Posts

Facing Difficulties – Lessons from St. Patrick and the Irish

Image Credit: Tom Szustek, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ireland’s greatest saint is remembered March 17, which falls during Lent, and while most Americans might shrug at this and chug their green beers, Paddy is actually more closely connected to fasting and penance than to feasting and beer.

St. Patrick, determined to evangelize the Irish, was at first unsuccessful at preaching. Legend tells us that when he preached about Hell and Purgatory, no one would believe him — UNLESS! — a man could go there, live, and come back to tell them. (Sounds outrageous until you consider that these were Irish folk, and if I know anything about my Irish family members, it’s that we live for a good story.)

St. Patrick became furious at their lack of faith. It’s said Christ led Patrick to a cave, where he saw visions of Hell and Purgatory. One story leads to another, and it’s said a man was lowered into the cave, experienced Purgatory, and ‘lived to tell’.

Owain’s World

We learn more from the story of Sir Owain, or Knight Owain, whose journey through the famous cave is re-told in Tractatus de Purga-torio Sancti Patricii (Treatise on St. Patrick’s Purgatory). This Treatise is clearly the product of Irish didactic storytelling. From it, we can glean a few gems to help us with our trials here on earth:

What We Should Think

As Owain enters the cave, monks advise him that although the road ahead is treacherous, he can survive by thinking about one thing: “Hold God in your heart, and think upon the Passion that he suffered on the cross for you.”

This advice has been passed down to us from the apostles and saints through the centuries, but we seem to meditate on Jesus’ Passion only during Lent. Why? Perhaps we’re too caught up in our search for comfort and pleasure, as if these would solve our problems. But only through meditation on God’s ultimate sacrifice, on Christ’s love-above-all-love for us, can we rise above our trials.

What We Should Speak

Owain is also advised: “Use God’s exalted name and the fiends can do you no harm.” Scripture tells us that at the name of Jesus, “every knee shall bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth…”

Owain learns the power of Jesus’ name as fiends tie him up to be burned, but he “called out to Our Lord and at once the fire disappeared and not so much as a coal or a spark remained.” Soon, he realizes that whenever he speaks Jesus’ name, or thinks about His love, the fiends are rendered powerless. This holds true for us, too. Demons may seem frightening, but what is actually frightful is that they are so weak(!), and we can only be damaged when we give in to their weakness. Rather, strength comes from humility; when we rely on God. So in our trials, we should pray in Jesus’ name for protection.

What We Should Ignore

As Owain walks along, he sees people undergoing unthinkable sufferings, which correspond to their sinful attachments on earth. Each time he observes one of these horrors, Owain hears demons cry out to him, variations of this message: ‘You are such a terrible sinner! Look at what penance you’ll have to endure! But you don’t have to endure suffering! We’ll take you to be our friend, and where there are comforts!’

Owain simply ignores the demons and continues forward. What a simple, yet profound, lesson! Jesus teaches us this lesson; during his temptations, he rebukes Satan with the words of Scripture. We ought never to believe our tempters, because they serve the Father of Lies. Rather, we should ignore them and continue on our journey, trusting in God.

St. Patrick and Almighty God

I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit o’ Irish lore; filled with timeless truths. As we remember St. Patrick, let’s remember this great saint — great because he knew these truths, and thus knew the power of God’s mighty love.

“So I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. […] He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties.” – St. Patrick of Ireland (from his Confession)


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.

The Blessing of Turning our Why into What

What is your response when you don’t believe God answered your prayer?

Do you humbly respond,

“Lord, You know what is best for me. I trust that You have a better plan for my good.”

Or . . . do you respond more often like Naaman, the highly esteemed and respected army commander suffering from leprosy that we read about in today’s Mass reading from the second Book of Kings (5:1-15)?

After hearing from his wife through her Israelite slave that a prophet of Israel can cure him, Naaman asks permission of his master to go and see the healer and prophet Elisha. He travels into a foreign land with his entourage bringing gifts to impress the king so as to gain access to the prophet.

In other words . . . he goes all out in hope his efforts will bring about a healing.

