Finding Fairness In Who Is Truly Happy

The following is an adapted version of Deacon Tom Fox’s homily for Sunday, September 27, 2020.

To understand Sunday’s first reading of the prophet Ezekiel, we recall the special relationship that the Chosen People had with God.

When they, as a people, are faithful to God, they experienced the blessings of God together. However, when they, as a people, are unfaithful, they experienced the wrath of God together.

Nevertheless, individuals are held responsible for their own actions. If a man turns away from his evil ways and does what is right, even if his father did not keep the commandments, he shall preserve his life. If a man whose father was virtuous but he himself turns to sin, he will lose his life. Through these examples, Ezekiel is pointing out that individuals who turn to God will receive His mercy and blessings, no matter what they or their fathers have done. Some believed God was unfair because His judgement did not meet their expectations.

What Is Our Opinion of God?

What about us? Do we believe God is fair?

There are many people who refuse to believe in God because He doesn’t meet their expectations. Some say, “If God is real, why does He allow so much suffering?” or “Why doesn’t He answer my prayer?” On the other hand, for those who want to believe, there is over-whelming evidence of the existence of God. For example; how could the order of the universe and all creation be an accident? —that life began when there was no life?

For me, some of the most convincing evidence is the lives of the saints and the miracles that God worked through them. Even more important than that, their lives are a testimony to what it means to live in a personal, intimate relationship with God and experience great joy, peace, and hope—even in the most difficult circumstances.

Finding the Happiness We Seek

In Sunday’s second reading, Paul tells us how we can share in that joy.

Jesus Christ has made it possible by humbling himself, coming to us in human likeness, and being obedient to God the Father; even to the point of accepting death out of love for us. We must, as Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vain glory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not only for his own interests, but also for those of others.”

That is how the saints have reached their potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity; because of their obedience and humility in the same manner as Christ. The same will be true for us.

It isn’t the easy road; we can only travel it with the help of God’s grace. In reality, anyone can travel this road if we chose humility and obedience to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church.

What We Are Called to Experience

In Sunday’s Gospel, we see the fairness of God. In the beginning, the one son says ‘no’ to his father, but later changed his mind and obeyed. The other son said ‘yes’ to his father, but then disobeyed. The comparison of the two sons is another parable for the kingdom of God.

Even if in the beginning we’ve made bad choices, the Kingdom of God will be open to us if we turn back to God with a desire to do His will—no matter what we have done. First, we must have the humility to accept the forgiveness of God through the sacrament of confession, and then have the desire to be faithful to Him.

At some point, we all must undergo conversion and surrender our lives to God. How will we know we have undergone a conversion?

  • When every day we ask God for the grace to discover and do his will.
  • When we stay connected to God in prayer; his plan for us will gradually become more clear.
Today Is the Day to Begin Again!

In every age, including the present time, there have been and continue to be stories of profound conversions. These testimonies are for our benefit, so that we also will take God seriously and surrender our lives to Him.

The sooner we begin ordering our lives to God, the sooner we will begin to reach our potential for happiness and peace. The happiest people on this earth are those who are faithful disciples of Our Lord.

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

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Divine Mercy: Unfathomable Gift

Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI, talks with Jordan and Blerina Psota about how devotion to the Divine Mercy transformed their lives!

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

Conversions Through Our Witness

Do you see the brilliant light shining in the bleak picture often painted of the Church’s future?

Over my 10 years in high school youth ministry and catechesis, I’d often hear adults exchange their condolences with one another, imagining their beloved young person setting foot on a college campus and immediately throwing their Catholic identity aside.

While it’s true that college has traditionally been one of the first places where a young person’s faith is challenged by the convergence of diverse beliefs in their campus community, this should be something we—people who believe the Truth sets free—celebrate rather than fear.

The Center for Applied Research In the Apostolate (CARA) has found that 40 percent of people who entered the Church as adults entered between the ages of 18-29.

My Eyewitness Account

I began working for Pilgrim Center of Hope here in San Antonio ten years ago, as a senior finishing my B.A. degree. During my time at university, I witnessed the baptism of two students whom I personally knew, and another’s entrance into full communion with the Catholic Church from a strongly Protestant background.

Their conversions were not the result of any particular programs or courses.

These three individuals were a part of my circle of friends, which had at its core several young adults who were striving to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Let’s be saints!” we would say.

We lived joyfully, cultivating a little family among ourselves wherein God was loved. I then began to see that our love for God and one another was contagious.

University life fostered organic conversations about what mattered to us. We would gather together, toast some bread, sit on the floor of the dorms, and talk about what we believed. Some of my friends initiated works of mercy and invited others to come along. Some decided to start praying Night Prayer together in their dorm room.

