Weekly Inspirations

An Example to Follow: Inspiration for My Ordinary Life

As my birthday approaches, and with it my sixtieth year of life, reality has been tapping me on the shoulder and whispering, “You have more years behind you than those which are to come.” This message could tempt me to despair. It could make me anxious. It could invade my peace with thoughts like, “I am running out of time to do anything extraordinary with my life!”

Thankfully, we have the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) in our Communion of Saints who show that God can transform our ordinary into his extraordinary at any age. We have young saints like Jacinta who was only seven when the Blessed Mother appeared to her at Fatima. We have old saints like Elizabeth who became the mother of St. John the Baptist in her advanced age. Considering my current state in life, it is the witness of St. Elizabeth I have been pondering lately.

St. Luke’s Gospel writes of the advent of the long-hoped for Messiah by first telling Elizabeth’s story…

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. (Luke 1:5-7)

Like the long liturgical time that precedes the Church’s season of Advent, Elizabeth’s story is marked by its ordinariness. Of all the pivotal players at God’s incarnation which include Mary, Joseph and Zechariah, Elizabeth is the only one who did not get a visit by an angel. Her barrenness and old age would seem to disqualify her from producing anything of worth; yet it was the Lord Jesus who said of Elizabeth’s son, I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John (Luke 7:28).

And what did Elizabeth really do? Surely becoming pregnant at an old age is unusual, but not unprecedented. When Sarah gave birth to Isaac, she was in her nineties (Genesis 17:17). Elizabeth did what is ordinary for a woman; she bore life into the world.

St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. “Prophet of the Most High,” John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom,” whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 523)

To which I symbolically drop the mic exclaiming, “…and his mother is Elizabeth!”

There are two messages we can learn from the example of St. Elizabeth.

Firstly, God views humanity differently than we see ourselves.

To God, Elizabeth was not barren, she was patient. We read that along with her husband, she was righteous in his eyes and obedient to his law. Unlike her husband, she was not struck mute due to a failure to believe (Luke 1:20). Despite her lack, she remained full of faith. In fact, God respected her so much that it was to St. Elizabeth he gave the honor of announcing to the world that the Son of God does indeed dwell among us.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,

Most 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. (Luke 1:41-45)

Secondly, God chooses us to play our part in his mission.

We each have our role to play in God’s Salvation Story. He is the hero. He is the protagonist, but he shares through grace all that each of us needs to join in his story, his mission. He states in the Gospel according to John 17:20-23:

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

St. Elizabeth answered blamelessly to God’s call for her by fulfilling her vocation to womanhood. She did so in many ways:

  • Through physical motherhood by giving birth to St. John the Baptist
  • Through the fertility of her will by remaining open to God’s plan for her
  • Through her spiritual fecundity in praising God with such boldness it sparked the Mother of God to proclaim:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1:46-55)

Let us follow the example of St. Elizabeth to:

  • Be docile to God’s will and timing however long it takes
  • Remain steadfast in faith in him no matter what
  • Praise God and encourage others always
  • Welcome all who come to us in haste, whether holier than us or not
  • Put our life and vocation in God’s hands, confident he will be the one to exalt us

…so that others will follow 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.

How Being YOU Can Change the World

There’s something that most of us adults have in common: We’ve got a talent for pointing out what’s wrong with the world.

We write newspaper articles about it. We broadcast our grievances across the globe – on TV, radio, and the Internet. We stand around at parties and bemoan the politics of the day. We gather in groups and gossip about the problems and flaws of others. You can fill in examples from your life, too, right?

Remember when we were kids, and the world was absolutely amazing? Remember when we had grand aspirations to grow up and do big things? If we saw one hungry person, we’d ask, “Why are they hungry? Where’s their mom? Can I help them?” Many of us wanted to grow up and be superheroes!

Then we grew older, and dismissed the delusions of youth. Was it because we realized that the world “just doesn’t work that way”?

Unfathomable

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

This is one of St. Catherine of Siena’s most famous quotes. She truly believed that every single person could change the world for the better. Was she delusional?