When Elisha refuses to see him, sending him a message instead, Naaman has a tantrum and yells,

“I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand there to call on the name of the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the place, and thus cure the leprous spot!”

Naaman then “turned about in anger and left,” (2 King 5:12).

Sound familiar?

How often do we expect God to come as we say and when we say?

Naaman was an army commander and therefore expected people to do what he said. Aren’t we all a bit like that?  We expect control of our situations. When God does not respond as we want, we are easily tempted to question His motives and fall into the sin of pride. We become angry and demand why, “Why did you not heal/fix this?” which can be translated, “Why are You not doing what I tell You to do when I tell You to do it?”

What we can learn from Naaman is that God wants so much more than just healing Naaman of his leprosy, He wants Naaman for His own. God desires to be seen and known by Naaman. Had it been as Naaman expected, he could have assumed his healing was due to his own efforts in visiting the prophet.

He would have been healed, but never encountered God, the Source of all healing.

It is normal for us to do the same. We think praying x-number of Rosaries, keeping the Sacraments and/or offering our devotional prayers regularly will secure all the blessings we ask for. They are necessary to be sure, but if our attitude is one of control, “If I do this or that I will get what I want,” we may find ourselves stomping mad like Naaman.

What should we do?

Wonderful advice I received is to replace our demands on God to answer our ‘whys’ with an invitation to come into our ‘whats.’

Here’s an example of a prayer of what: “Lord I know You are Good and You want the best for me. I don’t understand what You are doing here.  I feel like You have abandoned me, but I know You never abandon us, so what am I not seeing? Come into this place where I hurt, where I am so angry, and please help me to understand what You are working in this situation.”

This simple change of ‘why” into ‘what’ takes God off the defensive and into the reality of who He is. I have never known the prayer of ‘what’ to fail. I may not get what I expect, but I receive so much more. I receive God’s Presence with me, bringing His light, His warmth, His consolation, and an eventual answer to my prayer that always heals, fixes or restores in ways so much better than I could have imagined!

In surrendering his expectation, Naaman learns the same. He returns at the advice of his servants and obeys the instruction of Elisha receiving the full healing of his leprosy and best of all . . . God Himself!  Naaman says,

“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel!” (2 Kings 5:15).

Naaman’s conversion in faith was so profound this foreigner and Gentile won entry into Jewish Scripture, and 500 years later, recognition on the lips of God. In rebuking the people of His hometown of Nazareth for refusing to believe Jesus as a prophet, our Lord says in the Gospel of Luke (4:27), “Again, there were lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet no one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”


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.

The Transfiguration Makes a Way for the Cross

“Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray.”

In the Gospels, there are several moments of significance when Jesus takes Peter, John, and James to be alone with him. Here, on Mt. Tabor, the three apostles will witness something that the other apostles did not. They will see Jesus glorified speaking with Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the prophets. All that God had revealed to His Chosen People could be summed up in the Law and the Prophets. Now Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah and he is above them; he is the fullness of God’s revelation, being God and man.

Mt. Tabor is unlike most of the mountains or hills in the region which are usually connected or part of a chain. Mt. Tabor is a mountain all by itself in the middle of several valleys and is only a few miles from Nazareth and Cana. As a matter of fact, you can see Nazareth from the top of Mt. Tabor which you reach by way of a zigzagging road that is too narrow for a bus.

Nowadays, when you arrive at the top you see a beautiful church with three domes; the one in the center is larger and taller because it is over the altar dedicated to Jesus Christ. The one on the left is dedicated to Moses and the one on the right is dedicated to Elijah. These three domes were inspired by the words of Peter:

“…let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

For the moment, Peter was caught up in the ecstasy of that mountain top experience and wanted to remain on the mountain.  However, if they would have remained on the mountain, they would have neglected their mission. It is a temptation for all of us to hope we will find a place where everything will be okay and we won’t have to be concerned with trials and difficulties. However, that was not a reality for the Apostles and it is not a reality for us. The Lord will continue to take us to places where we must depend upon him so that we can become spiritually mature and be filled with hope, even in the most difficult circumstance.

