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Spiritual Battle – Top 3 Qualities of A Good Soldier

[Excerpt of painting] “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Public Domain)

We all fight spiritual battles.

Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield, man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 409)

Not long ago, I surveyed friends who are current or former members of the armed forces, asking them:

What is the most important quality of a good soldier?

  • Each soldier responded from his or her own experience, without consulting anyone.
  • I received answers from soldiers varying in rank, age, background, gender; experienced in the United States Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.

Interestingly, all of their answers fit into 3 categories…

1. Commitment to the Mission – Top Response

Other words used to describe this quality: Discipline, Drive, Courage, Fortitude, Determination

One senior officer elaborated: “I always talk to my Soldiers about having a ‘Why’ Factor: That reason(s) that get you up every morning and make you the best person you can be. […] This can be the next rank, spouse, children, family, better finances, education; whatever it is that reminds them of the importance of what they do and why they strive for greatness each day.”

In the spiritual life, we must be focused and committed to our mission: union with God who is Love.

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)

Being lukewarm means that we know enough, but we don’t care enough.
Are you lukewarm in your daily commitment to the mission of Love?
Is it love of God that drives you through trials?
What is your “Why Factor” for living as you do?

  • Examine your conscience to determine the dis-ordered personal desires or other obstacles you must address, in order to remain committed. A soldier who is neither disciplined nor committed to the mission is a danger to himself and his fellow soldiers.

2. Integrity

Other words used to describe this quality: Honor, Honesty

Closely related to the top response, Integrity is defined as “moral uprightness”, or “the state of being whole and undivided”. Soldiers who gave this response consistently answered with one word. That’s because integrity speaks for itself.

Saint JosephLook at Saint Joseph in the Bible; described as “a righteous man”—yet his words are never quoted. Why? The integrity of his character is reflected in his actions, which speak for themselves.

As necessary and powerful as our words and vocal prayers can be, Jesus clearly says that lip service is insufficient for Victory:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church applies this to our daily battles; “The battle of prayer is inseparable from the necessary ‘spiritual battle’ to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ: we pray as we live, because we live as we pray.” (no. 2752)

  • Start today, soldier! Pray for the grace to be a person of integrity.
  • Seek God’s will so that you can accomplish it: Spend a few minutes daily with Scripture and spiritual reading.
  • Consult a spiritual leader to provide direction & structure for your spiritual training.

3. Teamwork

Other words used to describe this quality: Cooperation, Loyalty, Trustworthiness & Trust

A commanding officer elaborated: “I don’t want narcissists that only care about themselves.” Another asserted: “I need this person to foster teamwork, or cooperation. You can be the most patriotic, intelligent, experienced person in the U.S. military and if no one can work with you, or wants to, you’re useless.”

In the spiritual battle, it is not good enough to claim the title “Christian” for oneself and ‘check the boxes’ of expected behavior. Two of Jesus’ closest disciples discovered that we cannot please him if in our heart & mind, we wish ill on others, even those who oppose us.

[Jesus’ messengers] entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him… When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them… (Luke 9:52-55)

Mother Angelica once advised, “Don’t say, ‘If it weren’t for that person I could be holy.’ No; you can be holy because of that person.” What bugs you about people? Are there people who drive you up the wall with their weaknesses or habits? Make it your goal to realize that you cannot win the spiritual war without learning to love those people.

When St. Therese of Lisieux found a particular nun in her community completely disagreeable, she employed this tactic: “Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works; then I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved the most.”

Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

3 Keys to Victory

  1. Disciplined and Courageous Commitment: Decide to live for Christ, and use this decision to guide all other decisions.
  2. Integrity: Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.
  3. Teamwork: Remember that you are not fighting your fellow human, but rather you are fighting against temptation to sin. Practice selfless love, generosity, and kindness to everyone.

Men, Pilgrim Center of Hope invites you to Gear Up & Level Up at the upcoming Catholic Men’s Conference. You are not alone in your battle. Renew your spirit & strength at this annual event for men like you.


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.

Who Do You Say I Am? | Journey with Jesus

Merciful Love | Journey with Jesus

Do I Have to Evangelize?

When I was about 10, my 13-year-old brother told me about an idea he had for us making money: we would go door-to-door selling subscriptions of TV Guide magazine. All I remember is that for every subscription we sold, we would make 10 cents. Great, I thought.

After going door-to-door all afternoon, in the summer, we must’ve knocked on 50 doors, and sold a mind-boggling three subscriptions. Sometimes the people politely declined, but more often than not, they were rude and curt. Never again!

From then on, anytime I heard anything that remotely involved going door-to-door, I ran in the other direction. So when I heard about  “going out to evangelize”  – I hesitated, I was not in line to sign up. But as I matured, and I learned more about our beautiful faith, I realized I was already evangelizing—in my own way.

