Weekly Inspirations

How to Bring Light to the Darkness

Several months ago while watching an episode of a streaming show that boasts a very talented cast and an intriguing storyline, I told my husband I could not watch the series anymore. I felt sick to my stomach and my husband said he felt the same. It was not because the show was violent or gruesome.

The reason is because in none of the characters was there a redeeming quality to be found. None of them was striving to be a better, kinder person. No one was concerned for the interest of another. Each character lived his or her life with the belief that ‘looking out for myself’ is the only good worth choosing. It made me wonder if this is what hell is like.

Last week, I decided to finish the season and watch the last two episodes. Each character received the sad consequences of his or her many selfish choices. For one this meant suicide. For the others, it was the realization of how the choices they made played a part. The final episode ended with each character facing the reality of death. Not a ray of hope could be found as the show faded into dark.

In none of the episodes did any character speak of faith in God or have anyone in their life who did. The name of our Lord Jesus Christ was spoken often but only in vain to curse their circumstances and each other. Though I highly doubt I will tune in again, I am grateful that I finished the season because it helped me to see the vital importance of bringing the light of Jesus Christ as hope in the lives of others.

Bring Light In A Creative Way

I know sharing our faith with someone can be difficult. A family member of mine with little to no faith often took our Lord’s name in vain. I lacked the courage to confront him about it, so I chose another tactic. I would tag on “Our Lord and Savior” to his, “Jesus Christ!” The first time he looked at me strangely and I said, “I am turning your curse into a blessing.” He smiled at this, but he never stopped. Neither did I. This man died a few years ago after a bout of cancer. This tiny light of Jesus I brought to this man gives me hope that when he encountered Jesus at his death, he knew exactly what to say, “Our Lord and Savior!” I pray he did.

Jesus’ Demand

In Jesus’ revelations to St. Faustina which she recorded in her diary of Divine Mercy (742), He told her,

“I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbor always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try and excuse yourself from it. I am giving your three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first by deed, the second by word, the third by prayer.”

Be A Light In A Dark World

When we step out in faith, expect to be rejected. This should not stop us. In Scripture, we read of many times Jesus was rejected, and most sadly, by His own family and neighbors (Luke 4:14-30). Our Lord Jesus continues to be rejected by those who do not know His Goodness and Love. With more and more people lacking faith, it could just be that the only light of Jesus Christ in a group of people is you. Let us not shrink from these opportunities or excuse ourselves.

When you know you should bring His Light, but are afraid, ask the Holy Spirit for courage and find peace in the knowledge His Mercy flows through us regardless of the response. You will feel uncomfortable and that is normal. Do it anyway. As our world is quickly moving from fading to tumbling into darkness, bring the light of Jesus Christ to everywhere you go. Be the ray hope this world so desperately needs.


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.

“Good Pope John” – Why you shouldn’t overlook Pope St. John XXIII

I am a member of the “John Paul II Generation,” but I winced when he and John XXIII were canonized together; people would say, “John Paul II and… uh… that other guy.”It would be a tragedy to overlook jolly John, a simple yet revolutionary figure in the history of Catholicism. From the time I began learning about him, he quickly became one of my heroes. This week, Pope Francis is launching the synodality process for the Church. For this reason, we should be even more aware of St. John XXIII, who led the Church into its most important period of renewal in recent history (the Second Vatican Council).

In John Paul II’s homily for the Mass during which he declared John XXIII ‘Blessed’, he said:

“Everyone remembers the image of Pope John’s smiling face and two outstretched arms embracing the whole world. How many people were won over by his simplicity of heart, combined with a broad experience of people and things! The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and to the powerful of the world.”

Angelo Roncalli was the son of an Italian family (tenant farmers). As a young seminarian, he became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. During World War I, then-Fr. Roncalli was assigned to carry wounded soldiers on stretchers from the field of battle to the field hospital. While a Bishop, he served Vatican City as a diplomat. He was a leader in the Vatican’s efforts that saved hundreds of thousands of European Jews from Nazi deportation. “In Budapest alone, Roncalli rescued at least 50,000 Jews by issuing baptismal certificates” (Catholic World Report). Read his biography; you will be inspired.

This ‘Good Pope John’ has taught me so many lessons. Here are a few:

1. God is calling you to holiness in an unrepeatable way.

Sometimes, I read saint biographies, and I think, “Wow, that is amazing, but that’s not me.” Further, Catholics can get caught up comparing ourselves, our prayer lives, and our talents to Saint So-and-So’s. We can end up more discouraged than inspired.

