Weekly Inspirations

Spiritual Battle – Top 3 Qualities of A Good Soldier

[Excerpt of painting] “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Public Domain)

We all fight spiritual battles.

Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield, man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 409)

Not long ago, I surveyed friends who are current or former members of the armed forces, asking them:

What is the most important quality of a good soldier?

  • Each soldier responded from his or her own experience, without consulting anyone.
  • I received answers from soldiers varying in rank, age, background, gender; experienced in the United States Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.

Interestingly, all of their answers fit into 3 categories…

1. Commitment to the Mission – Top Response

Other words used to describe this quality: Discipline, Drive, Courage, Fortitude, Determination

One senior officer elaborated: “I always talk to my Soldiers about having a ‘Why’ Factor: That reason(s) that get you up every morning and make you the best person you can be. […] This can be the next rank, spouse, children, family, better finances, education; whatever it is that reminds them of the importance of what they do and why they strive for greatness each day.”

In the spiritual life, we must be focused and committed to our mission: union with God who is Love.

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)

Being lukewarm means that we know enough, but we don’t care enough.
Are you lukewarm in your daily commitment to the mission of Love?
Is it love of God that drives you through trials?
What is your “Why Factor” for living as you do?

  • Examine your conscience to determine the dis-ordered personal desires or other obstacles you must address, in order to remain committed. A soldier who is neither disciplined nor committed to the mission is a danger to himself and his fellow soldiers.

2. Integrity

Other words used to describe this quality: Honor, Honesty

Closely related to the top response, Integrity is defined as “moral uprightness”, or “the state of being whole and undivided”. Soldiers who gave this response consistently answered with one word. That’s because integrity speaks for itself.

Saint JosephLook at Saint Joseph in the Bible; described as “a righteous man”—yet his words are never quoted. Why? The integrity of his character is reflected in his actions, which speak for themselves.

As necessary and powerful as our words and vocal prayers can be, Jesus clearly says that lip service is insufficient for Victory:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church applies this to our daily battles; “The battle of prayer is inseparable from the necessary ‘spiritual battle’ to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ: we pray as we live, because we live as we pray.” (no. 2752)

  • Start today, soldier! Pray for the grace to be a person of integrity.
  • Seek God’s will so that you can accomplish it: Spend a few minutes daily with Scripture and spiritual reading.
  • Consult a spiritual leader to provide direction & structure for your spiritual training.

3. Teamwork

Other words used to describe this quality: Cooperation, Loyalty, Trustworthiness & Trust

A commanding officer elaborated: “I don’t want narcissists that only care about themselves.” Another asserted: “I need this person to foster teamwork, or cooperation. You can be the most patriotic, intelligent, experienced person in the U.S. military and if no one can work with you, or wants to, you’re useless.”

In the spiritual battle, it is not good enough to claim the title “Christian” for oneself and ‘check the boxes’ of expected behavior. Two of Jesus’ closest disciples discovered that we cannot please him if in our heart & mind, we wish ill on others, even those who oppose us.

[Jesus’ messengers] entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him… When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them… (Luke 9:52-55)

Mother Angelica once advised, “Don’t say, ‘If it weren’t for that person I could be holy.’ No; you can be holy because of that person.” What bugs you about people? Are there people who drive you up the wall with their weaknesses or habits? Make it your goal to realize that you cannot win the spiritual war without learning to love those people.

When St. Therese of Lisieux found a particular nun in her community completely disagreeable, she employed this tactic: “Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works; then I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved the most.”

Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

3 Keys to Victory

  1. Disciplined and Courageous Commitment: Decide to live for Christ, and use this decision to guide all other decisions.
  2. Integrity: Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.
  3. Teamwork: Remember that you are not fighting your fellow human, but rather you are fighting against temptation to sin. Practice selfless love, generosity, and kindness to everyone.

Men, Pilgrim Center of Hope invites you to Gear Up & Level Up at the upcoming Catholic Men’s Conference. You are not alone in your battle. Renew your spirit & strength at this annual event for men like you.

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.

What Is Truth, Today?

Once, Jesus said to one of his Apostles,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6).

Then when he stood with Pilate to be judged, this exchange took place:

“So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).

