Weekly Inspirations

The Eucharist: What is Your Way to Receive Jesus?

Fr. Daniel Villarreal distributing Communion at the September 2019 Catholic Women’s Conference.

In the video series, The Mandalorian, we learn early on that the title character lives by a strict rule. He believes that to be Mandalorian means you never remove your helmet. It is the way.

In one episode, the Mandalorian seems unsure of how to answer a question asked, “What’s the rule? Is it you can’t take off your Mando helmet, or you can’t show your face? There is a difference.”

In the last 20 years, I have journeyed from lapsed to devout Catholic. As my desire to draw closer to Jesus and to worship Him reverently grew, my way of participating at Mass did as well.

I had learned through the teaching of the Catechism:

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” (1324)

The Impact of the Pandemic

My rule of worship is to celebrate Holy Mass daily, veil, and up until the restrictions, receive the Eucharist on my tongue.

The pandemic and subsequent church restrictions threw me into turmoil. To suddenly be stripped of how I worship affronted my Catholic identity. I questioned the authority that closed the churches, moved the Holy Mass to virtual and granted dispensation from receiving the Eucharist.

If the Church proclaims the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, I anguished, how can we be denied Him?

A Challenge at Confession

During Confession, I spoke my anger and the priest asked me a question, which like the Mandalorian, I was not sure how to answer. He asked, “Is the Eucharist a gift or a right?” He could have added, “There is a difference.”

Father challenged me to see that though the way the Mass and the other Sacraments are being offered has changed, they are still being offered. He reminded me that the Church permits receiving the Eucharist in the hand and Spiritual Communion for people unable to attend Mass in-person. He asked me, “Don’t you think God knew this pandemic was coming and made the necessary provisions for us?”

The Mandalorian chooses to suspend his rule to achieve a greater good: to receive ‘the child’ back into his possession and care. My rule of worship, that centers on receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, has greatly served in helping me grow in reverence to God. If I suspend my rule, I feel I will offend God, but if I stick by this rule, I will not be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Which is the greater good?

Pondering Father’s question, I have discovered that though they are different, the Eucharist is both gift and right.

Gift and Right

Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word, eucharistia, means thankfulness; gratitude. Jesus comes to us as Gift through the Eucharist. In a devotional reflection this is clearly and beautifully stated, God dwells among His people in the flesh of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem of old, present in the Eucharist of our day. My focus should not be on if I am worthy, but in believing that He is. I could fast forty days, pray all night and still not be worthy to receive Him. And in reflecting on my rule, I have to admit my tongue is a greater cause of offense than my hands.

The Eucharist is also a right; just not ours. Jesus has a right through His Life given, Passion offered, and Promise kept to claim our unwavering faithfulness in being in Communion with Him. Because of His great respect for our free will, He will never demand His right nor force His claim. He waits for us. What He desires is not my worthiness as much as my free will choice to receive Him into my life.

My Lord and My God

For the greater good, temporarily I hope, I have chosen to suspend my rule of worship and receive the Eucharist in the hand. I have added a quick kneel while the person in front of me receives. On my knees I quietly address Him, “My Lord and God,” and then rise to receive our King in the ‘throne’ of my hand and into where He desires to dwell . . . in me.

Whatever rule of worship we adopt, our Catholic identity is to be a Eucharistic people. In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Saint Pope John Paul II writes: 

We can say that each of us not only receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us, (Ch 2, 22).

It is the way.


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.

Lonely? Upset? I’m Making A New Start… Here’s How You Can, Too

I’m writing this as we start a new year; a year when many of us want a new start.

Personally, I really needed a new start. As last year came to an end, I had fallen into a serious funk. At times, I honestly thought I was losing grip on myself. I was suffering from a pile of wounds, frustration, and angst.

My birthday falls at the end of the year. Growing up, that usually meant that my friends were too busy with their families to attend my birthday parties. This past birthday, I wondered if I would even attempt to celebrate at all.

Snapped Out of It

A few days before my birthday came around, I received an unexpected text message. It was a friend, simply asking, “Any birthday plans?”

That simple act of care & thoughtfulness did something powerful. I realized that I didn’t want to start my new year of life feeling the way that I had been for weeks. I wanted to be a different person. I wanted to be happy.

We made plans to talk on the phone. When we spoke, I told my friend about how they had helped me, and I thanked them.

