Shown on home page

Spiritual Six Pack

 

Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. – Pope John XXIII

Spiritually-speaking, this is the mindset we all should have as we march into 2019.

As a way to encourage you to start or add to your faith life, consider this multi-faceted “Spiritual Six-Pack” of suggestions on how to build up your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Every year, I personally use this as a checklist to take inventory of my spiritual development. First, I ask myself if I’ve been living this “spiritual six-pack,” and then I make a list of how I am going to improve in these areas in the year ahead.

RECOGNIZE YOUR VALUE IN GOD’S SIGHT

To illustrate this point, St. John of the Cross wrote an allegory that describes how God gave creation as a bride to His Son and how Christ as the Bridegroom of our Souls, paid the ultimate price in order to save us all from slavery.

I will go and find my bride; I will take upon my shoulders her sufferings and weariness; I will die, so that she may live, and so I will lead her back to my Father. – St. John of the Cross

SEEK UNION WITH EACH PERSON OF THE BLESSED TRINITY

By the grace of God, our soul becomes, first, the child of the eternal Father; second, the spouse of Jesus Christ; third, the temple of the Holy Spirit. – St. Bonaventure

LET CHRIST DWELL WITHIN YOU

St. Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Christ is the life of all those who truly live.” The more we become one with Christ, the more Christ will shine through us.

Not to live in Christ is to gradually lose the spirit of prayer, the love of virtue, the taste of devotion, and the zeal for salvation. Like a branch separated from a vine, we wither and die.

FIND UNION WITH JESUS IN YOUR WORK

The sanctification of ordinary work is a living seed, able to yield fruits of holiness in an immense number of souls. Sanctity, for the vast majority of people, implies sanctifying their work, sanctifying themselves in it, and sanctifying others through it.  – St. Josemaria Escriva

SEE JESUS IN YOUR NEIGHBOR

If Mark 12:31 isn’t clear enough, how about these words from St. John the Apostle:

In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the Devil: whosoever is not just is not of God, nor he that loveth not his brother (1 John 3:10).

Let us see in every one of our neighbors, whatever his state may be, an image of Jesus Christ, and serve each one in our Lord, and our Lord in each one.  – St. Vincent de Paul

GIVE THANKS TO GOD

When we are grateful, we love.  – St. Augustine

St. John Chrysostom says, because man so often fails in this obligation of gratitude, the Son of God puts Himself in our place and takes from His own treasures all that is necessary to do for us what we can never do ourselves.

It almost goes without saying, that daily prayer, receiving Communion frequently, going to Confession at least once a month, and keeping God’s commandments should form the foundation of our lives as Catholics.

By regularly meditating on the six aspects of your life listed above, don’t be surprised if you experience the following benefits:

  • Interior Peace
  • Spiritual Joy
  • Light
  • Consolation
  • Strength

If you are feeling compelled to regularly reflect on the “spiritual six-pack,” I want to make one final suggestion, and that is to call upon the Virgin Mary as your guide, intercessor, and protector.

…under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach your goal. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux

As a gift to you, here is the Totus Tuus prayer written by St. Pope John Paul II. This prayer is at the heart of my devotion to Our Blessed Mother:

Immaculate Conception, Mary my Mother;
Live in me, Act in me, Speak in me and through me,
Think your thoughts in my mind, Love through my heart,
Give me your dispositions and feelings, Teach, lead me and guide me to Jesus,
Correct, enlighten and expand my thoughts and behavior;
Possess my soul, Take-over my entire personality and life, replace it with Yourself,
Incline me to constant adoration, Pray in me and through me,
Let me live in you and keep me in this union always, Amen.

Robert V. Rodriguez is the Public Relations and Outreach Assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of Pilgrim Center of Hope appearing in Today’s Catholic newspaper.

Three Steps to A More Thankful Attitude

Is the build up to Thanksgiving and Christmas stressing you out? Do you find it difficult to maintain a spirit of gratitude during the holidays and throughout the year?

