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A Time of Watching and Preparing: “Be watchful! Be alert!”

In Isaiah 63:17, the Lord asks, “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so we fear you not?” He is writing on behalf of a people that God has chosen to have a special relationship with, and these people have seen the wonders of this God who is their Father. In spite of this favored relationship, the people have been unfaithful. Isaiah goes on to say, “…all of us have become like unclean people, all our deeds are like polluted rags; we are all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.” If our hope is not in the God who created us, our quest for happiness is only a delusion.

Free Will

All around us, we see the consequences of free will, and yet free will is one of God’s greatest gifts. It is given to us out of love so that we might respond in love. It is possible for any thinking person to discover the reality of the existence of God and to be guided by his discovery. God can be found in His creation for those who have a searching heart.

A few years ago, I read that when Bertrand Russell, a famous atheist, was dying a friend asked him, “When you die, if you see God what will you say to Him?” He replied:

“If I see God I will say, ‘Sir, why didn’t you give us more evidence of your existence.”

Of course, the evidence of His existence is perfect, but it requires us to use our free will, to choose to seek Him. We can find Him in His creation, in His Word, in His miracles, in His Church, in His people, in our life experiences, and in the countless witnesses whose lives have been transformed by his grace. There is an abundance of evidence of the existence of God for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. We have only to call upon His name!

“Be watchful! Be alert!”

We hear an urgent message in the Gospel of Mark, “Be watchful! Be alert!” This is the beginning of Advent; a time of watching and preparing. In great anticipation, we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was born of the Virgin Mary 2000 years ago. Yes, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die, but may have eternal life.” Jn 3:16

We who believe in Him are also watching and praying for his second coming. The Gospel tells us to be alert because we do not know when the Lord is coming in his glory. So, Advent is about the Messiah coming into the world 2000 years ago and about his second coming which we pray for. However, it is also about Jesus, the Messiah, coming into our lives right now, which is the best preparation for his second coming. Our vigilance is not only about being ready when the Lord comes but about living in a relationship with him right now so that we may reach our potential for happiness and be filled with hope.

To be alert requires that we have a plan. An example is our vigilance in anticipation of Jesus coming to us in the Holy Eucharist. We fast for one hour before Mass from everything except water and medicine to help us break free from our normal routine and so that we can focus and prepare to receive Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion.

In addition to this little fast, we should pray, read the Scriptures, and examine our conscience to be aware of any serious sin we have not confessed.

Do you recognize Jesus throughout the day?

Jesus comes to us in his Word as it is proclaimed. He also comes to us in this assembly and in one another; in the person next to you. He comes to us throughout the day in many disguises. We don’t always recognize him. Therefore, be alert! He may come when we least expect. He may be present in the things that disturb or perplex us. He is present right now in the pandemic that has the whole world in turmoil. Has this event caused us to be alert, to draw closer to Christ? Have we increased our time in prayer, asking God’s protection for ourselves, the people we love, and for the world in general? It seems this is similar to an Old Testament event to test the faithfulness of the people. How are we doing? Are we closer to God now than we were at the beginning of the year? Do we see God as the solution to this dilemma?

This is a great time to read about those who knew God was the solution to everything. We see in the lives of the saints how their trust in God caused them to be filled with hope in every circumstance. Perhaps chose one of the saints to journey with you through Advent and read their story and include them in your daily prayer.

Our Father will provide

We also have the sacraments as a source of grace to help us overcome sin and grow in virtue. In the Church, we have everything we need to live a life close to God, which is our purpose for being on this earth. We are watchful and alert by living a life close to God every day; and God who is our Father will provide all that we need and fill us with Hope, Peace, and Happiness.

If our hope is not in the God who created us, our quest for happiness is only delusional and empty.


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.

Living Advent as a Family

Advent is a season of waiting, a season filled with hope. Here are a few tips that will help you and your family:

Use an Advent calendar and/or a wreath to mark this time of preparation. Display the Wreath and/or calendar on your dining table or a prominent place as a reminder to pray with the family.

Spend time in prayer: make an appointment with God – a commitment to spend time with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration or a commitment to pray the Rosary with Mary. John Paul II said “Praying the Rosary is contemplating the face of Jesus with Mary.”