You Never Walk Alone

Last year felt very lonely for me for a multitude of reasons. However, I found comfort in knowing that I am never alone in the communion of saints.

The Church is a “communion of saints”: this expression refers first to the “holy things” (sancta), above all the Eucharist, by which “the unity of believers, who form one body in Christ, is both represented and brought about.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 960

Jesus gave us this amazing gift when he gave us the Eucharist: a celebration that mystically unites us with him and with all who have faith in him—unhindered by the limits of space and time! So, when you are feeling lonely, remember that each time you participate spiritually and physically in the Eucharistic celebration, Holy Mass; you are united to a tremendous family!

The term “communion of saints” refers also to the communion of “holy persons” (sancti) in Christ who “died for all,” so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all.

CCC, no. 961

Jesus also gives us the gift of friendship; with himself and with all in his community of friendship.

Friendship is so important that Jesus calls himself a friend: “I do not call you servants any longer, but I call you friends” (John 15:15). By the gift of his grace, we are elevated in such a way that we truly become his friends. With the same love that Christ pours out on us, we can love him in turn and share his love with others, in the hope that they too will take their place in the community of friendship he established.

– Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, no. 153

Begin Again, with A Friend

Two years ago here at Pilgrim Center of Hope, we as a staff began each choosing a friend among the communion of saints with whom we felt called to walk throughout the year.  Each month, we get together to share something we’ve learned from our saint-friend. Through this journey, we’ve found great encouragement and personal growth through our relationships with these friends.

You can do this, too. It’s an awesome “new start” you can take-on in your personal or family life!

Each year, my journey-friend from the communion of saints has been…

  • A Friend: Someone with whom I’ve found things in common
  • An Intercessor: Someone in whom I’ve confided & asked for prayers – and I’m truly convinced that they’ve interceded for me
  • A Role Model: Someone whose virtuous life has inspired me to become the person God has made me to be
  • A Teacher: Someone whose spirituality & wisdom have taught me invaluable lessons

How do I ‘choose’ a friend each year? Perhaps this will give you ideas for your personal journey…

  • My 2019 Friend: Blessed Miguel Pro – I’d been given a relic of his before, and I knew that my family had a connection to him. I’d also heard stories about his sense of humor, and I wanted to grow in not taking life so seriously (a pesky personal tendency). So, I borrowed a book about him and began reading a chapter each month, taking notes each time.
  • My 2020 Friend: Saint Catherine of Siena – I knew very little about her; she was quite mysterious to me. I did know that she had been a bridge-builder between people, and I had been sensing a calling to become a bridge-builder myself. So, I started to listen to an audio recording of her greatest work, The Dialogue. I kept a list of lessons she taught me on my phone.
  • My 2021 Friend: Saint Oscar Romero – During 2020, I kept coming across spiritual reflections that struck me profoundly. Upon looking at the author’s name, I found it was him. So, knowing that he had been a martyr during a tumultuous period in his country’s history, I decided that I would claim him as my journey-friend for the not-so-easy year ahead. Already, I’ve been able to listen to his recorded homilies, and have typed up notes from what struck me.

Are you convinced yet? Now is a great time to “begin again” …and you can! Jesus offers you himself and all of his friends, to help you. Have 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.

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.

 

Make Time for God and Save Time

Reading the Word of God.

Happy New Year!  I have heard many people say I am so glad we are starting a new year, let’s hope for the best!  It’s right on, we all are looking for a fresh start.  Let 2020 be gone, it gave us too many unexpected trials.  A priest was sharing with a group during an online meeting recently and at the end of our meeting, he concluded by asking everyone a question:  

“What are you thankful for this year?”

His question was certainly startling, it took a few seconds before someone broke the silence and began to express what they were thankful for.  As I listened, it seemed that many had something in common, they were thankful for the time they had during this pandemic.  Many were forced to stay home, work from home, limit their activities and so they expressed how thankful they were in seeing the value of the time they had with their spouse, time to read, or to catch-up on many things.  Time frames our daily routines; we measure our time by clocks and calendars. We plan so many details with time, from our work, sleep, recreation, and planning.  What would we do if we had the extra time?   

Perhaps we would fill it with additional activities, would we think of using this time with God?   

