A Visitor from Heaven | Meet Mary

We especially thank Michele Maxwell (Marian Center of San Antonio) for sponsoring this episode of Meet Mary! Pilgrim Center of Hope is grateful for all our Missionary of Hope supporters who make possible everything we do.

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.

Give Thanks Always and Everywhere | Journey with Jesus

We especially thank Bobbly Polka for sponsoring this episode of Journey with Jesus! Pilgrim Center of Hope is grateful for all our Missionary of Hope supporters who make possible everything we do.

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.

A Medal from Heaven | Meet Mary

We especially thank Michele Maxwell (Marian Center of San Antonio) for sponsoring this episode of Meet Mary! Pilgrim Center of Hope is grateful for all our Missionary of Hope supporters who make possible everything we do.

Who Do You Say I Am? | Journey with Jesus

What Should We Pray for our Children?

Every parent should be inspired, take courage, and be challenged in this exchange between Jesus and the mother of His Apostles, James and John:

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him [Jesus] with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom,” (Matthew 20:20-21).

Who is Salome?

Isn’t she being disrespectful to God in how she speaks to Jesus?  No, quite the opposite but before we learn why that is let’s first discover who this woman is. Other Gospel passages tell us her name is Salome. She is the wife of Zebedee, a fisherman, and along with his fishing partners, Simon and Andrew, her sons James and John were called at the sea of Galilee by Jesus to join his ministry. They did so and we are told in Luke (5:10-11), they, “left everything and followed him.”

Being a woman in ancient Palestine of the first century meant being dependent on the men in your family for financial support. Did she feel like many mothers and fathers today who hear their sons tell them they have a calling to the priesthood?  Did she see her help in old age and the dream of future grandchildren disappear? Vocation directors say the biggest obstacle to a man becoming a priest is his parents. Auxiliary Bishop Gary W. Janak says,

“People love having a priest in the family as long as it is their nephew.  Parents need to trust God and pray for their own sons to become priests and for their daughters to enter religious life.”

Lessons from Salome

When Salome approaches Jesus, she is not being disrespectful. Her request affirms his authority and hers. She comes to Jesus with confidence in her God-given vocation to motherhood for it says in the Book of Sirach (3:2), “For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons.” Paying Jesus homage means she acknowledges his authority over her. Asking Jesus, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom,” is her saying, “You are King and God, I am mother. You called my sons to you and in my authority over them, I affirm your call. Make them great in your Kingdom!

Salome knew who she was in God. She believed Jesus was the Son of God and trusted Him. We can know this by her exchange above and because she was one of the few who is recorded as standing by his Cross at Calvary, (Mark 15:40).

This is the courage we mothers (and fathers) need to have! Her one error was in telling God how to make them great and therefore we hear Jesus respond, “You do not know what you are asking.”

God knows what our children need better than we ever can, but he does expect us, parents, to act in our God-given authority over our children. It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (no. 2221) regarding the duties of parents, “The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.”

What should we pray for our children?

We pray as Jesus prays,

“Not my will Father, but your will be done,” (Luke 22:42).

If God’s Will is the priesthood or religious life for our children, we need to respond in faith and trust in His Providence for our children and for ourselves.

What Became of James and John?

The mother of James and John did receive what she wanted of her sons. Both achieved greatness.

James was the first Apostle to be martyred for the faith. He was beheaded in 44 A.D. by Herod Agrippa during an early Christian persecution. Our faith teaches us to be martyred for the faith is to immediately receive Eternity in the Kingdom of God.

John, the only Apostle at Calvary, wrote one of the four Gospels and the Book of Revelation. Most notably, he is the Apostle given on behalf of the Church, the Blessed Mother, and Virgin Mary as our Mother. When Jesus said to John,

“Behold, Your Mother,”

and we read, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home,” (John 19:27), I imagine Salome achieving greatness herself by standing next to her son in the fullness of her maternal authority, affirming our Lord’s command and helping her son fulfill it!


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 Ultimate Representation of Jesus’ Love | Meet Mary

We especially thank Michele Maxwell (Marian Center of San Antonio) for sponsoring this episode of Meet Mary! Pilgrim Center of Hope is grateful for all our Missionary of Hope supporters who make possible everything we do.

Merciful Love | Journey with Jesus

Surprised by Mary | Meet Mary