Our youth gave us a great advantage: authenticity and less inhibition. Without the burden of worry, we openly invited and welcomed people to come along to prayer or works of charity, or to meet our consecrated lay friends.

Soon, the dorm room was not big enough to hold the number of people who wished to stay for Night Prayer. Soon, our few shifts for Eucharistic Adoration at the parish next-door became a regular on-campus Adoration time for students. Soon, those who had never given much thought to religious faith were donning baptismal gowns.

How We Successfully Evangelize

Pope St. Paul VI hit the nail on its head when he said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

Programs, books, campaigns, and projects for evangelization are all wonderful things. At their core, however, they will only be successful if they are accompanied by our authentic Christian witness; our actual living of the Good News.

I learned this principle first-hand on my college campus. I see its vindication each day working for Pilgrim Center of Hope, which is primarily built on the grassroots model of evangelization that God himself established in the life of Jesus Christ and is carried on in the daily lives of Christians. Every day, my coworkers and I see the fruit that grows from the seed of God’s grace, planted in the authentic Christian lives of parents, friends, children, coworkers, and neighbors.

Yes, the rate of persons who leave or disown religious faith is increasing, but do not despair. This reality should remind us of the urgency of Christ’s calling for us to spread the Gospel.

We “are children of the light and children of the day” (1 Thess 5:5). We are not called to spend our time in anxiety or worry; on the contrary, we are called

“to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made [us] fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light” (Col 1:10-12)!

Let’s accept this challenge, and welcome God’s abundant gifts to help us live each day with hope. By living this way in our daily responsibilities—wherever God has placed us, be assured that we are each sharing the Gospel. That is Good News!

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.

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

Why We Cannot Be Complacent In Our Spiritual Lives

In celebrating the Solemnity or Feast of Christ the King this past Sunday, which also happened to be the last Sunday of the liturgical year, I couldn’t help but want to assess my spiritual progress since the Advent of 2018.

As to how I measure my progress, each year in acknowledging the kingship of Jesus Christ, I recommit to the following:

  • Dedicating myself to a more active prayer life
  • Being more effective in serving my family members, friends, parish, and community
  • Bringing hope to others (those I encounter on my journey) as an evangelizer

Whenever I find myself getting complacent, falling into a routine or falling short, I remember this beautiful quote that I discovered a few years back:

The Kingdom Demands Discipleship
Jesus is the center of creation; and so, the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our works. – Homily of Pope Francis, Solemnity of Christ the King, November 24, 2013

Perhaps the main thing that drives me, which can possibly help you stay active and on course in your faith, is this truth.

A couple of years ago, after making a confession that was filled with what I recall were more failures than normal, my spiritual director asked me, “Do you know who you are?” I think I said something like a child of God or part of the Body of Christ. Whatever I said, it wasn’t the right answer or the answer he was looking for.

That’s when he said, Like Christ the King, you are priest, prophet, and king. If you truly believed and understood this, you would be inspired to always practice your faith with more boldness, passion, and joy.

Your Threefold Calling

  1. A priest should embody and reflect the presence of God. In order to do so, we should have a devotion to prayer, the sacraments, and the Mass.
  2. A person is a prophet in the measure that he or she bears the truth of God. G.K. Chesterton said that in an upside-down world such as ours, the prophet is the person who speaks the truth according to Scripture, the lives of the saints, and Church teaching. If we are to be beacons of light to others, we must keep growing in our knowledge of the faith. In our increasingly secularized society, we can look to classic authors like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, the Venerable Fulton Sheen and others.  A prophet can never stop studying and speaking.
  3. Finally, what does it mean for the ordinary Catholic to live out our sharing in Christ’s kingship? It means to be a leader in guiding your community toward God in service and stewardship.

When you are fully conscious of your personal dignity in God, complacency is not an option.

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

The Spark: How to Succeed When Failing

It is not unusual to be asked, “What are you living for?”  But, what would you say if someone asked you, “What are you dying for?”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers, “The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life” (no. 1020).

Our answer to both questions is Jesus!

We should be looking forward to the day of our death even as we live, to ensure that day is many years to come. As St. Augustine said, “Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you are going to die tomorrow.”

Because Jesus became one of us by being “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4) and thereby sanctified humanity, our life is not to be just a waiting until we die nor is it a living only for this life. Rather, we are to live as a sign of contradiction; the more we die to Christ the more fully human and alive we become. We achieve this transformation through God’s gift of grace, which was merited for us through the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Spark

Grace is the power of God at work in us. Father Wojciech Giertych, O.P., Theologian of the Papal Household, teaches that we can ignite and move this grace through human acts, which he calls, “The Spark of Faith.”