Pilate said to him,

“What is truth?” (John 18:38)

So what did Jesus mean by what he said to Pilate? He could have said many other things. Instead, he tries to redirect Pilate’s limited perception of Jesus as a self-proclaimed king, to see Jesus himself as THE Truth. Had Pilate just grasped or thought about this, even in the smallest way, he would have placed himself on Jesus’ Way.

What Does This Have To Do With Our Lives, Today?

If we can do what Pilate failed to do—recognize that Jesus IS Truth—this should result in a paradigm shift in our entire way of thinking, of seeing those around us, of looking at creation, and so on. Why? Well, because Truth is unchanging, fixed, non-negotiable. Like God, Truth is, was and always will be the same, like the Church, which is the Body of Christ, who is its Head. If Jesus’ body is the Church, then the Church is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Looking through the lens of truth, we will then start to see people and events in our world in its stark light. We will see that if we are to remain in the light, we must proclaim the truth with courage when we are in a position to do so. If you don’t proclaim the truth, you are not proclaiming Jesus. If you don’t proclaim the truth, you are not being a light to others.

Proclaiming The Truth

We must proclaim the truth when it is not convenient, nor expedient, nor safe, to do so. We must proclaim truth when doing so may cost us in one of many ways. Proclaiming truth IS evangelization. The Gospel is truth and in order to spread the Gospel, we must speak it to others. We must live the truth.

Those that say that up is down, and down is up; that dark is light and light is dark; that you can clone humans; that a person can choose to end his or her own life; that say that a man can be a woman and a woman can choose to be a man; that marriage can be changed; that the embryo is not human and can be expelled from the womb at the whim of its mother—those who are saying these things are not speaking the truth. It then falls to us to speak the truth to all times and places to those who think the truth is changeable and subject to the whims and desires of those in power.

Pilate represented power. Therefore, he had his own truth, which resulted in having his own agenda. That is why he asked the question he did. The truth was a flexible, malleable concept. That is why he could not comprehend what Jesus was trying to tell him. He did not recognize the truth, which was standing right in front of him.

We have many chances throughout our day to speak the truth to others, especially through the use of emails and social media. You can direct those in need to Jesus, to the Blessed Mother, to Scripture, to the Catechism, and a helpful website, or just listen. Brokenness is all around us. A person who is familiar with the truth will recognize need when they see it. Our Lord gives us many opportunities throughout our days to help guide those that are on the Way or those that are searching for the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Those who are familiar with the truth will show love and be kind and gentle to those who are searching for the truth.

If you are searching for the truth, you have to look no further than Jesus Christ. If you already have a relationship with Jesus, then be Christ to others, and in doing so, you will be spreading his message of love, and helping others find the Way and the Life.

If you would like to know more about Jesus-contact Pilgrim Center of Hope at 210-521-3377 or ministry@pilgrimcenterofhope.org.

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.

My Friend Elizabeth

My friend Elizabeth was a wife, mother, widow, socialite, convert, educator, caregiver, and religious founder.  Let me tell you a little bit about Elizabeth.  She met and married William at the age of 19.  She was so in love with William, and he was so fond of her as well.  Both of them came from upstanding families and were well known in their community.  Their love for one another was admired by friends and family.  William and Elizabeth had five children.  When her husband had fallen ill, she became his caregiver.  She even went as far as moving him to a warmer climate due to his Tuberculosis.  On arriving at this new place, they (William, Elizabeth, and one of their daughter’s Ana) were quarantined because of William’s Tuberculosis.  During the time in quarantine, Elizabeth remained positive and upbeat despite their circumstance.  It was during this time that she learned about the Catholic faith.  She was born and raised Episcopalian.  While in quarantine she became closer to God reading the bible and praying with William.  Unfortunately, her husband died shortly after they were released from quarantine.  She was devastated because the love of her life was gone.  It was returning back to her hometown after the death of her husband that she converted to Catholicism.  After becoming Catholic all support was gone, most family and friends did not approve of her change in faith. Elizabeth didn’t let this bother her, she pressed forward and focused on her family.  She then started a Catholic school that was free and open to all with a focus on the poor.  Then later she started the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s.

