What Must I Do To Be Saved?

In the Gospel of Matthew, someone identified as the rich, young man, said to Jesus,

“Teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?”

Matthew 9:16. Jesus tells him he must keep the commandments. The young man said, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him,

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Matthew 19:20-22).

The young man had the wisdom to be concerned about his salvation, but not the will to overcome his attachment to possessions. He was hoping Jesus would suggest something he could do on his own, like keeping the law. Jesus invites him to do something he can only do with the help of grace, to put his total trust in God and in his providence. This is the same reality for every vocation; religious, married, or single. Every vocation is a call to holiness, and we can only be holy with God’s help. As Jesus said, “For human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26.

How Do I Discover God’s Plan For Me?

Our heavenly Father has a wonderful plan for every baptized person, but that plan can only be discovered and lived in communion with him. For this reason, Jesus Christ established his Church and the Sacraments so that every baptized person will have access to the grace that is necessary to live the plan that will allow us to reach our potential for happiness now and forever.

Jesus said,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:5).

To be poor in spirit is to be totally dependent on God, no matter who we are or what we have. It is to know that every good thing comes from God and he expects us to be good stewards of his gifts. There are many saints in our Church history, and even in these present times, that had vast wealth which they put at the service of God for the sake of worship, education, medicine, and a variety of other resources for those in need.

To be poor in spirit goes beyond our financial status. There can be many things we are tempted to cling to that can be an obstacle to our relationship with God. We can be reluctant to give up an ideology that is in conflict with Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church. We can hold on to addictions because it seems easier than the struggle to break free. Often times it is a relationship that can pull us away from God’s plan for us.

How Do I Stay Close To Jesus?

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and the answer to all the dilemmas that make up our life experience. He is the gentle Good Shepherd that invites us to draw close to him in daily prayer so that he can lead us away from the dangers that can trap us. Staying close to Jesus by frequenting the sacraments and praying together with family and friends will not only ensure our own happiness and salvation, but it will also ensure the vocations that are necessary for the life of the Church and the salvation of souls.

“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort.  You were made for greatness.”  Pope Benedict XVI


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.

Seeking Answers from Jesus

As a college-aged adult, I actually looked to Jesus for answers. The frustrating part of it all? Jesus didn’t give me answers.

Following the advice of my parents, pastor, vocation director, and so many other people, in prayer I asked Jesus, “Why is (fill-in-the-blank) happening?” and “What do you want me to do with my life?” and “Should I choose Option A or Option B?”

When did Jesus ever give people satisfactory answers? He didn’t, really. In the gospels, people who questioned him were often presented with a question, parable or a riddle in return. Jesus’ listeners were challenged to encounter God more deeply, to examine themselves, to give themselves in love, and to trust in him and his heavenly Father.

Jesus did not deal out ‘answers.’ What Jesus gave in the gospels was himself.

“Come to me,” he said, “all you who labor and are burdened.” He didn’t continue, “and I will give you answers and solutions to all your problems!” Instead, he concluded, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” (cf. Matthew 11:28-30)

You Are Not Alone

Jesus offers you himself, to share your burden alongside you.

If you ask Jesus to fix all your problems and save you from ever experiencing pain, confusion, worry, or anger; he will not do that for you. His own disciples and holy mother experienced all of the above.

Instead of doling out answers or solutions, Jesus will give you himself. I guarantee you that he will do so, one-thousand percent of the time, for eternity, if you welcome him daily.

Having lived through uncommon physical and emotional challenges, I can say with confidence; Jesus’ gift of himself to each one of us is a far greater gift than answers or solutions.

Why?

Without challenges, we do not learn. Without trials, we lack humility. Without suffering, we lack compassion. This is not how God created the world to be, but it is the reality in which we now live.

God chooses the better option, saying: In the midst of this challenge, trial, and suffering, I will come to you. I will share it with you. As we walk together, I will teach you. Thus, the burden will become light.

In many circles, God is accused of being cruel and abusive. On the contrary, we see in the life of Jesus that God does not force himself upon us. In the person of Jesus, God is an unassuming, young adult who willingly takes everything we’ve dumped on him, upon his shoulders. He invites us, by name, to come and learn how to live, alongside him. He gives us his own self, his own life.

“I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” he said (John 10:10). Jesus does not call us slaves; “I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

Look to Jesus for Direction

If you are looking for direction, look to Jesus. Don’t look for him to be a floating genie-god who hovers above you, and provides ancient and future knowledge. Instead, realize the greater gift Jesus offers.

