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God Is With Us: God’s Presence in our Daily Life & Struggles

A Peek ‘Behind the Curtain’

Here at Pilgrim Center of Hope, our staff consults monthly themes as we create articles, reflections, speaking presentations, and events. We discern these themes at our annual planning workshop held every October; utilizing the Catholic liturgical calendar to focus on feast days, the liturgical seasons (Ordinary, Lent, Easter, Advent), and the Sunday Gospel messages to help us in creating our content.

Having a monthly theme mined from the rich treasures of the Catholic Church and through the flow of her seasons, provides an infinite source of spiritual jewels and assures us we are being guided by the ever-renewing breath of the Holy Spirit. Mother Church is as St. Augustine describes, “Oh Beauty, Ever Ancient, Ever New.”

Our April theme is: God is With Us; God’s Presence in our Daily Life & Struggles. I find it so consoling how a theme we chose last October is exactly what we all need to hear as we struggle through the pandemic. I am amazed at the tender care of the Holy Spirit to guide our planning efforts to focus April 2020 on how we can be assured of God’s Presence to us despite the loss of physically receiving and being with our Lord Jesus Christ who is truly with us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

Seeing God’s Presence

The Friday I heard Sunday Masses were being cancelled, I became very upset. I am a daily communicant and have formed a habit of placing myself in the Presence of God in Eucharistic Adoration for at least 30 minutes either before or after Mass. I use my time in God’s Presence to help me draw closer to Him, to more clearly hear Him speak to me, and to bear Him company in gratitude for His Goodness and in atonement for all the years I dismissed Him.

I cried to my spiritual director by text message, and I cried to our Blessed Mother Mary in prayer. Both gave me the same assurance, “God is in charge.”

I have been meditating on this ever since, and have witnessed so many signs of how God has in no way left me:

  • I receive him into my heart through the Church-honored, Spiritual Communion Prayer* while participating at daily online Masses.
  • I hear him speak through his Word when I mediate on the daily Mass readings.
  • I adore Jesus by enfolding into my daily Rosary my desire to be present to him since I know Jesus and Mary are joined at the heart and cannot be separated. If I am with her, then I am with him!

This time in isolation and social distancing has also given more time for contemplation; to wonder about higher, spiritual things since the distractions from driving, running errands, meetings, etc., have paused.

For instance, since we just celebrated Palm Sunday, I am contemplating the throngs of thousands who followed Jesus. I think about how the many people whom Jesus forgave, freed, healed and brought back to life in the three years of his ministry will now fall away as he enters his Passion to die alone for us on Good Friday.

Having Hope

I imagine Mary and Jesus meeting at the Fourth Station of the Cross:

  • Did she wonder where all his followers were?
  • Did she wonder why the Father was allowing this?

I, too, wonder. I imagine Mary, who had to learn from Jesus how to accept all in obedience and faith, hoping against hope, receive in her Son’s eyes the same assurance she gave me, “God is in charge.”

I pray for a miracle that I will be at my church worshiping and physically receiving our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist with my pastor and fellow parishioners at the Holy Mass of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. I know, however, that when Jesus rose that first Easter morning, it was only St. Mary Magdalene there to greet him (cf. John 20:1).

And yet, I have hope!

For Scripture tells us that for the next 40 days after Easter… Jesus appeared to many (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:5-7), and three thousand were baptized and came into the Church on Pentecost Sunday (cf. Acts 2:1-41). Our Pentecost Sunday falls on May 31, 2020.

We do not know what the future holds, but praise God we do know this: our Lord always finds ways to make Himself Present to us… and God is in charge!

*Spiritual Communion Prayer
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.


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.

ABCs of Catholic Living – Simple outline for a faithful home

One of the most common questions we encounter in evangelization work is: “How can I bring up my children Catholic?” or “How can we strengthen our family’s faith?”

HolyFamily

“The Holy Family with the Infant St. John” by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

ADORATION – Adore God, individually and together.
We often ask God for favors, and forget to adore. “To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2096) Take time to lift your mind and heart to God, without asking anything. When you take this time, your children will notice! I remember often walking in on my mom during her prayer. Consider taking a trip to a local parish for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Whatever you do, develop your relationship with God as an individual and as a family.

BIBLE – Incorporate the Bible into your home life.
Many adults have told me that they remember a large Bible in their grandparents’ home that was displayed in a place of honor…but never seemed to be read! Do keep your family Bible in a central location, but make sure to read from it. This is easier when you develop a habit and have time set aside to do so. Perhaps establish a time to read Scripture together, before or after preparing dinner.

COLORS – Use liturgical colors to decorate.
This is a fun and easy way to remain united with the Church around the world. Is today a martyr’s day? Wear red! I like to use green place mats on our dining room table during Ordinary Time. These are simple things, but they are visible ways to bridge our time in church with our time at home. See the calendar with liturgical colors at the U.S. Bishops’ website.