Journeying With a Saint in the New Year

My friend Elizabeth is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Her feast day is celebrated on January 4th.  Can you believe she accomplished all of this before passing at the age of 47?  I don’t think I can accomplish as much as she did in my lifetime.  Everyone is unique and God’s plans for each and every one of us are different. I call St. Elizabeth Ann Seton one of my role models.  I often ask for her intercession.  I ask for her help in being more like her as a wife and mother.  Maybe you can seek out a Saint to call on for help this new year.  One thing I am going to try and do this new year that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton did, is getting closer to God.  Here are just a few goals I have written out that I plan on doing.  Perhaps, you too can make a list of goals to do this new year to draw closer to God as well.

  1. Confession. Go at least once a month.
  2. Mass on Sunday along with receiving the Eucharist and try going one day out of the week also.
  3. Adoration is my opportunity to sit and be still. Listen to what God has to tell me.
  4. Read the Bible. Wherever it opens to, read the scripture and reflect on it.

I’m sure if I at least try and reach any or all of these goals, God will welcome me wherever I am in my journey of life! One last thing I would like to share of my role model is a prayer that can be said daily at the start of the day:

O Father, the first rule of our dear Savior’s life was to do Your Will. Let His Will of the present moment be the first rule of our daily life and work, with no other desire but for its most full and complete accomplishment. Help us to follow it faithfully so that in doing what You wish, we will be pleasing to you. Amen.

Featured Image and Prayer captured from The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton official website.

Gloria Chapa-Solano Wife of 14 years, mom to a 9-year-old.  Always praying to the Holy Family for help and guidance on how to be a better wife and mother.  From Gloria, “Although I fail almost every day I am blessed with the Lord’s grace to wake up every day and try again.”

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 Happiness and Peace

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 Sirach (3:2-6), 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 atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard.

Being obedient to our parents helps us learn to be obedient to God. We read 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.”

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 meet our expectations. I’m sure that there are many parents 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. Perhaps it has never been so difficult to raise a child as at this time in history. That’s why it is so important for parents and godparents to follow through with the promises they made during the baptismal ceremony. Do you remember the words? “On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring him (her) up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives him (her) is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his (her) heart.”

Providing children with a solid foundation will give them something to fall back on if they should happen to stray away from the faith for a time as they mature. The most important protection that a child can receive is to learn at the earliest possible moment that he or she is loved by their parents, and they are loved by God who has a plan for their happiness. For their part, they must be encouraged to think of God and pray every day. We know by reading the lives of the saints that some children, as early as four years of age, knew God had a plan for them.

The Gospel of Luke (2:49) has a line that strikes out to me when Jesus said,

“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

We know that Jesus is everywhere, but out of love for us, he remains always in his Father’s house in the tabernacle. At times when we are experiencing trials, we may wonder where Jesus is. Of course, he is as close to us as his name on our lips, but because he knows our need for a tangible encounter he waits for us day, and night in the tabernacle in all the Catholic Churches throughout the world.

God’s Greatest Gift

The greatest gift God has given humanity is Jesus Christ, not only for our redemption but that we might also have an intimate, personal relationship with him through his Eucharistic presence during Mass as well as in the tabernacle. Jesus longs for us to spend time with him so that he can guide and strengthen us with his grace. During this Christmas season, think about consecrating your family to the Holy Family before the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

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 has not been what it could have, it is not too late to begin anew. Whether you are married, divorced, or single, God has a plan for our happiness that can only be discovered in a relationship with him. People have persevered through the ages 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 and forgiving each other for hurts experienced
  • Spending time before the Blessed Sacrament
  • Reading the lives of the saints
  • Continuing to be formed in the faith
  • Being generous with our time, talent, and treasure

This is the true path to happiness and peace.

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 first of all as a desire in our hearts and continues when we share this desire with others, especially those we love.

A simple prayer you can pray together… Jesus, Mary, and Joseph guide and protect us today. Amen.

John The Baptist, Advent & Our Neighbor

“Now in those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’  For this is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:1-3).

If we go to Luke (3:5-6), the prophet Isaiah is quoted as saying:

“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low. And what is crooked shall be made straight. And the rough paths shall be made into level ways. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

In my youth, when I heard this Scripture passage, I pondered its meaning and was very one-dimensional in what it meant to me: Repent of your sins and be saved. In later years, as I meditated a bit more deeply on the passage, I came to realize it can mean so many things, including that John the Baptist was speaking to me, and how I love my neighbor.