As St. Bernard of Clairvaux so well advised;

“Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. […] If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy.”

Look to Jesus, God-become-Man. Look to Jesus the person; so that in looking to him you may know him, and in knowing him you may love him, and to learn from him you may walk with him and his Body, the Church, daily.

This is what gives me joy; not that I have all the ‘answers,’ but that I know Jesus who is Truth. Not that I see where my path will lead, but that I walk with Jesus who is the Way. Not that my life is picture-perfect, but that I love Jesus who is Life. (cf. John 14:6)

In this very moment of your life – with all its complications, aches, responsibilities; I invite you to spend some moments in prayer with Jesus and accept his invitation.


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.

Becoming the Body of Christ

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), also called the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, celebrates the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.  Instituted by Pope Urban VI and first liturgically celebrated in 1264, the Feast of Corpus Christi is traditionally held on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity and is a Holy Day of Obligation. This year that would have been June 3. It has been discerned by pastoral authorities in the Roman Latin Church that not enough Catholics will obligate themselves to participate at Mass on a weekday, so the Feast was moved to the following Sunday, June 6.

This says a lot about what many Catholics fail to understand about the Body of Christ, and why this Feast is so important that it remains a Holy Day of Obligation.

What is a Holy Day of Obligation?

A Holy Day of Obligation as defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a precept of the Church and is set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor (CCC, no. 2041).

When a feast day of the Church is considered a Holy Day of Obligation it means to celebrate it is of high importance in the growth of love of God and neighbor. That the Feast of Corpus Christi, up until recent times, is set apart from the ‘usual’ Sunday Holy Day of Obligation should alert us that this Feast is a really big deal, and we should pay attention with an open and listening heart.

The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ

To be Catholic is to believe that the Eucharist is not a symbol of, but actually is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is how and when ordinary bread and wine is transubstantiated into the Eucharist by the Holy Spirit through the hands of a Catholic priest. This means Jesus Himself is present to us in the Eucharist and is making good on His Promise:

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).

As a result, communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers and sisters of his who are called together from every nation.” The comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body (CCC, no. 788-789).

Making Up The Body of Christ

This means we are called to join Christ with Jesus as the Head and we as the members of His same Body. This is how Divine transformation within the individual and the world manifests itself: The body’s unity does not do away with the diversity of its members: “In the building up of Christ’s Body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church.” The unity of the Mystical Body produces and stimulates charity among the faithful: “From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.” Finally, the unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” (CCC, no. 791).

Wow! This amazing understanding should astound us!  It should inspire and encourage us in the reality that being obligated truly is a positive law commanding Catholics to live the faith we profess. It should convict us to not hesitate to put down our ordinary daily obligations when called and get about the business of building up the body of Christ, of which we are all members and through which all human divisions are united.  Like I stated above, it’s a really big deal!


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.

Joy in Tying the Knot!

What is true joy? Joy is mentioned at least 219 times in the Bible. Fr. Pierre de Chardin, S.J. states:

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God!”

When we encounter Christ Jesus and accept Him into our lives as our Lord, our Savior, we experience joy and hope. To encounter is to meet and experience; to accept is to acknowledge and believe. Our journey towards the Heavenly Jerusalem begins with this encounter and believing in God’s presence.

As a couple embrace their love for each other in the Sacrament of Matrimony, they begin this new journey with Christ Jesus, inviting him to walk with them for the rest of their lives! Oh sure, there are valleys and perhaps some pits we all experience along the way; for this reason, our Savior instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let us praise God for this great gift!

Yes, when couples “tie the knot”, it is a sign of their willingness to love and sacrifice for their spouse.  Let’s use this word “knot” as an acronym:

  • K – Knowledge of God
  • N – Now!
  • O – Obedience!
  • T – To live and share the faith.

K – Knowledge: The Apostles Creed is the foundation of our faith! When explaining to family members, friends why you are a Catholic and why you have chosen to be married in the Catholic Church; this Creed gives many reasons! The Apostles’ Creed is divided into what we refer to as 12 articles. It is a solid profession of the fundamental truths of our faith. When we pray the Rosary, we begin with his proclamation of our faith and then add the beautiful Gospel prayers included in the Rosary. There is always joy and fruit when couples pray together.

N – Now! There is no better time to begin anew than now. Simple words such as “I love you” and “I am sorry” can be jump starters towards healing.

