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Remember You Are Loved: Seeing Jesus’ Face

A heart that loves God and neighbor (cf. Mt 22: 36-40), genuinely and not merely in words, is a pure heart; it can see God […] Keeping a heart free of all that tarnishes love: that is holiness (no. 87).

Those are the words of Pope Francis, taken from his recent Apostolic Exhortation Guadete et Exsultate – On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World.

At a taping of our radio program Journeys of Hope, our Co-Founder and Co-Director, Deacon Tom Fox, spoke eloquently and passionately about trying to imagine what it must have been like when Jesus Christ looked into the eyes of Matthew and said, Come, follow me (cf. Matthew 9: 9-13).

Matthew was a tax collector; individuals who were looked down upon and treated like prostitutes and the worst of sinners. So, we can imagine Matthew’s surprise when Jesus singled him out.

In this instant, Matthew realized, “Christ is calling me! …He knows me! … He loves me!” The words and the look of Jesus must have washed over Matthew with such warmth that he was overcome by the love, peace, and mercy of Christ.

It is this type of transformative grace that Jesus wants all of us to experience! But in order for the Look of Christ …the Gaze of God… to bear fruit, we must respond with conviction and say, Lord Jesus, be the Lord of my life.

One of my favorite passages from The Imitation of Christ is from the section, “On Loving Jesus Above All Else,” which reads in part:

The love of Jesus is faithful and enduring […] He who embraces Jesus shall stand firm forever. Love Him then, and keep Him as your friend, and when all others forsake you, He will never leave you or allow you to perish. […] Your Beloved is of such a nature that He will tolerate no rival; He will have your heart for Himself alone and reign there as King on His rightful throne. (Book Two, Chapter 7)

And then there is the Greatest Commandment handed down by Jesus:
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10: 27). As Christians, our priorities should be as follows: God, Family, Church, Country, and then Work.

Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness? 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 (Gaudete Et Exsultate, no. 151).

I wish everyone reading this the peace and love of Christ. May you see and experience the Gaze of God.

Lord, give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me. – St. Ignatius of Loyola

Every month, Pilgrim Center of Hope offers opportunities to experience God’s love and grace. We invite you to look at our Calendar of Events & Port of Hope to see some of those ways that lay in store for you.


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.

Jesus, Give Me Courage | Journey with Jesus

Jesus, Show Me Who I Am | Journey with Jesus

Living Fully Alive, Right Now

The readings this weekend are about life, death, and resurrection, which should be part of our daily reflection, because we do not know the day or the hour when we will pass from this life to the next. As Paul points out in the second reading, eternal life begins now. He says:

If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.

In other words, the one who created us out of love sustains that life in us by the presence of the Holy Spirit, from now unto eternity.

The most important question of our life is: How do we know if God’ Spirit is dwelling in us?

  • We know we received his Spirit in baptism when we became children of God and members of his Church. It is in his Church that he has given us the means to be confident that his Spirit is dwelling in us.
  • He makes available to us an abundance of his grace through the sacraments, which are a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus waits for us to approach him in the sacraments so that we can receive the grace necessary to live our lives in communion with him.

Without this grace, the Holy Spirit cannot dwell within us. God has a wonderful plan for each of us, but he has to be the most important part of the plan. St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” We can only be fully alive when the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us and influencing the way we live. The choice is ours.

Now Is the Time

We are all tempted to think, There is no urgency to taking the word of God seriously; there will be time enough later to prepare for eternal life. However, if the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in us because we are not faithful to what God asks of us, how can we expect him to help us make right decisions in the future? Now is the time to prepare for the future.

We are presently living in a time like no other. The whole world is affected by the novel corona virus. Many of the things we took for granted last month have been taken away from us. We do not have the freedom we once had. This is a sample of how millions of people throughout the world experience as a normal way of life. For many people in this country, life will never be the same. They may have lost loved ones, lost savings for retirement, or lost their means to provide for their family. One of the things we never dreamed of is the loss of our place of worship and the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This, too, we may have taken for granted. There are Catholics in other parts of the world who rarely can attend the Holy Mass and receive the Lord.