God is the source of our gifts, our energy, our talents, our time, and the more connected we are to the source of everything that is necessary to accomplish the project, the greater the possibilities of that project to be brought to completion.  We need to be connected to the Source, God.   

The Lord does not delay his promise

In the 2nd Letter of Peter, Chapter 3, verses 8-9; we read: 

“…beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

One day is like a thousand years! God patiently waits for us to come to him.  When we enter into a relationship with God and ask Him to be our partner in the things we do, we are less likely to spend time in distraction and frustration.   

As we begin this new year, mark your calendar, set your watch to spend time with the Triune God.  We make appointments for so many important things, the most important engagement is time with our Creator, our Heavenly Father, our Savior.  Speak to him and then be quiet so He can speak to your soul.  The Lord wants to be a part of your life to prepare you for what is on the road ahead.  The busier we become, the more we need this time with Him.  So many people think that time spent with God is a waste.  As a result, they live and work in their own strength, until they become worn-out, run-down.  Then they either cry out to God and expect immediate results or turn away in bitterness, in sadness.   

How much better to choose time with God and allow Him to guide you, to bless your endeavors.  If you live in this way, you will be less distracted and accomplish more.  Some people may not understand you for doing this, but many more will be blessed by your peacefulness which is a fruit of your time with God.   


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.

Holy Family, Help Us Be Holy!

Statue of the Holy Family outside the Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth.

We began the last week of Advent with this verse from O Come, O Come Emmanuel:

“O come, O Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.”

The universe and all of creation were created by God with a certain order that maintains harmony and peace.  As God gave mankind dominion over his creation, he expected us to maintain the order he established. In yesterday’s first reading, (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14) we see one aspect of maintaining that order – we are to honor our Father and our Mother.  This is such an important part of God’s plan that the promise is given, whoever honors his father . . . when he prays is heard. Being obedient to our parents helps us to learn to be obedient to God.

In Colossians 3:15, Paul gives us additional insights into what we must do to keep order.  He says:

“Let the peace of Christ control your hearts.”

Fulfilling Our Role

In Christ, we will find the strength we need to maintain order in our relationships as husbands and wives, parents, and children.  There is a right way to fulfill our role, whatever it is.  And, of course, the reality is, even if we try to faithfully do our part, it doesn’t mean that others will be faithful.  I’m sure that there are many parents here who take their relationships with God seriously, and even though they have made every effort to guide their children in the right way, some have rebelled.  Peer pressure is very difficult to overcome.  And maybe there are some children here who have felt called to a religious vocation and have not received support from their parents.

Ordering our life to God is a daily struggle which calls us to perseverance in prayer and the sacramental life.  Our Lord offers us all the grace we need to take one day at a time, and to trust that in the end, everything will be okay if we persevere. It doesn’t mean things will not be difficult; it does mean we will always have hope.

We see in the Gospel of Luke (2:22-40) that the Holy Family faithfully followed the law of Moses. Even though they knew that Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews had been praying for, they didn’t think they should enjoy special privileges. They obeyed immediately and God’s plan continued to unfold, and prophesy was fulfilled when Simeon and Anna saw the baby Jesus in the Temple. Even though they were the holiest, most important family in the history of the world they faithfully followed the religious practices of their time because that is how they maintained their connection with the Heavenly Father and fulfilled His plan. The same is true for us. God wants to make our families holy.

The Crisis of the Family

It is not news that in this country, the most powerful country in the world, the institution of the family is at a point of crisis. Almost every family has experienced some degree of trauma, especially during this pandemic – whether physical, economic, psychological, or spiritual. Almost every family has a relative that is divorced. A statistic states that only one-third of children in this country will live with both biological parents until they reach the age of eighteen. The greatest need of our time is the renewal of the family; the only way it can be renewed is with the help of God’s grace; by being faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church, even if others are not.

Our families are God’s plan for the future of the world. The family is intended to be the domestic Church where husband, wife, and children are joined together in prayer and grow together in faith. The family is where vocation should first be discovered.

Even if our family life is not been what it could have been, it is not too late to begin anew. Whether you are married, divorced, or single, it is not too late to ask “Wisdom, to teach us in her ways to go.”

The way people have persevered through the ages is by:

  • Attending mass every weekend (during the week, if possible).
  • Praying daily (privately and with people we love).
  • Reading Scriptures
  • Frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Spending time before the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Reading the lives of the saints.
  • Being generous with our time, talent, and treasure.

