Weekly Inspirations

What Am I Living For? Hope When All Seems Lost

Here in San Antonio, we recently participated in Daylight Savings Time, and we all got “an extra hour” added to our busy week.

How often do you wish for more time?

Life can rush past us so quickly. That is—until we hit a wall; illness, death of a loved one, a financial challenge, relationship problem, employment crisis, etc. Then, it seems we all pause and find ourselves wondering: What is the meaning of all this? What am I living for?

A Man Who Lost Everything

One of the most relatable stories I’ve ever come across is that of Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, also called Alfonso. He…

  • had poor health
  • lost his father at age 14
  • lacked a basic education, since he had to drop out of school and take over the family business
  • was a widower by age 31 after only 5 years of marriage
  • lost all three of his children at a young age
  • suffered the collapse of his family business

Having hit “rock-bottom,” he pursued a religious vocation. This required further education. Alfonso bravely enrolled in classes with young people sitting all around him, but he failed to pass.

He spent two years with a spiritual director before entering the Jesuits as a brother. He worked as a school doorkeeper and did odd jobs. Frequently, he was upset with scrupulous thoughts and suffered other mental issues. Finally, he began to lose his memory.

When Everything Fails

Can you imagine hitting as many walls as Alfonso did? (Perhaps you have.)

We all want to be happy. Happiness can be pursued in security, success, health, family, friends… but when we lose what is dear to us, ultimately, we come to question: What am I living for?

Finding Purpose

Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez left no speeches or writings. His legacy and humble witness of life are what teach us about living with purpose.

Faced with that ultimate question of purpose and meaning, he could have attempted to wrestle with it all by himself. Instead, he sought a trusted advisor to keep him on track. We can all do the same.

Even after failing his initial attempts at religious life, Alphonsus came to believe that everything meaningful he sought in life was found in God. Although it took him 16 years before he could make his final vows as a religious brother, a life dedicated to God was worth the wait.

Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez discovered the reason why thousands of people over millennia have left behind everything they had to follow Jesus Christ. It is also why many people who have lost everything, like Alfonso did, can continue to live with joy.

Jesus said: I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. (cf. John 10:10)

Dare to seek a God who gave everything for you. Dare to ask Jesus: I need hope. Show me the abundant life that you came to give me.

Are you ready to discover a new reason to live?


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 for nearly 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

Jesus, What Is Your Plan for Me?

Have you caught yourself asking this question?  Asked by young and old throughout generations, it continues to be a question that causes one to wonder if there is a plan the Lord has for each one of us.

I have asked the Lord for direction, and have prayed, “I would like a stone tablet in the mailbox please!”

Oh, if it would be that easy, one would not need faith and trust in the Divine Savior who knows us more than we know ourselves! It is incredible to ponder that reality; the Divine Savior knows us. So you may think, Well if he knows us, tell me what to do! 

Importance of Our Will

Recently, I read a book titled Finding True Happiness containing excerpts from the many writings of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. One chapter especially struck me because he described the will of every person as the secret to true happiness.  Sheen writes:

There is one thing in the world that is definitely and absolutely your own, and that is your will. Health, power, life and honor can all be snatched from you, but your will is irrevocably your own.

This should strike our minds and hearts! Each person has a will, a freedom to make choices.  Sheen continues:

We always make the fatal mistake of thinking that it is what we do that matters, when really what matters is what we let God do to us.  […] Since God is a better artisan than you, the more you abandon yourself to Him, the happier He can make you.

When we ask Jesus, What is your plan for me? we can think about our own will. Will we chose to know the Divine Savior? I believe two elements are important: prayer and trust.

Prayer

True happiness begins with a relationship with God that develops from our prayer life, which is primarily communication with God.

  • Part of that prayer is encountering God by reading the Scriptures, which contain his general plan for all humanity. The more we read the Scriptures and spend time in prayer, we begin to see that God is a Father who loves us and wants what is best for us.
  • Silence is important. Spend time in silence to hear God speak. Silence is difficult at first, but if you persevere, it will be rewarding. I never heard God’s “voice”, but I have received insights in my quiet prayer that helped me to draw closer to God. It is not possible to have a relationship with God or discover his plan without prayer.

Trust

Trusting is a form of hope. It is believing God will bestow grace when we do what we can.

Men and women through the history of Church who have become canonized saints are great witnesses of trust and hope!  This is why it is so important to read the lives of the saints. They are so inspiring! Some became saints by reading the lives of other saints. We see that they all had their difficulties to bear and yet they lived in great peace and happiness. This is because they learned to trust God with their entire life. They knew that any difficulty they experienced would unite them more closely to God and lead to greater happiness.

