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A Deeper Look at the Prodigal Son

The parable in this Sunday’s Gospel reading is often referred to as “The Prodigal Son,” because it seems to focus on the behavior of the younger son. However, there much more to reflect on here.

The Prodigal Son

Certainly, we see how the selfishness of the younger son drew himself into deeper sin, which brought him to the point of despair. He set aside the love of his father and the security of his home to satisfy his attraction to pleasure and self- indulgence. He even asked for an inheritance which was not rightfully his until his father died; as if saying to his father, “My inheritance is more important to me than you are. I wish you were dead.”

It wasn’t until he ran out of money that the son was able to see the tragedy of his choice. When he began to starve, he remembered how good he had it before he left home. His repentance was not of the best of motives; his main reason for returning home was to satisfy his hunger. However, he did confess that he no longer deserved to be called his father’s son & was willing to be treated as a servant.

The Father

The most important person in this parable is the father. Even though he was treated with disrespect, he longed for his son to return.

As the Gospel states, “While he (the younger son) was a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” He restored his son to the position he’d had before he left.

This is an image of our heavenly Father’s unconditional love for us.

  • No matter what we have done, he longs for us to return to him and to renew our relationship as son or daughter of our Heavenly Father.
  • For this renewal to happen, like the younger son, we must have a contrite heart and return to God, so that we can experience his unconditional love.
  • He never stops loving us, but when remove ourselves from him we do not have a since of his loving presence. When we do so, we lose sight of the plan he has for us and become sad, even hopeless.

The Eldest Son

Meanwhile, when the older son hears the reason for the celebration, he becomes angry; his brother is welcomed back after such a shameful departure. The older brother’s jealousy prevents him from sharing his father’s joy upon the return of his brother. It seems he would rather his brother continue to suffer the consequences for his selfish behavior—which of course is also selfish behavior.

His father tries to convince him of how much he is loved, and wants him to share in the joy of his brother’s return.

Finding Ourselves In the Story

With which of the three characters in this parable can you identify?

  • How about the younger son? Have you ever made a selfish decision that hurt someone else deeply? If so did you return to ask forgiveness? The best reason for reconciliation is not that we find ourselves desperate and believe that it’s the only way we can get what we want. The best reason is because our conscience tells us it is the right thing to do. Unless we have allowed our heart to become hardened, we cannot be at peace with ourself when we know we have been unjust.
  • Maybe we can relate to the older son, who allowed his jealousy to blind him of the joy his father wanted him to share in. Jealousy does not allow us to recognize our own gifts and talents, and prevents us from becoming what God wants us to be. Like selfishness, jealousy can cause us to be unhappy and hopeless. To refuse to forgive is to choose bitterness over happiness.
  • With the help of God’s grace, I hope we all can relate to the father. I hope that at times we all have been able to forgive for the sake of forgiveness & love for the sake of love.

I personally have been able to relate to both the younger and the older sons at different times in my life. I have also been able to forgive myself and others, and develop a desire to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself,  for the love of God.

We all are on a journey; what we were yesterday and what we are today, should not be the same as what we will be tomorrow.

Hopefully, this parable will convince us of the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father, and what we can do to experience that love. Forgiveness is a choice, and love is a choice.


Deacon Tom Fox 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. Tom continues to serve as a permanent deacon, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio.

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.

Connecting with Our Creator: An Experiment In Healing

Closeup of a bronze lifesized Stations of the Cross sculpture wherein Jesus is being nailed to the cross

In the movie Mary Shelley, the author’s father says of Dr. Frankenstein (the scientist who is bent on creating life in her novel Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus),

[The story] ascertains the absolute human necessity for connection. From the moment Dr. Frankenstein’s creature opens its eyes, it seeks the touch of its creator. But he recoils in terror, leaving the creature to its first of many experiences of neglect and isolation. If only Frankenstein had been able to bestow upon his creation a compassionate touch, a kind word; what a tragedy might have been avoided.

Juxtapose those words with what Scripture says about human connection with the Divine Creator:

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.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
(Psalm 139:13-16)

Only 18 years old when she wrote her famous work, Mary Shelley had already experienced death, grief, betrayal, and abandonment. Upon reading the novel, her half-sister—who has just been rejected by the father of her unborn baby, tells Mary, “It chilled me to the bone.”

Mary replies, “It is good to enjoy a ghost story now and then.”

Her sister responds, “We both know this is no ghost story. I have never read such a perfect encapsulation of what it feels to be abandoned.”