Father Giertych uses the example of the hemorrhaging woman from the Gospel of Luke (8:43-48). He explains that when Jesus says, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me,” this exchange of grace from Jesus to the woman was achieved because of the woman’s act of faith. Her touching of his tassel caused the spark that ignited and moved grace from Jesus into this woman, restoring her to health. Jesus acknowledges this spark she caused with his words, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

We see from the hemorrhaging woman that an act of faith is not only our prayers. Any human movement, physical, mental or spiritual, in which we honor God’s gift of our creation sparks grace. Here are just a few examples:

  • Taking care of our bodies by eating nutritious foods and maintaining a healthy balance in exercise, recreation, work and rest, to keep ourselves fit and free of illness and disease.
  • Increasing our knowledge of the wonders of the world, honing our talents, and learning new skills, in order to expand our abilities and intellect.
  • Living in community with others by following Jesus’ teaching to treat others as we would like to be treated.
  • Growing in virtue and practicing morality.
  • Seeking a closer relationship with God by living the sacramental life of the Church through participating at Holy Mass, meditating on his Word in Scripture, regular confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and spending time with our Lord in Adoration.
  • Offering our sufferings by joining them to Christ for our salvation and the salvation of others.
  • And yes, praying daily; be it through Scripture, the Rosary, devotional prayers, speaking from the heart, silent contemplation.

But what if we fail?

What if, instead of honoring God and acting in faith, we act selfishly?

This can serve to be even more successful in stirring up grace! Father Giertych explains, “What is decisive, however, is the repeated returning to God.” In using the example of distraction in prayer, Father says, “Such mangled prayer, in which there are multiple returns, is very fruitful, because the living faith is expressed several times, and it is faith that opens to grace.”

Just as with the power that flowed from Jesus to the hemorrhaging woman, Father says, “This perseverance in faith ensures an immediate encounter with Jesus.” Wow!

At Pilgrim Center of Hope we like to say, “You do not have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.” As we make our journey to Eternity, let us never miss the opportunity to begin anew to ignite grace when we stumble or downright fail to act in faith. Let us turn immediately back to God so that, like St. Paul, we can one day proclaim,

“I have competed well; I have finished the race; have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance” (2 Timothy 4:7-8.)

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

What Am I Living For? Hope When All Seems Lost

Here in San Antonio, we recently participated in Daylight Savings Time, and we all got “an extra hour” added to our busy week.

How often do you wish for more time?

Life can rush past us so quickly. That is—until we hit a wall; illness, death of a loved one, a financial challenge, relationship problem, employment crisis, etc. Then, it seems we all pause and find ourselves wondering: What is the meaning of all this? What am I living for?

A Man Who Lost Everything

One of the most relatable stories I’ve ever come across is that of Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, also called Alfonso. He…

  • had poor health
  • lost his father at age 14
  • lacked a basic education, since he had to drop out of school and take over the family business
  • was a widower by age 31 after only 5 years of marriage
  • lost all three of his children at a young age
  • suffered the collapse of his family business

Having hit “rock-bottom,” he pursued a religious vocation. This required further education. Alfonso bravely enrolled in classes with young people sitting all around him, but he failed to pass.

He spent two years with a spiritual director before entering the Jesuits as a brother. He worked as a school doorkeeper and did odd jobs. Frequently, he was upset with scrupulous thoughts and suffered other mental issues. Finally, he began to lose his memory.

When Everything Fails

Can you imagine hitting as many walls as Alfonso did? (Perhaps you have.)

We all want to be happy. Happiness can be pursued in security, success, health, family, friends… but when we lose what is dear to us, ultimately, we come to question: What am I living for?

Finding Purpose

Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez left no speeches or writings. His legacy and humble witness of life are what teach us about living with purpose.

Faced with that ultimate question of purpose and meaning, he could have attempted to wrestle with it all by himself. Instead, he sought a trusted advisor to keep him on track. We can all do the same.

Even after failing his initial attempts at religious life, Alphonsus came to believe that everything meaningful he sought in life was found in God. Although it took him 16 years before he could make his final vows as a religious brother, a life dedicated to God was worth the wait.

Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez discovered the reason why thousands of people over millennia have left behind everything they had to follow Jesus Christ. It is also why many people who have lost everything, like Alfonso did, can continue to live with joy.

Jesus said: I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. (cf. John 10:10)

Dare to seek a God who gave everything for you. Dare to ask Jesus: I need hope. Show me the abundant life that you came to give me.

Are you ready to discover a new reason to live?

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.