You might respond, “Well, maybe she wasn’t crazy, but she was special! She was a saint. I’m not on that level; most people aren’t.”

Catherine believed that an inestimable Fire could change the world. Her words call to mind Jesus’ own words in the Gospel: I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! (Luke 12:49)

In prayer, Catherine encountered the inestimable Fire—the triune God, who is Love.

Her famous quote means that you and I are meant to be that fire; the living image of God. You see, Christians profess a belief that is unfathomable by other faiths: when we are baptized, God actually comes to live within us.

It Just Isn’t Right!

In the New Testament, we learn that John the Baptist was baptizing people for the forgiveness of their sins.

When Jesus asked John to baptize him, John protested, thinking: I am not even worthy to unfasten your sandal strap! You want ME to baptize YOU?

At John’s response, God—who had humbled himself to become human, to be born in a stable, to be vulnerable and weak—looked him in the eyes and acknowledged that John was right.

Jesus answered him, Allow it now. (cf. Matthew 3:13-15).

Jesus the God-Man, had the divine vision to see beyond a human—or more accurately, a fallen—concept of justice.

In our eyes, none of this makes sense: God is perfectly just, and yet he humbled himself to be baptized by a human being. God is Almighty, and yet, he chose to submit himself to human beings. Yet, God cannot act unjustly; so true justice must somehow be beyond our comprehension.

What if we saw with God’s eyes?

New Vision

When most of us “grew up” and decided that being a superhero was no longer possible, it was because we had allowed our concept of what is possible to be shaped and limited by a world that suffers from sin. We had each lived through disappointments, wounds, struggles, and those all had consequences. In the face of pain, it’s natural to shift our focus onto what’s wrong with things.

But what if, instead, we turn our focus to God? What if we remain open to the marvels possible through Love?

You and I may look at Jesus and protest, “This is not right.” We may approach him, carrying all our burdens, and say, “I am not worthy, Lord.”

But Jesus will tell us, “Allow it now.”

Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 45)

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. Allow the unfathomable God to live within you. You will be the fullest version of “you” that you were ever meant to be. You will set an inestimable Fire into view for each person who encounters you, and Love will renew the face of the earth.

Will we dare to believe the unfathomable?


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.

A Plan of Fulfillment & Assurance

There are four accounts of the Gospel in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each one is unique and offers us fulfillment and assurance.

One specific passage, which is one of my favorites, is from Matthew 11; verses 28-30:

 Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

These words from the Son of God are simple, direct and meek; and yet these words are an invitation from the heart of Jesus Christ.

Come to me are the words of the Master, the Son of God. He calls everyone to come to him.

In ancient Palestine, 2000+ years ago, Jesus spoke these very words to crowds following him. Many were helpless. They were weighed down by daily burdens. They were living under Roman Occupation, which wasn’t a just situation for everyone. The people witnessed persecution and even criminals crucified.

Jesus, the Lord, does not focus on the negative or the burdens. He first invites and then refreshes. He assures them—and us today—through his Word, about taking the weight off of us.

Jesus is telling us, “Dare to trust me!”

How many of us remember as children, running to our parents or a grandparent after falling down or after being hurt; yearning for the warm acceptance and gentle caress of someone who sincerely cares for us? Didn’t our tears go away shortly after?

Accepting the Invitation

We, too, can run to Jesus, the Lord. God created man as a rational being, conferring on each one of us the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his or her own actions.

Yes, part of who we are as a rational being, with dignity of a person who can control our own actions, is the Will. The will is free, having the ability to choose. Archbishop Fulton Sheen expressed this concept well:

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.

Let’s listen to what the Church asserts about our will:

God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2730)

Perfection here means fulfillment, completion.

This is the plan of God for us today! In using my will, I have a choice to live the faith daily, to read the Gospel and be given the assurance needed to bring true peace into my soul.

Jesus is offering us something that the world cannot offer: an invitation to come to him and discover a plan that will lead us to rest and walk with him no matter who we are, where we are in our walk or position, or what we have right now.