Our Personal Monsters

In one way or another, we can each tell our own ghost story about the monsters of loss, grief, betrayal, abandonment, and loneliness that rage within us. They are the consequences of evil wrought by sin; the reality of living in an imperfect world.

Mary Shelley’s lover at the time, Percy Shelly, advises her to re-write the story so that instead of a monster, Dr. Frankenstein creates the perfect creature. “Imagine,” he tells Mary, “He creates a version of ourselves that shines with goodness and thus delivers a message for mankind. A message of hope and perfection.”

Mary looks at him—the man whose selfish choices are responsible for much of her feelings of betrayal and abandonment—and responds, “It is a message for mankind! What would we know of hope and perfection!? Look around you! Look at the mess we have made!? Look at me!”

We understandably question, and should question, why evil exists. We should work to eradicate it and certainly not be a cause of it.

Our error comes in accusing God for the evil in the world. Mankind’s folly is always in falling for the ancient lie that we can do a better job of creating than God.

Healing from Our Creator

However, with our Creator, praise God, we have true hope of authentic freedom from evil.

He (Jesus Christ) did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 549)

Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, who recoils in terror at the sight of his imperfect creature, God comes to us in our imperfection, through His Son, Jesus Christ…

And even when you were dead [in] transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

God came in the flesh, and continues to come to us through . . .

  • His Word
  • His Sacraments
  • His Church

God knows our deep desire for the good and the perfect; He is the one who created that desire in us, so that we would seek our true self, found only in relation to Him. Saint Pope John Paul II states this in Dives in Misericordia (God, Who is Rich in Mercy), “Man and man’s lofty calling are revealed in Christ through the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His Love” (DM 1).

In a final scene of the movie, Percy Shelly tells a group who thought it was he who wrote Mary’s book, “You could say the work would not even exist without my contribution. But to my shame, the only claim I remotely have to this work is inspiring the desperate loneliness that defines Frankenstein’s creature.”

Of ourselves, humans are capable of great evil. Of ourselves, we are finite. Mother Church teaches us that true healing—which is authentic freedom from sin—begins with this knowledge. She encourages us to, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15), using the very words of the Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, who leads us to our Father, and His Love.

During Lent, many parishes offer reconciliation services, providing opportunities to re-connect with God and receive healing through the rich Mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We invite you: contact your local parish office for more information, and participate in this true healing and freedom!

Only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful that to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. (Pope Benedict XVI)

Pilgrim Center of Hope offers spiritual resources to help guide you on your journey and connect you to God and His Church. Visit us in person, by phone at 210-521-3377, or explore our website!

Join us for our newest program, Meet the Master. You are invited to attend one or more of this nine-part monthly series, as we hear and reflect on the words of Jesus and spend some quiet with Him in our Gethsemane Chapel.  You do not have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.


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; a Catholic evangelization ministry that that answers Christ call by guiding people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

A Fresh Look at the Rosary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Name of Jesus

Did you know that the month of January in the Church is traditionally dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus?

The name of Jesus is radical! On one hand, proclaiming the name of Jesus can call down the power of God and drive out demons. On the other hand, many people today use the name of Jesus as they curse.

This reminds us of an amazing story from one of our Pilgrim Center of Hope pilgrims. When her superior used the Lord’s name in vain during a meeting, our pilgrim confronted her boss (who was not a Christian) and told her how much this offended her. She also assured her, “I will be praying for you.”

Time passed, and our pilgrim grew closer to her Holy Land pilgrimage journey. She approached her boss and said, “I’m going to the Holy Land soon, and I would like to leave a prayer intention for you at the Wailing Wall.” Her boss replied, “Not just there; pray for me everywhere you go.”

So, our pilgrim did just that: At every holy site we visited—most of which are related to the life of Jesus, she prayed.

Not long after our return from pilgrimage, her boss approached our pilgrim and said, “Thank you for praying for me. You helped me to discover God.” She joined the Church!

The name Jesus means, in Hebrew: “God saves.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, ‘will save his people from their sins’.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 430)

This month, try a simple prayer:
Speak the name, “Jesus,” slowly, and with reverence.

How to pray with your spouse

How to Pray with Your Spouse

How to Pray with Your Spouse (by Chris Stravitsch)

Step 1 – Reconcile & Rejoice

  • Together in a comfortable place / walk
  • Sign of Cross
  • Express any hurts & offer forgiveness
  • Thank God

Step 2 – Discover God Together

  • Read a Scripture passage together & discuss
  • Talk about life – What are experiencing & learning? What might God be saying?