DINE TOGETHER – Make meal time family time.
Sharing a meal together means sitting down at the table together, face-to-face. This helps naturally develop relationships among family members. Research has shown that your family will reap many benefits.

EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE – Encourage family members to regularly examine their conscience.
Take a few minutes, before bedtime. Give a simple prompt: “Let’s take a few moments to think about how we have treated ourselves, others, and God today.”

FEAST DAYS – Celebrate feast days.
For example, on one of the apostles’ feast days we might make a special meal. You could also consider using special place settings for meals, having a dessert, or playing a game together.

GRACE – Say ‘grace’ before meals.
Speaking of meals, always pray before your meal! We like to thank God for our food and all involved in preparing it (farmers, truck drivers, grocery store workers, etc.). We ask God to help us remain grateful for what we have been given, and to help us to share our resources with others. Praying before meals helps cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in each family member.

HOLY FATHER – Love and pray for the Pope.
Keeping a picture of the Pope in your home as a reminder of his spiritual leadership, as well as a reminder to pray for him. Keeping a photo of the Pope in your home can also help educate children about your family’s unity with all Catholics under the “shepherding” of the Holy Father.

IMAGES / ICONS – Have sacred images or icons in your home.
We enjoy having Eastern Christian icons in our home, especially ones that have particular meaning to us: The Last Supper, the Wedding at Cana, the Holy Family, etc. Each one invites us to contemplate the subject matter. Christian / Catholic artwork in your home will help remind family members that our faith is important to us, and that it is beautiful!

JUSTICE – Discern how your family should live Catholic social teachings.
How much does your family know about the Church’s social teachings? My husband and I try to challenge ourselves to attend or watch occasional presentations on topics like immigration, war, homelessness, etc. When we clean out our closets, we donate to St. Vincent de Paul instead of selling those items. We also contribute to charities that assist individuals in difficult situations. What can your family do? There are so many options, you can find a way that suits your family. Look into ministry or charity programs / activities in your area. Let prayer guide your decisions.

KNOWLEDGE – Grow in knowledge of Church teachings.
Our Faith has always encouraged individuals who seek to understand. Encourage one another to ask questions about Church teaching. Keep reference books in your home, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the YOUCat (youth catechism), subject-specific books, etc. Attend presentations together at your parish or diocese. Watch or listen to Catholic programming (like the great Port of Hope here). One of the greatest lessons you can teach your children is having the humility to say, “I don’t know the answer. Let’s find out together.”

LOVE – Foster a loving environment in your home.
Learn to communicate lovingly with one another.  If you need help, don’t be ashamed to seek out resources or counseling; communicating well with your family is your calling from God! Families reflect God (Love) to the world.

MASS – Attend Mass Together.
If it’s possible for your entire family to attend Mass together, do so. Mass is the most important ‘moment’ in our lives. Try to prepare by reading the Mass readings beforehand, so you can listen to them more prayerfully during Mass. Ask each other, “What struck you about the homily?” Stay a few minutes after Mass to thank God for this special time with him.

NATURE – Practice good stewardship of nature.
God has entrusted Creation to us. We need to practice good stewardship habits, like reducing our food / water waste, re-using materials, and recycling whatever we can.

OBEDIENCE – Practice healthy and holy obedience.
This is a doozie! Obedience is a ‘bad word’ in modern society, but in Scripture and our faith Tradition it’s a healthy virtue. Obedience is not to be mistaken for condoning abuse of power. Rather, it means that each family member has a specific role, and we maintain peace in our homes by honoring the natural structure of those roles. Family members with the most authority are responsible for loving as Christ loves.

PRAYER – Pray all ways. Pray always!
When and how can families pray together? Maybe we should ask: “When can we not pray together??” Use any opportunity to pray; all it takes is saying, “Can we take a moment to pray?” or, “Let’s offer this time (ex: stuck in traffic) as a prayer. Who can we pray for?” Learn the Guardian Angel prayer. Pray the three expressions of prayer: Vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplation.

QUIET – Build quiet times into your family life.
Not all noise is bad. In fact, some noises are very good! But generally speaking, our society tends toward “productivity” and if we’re always busy, we will miss God’s “still, small voice” whispering to us. Our Catholic faith has a long history of appreciating silence, so let’s keep it alive in our family life. I know of families with small children that designate a few hours on Sunday as “unplugged” time: no electronics! Family members are encouraged to read, pray, take a walk, etc.

