miraculous Medal.
An uneducated shepherd girl named Bernadette was introduced to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1858 at a grotto in Lourdes, France. She did not know it was Mary; a young woman clothed in white with a blue sash, near a wild rose bush and surrounded by a brilliant light and a golden cloud, smiling, with her arms extended.
Bernadette continued to see this beautiful young woman and, finally, asked for her name. The young woman responded in Bernadette’s native language, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
These are just two stories among many, illustrating for us God’s gift to us: the Immaculate Conception! God gifted Mary with the grace of salvation, and now Mary extends her arms to us and offers us this grace. Let December remind you of Mary, extending the Infant Jesus to you in her arms, saying, “Come and see how much God loves you! Here is God’s Gift to you!” Dear Mary, with your prayers from Heaven, help me to accept your Son, Jesus, as God’s gift to me. Then help me to share Him with others, as you do. Amen.
As we reflect on our upcoming 25th anniversary year, and celebrate a visit to Pilgrim Center of Hope this week by Archbishop Gustavo, we cannot help but recall the many moments of encouragement and challenge given to Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH) by our bishops. We hope the selected memories below inspire you to thank your local Shepherd!
Bishop Joseph Galante – We are infinitely grateful for our friendship with Bishop Galante. Since the beginning of 1993, Bishop Galante worked closely with Tom and Mary Jane to develop Pilgrim Center of Hope as an evangelization center. That summer, he celebrated Mass at PCH. We recalled this momentous occasion in our first newsletter:
During his homily at the Consecration Mass of the Center on June 22, Bishop Joseph Galante described the Church’s term of the laity. He said that the Vatican II Council reminded us again that we are a PILGRIM people and that we really don’t understand fully what it means to be a pilgrim people. He explained that if we think about pilgrims and we talk about ourselves being a pilgrim people, we are going back to the time of the Israelites in the desert. Pilgrims are people who believe God’s promise and set out through the desert depending only on God with no itinerary, trusting that God will fulfill that promise which God has made to them, and following God wherever God is leading them. Bishop Galante blessed and consecrated this new ministry and its new location to Our Lord and Our Lady.
The Foxes with Bishop Galante
Archbishop Patricio F. Flores – Were it not for our dear Archbishop Flores, PCH would not exist. It was during his service as shepherd of the Archdiocese of San Antonio that we wrote him and asked for permission to follow, what we had discerned to be, God’s call. He never ceased to provide us with paternal guidance and prayerful discernment.
Pray for us, Archbishop Flores… May we be reunited in the Eternal Jerusalem!
Archbishop José H. Gómez – After Pilgrim Center of Hope had completed its first ten years of ministry, San Antonio was blessed with the assignment of Archbishop Gomez. During his over five years as our local shepherd, he provided us with support and encouragement. We especially remember his involvement in the Catholic Men’s Conference and Catholic Women’s Conference, as both a Mass celebrant and a poignant speaker who opened up the Scriptures for hundreds of participants.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS – Archbishop Gustavo has been a “pilgrim bishop” for us. Our relationship began with the privilege of organizing the archdiocesan pilgrimage to accompany him to Rome, where he received the pallium—the official symbol of his authority—from Benedict XVI. Our pilgrimage included many members of his family, as well as members of his previous Chicago flock and new San Antonio family. Our time in Rome was preceded by a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, for which then-Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantu served as spiritual director. Some pilgrims continued their journey after the pallium ceremony, to include some tranquil time in Assisi.
Pilgrim Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels in Assisi
Inspired by the grace and dignity with which Benedict XVI abdicated the papacy on February 28, 2013, our beloved archbishop issued us a prophetic challenge: begin a Catholic Seniors’ Conference. With a keen eye and heart for his people, Archbishop Gustavo expressed his concern amid a ‘throwaway culture’ that seniors realize their enormous value and personal dignity, and be reminded of their crucial role in the Church family.
Our first conference for seniors was organized over the next year, and was held thirteen months after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s inspiring action: April 5, 2014. Participants expressed great surprise and encouragement upon learning the Church’s message. One wrote: “Definitely I had come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church didn’t care for the elderly who were once young & very active in our Church, but I realized through this conference we are the building blocks of our church.”
Each day as staff, we gather in the Chapel and begin our prayer with the Consecration to the Holy Spirit, which Archbishop Gustavo has asked all the faithful of the local Church to pray. Ven Holy Spirit, ven!