As a young man, John XXIII kept a spiritual journal, and reflected on this:

“I am not St. Aloysius, nor must I seek holiness in his particular way, but according to the requirements of my own nature, my own character and the different conditions of my life. I must not be the dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, however perfect. God desires us to follow the examples of the saints by absorbing the vital sap of their virtues and turning it into our own life-blood, adapting it to our own individual capacities and particular circumstances. If St. Aloysius had been as I am, he would have become holy in a different way” (Journal of a Soul).

2. Maintain a healthy sense of humor.

Shortly after his election, John XXIII was walking in the streets of Rome. A woman passed by, noticed him, and said to her friend, “My God, he’s so fat!” Having overheard, he turned around and replied, “Madame, I trust you understand that the papal conclave is not exactly a beauty contest.”

Famously, a journalist once asked him, “How many people work in the Vatican?”

He responded, “About half of them.”

3. God is in control; it’s OK to relax.

You think your life is stressful? Imagine being the Pope…the man elected to lead 1 billion Catholics around the world, who are facing all types of challenges, living in all different cultures, and with so many needs. Imagine holding the title, ‘Vicar of Christ on Earth’!

John XXIII said, “It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope…” Talk about pressure! How did Good Pope John deal with it? At the end of a long day, he is said to have prayed, “Well, Lord, it’s your church. You take care of it. I’m going to bed.”

Simple as that.

4. “I am your brother.”

Having worked in evangelization for several years, I still find it hard to preach the Gospel. Loving others and speaking the truth to them requires us to get our hands dirty; to be present to people wherever they are; to be vulnerable. I fear ridicule, or failure. John XXIII maintained a very simple but profound attitude. He often greeted people saying, “I am your brother.”

Somehow, that phrase changes my perspective. I’m overwhelmed by the thought of approaching people with the Gospel, but when I remind myself, “I am their sister,” my eyes are opened to the simplicity of God’s call. Just be a brother.

5. Most of all — Do not worry. Do not be afraid.

Elected pope at 77, everyone expected John XXIII’s pontificate to be quick and forgettable. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, John’s turned out to be one of the most revolutionary pontificates in history. Most notably, he called for an ecumenical council: a meeting of the entire Church. In Christianity’s 2,000-year history, only twenty of these had been organized. So, why did he do it?

He said this in his opening address at the Second Vatican Council: “In the daily exercise of Our pastoral office, it sometimes happens that We hear certain opinions which disturb Us—opinions expressed by people who, though fired with a commendable zeal for religion, are lacking in sufficient prudence and judgment in their evaluation of events. They can see nothing but calamity and disaster in the present state of the world. They say over and over that this modern age of ours, in comparison with past ages, is definitely deteriorating. One would think from their attitude that history, that great teacher of life, had taught them nothing. They seem to imagine that in the days of the earlier councils everything was as it should be so far as doctrine and morality and the Church’s rightful liberty were concerned.

We feel that We must disagree with these prophets of doom, who are always forecasting worse disasters, as though the end of the world were at hand.”

Rather than flee from the world and lock the church doors behind us, John XXIII envisioned a Church that was empowered by the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and bring God’s love. Because John XXIII was unafraid to start a revolution, unafraid of the doom-and-gloom, and unafraid of what people might think of him, today we have a more lively, educated, enthusiastic, culturally-rich Catholic Church.

What a debt we owe him.


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.

Do I Have to Evangelize?

When I was about 10, my 13-year-old brother told me about an idea he had for us making money: we would go door-to-door selling subscriptions of TV Guide magazine. All I remember is that for every subscription we sold, we would make 10 cents. Great, I thought.

After going door-to-door all afternoon, in the summer, we must’ve knocked on 50 doors, and sold a mind-boggling three subscriptions. Sometimes the people politely declined, but more often than not, they were rude and curt. Never again!

From then on, anytime I heard anything that remotely involved going door-to-door, I ran in the other direction. So when I heard about  “going out to evangelize”  – I hesitated, I was not in line to sign up. But as I matured, and I learned more about our beautiful faith, I realized I was already evangelizing—in my own way.