This episode of Living Catholicism will focus on three simple ways to remind you of the many blessings, gifts, and good things you have received or experienced during the past year and throughout your lifetime. There is joy, spiritual enrichment, and health benefits that come from showing gratitude and saying “thank you” to God and those around you.

We will also discuss how to remember that “God was there,” even in the ‘not so good moments’ that we experience in life.

Hope for Those Who Have Departed

In the March 16, 2018 edition of Today’s Catholic, I wrote about a friend of mine whose strong faith during her intense battle with cancer inspired me to name her a “Hosanna” woman; someone who chooses to praise God while experiencing first-hand what it means to suffer with Jesus.

My friend died last month. She died one year after she was told by doctors she only had one month. In God’s Providence, she actively used her time to pray and seek a cure while she prepared her soul for Eternity and her husband and family for lives without her. She left us for her Eternal reward only a few days after she made sure her youngest son received his first communion; the sacrament which our pastor brought to her bedside so she would not miss it.

Her online journaling drew 15,000 followers. My friend did not meet anyone who did not like her, but I doubt even she had 15,000 friends. It was her words of faith in a God she knew intimately that called them. Her “Hosanna” faith inspired in them the desire to encounter this Jesus who she loves so much.

Two months before my friend’s death, my 52-year old cousin died. He was a lost soul riddled with addiction, a history of crime, family abuse and acute physical limitations brought on by years of self-neglect. He was called a teddy bear of a man for his gentle spirit, but his spirit was indeed troubled. He did not practice his faith for many years because he believed God thought he was worth what the world told him, “You are good for nothing.”

What can we say of the state of these two souls? We can say nothing because it is only God who can read the depths of a man’s soul. But we do have the wisdom of the Church to guide us.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we learn: “Heaven is assured for, ‘Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God forever, for they “see him as he is, ‘face to face'”‘” (1023). Purgatory is offered for, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (1030).

We may assume my faithful friend is in Heaven, but we cannot know that. We are not capable of comprehending what it truly means to be purified so that we may see God face to face. My mom, whose faith and suffering matched my faithful friend’s, told her five daughters before she passed, “You better never stop praying for my soul. I am counting on you girls to get your mother out of Purgatory!”

At my cousin’s funeral, I recall the reassuring words of the priest. He said, “Scott was baptized into the family of God which means Scott is a beloved son of the Father. I trust that he is being embraced by all the Church offers so that he will come to enjoy everlasting peace.” What a consolation for my aunt and his mother!

So, what does the Church offer?

When we pray for the souls of the living and the dead and offer our little daily sacrifices and sufferings, we are joining with all prayer and all who pray. This includes the prayers and sacrifices that monks in monasteries and cloistered sisters in convents offer 24/7 for our salvation. Think of it as a huge jug filling to the brim with grace to be poured upon a poor soul in need of healing and purification.

When we participate at Mass, lifting our hearts and minds along with the Sacrifice of Jesus at the altar, we are lifting all people living and deceased along with His perfect sacrifice. This is what St. Paul means when he writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).

What the Church offers is a way for us to help Jesus in his mission of Mercy; the Mercy merited by him alone through his one sacrifice for all, but which in his love for us, he allows us to help him distribute to ourselves and the ones we love.

Nan Balfour is the Events Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope. This first appeared in Living Catholicism, our regular column in Today’s Catholic newspaper.

Why Purgatory?

For Catholics, the liturgical year is divided up into seasons and feast days. The seasons focus on God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the life of Christ, and the feast days are celebrations of the powerful presence of God in the lives of his witnesses.

We began November with All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2.

From baptism, we are all members of the body of Christ – the Church Militant, or those of us who are still working out our salvation; the Church Triumphant, those who have reached their final destination in heaven; or the Church Suffering, those who are being purified on their way to heaven through purgatory.