Light a candle before an image of the Blessed Virgin, during meals or while praying the Rosary.

Take up a book during Advent – find a book on spirituality, on Mary, or other topic that can be read before Christmas.

Place a Nativity set in a prominent place in your home, but only put out the empty manger, some of the animals. Place some statues from your Nativity nearby, such as the Shepherd, Mary and Joseph, sheep and other animals. Each week, you can move the statues a little closer.

Participate in your parish’s Advent/Christmas Giving projects such as “adopt a family”, “give gifts to the needy” or make home visits to the elderly and homebound in your parish.

Suggest children, grandchildren or nieces/nephews to write a letter to Jesus instead of Santa.

Give children a piece of straw to place in the manger for each good deed they do during Advent as a gift to the baby Jesus.

A Path to Interior Freedom

What do you think of when you hear the word commandment? Does that bring forth a negative thought? Is it an imposition on your freedom? I’ll bet many of you have had the experience of telling a young child “no”. You probably didn’t get the response you wanted without a little extra persuasion. Of course, your “no” was a gesture of love, wanting to protect the child from some danger.

God’s commandments are like that for us. God created us out of love and wants to protect us from things that threaten our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. We are inclined to desire things that we believe will provide us with pleasure or selfish comforts that can be harmful to ourselves and others. In addition to this, we have an enemy called Satan who tries to convince us that what we know to be wrong is actually okay. In the beginning, he is not so successful because our conscience is still able to help us avoid doing that which we know is wrong. However, the enemy doesn’t give up. He knows our weaknesses and will tempt us in little things where we think the comprise of our conscience is not so serious. He has set the trap. This compromise will lead to more serious sin. Left unchecked, this pattern can cause us to feel distant from God and lead to a feeling of hopelessness.

He Created Us Out of Love

Of course, God is the solution to this dilemma. He created us out of love, and it is his love that sustains us. He knows our weaknesses and the enemy who wants to destroy us. God commands us to love him because it is only in our love for him and his love for us that we are able to experience true and lasting happiness. God is the source of all love and everything that is good; and the only way we can reach our potential for loving others and ourselves is by loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all mind.

Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me, and, whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14:21. It’s not complicated. If we want to know and experience the love and mercy of God, and the happiness, peace, and hope that are part of a relationship with Him; we must keep the commandments.

A Perfect Love

Because God loves us with a perfect love, he has made it possible for us to remain in his love through the Church and her sacraments and by remaining connected to him in our daily prayer. The more we pray and frequent the sacraments, the more aware we are of the nearness of God and his plan for our happiness. This does not mean we will not experience challenges and trials. It does mean that when trials come our way, we will turn to God for strength and direction because of the relationship with him.

One proof of God’s love for us is the Holy Eucharist. Jesus loves us so much that he gives himself to us under the appearance of bread. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive God. This is no casual experience. We should be properly prepared and disposed to receive our Lord. The sacrament of reconciliation is a personal encounter with Jesus who extends his forgiveness and mercy to us through his priest. This sacrament helps us to break free from habitual sin and make progress in our spiritual life.

Live a Life Close to God

As with all the saints through the ages, we have available to us everything we need to live a life close to God that will guarantee our happiness now and forever. We also must expect that we will experience the cross during our journey on earth. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34. It is especially when we undergo trials that we realize we need the help that only God can give us. It doesn’t mean that, just because we pray, things will always be fixed as we hope. It does mean that, when we preserve in prayer, we will come to trust that God is giving us what we need for the benefit of our soul and the souls of the people we are praying for.

When we have total trust in God we will be freed. It’s a process that depends upon our prayer and God’s grace.


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.

‘Fear the Lord’: Does God Want Me to Fear Him?

“Blessed are those who fear the Lord.” We repeat those words in the Psalms.

Even nonreligious people have heard the phrases “Fear God” or “Fear of the Lord,” which have found their way into popular culture, especially here in the southern region of the United States. But are we really supposed to fear God? What does ‘Fear of God’ mean, and how is it helpful for a faithful person’s everyday life?

