Posts

Jesus, Show Me The Way

I remember sitting in my 9th grade Theology class at Bishop McNamara High School in Maryland, hearing our teacher recite from Scripture: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” (John 14:6). Sounded easy enough. So, Jesus is the Way. Do what He did. We have good reminders, like those wristbands that say “W.W.J.D.” (What Would Jesus Do?). Back then, in 1967, it sounded easy enough for a Freshman.

What About When Life Happens?

Then life got complicated. With all its ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, joys, and sorrows. “If anyone is willing to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24). Clearly, He is leading the way. Also, I think what a lot of us do not often realize, me included, is that the crosses will come, no matter what you do. There is no guarantee that you can avoid the crosses that come your way. In fact, sometimes we make our own crosses. So, what to do when we are faced with those crosses? What about the crosses that we feel are much too heavy for us to carry?

That is when Jesus is standing right next to us, to help us deal with those heavy crosses. How does He do that? Much the same way a good friend does as they cheer a marathon runner along a tough course: they encourage and sustain us. But you cannot hear Him, you say? You are not sure He is beside you, encouraging you? So, what to do when I need direction from Jesus? My methods and suggestions are amazingly simple and available to anyone, but certainly not the only ways to allow Jesus to direct our paths.

Helpful Ways in Seeking Direction from Jesus

Let me start with the most obvious: daily Mass. If there is any way you can get to daily Mass, do so. I have often found myself pondering a problem or a difficulty, then going to daily Mass and hearing the readings, or the homily, and getting help just from these sources.

Another wonderful way is to quiet myself by going to see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Adoration Chapel at my parish. I always keep in mind that if I am looking to Jesus for direction, I should try and get to know Him. That is where going to adoration lets me get acquainted with the Eucharistic Jesus. It is quiet and peaceful and lets me tap into that one part of me that I most often neglect: the contemplative dimension of my life. In adoration, or out, I can take my Bible with me. Oftentimes, I start out with a favorite passage (e.g., Luke 15:11-32), and the Lord takes it from there. I also have a prayer journal I write in sometimes, which helps me to focus and direct my thoughts. Oftentimes, the answers come, and if not the answer, then I have the peace and strength that help me to endure whatever it is that is bothering me.

Confession is another resource where I can talk about those thorns that persistently misdirect me.

The peace I get from praying the Rosary is also a source of direction from Jesus. If you are not used to praying the Rosary, start with 10 Hail Marys, then you’ll see how quickly it becomes something you look forward to in your day. I pray it in the car most times, where it is quiet, and I don’t have the radio blaring. I do not know about you, but noise is all around us, drowning out God’s little whisper in the breeze, like the one Elijah heard (1 Kings 19:11-13). The Rosary leads me to quiet contemplation.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said that she would see Jesus “in the distressing disguise of the poor”. Jesus is all around us: in the poor, your family, creation, in those small daily events where you feel blessed. Look for Jesus in your day, in your duties, and the closer you look, the more you will see Him, know Him, and can follow Him.

Call To Action

Finally, talk to others about Jesus. The more you know about someone, the more you can describe that person to others. In the line at the grocery store, helping someone pick up something they dropped, just saying “Thank God”, or “Thank You, Jesus”, when good things happen. Bless yourself often with holy water. Tell others that Jesus loves them. Most people are hungry for Good News, and thirsty to hear about Jesus. You will find that the more you talk about Him to others, the more you will become like Him. And before you realize it, you are walking in His Way.


Victor Negrón is a husband, father, grandfather, practicing lawyer, former judge, past-President of the San Antonio Catholic Lawyers Guild, lay evangelist, Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope, and A Woman’s Haven. Judge Negrón became Board Certified in Family Law in 1987. As a lay evangelist, Victor has served as a leader for Eucharistic Adoration of San Antonio, Inc., and has been involved with Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelizing activities since its early years – formerly as emcee for the Catholic Men’s Conference, and currently, Victor is a member of our Speaker Team and as a member of the PCH Board of Directors.

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.

Fear & Anxiety

I think most will agree that 2020 gets the award for worst year in the 21st Century. One reason would be the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 virus closely following the most contentious Presidential election in memory. The virus and its aftermath of masks, social distancing, isolation, national shutdowns, deaths of close friends and relatives, mental health issues, hospital crowding, etc., compounded by the extreme vitriol, hatred, and divisiveness of the election has driven most sane Christians into a mental cage of sorts closely resembling solitary confinement in San Quentin Prison. We are emotionally sitting on the floor, probably in a fetal position, wringing our hands and enveloped in palpable fear.

Do Not Be Afraid

But wait! Why are we afraid? Why are we anxious? We’re people of faith, and fear is the antithesis of faith, right? And Our Lord told us to expect what we are now seeing, right? So why am I afraid and anxious?