The Picture Becomes Clear As You Journey Through Life

Anyone who has lived life for as few as 12 years, knows about life’s ups and downs: its joys and sorrows, elation and depression, boredom and excitement. Oftentimes, we can experience more than one of these emotions all in the span of one day. Because of our focus on our own life experiences and distractions, we tended to simply ignore, or not notice, what others were experiencing.

As we mature, we begin to discover that there are others around us whose feelings and emotions matter to us-we grow to master our own emotionality. We become more sensitive to how others whom we love and care about are doing, day to day.

Then we grow some more, and hopefully, begin to look beyond our immediate circle of family and close friends, and start to notice random strangers, whom we see climbing the hills and valleys, the sunlit meadows, and the dark ravines, of life. They, like us, are on the path to salvation—the path to God.

Our hearts truly begin to grow, because our neighborhood has expanded from our home to our street, to our subdivision, to the world. We come to realize that WE are the ones who are to be the people who are to help those less fortunate, or who are poor in spirit, or whose paths are blocked with barriers and obstacles, and make THEIR ways smooth; level the mountains that stand in THEIR paths.

We can find these people as near as the grocery store, or as far away as the Philippines, meeting those who are seeking truth in their own ways, and on their own roads. If we are perceptive, we can tell if someone is walking barefoot on a road made of sharp stones, or if a person is not on the right path, or if life seems to another person to be a “walk in the park”.

Connecting The Dots

What does all of this have to do with John the Baptist, or Advent? The Baptist was calling his listeners to search the wilderness of their hearts and souls for anything that was making the road more difficult—for ourselves, as well as for others. Whatever those things were, we needed to identify, and repent of, seeking forgiveness.

If we examine our actions on a given day, we can focus on interactions with our neighbors. How would you describe those interactions?

  • Were they kind, gentle, loving, and welcoming, or were they more worthy of someone with the attitude of Mr. Scrooge on a bad day?
  • Were you helping someone get off the rocky, difficult path, or pushing them down the stony mountain?
  • Were you helping someone who has fallen, to get up and continue walking?
  • Were your words more akin to stuffing their backpacks with bricks and rocks, instead of lightening their load by taking their heavy backpack?

It is in this work that we find ourselves and, ultimately, God. It is this very work that keeps us on the path to God Himself.

In this beautiful Season of Advent, we are called to go into our own “wildernesses”, and to find those things that we do that keep us from being another Christ to others. Find those areas where we could show greater love and kindness to our neighbors, wherever we see them, and however distant they may be found. Look at others through the eyes of Jesus, then love them accordingly.

And when you have begun to do this, you can approach the Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Day!

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.

Cultivating Holy Relationships

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Gospel will introduce us to God’s gift of holy relationships.

It takes us with the Virgin Mary as she travels in haste into the Judean Hill Country to visit her cousin, Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-45). This happens soon after Saint Gabriel asks Mary, on behalf of God, to be the Mother of the Messiah. He tells her that Elizabeth, who is very old, is pregnant. We have come to understand he shares this information to confirm to Mary that this strange and wonderful event that is happening to her is the way God works,

“For nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37).

Additionally, I believe God had St. Gabriel share this information with Mary because she needed someone with whom to share the wonder of God. She needed a holy relationship. Joseph, still to be prepared to embrace his role as guardian of Jesus and Mary, had not yet been brought into the mystery of the Incarnation.

With the news of her cousin’s pregnancy, Mary feels called to go, but she must have wondered if she can trust Elizabeth with the news of her own pregnancy. God does not make her wonder long. He fills Elizabeth with His Spirit at the moment they see each other and she exclaims,

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled (Lk 1:42-45).”

Wow! No wonder Mary’s response was her song of praise, the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-56). Their three months together surely included many conversations sharing their faith in God and discussing his “impossible” ways in their lives!

The Importance of Having Holy Relationships

Holy relationships are important, and God wants us to have them. Consider Jesus, who was born into a family, living for 30 years in holy relationships with Mary and Joseph, and then calling disciples into a relationship with him as soon as he embarked on his active ministry. Holy relationships help us to grow in our Christian faith; for God Himself is a holy relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be in holy relationships is part of our Christian identity.

