Tag Archive for: Christmas

John The Baptist, Advent & Our Neighbor

“Now in those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’  For this is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:1-3).

If we go to Luke (3:5-6), the prophet Isaiah is quoted as saying:

“Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low. And what is crooked shall be made straight. And the rough paths shall be made into level ways. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

In my youth, when I heard this Scripture passage, I pondered its meaning and was very one-dimensional in what it meant to me: Repent of your sins and be saved. In later years, as I meditated a bit more deeply on the passage, I came to realize it can mean so many things, including that John the Baptist was speaking to me, and how I love my neighbor.

The Picture Becomes Clear As You Journey Through Life

Anyone who has lived life for as few as 12 years, knows about life’s ups and downs: its joys and sorrows, elation and depression, boredom and excitement. Oftentimes, we can experience more than one of these emotions all in the span of one day. Because of our focus on our own life experiences and distractions, we tended to simply ignore, or not notice, what others were experiencing.

As we mature, we begin to discover that there are others around us whose feelings and emotions matter to us-we grow to master our own emotionality. We become more sensitive to how others whom we love and care about are doing, day to day.

Then we grow some more, and hopefully, begin to look beyond our immediate circle of family and close friends, and start to notice random strangers, whom we see climbing the hills and valleys, the sunlit meadows, and the dark ravines, of life. They, like us, are on the path to salvation—the path to God.

Our hearts truly begin to grow, because our neighborhood has expanded from our home to our street, to our subdivision, to the world. We come to realize that WE are the ones who are to be the people who are to help those less fortunate, or who are poor in spirit, or whose paths are blocked with barriers and obstacles, and make THEIR ways smooth; level the mountains that stand in THEIR paths.

We can find these people as near as the grocery store, or as far away as the Philippines, meeting those who are seeking truth in their own ways, and on their own roads. If we are perceptive, we can tell if someone is walking barefoot on a road made of sharp stones, or if a person is not on the right path, or if life seems to another person to be a “walk in the park”.

Connecting The Dots

What does all of this have to do with John the Baptist, or Advent? The Baptist was calling his listeners to search the wilderness of their hearts and souls for anything that was making the road more difficult—for ourselves, as well as for others. Whatever those things were, we needed to identify, and repent of, seeking forgiveness.

If we examine our actions on a given day, we can focus on interactions with our neighbors. How would you describe those interactions?

  • Were they kind, gentle, loving, and welcoming, or were they more worthy of someone with the attitude of Mr. Scrooge on a bad day?
  • Were you helping someone get off the rocky, difficult path, or pushing them down the stony mountain?
  • Were you helping someone who has fallen, to get up and continue walking?
  • Were your words more akin to stuffing their backpacks with bricks and rocks, instead of lightening their load by taking their heavy backpack?

It is in this work that we find ourselves and, ultimately, God. It is this very work that keeps us on the path to God Himself.

In this beautiful Season of Advent, we are called to go into our own “wildernesses”, and to find those things that we do that keep us from being another Christ to others. Find those areas where we could show greater love and kindness to our neighbors, wherever we see them, and however distant they may be found. Look at others through the eyes of Jesus, then love them accordingly.

And when you have begun to do this, you can approach the Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Day!

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

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.

Journey to Christmas: Traditions from Around the World

This week’s virtual pilgrimage with Angela Sealana takes us on a journey to Christmas! Jump into the holiday spirit by exploring Christmas devotions from around the world; their origins and the deeper meanings behind them that have led millions into the celebration of Christmas for centuries.

During our journey, you will hear about:

  • Light in the Window & ‘Christmas Lights’
  • Advent & Nativity/Creche
  • Posadas & Pinatas
  • Oplatki
  • Epiphany house blessing and traditions
  • Much More!

Listen to this program now:

Jewel for the Journey

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” (Luke 2:10)

A Closer Look at Christmas: Traditions from Around the World

Epiphany House Blessing – Short Version

Epiphany House Blessing – Version with Room Blessings

Where is the Nativity of Jesus Christ?