So many other wonderful bishops have walked with us in ministry, including Bishop Patrick Zurek—who has supported many pilgrimages as a spiritual director, Bishop Oscar Cantú—who has encouraged and been involved in a large portion of our work including the Ministry of Pilgrimages and of Conferences, and now-Archbishop Paul Etienne—who, after blogging his Holy Land pilgrimage with us as spiritual director, is spreading the word about our Mother Church there.
Why all this work with bishops? Pilgrim Center of Hope is an answer to the Church’s call for a new evangelization, heavily involving the laity in partnership with clergy. We always consider ourselves at the service of God’s people, and take seriously our Shepherds’ authoritative guidance. Looking forward to our anniversary year, we praise and thank God for these spiritual fathers who have taught, encouraged, and challenged us. Let’s all include our bishops in our daily prayers, and thank God for them!
If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! … Saying ‘thank you’ is such an easy thing, and yet so hard!
When people pray, their prayer is mostly one of petition and intercession; the prayer of thanksgiving is often left unsaid.
Yet, research has indicated that when people take time to be thankful or grateful, it can make them happier, healthier and aware of counting their blessings each day. Here are three steps we recommend to becoming more thankful.
Say Those Little Words – Pope Francis adds: “If families can say these three things, they will be fine: ‘Sorry,’ ‘Excuse me,’ ‘Thank you.’ How often do we say ‘thank you’ in our families? How often do we say ‘thank you’ to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted!” Make a habit of saying these phrases daily, especially to those closest to you!
Make a List of These 25 Things – Consider writing a list of 25 blessings for which you are thankful. In doing so, you will begin to realize how many blessings, gifts and good things you have received or experienced. There is joy in re-discovering this fact!
5 Living People for Whom You Are Grateful
5 Physical Abilities for Which You Are Grateful
5 Places You Are Happy to Have Visited
5 Things about This Year for Which You Are Grateful
5 Things about the Catholic Church for Which You Are Grateful
Remember that “God Was There” – At the same time, let’s not forget to list the ‘not so good moments.’ They remind us that God was, and is, with us in those moments, as well. How do we benefit from this exercise? Archbishop Fulton Sheen has the answer: “No man can be happy on the outside who is already unhappy on the inside.” For each major ‘not so good moment’ from this year, reflect on how God was present.
Let’s take advantage of the remainder of this month, approaching time with family and friends in deeper gratitude.
In the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed the destruction of four hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and several mass murders – the most recent in a local church. When we recognize things are beyond control, what should our response be?
Saint Paul offered the answer in Romans 12:12 – “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” When God is our hope, he will also be our strength as we remain connected to Him.
Our first response is to pray for those affected; prayers imploring the mercy of God and the graces needed so that they may persevere in their trust in Him. We can also pray for the deceased; remember this beautiful prayer of the Church – “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. May your Perpetual Light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
In Pope Francis’ final General Audience message on hope, he reflected on Paradise, the aim of our hope.
Paradise is not a fairytale place, much less an enchanted garden. Paradise is the embrace of God, infinite Love, and we enter there thanks to Jesus, who died on the Cross for us. Where there is Jesus there is mercy and happiness; without him there is cold and darkness. At the hour of death, a Christian repeats to Jesus: “Remember me”. And even if there may no longer be anyone who remembers us, Jesus is there, beside us. He wants to take us to the most beautiful place that exists. He wants to take us there with the small or great deal of good that we have done in our life, so that nothing of what he has already redeemed may be lost. And to the Father’s house he will also bring everything in us that still needs redemption: the shortcomings and mistakes of an entire life. This is the aim of our existence: that all be fulfilled, and be transformed into love.
If we believe this, death ceases to frighten us, and we can also hope to depart from this world in a peaceful way, with so much confidence. Those who have met Jesus no longer fear anything. We too can repeat the words of the elderly Simeon; he too was blessed by the encounter with Christ, after a lifetime spent in anticipation of this event: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Lk 2:29-30). At that instant, at last, we will no longer need anything; we will no longer see in a confused way. We will no longer weep in vain, because all has passed; even the prophecies, even consciousness. But not love: this endures. Because “love never ends” (1 Cor 13:8).
Only the light of God’s love can transform the darkness. We can make a difference through prayer and active love. Let us remain steadfast in Hope!