Our Response & Hope

How we react to this crisis is a measure of our spiritual maturity. The following quote from 1 John 2:17 is especially for these times, “Yet the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.”

The will of God for us right now is that we find strength in a faithful relationship with him because we trust in all the promises he has given us in the holy Scriptures, and we act on those promises.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus comes to the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha after Lazarus has died. Jesus, says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” she said to him, “Yes Lord I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

Everything about our life on earth will pass away except our relationship with God. During these times we may have lost much, but if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us because we have chosen to live in a faithful relationship with God, we can be confident that we will be “fully alive,” now and for all eternity. This is the message of hope that we must share in these difficult times.


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.

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.

Riding the Roller Coaster of Life – Advice from A Saint

Blog-RollerCoaster

Everyone wants to know: What’s the key to happiness?

This questions transforms itself, however, when we discover God our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and our divine guide the Holy Spirit. Then, we begin to wonder: What is God’s will for me?

Ultimately, these questions are one & the same; God desires our happiness, in this life and for all eternity.

To help us consider this question, there are many resources available to us. For me, however, it wasn’t until I obtained a Spiritual Director that I began to learn well how to discern God’s will for my life. He introduced me to someone who has become a close personal friend, St. Ignatius Loyola: the founder of the Society of Jesus & the contemporary guide for discernment.

Wounded Pride and A Busted Leg

Many of us know his basic story: A canon ball shattered his leg in battle. He told the surgeon to re-break his leg, because his clothes didn’t look good the way his leg was set back together. That was fiery redhead Iñigo López de Loyola: a vain, high-class bachelor whose great dreams of military triumph and fame had been utterly destroyed. Bored out of his mind as he recuperated, he read the only books available; the lives of Christ and the saints. Their example completely changed his perspective on life.

As many converts do, Ignatius adopted extreme spiritual practices fueled by his newfound zeal; he prayed day and night, hardly ate, hardly slept, and beat himself—weeping uncontrollably through the night over his past mistakes.

Thanks to God’s grace and the help of local townspeople, Ignatius’ mind and heart were opened to what God truly wanted of him.

Riding the Roller Coaster of Life

Ignatius outlined the Discernment of Spirits, which are keys that spiritual directors have used for hundreds of years all over the world, ever since. In doing so, they have taught that our life has two basic situations we face, over and over again:

  • Consolation – A period of contentment, peace, gratitude, and/or feeling closer to God
  • Desolation – A period of worry, frustration, and/or feeling further from God

Ignatius described these periods as the natural ebb and flow of every person’s spiritual life. Consolation and desolation are experienced for a wide variety of reasons; it’s not important that we know why we are experiencing the consolation or desolation. What’s important is to discern what we are experiencing, and how to respond to God’s grace in that light.

His “rules” for discernment give us practical insights into interpreting whether we are in a period of consolation or desolation. Based on this position, we learn how to act or respond to a situation or decision we need to make.

Basic Take-Aways for Success

Since we are limited in time and space here, I would strongly advise you to review Ignatius of Loyola’s Discernment of Spirits in its entirety. (The contemporary explanation recommended by my Spiritual Director was The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living by Fr. Timothy M. Gallagher. You may also consider a retreat on the Spiritual Exercises.)

For here and now, I’d like to share a few important lessons with you that I have learned from Ignatius. These have helped me ride the roller coaster of life:

  1. Make Decisions with Peace – If I am in a period of desolation, I am not properly suited for making a major decision that will impact my life, my family, etc. In these cases, I need to seek consolation, as well as the guidance of an unbiased person whom I can trust, such as a spiritual director.
  2. Don’t Worry; Desolation Will Pass – Ignatius reminds us that we will all go through periods of desolation, but that they do not last forever! This is why it’s important to discern & realize: “I am experiencing desolation.” Name what you are experiencing. This realization will remind you that your perspective will be through the lens of desolation for the time being. Then, you will be strengthened with the ability to choose wisely and remember that it will pass.
  3. Seek Consolation through Prayer – When I’m in a period of desolation, I don’t feel particularly drawn to prayer. However, this period is when prayer is essential. Since I don’t feel like praying, I should remember & revisit those times of consolation when I felt close to God. This can help motivate me to pray.
  4. Treasure Times of Consolation – If you are experiencing consolation, treasure it. Write about these blessings in a journal; how do you sense God’s closeness? Where do you see God’s hand in your life? What insights have you gained from this time? These memories are important to treasure, because they will strengthen you in times of desolation.
  5. God Is Always Near – Our Catholic faith gives us wonderful reminders of God’s nearness in the sacraments, the witness of the saints, the prayers and devotions, the sacred art, and the Body of Christ present in our brothers and sisters. No matter what we are experiencing, God who is Love is always near to us. We have no reason to fear, only to listen and do our best to grow & develop so that we can, in turn, respond by living in generous love.

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.

7 Practical Principles for Discerning God’s Will in Our Lives

It’s a common question: “What does God want?” How do we know? Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to learn the answer, as we enter ‘into the desert’ with Jesus, listening to God’s voice in prayer and penance. Here are some practical principles (based on Peter Kreeft’s book “Making Choices”) to help you discern God’s will for your life:

ONE: LOVE GOD!

The first principle is embarrassingly simple: LOVE GOD. If you love God, you will love his will; if you love his will, you will want to do his will; if you want to do his will, you will want to know his will (in order to do it); and if you want to know his will, you will! Jesus said that all who seek, find. This refers to finding God and his will. Not all who seek wealth, glory or even health will get it, but all who seek God will find Him! Our faith is important, a child-like faith, trusting in God, our Heavenly Father.

TWO: LISTEN to the HOLY SPIRIT.

Open yourself up to the Holy Spirit. God guides us when we want to do His will. We must have an attitude like Mary, the Mother of our Lord: “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants.” (Luke 1:38) Ask Mary to intercede for you. Ask her to pray for you to be docile to the Holy Spirit.

THREE: GET RID of OBSTACLES.

Why, with such powerful help available, does discernment seem so difficult? Not because there’s not enough power, but because there are obstacles that we put in the way. What is that obstacle? SIN. But the obstacle is not sin as such, but unrepented sin. None of us can avoid sin. Saints are simply sinners saved. When sin is unacknowledged and unrepented, it sticks to our spirit and blinds our minds. Repented sin is like garbage put out for the divine garbage man to take away. Unrepented sin is like garbage left in the kitchen that stinks up the air around all the food. Sometimes we rationalize sin rather than repenting of it and it blocks our discernment.

For instance, a married person committing adultery may say that they have fallen in love with someone and feel that God must then be leading them to divorce their spouse to marry this other person. But God has made it clear. He said “You shall not commit adultery.” We can be sure that this person’s idea is not God’s will for him or her, but the obvious sexual sin is a serious obstacle. It also damages his/her relationship with God; this also affects the Body of Christ! Once our will is out line with God’s will, only 3 things can happen:

– – – turn, repent and restore the relationship with God and with it the power of discernment OR
– – – we keep walking away from God, knowing what we are doing but do it anyway; OR
– – – we walk away but rationalize it because we can’t endure the truth that we are turning our backs on God, on Truth, on the source and standard of all goodness, including our own.

To repent is a matter of the HEART, the MIND and the BEHAVIOR. Once the heart repents, we start the journey; the heart is the captain of the soul. When the mind repents, we bring every thought to Christ. When we repent through behavior, we are on the road to recovery; a life of good virtues will help us live a healthy life!

Think of this analogy: The WILL is the Captain, the MIND is the navigator, and the BODY (hands and feet) are the engines of the ship. The whole ship needs to turn (in other words, to repent).

FOUR: GET RID of UNFORGIVENESS.

How important is forgiveness? So important that Christ commanded us to mortgage our very salvation on it. An unforgiving heart is so at odds with the heart of God, whose very nature is to forgive, that it cannot discern God’s will. So before trying to discern God’s will, be sure you aren’t holding a grudge against anyone.

FIVE: MAKE IT a HABIT.