When we put our total trust in God, he may take us to places we do not want to go, but he will walk with us through our trial and bring us to a place of great joy and peace. We can only reach our potential for happiness through perseverance in prayer and total trust in God.

John Henry Newman, the 19th-century’s most important English-speaking Roman Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer, and eminent theologian in both churches.

I came across one of his meditations offering encouragement and hope.  May it inspire you to ponder God’s presence in your life!

The Mission of My Life
A Spiritual Reflection by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.


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.

Why Is Humility So Important?

 

Pilgrims walk through the Gate of Humility, door leading into the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

To be humble is to know the truth about who we are and who God is.

God’s Love for Us

Through baptism, we became adopted children of God, created in his own image. No matter what our physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional strengths or weaknesses may be, it is only in our relationship with God that we will discover our true dignity.

It offends God when we think we do not need him or that we can reach true happiness without his help. It is also offending to God when we think that he does not love us or is not interested in who we are or what we do.

The only thing that stands between us and God’s plan for our happiness is our unwillingness to place God above everything else in our life and to be faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures.

A Powerful Choice

When we read the lives of the saints, we see they came from every background… some were great sinners, some were attracted to God from their youth; some lived in terrible poverty and painful circumstances their entire lives, and some were kings and queens. However, they all had one thing in common; they all, at some point in their life, had the humility to make the decision to love and worship the Lord Our God with all their mind, heart, soul, and strength—the only way to temporal and eternal happiness.

Humility enables us to believe the mysteries of our faith that we do not understand. The fact that God became man and died for our sins is truly a mystery, but if we believe it and reinforce that belief with faith formation and prayer, it is life changing.

Remarkable Gifts

It is a remarkable mystery that Jesus loves us so much that he gives us himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. When we receive Holy Communion, we are receiving God!

This is not a casual event; we should be properly prepared and disposed for this personal intimacy with Jesus Christ. This is the central truth of our faith. Do you believe that when you receive Holy Communion you are receiving God? You do not have to understand, but you do have to believe. If we do not believe, we should not receive Holy Communion.

The Lord desires that everyone should receive him in Holy Communion, but he demands that we believe and be prepared. This, of course, is why we have RCIA and CCD classes to instruct us about the truths of our faith. While those means of education are important, they will have no effect if we do not make the personal decision to love and serve God. To be Catholic is a life -long process of learning, growing, serving and surrendering our will to the will of God.

These same truths have been believed by all the saints through the ages who were witnesses of their great love for God by their lives; we also should have the humility to believe them. If we believe these mysteries of our faith, we would never contemplate leaving this Church which Jesus Christ founded or missing the opportunity to worship this God who loves us so much.

Help Toward Humility

It is only in our relationship with God that we receive the grace necessary to do the things we find so difficult by nature. Through the grace of the sacraments—especially confession, the Holy Mass, and the Holy Eucharist—we are able to forgive the deepest hurts and to be merciful. We can be freed from bitterness, resentment, jealousy, envy, and greed. Of course, it isn’t automatic; we must sincerely want to draw close to God and allow him and change our hearts.

If we have the humility to faithfully follow Our Lord in this life, we can be certain that we will be exalted in the next life.


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.

Why Pray?

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

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

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

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

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

Keep It Simple

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

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

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

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

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

The Benefits

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Teach Me to Pray the Cross!

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

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

He Did Not Know

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

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

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

Sharing My Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sign of Hope

I was delighted for this young man.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Let’s Go!

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

What does this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This daily walk with Mary is the Rosary.

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

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

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

October also provides increased opportunities to pray the Rosary with others through diocesan Rosary Congresses. For more information about the San Antonio Rosary Congress, click here.


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.

How Should I Respond to God’s Gifts?

A Recap of This Sunday’s Word

  • At Mass this Sunday, we heard the prophet Amos says “Woe to the complacent…they shall be the first to go into exile.” When we take God for granted and live for ourselves, there are consequences.
  • In the second reading St. Paul says, “Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” We are reminded that our faith demands that we be vigilant and hold fast to the truths that have been revealed to us. It takes a great effort on our part, but the reward is happiness now and for all eternity.
  • In the Gospel, we have a parable about a man who was complacent and had no concern about eternal life until it was too late. He had the resources to help others, but he lived only for himself. His selfishness blinded him, and he didn’t even notice poor Lazarus who was starving at his door.

