Weekly Inspirations

Finding Fairness In Who Is Truly Happy

The following is an adapted version of Deacon Tom Fox’s homily for Sunday, September 27, 2020.

To understand Sunday’s first reading of the prophet Ezekiel, we recall the special relationship that the Chosen People had with God.

When they, as a people, are faithful to God, they experienced the blessings of God together. However, when they, as a people, are unfaithful, they experienced the wrath of God together.

Nevertheless, individuals are held responsible for their own actions. If a man turns away from his evil ways and does what is right, even if his father did not keep the commandments, he shall preserve his life. If a man whose father was virtuous but he himself turns to sin, he will lose his life. Through these examples, Ezekiel is pointing out that individuals who turn to God will receive His mercy and blessings, no matter what they or their fathers have done. Some believed God was unfair because His judgement did not meet their expectations.

What Is Our Opinion of God?

What about us? Do we believe God is fair?

There are many people who refuse to believe in God because He doesn’t meet their expectations. Some say, “If God is real, why does He allow so much suffering?” or “Why doesn’t He answer my prayer?” On the other hand, for those who want to believe, there is over-whelming evidence of the existence of God. For example; how could the order of the universe and all creation be an accident? —that life began when there was no life?

For me, some of the most convincing evidence is the lives of the saints and the miracles that God worked through them. Even more important than that, their lives are a testimony to what it means to live in a personal, intimate relationship with God and experience great joy, peace, and hope—even in the most difficult circumstances.

Finding the Happiness We Seek

In Sunday’s second reading, Paul tells us how we can share in that joy.

Jesus Christ has made it possible by humbling himself, coming to us in human likeness, and being obedient to God the Father; even to the point of accepting death out of love for us. We must, as Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vain glory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not only for his own interests, but also for those of others.”

That is how the saints have reached their potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity; because of their obedience and humility in the same manner as Christ. The same will be true for us.

It isn’t the easy road; we can only travel it with the help of God’s grace. In reality, anyone can travel this road if we chose humility and obedience to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church.

What We Are Called to Experience

In Sunday’s Gospel, we see the fairness of God. In the beginning, the one son says ‘no’ to his father, but later changed his mind and obeyed. The other son said ‘yes’ to his father, but then disobeyed. The comparison of the two sons is another parable for the kingdom of God.

Even if in the beginning we’ve made bad choices, the Kingdom of God will be open to us if we turn back to God with a desire to do His will—no matter what we have done. First, we must have the humility to accept the forgiveness of God through the sacrament of confession, and then have the desire to be faithful to Him.

At some point, we all must undergo conversion and surrender our lives to God. How will we know we have undergone a conversion?

  • When every day we ask God for the grace to discover and do his will.
  • When we stay connected to God in prayer; his plan for us will gradually become more clear.
Today Is the Day to Begin Again!

In every age, including the present time, there have been and continue to be stories of profound conversions. These testimonies are for our benefit, so that we also will take God seriously and surrender our lives to Him.

The sooner we begin ordering our lives to God, the sooner we will begin to reach our potential for happiness and peace. The happiest people on this earth are those who are faithful disciples of Our Lord.


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 to Live to the Fullest, Today!

Our world is filled with beauty!

In these times of worry and anxiety due to fears of pandemic and social unrest, the Church comes to bring hope!

In his encyclical, Christus Vivit, Pope Francis exhorts young people and people of all ages to remember that Jesus is alive! He is God and God does not forsake us!

