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Seeking Answers from Jesus

As a college-aged adult, I actually looked to Jesus for answers. The frustrating part of it all? Jesus didn’t give me answers.

Following the advice of my parents, pastor, vocation director, and so many other people, in prayer I asked Jesus, “Why is (fill-in-the-blank) happening?” and “What do you want me to do with my life?” and “Should I choose Option A or Option B?”

When did Jesus ever give people satisfactory answers? He didn’t, really. In the gospels, people who questioned him were often presented with a question, parable or a riddle in return. Jesus’ listeners were challenged to encounter God more deeply, to examine themselves, to give themselves in love, and to trust in him and his heavenly Father.

Jesus did not deal out ‘answers.’ What Jesus gave in the gospels was himself.

“Come to me,” he said, “all you who labor and are burdened.” He didn’t continue, “and I will give you answers and solutions to all your problems!” Instead, he concluded, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” (cf. Matthew 11:28-30)

You Are Not Alone

Jesus offers you himself, to share your burden alongside you.

If you ask Jesus to fix all your problems and save you from ever experiencing pain, confusion, worry, or anger; he will not do that for you. His own disciples and holy mother experienced all of the above.

Instead of doling out answers or solutions, Jesus will give you himself. I guarantee you that he will do so, one-thousand percent of the time, for eternity, if you welcome him daily.

Having lived through uncommon physical and emotional challenges, I can say with confidence; Jesus’ gift of himself to each one of us is a far greater gift than answers or solutions.

Why?

Without challenges, we do not learn. Without trials, we lack humility. Without suffering, we lack compassion. This is not how God created the world to be, but it is the reality in which we now live.

God chooses the better option, saying: In the midst of this challenge, trial, and suffering, I will come to you. I will share it with you. As we walk together, I will teach you. Thus, the burden will become light.

In many circles, God is accused of being cruel and abusive. On the contrary, we see in the life of Jesus that God does not force himself upon us. In the person of Jesus, God is an unassuming, young adult who willingly takes everything we’ve dumped on him, upon his shoulders. He invites us, by name, to come and learn how to live, alongside him. He gives us his own self, his own life.

“I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly,” he said (John 10:10). Jesus does not call us slaves; “I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

Look to Jesus for Direction

If you are looking for direction, look to Jesus. Don’t look for him to be a floating genie-god who hovers above you, and provides ancient and future knowledge. Instead, realize the greater gift Jesus offers.

As St. Bernard of Clairvaux so well advised;

“Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. […] If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy.”

Look to Jesus, God-become-Man. Look to Jesus the person; so that in looking to him you may know him, and in knowing him you may love him, and to learn from him you may walk with him and his Body, the Church, daily.

This is what gives me joy; not that I have all the ‘answers,’ but that I know Jesus who is Truth. Not that I see where my path will lead, but that I walk with Jesus who is the Way. Not that my life is picture-perfect, but that I love Jesus who is Life. (cf. John 14:6)

In this very moment of your life – with all its complications, aches, responsibilities; I invite you to spend some moments in prayer with Jesus and accept his invitation.


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.

Jesus, Show Me The Way

I remember sitting in my 9th grade Theology class at Bishop McNamara High School in Maryland, hearing our teacher recite from Scripture: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” (John 14:6). Sounded easy enough. So, Jesus is the Way. Do what He did. We have good reminders, like those wristbands that say “W.W.J.D.” (What Would Jesus Do?). Back then, in 1967, it sounded easy enough for a Freshman.

What About When Life Happens?

Then life got complicated. With all its ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, joys, and sorrows. “If anyone is willing to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24). Clearly, He is leading the way. Also, I think what a lot of us do not often realize, me included, is that the crosses will come, no matter what you do. There is no guarantee that you can avoid the crosses that come your way. In fact, sometimes we make our own crosses. So, what to do when we are faced with those crosses? What about the crosses that we feel are much too heavy for us to carry?

That is when Jesus is standing right next to us, to help us deal with those heavy crosses. How does He do that? Much the same way a good friend does as they cheer a marathon runner along a tough course: they encourage and sustain us. But you cannot hear Him, you say? You are not sure He is beside you, encouraging you? So, what to do when I need direction from Jesus? My methods and suggestions are amazingly simple and available to anyone, but certainly not the only ways to allow Jesus to direct our paths.

Helpful Ways in Seeking Direction from Jesus

Let me start with the most obvious: daily Mass. If there is any way you can get to daily Mass, do so. I have often found myself pondering a problem or a difficulty, then going to daily Mass and hearing the readings, or the homily, and getting help just from these sources.

Another wonderful way is to quiet myself by going to see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Adoration Chapel at my parish. I always keep in mind that if I am looking to Jesus for direction, I should try and get to know Him. That is where going to adoration lets me get acquainted with the Eucharistic Jesus. It is quiet and peaceful and lets me tap into that one part of me that I most often neglect: the contemplative dimension of my life. In adoration, or out, I can take my Bible with me. Oftentimes, I start out with a favorite passage (e.g., Luke 15:11-32), and the Lord takes it from there. I also have a prayer journal I write in sometimes, which helps me to focus and direct my thoughts. Oftentimes, the answers come, and if not the answer, then I have the peace and strength that help me to endure whatever it is that is bothering me.