Throughout the church year, we celebrate the feast days of specific saints, but All Saints Day is for all the saints in heaven who we may know nothing about, perhaps even our relatives.

Do they need our celebrations?

Saint Bernard said, “The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.”

All Souls Day is about those who have left this life in the state of grace but have not yet reached the perfection necessary to be received into heaven. They must undergo a process of purification which we call purgatory.

God expects those of us who believe in him to be faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures. This faithfulness will help us to reach our potential for happiness in this life, but it requires that we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.

To go a step further, Jesus said we must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. This perfection is only possible with the help of grace that he offers us when we choose to be in an intimate relationship with him.

Our present trials and difficulties can help us make reparation for our sins against God and humanity, if we intentionally unite them with the sufferings of Christ. However, at the end of our life, if we have not rejected God and yet have not reached the state of perfection that God has expected of us, in his mercy he will purify our souls in purgatory.

Purgatory is not a final destination but more like a journey through which some souls undergo on their way to heaven. Purgatory is fundamentally based on how much our loving God wants us to live perfectly united to him for all eternity, even if we haven’t been perfect. For this reason, every day, at every eucharistic liturgy throughout the world, we pray for those who have died. We believe that prayer can assist them in their purification process.

Even though these souls are being purified, they are at peace because they know that their salvation is eminent. Thank God for purgatory.

Deacon Tom Fox is co-director & co-founder of Pilgrim Center of Hope. This column was originally submitted for the San Antonio Express-News “Belief” column in its Faith section. (Updated to final printed version 11/26/2018 12:11pm)

A Fresh Look at the Rosary

Originally printed as San Antonio Express-News “Belief” Column

The Roman Catholic Feast of the Holy Rosary on Oct. 7 offers an opportunity to introduce the rosary, an iconic image to some and a religious symbol to others, to all Christians and people of prayer.

While some people wear it as jewelry, the Catholic faithful see the rosary as the anchor to their prayer life, a revered string of 59 beads that begins and ends with the crucifix, Jesus Christ on the cross of salvation.

Any glossary of Catholic terms will tell you the rosary is a sacramental, a tangible object, which when blessed by a priest, carries with it a power strengthened by one’s faith. Like a talisman believed to have powers, a rosary is considered a special object and is often passed down through generations.

Like other sacramentals such as holy medals and prayer cards depicting saints, the rosary is cherished because it might have been used by a bearer throughout their prayer life. It’s not uncommon to see a Catholic buried with a rosary in hand as proof of their love for Jesus Christ.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is of my dear mother, praying the rosary every night before bed. Her prayers were always for friends and family, most especially her children. She prayed for our protection, success, good health and happiness, if it be God’s will.

That gives me great consolation and has instilled in me a deep interest in the rosary. The more I have learned about it, the more I have relied on it.

The rosary cord contains 59 beads separated into sections of 10 beads called decades. They come in all colors, sizes and styles.

Originally, it contained three sets of five mysteries, or events, in the life of Christ — the joyful ones surrounding his birth; the sorrowful events of his passion, or suffering; and the glorious events about his resurrection.

When first introduced, the rosary was popularized by illiterate Christians unable to read the Bible. The devotion was popularized also by the Dominican order in the 13th century; by the 16th century, it took the form used today.

In an apostolic letter in October 2002, Pope St. John Paul II — known as the pope of the rosary — recommended an additional set of mysteries, called the luminous mysteries, or the “mysteries of light,” that focus on Christ’s public ministry.

John Paul II said the rosary is a gospel prayer in which, with Mary, we contemplate the face of Jesus.

The words of the prayers — the Our Father and the Hail Mary — are scripturally based. The Hail Mary consists largely of Bible verses in the Gospel of Luke 1: 28-45 and reflect major moments in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

Even non-Catholics pray the rosary. “I’m a Methodist,” one said, “but I absolutely adore the rosary, and prayer beads of all kinds. I love that with a simple set of beads I can meditate on the entire life of Christ as seen by the woman through whom he is genetically related to the rest of us. Prayer beads help me focus my mind, something that is difficult at times.”