Step 3 – Share Your Love

  • Kiss, embrace, resting in each other’s arms
  • Words of affirmation

Step 4 – Serve Each Other

  • Continue through the day / week…
  • Cooking, cleaning, listening, etc.

Creating a Prayer Space

Do you know the benefits of creating a prayer space in your home? Invite God into your home formally by creating a simple prayer space. You only need a few items, and you can always make it personal by adding items that are special to you.

Set up your prayer space at a place in your home that you see everyday if you tend to forget to pray. Even the top of your dresser can be a great place for you to stop and pray before you begin your day.

  • Bible
  • Crucifix
  • Candle (battery operated works, too)
  • Holy Water
  • Rosary

It’s helpful to have a chair or place to sit or kneel here. If you have small children, even a special blanket on the floor with faith-related books or toys that stay in this area can be a way to welcome them to pray here with the family.

Making It Personal

  • Other items: Prayer Cards, Saint Statues, angel statue, icon images or other sacred art, etc.
  • For couples: Items related to your wedding/marriage
  • For families: Baptismal candles or other reminders of your reception of the sacraments

Perhaps each member of the family has a favorite saint? Find an image of that saint & make a place where you can all together ask for their prayers. For example: At Pilgrim Center of Hope, each of our staff members has a saint that journeys with us through the year. At the end of our Chaplet of Divine Mercy, each of us says, “St. (Name)” and we all respond, “Pray for us.”

Let us know if you have any questions about setting up a prayer space or send us a picture of your space to share ideas with others! You can email it to us at media@pilgrimcenterofhope.org or post it to us on Facebook @PilgrimCenter.

A Message that Resonates Radically

By Angela Sealana

How often does anyone approach a woman and simply thank her?

Consider how our society can, at times, seem obsessed with protecting ‘women’s rights’ (however those may be defined), yet at the same time women are used left and right: used as a’platform’ to obtain political prestige, used by advertisers to sell stuff, used by television producers to spike ratings, used by factories for cheap labor, used by sports fans as eye candy, not to mention all the unspeakable abuses happening in the homes next door, or down the street.

I’m a member of Generation Y (born from the early ’80s through early ’00s), a characteristically optimistic and idealistic generation. However, despite my parents’ best attempts, I’ve been exposed to a steady stream of abusive language from media, strangers, community members and peers since my early schooling that shaped my understanding of my femininity.

Exhibit A: One of my earliest pre-teen memories was a commonplace visit to the dermatologist’s office. He suggested that I begin taking taking birth control as a ‘two-for-one’ solution. “Oh no,” he insisted to my mother, “I’m not suggesting anything about her, but… you never know what can happen these days!” Turning to me, he asked, “Don’t you want nice, clear skin – like when you go to the beach and wear a bikini?”

That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge about being a girl: that my body was different from a boy’s, that someday I could get pregnant, and that everyone expected me to care about my appearance and look ‘attractive.’

The fact is: I never thought about being a girl was anything special. My self-image was never integrally joined with my femininity – until I attended San Antonio’s Catholic Women’s Conference in my first year of college. There I sat, amid hundreds of women, next to my mother, who had invited me. I felt awkward; never before had I encountered so much estrogen! That weekend, I would hear – for the very first time – what the Catholic Church teaches about womanhood and femininity.

That weekend changed my life.

I went home and opened the free copy of “Letter to Women” written by Pope John Paul II, that I’d received in my conference packet. It was the most loving, enriching, positive portrait of womanhood I had ever encountered. The pope’s words jumped out from the page: “Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman!” Wow. This was a radically new message.

I began plowing through the Internet looking for more from my church about this strange concept: that my womanhood was a gift to the world.

The more I read, the more I understood that God made me a woman for a reason, and that the Catholic Church has the most respect for women of any organization in the world. Of these things I am unshakably convinced.

Today, I relish the ways I’m able to share this profound truth with other women. For over four years, I’ve worked behind-the-scenes from San Antonio’s Catholic Women’s Conference, and last year, I served it’s nearly 2,000 participants as a speaker. Being a CWC steering committee member has been an extraordinary blessing. We pass along this message – a message that radically resonates with women to the core of their beautiful being. The church’s message about womanhood as  a gift opens their eyes to their glorious dignity, their magnificent abilities and their tremendous influence. The church’s message about womanhood empowers women to transform the world through their ‘feminine genius.’

And it all starts by saying, “Thank you for being a woman.”