Confession is another resource where I can talk about those thorns that persistently misdirect me.

The peace I get from praying the Rosary is also a source of direction from Jesus. If you are not used to praying the Rosary, start with 10 Hail Marys, then you’ll see how quickly it becomes something you look forward to in your day. I pray it in the car most times, where it is quiet, and I don’t have the radio blaring. I do not know about you, but noise is all around us, drowning out God’s little whisper in the breeze, like the one Elijah heard (1 Kings 19:11-13). The Rosary leads me to quiet contemplation.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said that she would see Jesus “in the distressing disguise of the poor”. Jesus is all around us: in the poor, your family, creation, in those small daily events where you feel blessed. Look for Jesus in your day, in your duties, and the closer you look, the more you will see Him, know Him, and can follow Him.

Call To Action

Finally, talk to others about Jesus. The more you know about someone, the more you can describe that person to others. In the line at the grocery store, helping someone pick up something they dropped, just saying “Thank God”, or “Thank You, Jesus”, when good things happen. Bless yourself often with holy water. Tell others that Jesus loves them. Most people are hungry for Good News, and thirsty to hear about Jesus. You will find that the more you talk about Him to others, the more you will become like Him. And before you realize it, you are walking in His Way.


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, Victor is a member of our Speaker Team and 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.

Making God the Center of Your Life

I spent some time after college living and working in France. On the way home after work, I would sometimes purposely stay on the bus, well past my stop, riding to the end of the line and waiting for the bus to turn around and take me home. This was certainly one way to take the scenic route! No time constraints or cares, no iPhone or Instagram to entertain me, usually just a good book, the city views, and my thoughts (and who am I kidding, maybe a baked goodie too?!). These long rides gave me the space to dream, and wonder wanted I wanted to do next in my life. In my tender and youthful enthusiasm- I wanted to do it all! But alas, we must let our yes mean yes, and our no mean no. Saying yes on your wedding day, for example, means saying no to all other romantic partners; accepting that ministry job your heart has yearned for over a corporate gig means saying no to a shiny new car. Often, our culture will tell us “you can have it all”; but the practical reality of life is that we can’t, we won’t and we shouldn’t.

You Will Always Have Enough

The Gospel, on the other hand, the Good News of Christ, tells us that we will always have enough. It is in the gap between our wants and his Will that we can find ourselves mired in anxiety, paralyzed by indecision, or worse yet in a state of despair. The work of our lives will be to crawl out of this gap and into the freedom that God wants to give us, that His plan is better- if only we have eyes to see! It would be nice to wake up each morning with a checklist of God’s to-do’s clearly outlined and calendared- making his direction clear and our lives easy to navigate and plan. Instead, He often works in silence or through others- quite the opposite of clear and easy! If we want to look to Jesus for direction in our dreams and decisions, we shouldn’t have to look far- we cannot have him living on the peripheries- he must live in our center. That means making a radical choice every day to view our identity as a son or daughter of God before we are a mother, father, friend, or professional. Then with consistency and love, we must follow his commandments:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:35).

So simple yet so difficult- this is the formula for forging saints, and it is the formula for me and you! Making God the center and following his truth, we are not only training for the hard times that will come but illuminating our path with his word. Whether it’s a pastry-filled bus ride or a long walk this summer, may this season be filled with the big bold dreams that come with looking to Jesus and placing him at the center of our lives!


Renee has a background in education, linguistics, and fundraising. She currently works in the non-profit sector raising funds for community health and wellness initiatives. She generously gives of her time and talent as a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team and is the Emcee of the upcoming 2021 Catholic Women’s Conference, July 16-21.

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.

 

Cover Photo by Zeromancer44, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Need Spiritual Direction?

I finally got a spiritual director.

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

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

“Taking the Count” by Thomas Eakins (1898)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ways to Learn More:

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


Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team, and offers a talk on discernment.

Why Pray?

When it comes to prayer and why we should take every opportunity to utilize this open line of communication to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… I will never forget what Fr. Adolph Koehler, O.M.I. told our fifth-grade class at St. Mary’s School.

He started with a question, “What would you give to possess the key that unlocks all the treasures that God wants to give you?”

The answers ranged from large sums of money to various prized possessions; the boys offered their football card collections, G.I. Joe action figures & vehicles, and even a mini-bike. The girls offered up their Barbies, Easy Bake Ovens, and at least one above ground swimming pool.

And then came Fr. Koehler’s gem of wisdom, “Because God loves us so much, he has placed the key that unlocks all his treasures in our hands. The key to God’s treasures is our prayers!”

Talk about a mind-blowing moment! It was genius. The analogy is so perfect that it has stuck with me for over 40 years.