His promise is his plan for us, and he includes complete rest. This can result in a true joy, happiness, and perhaps with time, a complete surrender to him! No matter how smart we are, how much money or how many things we have, we will never have true peace and rest without God.

Faith is involvement, passion, mind, and heart beating together in an attempt to answer the question of Christ, which engages one’s life. – Fr. Bruno Forte


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.

Lessons From The Holy Family

Maintaining The Order Established By God

The universe and all of creation was 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 the first reading 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 – “Who ever honors his father . . . when he prays is heard.” Being obedient to our parents helps us to learn be obedient to God.

In the second reading, Paul gives us additional insights of 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 here who take their relationships with God seriously, and even though they have made every effort to guide their children in the right way, some have rebelled. Peer pressure is very difficult to overcome. And maybe there are some children here who have felt called to a religious vocation and have not received support from their parents.

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

We see in the Gospel that the Holy Family was not spared the difficulties of life. Even though they were the holiest, most important family in the history of the world they were still vulnerable to the evil intentions of others. Their protection was their immediate obedience to God. They also faithfully followed the religious practices of their time as we know by their visits to the Temple. That is how they maintained their connection with the Heavenly Father and fulfilled His plan. The same is true for us. We also need our Heavenly Father’s protection which we receive when we are faithful to what He has revealed to us. We will still experience difficulties, but we will always have hope.

It is not news that in this country, the most powerful country in the world, the institution of family is at a point of crisis. Almost every family has experienced some degree of trauma – whether physical, economical, psychological, relational or spiritual. Almost every family has a relative that is divorced. A recent statistic states that the United States has more single parent families than any other country in the world. The greatest need of our time is the renewal of the family; and the only way it can be renewed is with the help of God’s grace; by being faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church.

The Family As Domestic Church

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. The way people have persevered through the ages is by attending mass every weekend (during the week, if possible) praying daily (privately and with people we love), reading Scriptures, frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiving each other for hurts experienced, by spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, by reading the lives of the saints, by continuing to be formed in the faith, and by being generous with our time, talent and treasure.

The domestic church, like every church, is made up of the people that occupy it. However, there are things we can do to help us be more aware of the presence of God, and to help us enter into prayer. Every home should have a crucifix and religious art to show that the Faith is important to those who live there. There can be a special room or part of a room where you have an altar or shelf on which you place candles, a bible, holy pictures and favorite prayers that help you enter into prayer. There should be a designated time when the family prays together; such as prayer before meals, but also a specific time for family prayer, especially the Rosary, or at least part of the Rosary. It is very meaningful for parents to bless their children before bed and before leaving the house by tracing the cross on their foreheads as you say, “…may God bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It only takes a few seconds and it gives the children a sense of security.

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.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, help us to be holy so that we can be truly happy.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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.

Are You Prepared To Receive Jesus?

Not only is Advent a time of coming (in Latin Adventus); it is also a time of waiting and receiving.

As we enter the fourth and last week of Advent, now is not only the time to prepare for the commemoration of Christ’s birth, two-thousand years ago, but also the time to prepare ourselves for what St. Bernard of Clarivaux called the Mystery and Majesty of the coming of Christ.

St. Bernard said that Christ in fact comes to us three times or in three ways:

  • In History – the Birth of the baby Jesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew (1:25 & 2:1) and Luke (2:6, 7)
  • In Mystery – through the Holy Eucharist, which is in the here and now
  • In Majesty – at the end of time when Christ will return in all His glory, as our Profession of Faith tells us, “to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”

Since discovering this particular spiritual teaching from St. Bernard, about ten years ago, my anticipation of and appreciation for Christmas has grown into a year-round and what will be a life-long affair. This has also led to a greater love for the Eucharist and to striving to be better prepared for when Jesus comes again.

Talk about having an epiphany; an illuminating discovery!

Through St. Bernard’s teaching, I now understand that we all can live thousands of Advents. From Sunday to Sunday of each week or in between every Mass we fully participate in; each time we anticipate receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is another Advent.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel – Matthew 1:23

Emmanuel means God is with us. During the Bread of Life discourse which Our Lord presented at the synagogue at Capernaum, he pledged to us his perpetual presence in the Holy Eucharist… He remains with us always!