The rosary is a family prayer and a way to teach children about the life of Christ. It can be prayed in less than half an hour, and the beads enable you to free your mind from the task of counting.

For anyone seeking to grow closer to God through prayer, the rosary offers a path to a relationship with him. The rosary has given hope to many who feel lost or alone and is a source of hope and not superstition.

Robert V. Rodriguez is the public relations and outreach assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. He writes about the Catholic faith for TV, radio, blogs, print and social media.

350 Renewed In Hope: Prayer Brunch 25th Anniversary (Videos & Photos)

SAN ANTONIO – Nearly 350 persons participated in Pilgrim Center of Hope’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Prayer Brunch on Saturday, September 22 at the Omni Hotel at the Colonnade. Festivities included “Saints Alive” – volunteer actors portraying Saints Anthony de Padua, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Francisco & Jacinta Marto; Silent Auction with unique items as well as opportunities for attendees to sponsor monthly needs of the ministry, and the debut of a new video called “Casting Three Nets” which leads viewers through a mini spiritual pilgrimage around Galilee with testimonies from persons who have been impacted by Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Mark Your Calendar – Next year’s Prayer Brunch is set for October 12, 2019 at the Omni Hotel at the Colonnade!

Congratulations to Raffle Winners…

Renee Talamantez (Holy Trinity parishioner)
Cres Wellman (St. Matthew parishioner)
Rosie Farias (St. Matthew parishioner)
Mr. & Mrs. Roger and Elida Robles (Holy Trinity parishioners)
Cora Lunan (Our Lady of Perpetual Help/Selma parishioner)
Cristina Contreras (Holy Name parishioner)

A highlight was the keynote address, “Becoming People of Hope,” by Paulist Father Bruce Nieli, a Missionary of Mercy commissioned by Pope Francis, and a founding Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope:

Pilgrim Center of Hope staff members also spoke about Pilgrim Center of Hope’s past, present, future, and why it is unique among other Catholic ministries:

Event Photo Gallery (Photographer: Daniela Garcia)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Local Prisoners Touch Calvary

Left: Looking up from inside the cell, seeing the hole from which Jesus would have been lowered by a rope around his waist. Right: Pilgrims gather inside the cell to pray.

Jesus was held captive within the ancient cistern pictured above, which is located beneath the former house of Caiaphas in Jerusalem. Today, a church called St. Peter Gallicantu surrounds the cistern and the house, to preserve the sites where Christ began his Passion.

Two pilgrims who journeyed with us to the Holy Land last year, Gene and Terri Espinoza, were so touched by their pilgrimage experience that they decided to enter bereavement ministry and prison ministry. Recently, Terri shared with us about how going on pilgrimage with Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH) impacted and transformed her and her husband.

At Calvary, where Christ was crucified, Terri had a moving experience; she recounted her realization, “I felt so grateful to have a merciful Jesus, who through his suffering gives us everlasting Life. […] That became very real….life is going to go on because of his death.” The faith of Terri and Gene came alive on pilgrimage, in a way it never had before.

Now, the Espinozas share their hope and sense of being loved by God with the prison inmates to whom they minister. When they pray together, Gene and Terri share with inmates from their personal experiences of being where Jesus, too, was a prisoner and suffered out of love for them. Each inmate has a chance to hold an olive wood crucifix from the Holy Land that contains a stone from Calvary (a gift especially for this purpose, from PCH Directors Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox).

Terri became emotional as she told us how inmates bathe this crucifix in their tears, while she and Gene remind them that, “Jesus is waiting…if we just open our lives to him and make him part of our everyday lives.”

Join us on a life-changing journey of faith! Learn more about our Ministry of Pilgrimages here.