Keep It Simple

Don’t make yourself crazy trying to figure out what prayer is all about, especially if you are starting out or struggling with praying regularly.

St. Pope John Paul II, in writing about how to pray, said it was simple, “Pray any way you like, so long as you pray.”

St. Jane Frances de Chantal encouraged people not to overthink prayer; otherwise it can be perceived as a burden. “The greatest secret is to go to our prayer in good faith & in all simplicity.”

And then there is this from St. Augustine, a sinful man who was transformed by prayer into a beloved saint: “Our progress in holiness, exactly corresponds to our progress in the spirit of prayer; he who prays well lives well.”

The words of the saints and Fr. Koehler’s great analogy all point to the idea that prayer calls for confidence, familiarity, and humility.

The Benefits

The immediate benefit of prayer is that it leads us away from sin and toward salvation. The more we turn to God, the more we receive direction from the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, we grow in the virtues of faith, hope, and charity; which in turn lead us to grow in our prayer life and relationship with God.

The treasures await; we just have to use our key!

As a way of bookending this reflection on why we should pray, I will leave you with a quote filled with several great analogies. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once exclaimed,

Why should we pray? Why breathe? We have to take in fresh air and get rid of bad air; we have to take in new power and get rid of old weaknesses. We pray because we are orchestras and always need to tune-up. Just as a battery sometimes runs down and needs to be charged so we have to be renewed in spiritual vigor. Our blessed Lord said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’

If you would like to learn more about prayer, we invite you to visit us at our peaceful place in northwest San Antonio. Spiritual tools and resources are available. Discover our Gethsemane Chapel, outdoor Stations of the Cross, and life-size crucifix & fisherman’s boat. Come and see!


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.

Do I Know the Holy Spirit?

The Forgotten Person

Other than when you make the sign of the Cross or pray the Apostles’ Creed, how often do you mention or talk to the Holy Spirit?

If you said, not very often… well, you are not alone. The vast majority of Christians do not have an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. For me, that relationship didn’t really take shape until I was in my 40s.

Since that time, I have had more epiphanies or eureka moments, where all of a sudden a light goes on and something or everything makes sense. I have learned to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and also take every major decision in my life to prayer that involves going to the Holy Spirit to discern and discover what God wants me to do. What will be most pleasing to God?

St. Josemaria Escrivá had a special devotion to the Holy Spirit, because according to Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, St. Josemaria felt that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity was not known, had been forgotten, and was neglected.

Embracing the Spirit

As we prepare to celebrate Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and our Mother Mary (this coming Sunday), now is the perfect time to embrace the Holy Spirit and grow in relationship to him.

Our peace truly lies in the promise of Christ, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; a gift which as Catholics, we received together with the Father and the Son at our Baptism. Know, too, that the Sacrament of Confirmation intensifies that presence.

It’s not too late to join in a novena to the Holy Spirit (which began on Ascension Thursday this past week), or perhaps you can learn and recite St. Josemaria’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Come, O Holy Spirit: enlighten my understanding to know your commands: strengthen my heart against the wiles of the enemy; inflame my will…

I have heard your voice and I don’t want to Harden my heart by resisting, by saying: later…tomorrow.

Nunc corps! Now! Lest there be no tomorrow for me! O, Spirit of truth and wisdom, Spirit of understanding and counsel, Spirit of joy and peace! I want what you want, I want it because you want it, I want it as you want it, I want it when you want it. Amen 

When we receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts, he will help us and guide us to the truth. It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to know ourselves better, which strengthens our hearts and open our eyes. With the Holy Spirit you can do all things in Christ. Life without the Holy Spirit leaves us wandering in the dessert.

I encourage you to go the Catechism of the Catholic Church and look up numbers:

  • 697 – Symbols of the Holy Spirit
  • 1848 – the Consoler
  • 2671 – Come, Holy Spirit

Stronger with the Spirit

It was only after the Apostles received the Holy Spirit that they were able to leave the sanctuary of the Upper Room and go out into the world to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, without any fear of torture or death. We can rejoice in knowing that at Pentecost, the Paschal Mystery was completed and fulfilled. Pentecost is considered the birth of the Church.

Even if we may enjoy a relationship with Jesus Christ, he is always calling us closer and deeper into intimacy with himself and his Holy Spirit.

I leave you with the words of St. John of Avila, who said about devotion to the Holy Spirit:

However sad a soul may be, he (the Holy Spirit) is sufficient to console it. However worthless, he can make it valuable. However lukewarm, he can put fire into it. However weak, he can strengthen it. However lacking in prayerfulness, he can aflame it with ardent devotion.


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.

Healing and Direction

Healing & Direction

In this special radio & online exclusive interview with Therese Cirner, professional counselor, author, and speaker, we got a ‘sneak peek’ of her conference talks, “Courage to Heal” and “Six Keys to A Deeper Spiritual Life.” Don’t miss this powerful episode!