Milk Grotto – Bethlehem

This week Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox will take a virtual pilgrimage to Milk Grotto, not far from the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square in Bethlehem. Officially called Magharet Sitti Mariam or the Grotto of the Lady Mary, tradition holds that the Holy Family took refuge in this grotto (hollowed out of limestone) on their way to Egypt as they were fleeing the Slaughter of the Innocents.

It is believed that while nursing the infant Jesus a few drops of Mary’s milk fell upon the yellowish-brown stone and turned it to white. During this program, you will learn more about this sacred destination and why it is frequented by new mothers and women who are trying to conceive.

Jewel for the Journey:
Saint Joseph was a just man, a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect, and enlighten families.   St. Pope John Paul II

Link to Guardian of the Redeemer – St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on St. Joseph:

Christmas Spirituality

Fr. Ed Hauf welcomes Sr. Maria Kim-Ngan Bui, FSP, on this episode of Catholicism Live! where they discuss the beauty of the spirit of Christmas. Catholicism Live! was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Want to grow deeper in your relationship with Mary? Find information for upcoming Evenings with Mary here.

Meet Mary & St. Joseph

Spend a VIRTUAL time of Advent reflection with the Blessed Virgin Mary & St. Joseph, guided by Pilgrim Center of Hope.

  • Hear what Mary & Joseph’s Advent journey would have been like.
  • Participate in guided prayer and reflection.
  • Receive inspiration & encouragement for your own daily life.

Presenter: Mary Jane Fox

Cost: Pilgrim Center of Hope is a non-profit evangelization ministry, sustained only by donations. While there is no required fee to watch & benefit from the presentation below, 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!

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Shepherd’s Field – Bethlehem

Join Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox for a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, specifically to an open area outside of Bethlehem referred to Shepherd’s Field. This open area was where the Angel appeared to the Shepherds that Holy Night when Christ was born! During this program, with Deacon Tom and Mary Jane as our guides, we will:

  • Make note of some very interesting historical facts.
  • Discover the Chapel built in honor of the Shepherds.
  • Learn more about the shepherds at the time of Jesus.
  • Much more!

Jewel for the Journey

“The closer we are to the Good Shepherd, the safer we are from those who want to destroy our faith.” – A friend of Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Listen to this program now:

Advent: Keep Watch, He Is To Come Again

This wonderful season can so easily escape us as we focus only on Christmas. For this show, Fr. Ed Hauf welcomes Dan Duet. Tune-in as they explore the real value of Advent and help us delve into its richness more fully.

Catholicism Live! was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Are You Prepared To Receive Jesus?

Not only is Advent a time of coming (in Latin Adventus); it is also a time of waiting and receiving.

As we enter the fourth and last week of Advent, now is not only the time to prepare for the commemoration of Christ’s birth, two-thousand years ago, but also the time to prepare ourselves for what St. Bernard of Clarivaux called the Mystery and Majesty of the coming of Christ.

St. Bernard said that Christ in fact comes to us three times or in three ways:

  • In History – the Birth of the baby Jesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew (1:25 & 2:1) and Luke (2:6, 7)
  • In Mystery – through the Holy Eucharist, which is in the here and now
  • In Majesty – at the end of time when Christ will return in all His glory, as our Profession of Faith tells us, “to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”

Since discovering this particular spiritual teaching from St. Bernard, about ten years ago, my anticipation of and appreciation for Christmas has grown into a year-round and what will be a life-long affair. This has also led to a greater love for the Eucharist and to striving to be better prepared for when Jesus comes again.

Talk about having an epiphany; an illuminating discovery!