By his transfiguration, Jesus is preparing Peter, James, and John for the scandal they will witness when he enters into his passion. There will be many things they will see and hear as they follow Jesus that will challenge their faith and so he has given these three this glimpse of his glory to strengthen them so that they, in turn, can strengthen the others.

We must make concrete choices

We are beginning the second week of Lent. The purpose of this liturgical season of Lent is to renew the mission of Christ in our lives so that by cooperating with his grace we will be reconciled to God and one another. It doesn’t happen automatically. We must make concrete choices. That is why once again we look at prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as a means of surrendering our hearts to the Lord. If we do not have time to pray, if we are not generous with what we have and if we allow our appetites to dominate us, we are far from the kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ is not just a God of miracles that we look to in our time of need, hoping he will fix everything for us. Sometimes he does that, but most of all he wants a personal relationship with us that draws us into intimate and fervent prayer that leads us to trust him completely with every aspect of our lives. This trusting relationship will free us from anxious dependency on our own resources so that we will be generous with what we have, knowing that God can not be outdone in generosity.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves and the people we love is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus by being faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. He is the one who brings peace and happiness into our lives, but on his terms because he knows what is best for us. If we do not look to God for direction as we make our plans we are destined for unhappiness.

St. Augustine once said:

“Our hearts are restless O’ Lord until they rest in you.” Lord, you have created us to be in relationship with you. There is no other way we can reach our potential for happiness. Give us the grace Lord to love you above everything else and our neighbor as our self so that we may be happy now and for all eternity.


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.

Hope Gets Us Through the Desert

Judean Desert

The desert.  It’s hot, unbearable, and extreme. Two years ago, I was blessed to have gone on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the Pilgrim Center of Hope.  From Galilee, we traveled by motorcoach through the Judean Desert to Jerusalem. The heat of the Judean Desert was hotter than any south Texas summer day!   After leaving the Jordan River, we drove through the desert to Jericho.  As we drove, I stared out the window at the horizon that looked so desolate, hot, and dry.  It was mysterious and scary. I wondered what it might have been like for Jesus during his 40 days in the desert being tempted by the devil.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.”  Matthew 4: 1-2

We humans would be uneasy with the idea of being in the desert, alone and powerless against the elements and the unknown.  Although my example is literal, we also have figurative desert experiences.  Perhaps it is an illness, a loss, a temptation, or any unbearable situation that makes us feel completely alone, uncomfortable, or that we simply can’t control.  This is where hope comes in.

What is Hope?

“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit… (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1817)

“…it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude… (CCC, no. 1818)

A few years ago, my husband and I discovered we were expecting our third child.  At our first sonogram visit, the doctor told us that there was an abnormal image.  He stated that it could be a spot in the image itself or an indication that our child could have lung or other developmental issues.  We’d see a specialist every two weeks during the pregnancy to monitor the baby.  Each day my husband and I talked to each other about it, we talked to the baby, and we prayed–always trusting that this was God’s will and not ours.  So many times, each day I asked God to get us through the pregnancy and to care for our baby; we hoped with all our might.  Through the grace of God and many prayers, the abnormal spot was gone and never came back.  All tests were normal and we went on to deliver our third, healthy, beautiful baby boy.

Our hope was what truly carried us through the pregnancy. Hope gets us all through our own deserts.

As Christians, we are equipped with the virtue of hope.  Our hope is like a help-line where we can humbly ask our Lord to help us persevere through our desert.  Hope nourishes our soul to get us through a day, an hour, and sometimes a minute at a time.

Call to Action

We can never avoid our desert nor should we want to because crossing the desert strengthens our faith.  It reinforces our trust in God, especially in times when we don’t know where the next step will take us.  Below are some practical first steps that have helped me find hope, that will hopefully help you, too:

  • Pray often.  It could start with a rosary, a chaplet or simply having a conversation with God. He loves you and wants to hear from you often.
  • When worry sets in, offer it up.  “Offer it up”, a topic worthy of its own blog, is essentially uniting our pain or suffering to Jesus’ suffering on the cross for the salvation of souls.  It’s fascinating, read about it!
  • Help others who are in their desert.  In other words, offer hope.  You can do this by praying for them or supporting them in a meaningful way.