Even people of great faith are not immune to the fear brought on by the upheaval and changes we are seeing. But fear is a hungry monster. It is fed by media hyperbole, the unknown, herd mentality, insecurities, and the list goes on. If fear was visible, it would be a morbidly obese monster. There’s so much food we can give it.

What do we do? Well, first of all, we need to understand that the only way to acquire the peace that only Jesus can give us (John 14:27), we need to get closer to Jesus and try to listen harder than we have been. The closer we get to Jesus, the more Heavenly peace we acquire. Jesus tells us:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Here is a suggestion on how to get on how to put the fear monster on a diet:

  • Consider disconnecting your cable. The provider will fight this and try and keep you. Fight the temptation: lose the cable. Get a digital antenna if you really need to have access to the news and weather when those storm warnings come around. Other than the cost of installation, there are no monthly charges once you install. When you’ve cut the cable, STOP.WATCHING.THE.NEWS! News producers pick the blood and gore and put the icing of hyperbole on the stories that will most alarm, frighten and appeal to our baser senses. A priest once gave me some great advice:

“Don’t watch the news. It will disturb the very peace Our Lord is trying so hard to give us, and will drown out His voice.”

Our Lord never told us that if we believed that we would never suffer. Quite the contrary: He told us to take up our crosses and follow Him every day (ref. Matt. 16:24). That includes the hefty crosses we make for ourselves. If you really think about it, newspapers and cable subscriptions are really crosses meant to create those very monsters we’re afraid of, and make them materialize in our lives, adding to our fears and anxieties.

Let’s not add to our crosses. Every day comes with its own set of crosses, and they’re plenty to deal with, without adding to them.

Find Strength and Peace in Jesus

Pray to the Holy Spirit, then pick up your Bible. It’s like a big telegram from Heaven. Our Lord is trying to talk to us. Read it in a quiet place. Maybe take it to your parish’s Adoration Chapel and read it before Our Eucharistic Jesus for 15 minutes, and then gradually increase the time. Before you know it, you won’t want to leave the refuge of the Sacred Heart, and you will thank yourself for getting rid of the noise and distractions that come with the media you got rid of.

Pray the Rosary. The gift of peace that Our Lady has given us in the Rosary is a treasure waiting to be opened by you.  “The Rosary is the best therapy for these distraught, unhappy, fearful, and frustrated souls, precisely because it involves the simultaneous use of three powers: the physical, the vocal, and the spiritual.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

But the bad things haven’t gone away. I know.  Let us remember, Jesus’ peace is not the same kind of peace the world gives: it is more durable and is rooted in your very soul. No matter what comes your way, no matter how bad it may be, Jesus’ peace will stay with you and help you cope with whatever comes.

And once you remove the callous of noise and distraction that encases you, Our Lord can come closer than ever before, and allow you to realize that He is walking right alongside you, whispering “Don’t be afraid. Be at peace. All is well. I am with you.” You are feeding your faith, instead of your fear, and the gift of faith is freedom from fear. Pope Francis says it well:

“Christian hope is rooted not in the attraction of the future but in the certainty of what God has promised and realized in Jesus Christ. If he has guaranteed never to abandon us; if the beginning of every vocation is a ‘Follow Me,’ with which he promised to always go ahead of us, why should we be afraid?”


Victor Negrón is a husband, father, grandfather, practicing lawyer, former judge, past-President of the San Antonio Catholic Lawyers Guild, lay evangelist, Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope and A Woman’s Haven. Judge Negrón became Board Certified in Family Law in 1987. As a lay evangelist, Victor has served as a leader for Eucharistic Adoration of San Antonio, Inc., and has been involved with Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelizing activities since its early years – formerly as emcee for the Catholic Men’s Conference, and currently as a member of the PCH Board of Directors.

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.

This blog appears slightly edited from its original publication.

Pruning My Own Branches

The Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Easter concerned the Vine and the Branches. We will only have Life if we are a part of the Vine. However, the Gospel also spoke about a vinedresser needing to prune those branches that do not bear fruit, that they may bear more fruit. See, John 15:1-2. Here’s the problem I have: can I correctly identify those branches IN ME that are either not bearing fruit or are not bearing enough fruit? How do I do that? At this point, we may be thinking, “I already feel like I have pretty good fruits.” But, then, I’m not the vinedresser, am I?

Practical Ways We Can Be Pruned

For starters, those of us who are lucky enough to have a spiritual advisor are already on the right path because if we are candid, that spiritual advisor can help us identify those aspects of what we do, how we think, who we are. But most of us do not have a spiritual advisor. What then?

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a wonderful way to air out those problems that prick our consciences and tell us that we’re going in the wrong direction. Before we go to Confession, though, we can self-examine by reading through an examination of conscience online or in a booklet to start us down the path with a very good flashlight. How about telling a fellow, devout Catholic friend how I feel about certain people or certain things, that can help us find those pesky dark corners of our lives that need cleaning out?

