The Pilgrim Log

Weekly Inspiration to Live Your Daily Pilgrimage

Sacrifices for Dignity & Freedom

Servant of God Emil Kapaun celebrates Mass on the battlefield (Original photo in the Public Domain)

When I attend events where the National Anthem is sung and eyes are focused on the American Flag, tears well up in my eyes because I think of all who made this Nation as it is -“a land of the free”. When I hear Taps played at military funerals, I feel honored to be a part of that recognition of those who have served our country. The sacrifices, duty and dedication of many men and women come to mind. And yes, I do pause and thank God for their lives and their service which helped build the foundation of freedom. So many have become role models for young Americans to join the military.

A person to learn about and remember is a Catholic chaplain, Father Emil Kapaun, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II & the Korean War. He was born in Pilsen, Kansas on April 20, 1916, and died as a prisoner of war on Mary 23, 1951 at the age of 35. The Catholic Church has begun the cause for his canonization. Servant of God Emil Kapaun was a faithful priest, parish pastor, and military chaplain with a zealous and fervent desire to help others encounter Christ and His peace.

During the Korean war, he would offer Mass from the top of his jeep, travel miles to have Mass for troops in the field, would carry wounded men to safety, and brought hope to his fellow prisoners. He was called the Shepherd In Combat Boots.

He and other American soldiers were captured and forced to march a 60 to 100 mile walk to a prison camp. He helped carry one soldier with a broken ankle, and would encourage others to help those in need of support. Otherwise, they would be left to die or be shot. In prison, he would turn the mud huts they were forced to live in into a cathedral. He underwent torture for visiting prisoners to pray with them. He died of starvation and pneumonia after seven months in prison.

As the enemy took him to an area to die; the men cried out and begged that their priest not be taken away. As he was led away, Father Emil was heard saying: I’m going where I always wanted to go, and when I get there, I’ll say a prayer for all of you. Don’t worry about me. He was last seen blessing his captors.

Father Kapaun was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. The President of the United States posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor on April 11, 2013. This medal is the highest award given to a member of the military, and Kapaun is just one of five Chaplains to have received the award.

We have been given the gift of freedom as an American people.

The ultimate freedom we have is the freedom that Jesus has given us with the sacrifice of his life and through his promises as we discover them in the Scriptures. Jesus said: If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). Free to live a life with God, to walk with him daily and experience his peace, and to live in hope of eternal life.

Our sacrifice of putting another person first, in the virtue of charity, can lead us to realize our dignity as a child of God, as a person living in true freedom.

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

Recognizing the Miracles in Your Daily Life

Why do we often forget God’s closeness to us?  Why do we often forget that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose? (cf. Romans 8:28)

The Reason

As a student and then working in marketing and communications, I learned that the average American is exposed to hundreds (some researchers say thousands) of messages in a single day, but we hardly recognize—let alone remember—most of them. Amidst the multitude of messages, our brains’ method of processing and retaining the “loudest” or most extreme messages have an unfortunate result:  We hardly recognize—let alone remember—God’s quiet miracles in our lives.

Amidst the multitude of miracles, we tend to remember only the “most extreme miracles” of the Gospel, such as:

  • Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead
  • He calms the raging storm
  • He heals the paralytic, lowered from the roof of an overcrowded house

—but most of Jesus’ actions in people’s lives were quiet and ordinary. Jesus’ first miracle was the unassuming transformation of water into wine. As he ministered to people, Jesus looked into their eyes. He smiled at them. He loved them. He spoke with them. Many times, he took them aside by themselves. These are the quiet, ordinary ways Jesus revealed himself to people’s hearts.

Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus continues to act in this way: “Let us remember what (Jesus) did at the wedding of Cana!  Yes, the Lord, if we place ourselves in his hands, will work miracles for us—but they are miracles of everyday life!”

What is a ‘miracle of everyday life’?

For each of us, they look different. As a wife, I truly believe that most of God’s miracles in my life come through my husband’s love: when he forgives me without hesitation, when he transforms my sadness into laughter, or when he puts aside his own self for my sake. Miracles in my everyday life take place in the kitchen, during a car ride, or on the couch. But how often do I stop and recognize them as miracles; God manifesting himself in my life?

How can we become better at recognizing everyday miracles?

The Answer

Jesus said, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Matthew 11:25).

Becoming childlike (not to be confused with immaturity, or childishness) means answering Jesus’ simple invitation from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me…”

  1. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Like a child, we must eagerly and often run into God’s arms, and he will love us.
  2. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart…”  As we begin to trust God, we open our hearts to be guided and transformed by his love.
  3. “..and you will find rest for your selves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  When we are confident that God loves us, we delight in his signs of affection for us. Our eyes are opened, and we see the miracles all around us.