Discernment is a habit, not a quick fix. When we become Christians we are not called to abandon common sense. The New Testament writers often encourage us to think and never discourage us from using our minds. Today, we are so used to “instant gratification.” We must learn to be patient with nature’s and grace’s slow rhythms of growth. How do we do this?

Virtues in reality are habits of doing good. Choosing the good, using our common sense—it’s a daily effort. We wake up each morning realizing it to be a new day and a new beginning and also a continual journey of what already has been experienced. The way we progress is to try to consciously do the opposite of our weakness. If we are impatient, let us try to be more patient…another words exercise that virtue. “No pain no gain” has some truth to it!

Cultivating habits is like cultivating crops; it takes time. Habits can fertilize other habits.

SIX: BE PRUDENT.

“Prudence” means practical wisdom. It is a matter of reason, intelligence, and practical wisdom. Sometimes we ignore this intellectual ingredient when we relate ONLY to the heart and the Spirit. For example: “I feel I love this person very much so I am going to agree to have premarital sex.” This is not being prudent or wise! We must use our minds to discern between good and evil. God wills for us to use our own reason in making specific moral decisions. (Grace builds on nature).

When discerning, always consider the three main factors involved in any given question or problem:
A. God’s objective moral law, revealed in Scripture and the Church’s authoritative interpretation of it.
B. The situation God providentially arranges for you.
C. The testimony of your own conscience, especially the inner peace that you have, is a mark of the Spirit’s presence.

SEVEN: LISTEN when you PRAY

Discerning God’s will is the fruit of a healthy relationship with the Triune God. The fruit of prayer. But remember: prayer is a dialogue with God. The scriptures tell us how God spoke many times to people. So many times WE do all the talking and hardly listen!

What do you think about this: you go to your doctor and tell him/her… “I have problems with my back, I have constant headaches, my blood pressure is high almost everyday. These are my problems and pains Doctor. OH! I also need my allergy shot!” Then having gone through my list I look at my watch and say, “Oh my goodness, I have to go..well thanks for listening!” The doctor would say.. “Wait just a minute, you didn’t let me tend to you.”

Prayer is very important part of our relationship with God. Prayer is the life of a new heart. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2697)

Jesus, What Is Your Plan for Me?

Have you caught yourself asking this question?  Asked by young and old throughout generations, it continues to be a question that causes one to wonder if there is a plan the Lord has for each one of us.

I have asked the Lord for direction, and have prayed, “I would like a stone tablet in the mailbox please!”

Oh, if it would be that easy, one would not need faith and trust in the Divine Savior who knows us more than we know ourselves! It is incredible to ponder that reality; the Divine Savior knows us. So you may think, Well if he knows us, tell me what to do! 

Importance of Our Will

Recently, I read a book titled Finding True Happiness containing excerpts from the many writings of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. One chapter especially struck me because he described the will of every person as the secret to true happiness.  Sheen writes:

There is one thing in the world that is definitely and absolutely your own, and that is your will. Health, power, life and honor can all be snatched from you, but your will is irrevocably your own.

This should strike our minds and hearts! Each person has a will, a freedom to make choices.  Sheen continues:

We always make the fatal mistake of thinking that it is what we do that matters, when really what matters is what we let God do to us.  […] Since God is a better artisan than you, the more you abandon yourself to Him, the happier He can make you.

When we ask Jesus, What is your plan for me? we can think about our own will. Will we chose to know the Divine Savior? I believe two elements are important: prayer and trust.

Prayer

True happiness begins with a relationship with God that develops from our prayer life, which is primarily communication with God.

  • Part of that prayer is encountering God by reading the Scriptures, which contain his general plan for all humanity. The more we read the Scriptures and spend time in prayer, we begin to see that God is a Father who loves us and wants what is best for us.
  • Silence is important. Spend time in silence to hear God speak. Silence is difficult at first, but if you persevere, it will be rewarding. I never heard God’s “voice”, but I have received insights in my quiet prayer that helped me to draw closer to God. It is not possible to have a relationship with God or discover his plan without prayer.

Trust

Trusting is a form of hope. It is believing God will bestow grace when we do what we can.