“My word of thanks to women thus becomes a heartfelt appeal that everyone, and in a special way states and international institutions, should make every effort to ensure that women regain full respect for their dignity and role.” – Pope Saint John Paul II, in “Letter to Women,” 6.

Angela Sealana is ministry coordinator at the Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Originally published in April 2014. “Living the Gift of Womanhood” is a column by the Catholic Women’s Conference that appeared monthly in Today’s Catholic newspaper (Archdiocese of San Antonio). Learn more about the Conference at CWCSanAntonio.com.

Meet St. Eustochia

Pilgrim Center of Hope welcomed ladies of all ages to Afternoon Tea with St. Eustochia on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 2pm. We enjoyed tea, sweets – including King Cake – and learned about a little-known saint, Eustochia Calafato. After reading about her, we discussed how her story impacted us. Discussion included: the importance of Scripture, determination, focus, fruitfulness in obedience, and knowing who we are in Christ. The event concluded with praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Gethsemane Chapel at 3pm.

In compiling the pamphlet for this Tea, I had to search far and wide. (Thank the Lord for the Internet!) Most information on St. Eustochia is in Italian – I even had a priest friend from the Netherlands assist in translating Eustochia’s “Prayer Before a Crucifix” from Italian into English! Because Saint Eustochia is difficult for English-speakers to ‘meet’, I’d like to share her story with you:

St. Eustochia modeling in “Virgin of the Annunciation” by Antonello da Messina

Saint Eustochia Smeralda Calafato

Born March 25, 1434 in Santissima Annuziata, Italy
Died January 20, 1485 in Montevergine, Italy
Feast Day: January 20
Patron of: Messina, Sicily, Italy

In the fifteenth century, the Sicilian city of Messina, Italy was stricken with the plague. A young woman, pregnant with her fourth child, fled with her family to a nearby small town named after the Annunciation, Santissima Annuziata. She was blessed with the birth of a daughter on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1434 – also Good Friday that year. She named her Smeralda, meaning emerald.

Smeralda’s mother was a fervent Christian and enthusiastic admirer of the Franciscan religious order, particularly of the Franciscans who were reforming the order by closely following the life of St. Francis, embracing poverty. These reformed Franciscans’ first monastery was established by Blessed Matthew of Agrigento in Messina. He inspired a renewal of faith in the people of Messina by his ardent preaching and way of life.

Smeralda’s mother had attended one of Blessed Matthew’s sermons as an eighteen-year-old bride. It had such a profound impact on her that she devoted her life to prayer, penance and helping those in need. Thus, little Smeralda was raised from childhood to exercise Christian piety and virtue, eventually exceeding her mother’s greatest hopes and expectations. Smeralda was beautiful both inside and out; she is thought to be the model for the painting The Virgin of the Annunciation by Antonello da Messina (seen here).

One day in church, Smeralda had a powerful vision of Jesus Crucified. The experience compelled her to devote herself completely to the Lord. When Smeralda was fourteen years old, she wanted to become a Poor Clare nun.

However, the young girl’s desire to follow Christ would be tested. Her father had already arranged marriage for her to an older, wealthy widower. Smeralda kept her hope in religious life, and the widower died before the wedding. Her father again arranged a marriage for his daughter, but that man also died. With each new proposal, Smeralda remained firm about her desire to enter religious life. Then, on a usual business trip to Sardinia, Smeralda’s father died suddenly.

After this tragic death, Smeralda requested entrance to the convent of Santa Maria di Basico. But her brothers threatened to burn it down if she entered, so the frightened sisters could not accept her request. After several months, Smeralda’s brothers experienced a change of heart since they witnessed her intense desire to dedicate her life to Christ. She finally entered and took her vows at fifteen-and-a-half years old. She took the name Eustochia, meaning ‘fruitful.’

Unfortunately, Sister Eustochia came to discover that the convent had drifted away from the poverty lived by their foundress, St. Clare of Assisi. For more than a decade, Eustochia struggled to be an authentic Franciscan in the materialistic atmosphere. Eventually, she requested permission from Pope Calistus III to establish a new convent, and it was granted! The Holy Father worked with several nobles who bought a former hospital building to become the new convent.

But a sister does not so easily leave her community to establish a new one. Eustochia received resistance from many of her fellow nuns. Some friars refused to say Mass at the new convent, believing that the sisters’ lifestyle was too strict. Feeling abandoned by so many, Eustochia appealed directly to Church authorities in Rome. They approved of her desire to renew Franciscan asceticism and poverty, and gave their support. The friars who had refused to assist at the convent were threatened with excommunication if they continued to resist.