RECONCILIATION – Schedule times to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – and reconcile with one another at home.
Confession can be scary, but it’s important that we make it a part of our lives. Adults can teach youth about the wonders of this sacrament by making it a priority and a regular habit. Go to the church as a family. Encourage (but do not force) children to participate in this sacrament. Demonstrate God’s mercy at home: When husband and wife have a conflict, work to reconcile as soon as possible. Teach children to apologize. Don’t be afraid of apologizing to children when you’re out of line; modeling humility and love is crucial. “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2223)

SACRAMENTALS – Use sacramentals.
Sacramentals are small signs and instruments of grace, like a blessed Rosary, Holy Water, blessed Holy Medal, or Blessed Salt. My husband and I started a ritual in which we bless each other with Holy Water every morning before heading out the door, and every evening before bedtime. We also have many other sacramentals that help us remain close to our faith during prayer, in times of difficulty, or in everyday life.

TITHE – Give to the Church and charity before everything else.
Tithing is a Biblical practice based in ancient Jewish life that continues in Christian life. Traditionally, tithing is giving 10 percent of one’s income to God. This requires prayerful discernment for each family. For some, that 10 percent equals 1 percent to our Archbishop’s annual appeal, 5 percent to our parish, and 4 percent to other charitable causes. Tithing may seem challenging at first, but it can become a very freeing practice. It keeps us accountable to contributing to our community’s well-being, and reminds us of the proper ordering of our priorities.

UNION – Live as members of the Communion of Saints.
Keep pictures of the saints in your home. We have them all over; the refrigerator, living room, bedroom. They are family members, role models, and prayer intercessors for us. Read the lives of the Saints with your children, and talk about your favorite saints. Ask the saints for their prayers.

VIRGIN MARY – Practice devotion to Our Blessed Mother.
Jesus entrusted Mary to Saint John, the “beloved disciple.” She is the Mother of Christ and our spiritual mother. Have a special picture of Mary in your home. Teach children the Rosary prayers, and pray together.

WHIMSY – Enjoy life!
Pope Francis and many of the saints have reminded us to live joyfully as Christ’s followers. Sing, dance, play, laugh, tell stories… enjoy the good things of life in moderation.

CRUCIFIX – Have a Crucifix in your home.
Saint Paul spoke on the importance of preaching Christ crucified, and Catholic tradition has long used the crucifix to remind us of God’s love. The crucifix is a powerful sacramental that, when honored and matched with a Christian life, can help our family fight temptation.

YES, LORD – Encourage each member of the family to live their vocation.
Introduce your children to priests, religious sisters, nuns, brothers, consecrated people, and other families. Share a meal with them. Help children understand that God calls each of us to a certain life; the life for which we’re best suited. During family prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to help each family member discover and “say yes” to this calling.

ZEAL – Demonstrate authentic enthusiasm for your faith.
Zeal is not “nice feelings” or “warm fuzzies” about being Catholic. It’s the fire that burns within us; the Holy Spirit’s work, that drives us to live as Catholics no matter what situation we find ourselves in. How can we live this in family life? Discuss what you appreciate most about our Faith, or what motivates you to do what’s right. When you make a decision, explain to children how our Catholic faith has affected your decision. Tell them why you are glad to be Catholic, even when you don’t “feel” excited. Children (and adults!) need to learn that our experience as Catholics will include times of strong emotions and other, more challenging times; but we maintain a zeal for faith thanks to our relationship with the Holy Spirit.


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.

Living Fully Alive, Right Now

The readings this weekend are about life, death, and resurrection, which should be part of our daily reflection, because we do not know the day or the hour when we will pass from this life to the next. As Paul points out in the second reading, eternal life begins now. He says:

If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.

In other words, the one who created us out of love sustains that life in us by the presence of the Holy Spirit, from now unto eternity.

The most important question of our life is: How do we know if God’ Spirit is dwelling in us?

  • We know we received his Spirit in baptism when we became children of God and members of his Church. It is in his Church that he has given us the means to be confident that his Spirit is dwelling in us.
  • He makes available to us an abundance of his grace through the sacraments, which are a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus waits for us to approach him in the sacraments so that we can receive the grace necessary to live our lives in communion with him.

Without this grace, the Holy Spirit cannot dwell within us. God has a wonderful plan for each of us, but he has to be the most important part of the plan. St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” We can only be fully alive when the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us and influencing the way we live. The choice is ours.

Now Is the Time

We are all tempted to think, There is no urgency to taking the word of God seriously; there will be time enough later to prepare for eternal life. However, if the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in us because we are not faithful to what God asks of us, how can we expect him to help us make right decisions in the future? Now is the time to prepare for the future.

We are presently living in a time like no other. The whole world is affected by the novel corona virus. Many of the things we took for granted last month have been taken away from us. We do not have the freedom we once had. This is a sample of how millions of people throughout the world experience as a normal way of life. For many people in this country, life will never be the same. They may have lost loved ones, lost savings for retirement, or lost their means to provide for their family. One of the things we never dreamed of is the loss of our place of worship and the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This, too, we may have taken for granted. There are Catholics in other parts of the world who rarely can attend the Holy Mass and receive the Lord.