O – Obedience: Our free will is the greatest gift God has given us and it is the only thing that can separate us from God’s plan for us. To be obedient to God’s natural and moral laws is to be given freedom and a road map to true happiness. There is always fruit in obedience!

T – To live and share the faith: Living the Sacramental life gives us the grace to live and share our faith. So many people are in need of authentic witnesses and sincere messages of hope. When couples witness their love for each other, their commitment to God; people will perceive there is hope!

What has sustained the Church are people who have encountered the Lord and accepted the Truth of His revelation and trusted in His Divine Providence.

Yes, joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. No matter what age we are when we marry, no matter how many years we have been married; when God is invited to be a part of that relationship each day; believe you will always have the hope needed to sustain you!


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 Jesus’ Peace Today

What do you think of when you hear the word “peace”? A carefree day? A family without disagreements? The absence of war or political conflict?

Recently, I was both greatly challenged and encouraged when I discovered Jesus’ definition of “peace.”

Appearing to the disciples after his Resurrection, “he stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” (Luke 24:36) This was not simply a greeting.

Before Jesus’ death, he had instructed his disciples that his peace was not the common secular peace – Pax Romana; absence of war. He said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

In the Hebrew language, the word for peace is “shalom.” Shalom denotes wholeness or completeness. Jesus’ shalom is a mutual agreement between persons; not a lack, but a positive presence of serenity. Shalom is a blessing; it is God’s grace made manifest.

If we’re paying attention, we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus’ peace doesn’t refer to a lack of concern or conflict. The Prince of Peace spent his days precisely with those who experienced difficult situations, and he himself entered into great suffering and death.

Fruit of the Spirit

As Jesus’ followers, then, how can we be truly and sincerely “at peace”, while division occurs all around us?

To pursue peace as Jesus did is not something we can do on our own. Scripture teaches that peace is a “fruit of the Spirit.” Peace is a fruit – or a sign, that God’s Spirit is present.

The key is this; God’s Spirit is a gift to be received. Jesus taught that our ability to have an exchange and shalom with God is contingent on our being reconciled with others.

“If you bring your gift to the altar,” Jesus taught, “and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

The early Christian St. Cyprian summarized plainly;

“God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

In short: The key to peace is in our will, our heart, from our own choice; to bind and loose the bonds of forgiveness and unforgiveness of those who offend us.

“It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2843).

Experience True Peace

When we are wounded or offended by others, it hurts! We may want to build up our walls and protect ourselves (fear), or perhaps heap injury on those who hurt us so that they will understand what we feel (trouble). Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid.” When we embrace or act on these thoughts or feelings, our will – our heart – is no longer united with God’s.

God wills good for everyone. “He causes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

For us to experience peace, we must choose to will our offenders good and not evil. When we do, we are not excusing their behavior, but we are loosening the bonds of unforgiveness that tie us to the offense.

Then, we can be free to receive the gift of God’s Spirit living within us, and we can experience true peace; the peace of Jesus.

Find some practical advice in Archbishop Gustavo’s pastoral letter, Transformed by Hope: “We need to find a time and a place that allows us a moment of silence. There we can, so to speak, look at ourselves from the outside and review how we relate to our environment; acknowledge what feeds or causes our emotions, feelings and affections; reexamine our ideas, prejudices, perceptions, assumptions, reactions and relationships. Finally, we can encounter ourselves and God. In this way we will find peace and a deep joy, beyond that which comes and goes with different situations. The Holy Spirit will transform us into a new creation and others might discover in us instruments that God sends.”


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.

The Gospel According to You

This year’s events have highlighted an urgent need for you and I to be Christ’s presence in others’ lives.  

Our loved ones, neighbors, co-workers, and the few other persons with whom we have regular contact; have likely had very few experiences of the Church in 2020—or of Christians’ model of following Christ in the context of daily life. Perhaps, too, those few experiences have included news about Church scandals and abuse, with subsequent feelings of betrayal. 

The Importance of a Witness

Now, you and I are not bystanders. We are Christ’s very witnesses. 

If you’ve ever been present for a jury trial—especially for a criminal case—you’ll know the importance of a witness. It is that person’s testimony upon which at least one other person’s life can be changed forever. Their every word is precious, documented. Their gestures, their voice, and their intangible sense of conviction are remembered by all those present in the room. 