There are many testimonials to the heroic nature of the virtues practiced by Eustochia, and numerous miracles are recorded concerning the multiplication of food. It is said that on many occasions when the treasury of the convent was insufficient to buy provisions, Eustochia made the Sign of the Cross over two or three little pieces of bread, and there was miraculously enough to satisfy the appetites of the ten sisters who comprised the community.

Eustochia’s holiness drew many more to her community – so many that it soon outgrew the building and moved to Montevergine, near Messina, where their convent still stands. The local people considered Mother Eustochia their patron and protector, and the cloister was a place of refuge—especially during the earthquakes that rocked the area.

Mother Eustochia demonstrated to her nuns the fruits of asceticism, and lovingly infused into their hearts the virtues which she herself practiced with admirable constancy and heroism. She taught them to permeate their whole lives with a simple and generous Franciscan spirituality, focusing on their Beloved Suffering Christ, to devote themselves to the Eucharist, and to draw all necessary strength and nourishment for daily meditation from an intense, liturgical life. She often led the sisters in two-hour Scripture study sessions.

Eustochia’s love of Jesus in poverty and penance was outstanding. In fact, she bore for many years the stigmata – the wounds of Christ miraculously reproduced on her own body. She wrote a treatise on the Passion, which, unfortunately, is now lost. Though she never visited the Holy Land, Eustochia had a devotion to the holy places as did Saint Bridget of Sweden. In fact, Eustochia had one of the first sets of the Stations of the Cross (as we know them today) constructed within her convent.

Saint Eustochia's incorrupt body

Her incorrupt body, darkened by time

As she lay on her deathbed, Eustochia spoke to her daughters, who had gathered around her, about the Passion of Christ. On January 20, 1485, she spoke for an hour and, before closing her eyes, said, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.” Then, she passed away. There left behind a community that had grown to 50 sisters.

Eustochia’s tomb and body manifested extraordinary phenomena, and many people received powerful graces through her intercession. The sisters wrote a biography of their revered mother and founder. She was beatified on June 22, 1987 and canonized on June 11, 1988 by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Her incorrupt body rests in the Sanctuary of Montevergine in Messina, the monastery which she established, and can be visited twice a week.

John Paul II said of her: “Learning assiduously in the school of Christ Crucified, she grew in knowledge of him and, meditating on the splendid mysteries of grace, she conceived a faithful love for him. For our saint, the cloistered life was not a mere flight from the world in order to take refuge in God. Through the severe criticism which she imposed upon herself, she certainly wanted to be united to Christ, gradually eliminating whatever in her, as in every human person, was fallen; at the same time, she felt united to all. From her cell in the monastery of Montevergine she extended her prayer and the value of her penances to the whole world. In such a way she wanted to be near to each brother and sister, alleviate every suffering, ask pardon for the sins of all.”

Perhaps her most dramatic intercession happened in 1615 when earthquakes were rocking Messina night & day. Eustochia’s sisters were asked by the city senate to request her intercession. They set her body upright in her old choir stall, and asked for her prayers. Suddenly, her lips opened and her voice was heard chanting the first verse of the Night Prayer Psalm! Her terrified sisters nevertheless joined her in prayer and bowed their heads as usual during the Gloria. At that moment, the earthquake was reported to have ceased.

Sources include the Vatican, “The Incorruptibles” by Joan Carroll Cruz, and “I Santi de Giovanni Paolo II” by Andreas Resch.

PRAYER TO JESUS CRUCIFIED, BY ST. EUSTOCHIA: Oh my sweetest Lord, I would like to die for your holy love like you died for me! Pierce my heart with the lance and with the nails of your most bitter Passion; the sores you had on your holy body, may I have them in my heart. I ask you for sores, because it is my great shame and shortcoming to see you, my Lord, wounded, when I am not wounded with You. Amen. (Translated by Fr. Roderick Vonhögen)

Lectio Divina Guide

Lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) is a simple method of praying with Scripture. It was already known by the Church Fathers in the early days of the Church. Lectio divina was recommended by Saint Cyprian (a third-century bishop and martyr). It has been part of the prayer of Christians throughout the history of the Church. Monasteries kept the practice alive. Saint Benedict (480–547 A.D.) taught his monks to pray in this way 1500 years ago, and it is still a wonderful way to pray today.