145. Contrary to what many people think, the Lord does not want to stifle these desires for a fulfilling life. We do well to remember the words of an Old Testament sage: “My child, treat yourself well, according to your means, and present your offerings to the Lord; do not deprive yourself of a day’s enjoyment, do not let your share of desired good pass by” (Sirach 14:11.14). The true God, who loves you, wants you to be happy. For this reason, the Bible also contains this piece of advice to young people: “Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth… banish anxiety from your mind” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). For God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).
146. How could God take pleasure in someone incapable of enjoying his small everyday blessings, someone blind to the simple pleasures we find all around us? “No one is worse than one who is grudging to himself” (Sirach 14:6). Far from obsessively seeking new pleasures, which would keep us from making the most of the present moment, we are asked to open our eyes and take a moment to experience fully and with gratitude every one of life’s little gifts.
147. Clearly, God’s word asks you to enjoy the present, not simply to prepare for the future: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own; today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). But this is not the same as embarking irresponsibly on a life of dissipation that can only leave us empty and perpetually dissatisfied. Rather, it is about living the present to the full, spending our energies on good things, cultivating fraternity, following Jesus and making the most of life’s little joys as gifts of God’s love.
148. Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, when imprisoned in a concentration camp, refused to do nothing but await the day when he would be set free. He chose “to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love”. He decided: “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way”. As you work to achieve your dreams, make the most of each day and do your best to let each moment brim with love. This youthful day may well be your last, and so it is worth the effort to live it as enthusiastically and fully as possible.
149. This can also be applied to times of difficulty, that have to be fully experienced if we are to learn the message they can teach us. In the words of the Swiss Bishops: “God is there where we thought he had abandoned us and there was no further hope of salvation. It is a paradox, but for many Christians, suffering and darkness have become… places of encounter with God”. The desire to live fully and experience new things is also felt by many young people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities. Even though they may not always be able to have the same experiences as others, they possess amazing resources and abilities that are often far above average. The Lord Jesus grants them other gifts, which the community is called to recognize and appreciate, so that they can discover his plan of love for each of them.


Pilgrim Center of Hope invites all women to experience God’s desire for your abundant life by participating in the upcoming Catholic Women’s Conference, which can be experienced both in-person OR live-streaming! Join us October 31, 2020 for a day of fellowship, inspiration, music, prayer and encouragement in our dignity and calling as women and daughters of God. Register at CWCSanAntonio.com.

How to Stay Authentically Yourself Today

Everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies. -Carlo Acutis, who will be Beatified this year

In the apostolic exhortation, Christus VivitPope Francis writes to both young people and the entire people of God about current issues we experience. He brings up the dangers of the digital environment and the opportunities it provides. He speaks about the immigration crisis and how mass movement of people across the globe can bring us in greater unity with one another.Pope Francis gives us hope through this encyclical that the Church is with us here and now. It speaks to those of us trying to navigate our ‘new normal’ of work at home and school online worlds.

He shows how the Church does not fear to go into the dark places of the world and shine the light of the Gospel. The remainder of this blog is from Christus Vivit; the inspiring story of Carlo Acutis, a boy who loved computers and loved Jesus more! He died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15 and lived a life that has earned him sainthood. Venerable Carlo will be beautified this October.

104. I remind you of the good news we received as a gift on the morning of the resurrection: that in all the dark or painful situations that we mentioned, there is a way out. For example, it is true that the digital world can expose you to the risk of self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure. But don’t forget that there are young people even there who show creativity and even genius. That was the case with the Venerable Carlo Acutis.
105. Carlo was well aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity. Yet he knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty.
106. Carlo didn’t fall into the trap. He saw that many young people, wanting to be different, really end up being like everyone else, running after whatever the powerful set before them with the mechanisms of consumerism and distraction. In this way they do not bring forth the gifts the Lord has given them; they do not offer the world those unique personal talents that God has given to each of them. As a result, Carlo said, “everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies”. Don’t let that happen to you!
107. Don’t let them rob you of hope and joy, or drug you into becoming a slave to their interests. Dare to be more, because who you are is more important than any possession. What good are possessions or appearances? You can become what God your Creator knows you are, if only you realize that you are called to something greater. Ask the help of the Holy Spirit and confidently aim for the great goal of holiness. In this way, you will not be a photocopy. You will be fully yourself.


Rejoice in Hope! You are invited to a virtual multi-day event to raise hope! Join the journey at PilgrimCenterofHope.org/Rejoice

How Do I Know God Is Real?

He [Jesus] fills your life with his unseen presence; wherever you go, he will be waiting there for you. Because he did not only come in the past, but he comes to you today and every day, inviting you to set out towards ever new horizons.

Here we are at the last of the three truths in Pope Francis,’ “great message for all young people” in his encyclical, Christus Vivit. The first truth, God Loves You, is such an overabundant love He cannot bear to be without you, so he sends His only Son to save you, the second truth. This flows right into the third truth that God is not “[…] simply a fine model from the distant past, as a memory, as someone who saved us two thousand years ago.” Jesus is alive!