These qualities also apply to the testimony of you and I to Christ, because we are Christ-ians. Thankfully, we are witnesses to Good News. But how often do we see it that way? 

Victory of a King

Mark, who was the first gospel writer chronologically, began this way:

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). 

You might know that the word “gospel” means “good news” or “glad tidings,” but did you know that in Mark’s time, this word was used to declare the victory of a king? 

Not only was Mark’s use of this word extremely bold—placing Jesus of Nazareth in higher esteem than the Roman emperor—but it also reveals to us Mark’s conviction about Jesus. His testimony was about a victorious King, the Son of God. When we read his Gospel, we see Jesus’ swiftness and power conveyed; which is partially why Mark’s Gospel is symbolized by a mighty lion. 

How would you and I begin our “Gospel according to (Your Name Here)”? What would our story convey about how we relate to Jesus? 

In reality, daily life is the parchment upon which we ‘write’ this Gospel; with our words and actions.  

Your Testimony is Powerful

“Be who God meant you to be,” wrote the Italian saint Catherine of Siena in a letter, “and you will set all of Italy ablaze.” 

That is the power of your testimony of life. 

Your story is unique.

  • What is your name?
  • Where and who did you come from?
  • How did your life begin?
  • What struggles have you endured?
  • When did you truly encounter God?
  • Who is Jesus to you?
  • How has knowing Christ changed your life? 
The Mystifying Truth that Christmas Celebrates

Christmas celebrates the unfathomable reality that Almighty God also has a name, a face, a family, was raised in a community, lived, ate, slept, wept, smiled, and yes—suffered, died, and rose victoriously from death.  

God’s love “will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 219; cf. John 3:16). 

Although 2020 has been a time of trial, pain, suffering, and death; we are reminded by Christmas 2020 that Christ took on flesh out of tremendous love for the world. That means you. That means us. His love is victorious over all trials, all pain & suffering, and even over death. In his love, we find life, truth, goodness, and beauty. 

This Christmas Season and into 2021, let us recover the Good News and approach Jesus again. May we reflect on our lives in the light of God’s love, and remember that each day we are Christ’s witnesses. 


Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular print column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter Him through pilgrimages, conferences and outreach. Read the column monthly in Today’s Catholic newspaper.

Unique & United: Church’s Diversity Testifies to Truth

Can you imagine John Williams’ Star Wars orchestral scores, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, or George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue performed with only one type of instrument? Or even more impossible: one scale… or one note?

An orchestra’s beauty and power derives from the diversity of instruments, sounds, musicians, notes, and many other factors—all playing various parts toward communicating one piece of music.

God works similarly!

Within the Roman Catholic Church, we see a wide variety of gifts from God called charisms, manifested in diverse spiritualities. Even further, most Roman Catholics here have no idea that Roman Catholicism is just one of many expressions of the Catholic faith.

Let’s reflect on how God is working through both types of diversity.

In San Antonio alone, we see a wide variety of religious orders—Franciscans, Oblates, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Claretians, Jesuits, Salesians, and more. One might ask: Why are there so many? Don’t they all believe the same thing? Don’t they all do similar work?

Each person who has ever existed, has been gifted with a unique set of experiences, characteristics, talents, etc. Just so, the saints who founded each religious order, lived within different cultural, historical, and personal circumstances. While every religious order professes the same faith, their charisms are unique.

For example, the Carmelite community trace their origin to the Prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel, and emphasize listening to God’s voice interiorly. Their charism is contemplation, and they wear distinctive uniforms or habits. Whereas, the Marianists were founded during the French Revolution and grew among small faith-sharing communities. They emphasize inclusive social outreach, and wear clothing similar to the people they are serving. Side-by-side, these communities look very different, but they compliment each other and work toward the common goal of union with God and love of neighbor.

In San Antonio, we are also blessed to have Catholic communities other than Roman Catholics. These include the Maronite, Byzantine, and Syro-Malabar Catholics. Walk into any of their gatherings for Sunday worship, and you’ll not only hear different languages spoken or sung, but you’ll also notice different forms of our sit-stand, bow-kneel Catholic calisthenics. You’ll see different ways of receiving the sacraments—which may even have different names. For example, what Roman Catholics call the Sacrament of Matrimony, some eastern Catholic Churches call the Mystery of Crowning.

How did this happen? When the first apostles were sent forth and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they went to many peoples and cultures to spread faith in Christ. Today under Pope Francis, there are different hierarchies of leadership for many Catholic Churches.