The Gospel of Matthew (28:19-20) charges us, as Catholics, to “go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you.” Pope John Paul II, in his, apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici; writes:

“The basic meaning of this Synod and the most precious fruit desired as a result of it, is the lay faithful’s hearkening to the call of Christ the Lord to work in his vineyard, to take an active, conscientious and responsible part in the mission of the Church in this great moment in history, made especially dramatic by occurring on the threshold of the Third Millennium. A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle.” (#3)

Strive to Be A Light to the World

Who will question the dark times we find ourselves in? We are the light of the world. We are the lamp on the bushel basket, answering Our Lord’s call to evangelize.

Many people don’t like to talk about religion. What can I do?

Here are some possible ideas for you:

  • Start saying “Thank you, God” in public.
  • Say grace before meals, in public.
  • Start out at home, and take it into the world. Your actions, more than your words, ARE evangelization when others see you.
  • You get emails every day. Many of you subscribe to Catholic sites that proclaim the good news or call us to action because of a legislative bill that harms the unborn, or some other issue that is harmful, or helpful, to the world from our Catholic viewpoint. Share that link with others. Will there be some who are offended and will not want that sort of email from us? Certainly, but that should not stop you from evangelizing in this way.
  • Send texts, holy Christmas, and greeting cards, including birthday, condolence, thank you cards, and cards on any occasion.

The only way Christ is going to keep our world from going completely dark is if we shine in that darkness. If Jesus had not called us to become involved, then He wouldn’t need a Church on earth, would He? He would have done it all Himself. We are the members of the body of Christ, who is our Head. As members, we each play a role in allowing the body to function. Inaction in a member is not an option.

Be kind and gentle with others, when they call or ask for help. Loving those that are in most need of our love, even though they may be hard to approach at times. Do we avoid picking roses because the stems have thorns?

You can “pay it forward” when you’re in the fast-food line and someone lets you in. One act of such kindness can spread like wildfire. Just like evil has its ripples, so does love have its waves.

How we evangelize is as varied as who we are. Get creative. Talk to other Catholics who are evangelizing and reaching out. We sure are creative when it comes to using social media with our friends. Our Lord deserves our creativity just as much, if not more.

So you don’t have to go door-to-door, but at least get up and start walking to the vineyard! Pray and ask the Lord for His guidance, and He will answer you.


Victor Negrón is a husband, father, grandfather, practicing lawyer, former judge, past-President of the San Antonio Catholic Lawyers Guild, lay evangelist, Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope and A Woman’s Haven. Judge Negrón became Board Certified in Family Law in 1987. As a lay evangelist, Victor has served as a leader for Eucharistic Adoration of San Antonio, Inc., and has been involved with Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelizing activities since its early years – formerly as emcee for the Catholic Men’s Conference, and currently as a member of the PCH Board of Directors.

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 Full Discipleship of Christ

God’s ways are not our ways. God can choose whoever He wants to accomplish the things He wishes to accomplish, as we see in the Book of Numbers (11:25-29) when Moses complains to God that the mission of guiding His Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So, God shares the spirit that He has given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God. The spirit of God is more important than the instrument He chooses.

We see something similar in the Gospel of Mark (9:38-43, 45, 47-48) John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving our demons in Jesus’ name because he was not an apparent follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises him and tells him,

“For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Our focus must be on why we do what we do. God has revealed His plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We know that through baptism we become children of God and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We are also anointed with Chrism oil as Priest, Prophet, and King so that we might reach our full stature as a disciple of Christ.

Priest

We participate in the priesthood of Christ especially at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer the priest says, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours maybe be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” This is the time for us to place our intentions on the altar to be offered up with the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God. Our response is “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.” So, when the Holy Spirit, through the prayers of the priest, changes bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we who are present, along with the priest, offer this holy sacrifice, to the Eternal Father. This is the most powerful prayer on earth because it makes present on the altar, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

We also fulfill our role as priest through the prayer and the sacrifices we offer up in union with the suffering of Christ. Our Lord expects every baptized person to participate in his plan of salvation. St. Therese the Little Flower once said,

“The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of a poor little soul to save other souls.”

Only God knows how many souls we have affected during our life.

Prophet

We fulfill our role as prophet when we read, listen to, believe, live, and share the truth revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church because the truth is prophetic in every age. It is only this truth that liberates us from the obstacles to our temporal and eternal happiness. Our parish offers many opportunities to grow in our faith through Bible studies, prayer groups, and faith formation resources.