The remainder of this blog is paragraphs 124-129 of Christus Vivit. Pope Francis inspires us to enter into a relationship with Jesus:

124. Finally, there is a third truth, inseparable from the second: Christ is alive! We need to keep reminding ourselves of this, because we can risk seeing Jesus Christ simply as a fine model from the distant past, as a memory, as someone who saved us two thousand years ago. But that would be of no use to us: it would leave us unchanged, it would not set us free. The one who fills us with his grace, the one who liberates us, transforms us, heals and consoles us is someone fully alive. He is the Christ, risen from the dead, filled with supernatural life and energy, and robed in boundless light. That is why Saint Paul could say: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15:7).

125. Alive, he can be present in your life at every moment, to fill it with light and to take away all sorrow and solitude. Even if all others depart, he will remain, as he promised: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He fills your life with his unseen presence; wherever you go, he will be waiting there for you. Because he did not only come in the past, but he comes to you today and every day, inviting you to set out towards ever new horizons.

126. See Jesus as happy, overflowing with joy. Rejoice with him as with a friend who has triumphed. They killed him, the holy one, the just one, the innocent one, but he triumphed in the end. Evil does not have the last word. Nor will it have the last word in your life, for you have a friend who loves you and wants to triumph in you. Your Saviour lives.

127. Because he lives, there can be no doubt that goodness will have the upper hand in your life and that all our struggles will prove worthwhile. If this is the case, we can stop complaining and look to the future, for with him this is always possible. That is the certainty we have. Jesus is eternally alive. If we hold fast to him, we will have life, and be protected from the threats of death and violence that may assail us in life.

128. Every other solution will prove inadequate and temporary. It may be helpful for a time, but once again we will find ourselves exposed and abandoned before the storms of life. With Jesus, on the other hand, our hearts experience a security that is firmly rooted and enduring. Saint Paul says that he wishes to be one with Christ in order “to know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). That power will constantly be revealed in your lives too, for he came to give you life, “and life in abundance” (John 10:10).

129. If in your heart you can learn to appreciate the beauty of this message, if you are willing to encounter the Lord, if you are willing to let him love you and save you, if you can make friends with him and start to talk to him, the living Christ, about the realities of your life, then you will have a profound experience capable of sustaining your entire Christian life. You will also be able to share that experience with other young people. For “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.


Rejoice in Hope! You are invited to a virtual multi-day event to raise hope! Join the journey at PilgrimCenterofHope.org/Rejoice

How Does Jesus Save Us?

The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties and flaws. Yet it is precisely through our problems, frailties and flaws that he wants to write this love story.

In his apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit written to young people (and to people who want to be young again!), Pope Francis tells us there are three truths worth note. We learned the first truth that God is Love in our last blog.

The second truth Pope Francis reveals is that Christ Saves You. The remainder of this blog is paragraphs 118-123 of Christus Vivit. Pope Francis encourages us to trust in Jesus whose very name means God Saves.

118. The second great truth is that Christ, out of love, sacrificed himself completely in order to save you. His outstretched arms on the cross are the most telling sign that he is a friend who is willing to stop at nothing: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
Saint Paul said that his life was one of complete trust in that self-sacrificing love: “I now live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
119. The same Christ who, by his cross, saved us from our sins, today continues to save and redeem us by the power of his total self-surrender. Look to his cross, cling to him, let him save you, for “those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness”. And if you sin and stray far from him, he will come to lift you up by the power of his cross. Never forget that “he forgives us seventy times seven. Time and time again, he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness that never disappoints but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew”.
120. “We are saved by Jesus because he loves us and cannot go against his nature. We can do any number of things against him, yet he loves us and he saves us. For only what is loved can be saved. Only what is embraced can be transformed. The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties and flaws. Yet it is precisely through our problems, frailties and flaws that he wants to write this love story. He embraced the prodigal son, he embraced Peter after his denials, and he always, always, always embraces us after every fall, helping us to rise and get back on our feet. Because the worst fall, and pay attention to this, the worst fall, the one that can ruin our lives, is when we stay down and do not allow ourselves to be helped up”.
121. His forgiveness and salvation are not something we can buy, or that we have to acquire by our own works or efforts. He forgives us and sets us free without cost. His self-sacrifice on the cross is so great that we can never repay it, but only receive it with immense gratitude and with the joy of being more greatly loved than we could ever imagine: “He loved us first” (1 John 4:19).
122. Young people, beloved of the Lord, how valuable must you be if you were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ! Dear young people, “you are priceless! You are not up for sale! Please, do not let yourselves be bought. Do not let yourselves be seduced. Do not let yourselves be enslaved by forms of ideological colonization that put ideas in your heads, with the result that you end up becoming slaves, addicts, failures in life. You are priceless. You must repeat this always: I am not up for sale; I do not have a price. I am free! Fall in love with this freedom, which is what Jesus offers”.
123. Keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified, let yourself be saved over and over again. And when you go to confess your sins, believe firmly in his mercy which frees you of your guilt. Contemplate his blood poured out with such great love, and let yourself be cleansed by it. In this way, you can be reborn ever anew.


