Posts

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

The Kingdom as Seed

“This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” (Mark 4: 26-27)

Only in the Gospel of Mark, is the parable told about the seed that grows in secret. What are we to make of this? Maybe that how the Kingdom of God grows is as mysterious as how a seed grows?  Can we as humans ever wrap our minds around the mystery of how twelve Apostles preaching and teaching and scattering the Good News of Jesus Christ, would have grown to over 1 billion believers today?!

Mysteries of the Seed Growing in Secret

When I reflect on examples of this mystery of the seed growing in secret, I recall the experience of being part of the RCIA team at my parish. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the communal process in which adults become full, participating members of the Catholic Church.

When we gather for the inquiry phase of RCIA, we ask each person:

“Why are you here at this time, this year, at this place? What are you seeking?”

The stories I have heard almost always speak to a seed growing in secret that has led the person to inquire more about the Catholic faith. A few illustrations of these seeds:

  • Memories of a grandparent and their strong Catholic faith, taking them to Mass, praying the Rosary with them, and talking to them about God
  • Engaged to be married to a practicing Catholic, and asked by their future spouse to be open to converting so as to share a lifetime of faith together
  • Witnessing the strong faith of someone fighting a battle with cancer or a life-changing disability and the peace and strength that is present in their life
Sowing the Seeds of the Kingdom

What becomes apparent in these stories is that our words and our actions, while not the cause of God’s Kingdom, do still matter in the coming of the Kingdom.  Our words and actions sow the seeds of the Kingdom.

But the Kingdom arrives not through our efforts but by God’s grace…

Planting and gathering depend upon human work.  Sprouting and growth depend upon God’s design. God takes what we do and puts even the smallest seed to magnificent use.

We ask the RCIA candidates once more as they are closer to being received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, that same question about what brought them here…. and this time their response moves beyond the person who sowed the seed, and they recognize the hand of God and His grace in growing the faith within them. The Holy Spirit has revealed the mystery of the seed sown in secret once again!

Jesus’ parable gives me such great hope and encourages me to be aware of my words and actions, to be persistent in prayer for those who are separated from God’s love, and to trust that God will use my words and actions to reveal His love to others. Jesus’ words are a challenge to ask myself: how is God calling me to plant and water the seeds of faith, and how am I inviting God into my life to help me do so?

This excerpt of a prayer written by Msgr. Kenneth Untener, speaks so well to the mystery of our earthly pilgrimage and our time spent sowing the seeds of God’s Kingdom:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

This beautiful prayer gives me the hope I need when I am discouraged that the seeds of faith I sow in secret may not bear fruit and may not lead souls to God.

Lord God, you have given us the gift of faith. Help us take time to water that seed of faith in our hearts and the hearts of others. Let us always invite you into our hearts to give it growth, and may we remain your steadfast prophets of hope.  Amen.


Debbie Garza is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Leon Springs, and is an experienced Pilgrimage Group Leader with Pilgrim Center of Hope. She has traveled with Pilgrim Center of Hope to the Holy Land, Italy, and Greece. She says, “On pilgrimage, I know the ears and eyes of my heart have been opened by God’s grace and I’ve experienced the Joy of the Gospel. I am committed to helping other pilgrims experience their personal journey of faith.” Debra is also a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.

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.

ENCORE: Gethsemane & The Agony in the Garden

Travel along with Mary Jane Fox & Ed Batis to the foot of the Mount of Olives and discover the Garden of Gethsemane. Such a place still exists, the place where Jesus, Son of God spent time.

This program will address these four points:

  • The significance of the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Why was this a place of rest for Jesus and His Apostles?
  • What does it mean to watch and pray?
  • How can we draw strength from our Lord’s suffering?

Jewel for the Journey:
The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will. – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton


WHERE to TUNE IN:

Live – Wed., March 24 @ 8:00 PM

  • Guadalupe Radio Network (South/Central Texas Stations)

… Listen to the archived audio recording on our website, ASAP!

Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org for more information.


A Closer Look at Gethsemane:


Where is Gethsemane?

Where is

Re-Focusing Our Lives

If you had a message of great importance that you wanted the whole world to know about, who would you choose to deliver it? In Scripture, it is clear that God’s ways are not our ways.

How God Confounds Our Logic

God can choose whoever he wants to accomplish the things he wishes to accomplish, as we see when Moses complains to God that the mission of guiding his Chosen People has become too great of a burden for him. So, God shares the spirit that he has given to Moses with 70 others, even those who were not in the prescribed place. Though this confused Joshua, Moses was given the wisdom to recognize that this was the work of God. The Spirit of God is more important than the instrument he chooses.