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever – John 6:51

The Bread of Life was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.” He was laid in a manager, but it did not matter to the shepherds and the Magi. They came to adore Jesus and present him gifts fit for king.

Make Room For Jesus
I urge you to use this last week before Christmas to reflect on how to better receive Jesus in your heart. All of us – including me – can make more room for Jesus in our lives. There was no room at the inn for the Holy Family; no one wanted to make room for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Make A Pilgrimage To An Adoration Chapel
Like the shepherds and the Magi, go out to him and shower Jesus with love, praise, and gratitude. Prostrate yourself before the monstrance as the Magi did before the manager.

The Magi are symbolic of people who normally don’t want to step out of a world that is fixated on power, prestige, and possessions. The Magi were willing to leave the certainty of their kingdoms and follow the Star of Bethlehem to discover the newborn King of the Jews. Discovering and encountering Jesus oftentimes requires stepping out of our comfort zones.

Do not be afraid…Put out into the deep and let down your nets – St. Pope John Paul II

After Christmas Day has come and gone, never stop remembering that Jesus is always among us in Word and Eucharist.


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.

The Wonders of Expectation: Remaining with God When Our Expectations Aren’t Met

Do you actively seek to follow the will of God?

If so, I am sure you have experienced the satisfaction of being a cooperator in the Holy Spirit.  Being docile to his prompting, just like Mary, you go in haste to care for a sick friend, comfort a stressed co-worker, or console a grieving stranger. It is so gratifying to see their smile, feel their hand squeeze yours, and know that through God’s grace, you made a difference.

Or, perhaps your receptivity to act in God’s will brought the opposite response. Instead of the smile and the warm hug, you are yelled at, insulted, and rejected. This is tough, to be sure, but even in these most unwelcome outcomes, we can be confident we are in God’s grace; for as he tells us in Scripture,

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus, they persecuted the prophets who were before you, (Matthew 5:11-12).

But what about those times when we step out of our comfort zone, take courage in God’s grace, open our hearts to serve as His hands and feet, storm heaven with our trust-filled prayers, and our miracle does not come? Those times when we do not feel rejection from our fellow man, but from God himself?

Following A Prompting

On Thanksgiving morning, I felt a strong prompting to visit a friend in ICU. When I had visited him the day before, I learned he had taken a dramatic downturn. He had gone from speaking and joking to his current state: barely conscious, unable to speak, and with a look of fear in his eyes. I took his hand in mine, and prayed for God’s mercy. He did not want to die. His wife wanted her husband back. When I left, I continued to intercede asking for a miracle.

This prompting to return to his bedside brought with it the call to use our faith’s treasure of miracle makers. To cooperate in God’s healing, I would pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet using my Rosary from the Holy Land and bring a blessed Miraculous Medal. Nervous—because the man and his wife are not Catholic, but confident in my docility to the Holy Spirit, I went.

The man’s wife was very receptive. Whew! I read out loud a paragraph from St. Faustina’s diary (1146) and asked her if I had her permission to pray the Chaplet. She agreed. I gave her the Miraculous Medal and she placed it on his chest. She remarked she had been given Lourdes water. I smiled to myself, ‘God has everything in place,’ as I instructed her to bless him with it.

After we prayed, I went home and waited for the miracle call. My imagination soared in wonder of what I would hear: He is speaking!  His cancer is gone!  I thought of all the conversions to come from those who witnessed this man go from death’s door back into the fullness of life.

Forty-eight hours after my visit, the call came.  He died.

The Desert of Docility

At Advent—our time of expectant joy at the coming of Christ, I walked into what I call the desert of docility. A desert of docility is that dry, barren, forsaken place where our acts of faith seem to go nowhere. When our expectations of God do not match reality. We are tempted to doubt.  We wonder if God is with us.