Where It Comes From

If we look at the first book in the Bible, Genesis, we see the first mention of this phrase in the story of Sarah and Abraham (20:11). If you look in the footnotes of your Bible, you may see this explanation:

The original Hebrew used for “fear of God” is yir’at YHWH, literally, “revering Yahweh.” The phrase refers neither to the emotion of fear nor to religious reverence of a general kind. Rather it refers to adherence to a single deity (in a polytheistic culture), honoring that deity with prayers, rituals, and obedience. – cf. New American Bible Revised Edition

I first discovered this distinction as a teacher for high school religious education. The discovery reminded me how important it is for us to put things into their proper context when we read the Bible. The translation of Scriptures from their original languages is a very difficult process that involves not only definitions, but also cultural inferences.

So, when we see the command, “fear your God” throughout the Scriptures, we can be assured of its meaning; as Jesus later told a scholar:

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. (cf. Matthew 22:36-40)

The Other Kind of Fear

But perhaps you do have some fear related to God or religion. Today, we commonly use the word “fear” to refer to an emotion that causes dread, horror, and even trauma. What does our faith tradition teach us about this type of fear?

Back again in the Book of Genesis, we see that Adam and Eve, after committing the original sin, hide themselves from God. When God asks Adam why he hid, Adam responds, “Because I was afraid” (cf. Genesis 3:10). This type of fear stands in contrast to Adam and Eve’s previous, harmonious relationship with God and one another (cf. Genesis 2:8-25).

When angels appear in the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible, one of their first messages each time is, “Do not be afraid!”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus often exhorts people not to give in to this kind of fear. There are too many instances to cite(!), but one of my favorites is:

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)

An Expert Opinion

One of the greatest spiritual directors in history was Saint Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church. Even as a bishop, he wrote thousands of letters in correspondence with common people about everyday spirituality.

Regarding fear of God vs. fearing God, he said the following:

We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear.
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We are not drawn to God by iron chains, but by sweet attractions and holy inspirations.

If, upon examining yourself and what motivates your faith involvement or choices, you find worry, uneasiness, woe, nervousness, and other unhealthy motivations, then please know that God wants you to be free from that kind of fear!

If—for any reason whatsoever—you find yourself suffering from worry, uneasiness, etc., be assured that God wants your happiness and freedom! Holy fearlessness is what our Christian life is meant to look like. The same Jesus who assured us that we would experience trials in daily life, also said, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Saint Paul wrote that God’s hope has always been “that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (cf. Romans 8:19-21).


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.

Is There a Witness to the Resurrection?

After our Lord rose from the dead, there were certainly witnesses to his resurrection. There was St. Mary Magdalene, the first witness, (Mark 16:9), then two of his disciples on the way to Damascus, (Mark 16:12), his apostles (Mark 16:14), and later to up to 500 (1 Corinthians 15:6) at once.

But not one was with him when he resurrected. Why is that?

The obvious reason is that it happened inside his tomb where only he lay. Yet it remains a wonder; considering how, in all the other ways God revealed Himself through His Son, He ensured there were witnesses:

  • At his conception (Luke 1:31)
  • At his birth (Luke 2:16)
  • At his baptism (Luke 3:21-22)
  • At his transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2)
  • At the institution of the Eucharist (Luke 22:19-20)
  • At his Passion and death (Luke 23)

One would think that at the very moment our Lord makes good on his promise of his resurrection (John 2:19), he would make sure someone was there to see it!

Why wasn’t there?

Only God can answer that, but it is worth contemplating, since it was Jesus himself who asked,

I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:35-26).

Do you believe this?

Imagine you are there with Jesus in his Tomb. You are kneeling next to his body. He lays motionless, shrouded from head to foot in white linen. You hear a rumbling, and look to see a large stone being moved over the entrance—sealing you alone with Jesus.

The darkness is soon replaced by a small glow—because the tradition of the Church accords a lamp is to be kept alight to indicate and honor the presence of the body of Christ. Where is this light coming from?

You feel warm and realize the light is coming from you. It is your baptismal light; the fire of the Holy Spirit witnessing to the presence of Christ.

The Holy Spirit enlightens your soul with what will one day be proclaimed by the Church. We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 635) the following, taken from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began . . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam and his bonds and Eve, captive with him-He who is both their God and the son of Eve . . . “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son . . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell, Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”

Jesus rises, resurrecting before you. His burial cloths replaced by radiant light pouring from the wounds in his hands, his feet, and his side; all his other wounds are healed. He lovingly looks at you and asks, “What is dead in you that needs new life?”