It is the same plan for everyone for all time.

How Can We Be More Aware of God’s Presence?

The domestic church, like every church, is made up of the people that occupy it. However, there are things we can do to help us be more aware of the presence of God and to help us enter into prayer at home:

  • Every home should have a crucifix and religious art to show that Faith is important to those who live there.
  • There can be a special room or part of a room where you have an altar or shelf on which you place candles, a bible, holy pictures, and favorite prayers that help you enter into prayer.
  • Designate a time when the family prays together, especially the Rosary, or at least part of the Rosary.
  • It is very meaningful for parents to bless their children before bed and before leaving the house by tracing the cross on their foreheads as you say, …may God bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

God has a great plan for each of us if we allow Him to guide us by way of the Scriptures, the Church, the lives of the saints, and His wisdom. It has to begin as a desire in our hearts and continues when we share this desire with others, especially those we love.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph pray for us. Help us to be holy!


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.

The Gospel According to You

This year’s events have highlighted an urgent need for you and I to be Christ’s presence in others’ lives.  

Our loved ones, neighbors, co-workers, and the few other persons with whom we have regular contact; have likely had very few experiences of the Church in 2020—or of Christians’ model of following Christ in the context of daily life. Perhaps, too, those few experiences have included news about Church scandals and abuse, with subsequent feelings of betrayal. 

The Importance of a Witness

Now, you and I are not bystanders. We are Christ’s very witnesses. 

If you’ve ever been present for a jury trial—especially for a criminal case—you’ll know the importance of a witness. It is that person’s testimony upon which at least one other person’s life can be changed forever. Their every word is precious, documented. Their gestures, their voice, and their intangible sense of conviction are remembered by all those present in the room. 

These qualities also apply to the testimony of you and I to Christ, because we are Christ-ians. Thankfully, we are witnesses to Good News. But how often do we see it that way? 

Victory of a King

Mark, who was the first gospel writer chronologically, began this way:

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). 

You might know that the word “gospel” means “good news” or “glad tidings,” but did you know that in Mark’s time, this word was used to declare the victory of a king? 

Not only was Mark’s use of this word extremely bold—placing Jesus of Nazareth in higher esteem than the Roman emperor—but it also reveals to us Mark’s conviction about Jesus. His testimony was about a victorious King, the Son of God. When we read his Gospel, we see Jesus’ swiftness and power conveyed; which is partially why Mark’s Gospel is symbolized by a mighty lion. 

How would you and I begin our “Gospel according to (Your Name Here)”? What would our story convey about how we relate to Jesus? 

In reality, daily life is the parchment upon which we ‘write’ this Gospel; with our words and actions.  

Your Testimony is Powerful

“Be who God meant you to be,” wrote the Italian saint Catherine of Siena in a letter, “and you will set all of Italy ablaze.” 

That is the power of your testimony of life. 

Your story is unique.

  • What is your name?
  • Where and who did you come from?
  • How did your life begin?
  • What struggles have you endured?
  • When did you truly encounter God?
  • Who is Jesus to you?
  • How has knowing Christ changed your life? 
The Mystifying Truth that Christmas Celebrates

Christmas celebrates the unfathomable reality that Almighty God also has a name, a face, a family, was raised in a community, lived, ate, slept, wept, smiled, and yes—suffered, died, and rose victoriously from death.  

God’s love “will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 219; cf. John 3:16). 

Although 2020 has been a time of trial, pain, suffering, and death; we are reminded by Christmas 2020 that Christ took on flesh out of tremendous love for the world. That means you. That means us. His love is victorious over all trials, all pain & suffering, and even over death. In his love, we find life, truth, goodness, and beauty. 

This Christmas Season and into 2021, let us recover the Good News and approach Jesus again. May we reflect on our lives in the light of God’s love, and remember that each day we are Christ’s witnesses. 


Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular print column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter Him through pilgrimages, conferences and outreach. Read the column monthly in Today’s Catholic newspaper.

Meet Mary & St. Joseph

Spend a VIRTUAL time of Advent reflection with the Blessed Virgin Mary & St. Joseph, guided by Pilgrim Center of Hope.

  • Hear what Mary & Joseph’s Advent journey would have been like.
  • Participate in guided prayer and reflection.
  • Receive inspiration & encouragement for your own daily life.

