The Pilgrim Log

Weekly Inspiration to Live Your Daily Pilgrimage

Why Pray?

When it comes to prayer and why we should take every opportunity to utilize this open line of communication to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… I will never forget what Fr. Adolph Koehler, O.M.I. told our fifth-grade class at St. Mary’s School.

He started with a question, “What would you give to possess the key that unlocks all the treasures that God wants to give you?”

The answers ranged from large sums of money to various prized possessions; the boys offered their football card collections, G.I. Joe action figures & vehicles, and even a mini-bike. The girls offered up their Barbies, Easy Bake Ovens, and at least one above ground swimming pool.

And then came Fr. Koehler’s gem of wisdom, “Because God loves us so much, he has placed the key that unlocks all his treasures in our hands. The key to God’s treasures is our prayers!”

Talk about a mind-blowing moment! It was genius. The analogy is so perfect that it has stuck with me for over 40 years.

Keep It Simple

Don’t make yourself crazy trying to figure out what prayer is all about, especially if you are starting out or struggling with praying regularly.

St. Pope John Paul II, in writing about how to pray, said it was simple, “Pray any way you like, so long as you pray.”

St. Jane Frances de Chantal encouraged people not to overthink prayer; otherwise it can be perceived as a burden. “The greatest secret is to go to our prayer in good faith & in all simplicity.”

And then there is this from St. Augustine, a sinful man who was transformed by prayer into a beloved saint: “Our progress in holiness, exactly corresponds to our progress in the spirit of prayer; he who prays well lives well.”

The words of the saints and Fr. Koehler’s great analogy all point to the idea that prayer calls for confidence, familiarity, and humility.

The Benefits

The immediate benefit of prayer is that it leads us away from sin and toward salvation. The more we turn to God, the more we receive direction from the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, we grow in the virtues of faith, hope, and charity; which in turn lead us to grow in our prayer life and relationship with God.

The treasures await; we just have to use our key!

As a way of bookending this reflection on why we should pray, I will leave you with a quote filled with several great analogies. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once exclaimed,

Why should we pray? Why breathe? We have to take in fresh air and get rid of bad air; we have to take in new power and get rid of old weaknesses. We pray because we are orchestras and always need to tune-up. Just as a battery sometimes runs down and needs to be charged so we have to be renewed in spiritual vigor. Our blessed Lord said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’

If you would like to learn more about prayer, we invite you to visit us at our peaceful place in northwest San Antonio. Spiritual tools and resources are available. Discover our Gethsemane Chapel, outdoor Stations of the Cross, and life-size crucifix & fisherman’s boat. Come and see!


Robert V. Rodriguez is Public Relations & Outreach Assistant for Pilgrim Center of Hope. He combines a passion for the Catholic faith together with years of professional experience as a TV news journalist, video producer, and PR/marketing specialist. Robert also serves as Chairman for our annual “Master, I Want to See” Catholic Men’s Conference.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Teach Me to Pray the Cross!

The young medical assistant saw my olive wood carved, hand-size crucifix lying by my hospital bed. He picked it up with enthusiasm and asked if I would teach him to pray with the Cross.

After a recent accidental fall, I was hospitalized to surgically mend a fractured ankle. The crucifix, from Jerusalem, became a visible sign of hope for me. Jesus died on the Cross for us; it was a reminder of his love and mercy.

He Did Not Know

As the young man picked up the crucifix, he shared with me his observations of Christians who would venerate the Crucifix and wondered why it meant so much to them.

The other medical assistant with him commented, “He is Moslem!”

Nevertheless, he was so interested to learn “the prayer of the Cross,” as he expressed it. I thought, how am I to explain the Sign of the Cross, a prayer passed on from the 4th century to one who isn’t Christian? At the same time, I was so impressed this young man felt comfortable asking me about the Crucifix. After seeing the expression on his face—eager to learn something sacred, I was encouraged to show him.