You show the Lord your wounds. You tell him what hurts. As you do, your ugly, painful wounds transform, becoming rivers of light. You are new life in Jesus!

******

Let your imagination bring you into the present… Wonder at the likeness between the white linen-shrouded body of Jesus sealed in the Tomb and the white bread-shrouded Eucharistic Jesus kept in your parish’s tabernacle. Have you ever seen the edifice that has been built over the Tomb of Christ in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem? It resembles a larger brass tabernacle, complete with lighted lamps!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1374) states,

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained.”

Do you believe?

Scripture tells us that after his Resurrection, Jesus easily walked through locked doors in his glorified Body (John 20:19 & 26). This means he can easily walk through the locked door of the tabernacle in your local church right into your barricaded, stony, hurting heart! Every time you come into the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, he is there lovingly looking at you and asking, “What is dead in you that needs new life?”

Perhaps God did not will a witness to his Son’s resurrection in the tomb because He has reserved it as an intimate encounter between Jesus Christ and every soul.

Jesus awaits you in the Eucharist. He wants to heal you, transform you and bring you to fullness of life!

Believe!


Even in this time of COVID-19 protocols many Catholic Churches make Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament available for her faithful. Contact your local parish for days/times.  At Pilgrim Center of Hope, you are welcome to visit our Gethsemane Chapel and spend time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The chapel is open as the Center is open, usually Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:30pm. Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org or contact us at 210-521-3377.

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.

What Sustains You In Hope? “One Alone Is True”

As we are confronted by life-changing issues, where are we looking for the hope for which we long?

If someone asked you, Where is your hope?, how would you respond? We may need to pause and think about it. Have you found hope? Sometimes people settle for compromise instead of discovering true hope, which may require difficult change. The reality is that there is no true hope outside of God’s plan; which is possible for everyone if we believe in him and trust in his promises.

I recently read a meditation written by John Henry Newman; he was a cardinal and a preacher of great eloquence. In his meditation, he writes: Life passes, riches fly away, popularity is fickle, the senses decay, the world changes, friends die. One alone is constant. One alone is true to us… One alone can give us tune and harmony.

The writer is describing God as the One who is constant. God has always been; He is the creator of the Universe, is here present, and yes; he is in the future. For God, time is eternal. For us, time is measured. As Newman wrote, life passes, riches fly away, …friends die. What helps us through time?

I exclaim – It is faith and hope! Faith in the One true, Triune God and His promises… and hope in the One who is constant. Hope is what sustains us and moves us forward each day.

In Hebrews 11:1, we read: Now faith  is the  assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is more than just “knowing” God intellectually; faith is believing in the One who is Creator and Redeemer through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is saying yes to the One who has given us His plan of salvation. When we say yes to the Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Scriptures, the Church which is his instrument of salvation for us; we can live in true hope!

Take a moment to ponder the question; Am I placing my hope in the One Triune God? especially in the most distressful times, and in the times when everything else seems so cloudy.

He is there for us!

God, I need hope! Please see me now at this moment, I need you. Direct me to know you so that I may experience your love for me. Help me to say “yes” to you. Thank you. Amen. 


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.

Re-Focusing Our Lives

If you had a message of great importance that you wanted the whole world to know about, who would you choose to deliver it? In Scripture, it is clear that God’s ways are not our ways.

How God Confounds Our Logic

God can choose whoever he wants to accomplish the things he wishes to accomplish, as we see when Moses complains to God that the mission of guiding his Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So, God shares the spirit that he has given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God. The Spirit of God is more important than the instrument he chooses.

A more current example is Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. This thirteen year old girl, who lived in poverty with her family, was of poor health, and had difficulty with her studies in school. Yet, she was entrusted with a message from Heaven. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago, a bishop was celebrating Mass near the Grotto, and during his homily he said, “If you wanted to give a message to the whole world who would you choose; someone of great importance from a large city? Our Lord chose Bernadette, a simple girl from a tiny village.” Through the ages, God has chosen people of little significance to be his instruments. His ways our not our ways. There are some who still reject the Blessed Mother as a messenger of God, in spite of the miracles connected to her apparitions – thinking that the works of God are confined to their own understanding. Sometimes, we also can be like that.