Rejoice in Hope! You are invited to a virtual multi-day event to raise hope! Join the journey at PilgrimCenterofHope.org/Rejoice

How Is God Love?

“At every moment, you are infinitely loved.”

In his apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, Pope Francis tells us that we need constant reminding of three great truths. As people who are wounded in so many ways, we can easily forget, or perhaps have never heard, these three truths.

The remainder of this blog is paragraphs 112-117 of Christus Vivit. Pope Francis, eloquent in his simplicity, reveals the first truth by bringing us beyond the appearance of almighty God and into His true nature as Love:

112. The very first truth I would tell each of you is this: “God loves you”. It makes no difference whether you have already heard it or not. I want to remind you of it. God loves you. Never doubt this, whatever may happen to you in life. At every moment, you are infinitely loved.

113. Perhaps your experience of fatherhood has not been the best. Your earthly father may have been distant or absent, or harsh and domineering. Or maybe he was just not the father you needed. I don’t know. But what I can tell you, with absolute certainty, is that you can find security in the embrace of your heavenly Father, of the God who first gave you life and continues to give it to you at every moment. He will be your firm support, but you will also realize that he fully respects your freedom.

114. In God’s word, we find many expressions of his love. It is as if he tried to find different ways of showing that love, so that, with one of them at least, he could touch your heart. For example, there are times when God speaks of himself as an affectionate father who plays with his children: “I led them with cords of compassion, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks” (Hos 11:4).

At other times, he speaks of himself as filled with the love of a mother whose visceral love for her children makes it impossible for her to neglect or abandon them: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).

He even compares himself to a lover who goes so far as to write his beloved on the palm of his hands, to keep her face always before him: “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands!” (Isaiah 49:6).

At other times, he emphasizes the strength and steadfastness of his invincible love: “For the mountains may depart, and the hills be shaken, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be shaken” (Isaiah 54:10).

Or he tells us that we have been awaited from eternity, for it was not by chance that we came into this world: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Or he lets us know that he sees in us a beauty that no one else can see: “For you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4).

Or he makes us realize that his love is not cheerless, but pure joy, welling up whenever we allow ourselves to be loved by him: “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory. He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

115. For him, you have worth; you are not insignificant. You are important to him, for you are the work of his hands. That is why he is concerned about you and looks to you with affection. “Trust the memory of God: his memory is not a ‘hard disk’ that ‘saves’ and ‘archives’ all our data. His memory is a heart filled with tender compassion, one that finds joy in ‘deleting’ from us every trace of evil”. He does not keep track of your failings and he always helps you learn something even from your mistakes. Because he loves you. Try to keep still for a moment and let yourself feel his love. Try to silence all the noise within, and rest for a second in his loving embrace.

116. His is “a love that does not overwhelm or oppress, cast aside or reduce to silence, humiliate or domineer. It is the love of the Lord, a daily, discreet and respectful love; a love that is free and freeing, a love that heals and raises up. The love of the Lord has to do more with raising up than knocking down, with reconciling than forbidding, with offering new changes than condemning, with the future than the past”.