Sharing My Faith

As I held the Crucifix in my hand, I held it in front of me. Looking upward, I began:

“God, the Father in Heaven—Allah, who is Great, sent his son Jesus to show us his love. Jesus died on the Cross for us; and sent his Holy Spirit, to be with us always.”

As I continued, I placed the crucifix on my forehead, moved it to my heart, and then left to right; finishing with an Amen as I kissed the Cross. I added, “It is a sign of hope! A sign of God’s love!” Again, I repeated the prayer of the Cross: “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen!”

The young man asked for the Crucifix, and repeated the prayer as he repeated the movements himself.

Shortly after, another medical assistant entered the hospital room and the young man told the other assistant, “I just learned to pray with the Cross!” and made the Sign of the Cross over the assistant with the prayers he had just learned!

I did see this young man again during my hospital stay, he remembered the prayer!

A Sign of Hope

I was delighted for this young man.

The olive wood crucifix is one I hold each day when I pray. It is a sign of consolation and hope, reminding me that whatever cross I am experiencing, I can gaze upon the One who laid down his life for me, and remember that I can be united with Him in all things!

Do we have signs of our faith in Christ displayed in our lives? Whether it be at home, workplace, or wearing a crucifix? Would we be ready to give an explanation for our sign of faith?

Think about having one you can hold and pray; a reminder of his mercy, his presence.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) in his Catechetical Lectures stated,

Let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in our goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are traveling, and when we are at rest (Catecheses, 13).


Mary Jane Fox, D.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with her husband, Deacon Tom Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Mary Jane is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Dame of the Holy Sepulchre.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Let’s Go!

The Holy Father has named October, Extraordinary Mission Month, with the message: Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.

What does this mean?

Pope Francis is reminding us Catholics, that we exist as a Church whose very identity is to answer Christ’s call to spread His Gospel; to go out and invite everyone to encounter our Lord Jesus Christ! It is who we are! It is what we do!

If this scares you, then take heart that a Doctor of the Church, who is the co-patron of missions, is a young nun who never left her convent!  St. Therese of Lisieux’s mission in the world was lived out in what she called her little way of offering her given tasks, her received sufferings, and her intentional acts of kindness, for love of Jesus.

Pope Francis encourages us, as well. He explains that this ‘going out’ does not mean hitting people over the head with a Bible but through sharing the gift of the Treasure given to us. He says,

Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church. Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practice proselytism  – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf. Matthew 10:8), without excluding anyone. God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4; Lumen Gentium, no. 48). – Extraordinary Mission Month

What an exciting adventure we are called to! We head out from this proclamation inspired to give God’s Divine Mercy, show our family and friends the beauty of our rich faith, and share the daily journey accompanying others on the path of salvation… that is until we are met with opposition. It is very difficult to keep up the enthusiasm in the face of hostility, lack of interest, and when we find ourselves more annoyed by, than loving of, others.

Is there a way to stay on mission and not grow weary? Yes!

We can not only sustain but actually increase our faith, deepen our love for and trust in God, and grow in heroic virtue by walking daily with the one person who first received God’s Treasure, bore him into the world, and eternally shares him with all: the Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother.

This daily walk with Mary is the Rosary.

Providentially, October is also the month of the Rosary. Just as Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs, (Luke 10:1), he continues through his Church to do the same. A library of writings and personal stories attest to the power of the Rosary and its ability to convert our hearts, spiritually nourish our souls, and embolden our faith. Our Pilgrim Center of Hope chaplain, Father Pat Martin, says the Rosary is the most powerful weapon because it destroys pride.

During this special month of October dedicated to the Church’s mission and to the Rosary, enter your first conquest! Challenge yourself to offer a daily Rosary.

It may help to imagine yourself walking beside Mary as you accompany Jesus and his disciples as he goes from village to village. Ask her to tell you about her son as you mediate on the mysteries of the Rosary.


Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.