With the gift of stigmata and as the patron saint of stress relief, St. Pio of Pietreclina, better known as “Padre Pio”, gave the best encouragement in his motto that we all could follow:
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”


Christina Campos is a blessed Catholic wife and mother. Each day brings adventurous memories and so many reasons to be thankful to God. She enjoys volunteering and contributing to the special mission of the 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.

Is It Selfish to Ask God for Healing?

Someone told me they thought that asking God for healing for themselves was being selfish. On the contrary, God wants to heal us, because He loves us, and knows us more than we know ourselves! How is that possible? He procreated with our parents and gave us life when we were in our mother’s womb. He knows us, every single detail about our being. God sent His Son, Christ Jesus to live among us, die for us, and give us Eternal Life the ultimate healing through his resurrection.   

Examples of Healing From Scripture 

We know the stories in the New Testament, how Jesus healed the blind, the lame, the sick. Sometimes it took a simple word, a mere look or touch from Christ. One thing is clear in all these stories: Christ healed those who wanted his healing, those who trusted in him.  We may not think about that. We may think that we do not exist in the eyes of God, or that he doesn’t know our needs. Christ Jesus said:  …Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow… (Luke 13:32)

In Hebrews 13:8, we read:   

“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. “

Two Healing Stories of Hope

Jesus continues to heal. Here are two stories among many I have heard from people healed by God to encourage you and give you hope.   

A young mother lost her 1-year-old daughter in a drowning accident. She was devasted and angry at God. As time went on, she realized the emptiness of the loss of her daughter, the loss of hope caused her anxiety and anguish. She had enough! Late one night, she felt compelled to call out to God. She began to weep and as she wept, she cried out:

“God, help me! God, help me! I need help!”

The next day, she happened to meet someone who asked her if she needed prayer. She was taken by surprise! She had just cried out to God the previous night! She was renewed in her faith in God and began a journey of healing. 

My father suffered from severe neuropathy in this legs and feet; so much so, his pain increased during the night preventing him from having a night’s sleep. He and my mother went on pilgrimage to Lourdes, France; where Mary, the Mother of God appeared to a young girl, Bernadette in 1858. Since then, it has been a pilgrimage destination for thousands, and through the healing power of God and Mary’s intercession; many have experienced healing. While on pilgrimage, they spent a lot of time in prayer asking for healing while discovering the richness of their Catholic Faith. Upon their return home from their pilgrimage, my father discovered he was completely healed of neuropathy!   

Christ heals our broken bodies, but He also heals our broken spirits, our broken hearts. No, it is not selfish to ask for healing. Do not let anything stop you from approaching Christ Jesus for healing. He hears our prayers raised to him from the depths of our hearts, He will answer our prayer, all according to His holy will and in the perfect time. We must remain faithful and trust in Him, who loves you.   

Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, the Divine Physician.  I come to you as I am, broken and needing your healing.   Jesus, I trust in 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.

Take courage! He is calling you.

Attendee at the 2019 Catholic Men’s Conference

The theme for all the Catholic Men’s Conferences (which are held annually, our next conference will be February 27) and sponsored by Pilgrim Center of Hope is taken from Mark 10:51, “Master, I want to see.”

Our Blindness

Bartimaeus was physically blind, but because of his faith, the Lord healed him. We chose this theme, because we realize that there is a blindness that is worse than physical blindness—and it affects not only men, but all of society; and we all need to be healed.

As Jesus taught the crowds two thousand years ago, he said,

“…They may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:12)

To accept Jesus as our Savior, and to undergo conversion, goes against our nature. We think we know what is best for us, and we want to rely on our own resources, our own intelligence, our own understanding. It is from this way of thinking that we need conversion and forgiveness.

The Difficulty of Faith

In baptism, we received the theological gift of faith, but what is faith? The theologian St. Thomas Aquinas gives us an insight: “The object of faith is not something seen or sensed; nor, in itself, is this object grasped by the intellect” (Tour of the Summa). Perhaps this is what we could call the difficulty of faith: our intellectual desire is to understand all things, but there are some things that God has revealed to us that are beyond our understanding.