Our Response & Hope

How we react to this crisis is a measure of our spiritual maturity. The following quote from 1 John 2:17 is especially for these times, “Yet the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.”

The will of God for us right now is that we find strength in a faithful relationship with him because we trust in all the promises he has given us in the holy Scriptures, and we act on those promises.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus comes to the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha after Lazarus has died. Jesus, says to Martha, “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?” she said to him, “Yes Lord I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

Everything about our life on earth will pass away except our relationship with God. During these times we may have lost much, but if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us because we have chosen to live in a faithful relationship with God, we can be confident that we will be “fully alive,” now and for all eternity. This is the message of hope that we must share in these difficult times.


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.

Need Spiritual Direction?

I finally got a spiritual director.

What? You’ve never heard of such a thing? Well, you’ve heard of personal trainers, right? Coaches? Teachers? These days, if you’re looking to…

  • get in shape
  • lose weight
  • excel at a sport
  • become a virtuoso
  • get motivated

“Taking the Count” by Thomas Eakins (1898)

…you’ll likely seek out an expert who can help you. So, if we do this for our body and our mind, why not for our spirit?

St. John of the Cross once said, “The blind person who falls will not be able to get up alone; the blind person who does get up alone will go off on the wrong road.” In other words, we all have ‘blind spots’ in our spiritual life: personal weaknesses or things we don’t notice about ourselves. We need the guidance of another person to overcome those, and to help us choose the right path.

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice that continues today. However, most people don’t know that they can (or should) seek a spiritual director, unless they are a clergyman or a consecrated man or woman. The reality is, spiritual direction is for everyone!

The principal objective of spiritual direction…is to discern the signs of God’s will for our journey of vocation, prayer, perfection, for our daily life, and for our fraternal mission.*

In plain English, that means a spiritual director will help you understand God’s calling for you, how to improve your prayer life, get rid of sin, live your faith daily, and understand how you can best serve others.

So, why not seek a spiritual director? For many years, my answer was simple: I don’t like asking for help. Yup, I’m a prideful dame. (There’s spiritual problem #1!) In high school and university, I thought God might be calling me to religious life (‘become a nun’), and for people considering religious or clerical life, spiritual direction is very common. I heard about spiritual directors frequently from my peers, and I watched them grow in holiness before my eyes.

Frequently, I wondered whether I should get a spiritual director, but I’d always give excuses, such as:

  • I don’t know who to pick as my spiritual director.
  • I only want a priest to be my spiritual director, but priests are too busy. I don’t want to bother them.
  • I already know a lot about spiritual things. I’ll leave the spiritual directors for people who don’t.
  • I’m doing OK spiritually.
  • I can work things out myself.
  • I’m too busy.

These excuses built up over time, until finally, God knocked me over the head with a two-by-four (sent me a plethora of signs, and threw my all excuses out the window), making it abundantly clear that I should ask a priest-acquaintance if he would be my spiritual director.

Now, I meet with Father every month for an hour. It’s great! You’d think that it’d be very somber or serious, and while we do have serious discussions, it seems I laugh more during spiritual direction than I do on a typical day! Spiritual direction has brought so much joy and insight into my life.

When I have questions, or when I’m having trouble making a decision, I receive support from Father. Our conversations always contribute to my personal growth. As I enact his guidance in my daily life, I feel more assured that I’m going down the path that God wants for me. Overall, this one-on-one spiritual direction has helped me with something that I have struggled with: now I’m more clearly seeing myself as I truly am, through God’s eyes.

As someone who was long-opposed to seeking a spiritual director, I encourage and challenge you to consider it for yourself. Take this intention to prayer, and ask God to help you know whether someone should be your spiritual director. It does not have to be a priest; consecrated religious sisters or brothers, or trained lay people can also act as guide and companion on your pilgrimage of life.

As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord closely, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ. Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God. […] [Spiritual direction] is a matter of establishing that same personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross.
– Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum, 2011

Ways to Learn More:

*Taken from The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy, by The Congregation for the Clergy. Vatican City: Vatican Press, 2011.


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 for 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team, and offers a talk on discernment.

Riding the Roller Coaster of Life – Advice from A Saint

Blog-RollerCoaster

Everyone wants to know: What’s the key to happiness?

This questions transforms itself, however, when we discover God our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and our divine guide the Holy Spirit. Then, we begin to wonder: What is God’s will for me?

Ultimately, these questions are one & the same; God desires our happiness, in this life and for all eternity.

To help us consider this question, there are many resources available to us. For me, however, it wasn’t until I obtained a Spiritual Director that I began to learn well how to discern God’s will for my life. He introduced me to someone who has become a close personal friend, St. Ignatius Loyola: the founder of the Society of Jesus & the contemporary guide for discernment.