I endured this desert dryness by remaining in my daily spiritual routine of prayer, Mass, and staying close to our Lady through the Rosary. I was brought to memories of when God did meet my expectations, when he exceeded my expectations, and the times he came unexpectedly.

These memories brought me to an understanding that God also has expectations. He wants to know if we are with him. Emmanuel is God With Us. Jesus is God Saves. Do we believe, or are we only with him as long as we get our way?

If you are enduring an Advent desert, our faith offers ways through it:

  • Be in Communion with our Lord through the Sacrifice of the Mass – go as often as you can.
  • Speak to God through Scripture – take the daily Gospel and pray with it. Ask him your questions. Share with him your doubts.
  • Share your struggles with our Blessed Mother – through praying the Rosary and asking her intercession, she brings you to her son Jesus.
  • Draw closer to Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation – nothing separates us from God, but our sinfulness.
  • Share your heart with his Sacred Heart by spending time in Eucharistic Adoration where our Lord is truly present and is waiting for you.

I wish I could wrap this reflection up in a pretty bow, but the truth is I may never know what my going to this man’s bedside brought; that is between God and him. What I do know is faith is a choice of our will; it is a choosing to remain close to God even when we do not feel him, understand his Way… or get ours.


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.

Why No Gloria In Advent?

My husband and I enjoy watching A Charlie Brown Christmas every year. Who could forget that classic moment, when a deeply perturbed Charlie Brown yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” and Linus recites from the Gospel of Luke…? It’s a real tear-jerker.

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Have you ever realized that this historic event is commemorated during Mass on Sundays and major feast days? Each time we sing, “Glory to God in the highest…”, known as the Gloria, we are echoing those words of the angels that forever changed the world and sent a message of hope for all people! Wow!

However, have you noticed that at most Masses during Advent, we skip the Gloria? Why?

Why Shepherds are Significant for Us

Imagine spending your days and nights outside with a flock of sheep. (Not the most exciting gig in the world!) Shepherds were servants, hired by landowners to tend their flock. An ideal shepherd was a patient, loyal, strong person, willing to stay with his job despite boredom, bad weather, and the occasional predator or wandering sheep.

To these simple servants, the host of heaven revealed itself!

Advent is a time of preparation and waiting. Unlike the world around us which is already celebrating Christmas, we are called to patiently wait for our Savior. Just like the shepherds, we must stay awake and alert. Then, when heaven reveals itself to us, we will be ready to run and greet Christ!

We do not normally sing the Gloria during Advent as a reminder that we are waiting, like those shepherds. For me, Christmas Mass is one of the most emotional of the year, because I can sing the song that, along with millions of other Catholics, I have been waiting to sing. Together, our Church family sings the song that brought hope to a people longing for a savior; the song that the host of heaven sang to some humble little “nobodys”…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will!

Let’s treasure this time of waiting, and work on becoming more open to God’s presence in our everyday lives.


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.

Why We Cannot Be Complacent In Our Spiritual Lives

In celebrating the Solemnity or Feast of Christ the King this past Sunday, which also happened to be the last Sunday of the liturgical year, I couldn’t help but want to assess my spiritual progress since the Advent of 2018.

As to how I measure my progress, each year in acknowledging the kingship of Jesus Christ, I recommit to the following:

  • Dedicating myself to a more active prayer life
  • Being more effective in serving my family members, friends, parish, and community
  • Bringing hope to others (those I encounter on my journey) as an evangelizer

Whenever I find myself getting complacent, falling into a routine or falling short, I remember this beautiful quote that I discovered a few years back:

The Kingdom Demands Discipleship
Jesus is the center of creation; and so, the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our works. – Homily of Pope Francis, Solemnity of Christ the King, November 24, 2013

Perhaps the main thing that drives me, which can possibly help you stay active and on course in your faith, is this truth.

A couple of years ago, after making a confession that was filled with what I recall were more failures than normal, my spiritual director asked me, “Do you know who you are?” I think I said something like a child of God or part of the Body of Christ. Whatever I said, it wasn’t the right answer or the answer he was looking for.