The Test for Us All

We have all heard this Gospel many times and perhaps we have said to ourselves, “If I were rich, I would be generous.” However, this Gospel is not just directed to the rich. It is directed to each of us; to you and to me. Life on earth is a test of our generosity.  God has given us all something that He wants us to share with others, and we will never reach our potential for happiness until we share what we have.

What Do I Have to Share?

For some, what they have to share may be obvious, like the rich man in the Gospel. For others, it may be a gift they have not even discovered yet. Especially in the spiritual life, the gifts God gives us may remain hidden until we begin to invest in our faith. When an adult makes a decision to become a Catholic, he or she needs a sponsor to journey with them through the process we call R.C.I.A. Usually the sponsor is a spouse, fiancé or friend, but times it is a member of the parish they may not even know. In every case, the sponsor receives as much as the candidate because the gift of faith is being discovered, renewed, and deepened with the help of the Holy Spirit.

What God Has to Give

Our Catholic faith is the PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, the greatest treasure we can possess. It affords us the most intimate relationship possible with our Creator through the sacraments of his Church. How is it that God loves us so much that he allows us to receive him under the appearance of bread and wine, and he rests within us?

Responding to God’s Gifts

God is serious about this idea of not living for ourselves, as our Sunday readings indicate. We all have something to share.

  • No matter how much money we make, we should share generously as a sign of our trust in God who is the source of all blessings.
  • God has given us gifts and talents that he expects us to use in our faith community. We each have 24 hours every day; how much of this do we invest in laying hold of eternal life?
  • We have heard people say they don’t have time to pray. Our prayer is our connection to God ,and the more connected we are, the greater the possibility of discovering his plan for us.

The readings today challenge us to discover, live, and share our faith for our good and the good of the whole Church. Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice. In one of his talks, Bishop Fulton Sheen said the only thing we really have control of is our free will. God has made it possible for us to discover his plan that will lead us to happiness now and forever, but it depends upon the choices we make.

Lord, give us the grace to choose wisely and not to become complacent.


Deacon Tom Fox, K.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.

Follow Me: Why Matthew Followed Jesus

Photo shows an ancient synagogue amid the ruins of Capernaum

We recently celebrated the Feast Day of St. Matthew, when the Church remembers one of the Lord’s apostles and his conversion. Matthew’s conversion occurred in Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee, where he worked as a tax collector. (That was not a popular job; most tax collectors in those days were known to ‘cheat’ from others.)

While in Capernaum, Jesus sees “a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me. And he got up and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9). I always found this passage intriguing… how someone who hears the words of Jesus to follow him, gets up, leaves everything and follows!

Saint Bede, in one of his homilies explains it very well:

Jesus saw Matthew not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of man. […] Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way, Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, hand incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.

We can take those same words from Saint Bedes’s homily directed to us: Jesus sees you/me! When we experience the gaze of the Son of God, our Savior, how can we not be changed? Whether that gaze is an experience at a retreat, an encounter in prayer, by meeting someone, on pilgrimage, or even through trials and suffering; the gaze of Christ can reach our interiority and flood our minds with the light of grace.

Are You Feeling Unworthy of Answering Christ’s Call?

A variation on Caravaggio’s “The Calling of St. Matthew” emphasizing Christ and Levi

Because Jesus said that he came to call sinners, he has provided every single one of us with a path to forgiveness and redemption.

There have been a few times in my life where I felt unworthy of Christ’s mercy due to bad choices that resulted in broken relationships and in one or two cases led to public scorn and humiliation. As I have gotten to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I now know better.

Regardless of what we may lose in this life as the result of making a bad choice, no matter what sins we may commit, Jesus Christ will never distance himself from us. As Christians this is our reality. No matter what, Jesus says to us, “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

With the feast of St. Matthew coming up on Saturday, September 21, this is the perfect time to reflect on how those who are furthest from holiness – like Matthew the tax collector – can become a model of the acceptance of God’s mercy. The way in which Jesus called Matthew to “follow me,” is a timeless moment that is applicable to each of us.

The Calling of Matthew, then known as Levi, the son of Alphaeus

In Jesus’ time, there was perhaps no one more despicable than a tax collector, Levi’s chosen profession. The Jews classed them with harlots, heathens, and the worst of sinners.