Wounded Pride and A Busted Leg

Many of us know his basic story: A canon ball shattered his leg in battle. He told the surgeon to re-break his leg, because his clothes didn’t look good the way his leg was set back together. That was fiery redhead Iñigo López de Loyola: a vain, high-class bachelor whose great dreams of military triumph and fame had been utterly destroyed. Bored out of his mind as he recuperated, he read the only books available; the lives of Christ and the saints. Their example completely changed his perspective on life.

As many converts do, Ignatius adopted extreme spiritual practices fueled by his newfound zeal; he prayed day and night, hardly ate, hardly slept, and beat himself—weeping uncontrollably through the night over his past mistakes.

Thanks to God’s grace and the help of local townspeople, Ignatius’ mind and heart were opened to what God truly wanted of him.

Riding the Roller Coaster of Life

Ignatius outlined the Discernment of Spirits, which are keys that spiritual directors have used for hundreds of years all over the world, ever since. In doing so, they have taught that our life has two basic situations we face, over and over again:

  • Consolation – A period of contentment, peace, gratitude, and/or feeling closer to God
  • Desolation – A period of worry, frustration, and/or feeling further from God

Ignatius described these periods as the natural ebb and flow of every person’s spiritual life. Consolation and desolation are experienced for a wide variety of reasons; it’s not important that we know why we are experiencing the consolation or desolation. What’s important is to discern what we are experiencing, and how to respond to God’s grace in that light.

His “rules” for discernment give us practical insights into interpreting whether we are in a period of consolation or desolation. Based on this position, we learn how to act or respond to a situation or decision we need to make.

Basic Take-Aways for Success

Since we are limited in time and space here, I would strongly advise you to review Ignatius of Loyola’s Discernment of Spirits in its entirety. (The contemporary explanation recommended by my Spiritual Director was The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living by Fr. Timothy M. Gallagher. You may also consider a retreat on the Spiritual Exercises.)

For here and now, I’d like to share a few important lessons with you that I have learned from Ignatius. These have helped me ride the roller coaster of life:

  1. Make Decisions with Peace – If I am in a period of desolation, I am not properly suited for making a major decision that will impact my life, my family, etc. In these cases, I need to seek consolation, as well as the guidance of an unbiased person whom I can trust, such as a spiritual director.
  2. Don’t Worry; Desolation Will Pass – Ignatius reminds us that we will all go through periods of desolation, but that they do not last forever! This is why it’s important to discern & realize: “I am experiencing desolation.” Name what you are experiencing. This realization will remind you that your perspective will be through the lens of desolation for the time being. Then, you will be strengthened with the ability to choose wisely and remember that it will pass.
  3. Seek Consolation through Prayer – When I’m in a period of desolation, I don’t feel particularly drawn to prayer. However, this period is when prayer is essential. Since I don’t feel like praying, I should remember & revisit those times of consolation when I felt close to God. This can help motivate me to pray.
  4. Treasure Times of Consolation – If you are experiencing consolation, treasure it. Write about these blessings in a journal; how do you sense God’s closeness? Where do you see God’s hand in your life? What insights have you gained from this time? These memories are important to treasure, because they will strengthen you in times of desolation.
  5. God Is Always Near – Our Catholic faith gives us wonderful reminders of God’s nearness in the sacraments, the witness of the saints, the prayers and devotions, the sacred art, and the Body of Christ present in our brothers and sisters. No matter what we are experiencing, God who is Love is always near to us. We have no reason to fear, only to listen and do our best to grow & develop so that we can, in turn, respond by living in generous love.

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 for 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team, and offers a talk on discernment.

7 Practical Principles for Discerning God’s Will in Our Lives

It’s a common question: “What does God want?” How do we know? Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to learn the answer, as we enter ‘into the desert’ with Jesus, listening to God’s voice in prayer and penance. Here are some practical principles (based on Peter Kreeft’s book “Making Choices”) to help you discern God’s will for your life:

ONE: LOVE GOD!

The first principle is embarrassingly simple: LOVE GOD. If you love God, you will love his will; if you love his will, you will want to do his will; if you want to do his will, you will want to know his will (in order to do it); and if you want to know his will, you will! Jesus said that all who seek, find. This refers to finding God and his will. Not all who seek wealth, glory or even health will get it, but all who seek God will find Him! Our faith is important, a child-like faith, trusting in God, our Heavenly Father.

TWO: LISTEN to the HOLY SPIRIT.

Open yourself up to the Holy Spirit. God guides us when we want to do His will. We must have an attitude like Mary, the Mother of our Lord: “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants.” (Luke 1:38) Ask Mary to intercede for you. Ask her to pray for you to be docile to the Holy Spirit.