In the Gospel; John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving out demons in Jesus’ name, because the exorcist was not an apparent follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises him, and tells him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” What is important is why and how things are done. If they are done out of love of God and neighbor, we should be cautious about rendering judgment. It is not always obvious why people do certain things.

How to Re-Focus

Our focus must be on why we do what we do. God has revealed his plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church…

  • We know that through baptism, we become children of God and receive the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • We know that we can encounter Christ in a deep and personal way in the sacraments of the Church, which are the source of the grace that we need to live a life close to God in prayer and to discover his plan for us.
  • We know that God wants us to be holy, and has made it possible for us to be holy if we are faithful to what he has revealed to us, and this faithfulness will help us reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity.
  • We can be certain that this plan is true, because it has been discovered and lived by saints through the ages, who have been heroic witnesses of the love of God.
  • There are consequences for us when we do not live this plan. Jesus said that if we live for our self, we will lose our life; and not only our life, because we will give scandal to others. We must remove everything that is an obstacle to salvation.

There is no one on this earth more blessed than Catholics because we know that God has given us every possible means to live a life close to him! We have his Divine Word, the Scriptures; we have his Church to guide us and strengthen us with the Sacraments. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to intercede for us. We especially have the Holy Eucharist in which Jesus gives us himself – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity; because he loves us that much. Why would the whole world not want to be Catholic and have what we have?

About 30 years ago, someone asked me why I was Catholic. I was glad to be Catholic, and knew I would never want to be anything but a Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and to confession occasionally, but I realized at that time that I never really gave much thought to the importance of my faith. Actually, I hadn’t learned anything about my faith since graduating from a Catholic high school. At that moment, I knew that I wasn’t really sure of what I believed. As I pondered that for a few days, I realized that I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a “one-hour-a-week Catholic,” and my decisions were not influenced by my faith at all.

Thank God for the wake-up call. It was not long after that, that I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group with my wife, Mary Jane. We began to pray together and study our faith, and a new joy came into our lives. I guess you could say that was the beginning of the rest of our life together, and opened up new possibilities. Now, our important decisions are influenced by our relationship with God, and we have great hope.

I challenge you now to pray the Creed, and while doing so, reflect on the words we say. Ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with gratitude for being recipients of Almighty God’s great plan of salvation and the intimacy he offers us in his Church. Let us pray, then, for the grace to be witnesses of what we believe.

If you would like more help and simple tools for re-focusing your life in Christ, we invite you to subscribe to Pilgrim Center of Hope’s monthly newsletter; visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.


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.

Have Hope: God Is Present!

In his Gospel account, Luke explains to us the reason why he has undertaken the task of writing his own account of the Good News of Jesus Christ: so that we all may realize the certainty of the teachings we have received (Luke 1:1-4). Luke’s Gospel gives us insight into how we may understand Jesus’ presence in our own lives.

Awareness of Jesus’ Presence

Luke speaks to us about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and return to Nazareth, where he grew up (4:14-21). In the synagogue where everyone knows him, Jesus reads to them from the Prophet Isaiah. After he reads, he sits down, and everyone is looking at him.  He then says: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus tells them that his mission is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus is the one for whom the chosen people have been waiting; he is the Good News.

The best thing that can happen for the people… has just happened! The kingdom of God is made present to them, because Jesus the Word of God is in their midst.

Luke continues: “…all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” They also asked, Isn’t this the son of Joseph? They wonder how this man who has been their neighbor since childhood, can claim to be the Messiah without the proof of miracles?!

As we know from other Gospel accounts, even when Jesus does perform miracles and speaks with unheard authority, few put faith in him. He is the Good News for all time, and yet is often met by rejection.

Why Rejection?

Evidence of Jesus Christ is mentioned in historical writings outside of the Scriptural accounts of his life, death, and resurrection. Yet, two thousand years after his death, the number of people who reject him is growing faster than the population.

We live in the age of relativism, where individuals want to decide what is important for them personally, without regard to any authority or how one’s own beliefs affect others. Primary contributors to this situation are consumerism and materialism, because they can underscore a capacity to isolate ourselves from others and live for our self. This situation leads to loneliness (and sadness), because it is contrary to our human needs and purpose.