Men and women through the history of Church who have become canonized saints are great witnesses of trust and hope!  This is why it is so important to read the lives of the saints. They are so inspiring! Some became saints by reading the lives of other saints. We see that they all had their difficulties to bear and yet they lived in great peace and happiness. This is because they learned to trust God with their entire life. They knew that any difficulty they experienced would unite them more closely to God and lead to greater happiness.

When we put our total trust in God, he may take us to places we do not want to go, but he will walk with us through our trial and bring us to a place of great joy and peace. We can only reach our potential for happiness through perseverance in prayer and total trust in God.

John Henry Newman, the 19th-century’s most important English-speaking Roman Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer, and eminent theologian in both churches.

I came across one of his meditations offering encouragement and hope.  May it inspire you to ponder God’s presence in your life!

The Mission of My Life
A Spiritual Reflection by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.


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.

A Simple Guide: How Can I Better Respond to Jesus?

The Apostles, who left everything to follow Jesus, decided to accompany him on his way to Jerusalem. They were angered when a whole community rejected Jesus because his destination was Jerusalem. The Apostles wanted to retaliate, but Jesus rebuked them and moved on to the next village.

As their journey continued, those who were invited to join the disciples offered excuses to remain behind. Of these, Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

In another place Jesus says, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.” (Matthew 5:37). Our decision to follow Jesus must be decisive. If we recognize the urgency of the decision, our answer will be yes. As we see in the Gospel accounts, Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew left everything and immediately followed Jesus. We should pray that what they recognized in Jesus, we also will recognize. This does not necessarily mean we will leave everything, though some will. However, it does mean that we each recognize Jesus as the Son of God and our savior, and that he commands us to follow him with great urgency… not “at our convenience.”

  • If our answer is yes, it will be reflected in the decisions we make and in the happiness we experience.
  • If our answer is yes, we will spend time in prayer every day, because we want to be connected to God and receive his help and guidance.
  • If our answer is yes, we will want to frequent the sacraments of reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, because we need the grace Our Lord makes available to us through the sacraments.

Saying Yes – In Our Decisions

We may be tempted to respond like those in the Gospel who were invited to follow but were unwilling to make the commitment. Certainly, our life will be different if we follow our Lord faithfully. He does not promise that we will not have trials; however he promises that he will be with us when we experience those trials and will give us the grace to persevere. He promises happiness, hope, and peace for those who follow him. Do we believe him?

You are called. If you are a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, technician, secretary, teacher, housewife, or any other profession; you are called to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. If we truly follow Jesus, we will not be the same as others who share the same career, because we will be changed by the grace we receive from the Sacraments of Reconciliation & Holy Eucharist, by our commitment to daily prayer, and by our desire to be faithful to the Gospel and the teachings of our Church. If we follow Jesus, the decisions we make will be influenced by our faith.

Opportunities to Say Yes

What awakens someone to desire a more meaningful life that can only be satisfied by drawing close to God? Sometimes, it is an extraordinary experience. Our Catholic faith makes available to us an abundance of opportunities to enter into an intimacy with God that will be life-changing if that is the desire of our heart.

Many years ago, as our former pastor Msgr. John Flynn was walking from the Church to the administration building, a woman approached him and said, “A year ago, I was contemplating suicide, but then I heard about your chapel being open 24 hours a day, and I decided to visit the chapel. I have been visiting every day for a year, and now I want to become Catholic.” She entered RCIA, and was received into the Church the following Easter. She did not know anything about the Catholic faith when she first came to the chapel, but she experienced the presence of God there, and she wanted to build on that experience.