Women’s Conference impacts 1400 women, communities

Women from as close as San Antonio and as far as Nigeria came to Pedrotti’s North Wind Ranch Event Center in Helotes on July 27 and 28 for the 17th annual Catholic Women’s Conference. They came to be taught, inspired, and challenged in what the Catholic faith professes on the dignity and vocation of woman.

On the first evening of this 2-day conference produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry located in San Antonio, the following was read from the Address of Pope Paul VI to Women on the occasion of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, December 8, 1965:

And now it is to you that we address ourselves, women of all states—girls, wives, mothers and widows, to you also, consecrated virgins and women living alone—you constitute half of the immense human family. As you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.

“This message was written to all women, and is what the Catholic Church has always professed, but is rarely heard – even by Catholic women,” says conference founder and ministry co-director, Mary Jane Fox.

Fox explains that it is a goal of Pilgrim Center of Hope to ensure this message is heard because she says, “Women have it tough! Too high expectations are placed on women to be the smartest, most beautiful, and most ambitious in all things. Jesus Christ gives women another way, and it was as radical when He first delivered it as it is now: Be Women of Faith! In the Gospel, we hear Jesus praising women because of their faith. This is what matters to God, and our conference exists to deliver this message of hope for all women.”

To expound on this message of hope, speaker Colleen Mitchell spoke on ‘When We Were Eve,’ based on her book of the same title. She said, “As God created, He called everything ‘good’ – until it came to Adam being alone. Adam could not find another creature like him; that God said, ‘is not good.’ So, as His crowning glory, He created Eve to show Adam what it means to be human, causing Adam to proclaim, ‘At last bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!’ God called this Very Good!”

Was the message of hope heard by the women who attended?

According to one attendee, Amy Maloney, the answer is yes, “I think our world likes to pit women and men against one another. That is not how God created women and men to be. This conference has helped me to see that it is not an accident or a coincidence that I am a woman. I want to know more about how God sees me, why He created me to be a woman. That knowledge excites me; it gives me hope.”

Archbishop’s Visit on 25th Anniversary

We begin the month of July, having reached a major milestone in the history of Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH); the celebration of our 25th anniversary! June 18 was a historical day for PCH, marked by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S celebrating Mass, blessing the land for the future site of Stella Maris Center for evangelization, and graciously remaining with us to visit and enjoy anniversary cake with all those present.

As part of his homily, Archbishop Gustavo shared his thoughts about Pilgrim Center of Hope: It’s a blessing to see how God is calling people to a closer relationship with Him. To be living stones in the Church and to proclaim the Good News of the Lord. So, we pray that the goal of the new Stella Maris Center is fulfilled as this new step is taken to be faithful to your mission.

Praise be to God, not only for having Archbishop Gustavo present, but also for those PCH Missionaries of Hope who filled our Gethsemane Chapel with their spirit of hope and for sharing their joy throughout our day of celebration. We are grateful for everyone who has made possible these 25 years of fulfilling the urgent mission of hope.

Why the Blessing Now?

From the very beginning, we have striven to obey God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, making sure to always have the blessing of our Archbishop (of the Archdiocese of San Antonio) before we move forward with any major efforts. We began PCH in 1993 with the blessing of Archbishop Patricio F. Flores, received the blessing of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, and now the renewed blessing of Archbishop Gustavo as we move forward with our Stella Maris Campaign (the realization of our additional evangelization center).

This is an exercise of 2 of our Core Values; Humility & Trust and Docility & Discernment.

Throughout this journey, which began at the Sea of Galilee and was confirmed at the Garden of Gethsemane, the mission of ‘Guiding People to Christ’ has borne much fruit, because we have followed the teaching of St. Benedict to balance prayer and work (ora et labora). Prayer and work go hand-in-hand, and we should approach both with constant effort; the journey to heaven is a long pilgrimage.

Minute of Hope!

Each month, listen to local Catholic radio for a Minute of Hope from Pilgrim Center of Hope!

Minute of Hope – June 2018