THREE: GET RID of OBSTACLES.

Why, with such powerful help available, does discernment seem so difficult? Not because there’s not enough power, but because there are obstacles that we put in the way. What is that obstacle? SIN. But the obstacle is not sin as such, but unrepented sin. None of us can avoid sin. Saints are simply sinners saved. When sin is unacknowledged and unrepented, it sticks to our spirit and blinds our minds. Repented sin is like garbage put out for the divine garbage man to take away. Unrepented sin is like garbage left in the kitchen that stinks up the air around all the food. Sometimes we rationalize sin rather than repenting of it and it blocks our discernment.

For instance, a married person committing adultery may say that they have fallen in love with someone and feel that God must then be leading them to divorce their spouse to marry this other person. But God has made it clear. He said “You shall not commit adultery.” We can be sure that this person’s idea is not God’s will for him or her, but the obvious sexual sin is a serious obstacle. It also damages his/her relationship with God; this also affects the Body of Christ! Once our will is out line with God’s will, only 3 things can happen:

– – – turn, repent and restore the relationship with God and with it the power of discernment OR
– – – we keep walking away from God, knowing what we are doing but do it anyway; OR
– – – we walk away but rationalize it because we can’t endure the truth that we are turning our backs on God, on Truth, on the source and standard of all goodness, including our own.

To repent is a matter of the HEART, the MIND and the BEHAVIOR. Once the heart repents, we start the journey; the heart is the captain of the soul. When the mind repents, we bring every thought to Christ. When we repent through behavior, we are on the road to recovery; a life of good virtues will help us live a healthy life!

Think of this analogy: The WILL is the Captain, the MIND is the navigator, and the BODY (hands and feet) are the engines of the ship. The whole ship needs to turn (in other words, to repent).

FOUR: GET RID of UNFORGIVENESS.

How important is forgiveness? So important that Christ commanded us to mortgage our very salvation on it. An unforgiving heart is so at odds with the heart of God, whose very nature is to forgive, that it cannot discern God’s will. So before trying to discern God’s will, be sure you aren’t holding a grudge against anyone.

FIVE: MAKE IT a HABIT.

Discernment is a habit, not a quick fix. When we become Christians we are not called to abandon common sense. The New Testament writers often encourage us to think and never discourage us from using our minds. Today, we are so used to “instant gratification.” We must learn to be patient with nature’s and grace’s slow rhythms of growth. How do we do this?

Virtues in reality are habits of doing good. Choosing the good, using our common sense—it’s a daily effort. We wake up each morning realizing it to be a new day and a new beginning and also a continual journey of what already has been experienced. The way we progress is to try to consciously do the opposite of our weakness. If we are impatient, let us try to be more patient…another words exercise that virtue. “No pain no gain” has some truth to it!

Cultivating habits is like cultivating crops; it takes time. Habits can fertilize other habits.

SIX: BE PRUDENT.

“Prudence” means practical wisdom. It is a matter of reason, intelligence, and practical wisdom. Sometimes we ignore this intellectual ingredient when we relate ONLY to the heart and the Spirit. For example: “I feel I love this person very much so I am going to agree to have premarital sex.” This is not being prudent or wise! We must use our minds to discern between good and evil. God wills for us to use our own reason in making specific moral decisions. (Grace builds on nature).

When discerning, always consider the three main factors involved in any given question or problem:
A. God’s objective moral law, revealed in Scripture and the Church’s authoritative interpretation of it.
B. The situation God providentially arranges for you.
C. The testimony of your own conscience, especially the inner peace that you have, is a mark of the Spirit’s presence.

SEVEN: LISTEN when you PRAY

Discerning God’s will is the fruit of a healthy relationship with the Triune God. The fruit of prayer. But remember: prayer is a dialogue with God. The scriptures tell us how God spoke many times to people. So many times WE do all the talking and hardly listen!

What do you think about this: you go to your doctor and tell him/her… “I have problems with my back, I have constant headaches, my blood pressure is high almost everyday. These are my problems and pains Doctor. OH! I also need my allergy shot!” Then having gone through my list I look at my watch and say, “Oh my goodness, I have to go..well thanks for listening!” The doctor would say.. “Wait just a minute, you didn’t let me tend to you.”

Prayer is very important part of our relationship with God. Prayer is the life of a new heart. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2697)

Blessed Concepcion “Conchita” Cabrera de Armida

Enjoy meeting Blessed Concepción Cabrera de Armida (Conchita), a role model of faith & discuss how her example can help us in our daily lives. This Mexican mother & wife inspired the establishment of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller’s religious order!

The pamphlet about Blessed Conchita and the prayer card are linked below for download so you can enjoy them at home.