The answer to this struggle is to surrender (entrust) our intelligence to God, in order to believe. As we draw close to God, we should desire more to believe than to understand in matters of faith, because it is our faith that causes us to have hope and to live in charity. This has been proven through the ages; true faith in God has inspired men and women to live heroic lives of virtue and to experience great happiness that has been the means of hope not only for themselves, but also for others.

Awakening Our Faith

Faith is more than saying we believe in God. Again, an insight from Thomas Aquinas:

“The internal act of faith is the unhesitant assent of the mind or intellect, under the direction of the will, to the truth that is proposed for belief upon sufficient authority. In the case of religious faith, the authority is God, who is truth itself.” (Tour of the Summa)

This internal faith must lead us to an external witness. Saint James tells us, “Be assured, then, that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath.” (James 3:26). If our faith does not influence our decisions, it is dead. If our faith does not inspire us to pray daily, read the scriptures, and worship God, it is dead. If we are not concerned about discovering what God’s plan is for us, and then using the gifts that God has given us to build up the Body of Christ, then our faith is dead.

Jesus came to speak about the urgency of the kingdom of God, because the kingdom of God is at hand for those who believe; and not to believe leads to hopelessness. If we do not have a sense of the urgency of the kingdom of God, then we have eyes, but do not see; ears but do not hear, and hearts that have not yet been converted. The world is as it is because we have not placed God at the center of our lives, at the center of our families.
Our Lord is patient for our salvation, but the longer we take to cooperate with his graces; the greater are the consequences will be for us and for society.

What Will You Ask Jesus?

If we still have enough faith to know that we must make some changes in our lives, then we should say along with Bartimaeus, “Master, I want to see!” The Lord will begin to show us what we must do. It was Bartimaeus who initiated the dialogue with Jesus. Even though he was told to keep silent, he continued to ask for pity, and Jesus said, “Call him!” When he came forward, Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” even though he knew Bartimaeus was blind.

Jesus knows what we need, and yet he often waits to see if we have enough faith to ask, or to ask on behalf of someone else. He begs us to ask him. He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

What is it that you want to ask of Jesus? He already knows what you need, but he may be waiting for you to approach him in faith. Remember the words of the disciples to Bartimaeus: “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you!”

It may seem like a big risk to ask Jesus for something, because we know that Jesus may want something from us in return. What he wants from us is our trust. He wants us to experience the joy of being a child of God and of living in a relationship with him in which we will discover our true dignity.

There are some things we can do that will prepare our hearts to see and hear our Lord, so that we can be converted and forgiven:

  • We must make a commitment to pray daily. Prayer could change the world if we would pray with our hearts.
  • Our Lord has given us the sacraments, because he knows we need his grace to discover and live the plan he has for each of us. Consider how you can incorporate frequent Confession, daily Mass when possible, quiet time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, into your life.
  • Being united with the Mother of Jesus by praying the Rosary will help us to see more clearly the spiritual battle we are involved in each day.

May the grace of God give us all the confidence we need to approach Jesus with our concerns and petitions. May God’s grace help us to see and hear more clearly his great plan for us. Faith is a gift from God, but believing is a choice.

How will you choose to respond?


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.

Live Life to the Fullest, with Hope

 

The ministry of Jesus was unlike any other because he spoke with authority, the authority of God, and he performed miracles revealing his power over nature, sickness, and evil. Jesus uses his teaching authority and his miracles so that the people might believe in him as the Messiah. However, he does not want the people to look to him as a political leader who will deliver them from the Roman occupation. His teaching is always about the Kingdom of God; about our need for conversion, to turn away from sin and to be faithful; to love God above all things and our neighbor as our self.

Why did Jesus teach in Parables?

When the Apostles heard Jesus, they immediately left everything and followed him. There were others who were attracted to Jesus just because they heard of his miracles and hoped he would do something for them. And then there were those who refused to believe in him and looked for an opportunity to prove he was an imposter.

They all heard the same thing and saw the same thing, but their response was different. It is for this reason that Jesus frequently taught in parables. The parables were an invitation to look deeper and to believe and not be among those who had eyes and could not see, ears and could not hear, and hearts that would not be converted.