God’s Presence In Our Despair

However, no matter how far we drift from God, there is always the possibility of discovering his presence if we choose to have the humility to turn to God in our time of need. He can manifest his presence even when all seems lost.

In 1941 during WWII, Maximillian Kolbe was arrested by the Nazis for hiding Jews from them. He was treated with hatred in the prison camp. One day, after a prisoner attempted an escape, 10 men were selected to die of starvation as an example to the others. One of the men begged for his life on behalf of his wife and small children. Maximillian Kolbe offered his life in the man’s place. The 10 men were forced into a small box-like building, where there was only room enough to stand. Instead of the usual cursing that was heard when men were waiting to die, hymns and prayers were heard coming from the box. This caused an unusual peace to settle over the death camp, and gave hope to the other prisoners. In that terrible place, the kingdom of God was at hand for those who believed.

Often, when we are going through a trial or great difficulty, our temptation is to focus on our dilemma, and in our imagination, it becomes bigger than reality and overwhelms us. If, on the other hand, we would turn to Jesus and ask him for his help, we can be assured that he will give us the grace we need in that moment.

  • It may be the grace to see things as they truly are.
  • It may be the grace of humility to ask the right people for help.
  • It may be the grace to surrender your life to God and to put your total trust in him.

Read what he says to us in the Scriptures and be confident in his providential love and mercy. Here is one of God’s promises:

Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

We are never alone; we always have our guardian angel with us. Whenever we turn to our Lord in prayer from our heart, we can be sure that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Concern for People In Our Lives

We all have people we are concerned about, and we should never give up praying for them. Sometimes, it is the prayers of a loved one that finally helps God’s grace to break into our lives—as in the case of Saint Augustine. Amid his life of wild partying, promiscuity, and other poor decisions, his mother’s constant prayers were answered by his powerful conversion. Then, he realized that God’s presence and love was always there.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness…
(Excerpt from Augustine’s autobiographical Confessions)


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.

Listening… In A Noisy World!

Have you ever said to yourself, If only I can get away for some quiet time! or, Is anyone listening?

I certainly have! These questions usually arise in our thoughts when we want some peace, some quiet time after experiencing a full schedule, or a trial, or simply being busy!

Once when I was in the Holy Land on pilgrimage, among the many wonderful and amazing experiences, one was spending time in the Garden of Gethsemane—where Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples when he visited Jerusalem, and where he prayed his hour of agony the night he was arrested; resulting in his Passion.

Today, a large basilica is built next to ancient olive trees that date to the time of Jesus. They are often called the Silent witnesses of Christ’s Agony. Upon entering the Basilica of the Agony, one sees a large area of rock in front of the main altar. This is where Christ prayed his hour of agony, where he sweat blood, and prayed for the will of his Heavenly Father. Imagine sitting in this church commemorating this whole experience—with its mosaics depicting the scenes of the Bible related to his agony and arrest. The light streaming through the alabaster glass windows sheds a somber light in the church, inviting the visitor to ponder what happened here 2,000 years ago.


As I sat, I realized how much I longed for some quiet time with God. To speak with him, and at the same time was hoping for an inspiration from him. The noises of traffic, guides shouting, tourists and pilgrims moving about, and cameras clicking, seemed so distracting at such a holy site.

Yes, it was challenging to attempt to remain silent… You know what helped me?

What helped me were the sacred art, along with my act of touching the very stone where Jesus sweat blood! The large stone area is surrounded by a short, iron crown of thorns. I knelt and bent over the iron crown to kiss the stone, placing both of my hands on the cool, rough rock. I thought, This is where YOU, Lord, prayed for the Father’s will! This is where YOU sweat blood! Help me to listen! While I heard many people around me, the chattering of visitors, traffic noise… that moment seemed to be an eternal moment for me. There seemed to be inner peace. Later, I took some time to sit and simply see the sacred art; the mosaics of Jesus praying, being arrested, even the altar’s shape is that of a chalice.

Leaving this holy place, I thought of sharing this, hoping that others can also be encouraged to seek some quiet time with the Lord. It is possible!

How?