117. When he asks something of you, or simply makes you face life’s challenges, he is hoping that you will make room for him to push you, to help you grow. He does not get upset if you share your questions with him. He is concerned when you don’t talk to him, when you are not open to dialogue with him. The Bible tells us that Jacob fought with God (cf. Genesis 32:25-31), but that did not keep him from persevering in his journey. The Lord himself urges us: “Come, let us argue it out” (Isaiah 1:18). His love is so real, so true, so concrete, that it invites us to a relationship of openness and fruitful dialogue. Seek the closeness of our heavenly Father in the loving face of his courageous witnesses on earth!


Rejoice in Hope! You are invited to a virtual multi-day event to raise hope! Join the journey at PilgrimCenterofHope.org/Rejoice

Fortitude: A Virtue We Need Now (+How to Get It)

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“…these difficult times…”

You’ve heard this phrase spoken often by friends, family members, acquaintances,celebrities, leaders, political figures, and so on. Yes; we’re keenly aware in these present times that challenges face us on all fronts: globally, nationally, in our Church, in our cities, our parishes, our families, and our own personal lives.

Like many of you, I pray about this—often! But I’ve considered that there must be something more that God wants to offer me; another tool to face the strife. I just couldn’t put my finger on it…

…and in his perfect timing, God reminded me about something: fortitude.

What Is Fortitude?

I think we’ve all heard the word “fortitude” before, and some of us know it’s a virtue… but how many of us can define it? Often, we simplify it to mean courage, bravery, or the more traditional long-suffering, but it means much more:

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.” “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1808)

So, fortitude is the moral virtue that…

  • Strengthens our resolve (determination)
  • Strengthens us to resist temptation
  • Strengthens us to overcome obstacles in our quest to follow Jesus
  • Enables us to conquer fear, even fear of death
  • Enables us to face our trials, bullying, and persecutions
  • Disposes us to renounce and sacrifice our life in defense of a just cause (if we should be called to do so)

To me, then, fortitude is like having the best Spiritual Trainer, Motivator, Coach, Military Leader, and Loved One, all rolled up into one, living within and transforming you.

Are you saying to yourself, as I am, “Wow, I definitely want this!”?

How Do I Gain Fortitude?

While we can train our bodies and minds to have increased strength and endurance, the moral virtue of fortitude is beyond solely our own natural abilities.

Isaiah the Prophet tells us that God’s Spirit will rest on the Lord’s Servant, and then proceeds to list the gifts of the Spirit. Included in these is “strength” or fortitudo in Latin (cf. 11:2-3).

So, we gain fortitude through our efforts as well as prayer to the Holy Spirit. Let’s (1) ask for the gift, (2) thank God for hearing us, and (3) prepare ourselves to be receptive.

Asking

The stories of Jesus’ healings and mighty deeds always begin with someone’s request of him, or approaching & reaching out to him.

Why do you want to receive the gift of fortitude? What challenges or trials are becoming obstacles in your life? Tell the Lord in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit for fortitude.

Thanking

Giving God thanks for a gift, even when we don’t immediately see the results we expect, is important; it helps us to have an expectant faith. In the New Testament, mighty deeds done by Jesus—or by others in his name—are accomplished in persons who trust that God is present and active in their lives. We thank God because we are grateful; we trust that God is generous with spiritual gifts and listens to us with compassion (cf. Luke 11:13).

Preparing

Let’s “till the soil” of our hearts, preparing ourselves to be receptive to God’s gifts.

In his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis also calls us to be “firmly rooted in prayer” as we call on the Holy Spirit for courage to live our faith (cf. no. 259). Let’s examine our typical day, and consider how we can speak more regularly with God—who should remain our Rock at all times (cf. Luke 6:48).

Each of our lives is unique, and thus, each of us will require fortitude in a unique way. We can look to the saints for guidance; not to follow exactly their personal spiritual & moral activities, but to inspire us to live our faith as our daily activities call us to live. The Pope writes:

Some people nowadays console themselves by saying that things are not as easy as they used to be, yet we know that the Roman empire was not conducive to the Gospel message, the struggle for justice, or the defense of human dignity. Every period of history is marked by the presence of human weakness, self-absorption, complacency and selfishness, to say nothing of the concupiscence which preys upon us all. These things are ever present under one guise or another; they are due to our human limits rather than particular situations. Let us not say, then, that things are harder today; they are simply different. But let us learn also from the saints who have gone before us, who confronted the difficulties of their own day. (no. 263)

Are you ready? Together, let’s seek the virtue of fortitude. Let’s go forth on our daily  journey, pursuing hope no matter what causes us to stumble, fall, or throw us off the Way. Thank you, God, for the gift of fortitude!