 Embrace a Relationship with Jesus

The same is true for us today. We all hear the same Gospel, we all have seen or heard remarkable things that can only be explained as God’s intervention, and our responses can be quite different. So, the question that has eternal consequences for each of us is, do we believe Jesus is God, and do we want to follow him? Do we have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that are willing to be converted?  Do we want to embrace a relationship with Jesus – which means to trust in His providence every day and embrace his message which causes us to make changes to the way we live?

Some people hesitate because they think they will have to give up too much to be a disciple of Jesus. On the contrary, a relation with our Lord will lead us to live life more fully – with hope. Perhaps we think we aren’t good enough to follow our Lord. Jesus knows that our fallen nature is an obstacle to faithful discipleship; that we are inclined by our nature to be selfish. For this reason, He said we must deny our self, take up our cross and follow Him. Knowing how difficult this is for us He pursues us and gives us opportunities to discover His Love and mercy. Sometimes an addiction can rob a person of all hope and they finally turn to God and begin life anew. It may be a serious illness or financial difficulty that causes a person to realize they need God. It may be through a retreat or a pilgrimage experience that a person is awakened to the presence of God and then begins to commit their life to prayer and the sacraments. Or perhaps it is a simple challenge to wake up and take God seriously.

Is Jesus the Lord of Your Life?

About forty years ago someone asked me if Jesus was the Lord of my life. I don’t remember my response, but in my heart, I knew I should say no. I went to Mass every Sunday but gave God little thought after that. My faith had little influence over the decisions I made. So, the question remained, did I or did I not want Jesus to be the Lord of my life? That thought haunted me for a while before I decided to do something about it. Within a few weeks, I bought my first Bible, joined a prayer group at the parish, and began to spend time in prayer every day. Those three decisions began to reshape my life and created a desire to draw close to God. My wife Mary Jane had the same desire and we started going to daily Mass and becoming more involved in our parish.

We know from our personal experience that there is a great difference between knowing about God in a casual way instead of having a desire to know God in a personal way and wanting to be faithful to what He has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. Our relationship with God brought new joy to our marriage and to our life in general. God has a great plan for all of us, and He wants us to invite Him to be in the center of that plan.

The Lord knows our struggles and for this reason, He established His Church so that through the sacraments we have access to all the grace we need to be faithful and intimately connected to Him. Jesus is still alive in His Church and He still speaks with authority and He still works miracles. For our part do we have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that are willing to be converted?  If Jesus is not yet the priority of your life, make a commitment today to take the first step –in a moment of silence – approach Jesus in humility – open your heart to Him who waits for you. He will give you the grace to do what you cannot do on your own. It’s never too late to begin anew with Christ!


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.

Evangelization, What Does it Mean?

Evangelization. It’s a hard word to pronounce for some people and it can be a word a lot of Catholics are not comfortable using because they don’t know what it means.

What does it mean?

Instead of going into some Theological explanation, I will explain it in very simple terms.  As taken from the USCCB (United States Conference Catholic Bishops); the simplest way to say what evangelization means is to follow Pope Paul VI, whose message Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World), we can rephrase his words to say that evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself.”  In other words, sharing the stories you know about Jesus with people who do not know Him.

I am writing this for everyone to read but I am focusing on grabbing my Catholic brother’s and sister’s attention.  Yes, I’m talking to you who may know the basics about our faith but are still afraid to share what you know with other people.  I noticed that other Faiths are very good at sharing the word of God and are unafraid of doing so.  Maybe it’s just me who thinks this way but I don’t see many Catholics sharing their faith.  I feel like we fall short, myself included.  You don’t have to be a Theologian to share what you know.