Holy relationships as explained here are not primarily about evangelization, though they certainly can evangelize us. Holy relationships are also not about having to prove God is at work in you or wanting the other to tell you what they think God is doing in you. That is for our pastors and spiritual directors. Holy relationships I am referring to are similar to what Mary and Elizabeth must have enjoyed. They are simply about sharing our faith journey with one or more in a mutual acknowledgment, affirmation, and appreciation of God as living in, through, and with us.

I have a couple of friends who fit this description. One is a holy relationship in which we take a couple of hours a week walking and talking about what God is doing in our lives. We do not give each other advice unless we are asked. We talk and we listen, that’s it. Another holy relationship is someone with whom I have absolutely nothing in common. Marveling at this, I once told her, “You know we are only friends because of Jesus.” We both laughed as she agreed. In our mutual talking and listening, she has been such an encouragement, and I believe she can say the same about me.

How Does One Cultivate a Holy Relationship?

The best way I know is through faith studies or ministries. Participating in a bible study or volunteering at a ministry is a great way to meet like-minded, Jesus-centered people with whom we can cultivate deep and lasting holy relationships. If personal restrictions keep us from actively participating at a parish or ministry, there are many virtual opportunities that can serve to form holy relationships right from our homes.

Holy relationships are God’s gifts for us to receive and be continuously renewed in our faith, but it does take discernment and a bit of courage to know who we can trust. Pray to the Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth to help you both find and reach out to potential spiritual companions. Pray also that you will be a trustworthy companion in return. It is well worth the risk and effort.

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.

The Urgency of Being Ourselves

I remember the first time I cried in front of my closest friends at college. The dorm room was poorly lit, and they were all gathered around me as I expressed some frustration and disappointment.

Their faces are still vivid in my mind’s eye; not only sad, but also a bit stunned. Despite our closeness, over years of friendship, I had never allowed myself to be that vulnerable with them.

A Struggle We All Face

We all struggle with mask-wearing. Here I’m not speaking about physical masks, but about spiritual and emotional personas which we portray in various situations; with certain friend groups, at work, at church, etc., and which ultimately hide parts of ourselves.

Certainly, different situations require different types of behavior. Going a step further, we all need healthy emotional boundaries. Neither of these are the issue at hand.

Rather, the challenge requiring our immediate attention is the challenge to be authentically ourselves; with ourselves and with God.

For example, how often do you and I try to push aside the struggles we are facing with our health, employment situation, marital or familial relationships…? How often do you and I choose to ignore those nagging wounds we carry—anxiety, loneliness, fears or scruples, unforgiveness, anger, feelings of inadequacy…? Too often, we mask them, and move on.

Problems arise when these wounds fester; when these struggles stretch us thin. The wounds worsen—spreading to our family, our neighborhood and workplace, to our city, our country, and yes, even to our Church.

Take a Cue From the Saints

What then, are we to do?

Someone who understood intense problems of society, State, and Church was St. Catherine of Siena—who is credited with resolving social disputes in Italy, advising royalty, and even bringing the Pope back to Rome following the scandalous Great Western Schism.

It sounds absurd. How could a young, non-royal female living in the 1300s have been so influential?

The powerful key to her impact is described in Catherine’s mystical Dialogue with God, whom she recounts as revealing to her;

“The only way to taste my truth and to walk in my brilliant light is by means of humble and constant prayer, prayer rooted in a knowledge of yourself and of me.”

If we fail to be truly honest and vulnerable with ourselves, and with God, we will continue to live in the darkness of our hiding places.

Perhaps we prefer to hide. We are ashamed, uncomfortable, or too hardened to care anymore.

God understands. In a famous prayer, St. Ignatius Loyola underscores God’s understanding;

“O Good Jesus, hear me. Within your wounds, hide me.”

You Are Not Alone in Your Suffering

God sees our woundedness, and does not leave us to suffer alone. He chose to become one of us; to adopt our wounds onto his own human body, and to allow his own human heart to be pierced.

Don’t hide in the wounds that the world has inflicted upon you; abide instead in the wounds of Jesus. As unbelievable as it sounds, by his wounds, we are healed (cf. 1 Peter 2:24).

How can this happen? Begin with an image of Jesus; on the Cross or resurrected with his wounds exposed. Keep it in a visible place in your home, or carry it with you. Commit to a consistent, daily, and honest dialogue with him. Speak from the heart. Smile, laugh, and cry if you need to.