King

We are king in the same manner as Christ the King. He said,

“I came not to be served, but to serve.”

In gratitude for God’s generous gifts to us, we are expected to be good stewards of our time, talent, and treasure. All good things come from God and everyone who is generous with what he has received will experience happiness as a consequence of that generosity. It is especially through generosity that we discover God’s providence and deepen our trust in him. It is through our involvement in the activities of the parish that we discover and develop the specific gifts that will help us to reach spiritual maturity and help our parish to be complete.

In baptism, we receive everything we need to begin our pilgrimage on earth. It is then through the Church and her sacraments that we are guided and fortified so that we can discover and live the specific plan God has for each of us. Every baptized person is expected to become a saint, not only for their own happiness but also that we participate in God’s saving plan for humanity.

Our Mission as Priest, Prophet, and King

This is our identity and purpose for the glory of God. What a wonderful plan God has for humanity. It is sad that currently, so many individuals are struggling to discover their true identity and purpose. This is amplified by the misguided ideologies supported by social, educational, and political entities.

The only solution for the confusion and pain we see in our world, is for us to follow the plan that God has set before us. On several occasions, our Blessed Mother has asked us to pray the rosary for the conversion of sinners. How many of us pray the rosary every day? The rosary has been the favorite prayer of many saints, including St. John Paul II who said when we pray the rosary and meditate on the mysteries, with Mary we are contemplating the face of Jesus. The rosary only takes about 20 minutes and it is beautiful to pray with the family.

When we frequent the sacraments of confession and Holy Eucharist it is not only for our own benefit, but for the Body of Christ. There is much concern about climate change and the health of our environment, and so on. However, there should be a greater concern for the spiritual health of humanity which has eternal consequences as well as being the solution to world problems. When we who are baptized become witnesses of all that has been given us, we will begin to see the world change.


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 Lesson from the Country that Evangelized Itself

Yes, you read that right. While most people outside the Middle East have adopted the Christian faith due to missionary work, there is one nation that did not need missionaries.

Meeting Korea

Thanks to a personal interest in South Korea that has developed over the last two years, I have begun eating Korean food, enjoying music and art from the country, learning its language, and exploring Korean history. The story of Christianity in Korea is both fascinating and inspiring.

September 20 is the Memorial of the Korean Martyrs; 130 holy people whose memory deserves celebration, honor, and gratitude for changing the history of the world. Korea has the fourth-most number of martyrs among the world’s nations.

To begin their story, one must first understand something essential to traditional Korean society; education. As opposed to its neighbor Japan, whose traditional power structure (shogunate) was based upon war and the might of a clan, the Korean ruling class for centuries were the Yangban—deriving from the Confucian scholar. For hundreds of years, Korean dynasties maintained a remarkably peaceful stability.

The Surprising Discovery of Jesus

While he was in nearby China, diplomat and scholar Yi Gwang-jeong encountered Christianity for the first time. In 1603, he returned with several theological books written by Fr. Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit. As per usual, Yi passed on the interesting information that he had obtained.

At this time in Korea, class structure was clear. Even today, the Korean language’s historical roots are evident. I’ve struggled to learn all its honorific terminology; addressing someone who is older or more distinguished than oneself with different grammar than someone who is an equal or younger than oneself. Gender adds an additional level of linguistic complexity.

Therefore, meetings of Korea’s early Christians were astonishing to behold; sitting in the same room together were scholars, tradesmen, women, and even slaves, regarding each other with equal dignity.

Koreans’ search for truth led them, not only to a surprise meeting with Jesus, but to completely change their worldview.

Since then, the Catholic Church in Korea has been a main driving force behind activism for social justice and against government corruption. Today, South Korea provides the world’s second-largest number of Christian missionaries (second to the United States).

A Surprise for Us All

How often have you and I entertained thoughts of being ‘better than’ someone else?

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus and his disciples were on a journey, with the disciples bickering about that very thing; who among them was the greatest.

Observe how Jesus taught them: He directly asked them to admit their topic of discussion; “What were you arguing about on the way?”

As embarrassment rendered them speechless, Jesus surprised them. He brought a child before them. In their society, children were never given the spotlight.

[…] Putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

So, Jesus’ goal is to upend their way of thinking: Do not vie for status in the eyes of humans. Instead, strive to receive the least-important person in your presence as you would receive me and my Heavenly Father.