Pilgrim Center of Hope is a non-profit evangelization ministry, sustained only by donations. While there is no required fee to view, please consider donating a one-time gift or showing your support with a monthly donation. Every bit helps this mission of hope to continue. Thank you!


Resources for You

Suggested Reading

Order the following books from
Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
1320 Maze Blvd
Modesto, California  95351
209-526-3525

Books by Blessed Concepcion “Conchita” Cabrera De Armida 
I Am: Eucharistic Medications of the Gospel 
It was Conchita’s fervent desire that our faith in Jesus be strengthened by reading these, her dialogues, with the Lord, that our hope in Him as Savior of the world might be increased, and that our love for Him and for one another might grow as well.

What Jesus is Like 
Conchita show us the very human, as well as divine, side of Jesus in order that we might more easily fall in love with Him and desire to follow Him more closely.  In 34 brief meditations, she covers every conceivable aspect of the life, personality and person of Jesus.

A Mother’s Letters 
Conchita’s letters to her large and extended family express not only her spiritual wisdom but also her warm, human side as she lovingly guides, advises, and rejoices with the members of her family in good times and bad.

Spiritual Direction – According to the Simple Plan 
This booklet presents the plan for spiritual direction according to Conchita.  It consists of 18 rules.  The goal is the transformation of the person in the Christ Priest and Victim.

Books by Fr. M.M. Philipon, O.P. about Conchita
Conchita – A Modern Mystic 
Holiness is God’s call to all people.  It is laity who is called, today, to give the world witness of family high holiness.  God has given us an example of such sanctity in the mother of nine children.

Conchita – A Mother’s Spiritual Diary 
For more than 40 years, on the advice of her spiritual directors, she faithfully kept a spiritual diary.  Drawing from her 66 handwritten notebooks. Fr. Philipon has compiled her principal message.

In Suffering: Where Is God Now?

In times like these, it can be especially challenging for humanity to believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God.

This phenomenon has happened for millennia. In the Psalms, the Israelites sang about how people questioned them: “Where is your God?” Where is your God while you are captives? While you are in famine? While you are suffering?

Shaking Fists at Heaven

As a twenty year old, I began to experience fiery pain in my hands, feet, arms, legs—as if I were being bitten by fire ants. My body felt like it always had bruises. I was physically exhausted, as if daily life required as much energy as running a marathon. After dozens of blood tests and even a brain scan, my doctors could not provide me with relief.

I recall very clearly standing in my dorm room and shaking my fists at heaven as I cried aloud. What is this?? Why me? I have always done my best to serve you. What have I done to deserve this?

God’s Power Against Evil

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. (John 9:1-3)

In Jesus’ time, and sometimes even in the modern day, people would view suffering as the direct result of that person’s sin (or their parents’ sin). In Sunday’s Gospel, however, Jesus corrected this line of thinking. Suffering is not good, and therefore cannot be from God.

Rather, God is so good, so powerful, and so loving; even amidst evil, God can bring about life and healing.

After I had lived with my symptoms for a while, my eyes began to open to the gifts that were coming to fruition in the midst of my ailments:

  • Because I was weaker, I needed to ask for help more often. Thus, my pride and desire for control were being chipped away, bit by bit.
  • Because I suffered, my heart began to open in greater sympathy for other people’s challenges. I began to start from a foundation of giving people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Because my suffering was hidden behind the appearance of youth, I soon acquired the ability to look beyond people’s appearances and see their hearts.

These gifts were far more valuable than physical health.

Healing Beyond Understanding

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus heals the blind man, and slips away. The man is brought before the religious leaders and questioned alongside his parents. The inquisitors cannot believe or accept that a healing occurred. They considered Jesus’ act as “doing work on the Sabbath” which was therefore sinful in their eyes. Further, they could not fathom why God would take away the blindness that they thought was a punishment for sin. They could not understand how God could bring goodness out of a situation that appeared to them to be evil.

The same often rings true for us. Our created minds cannot fully comprehend the ways of the Creator.

This is why our relationship with Jesus is so important. Jesus is God. He is Emmanuel, meaning God-with-us! Our Creator knows that it is impossible for his creatures to understand his ways, yet he wants to assure us of his nearness and love. That is one of the main reasons why the second person of the Holy Trinity, God the Word, became one of us; and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).

One day, as I was overwhelmed by pain, I closed my eyes and cried out to God. In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus on the Cross, and I saw that he was suffering with me. It was then that I realized: God is always with us.

Light of Life

I pray that in our confusion, in our suffering, in our struggles, we will turn to Jesus. Let’s spend time with him in the Gospel. May we find hope by trusting Jesus’ words:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

In times of suffering, when we focus on the darkness, it will appear that God is gone. But when we choose to turn toward the light, we see that God is with us. God is in every instance of healing, every act of care, every look of love, every miracle of selflessness. God is bringing about the good. As children of light, let’s be bearers of light. Let’s illuminate for others God’s presence and nearness to us now.