At the same time, we are all one Church, one Body of Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that there are diverse histories, symbolism, theologies, forms of holiness… “The mystery celebrated in the liturgy is one, but the forms of its celebration are diverse.” (cf. 1200, 1202)

In other words, our Catholic family is the most beautiful orchestra. When we profess during Mass that the church is “one” and “catholic” (universal), this is what we mean.

“From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. […] The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church’s unity.” (CCC 814)

This is beautiful, good news in an increasingly divided world. How can so many different people, languages, cultures, histories, theologies, and missions be united? God shows us how; in the Church. Let’s embrace this good news and share it with others. We need to be witnesses for God through unity.

I encourage and challenge you to learn more about the various expressions of our one faith. Do not be afraid of differences; the unity among these unique expressions will help us all together testify to the living God among us!


Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter Him through pilgrimages, conferences and outreach. Read the column monthly in Today’s Catholic newspaper.

Love or hate?

As human beings, we have a real capacity to hurt one another very deeply. Sometimes the things we experience can change the course of our lives and have a profound effect on how we see our self and others. There is no excuse for the terrible things that people do to each other, but no act of violence has the power to destroy our potential for peace and happiness unless we give ourselves over to hate, which consumes our spirit. Can you think of anything that one person could do to another that would not have to be forgiven?

Josephine Bakhita was born in the region of the Sudan around 1869. Seven years later she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and forced to walk barefoot 600 miles to a slave market. For the next twelve years she was bought and sold more than a dozen times and treated with extreme cruelty, beaten severely and mutilated. Eventually she found her way to a convent of sisters in Venice where she was baptized and formed in the faith. Her new life in Christ brought her so much joy that she said:

If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for it that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today…The Lord has loved me so much; we must be compassionate.

She joined the religious community as a sister in 1896 and was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II on October 1st, 2000.

There are thousands of stories of individuals who have overcome terrible injustices and have been able to forgive the ones who hurt them because they discovered a love greater than their hurt. God is the source of all love and everything good and when we humbly approach him with our brokenness, he will gradually make us whole if we persevere with our prayers and trust in him. He promises that he will be with us if we come to him.

If we persist in asking why the injustice happened, we are asking the wrong question. However, if our priority is to be made whole, God will do it. No matter how bad we have it on the worst day of our life, there will always be someone who has had it much worse and was able to experience forgiveness, peace and happiness because they approached our loving God. Love conquers hate!

A Dominican Priest wrote:

To Thee, and those who love Thee, nothing is impossible,
I can do all things in Thee who strengthens me to do them.


Living Catholicism is a monthly column originally appearing in Today’s Catholic newspaper. Deacon Tom Fox is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Mercy – Love’s Second Name

This Living Catholicism column was written for Today’s Catholic (4-26-19), the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio:

Divine Mercy Sunday is now either before us or just passed. This is the perfect time to dwell on God’s love and mercy so we might all yearn for it, be restored by it, and be more grateful for it.

As I am writing this article I am looking up at an image of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son (inspired by the parable from Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32) that hangs in my office. This painting has long captivated me and took on even greater meaning after I read Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.

My attention is always drawn to the hands’ of the father, holding the son, as if to say, “you are forgiven…everything is going to be okay.” It makes me think of all the hugs or abrazos shared over the years with family and friends, following an exchange of apologies over saying or doing something we regretted. By far, the most powerful and significant were the embraces shared with my parents. In these moments, I felt forgiven, loved, secure, and at peace.

Nouwen’s book enabled me to see that total surrender to God the Father is the key to truly being healed of past hurt and guilt. With that realization has come a greater appreciation for the sacrament of Reconciliation and for the Paschal Mystery. And also, for the Eucharist.

Total surrender is not an easy thing to do, because it involves giving up control and acknowledging our failures. Nouwen wrote, “one of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness.”

St. Pope John Paul II wrote his second Encyclical Letter Dives In Misericordia(Rich in Mercy), with St. Faustina Kowalska on his mind. This is a profound document which offers a new perspective on the theme of Divine Mercy:

  • God’s merciful love is his “most stupendous attribute.”
  • Christ came to make God present as love and mercy
  • When mercy is properly given, there is no humiliation, only gratitude
  • Love & Mercy in the world make conversion possible
  • Mercy is love’s second name

It was nineteen years ago on April 30, 2000 that John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and designated the Easter Octave – Divine Mercy Sunday. Faustina was given the message of Divine Mercy from Christ. In 1938 her journals were published as the Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul.