Getting ready for Lectio Divina

FIND THE RIGHT TIME AND PLACE. Set aside a few minutes (aim for ten to fifteen minutes a day if you can manage it) in a quiet, comfortable place where you can be relatively free of distractions. Have your Bible available.
PRAY FOR HELP. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. You are about to have a conversation with God Himself; invite Him to take the lead in the conversation!

PICK A SCRIPTURE PASSAGE. Choose a Scripture passage as the subject of your prayer time. It should not be too long, perhaps a short Psalm (or a section of a longer one), a story from one of the Gospels, etc. We STRONGLY RECOMMEND using the Mass Readings of the Day. You can find them listed at http://www.usccb.org/nab/ . There are other ways to choose:

You might choose a book of the Bible that appeals to you, and read and pray with a little bit of it each day. The Psalms are great; they were Jesus’ prayer book, so they should be good enough for us! Or you might choose one of the Gospels or one of Paul’s letters.

QUIET YOUR MIND FOR A FEW MINUTES. Now you’re really ready to get started!
“If we delight in the law of God or the Word and mediate on it day and night, we will be blessed and prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

The four stages of Lectio Divina
Lectio divina has four stages, or parts, each with its Latin name:

Lectio (reading)
Meditatio (meditation)
Oratio (prayer)
Contemplatio (contemplation)

1) Lectio (reading)
Read the passage.
Reread it again s-l-o-w-l-y, line by line, pausing from time to time. Notice any words or phrases that appeal to you or attract your attention.
You’re not reading just to get the gist of the story; every word or phrase can have meaning.

2) Meditatio (meditation)
Mull over the passage you have just read. Remember, this is God speaking to you. The words or phrases that caught your attention may contain God’s special message for you. (He speaks to each one of us in a unique and individual way. No two people will get the exact same thing out of the passage. And if you were to read it again a year from now, you might hear something different.)

Spend extra time thinking about the meaning of the words that “jumped out” at you. Ask yourself,
• What is God saying to my heart?
• How can I relate this passage to my daily life?
• What is God asking of me at this moment?

3) Oratio (prayer)
Now it’s your turn to speak. Respond to God’s word in silent prayer. What do you want to say back to God? The passage you just read may inspire you to …
• Thank God.
• Praise Him.
• Tell Him you are sorry about something.
• Give yourself to Him in complete trust.
• Ask Him for something you need. Has the passage brought to mind any personal needs you might have? Or the needs of others?
• Make a resolution. Has the passage prompted you to take some action in your life? To overcome a bad or sinful habit? To reach out to someone in need?

If you would like, you can go back to the Scripture passage and repeat the meditatio and oratio stages with another phrase or two. It’s up to you. Let the Holy Spirit lead you.

4) Contemplatio (contemplation)
When you are finished reading, listening, and talking to God, it’s time to just rest in His loving presence for a few minutes.
No words are needed. Be at peace and rest in silence before the Lord.
Just love Him, and let Him love you. (Kind of like a couple falling in love — sometimes it’s enough just to be in the same room together.)

Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving for the gifts and inspirations received during your prayer time. In JOURNALING – you can include your insights, prayer in writing.


COPYRIGHT (c) Pilgrim Center of Hope, Inc.

You may request copies of this guide from us by calling our office: 210-521-3377. For bulk copies, we ask for a donation toward our ministry to help cover costs.

Christ and the Beloved Disciple icon

Icons

Icons are holy images; paintings or mosaics representing the saints, the Lord Jesus, or images of the Lord’s life. They are the “official art” of the Church as it developed in the early centuries. Over time, those of us in the western tradition of the Church opened up to other forms of religious art, but our art also continues to be based upon the original style of icons.

Icons are sometimes called “theology in color” because they are not simply artwork, but the result of intense prayer and a rich spiritual life. Those who make icons are called iconographers. They live a lifestyle of simplicity, modeled after monastic life, praying and fasting as preparation for creating the icons. In fact, sometimes instead of ‘painting’ an icon, an iconographer is said to ‘write’ an icon. This is because icons are like theology or prayer. As someone might write a prayer using words on a page, an iconographer writes an icon to be their own prayer, with color and lines, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

When icons are blessed, they are sacramentals. Other sacramentals you may be familiar with are rosaries, crucifixes and holy water. All these things prepare us more readily to receive God’s grace in our lives.

We at Pilgrim Center of Hope have many icons at the Center, and certainly invite you to come and pray with them. You can also find icons at your local Catholic bookstore, or even in books at the library.

One of our Speaker Team presenters also offers a talk on icons for parishes, schools, or other groups.