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 for 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

How Unexpected Experiences Can Become A Blessing

When we read the lives of the saints, why were so many of their lives impacted after an unexpected experience?

St Anthony de Padua with Child Jesus by MurilloFernando Martins was born in Lisbon, Portugal in the 12th century into a large Catholic family. He was ordained into the priesthood and began his new life with great fervor. His life as a young priest took a crucial turn when the bodies of the first five Franciscan martyrs were returned from Morocco. Fernando wanted to become a Franciscan Friar after hearing the stories of the Franciscan Friars’ charity for others and their courage to persevere to the end.

He did enter the Franciscan Order, and was given his new name, Anthony. He was to set sail across to Morocco to be a witness for Christ. His ship experienced a storm, and was forced to dock in Italy. There, he attended a Franciscan Chapter meeting with 3,000 friars in attendance; little did he know that he would be chosen to preach to the large number, resulting in the new discovery of his eloquent charism of preaching.

The unexpected experience of being shipwrecked in Italy turned into a greater call for Friar Anthony, who became St. Anthony of Padua. Since then to this day, he is known throughout the world for his spiritual writings and stirring sermons that have given hope to thousands. He was canonized a year after his death in 1232. The richness of his spiritual teaching contained in his sermons was so great that he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

If Friar Anthony did arrive in Morocco and died as a martyr, perhaps the thousands who had been given hope and a renewed confidence in God because of his preaching may have been lost, may have remained in despair. It is apparent God had a plan for Anthony!

Do we believe God has a plan for each of us?

Oh yes, you must believe He does! In the book of Deuteronomy 31:8, we read:

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Is your current plan united with the plan God has for you?

Only God who sees all things and knows each one of us by name, sees our hearts and knows our needs can lead us on the right path. We must ask for his guidance. He will not infringe on our free will.

How does one begin to ask His guidance?

Approach him as you would a dear friend. Invite him to guide you and help you see his plan for you. It may take days, weeks, months or longer; believe he hasn’t left you at any time! Invest in discovering his plan for you by reading Scripture and continue to ask him; What is your will for me today?  What will not change is Jesus’ gaze upon you. Let us place our lives into his gaze, and trust that his gaze is one of purity, tenderness, and loving.

This realization of God’s plan for me was a turning point in my life; and yes, his plan has been an interesting journey. For this reason I have given my life to him as a Missionary of Hope. Even when the journey appeared quite rough, his words in the Gospel of Mark 6:50 resounded in my soul and gave me consolation and hope:

Immediately he spoke to them and said, Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.


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.

Trusting What God Says About Me

Have you ever been falsely accused?

  • Did a dear one of yours ever accuse you of lying when you didn’t?
  • Have you ever been rejected by someone you love because they misunderstood your good intention as bad?

It hurts.

It is a piercingly deep hurt, not only because you are innocent, but because you realize you are not known by someone you love. You wonder, I would never intentionally hurt them… How do they not know that about me?

This has happened to me, and it brought me to an even more sorrowful conclusion… I have been guilty of the same with God.

So many times, I have not taken God at his Word:

  • As the Father loves me (Jesus), so I also love you. Remain in my love. (John 15:9)
  • You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. (Psalm 139:13-14)
  • Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

I realize . . .

  • When we believe we are unloved… we accuse God of lying.
  • When we hate who we are… we reject God, misunderstanding his intention.

For those who can relate, I would like to suggest a particular Lenten journey this year. Lent is a penitential period in the Church when we intentionally walk with Jesus the forty days he was in the desert fasting, praying and being tempted. We have a traditional discipline in the Church during this time to also fast, pray, and give alms.

Consider for Lent to:

Fast from your opinion of God; read who God reveals Himself to be through the daily Mass readings. Read slowly, ask for the gift of understanding where your opinion of God and his Word clash.

Give alms to God with what we value most: our time. We can hear God’s voice through the voice of the needy. Spend time speaking with or being present to someone who is in need this Lent, and see how valuable and precious God has made you to be for others.

Pray to know the God who is. The one who knows God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, best is our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary. Pray a daily Rosary asking her, “Mary, show me God’s love for me today.”

The best way to know someone is to spend time with them. Add a Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and quiet time where God is truly and really, present: in his Eucharistic presence. So many churches have Adoration chapels. Find one, kneel before Him, then sit and simply speak to our Lord what is in your heart, and let him speak his heart to you. Lord Jesus has told many saints such as St. Faustina and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque how he longs for our company. St. Faustina writes what our Lord told her,

“[…] Why do you not tell Me about everything that concerns you, even the smallest details? Tell Me about everything, and know that this will give Me great joy.” (Diary of St. Faustina, no. 921)


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.