A more current example is Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, France. This thirteen year old girl, who lived in poverty with her family, was of poor health, and had difficulty with her studies in school. Yet, she was entrusted with a message from Heaven. When we were in Lourdes a few years ago, a bishop was celebrating Mass near the Grotto, and during his homily he said, “If you wanted to give a message to the whole world who would you choose; someone of great importance from a large city? Our Lord chose Bernadette, a simple girl from a tiny village.” Through the ages, God has chosen people of little significance to be his instruments. His ways our not our ways. There are some who still reject the Blessed Mother as a messenger of God, in spite of the miracles connected to her apparitions – thinking that the works of God are confined to their own understanding. Sometimes, we also can be like that.

In the Gospel; John, the apostle closest to Jesus, has just tried to stop someone from driving out demons in Jesus’ name, because the exorcist was not an apparent follower of Jesus. Jesus chastises him, and tells him, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” What is important is why and how things are done. If they are done out of love of God and neighbor, we should be cautious about rendering judgment. It is not always obvious why people do certain things.

How to Re-Focus

Our focus must be on why we do what we do. God has revealed his plan to us through the Scriptures and the Church…

  • We know that through baptism, we become children of God and receive the gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  • We know that we can encounter Christ in a deep and personal way in the sacraments of the Church, which are the source of the grace that we need to live a life close to God in prayer and to discover his plan for us.
  • We know that God wants us to be holy, and has made it possible for us to be holy if we are faithful to what he has revealed to us, and this faithfulness will help us reach our potential for happiness in this life and for all eternity.
  • We can be certain that this plan is true, because it has been discovered and lived by saints through the ages, who have been heroic witnesses of the love of God.
  • There are consequences for us when we do not live this plan. Jesus said that if we live for our self, we will lose our life; and not only our life, because we will give scandal to others. We must remove everything that is an obstacle to salvation.

There is no one on this earth more blessed than Catholics because we know that God has given us every possible means to live a life close to him! We have his Divine Word, the Scriptures; we have his Church to guide us and strengthen us with the Sacraments. We have the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints to intercede for us. We especially have the Holy Eucharist in which Jesus gives us himself – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity; because he loves us that much. Why would the whole world not want to be Catholic and have what we have?

About 30 years ago, someone asked me why I was Catholic. I was glad to be Catholic, and knew I would never want to be anything but a Catholic. I went to Mass every Sunday and to confession occasionally, but I realized at that time that I never really gave much thought to the importance of my faith. Actually, I hadn’t learned anything about my faith since graduating from a Catholic high school. At that moment, I knew that I wasn’t really sure of what I believed. As I pondered that for a few days, I realized that I had let the importance of my faith fade. I had become a “one-hour-a-week Catholic,” and my decisions were not influenced by my faith at all.

Thank God for the wake-up call. It was not long after that, that I bought my first Bible and joined a prayer group with my wife, Mary Jane. We began to pray together and study our faith, and a new joy came into our lives. I guess you could say that was the beginning of the rest of our life together, and opened up new possibilities. Now, our important decisions are influenced by our relationship with God, and we have great hope.

I challenge you now to pray the Creed, and while doing so, reflect on the words we say. Ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts with gratitude for being recipients of Almighty God’s great plan of salvation and the intimacy he offers us in his Church. Let us pray, then, for the grace to be witnesses of what we believe.

If you would like more help and simple tools for re-focusing your life in Christ, we invite you to subscribe to Pilgrim Center of Hope’s monthly newsletter; visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.


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.

Listening… In A Noisy World!

Have you ever said to yourself, If only I can get away for some quiet time! or, Is anyone listening?

I certainly have! These questions usually arise in our thoughts when we want some peace, some quiet time after experiencing a full schedule, or a trial, or simply being busy!

Once when I was in the Holy Land on pilgrimage, among the many wonderful and amazing experiences, one was spending time in the Garden of Gethsemane—where Jesus spent a lot of time with his disciples when he visited Jerusalem, and where he prayed his hour of agony the night he was arrested; resulting in his Passion.

Today, a large basilica is built next to ancient olive trees that date to the time of Jesus. They are often called the Silent witnesses of Christ’s Agony. Upon entering the Basilica of the Agony, one sees a large area of rock in front of the main altar. This is where Christ prayed his hour of agony, where he sweat blood, and prayed for the will of his Heavenly Father. Imagine sitting in this church commemorating this whole experience—with its mosaics depicting the scenes of the Bible related to his agony and arrest. The light streaming through the alabaster glass windows sheds a somber light in the church, inviting the visitor to ponder what happened here 2,000 years ago.