Don’t be afraid to share what you know about Jesus

What is Evangelization…remember it’s bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation.  Don’t worry about being afraid of sharing the little that you know.  Let me give you an example of what I am trying to say.  One day as I was cleaning my home, my eight-year-old daughter came to me and began to tell me what happened when she was with her friends that day.   She began to tell me that her friend found a picture of Mary in her mom’s purse and began to laugh at it.  She was saying “look at this lady with the thing on her head.”  My daughter and another friend were shocked because she was making fun of Mary.  So, they began to “share what they know with her” they were evangelizing.  They told her that the woman in the picture was Mary the mother of Jesus.  These are eight-year-old little girls sharing what they know with a friend who doesn’t know Jesus.  They were unafraid to tell her they knew who Jesus was.  Do you see how simple that was for an eight-year-old?   You can share what you know about Jesus with other people, don’t be afraid.  Share what you know and God will take care of the rest.

What was that word again?  Evangelization.


Gloria Chapa-Solano Wife of 14 years, mom to an 8-year-old.  Always praying to the Holy Family for help and guidance on how to be a better wife and mother.  From Gloria, “Although I fail almost every day I am blessed with the Lord’s grace to wake up every day and try again.”

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.

The Eucharist: What is Your Way to Receive Jesus?

Fr. Daniel Villarreal distributing Communion at the September 2019 Catholic Women’s Conference.

In the video series, The Mandalorian, we learn early on that the title character lives by a strict rule. He believes that to be Mandalorian means you never remove your helmet. It is the way.

In one episode, the Mandalorian seems unsure of how to answer a question asked, “What’s the rule? Is it you can’t take off your Mando helmet, or you can’t show your face? There is a difference.”

In the last 20 years, I have journeyed from lapsed to devout Catholic. As my desire to draw closer to Jesus and to worship Him reverently grew, my way of participating at Mass did as well.

I had learned through the teaching of the Catechism:

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” (1324)

The Impact of the Pandemic

My rule of worship is to celebrate Holy Mass daily, veil, and up until the restrictions, receive the Eucharist on my tongue.

The pandemic and subsequent church restrictions threw me into turmoil. To suddenly be stripped of how I worship affronted my Catholic identity. I questioned the authority that closed the churches, moved the Holy Mass to virtual and granted dispensation from receiving the Eucharist.

If the Church proclaims the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, I anguished, how can we be denied Him?

A Challenge at Confession

During Confession, I spoke my anger and the priest asked me a question, which like the Mandalorian, I was not sure how to answer. He asked, “Is the Eucharist a gift or a right?” He could have added, “There is a difference.”

Father challenged me to see that though the way the Mass and the other Sacraments are being offered has changed, they are still being offered. He reminded me that the Church permits receiving the Eucharist in the hand and Spiritual Communion for people unable to attend Mass in-person. He asked me, “Don’t you think God knew this pandemic was coming and made the necessary provisions for us?”

The Mandalorian chooses to suspend his rule to achieve a greater good: to receive ‘the child’ back into his possession and care. My rule of worship, that centers on receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, has greatly served in helping me grow in reverence to God. If I suspend my rule, I feel I will offend God, but if I stick by this rule, I will not be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Which is the greater good?

Pondering Father’s question, I have discovered that though they are different, the Eucharist is both gift and right.

Gift and Right

Eucharist, which comes from the Greek word, eucharistia, means thankfulness; gratitude. Jesus comes to us as Gift through the Eucharist. In a devotional reflection this is clearly and beautifully stated, God dwells among His people in the flesh of Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem of old, present in the Eucharist of our day. My focus should not be on if I am worthy, but in believing that He is. I could fast forty days, pray all night and still not be worthy to receive Him. And in reflecting on my rule, I have to admit my tongue is a greater cause of offense than my hands.

The Eucharist is also a right; just not ours. Jesus has a right through His Life given, Passion offered, and Promise kept to claim our unwavering faithfulness in being in Communion with Him. Because of His great respect for our free will, He will never demand His right nor force His claim. He waits for us. What He desires is not my worthiness as much as my free will choice to receive Him into my life.

My Lord and My God

For the greater good, temporarily I hope, I have chosen to suspend my rule of worship and receive the Eucharist in the hand. I have added a quick kneel while the person in front of me receives. On my knees I quietly address Him, “My Lord and God,” and then rise to receive our King in the ‘throne’ of my hand and into where He desires to dwell . . . in me.