Presenter: Mary Jane Fox

Cost: Pilgrim Center of Hope is a non-profit evangelization ministry, sustained only by donations. While there is no required fee to watch & benefit from the presentation below, please consider donating a one-time gift or showing your support with a monthly donation. Every bit helps this mission of hope to continue. Thank you!



Your Feedback

2 + 0 = ?

Self-Love is Not Selfishness

Photo of women attending the 2019 Catholic Women’s Conference.

I recently heard a brief presentation about Self-Love by Dr. Margarett Schlientz, a woman whom I admire because of her deep love for God and her spirituality.  Her message was encouraging, consoling, and provided direction in helping us combat the lack of self-love:    

Self-Love, she explains, is the basic entity of our humanity.  Self-Love is turning every flaw toward compassion, forgiveness, and understanding and accepting your negative thoughts, strengths, and weaknesses.   

Created in God’s Image

Think about it – we were created in God’s image, in His love.  He breathed life into us and gave us a heart to love.  However, due to negative experiences, wounds or false expectations, we end up being hard on ourselves which can result in sadness.   

The Son of God, Jesus, gave us the two Greatest Commandments related to Love; Jesus said: 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39). 

Note the last few words, …Love your neighbor as yourself.  Here is Self-Love! We are called to live a radical and true love, and it begins with loving God first, the source of love. 

How to combat the lack of self-love

Dr. Margarett lists some steps to combat the lack of self-love:  

  1.  Do things you love and take time for yourself.  Our lives may be caught with a lot of activity and work that may prevent us from doing things we really enjoy.  I believe this is where we need to mark time out in our calendar for ourselves, so we don’t allow time and the busyness of life to control us.   
  2. Learn to say “no” without guilt.  This is where the virtue of prudence is helpful. Prudence helps us manage our time and balance our day.  By being prudent, we can think wisely before making decisions.   
  3.  Don’t expect perfection.  Learn to forgive yourself and be compassionate with yourself.  We all make mistakes, and we need to realize that nothing is completely perfect.  The virtue of patience is important here.  By being patient, we realize we need to try again.  Dr. Margarett states When we have Self-Love, we can openly own our mistakes and work toward changing them. 
  4. Do good for someone else.  A young man shared with me how much he enjoyed doing good for someone else.  His mother passed away recently, and as her caregiver for years, he learned so much about love, especially his love for his mother and he gained a deeper realization of his own self-respect.  Now that she was gone, he wants to continue to do good for others.  He said:  “ To help others is to be human, to be caring, to be aware of others’ needs.   
  5. Think of all the good you have done.  Take time to think of good things you have done, whether it was recent or those times in the past when you did good and others benefitted.   

Dr. Margarett concludes:  

Self-love is not selfishness, it is owning the gifts God has given you, God’s presence within you and all the ways He calls you to utilize the best of who you are. 

Now is the time to heed this message, remember you are not alone.  God is with you and will guide you.       

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) 


Even in this time of COVID-19 protocols, many Catholic Churches make Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament available for her faithful. Contact your local parish for days/times.  At Pilgrim Center of Hope, you are welcome to visit our Gethsemane Chapel and spend time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The chapel is open as the Center is open, usually Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-5:30 pm. Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org or contact us at 210-521-3377.

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.

Preparing for Mass: What are You Wearing?

In the Gospel of Matthew, (22:2,9-14) Jesus tells His disciples:

The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. […] Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen,” Mat 22:2, 9-14).

This parable has always concerned me because the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been understood for centuries to be likened to a wedding feast. I wonder why this man being ill-dressed warranted his being booted from the festivities. Doesn’t God love us the way we are?

More personally, I worry:

“Am I wrong when I wear my workout clothes to Mass since I am going directly to the gym afterward?”

It’s More Than Just Our Attire

In much prayer and pondering, I see that it includes, but goes much deeper than what type of attire is appropriate for Mass participation. It has to do with this understanding of the Mass as a wedding feast . . . . more importantly our wedding feast!

Our Catholic faith professes that when a man and a woman marry, they become one flesh. This is the same as what happens when we participate at Mass and receive the Eucharist. At the Celebration of Mass, Jesus gives us His Life as Bridegroom. We (the Church) receive His Life as Bride.  At Communion, Jesus joins His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity with our body, heart, mind, and soul. We become one flesh.