So, imagine Matthew’s surprise when Jesus gazed upon him and said, “Follow me” (cf. Matthew 9:9-13). The words and gaze of Jesus must have washed over Matthew with such warmth that he was overcome by the love, peace, and mercy of Christ.

In this instant, Matthew realized, Christ is calling me! He knows all about me! And still, he loves me! And, so it was that Matthew, without hesitation, “rose and followed him” (cf. Matthew 9:9).

It is this type of transformative grace that Jesus wants all of us to experience. We must respond with conviction and say, “Lord Jesus, be the Lord of my life.”

Jesus does not exclude anyone from his friendship. When the Pharisees and scribes complained about Jesus dining with Matthew, and other tax collectors & sinners (all deemed unclean by the Jews), Jesus exclaimed, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).

The Parable of the Lost Sheep, Luke 15: 1-7

Luke, chapter 15 captures another instance where the Pharisees question why Jesus permits tax collectors and sinners to gather around him. To this, Jesus relates his parable about leaving the 99 sheep to go after the lost one until he finds it. Our Lord concludes by saying, “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (cf. Luke 15:7).

In Jesus’ time, when you sat together at table with someone, they were regarded as a brother or sister. Present at the Last Supper was Matthew, considered by the world to be among the worst of sinners, and several fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, and John), a job that was common and unimportant.

No matter how lowly or unworthy others thought these men to be, the fact that they were sinners or did ordinary work did not exclude them from Christ’s call. In the same way that Matthew humbled himself, we too must be willing to admit that we are one of the sinners that Jesus came to call, and in so doing adopt a new, upright life in communion with Jesus.


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

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

Approaching Life Transitions – A Quick Guide for Christians

During this month, many of us are experiencing transitions in our lives – whether related to school, work, home, family, or even the simple changing of the seasons.

Transitions can be exciting as well as difficult. How are we as Christians called & empowered to approach these challenges?

Looking At Jesus

The most obvious and triumphant transition that Jesus Christ experienced was in his passion, death, and resurrection. Consider how the Gospel depicts Jesus after his resurrection; retaining his wounds of crucifixion (cf. John 20: 25, 27). If we had been present at the crucifixion, those wounds would have been difficult to look at. After the Resurrection, Jesus offers those once-ugly wounds to the apostles for examination. Now, they see that these wounds are beautiful signs of God’s love and triumph.

When we enter into a new phase of life, we do not totally leave behind our past, and it may be difficult to see what good can come from this new challenge. However, when we entrust ourselves to God, our past can be redeemed and give God glory. What was once ugly can mysteriously become beautiful.

All things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Freedom In True Humility

A powerful truth is embodied by Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection: Only when we offer ourselves naked—with all defenses stripped away—before God and others; accepting the reality of our frailty, woundedness, and weakness, yet in the light of God’s mighty love, can we experience the Kingdom of God and life in the Holy Spirit.

That is true humility; seeing ourselves as God sees us!

When we outstretch our arms, like Jesus on the cross, to embrace the challenges that lie ahead in our daily pilgrimage of life, and only when we shed all the masks we wear; can we recognize how much God loves us, how highly God thinks of us and how greatly God believes in us!

Striving to Follow Christ In Transition

In his later years, Pope St. John Paul II conveyed his humility through his physical vulnerability. Rather than shying away from the public, he allowed others to see his frailty. Pope Benedict XVI demonstrated his humility by making the unprecedented decision to resign the fullness of religious power to live in seclusion and quiet.

During a General Audience in 2016, Pope Francis remarked, “It is enough to respond to the call with a humble and sincere heart. The Church is not a community of perfect people, but of disciples on a journey, who follow the Lord because they know they are sinners and in need of his pardon.”

Taking the Next Steps

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

To help you face your next life transition or challenge, here are a few concrete things that can help you approach it with humility:

  1. Make a list of things for which you are grateful. At times, we approach a new challenge as if it depends entirely on our efforts. While we should always strive to serve God and others to the best of our ability, we are not the world’s savior! Spending time to write out a multitude of things God and others have given you, will remind you of the bigger picture.
  2. Spend some quiet time in prayer. Our minds need quieting from time to time, so as to recognize our true selves amidst the noise and demands of the world. A simple start is to pray a Hail Mary and end with: “Blessed Mother Mary, help me to see God’s love for me today.”
  3. Seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The point of this sacrament is not to tear you down, but to build you up. Within this encounter, we can shed all those masks & accumulated layers of pretense. See not only your areas of weakness, but ultimately how precious and what a gift you are in God’s eyes!

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 for nearly 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.