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 Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone Can Do for You

Our comfort zone can mean different things. It could be

  • a specific routine each day
  • minimizing activities in order to manage stress
  • or an overall state of mind in which people are in control of their environment without any anxiety.
  • ‘Comfort zone’ can also have negative aspects such as addictions that may be detrimental to our mental and physical health as well as our souls.

While this pandemic and the situation in the world has caused many people to restrict their movement, staying home more often than we would otherwise choose; this may now cause us to make our comfort zones even more comfortable!

You may be thinking by now: But what is this about? How am I to get out of my comfortable routine? Don’t rock my boat!

A Strong Act of Our Will

In conversations with friends and acquaintances these last few months, I have often heard them say: I am being creative with my time at home, my limited travels outside my home. They continue to list activities they have started to do such as a new hobby, additional prayer time, spiritual reading, researching topics, volunteering for their church during certain events such as funerals, or calling sick parishioners. In the workplace; becoming patient with those around me. These can be good examples of getting out of your comfort zone, because doing so takes an act of will.

Saint Josemaria Escriva, a priest from Spain who died in 1975, spoke extensively about sanctifying all we do, from our home life to work. He said:

As well as having given you abundant and effective grace, the Lord has given you a brain, a pair of hands and intellectual powers so that your talents may yield fruit. God wants to work miracles all the time – to raise the dead, make the deaf hear, restore sight to the blind, enable the lame to walk… through your sanctified professional work, which is both pleasing to God and useful to souls. (The Forge, 984)

The Power of Stepping Out… and of Not Doing So

Our Lord and Savior Jesus, when walking along the shores of Galilee, called out to fishermen to follow him as they were mending their fishing nets. They certainly left their comfort zone to begin a new “career,” one as a disciple to the Son of God! The fruit of stepping out of their comfort zone was not only an incredible new life for them, but for the world; they would become the foundation stones of the Catholic Church.

Stepping out of our comfort zone can do the following for us:

  • Build self-confidence
  • Discover our gifts and talents
  • Give us satisfaction of doing good.

Stepping out of our comfort zone can do the following for others:

  • Build an environment of positive action
  • Encourage others
  • Support an important cause that will bring hope

Not stepping out of comfort zone at times can stunt our intellectual and spiritual growth. It can possibly lead to lack of enthusiasm.

Take the Next Step

Yes, it does take time and effort to step out of our comfort zones. Our Lord knows who you are. Ask him for the grace to do things that you know you should do, but find difficult to do. This not only facilitates our development, it also strengthens our faith and trust in God who is the source of our accomplishments.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1: 7)


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.

Finding Joy, Faith & Hope In Any Situation

Some Context

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a treasure, and to a pearl of great price. When they are discovered, the one who finds them sells all he has to acquire them. The point is not the value of the treasure or of the pearl, but of the kingdom of heaven, which leads us to the last comparison; the net thrown into the sea. At the end of the age, all humanity will be gathered together; some will be invited into the kingdom of heaven and others will not.

As Jesus says in another place, “Where ever your treasure is, so also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21). Those to whom the kingdom of heaven was of primary importance during their life and who were faithful witnesses of their love for God and neighbor will receive their treasure in heaven.

What To Seek

In the first reading, we see that Solomon answered wisely when God offered to give him whatever he asked for. When he asked for an understanding heart so that he could serve God and His people better, God was pleased. In his heart, Solomon was not far from the kingdom of heaven.

It was as if he was prophesying what Jesus would tell us in the Gospel of Matthew: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33). These words from Jesus are the light that will guide us into his kingdom. They are the fulfillment of the Two Greatest Commandments; we must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourself. When we order our lives toward God, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

So we must ask ourselves, where is our treasure? What are you willing to give everything you have for? In what are you investing?

How to Find the Treasure

One resource that we all have equally is time. Everyone of us has 24 hours each day, and how we use that time has a great deal to do with our proximity to the kingdom of heaven. All we need to make an eternal investment is our intellect and our free will.