Through St. Bernard’s teaching, I now understand that we all can live thousands of Advents. From Sunday to Sunday of each week or in between every Mass we fully participate in; each time we anticipate receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is another Advent.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel – Matthew 1:23

Emmanuel means God is with us. During the Bread of Life discourse which Our Lord presented at the synagogue at Capernaum, he pledged to us his perpetual presence in the Holy Eucharist… He remains with us always!

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever – John 6:51

The Bread of Life was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.” He was laid in a manager, but it did not matter to the shepherds and the Magi. They came to adore Jesus and present him gifts fit for king.

Make Room For Jesus
I urge you to use this last week before Christmas to reflect on how to better receive Jesus in your heart. All of us – including me – can make more room for Jesus in our lives. There was no room at the inn for the Holy Family; no one wanted to make room for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Make A Pilgrimage To An Adoration Chapel
Like the shepherds and the Magi, go out to him and shower Jesus with love, praise, and gratitude. Prostrate yourself before the monstrance as the Magi did before the manager.

The Magi are symbolic of people who normally don’t want to step out of a world that is fixated on power, prestige, and possessions. The Magi were willing to leave the certainty of their kingdoms and follow the Star of Bethlehem to discover the newborn King of the Jews. Discovering and encountering Jesus oftentimes requires stepping out of our comfort zones.

Do not be afraid…Put out into the deep and let down your nets – St. Pope John Paul II

After Christmas Day has come and gone, never stop remembering that Jesus is always among us in Word and Eucharist.

Robert V. Rodriguez is Public Relations & Outreach Assistant for Pilgrim Center of Hope. He combines a passion for the Catholic faith together with years of professional experience as a TV news journalist, video producer, and PR/marketing specialist. Robert also serves as Chairman for our annual “Master, I Want to See” Catholic Men’s Conference.

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.

Why No Gloria In Advent?

My husband and I enjoy watching A Charlie Brown Christmas every year. Who could forget that classic moment, when a deeply perturbed Charlie Brown yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” and Linus recites from the Gospel of Luke…? It’s a real tear-jerker.

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Have you ever realized that this historic event is commemorated during Mass on Sundays and major feast days? Each time we sing, “Glory to God in the highest…”, known as the Gloria, we are echoing those words of the angels that forever changed the world and sent a message of hope for all people! Wow!

However, have you noticed that at most Masses during Advent, we skip the Gloria? Why?

Why Shepherds are Significant for Us

Imagine spending your days and nights outside with a flock of sheep. (Not the most exciting gig in the world!) Shepherds were servants, hired by landowners to tend their flock. An ideal shepherd was a patient, loyal, strong person, willing to stay with his job despite boredom, bad weather, and the occasional predator or wandering sheep.

To these simple servants, the host of heaven revealed itself!

Advent is a time of preparation and waiting. Unlike the world around us which is already celebrating Christmas, we are called to patiently wait for our Savior. Just like the shepherds, we must stay awake and alert. Then, when heaven reveals itself to us, we will be ready to run and greet Christ!

We do not normally sing the Gloria during Advent as a reminder that we are waiting, like those shepherds. For me, Christmas Mass is one of the most emotional of the year, because I can sing the song that, along with millions of other Catholics, I have been waiting to sing. Together, our Church family sings the song that brought hope to a people longing for a savior; the song that the host of heaven sang to some humble little “nobodys”…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will!

Let’s treasure this time of waiting, and work on becoming more open to God’s presence in our everyday lives.

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

Nativity mural - Shepherd's Field - Holy Land

Shepherd’s Field – Holy Land

Travel with Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox to the valley near Jerusalem where long ago, shepherds saw the Star of the Nativity.

It was here, while camping in grotto caves that the angels came and announced the birth of the Savior.  Hear a detailed description of this pilgrim destination and learn about the chapel dedicated to the shepherds.  We will also review what Scripture says about the shepherds.

Jewel for the Journey
God has, in fact, thought of us from eternity and has loved us as unique individuals.  He has called every one of us by name, as the Good Shepherd ‘calls His sheep by name.’  – John Paul II