  • Take Advantage of the Sacraments: Next to our salvation, the greatest gift Jesus has given us is the gift of himself in the Holy Eucharist. There is nothing more important in our life than receiving our Lord in this sacrament, and yet it can become routine if we do not properly prepare ourselves through the sacrament of reconciliation and by having a prayerful disposition. (It is for this reason that we fast from everything except water and medicine an hour beforehand, to remind us that we are moving from our normal routine into a supernatural experience. This is also why we have holy water at each entrance, so that as we renew our baptism, we ask our Lord to prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.)
  • Read Lives of the Saints: The saints came from every walk of life. Some had a longing for God at a very early age. Others didn’t make that discovery until later on in life. However, everyone who became a saint was inspired either by a personal encounter with God, or by someone else who was striving to live a life close to God.
  • Make A Retreat: Experiencing a retreat weekend can stir-up our hearts, but there is always the danger of falling back into our old routine if we do not follow up that experience with a commitment to make the necessary changes that will help us to draw closer to God.
  • Make A Pilgrimage: Through the ages, pilgrimages to holy sites have been a way to discover deeper spiritual meaning and intimacy with God. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1984 changed the lives of my wife Mary Jane and myself forever. We had been routine Catholics, but two weeks of visiting the places made holy by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ awakened us to the true meaning of our faith and of our responsibility to live and share it.

If you are a routine Catholic like we once were, God has a better plan for you that will take you out of your normal routine when you say yes to his invitation to follow him as a faithful disciple. Jesus wants to be the reason you do what you do, and he promises he will be with you always and will give you the peace and happiness that can only be found in a relationship with him.


Deacon Tom Fox, K.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.

Do I See Myself as God’s Good Creation?

Once as I was enjoying the outdoors, I noticed a tree. From what I could tell, no human hands have ever touched this tree; it is just growing as it is created to be. An amazing revelation came to me… this tree looks exactly as God wants it to!

I asked God, “So, Lord, you want this tree to have gray thickly lined bark with knobs growing on the side?” Though I did not hear a response, the answer was obvious for it would not be, if God did not create it.

I wondered, if this is true about a tree, it is true about all of God’s creation. It means God wants trees and plants in many different color greens. He wants both flowers and grasses, and he wants them in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. He wants bunnies with soft ears. He wants dandelions with scratchy pointed leaves. He wants melodious songbirds and he wants buzzing mosquitos. For if he didn’t, they wouldn’t be.

I realize that if it is true about all of God’s creation, it is also true about me, and it is true about you, for we are all his creation.

Uniquely God’s

During a recent frustration, I decided to take our Lord at his words to St. Faustina from her Divine Mercy diary, “My daughter…why do you not tell me about everything that concerns you, even the smallest details?” The small detail is my changing post-menopausal body of which I am none too pleased.

“Lord,” I complained, “Where did this belly come from?  I work out, I eat healthy, I keep portions low and sweets to a minimum and yet it will not go away!”  What I heard astonished me, “Who told you that you are supposed to have a flat stomach?”

This response gave me great pause and caused me to ponder, ‘If God creates trees and plants and animals and insects with such variety, and if everything he makes is good (cf. Genesis 1:31), why are we spending so much effort trying to look differently than how we have been made? Are we not also created good?’

The Word of God testifies to our uniqueness:

How varied are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures (Psalm 104:24)

Do you see yourself as God’s good creation?

True Diversity

If we are conceived, it is because God has willed us to be. How we come into the world, male or female (cf. Genesis 5:2), is how God wants us to grow. But it is more than that.

He creates not only our physical attributes, but also our personalities, our emotions and our intellect. He made some of us analytical and lovers of numbers and others, like me, quite the opposite. He made some of us to prefer sports to books and some of us to love them both. He creates us extroverts, who are energized through others, and introverts who require solitude instead.

The Church testifies to Truth that humanity is united in God’s good creation:

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them (Ephesians 2:10).

The world speaks diversity, yet it is often just talk. It wants us all to look the same, act the same, and believe the same based on what the culture determines is beautiful and valuable. It is the culture, through the mass media, that told me my stomach is supposed to be flat!  It is God, who prefers working into infinite combinations from the same earthly matter his creation, both united and unique.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes how we can live this life of goodness we are created to be,

And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.

Pilgrim Center of Hope exists to guide people to God. At our annual Catholic Women’s and Men’s Conferences, we provide speakers who teach, inspire, and challenge us in living out who we are created to be as men and women. We offer opportunities to encounter Jesus Christ through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration.

God is here… come see!


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.