This awesome reality does not mean we have to dress up in a tuxedo or gown for Mass, nor does it mean that exercise clothes and work uniforms are always inappropriate. What it does mean is that we need to properly dress our bodies, souls, hearts, and minds for the celebration. This is a big deal. It is not okay to just show up unprepared.  Jesus tells us it warrants being spiritually cast out of His Divine Life.

Connecting The Dots

The Book of Revelation (19:7-8) images how we are to come to Mass:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.

How do we make ourselves ready for Mass?

  • We dress our body in clothes that show respect and reverence for God’s Son, given to us.
  • We come in a soul made clean and in a state of grace, free from mortal sin.
  • We open our heart to receive the Word of God.
  • We focus our mind in attentiveness.
  • We wear an attitude of prayer and gratitude

As we journey to the celebration of Christmas Mass commemorating our Lord’s incarnation, let us make Advent the time of preparation it is supposed to be. Do not rush to the feast without properly preparing yourself for the banquet.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Prepare your heart in daily Scripture reading and prayer. If you don’t know where to begin, start with the daily Mass readings easily accessed on-line or in printed devotionals.
  • Prepare your minds through spiritual formation. Many great teachings can be found on what actually is happening at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Once you understand this awesome reality, it is easy to pay attention and participate.
  • Prepare your soul through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Allow God to clean you from the stain of sin and dress you in the white, bright garment of His Divine Mercy.
  • Wear clothes to Mass (and always) that show respect for a God who chose to become flesh.
  • Live in an attitude of gratitude and joy for soon . . . the bridegroom comes . . . our King is born!

If you need help preparing this Advent, or any time, please contact us at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Let us journey with you!


Even in this time of COVID-19 protocols, many Catholic Churches make Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament available for her faithful. Contact your local parish for days/times.  At Pilgrim Center of Hope, you are welcome to visit our Gethsemane Chapel and spend time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The chapel is open as the Center is open, usually Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:30pm. Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org or contact us at 210-521-3377.

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.

A Time of Watching and Preparing: “Be watchful! Be alert!”

In Isaiah 63:17, the Lord asks, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so we fear you not?” He is writing on behalf of a people that God has chosen to have a special relationship with, and these people have seen the wonders of this God who is their Father. In spite of this favored relationship, the people have been unfaithful. Isaiah goes on to say, “…all of us have become like unclean people, all our deeds are like polluted rags; we are all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.” If our hope is not in the God who created us, our quest for happiness is only a delusion.

Free Will

All around us, we see the consequences of free will, and yet free will is one of God’s greatest gifts. It is given to us out of love so that we might respond in love. It is possible for any thinking person to discover the reality of the existence of God and to be guided by his discovery. God can be found in His creation for those who have a searching heart.

A few years ago, I read that when Bertrand Russell, a famous atheist, was dying a friend asked him, “When you die, if you see God what will you say to Him?” He replied:

“If I see God I will say, ‘Sir, why didn’t you give us more evidence of your existence.”

Of course, the evidence of His existence is perfect, but it requires us to use our free will, to choose to seek Him. We can find Him in His creation, in His Word, in His miracles, in His Church, in His people, in our life experiences, and in the countless witnesses whose lives have been transformed by his grace. There is an abundance of evidence of the existence of God for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. We have only to call upon His name!

“Be watchful! Be alert!”

We hear an urgent message in the Gospel of Mark, “Be watchful! Be alert!” This is the beginning of Advent; a time of watching and preparing. In great anticipation, we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was born of the Virgin Mary 2000 years ago. Yes, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die, but may have eternal life.” Jn 3:16

We who believe in Him are also watching and praying for his second coming. The Gospel tells us to be alert because we do not know when the Lord is coming in his glory. So, Advent is about the Messiah coming into the world 2000 years ago and about his second coming which we pray for. However, it is also about Jesus, the Messiah, coming into our lives right now, which is the best preparation for his second coming. Our vigilance is not only about being ready when the Lord comes but about living in a relationship with him right now so that we may reach our potential for happiness and be filled with hope.

To be alert requires that we have a plan. An example is our vigilance in anticipation of Jesus coming to us in the Holy Eucharist. We fast for one hour before Mass from everything except water and medicine to help us break free from our normal routine and so that we can focus and prepare to receive Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion.