As I sat, I realized how much I longed for some quiet time with God. To speak with him, and at the same time was hoping for an inspiration from him. The noises of traffic, guides shouting, tourists and pilgrims moving about, and cameras clicking, seemed so distracting at such a holy site.

Yes, it was challenging to attempt to remain silent… You know what helped me?

What helped me were the sacred art, along with my act of touching the very stone where Jesus sweat blood! The large stone area is surrounded by a short, iron crown of thorns. I knelt and bent over the iron crown to kiss the stone, placing both of my hands on the cool, rough rock. I thought, This is where YOU, Lord, prayed for the Father’s will! This is where YOU sweat blood! Help me to listen! While I heard many people around me, the chattering of visitors, traffic noise… that moment seemed to be an eternal moment for me. There seemed to be inner peace. Later, I took some time to sit and simply see the sacred art; the mosaics of Jesus praying, being arrested, even the altar’s shape is that of a chalice.

Leaving this holy place, I thought of sharing this, hoping that others can also be encouraged to seek some quiet time with the Lord. It is possible!

How?

  • Sacred images or art can help us ponder the mysteries of our faith. For example: A stained glass window of a biblical scene can easily help us begin meditating on that Bible passage.
  • Holding or touching a crucifix or a statute can also be helpful. Think about the story in the Gospel of Luke 8 of the woman with the hemorrhage who simply touched the cloak of Jesus and was healed! Jesus tells her it was her faith that healed her!
  • Begin with a desire for some quiet time with the Lord. Ask for a deepened faith. And be consistent. Go to him… in faith and in silence!

Pilgrim Center of Hope is here to help guide you to encounter Christ, so as to live in hope as a pilgrim in daily life. For some quiet moments, we invite you to come visit our 7 acres in the middle of northwest San Antonio. Or, visit our website for more spiritual tools.

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.

What Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone Can Do for You

Our comfort zone can mean different things. It could be

  • a specific routine each day
  • minimizing activities in order to manage stress
  • or an overall state of mind in which people are in control of their environment without any anxiety.
  • ‘Comfort zone’ can also have negative aspects such as addictions that may be detrimental to our mental and physical health as well as our souls.

While this pandemic and the situation in the world has caused many people to restrict their movement, staying home more often than we would otherwise choose; this may now cause us to make our comfort zones even more comfortable!

You may be thinking by now: But what is this about? How am I to get out of my comfortable routine? Don’t rock my boat!

A Strong Act of Our Will

In conversations with friends and acquaintances these last few months, I have often heard them say: I am being creative with my time at home, my limited travels outside my home. They continue to list activities they have started to do such as a new hobby, additional prayer time, spiritual reading, researching topics, volunteering for their church during certain events such as funerals, or calling sick parishioners. In the workplace; becoming patient with those around me. These can be good examples of getting out of your comfort zone, because doing so takes an act of will.

Saint Josemaria Escriva, a priest from Spain who died in 1975, spoke extensively about sanctifying all we do, from our home life to work. He said:

As well as having given you abundant and effective grace, the Lord has given you a brain, a pair of hands and intellectual powers so that your talents may yield fruit. God wants to work miracles all the time – to raise the dead, make the deaf hear, restore sight to the blind, enable the lame to walk… through your sanctified professional work, which is both pleasing to God and useful to souls. (The Forge, 984)

The Power of Stepping Out… and of Not Doing So

Our Lord and Savior Jesus, when walking along the shores of Galilee, called out to fishermen to follow him as they were mending their fishing nets. They certainly left their comfort zone to begin a new “career,” one as a disciple to the Son of God! The fruit of stepping out of their comfort zone was not only an incredible new life for them, but for the world; they would become the foundation stones of the Catholic Church.

Stepping out of our comfort zone can do the following for us:

  • Build self-confidence
  • Discover our gifts and talents
  • Give us satisfaction of doing good.

Stepping out of our comfort zone can do the following for others:

  • Build an environment of positive action
  • Encourage others
  • Support an important cause that will bring hope

Not stepping out of comfort zone at times can stunt our intellectual and spiritual growth. It can possibly lead to lack of enthusiasm.

Take the Next Step

Yes, it does take time and effort to step out of our comfort zones. Our Lord knows who you are. Ask him for the grace to do things that you know you should do, but find difficult to do. This not only facilitates our development, it also strengthens our faith and trust in God who is the source of our accomplishments.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1: 7)


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.

What Is Truth? | Journey with Jesus

 

Mary’s Confidence | Meet Mary

 

Mentor for Christians | Meet Mary

Fear God? | Journey with Jesus