May we each, like the Korean Martyrs, pursue a relationship with Jesus which causes us to radically change our worldview, and to humbly “remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other” persons in our midst (The Joy of the Gospel, no. 169).


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.

Not Understanding: Humility

Listening to the Gospel of Mark during this part of Ordinary Time, we hear Jesus patiently teaching his followers about the nature of discipleship and the kingdom of God. We also hear the disciples’ responses, which show their lack of understanding of what Jesus is talking about.  Jesus, recognizing this, tells Peter,

“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mark 8: 33b)

What prevents us, like the disciples, to more fully understand what Jesus is telling us about serving him and others? Or maybe the better question is:  what would it take for us to more fully understand?

Humility
  • “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

Children are rooted in what God wants them to be. They are what they are and act in accordance to their deepest nature, their God-given nature.

Pope Benedict XVI tells us:

“We will know God to the extent we are set free from ourselves.”

Humility sets us free and allows us to love Jesus and others more than ourselves. Humility means becoming like children and relying on the Spirit to teach us how to be his followers through the liturgy, prayer, Scripture, and the events of our life.

Docility
  • “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the servant of all.” (Mark 10: 43b-44)

“Docile” comes from the Latin word docere (to teach). Being docile means to be teachable. We can think of it as having an attitude of receptivity to what the teacher offers us.

Docility to the Holy Spirit means that we look to the Holy Spirit – the Spirit who is the love between the Father and the Son – for the wisdom to be faithful to Jesus Christ and learn to serve others.

Docility ultimately means stepping out in faith after seeking the Holy Spirit’s will for us. We are called to “walk by faith and not by sight.” St. Paul’s words are a reminder that God’s will is rarely revealed to us in some absolute way. It requires trust in Jesus and stepping out into the unknown as his disciples.

Surrender
  • “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8: 34b)

We have no better example of discipleship than our Blessed Mother Mary. Though most of Jesus’ disciples failed him on Good Friday by leaving him when he was taken away to be crucified, his mother was there to share the pain and suffering and persevere with Jesus to the end of his earthly life. Our Blessed Mother Mary stands by the cross in great faith, in total surrender and total trust in God’s plan for her son. She accepts her mission to be the spiritual mother of all the faithful followers of Jesus.

As human beings, we will never fully understand the mystery of discipleship, but we can follow Jesus in humility, being docile to the Holy Spirit, and surrendering to God’s will for our lives.

Though humility requires that we recognize our own inability to know God’s ways, truly desiring to please God requires that we use the resources God has given us to follow as best we can.

The prayer of Thomas Merton reminds us that our efforts to follow Jesus as best we can do indeed please God:

“My Lord God …. I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following Your will, does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me.  And you will never leave me to face my perils alone.  AMEN.”


Debbie Garza is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Leon Springs, and is an experienced Pilgrimage Group Leader with Pilgrim Center of Hope. She has traveled with Pilgrim Center of Hope to the Holy Land, Italy, and Greece. She says, “On pilgrimage, I know the ears and eyes of my heart have been opened by God’s grace and I’ve experienced the Joy of the Gospel. I am committed to helping other pilgrims experience their personal journey of faith.” Debra is also a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.

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.

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

In the Gospel of Matthew, someone identified as the rich, young man, said to Jesus,

“Teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?”

Matthew 9:16. Jesus tells him he must keep the commandments. The young man said, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him,

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Matthew 19:20-22).

The young man had the wisdom to be concerned about his salvation, but not the will to overcome his attachment to possessions. He was hoping Jesus would suggest something he could do on his own, like keeping the law. Jesus invites him to do something he can only do with the help of grace, to put his total trust in God and in his providence. This is the same reality for every vocation; religious, married, or single. Every vocation is a call to holiness, and we can only be holy with God’s help. As Jesus said, “For human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26.

How Do I Discover God’s Plan For Me?

Our heavenly Father has a wonderful plan for every baptized person, but that plan can only be discovered and lived in communion with him. For this reason, Jesus Christ established his Church and the Sacraments so that every baptized person will have access to the grace that is necessary to live the plan that will allow us to reach our potential for happiness now and forever.

Jesus said,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:5).

To be poor in spirit is to be totally dependent on God, no matter who we are or what we have. It is to know that every good thing comes from God and he expects us to be good stewards of his gifts. There are many saints in our Church history, and even in these present times, that had vast wealth which they put at the service of God for the sake of worship, education, medicine, and a variety of other resources for those in need.