In humble, constant prayer with our loving and wounded God, we can find the freedom to be our true selves. Better yet, the more we surrender into his pierced heart, the more we will find ourselves renewed. Like St. Catherine, we will see that renewal overflow into the world around us.

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.

What Does it Mean to be Happy?

There will be great signs in the heavens when the Son of Man comes in his glory. Will you be ready? It isn’t likely that the end of the world will happen during our lifetime so we shouldn’t be too worried, should we? Wrong! God will come for everyone of us at a time we do not know, and we will receive our first judgment at that time and that time will be within a year for some of us. Are we ready?

Of course, we hope we all will be ready when the Lord comes for us, but our real desire should be to live in a faithful relationship with Him right now because our lives are different when we try to remain close to God. We should ask ourselves this question; do I truly want to be faithful to God? If I try to live my life close to God, being faithful to what He has revealed through the Scriptures and the Church will I be more happy or less happy? I guess we should ask the question, what does it mean to be happy?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about happiness;

“The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement- however beneficial it may be- such as science, technology, and art, or in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and all love” (CCC, no. 1723).

Love God Above All Else

A friend of ours, Fr. Bruce Nieli, who used to live in Austin told us that if he was ever feeling a little discouraged, he would visit a friend of his who was a quadriplegic. He said this man was always filled with great joy because of his love of God. No matter what we have to go through on the worst day of our life, there will always be someone who has it much worse and yet is filled with peace because of their relationship with God. If we have the capacity to think clearly, we have the capacity to be faithful to God.

God loves us so much that He commands us to be happy. He has given us the commandment that we must love Him with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength because He created us to discover our happiness in Him. He is the source of all Love and all that is good, and we can only reach our potential to love others by loving God above everything else. Of course, we don’t just naturally love God above everything else.

Our temptation is to look at ourselves first and what we need or want. However, we have not been created for ourselves. God’s plan draws us out of ourselves, not only for our own good, but for the good of others. Jesus tells us,

“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew. 16:25).

In other words, if we just live for ourselves and what we want, we are lost and bound to be unhappy.

The way to be prepared for Christ when he comes for us is to live everyday close to him; being faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church and to be intimately connected to him in our prayer and in the sacraments. We will not only be ready, but we will also be happy.

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.

How a role-playing Mexican priest helped me learn to be myself

When my great-grandmother helped Fr. Miguel Pro escape from prison, I wonder what they said to each other.

She was an orphan of the Mexican revolution, and would bring him a disguise to slip past his captors, so that he could offer the sacraments for the faithful who lived nearby. Then, Father Pro would return to his prison cell as if nothing had happened.

Out of necessity in an anti-Catholic country, Father Pro was a master of disguises; you can find photos of these through a quick Internet search. He dressed as a mechanic to minister to cab & bus drivers; or as a farmer to go out to the rural areas. He was a beggar, an office worker… you name it!

True Identity

His truest identity was as a priest—someone who threw his entire self into God and who wanted to be a living image of Christ in the world.

However, the world didn’t allow him to live freely as a priest. He was hunted by the government day and night.

To live as his truest self, therefore, Father Pro chose to become so many other things; a miner, a mechanic, a wealthy gentleman…

One story recounts his conversation with Communists on a train, in which he jokingly claimed that he, too, was a socialist and a Communist. They all laughed together. Father Pro made such an impression on them that they offered him chocolates upon parting. Given the socio-political climate in Mexico at the time, this was no small accomplishment for a priest.

In each of these diverse circumstances, Father Pro strove to be Christ’s presence in that particular situation.

How To Live As Myself?

In our lives, perhaps there are many parts of our personality that never mix. When the barber inquires about my Sunday plans, do I reveal my devotion to God? Or, conversely, among my Church community, may I discuss the latest TV show I’ve been watching every weekend? Old classmates, sports buddies, neighbors, and family… can we consistently be the same person with them all?

I believe strongly that Miguel Pro would answer an enthusiastic, ¡Sí! to all of the above.

No matter what situation we’re in, each of us is only fully ourselves when we find our identity in Christ. Jesus is quoted in the Gospel according to John 10:10, “I came that they might have life and have it to the full.”