That’s when he said, Like Christ the King, you are priest, prophet, and king. If you truly believed and understood this, you would be inspired to always practice your faith with more boldness, passion, and joy.

Your Threefold Calling

  1. A priest should embody and reflect the presence of God. In order to do so, we should have a devotion to prayer, the sacraments, and the Mass.
  2. A person is a prophet in the measure that he or she bears the truth of God. G.K. Chesterton said that in an upside-down world such as ours, the prophet is the person who speaks the truth according to Scripture, the lives of the saints, and Church teaching. If we are to be beacons of light to others, we must keep growing in our knowledge of the faith. In our increasingly secularized society, we can look to classic authors like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, the Venerable Fulton Sheen and others.  A prophet can never stop studying and speaking.
  3. Finally, what does it mean for the ordinary Catholic to live out our sharing in Christ’s kingship? It means to be a leader in guiding your community toward God in service and stewardship.

When you are fully conscious of your personal dignity in God, complacency is not an option.


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.

The Spark: How to Succeed When Failing

It is not unusual to be asked, “What are you living for?”  But, what would you say if someone asked you, “What are you dying for?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers, “The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life” (no. 1020).

Our answer to both questions is Jesus!

We should be looking forward to the day of our death even as we live, to ensure that day is many years to come. As St. Augustine said, “Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you are going to die tomorrow.”

Because Jesus became one of us by being “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4) and thereby sanctified humanity, our life is not to be just a waiting until we die nor is it a living only for this life. Rather, we are to live as a sign of contradiction; the more we die to Christ the more fully human and alive we become. We achieve this transformation through God’s gift of grace, which was merited for us through the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Spark

Grace is the power of God at work in us. Father Wojciech Giertych, O.P., Theologian of the Papal Household, teaches that we can ignite and move this grace through human acts, which he calls, “The Spark of Faith.”

Father Giertych uses the example of the hemorrhaging woman from the Gospel of Luke (8:43-48). He explains that when Jesus says, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me,” this exchange of grace from Jesus to the woman was achieved because of the woman’s act of faith. Her touching of his tassel caused the spark that ignited and moved grace from Jesus into this woman, restoring her to health. Jesus acknowledges this spark she caused with his words, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

We see from the hemorrhaging woman that an act of faith is not only our prayers. Any human movement, physical, mental or spiritual, in which we honor God’s gift of our creation sparks grace. Here are just a few examples:

  • Taking care of our bodies by eating nutritious foods and maintaining a healthy balance in exercise, recreation, work and rest, to keep ourselves fit and free of illness and disease.
  • Increasing our knowledge of the wonders of the world, honing our talents, and learning new skills, in order to expand our abilities and intellect.
  • Living in community with others by following Jesus’ teaching to treat others as we would like to be treated.
  • Growing in virtue and practicing morality.
  • Seeking a closer relationship with God by living the sacramental life of the Church through participating at Holy Mass, meditating on his Word in Scripture, regular confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and spending time with our Lord in Adoration.
  • Offering our sufferings by joining them to Christ for our salvation and the salvation of others.
  • And yes, praying daily; be it through Scripture, the Rosary, devotional prayers, speaking from the heart, silent contemplation.

But what if we fail?

What if, instead of honoring God and acting in faith, we act selfishly?

This can serve to be even more successful in stirring up grace! Father Giertych explains, “What is decisive, however, is the repeated returning to God.” In using the example of distraction in prayer, Father says, “Such mangled prayer, in which there are multiple returns, is very fruitful, because the living faith is expressed several times, and it is faith that opens to grace.”

Just as with the power that flowed from Jesus to the hemorrhaging woman, Father says, “This perseverance in faith ensures an immediate encounter with Jesus.” Wow!

At Pilgrim Center of Hope we like to say, “You do not have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.” As we make our journey to Eternity, let us never miss the opportunity to begin anew to ignite grace when we stumble or downright fail to act in faith. Let us turn immediately back to God so that, like St. Paul, we can one day proclaim,

“I have competed well; I have finished the race; have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance” (2 Timothy 4:7-8.)


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.

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.