I remember Fr. Bruce Nieli, a Paulist priest who used to live in Austin, telling us that when he was going through a difficult time he would visit a friend who was a quadriplegic. He said, this man, though handicapped was always filled with joy because of his love of God and his great prayer life. Joy does not mean the absence of difficulty; it means having great faith and trust that in the end “… all things work for good for those who love God…” as Paul tells us in the second reading (Romans 8:28).

I have heard people say they do not have time to pray. What is it that you are doing that you can do on your own without God’s help? It is His love that allows us to take our next breath. There is a saying, “No prayer means no faith,” because prayer is our connection to God. Without faith, we have no hope.

Perhaps it could be said that the kingdom of heaven is like the prayer of a faithful person, because it always puts us in the company of God. Jesus said, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). When we pray, we are always at least in the company of our Guardian Angel.

Make the Commitment

It is especially our commitment to daily prayer and to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist that keep us invested into eternal life and help us to reach our greatest happiness on earth. Prayer and the sacraments help us to be better husbands, wives, parents, children, etc. Whatever is most dear to our hearts is best protected by prayer and the sacraments of the Church.

Jesus closes this Gospel by asking, “Do you understand all these things?” Like Solomon, let us pray for the gift of understanding, but also for the greater gift of believing; because by faith we are often called to believe that which we cannot understand. The Scriptures and the Church will guide us into the kingdom of heaven if we believe what has been revealed to us, and then act on what we believe.

If you want to be close to the kingdom of heaven, make a commitment to spend time close to Jesus in his Eucharistic Presence in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. You’ll be glad you did.


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.

Do Something to Spread Hope (Here’s How)

By now you’ve probably seen the signs in people’s yards and along city streets that say things like — Don’t give upyou’re not alone — you matteryou are worthy of love, and — your mistakes do not define you.

What began in 2017 with 20 yard signs – one woman’s response to a high suicide rate in her Oregon town – has evolved into a movement with thousands of these signs popping up all over the United States and abroad, and yes; along my route to work in San Antonio, Texas.

I bring this up, because these days, we all need to do our part to spread messages of hope. The most beautiful thing about these signs is that they are a reminder that anyone, anywhere, can make a difference. Like Amy Wolff, the sign lady, all we have to do is something.

Today, I would like to focus on some of the “something” we can do to lift each other up spiritually. The last thing we want to do during this time is to forget about or abandon our spiritual exercises which are at the heart of maintaining a spirit of hope.

How to Start

First and foremost, praying for each other and for our country & world is so important right now.

Letting others know that we are praying for them can be very consoling and encouraging.

What Else Can We Do?

Here are some other ideas and ways we can attend to the spiritual well-being of those around us:

  • Provide Sacramentals to Others: Surprise someone – even a stranger – with a Rosary, small bottle of holy water, or perhaps a prayer card. Not only does this make someone feel cared about, but it also encourages them in their faith life.
  • Start a Group Virtual Prayer Time: Gather with others at a particular time for a virtual prayer session. During this time, participants can share what their particular prayer needs are, and then the group can offer up these prayer intentions as they pray together.
  • Email Links to Online Messages of Hope to Others: While you may be aware of all the spiritually enriching resources offered by Pilgrim Center of Hope, others may not be. Take a moment to send out a link to our Journey with Jesus and Meet Mary weekly virtual reflections. You can also send them one of our monthly video presentations – Meet the Master or Socials with the Saints.
  • Gather the Family Together: Even though our churches have re-opened, some folks haven’t returned to in-person Mass to avoid the coronavirus. If that’s the case in your household, aside from watching live-streams from your parish or other parts, build in some family time to read Scripture, pray together, and as a family engage in acts of kindness.
  • Consider Doing More Tithing: Taking into account that the economic impact of the pandemic has been far reaching, if you are not having to endure a financial crisis and have been relatively un-affected by COVID-19, then perhaps you will consider utilizing what you might have spent on entertainment, vacations, and eating out to help support non-profits that are suffering. For families, this can provide a great lesson for children when it comes to the importance of tithing and supporting worthy causes.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind. (Hebrews 13:16)

Doing something to spread hope to others is not easy. This takes sacrifice and stepping out of your routine or comfort zone, but the rewards are tremendous.


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.