  • Sacred images or art can help us ponder the mysteries of our faith. For example: A stained glass window of a biblical scene can easily help us begin meditating on that Bible passage.
  • Holding or touching a crucifix or a statute can also be helpful. Think about the story in the Gospel of Luke 8 of the woman with the hemorrhage who simply touched the cloak of Jesus and was healed! Jesus tells her it was her faith that healed her!
  • Begin with a desire for some quiet time with the Lord. Ask for a deepened faith. And be consistent. Go to him… in faith and in silence!

Pilgrim Center of Hope is here to help guide you to encounter Christ, so as to live in hope as a pilgrim in daily life. For some quiet moments, we invite you to come visit our 7 acres in the middle of northwest San Antonio. Or, visit our website for more spiritual tools.

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.

How God Is Your Friend

No matter how much you live the experience of these years of your youth, you will never know their deepest and fullest meaning unless you encounter each day your best friend, the friend who is Jesus.

For the past several weeks, we have been discovering through Christus Vivit, Pope Francis’ exhortation to young people and people of all ages, that Jesus is alive! It may be news to you that God is your friend. The remainder of this blog focuses on this great news.

153. Friendship is so important that Jesus calls himself a friend: “I do not call you servants any longer, but I call you friends” (Jn 15:15). By the gift of his grace, we are elevated in such a way that we truly become his friends. With the same love that Christ pours out on us, we can love him in turn and share his love with others, in the hope that they too will take their place in the community of friendship he established. And even as he enjoys the complete bliss of the life of the resurrection, we, for our part, can work generously to help him build his kingdom in this world, by bringing his message, his light, and above all his love, to others (cf. Jn 15:16). The disciples heard Jesus calling them to be his friends. It was an invitation that did not pressure them, but gently appealed to their freedom. “Come and see”, Jesus told them; so “they came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day” (Jn 1:39). After that unexpected and moving encounter, they left everything and followed him.
154. Friendship with Jesus cannot be broken. He never leaves us, even though at times it appears that he keeps silent. When we need him, he makes himself known to us (cf. Jer 29:14); he remains at our side wherever we go (cf. Jos 1:9). He never breaks his covenant. He simply asks that we not abandon him: “Abide in me” (Jn 15:4). But even if we stray from him, “he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:13).
155. With a friend, we can speak and share our deepest secrets. With Jesus too, we can always have a conversation. Prayer is both a challenge and an adventure. And what an adventure it is! Gradually Jesus makes us appreciate his grandeur and draw nearer to him. Prayer enables us to share with him every aspect of our lives and to rest confidently in his embrace. At the same time, it gives us a share in his own life and love. When we pray, “we open everything we do” to him, and we give him room “so that he can act, enter and claim victory”.

As our staff discussed this, we saw the mission of Pilgrim Center of Hope in the words of St. Oscar Romero:

“Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed, rules to be followed, or prohibitions. Seen that way, it puts us off. Christianity is a person who loved me immensely, who demands and claims my love. Christianity is Christ”.

Pope Francis concludes this encouraging section on friendship with these inspiring words:

157. Jesus can bring all the young people of the Church together in a single dream, “a great dream, a dream with a place for everyone. The dream for which Jesus gave his life on the cross, for which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost and brought fire to the heart of every man and woman, to your heart and mine. To your heart too, he brought that fire, in the hope of finding room for it to grow and flourish. A dream whose name is Jesus, planted by the Father in the confidence that it would grow and live in every heart. A concrete dream who is a person, running through our veins, thrilling our hearts and making them dance”.

We hope you have enjoyed this dip into the waters of the ocean of Church teaching contained in papal encyclicals such as Christus Vivit. We encourage you to read the entire document as we are called as Catholics to keep learning our faith. The magnificence of our 2000 years of Catholicism is the libraries of teaching we can discover. The wonder of our day and time is that those libraries are available at the click of mouse! We encourage you to visit the Church’s website of the Holy See at www.Vatican.va. Papal documents can be found by clicking on the pope or the century. Amazing! Make it journey; pick a document and go. You can dive in wherever you want and stay as long as want.


Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference can be experienced both in-person OR live-streaming! Join us 10/31/2020 for a day of fellowship, inspiration, music, prayer and encouragement in our dignity and calling as women and daughters of God. Register at CWCSanAntonio.com and discover more about Pilgrim Center of Hope at PilgrimCenterofHope.org.