Whatever rule of worship we adopt, our Catholic identity is to be a Eucharistic people. In his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Saint Pope John Paul II writes: 

We can say that each of us not only receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us, (Ch 2, 22).

It is the way.


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.

Lonely? Upset? I’m Making A New Start… Here’s How You Can, Too

I’m writing this as we start a new year; a year when many of us want a new start.

Personally, I really needed a new start. As last year came to an end, I had fallen into a serious funk. At times, I honestly thought I was losing grip on myself. I was suffering from a pile of wounds, frustration, and angst.

My birthday falls at the end of the year. Growing up, that usually meant that my friends were too busy with their families to attend my birthday parties. This past birthday, I wondered if I would even attempt to celebrate at all.

Snapped Out of It

A few days before my birthday came around, I received an unexpected text message. It was a friend, simply asking, “Any birthday plans?”

That simple act of care & thoughtfulness did something powerful. I realized that I didn’t want to start my new year of life feeling the way that I had been for weeks. I wanted to be a different person. I wanted to be happy.

We made plans to talk on the phone. When we spoke, I told my friend about how they had helped me, and I thanked them.

You Never Walk Alone

Last year felt very lonely for me for a multitude of reasons. However, I found comfort in knowing that I am never alone in the communion of saints.

The Church is a “communion of saints”: this expression refers first to the “holy things” (sancta), above all the Eucharist, by which “the unity of believers, who form one body in Christ, is both represented and brought about.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 960

Jesus gave us this amazing gift when he gave us the Eucharist: a celebration that mystically unites us with him and with all who have faith in him—unhindered by the limits of space and time! So, when you are feeling lonely, remember that each time you participate spiritually and physically in the Eucharistic celebration, Holy Mass; you are united to a tremendous family!

The term “communion of saints” refers also to the communion of “holy persons” (sancti) in Christ who “died for all,” so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all.

CCC, no. 961

Jesus also gives us the gift of friendship; with himself and with all in his community of friendship.

Friendship is so important that Jesus calls himself a friend: “I do not call you servants any longer, but I call you friends” (John 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.

– Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, no. 153

Begin Again, with A Friend

Two years ago here at Pilgrim Center of Hope, we as a staff began each choosing a friend among the communion of saints with whom we felt called to walk throughout the year.  Each month, we get together to share something we’ve learned from our saint-friend. Through this journey, we’ve found great encouragement and personal growth through our relationships with these friends.

You can do this, too. It’s an awesome “new start” you can take-on in your personal or family life!

Each year, my journey-friend from the communion of saints has been…

  • A Friend: Someone with whom I’ve found things in common
  • An Intercessor: Someone in whom I’ve confided & asked for prayers – and I’m truly convinced that they’ve interceded for me
  • A Role Model: Someone whose virtuous life has inspired me to become the person God has made me to be
  • A Teacher: Someone whose spirituality & wisdom have taught me invaluable lessons

How do I ‘choose’ a friend each year? Perhaps this will give you ideas for your personal journey…

  • My 2019 Friend: Blessed Miguel Pro – I’d been given a relic of his before, and I knew that my family had a connection to him. I’d also heard stories about his sense of humor, and I wanted to grow in not taking life so seriously (a pesky personal tendency). So, I borrowed a book about him and began reading a chapter each month, taking notes each time.
  • My 2020 Friend: Saint Catherine of Siena – I knew very little about her; she was quite mysterious to me. I did know that she had been a bridge-builder between people, and I had been sensing a calling to become a bridge-builder myself. So, I started to listen to an audio recording of her greatest work, The Dialogue. I kept a list of lessons she taught me on my phone.
  • My 2021 Friend: Saint Oscar Romero – During 2020, I kept coming across spiritual reflections that struck me profoundly. Upon looking at the author’s name, I found it was him. So, knowing that he had been a martyr during a tumultuous period in his country’s history, I decided that I would claim him as my journey-friend for the not-so-easy year ahead. Already, I’ve been able to listen to his recorded homilies, and have typed up notes from what struck me.

Are you convinced yet? Now is a great time to “begin again” …and you can! Jesus offers you himself and all of his friends, to help you. Have 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.

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.