As a result of the apparitions of Jesus to St. Faustina we were given four devotions:

  • The Divine Mercy Image
  • The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • The Novena of Divine Mercy
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (receiving Reconciliation and Holy Communion)

During this Easter season, as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection and in anticipation of Jesus sending forth the Holy Spirit, consider dedicating yourself to the devotion of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy throughout the year.

Not only can these prayers help to keep you focused on the Passion & Crucifixion of Christ, but they can also give you a greater appreciation of the Eucharistic offering.

Our staff at Pilgrim Center of Hope prays the Chaplet daily during the Hour of Mercy which begins at 3 pm, the hour of Our Lord’s death on the cross.

The opening prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet says it all:
O Blood & Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you(cf. Diary 84).

And then there is the call and response prayer that we repeat 50 times:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us & on the whole world (cf. Diary 475-476).

 Reading John Paul’s Dives In Misericordia and practicing the devotion of the Divine Mercy Chaplet has allowed me to recognize and give thanks for all the times I have been shown mercy. More importantly, I am more conscious of the need to be more merciful toward others.

Pope Francis put it this way, “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.”

In order to bring more hope into the world and restore people’s dignity and humanity, we need to remember love’s second name and show more mercy and forgiveness in our relationships.

It all begins with our appreciation and understanding of God’s Divine Mercy.

So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help(cf. Heb. 4:16).

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Robert V. Rodriguez is the Public Relations and Outreach Assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter Him through pilgrimages, conferences and outreach. PilgrimCenterofHope.org

Mindfulness in Living Catholicism

What are we Catholics to do when someone suggests we practice Mindfulness?

You see this word a lot lately, even Time Magazine recently had a whole issue dedicated to Mindfulness as a path to happiness.

Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. Mindfulness defined this way was how a practicing and very faithful Catholic explained it to me. She shared that this technique has helped her with her obsessive tendencies that can send her emotions overboard. By making note of how a text, email or comment made her feel without judging herself, she is able to keep her emotions in check.

Mindfulness is also defined as a Buddhist spirituality in which one meditates in order to empty oneself and in the practice of it, achieve self-awareness. This is incompatible with the Catholic faith which calls us instead to place ourselves in the Presence of God so as to grow in awareness of who our loving Creator and Father has created us to be.

When my Catholic friend initially brought up mindfulness, I dismissed it quickly as New Age, but that was wrong of me. Her explanation opened my understanding of not only the multiple definitions of mindfulness, but also how we should not judge a meaning based simply on a word.

This experience reminded me that as a Catholic, I am not to just accept what is being offered nor am I to dismiss without consideration. Instead, I am to listen and discern.

The Apostle, St. Paul, is a master of discernment and can teach us much in how to differentiate between New Age, other spiritualities and the Fullness of Truth; which is Jesus Christ as revealed through His Catholic Church. St. Paul teaches us to, “Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil,” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

We test everything by discerning the source; is it human, a spirit, or is it God? St. Paul teaches, “See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity, bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power,” (Colossians 2:8-11).

If, as with my Catholic friend, we are using mindfulness as a tool to remain in the present moment, this is good. Ignatian Spirituality, a time-honored practice of the Church, tells us that the present moment is where God is and where his grace exists for us to receive. If in this present moment we praise God for who He is and for who He has created us to be, this is Divine and worthy of our attention.

If, however, we discover in listening that we are being advised to consider a mindfulness spirituality that calls us to look inward, focus on self and empty ourselves, we should instead use this as an opportunity to evangelize. Often it is out of ignorance and a hope for inner peace that we fall into deceptions. We are not to judge the person, but certainly admonish in kindness so he or she does not continue to be misguided. The best way is to ask lots of questions as this draws the person into discernment as words are put to thought. With your questions, you have a wonderful opportunity to guide them from what they may think is a path to happiness on to the Way, our Lord Jesus Christ, The Path to Happiness.

God has placed each of us in this time and in this culture for a reason and we do not have any reason to be afraid. Living Catholicism means to grow in faith as we try and live it out in the people we encounter and in the circumstances we find ourselves. In these moments and in all moments, we are to remain open to the work of the Holy Spirit and as our Lord Jesus tells us, “…do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say” (Matthew 10:19).

Nan Balfour is Events Coordinator at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization apostolate in Today’s Catholic newspaper. Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.