In addition to this little fast, we should pray, read the Scriptures, and examine our conscience to be aware of any serious sin we have not confessed.

Do you recognize Jesus throughout the day?

Jesus comes to us in his Word as it is proclaimed. He also comes to us in this assembly and in one another; in the person next to you. He comes to us throughout the day in many disguises. We don’t always recognize him. Therefore, be alert! He may come when we least expect. He may be present in the things that disturb or perplex us. He is present right now in the pandemic that has the whole world in turmoil. Has this event caused us to be alert, to draw closer to Christ? Have we increased our time in prayer, asking God’s protection for ourselves, the people we love, and for the world in general? It seems this is similar to an Old Testament event to test the faithfulness of the people. How are we doing? Are we closer to God now than we were at the beginning of the year? Do we see God as the solution to this dilemma?

This is a great time to read about those who knew God was the solution to everything. We see in the lives of the saints how their trust in God caused them to be filled with hope in every circumstance. Perhaps chose one of the saints to journey with you through Advent and read their story and include them in your daily prayer.

Our Father will provide

We also have the sacraments as a source of grace to help us overcome sin and grow in virtue. In the Church, we have everything we need to live a life close to God, which is our purpose for being on this earth. We are watchful and alert by living a life close to God every day; and God who is our Father will provide all that we need and fill us with Hope, Peace, and Happiness.

If our hope is not in the God who created us, our quest for happiness is only delusional and empty.


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.

A Path to Interior Freedom

What do you think of when you hear the word commandment? Does that bring forth a negative thought? Is it an imposition on your freedom? I’ll bet many of you have had the experience of telling a young child “no”. You probably didn’t get the response you wanted without a little extra persuasion. Of course, your “no” was a gesture of love, wanting to protect the child from some danger.

God’s commandments are like that for us. God created us out of love and wants to protect us from things that threaten our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. We are inclined to desire things that we believe will provide us with pleasure or selfish comforts that can be harmful to ourselves and others. In addition to this, we have an enemy called Satan who tries to convince us that what we know to be wrong is actually okay. In the beginning, he is not so successful because our conscience is still able to help us avoid doing that which we know is wrong. However, the enemy doesn’t give up. He knows our weaknesses and will tempt us in little things where we think the comprise of our conscience is not so serious. He has set the trap. This compromise will lead to more serious sin. Left unchecked, this pattern can cause us to feel distant from God and lead to a feeling of hopelessness.

He Created Us Out of Love

Of course, God is the solution to this dilemma. He created us out of love, and it is his love that sustains us. He knows our weaknesses and the enemy who wants to destroy us. God commands us to love him because it is only in our love for him and his love for us that we are able to experience true and lasting happiness. God is the source of all love and everything that is good; and the only way we can reach our potential for loving others and ourselves is by loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all mind.

Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me, and, whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14:21. It’s not complicated. If we want to know and experience the love and mercy of God, and the happiness, peace, and hope that are part of a relationship with Him; we must keep the commandments.

A Perfect Love

Because God loves us with a perfect love, he has made it possible for us to remain in his love through the Church and her sacraments and by remaining connected to him in our daily prayer. The more we pray and frequent the sacraments, the more aware we are of the nearness of God and his plan for our happiness. This does not mean we will not experience challenges and trials. It does mean that when trials come our way, we will turn to God for strength and direction because of the relationship with him.

One proof of God’s love for us is the Holy Eucharist. Jesus loves us so much that he gives himself to us under the appearance of bread. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive God. This is no casual experience. We should be properly prepared and disposed to receive our Lord. The sacrament of reconciliation is a personal encounter with Jesus who extends his forgiveness and mercy to us through his priest. This sacrament helps us to break free from habitual sin and make progress in our spiritual life.

Live a Life Close to God

As with all the saints through the ages, we have available to us everything we need to live a life close to God that will guarantee our happiness now and forever. We also must expect that we will experience the cross during our journey on earth. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34. It is especially when we undergo trials that we realize we need the help that only God can give us. It doesn’t mean that, just because we pray, things will always be fixed as we hope. It does mean that, when we preserve in prayer, we will come to trust that God is giving us what we need for the benefit of our soul and the souls of the people we are praying for.

When we have total trust in God we will be freed. It’s a process that depends upon our prayer and God’s grace.


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.