Each year, “Come to Me” serves as the theme for Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference.  Some people wonder why we’ve kept the same theme year after year.  The answer is simple: God never stops inviting us, and we never stop needing the reminder.

Let’s answer Jesus’ invitation. What miracles will you see today?

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate since 2010. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

Simple Way to Boost Your Spiritual Life – Advice from a Young Soldier

Drafted into the WWI German army at 18 years old, Josef Engling didn’t live to see the war’s end.

Josef Engling

His life lasted only 20 years, but his legacy continues today through a spiritual movement called Schoenstatt – of which Josef was a founding member. Why does he remain so influential? Well, he was just like you and me: teased for his crooked walk and slurred speech, engaged in the struggle to live a good life – even when he felt confused, useless, or weak.

Yet Josef had learned the secret to success in this life:

I want to become all things to all people and to belong totally to Our Lady (Mary, Mother of God); I want to be faithful even in the smallest things and to carry out the ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

Sacrifices for Mary

Easter 1916, before the war: Josef was a seminarian with the Pallotine Fathers in the Schoenstatt region of Germany, but he was feeling lost. Even with Easter’s celebratory atmosphere, his spiritual life was weak. Sitting in reflection, he looked around him and noticed all the flowers in bloom.

Suddenly, inspiration hit.

As any son who loves his mother would, Josef wanted to offer flowers to his mother. That is, his spiritual mother: Mary. She is the one who remained faithful to God continuously; from Jesus’ conception to his crucifixion, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit after the first Easter. Josef knew that Mary would help him boost his spiritual life. But how? He wrote her a letter:

May Blossoms from the garden of my heart presented to the Queen of May in May 1916. Mother, the whole garden of my heart is dedicated to you. For you I will plant and cultivate in it:

…and he began a list of “blossoms” he would offer her. Notice how easily we can imitate this young man’s novel idea.

The Rose of Love and Esteem

As the rose is the queen of flowers, so you be the Queen of my Heart. I place everything at your disposal, my Queen.

  1. Acts of honor and reverence toward Mary and her picture
  2. Reading and speaking about Mary
  3. Visits to the chapel and praying the Rosary
  4. Receiving Holy Communion
  5. Any act that promotes the Gospel
The Forget-Me-Not of Faithfulness in Your Service
  1. Praying my prayers well
  2. Being attentive at studies and spiritual reading
  3. Doing my chores well, including making my bed properly and keeping my desk in order
  4. Obeying the rules
  5. Following my conscience
The Violet of Humility and Modesty
  1. Accepting corrections or criticism patiently
  2. Forgiving offenses
  3. Obeying cheerfully
The Passion Flower of Crosses and Love of Sacrifice
  1. Patient acceptance of unpleasant things
  2. Working on good manners and courtesy to others
  3. Making little sacrifices at meals
  4. Faithfulness to my examination of conscience
  5. Other sacrifices
The Lily of Purity
  1. Guarding my eyes, especially in the dormitory
  2. Not getting involved in chatter about impure things
  3. Praying for the gift of purity before Holy Communion

Each of Josef’s ordinary, everyday activities were transformed into gifts for the Mother of God, his own spiritual Mother. As time passed, his growth and maturity was noticeable.

Soon all the young men who lived with Josef adopted this practice. On Sundays, they would draw pieces of paper from a margarine tub containing their “blossoms” for the week. The priests who oversaw the boys were surprised at the tremendous increase in respect, order, kindness, and spirituality among them.

On the Battlefield

Fast-forward to the war: As a soldier on the battlefield, Josef found himself amidst gunshots, grenade explosions, hunger, fear, and fallen companions. In his journal, he wrote:

Mother, if it wasn’t for the support I feel from you, I would be totally confused and nervous. Today, my company is resting from the fighting – except for myself, who must stand guard. Tomorrow, it will be the same. I am so hungry and thirsty, with little hope of getting letters. All I receive is the mockery from my comrades. But my love for you helps me bear everything.

I want to become a great saint. Shouldn’t I take all that is happening now with patience and serenity?

You see? Josef was normal like us; the Christian life was still a struggle. But he knew he must follow after Jesus and daily take up his cross. Josef’s fellow soldiers mocked his schedule of prayer and penance. But, wishing always to please his beloved Mother Mary and her Son, he stuck with it.

Josef’s example is one we can all follow. He knew he had to live each day, each moment, as a Christian. At the same time, he recognized, he was never alone…

We have a host of friends in Heaven by our side, cheering us on. First among them is our Mother. We can do this.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate since 2010. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.