“Christ, … in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1701)

To put it simply; when we encounter God’s love by getting to know Christ, we discover our ultimate purpose & calling. When we show God’s love by how we live, we are most fully alive. When we find our identity in Christ, we are most fully & authentically ourselves—no matter what!

Ready for Life

Father Pro was all about life. He had so profoundly found himself in Christ, that he was prepared for death… and eternal life. In his final days, he promised:

If I meet any long-faced saints there [in Heaven], I will cheer them up with a Mexican hat dance! – Fr. Miguel Agustín Pro

Even his final words were about life and Christ: ¡Viva Cristo Rey! “Long Live Christ the King!” he shouted, before the reigning powers’ firing squad silenced his mortal voice. (Now, his words echo into eternity… never to be silenced!)

May Christ the King never be silenced in us. May we embrace a daily effort to know Christ in Scripture, in prayer, and in the living witness of the Church. May we fully find ourselves in Christ, and in every situation may we live fully alive!

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.

Seeing As Jesus Sees


One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. See Nicene Creed. These are the Four Marks of our Church, the body of Christ. I need to ask myself if I truly believe that my Church has these four marks. If the answer is yes, then am I Catholic?

Let me explain. Catholic means universal. It means that the members of the body of Christ come from all races and ethnic groups, and are found everywhere. The Church, that is we, are open to all. Or are we? We know the Church is Catholic, but can a person be catholic? Am I catholic in the way I see others?

Viewing Others Through Filters

Children are born without filters. That is one reason Jesus loved to be around them, see the Gospel of Matthew (19:14). As we develop and mature, however, we acquire filters. By filters, I mean that we start looking at people through our own lenses of bias and prejudice, which come from our immediate families, our coworkers, communities (online and otherwise), nations, and our friends. What sort of filters? These can range anywhere from the color of people’s skin, their education, body type, gender, sexual orientation, possessions, occupations, mental or other disorders or disabilities, and the list goes on. In an examination of conscience, we have to ask ourselves if we are seeing others through our filters, or through the eyes of Jesus.

I carry these filters everywhere I go, and they apply to anything I sense. That means that they apply to everything I see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Here’s a good test: when I look around during Mass, do I see souls, or do I see people different from me? If people are different from me, am I accepting and open to them, or am I judging them in accordance with my filters? Am I applying my own, unique standards and measurements to them?

It is a part of human nature to size people up as soon as I hear or see them. Haven’t you ever heard a person on the phone and immediately imagined what they look like? Then, when you actually meet or see them, their actual appearance is much different from what you had imagined. It’s the same with souls. Our outer appearances and conduct may hold SOME clues to what our souls really are like, but the real truth may be far from our guesses. Think of people you have encountered whose hidden stories have caused you to feel compassion and understanding, now that you know what they went through? That is why only God can judge another person. Only He knows what sort of childhood or other experiences that person has gone through, and what sorts of inner struggles and obstacles that person has had to overcome. It’s possible that at the very moment a person needs a boost up the mountain of life, our filters cause us to show them an attitude, or look, or to speak a word, that can throw them back down, perhaps never to get up again.

What Did Jesus Do?

When Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners, he was reaching out with God’s love to all children of God. He even tried to reach the Pharisees and Sadducees, in spite of their open hostility towards him. If Jesus had had filters in operation, the extent of his reach would have been limited or curtailed. Therefore, the reach of his love and mercy would have been limited.

Encouragement for Your Journey

It is difficult for any of us to identify, overcome and deconstruct the many filters within us. If you find yourself wincing, frowning, or in any way negatively reacting to a person, you must ask yourself why you are doing so. If you look at a person and you already know the kind of person they are, this might give you an idea of the kind of filter you are using.

We can look to the lives of the Saints, each of whom had their own filters in place that they had to locate and eliminate in order to progress on their spiritual journey. The more they conquered their negative filters, the more aligned they became with Jesus. And after all, isn’t that our ultimate goal?

So when the next time we’re at church, work, the grocery store, a concert, movie, party, or seminar, ask yourself whether you are looking at others the way Jesus would look at that person. Then we can imitate our Lord in opening our hearts to that person, so that Jesus’ love, kindness, and mercy can flow from Jesus, through you, to the person Jesus loves as much as he loves 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.