The Pilgrim Log

Weekly Inspiration to Live Your Daily Pilgrimage

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.

Following the Good Shepherd with 3 shepherd children

 

Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” He died on the cross so that we might be his. So are we really his? Do we really belong to God? No one can take us from him, but it is possible for us to refuse to follow. One of the greatest gifts we have received from God is our free will, but at the same time it is the gift that makes it possible for us to reject him.

The purpose of our Christian faith is to guide us in the choices we make; to form our conscience, which is also a gift from God, so that we will be able to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him to safety. He invites us to follow him; he doesn’t force us. When we continue to do things we know we shouldn’t do, it makes it more difficult to recognize his voice and follow him.

The Good Shepherd wants all of us to be happy, even if things are very difficult. He promised he would help us if we would come to him. Why is it so difficult for us to come to him? Do we think he will expect too much from us? Do we think we are not good enough to expect anything from him? He loves us unconditionally and only wants what is good for us.

The three shepherd children of Fatima

In Fatima, Portugal, in 1916, an angel appeared to three young shepherds as they tended their flock; Lucia was age ten, Francisco eight and Jacinta seven. He was preparing them for the apparitions they would receive from the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the prayer he asked them to pray: My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.

This simple prayer reveals to us what is necessary in our relationship with God.

My God, I believe…

What does it mean to believe in God? We all received the gift of faith in baptism, but to believe is a choice. What we believe right now is a consequence of choices we have made. God has revealed his plan for each of us through the Sacred Scriptures and through the teaching authority of the Church so that we might believe in him and be saved. To believe in God is to believe in what he has revealed and to be faithful to what we believe.

I adore…

What does it mean to adore God? First of all we must have the wisdom to recognize who God is and who we are. In Psalm 111 it says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom…” This is not a cowering fear, but an awesome fear. Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit that helps us to be docile to receive inspirations from God. God is eternal and Almighty and we are his lowly creatures, and yet he loves us so much that he created us in his very own image so that we might be called children of God. He loves us so much that his own Son died on the cross to save us from our sins. It is the desire of God that we worship and adore him. That’s why we participate in Mass every Sunday, but to adore God is more than just spending one hour a week. To adore God is to honor him for who he is and to desire to please him; to spend time with him in prayer every day. We should begin our day with him, asking him to help us in all we do. We should pray before every meal, every time we get in a car, every time we begin a new task no matter what it is. We should pray before going to bed. We should pray for our needs and the needs of others and praise God for all the good things he has done for us.

I hope…

What does it mean to hope in God? It means to have a trust in God that perseveres to the end, no matter how difficult the circumstances. It is a trust that places the Kingdom of God before everything else. It is this hope in God that enabled martyrs to die for their faith and allows us to experience peace and joy, even when undergoing trials.

and I love you.

What does it mean to love God? “We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, with all our strength and with all our heart.” This is not a suggestion as some people might think. God commands us to love him because he created us for himself, and we will never discover true and lasting happiness unless it is in relationship with him. He is the source of all love; the more we love him, the more will be able to love others. The most important thing you can do for yourself and for the people you love is to keep the first commandment.

My God I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you and I ask pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.

In this prayer that the angel taught the three young shepherds, God is telling them, and us, that we must live the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity; and that we must adore God who loves us so, that we can discover our purpose in life and to be happy now & for all eternity. These three children took this prayer to heart and faithfully followed the Good Shepherd, who led them safely to heaven.

If we will pray this little prayer every day with the same fervor as the three little shepherds, we will certainly recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and allow him to guide us through all the difficulties of this life and to bring us safely home to the Father when we have reached the end of our earthly pilgrimage.


Deacon Tom FoxK.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane 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. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight 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.

When We Ask God, “Why?”

Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32)

The death of Jesus on the cross was fresh in the minds of his disciples. They thought all was lost. They knew he was dead and buried, but forgot that he had prophesied that he would rise from the dead. The reality of what they saw and knew to be true prevented them from seeing that what had taken place was the fulfillment of the Scriptures and the very words of Jesus himself.

The Stumbling Block

Our human logic is necessary to make rational decisions, but sometimes logic must give way to faith. It is not logical that God would become human so that he could be tortured and killed by humans to save us from our sins, and indeed this is still a stumbling block for millions of people who refuse to believe.

For millions, even some Christians, it isn’t logical that Jesus loves us so much that he established the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist so that we can receive him body, blood, soul and divinity in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass. Even some of his disciples refused to follow him when he told them they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they were to have eternal life. So that there could be no confusion, he repeated this message four times. The disciples that remained with him did not understand the teaching either, but their faith in Jesus was stronger than their need to understand. As Peter said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Finding An Answer

Life is a mystery, and we all will be confronted by situations and circumstances we do not understand. We all have asked and will ask, “why.” The answer can be found in our purpose for being on this earth. We are here to know, love, and serve God so that we can be happy for all eternity.

If we don’t like that answer, we should read the lives of the saints who found their purpose and their happiness in their faithful relationship with God. Many of them died young, lived in poverty with poor health, and suffered many trials. Some of the saints were kings, doctors, lawyers, farmers, husbands, wives, children, and from every walk of life. And yet their hearts burned with love for God because they entered into a personal relationship with him that was more important than anything else in their lives and they experienced great peace and happiness.

Jesus longs for everyone of us to experience that same peace and happiness. No matter who we are or what we have done, Jesus reveals his Sacred Heart to us and desires that we come to him to experience his mercy right now, without hesitation. When we surrender our hearts to the heart of Jesus, we can be confident he will give us the grace we need for every situation, even if we have to suffer for a time.

Jesus, set my heart on fire for love of you! Jesus, I trust in you!


Deacon Tom FoxK.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane 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. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight 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.