A man was once trying to make his Lent a successful one, so he asked his wife if she would write down those things about him that needed improvement. She replied by saying “There isn’t enough paper.” Some of us may feel that way at times, but we have to remember that Jesus is Mercy itself. He understands our humanity but also wants us to progress along the road to holiness. We are, after all, called to be saints, right?

Still, needing that flashlight? Read Scripture. Study your favorite parables. The parables are the flashlight Jesus uses to shine light upon those parts of our human nature that cause us to succeed or to fail. The parables are often as much about virtue as they are about the weaker sides of our nature.

These examples of virtue can be found in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Do we strive to practice, and therefore strengthen, those gifts? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us? Those gifts are charity (or love), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, gentleness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity. (Gal. 5:22)

Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Fruits of the Holy Spirit

So what’s the difference between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Well, the gifts are the virtues, or the seeds, which produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. “Fruits” are another word for “actions”. So, allowing the seeds of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to take root in us will give rise to the actions resulting from those gifts. Our actions will be born out of the seeds, the virtues, that we cultivated.

Other gifts/virtues/seeds of the Holy Spirit:

  • Witnessing Power (Acts 1:8)
  • Mutual Encouragement (Romans 1:11-12)
  • Ministry, Romans 12:7; Teaching, Romans (12:7)
  • Encouraging, Contributing, Leadership, Showing Mercy, and Spirit of Unity (Romans 15:5)
  • Wisdom and Knowledge (I Corinthians 12:8)
  • Healing (I Corinthians 12:9)
  • Prophesying, Miraculous Powers, Discernment, Tongues, Interpretation (I Corinthians 12:10)
  • Administration (I Corinthians 12:28)
  • Revelation (Ephesians 1:17)
One Last Recommendation

Finally, Adoration before the Eucharistic Jesus, with our spiritual or holy reading. When we take this sort of reading as we spend time with Jesus, the Holy Spirit is there to guide and encourage us along the Way. Choose books and themes from a reliable Catholic source, as we can be misled by the many authors who have decided that the Magisterium is theirs to change. There are so many books and videos that help us to meditate on how to get to where Our Lord wants us to go. Our reading can be a wonderful source for our self-examination, helping us to see ourselves as God sees us, and making those changes and adjustments that are needed.

These are just some ways to “prune” ourselves. Our work now will help us to continue pruning with the new tools we have acquired that are right for the job. Choose any one of these, and soon you will see yourself blossoming abundantly like an apple tree in Spring.


Victor Negrón is a husband, father, grandfather, practicing lawyer, former judge, past-President of the San Antonio Catholic Lawyers Guild, lay evangelist, Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope and A Woman’s Haven. Judge Negrón became Board Certified in Family Law in 1987. As a lay evangelist, Victor has served as a leader for Eucharistic Adoration of San Antonio, Inc., and has been involved with Pilgrim Center of Hope’s evangelizing activities since its early years – formerly as emcee for the Catholic Men’s Conference, and currently as a member of the PCH Board of Directors.

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.

Pilgrimage to The Seven Churches

Come on a journey with our Media Production Assistant, Jason Nunez, as we visit seven churches! The Seven Churches Visitation is a tradition that grew out of this time of prayer and adoration. At the conclusion of the Mass of the Last Supper (Holy Thursday), we remember when Jesus asked his disciples to stay and watch with Him while they were in the garden. This powerful journey we make with Jesus, in visiting 7 churches is a spiritual act of mindful watching is a sort of pilgrimage to various altars of repose, in different churches that correspond to each of the seven places, or stations, that were made by Jesus between the Last Supper in the Upper Room to His crucifixion on the cross. Plus, Jason shares a beautiful moment his family experienced while visiting the 7 churches back in 2015.


Listen to this program now:


 Jewel for the Journey: 

God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. -St. Maximillian Kolbe


A Closer Look at Altar of Repose Away from the Sanctuary:

 

Basilica of the Sacred Heart – Paris

Journey with Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox as they travel to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris, also known as Sacre-Coeur Basilica. Located atop the hill of Montmartre – the Mount of Martyrs, the Basilica is a popular place of pilgrimage. During this episode you will also learn about:

  • All aspects of the Romano-Byzantine-style Basilica
  • The history of the Basilica’s perpetual Adoration of the Holy Eucharist since 1885
  • St. Denis, the first Bishop & Martyr of Paris
  • Why today the Basilica remains a place of continuous spiritual life

Listen to this program now:


Jewel for the Journey
Do not let the past disturb you, just leave everything in the Sacred Heart and begin again with joy. – St. Teresa of Calcutta


A Closer Look at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart”


Where is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart?

 

Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org for more information.