To be poor in spirit goes beyond our financial status. There can be many things we are tempted to cling to that can be an obstacle to our relationship with God. We can be reluctant to give up an ideology that is in conflict with Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church. We can hold on to addictions because it seems easier than the struggle to break free. Often times it is a relationship that can pull us away from God’s plan for us.

How Do I Stay Close To Jesus?

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and the answer to all the dilemmas that make up our life experience. He is the gentle Good Shepherd that invites us to draw close to him in daily prayer so that he can lead us away from the dangers that can trap us. Staying close to Jesus by frequenting the sacraments and praying together with family and friends will not only ensure our own happiness and salvation, but it will also ensure the vocations that are necessary for the life of the Church and the salvation of souls.

“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort.  You were made for greatness.”  Pope Benedict XVI


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.

Are We Truly Wise and Intelligent?

Why do we do the things we do? Certainly, our education influences many of the choices we make, but what is the final authority we look to, to guide our lives? Is it a political entity; the media or the friendships we have formed? Is it the word of God?

We see in the Old Testament how God chose a particular people to be His own so that all humanity might know what it means to be faithful to the One True God and to receive His favor. We read in Deuteronomy (4:6), one essential component of this faithful relationship is revealed – the commandments God gave His chosen people through Moses. Of these commandments, Moses says,

“Observe them carefully, for thus you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’”

How Can I Be Wise and Intelligent?

Wisdom and intelligence were measured by the closeness to God that the Chosen People experienced when they were faithful to the law that was set before them. This is the same law that is set before us. As Jesus said, all of the law and prophets are summed up in the two greatest commandments. We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, and strength and our neighbor as our self. If we keep these commandments, we will be wise and intelligent people. If we do not, no matter what else we accomplish, we will be foolish, unhappy, and hopeless.

God has a great plan for humanity in general and each and every one of us in particular. We can only discover our personal plan that will allow us to reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity by drawing close to God. We do that by being faithful to what He has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. This is the authority that Jesus Christ left us so that we might remain close to him and receive the grace we need to make decisions that may be difficult, but in the end, lead to wholeness and hope. This authority will often be in conflict with the wisdom of the world.

Keeping a Clean Heart

Any good thing can be abused and misused. In the Gospel of Mark (7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23), we see religious leaders using the law for their own purpose. In order to observe the law they, over the course of years, added on hundreds of precepts for the people to follow. The intentions may have been good, but in the end, the percepts, at times, become more of a burden than a help in keeping the law. The Pharisees try to use the cleansing ritual to trap Jesus. The primary intention of this ritual is purity of heart. Clean hands are more important than washed hands. The outward sign of the cleansing was supposed to reflect that which was interior.

In this case, Jesus reads their hearts and chastises them by explaining that what is truly unclean comes from within a person, such as, “…evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly.” These are what defile a person.

It is not easy to live each day with a clean heart in a world that has no regard for God or His law. Jesus said it would be difficult to follow him. He said we must deny our self and take up our cross each day. He also knows at times we will fall, because he asks us to do things we can only do with his help. For this reason, he has given us the sacraments, especially reconciliation so we can receive him in the Eucharist with a clean heart.

These two sacraments; reconciliation and Eucharist fortified by daily prayer, make it possible to stay close to God and to be guided and transformed by his presence. Prayer is not only essential for our relationship with God it also strengthens our relationship with one another. It is important for a husband and wife to pray together and to pray with their children. We should pray before everything we do, asking for God’s help. Our Blessed Mother wants to obtain for us the grace we need to be faithful; praying the Rosary will help us to stay close to God and stay together as a family. Let us pray that our great nation will be filled with people who are truly wise and intelligent because of our faithfulness to God’s laws.


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.

Practical Ways to Overcome Worry

It seems we all worry about something.  Are you an expert?

Worry is not just a ‘downer’; it’s dangerous. Saint Francis de Sales—one of the greatest writers on the spiritual life and a Doctor of the Church—wrote, “With the single exception of sin, anxiety is the greatest evil that can happen to a soul. […] If our heart is inwardly troubled and disturbed it loses both the strength necessary to maintain the virtues it had acquired and the means to resist the temptations of the enemy.”

Besides presenting our worries to God in prayer and asking for peace (which are called prayers of petition), how else can we fight the temptation to worry?