Today, we share Part Three of a personal story about seeking Jesus. We thank Sonja Harris, a professional photographer and our recent Holy Land pilgrim, for allowing us to share these words and images…
What a better way to Seek Jesus than to renew our Baptismal vows in the Holy Land? Everything I experienced was nothing what I expected. Before arriving to our destination at the Jordan River where Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, we were able to see along our route the security fence that divides Israel and Jordan: barbed wire fence, as far as the eye could see, leaving nothing to the imagination that these two countries are in serious conflict. I have never seen such a long security fence…
We arrived at the Baptismal location at the River Jordan and I was astounded first at the unusual vivid green color of the river, then at how narrow this section of the river was. It’s our understanding that Christ was actually baptized around the bend to the right, which is just downstream, but not accessible to our group that day because it is on the Jordanian side. At about 3am Texas time, Deacon Tom Fox sprinkled water from the Jordan on us as we renewed our baptismal vows as a group. Time is allotted to the different groups coming to be baptized, and some were in their white shirts actually getting into the river in an area marked by metal rails.
A Greek Orthodox Church across the river was having a baptismal ceremony for a baby, and the father waved at us while holding his child. Sitting behind the father on benches were two Jordanian soldiers who, I’m guessing, are guarding the river so no one swims across. There were no visible signs of weapons on the soldiers.
The ride from the Jordan River to the Dead Sea was not long. The Dead Sea is the lowest point in the world at 1,412 feet below sea level. While it may not have been my favorite place because of the heat, it certainly was an eye opener to the mysteries God provides. The sea is extremely rich with salt and minerals, so much so that a person cannot sink under the water. The black mud taken from the sea when rubbed on our bodies, then rinsed off, leaves the skin very smooth to the touch.
Jericho dates back to 9000 years B.C., is mentioned both in the Old and New Testaments, and is the oldest city in the world. The walls have long ago crumbled down. In ancient times, Jericho was considered to be the strongest fortress, yet it was conquered by Joshua and the Israelites with God’s help (cf. Joshua 6:1-27). Reading the Bible has become so alive for me now, because I can picture the city and all the ruins.
Still inhabited after 11,000 years, it is very obvious that Jericho has suffered under Israeli occupation. The city has been under the administrative control of the Palestinian Authority since 1994. The political issues are a bit complicated for someone not familiar with the politics of the region. Upon entering the city, there was a large sign stating that a project aiding Jericho was being gifted by the American people to the Palestinian people. It was good to see this sign, since the city is littered with trash, and poverty seems prevalent because of the occupation. Researching, I found the Palestine-Israel Journal, 2001, with information from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, that 64% of the population living in the Palestinian Territories live below the poverty line.
Before lunch, we stopped in front of the ancient Sycamore tree where Zacchaeus met Jesus. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealth man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:1-10)
We ate our delicious Mediterranean meal at Mount of Temptation Restaurant, where we were showered with hospitality from the staff. I was able to photograph the city from the restaurant’s rooftop. The rooftop gave me an advantage of seeing Jericho at a great distance, and Mount Temptation, where Jesus was tempted by the devil. To actually see Mount Temptation and photograph it was incredible. Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” (Matthew 4:1-11)
Before arriving to our resting place at the hotel Notre Dame in Jerusalem, we stopped to see Ein Karem, the birthplace of St. John the Baptist. The church is a simple design that was built over the cave where St. John was born. From inside the church, you step down into the cave. Over the entrance is a large painting of St. John baptizing Jesus. Once inside the cave, the place of his birth is marked by a large marble star with the Jerusalem Cross in the center and the Latin inscription,“Hic Precursor Domini Natus Est,” translated, Here was Born the Precursor of the Lord. What an experience, visiting the birthplace of the man who waited to serve our Lord before He went into the world to fulfill Scripture! St. John was beheaded for speaking against immorality.
And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:67-80)
This is a beautiful depiction of St. John the Baptist, who spent so many years in the desert. He must have been a rugged-looking man; at least that is how I picture him in my mind. The small plate beneath this painting has these words, ‘Saint John the Precursor in the Byzantine Iconography’.
It’s been two months since our trip to the Holy Land, and I am still processing the holy sites we visited. Looking back and writing about them helps with the enormous task of placing life in order: God, family, and country! Everything else is cotton candy or jalapeño juice…
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