Holy Reminders

One practical way that has helped me overcome worry is surrounding myself with ‘holy reminders’ at home and work; such as images of Christ—especially of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Divine Mercy image.

‘Holy reminders’ encourage me to trust God. If I am a person of faith, I must put my faith into action. If I profess belief in an All-Good, All-Powerful, and All-Loving God, I must live according to that belief and surrender my worries to him. “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Learn to Savor

I remember one particular week, when I repeatedly came across a Scripture verse that embodies another way to overcome worry: “Learn to savor how good the Lord is. Happy are those who take refuge in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

I had always heard the alternate translation, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord…” but the phrase “Learn to savor” struck me deeply.

When we taste a delicious ice cream or steak, it’s good. But when we savor it, we spend more time appreciating it. When we savor something, its goodness becomes richer and more meaningful.

Once, my spiritual director instructed me to write down things for which I was grateful. This daily practice was meant to be a prayer of thanksgiving, but it eventually became just another task. I was “tasting” those good gifts rather than savoring them.

Take time to marvel at God’s gifts in your life! This savoring is a weapon against worry, because our meditation on God’s Providence re-builds our confidence in his goodness and trustworthiness. Scripture repeatedly commands that we celebrate and remember “the good things” that God has done for us.

Praise Is Powerful

One of the most powerful ways to fight worry is praise.

Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. […] By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God, testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2639)

The power of praising God is why the apostles, saints, and popes have instructed us to praise God unceasingly.  Saint Augustine’s famous quotation is often half-quoted: “You (God) yourself encourage [humans] to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

When we worry, we are preoccupied with many things. When we praise God, however, we focus our whole being on God’s Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Mercy, and Love. Prayers of praise fulfill our deepest identity: to be united with, and to ‘rest in’, God.

I have found that the more I genuinely praise God, the more quickly my worries vanish.

So, how does one praise God?  The highest form of praise is the Holy Mass, the “sacrifice of praise”.  Besides active participation in Mass, I most often praise God through hymns and spiritual songs. However, we can praise God everywhere; even when we cannot sing or speak. We simply raise our hearts and minds to God, and rejoice in who God Is.

God commands you to pray, but he forbids you to worry. – St. John Vianney

I invite all you this week to join me in conquering worry, partaking in holy reminders, savoring God’s goodness, and praising God from the heart!


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.

God’s Invitation

In the Gospel of Matthew (19:16-22) we have a wonderful opportunity to consider how God invites each of us into a deeper faith in Him and a personal relationship with Him.

A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

God Reveals Himself To Us

It seems the young man is the one taking the initiative to approach Jesus, but actually it is our Lord who has invited him. The reality that mortal men and women even know God exists is because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read,

By His Revelation, “the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company. The adequate response to this invitation is faith, (CCC, no 142).

By asking the young man this question, Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good, our Lord is drawing the man out of himself and his own efforts to achieve salvation, but the young man fails to see.

Jesus tries again. When the young man asks which commandments he needs to keep, Jesus skips the first three that focus on placing God first in our minds and hearts perhaps hoping the young man notices. He does not. He responds, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”

This exchange between Jesus and the young man is often what happens in our own relationship with God. We pray for what we need, which He wants us to do, but we fail to listen to how our Lord is inviting us to give Him not only our needs, but our hearts as well. We listen to God by persevering in faith through our doubts, confusion and suffering seeking to know and act in His Will. As the Catechism teaches, faith is  our adequate response to God.

Sadly, the young man fails to respond in faith and leaves when Jesus tells him what he does not want to hear.

God Never Leaves Us

St. Augustine teaches that God is always at work inviting us to Him. He says,

“Our Head intercedes for us; some members He is receiving, others He is chastising, others cleansing, others consoling, others creating, others calling, others recalling, others correcting, renewing.”

When we feel resistance to what we hear God telling us in prayer or through the teachings of the Church, remain constant to Him. Think of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, (John 4:4-29).  Her remaining constant to Jesus despite being way outside her comfort zone paid off in a profound healing and restoration of her broken life. Not only was she converted, her whole village turned to Jesus thanks to her witness of faith!

Jesus promises rewards here and now in this life to those who choose authentic, committed discipleship to Him. He says,

Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

Jesus was inviting the young man into receiving divine possessions far greater than his earthly ones. Scripture does not tell us if the young man returned to follow Jesus, but we can be certain our Lord never stopped inviting him.

The same goes for us!


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.