The Gospel of Matthew (28:19-20) charges us, as Catholics, to “go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you.” Pope John Paul II, in his, apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici; writes:

“The basic meaning of this Synod and the most precious fruit desired as a result of it, is the lay faithful’s hearkening to the call of Christ the Lord to work in his vineyard, to take an active, conscientious and responsible part in the mission of the Church in this great moment in history, made especially dramatic by occurring on the threshold of the Third Millennium. A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle.” (#3)

Strive to Be A Light to the World

Who will question the dark times we find ourselves in? We are the light of the world. We are the lamp on the bushel basket, answering Our Lord’s call to evangelize.

Many people don’t like to talk about religion. What can I do?

Here are some possible ideas for you:

  • Start saying “Thank you, God” in public.
  • Say grace before meals, in public.
  • Start out at home, and take it into the world. Your actions, more than your words, ARE evangelization when others see you.
  • You get emails every day. Many of you subscribe to Catholic sites that proclaim the good news or call us to action because of a legislative bill that harms the unborn, or some other issue that is harmful, or helpful, to the world from our Catholic viewpoint. Share that link with others. Will there be some who are offended and will not want that sort of email from us? Certainly, but that should not stop you from evangelizing in this way.
  • Send texts, holy Christmas, and greeting cards, including birthday, condolence, thank you cards, and cards on any occasion.

The only way Christ is going to keep our world from going completely dark is if we shine in that darkness. If Jesus had not called us to become involved, then He wouldn’t need a Church on earth, would He? He would have done it all Himself. We are the members of the body of Christ, who is our Head. As members, we each play a role in allowing the body to function. Inaction in a member is not an option.

Be kind and gentle with others, when they call or ask for help. Loving those that are in most need of our love, even though they may be hard to approach at times. Do we avoid picking roses because the stems have thorns?

You can “pay it forward” when you’re in the fast-food line and someone lets you in. One act of such kindness can spread like wildfire. Just like evil has its ripples, so does love have its waves.

How we evangelize is as varied as who we are. Get creative. Talk to other Catholics who are evangelizing and reaching out. We sure are creative when it comes to using social media with our friends. Our Lord deserves our creativity just as much, if not more.

So you don’t have to go door-to-door, but at least get up and start walking to the vineyard! Pray and ask the Lord for His guidance, and He will answer you.


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

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

Surprised by Truth | Journey with Jesus

Advent: Keep Watch, He Is To Come Again

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

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

A Path to Interior Freedom

What do you think of when you hear the word commandment? Does that bring forth a negative thought? Is it an imposition on your freedom? I’ll bet many of you have had the experience of telling a young child “no”. You probably didn’t get the response you wanted without a little extra persuasion. Of course, your “no” was a gesture of love, wanting to protect the child from some danger.

God’s commandments are like that for us. God created us out of love and wants to protect us from things that threaten our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. We are inclined to desire things that we believe will provide us with pleasure or selfish comforts that can be harmful to ourselves and others. In addition to this, we have an enemy called Satan who tries to convince us that what we know to be wrong is actually okay. In the beginning, he is not so successful because our conscience is still able to help us avoid doing that which we know is wrong. However, the enemy doesn’t give up. He knows our weaknesses and will tempt us in little things where we think the comprise of our conscience is not so serious. He has set the trap. This compromise will lead to more serious sin. Left unchecked, this pattern can cause us to feel distant from God and lead to a feeling of hopelessness.

He Created Us Out of Love

Of course, God is the solution to this dilemma. He created us out of love, and it is his love that sustains us. He knows our weaknesses and the enemy who wants to destroy us. God commands us to love him because it is only in our love for him and his love for us that we are able to experience true and lasting happiness. God is the source of all love and everything that is good; and the only way we can reach our potential for loving others and ourselves is by loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all mind.

Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me, and, whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14:21. It’s not complicated. If we want to know and experience the love and mercy of God, and the happiness, peace, and hope that are part of a relationship with Him; we must keep the commandments.

A Perfect Love

Because God loves us with a perfect love, he has made it possible for us to remain in his love through the Church and her sacraments and by remaining connected to him in our daily prayer. The more we pray and frequent the sacraments, the more aware we are of the nearness of God and his plan for our happiness. This does not mean we will not experience challenges and trials. It does mean that when trials come our way, we will turn to God for strength and direction because of the relationship with him.

One proof of God’s love for us is the Holy Eucharist. Jesus loves us so much that he gives himself to us under the appearance of bread. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive God. This is no casual experience. We should be properly prepared and disposed to receive our Lord. The sacrament of reconciliation is a personal encounter with Jesus who extends his forgiveness and mercy to us through his priest. This sacrament helps us to break free from habitual sin and make progress in our spiritual life.

Live a Life Close to God

As with all the saints through the ages, we have available to us everything we need to live a life close to God that will guarantee our happiness now and forever. We also must expect that we will experience the cross during our journey on earth. Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34. It is especially when we undergo trials that we realize we need the help that only God can give us. It doesn’t mean that, just because we pray, things will always be fixed as we hope. It does mean that, when we preserve in prayer, we will come to trust that God is giving us what we need for the benefit of our soul and the souls of the people we are praying for.

When we have total trust in God we will be freed. It’s a process that depends upon our prayer and God’s grace.


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.

Is There a Witness to the Resurrection?

After our Lord rose from the dead, there were certainly witnesses to his resurrection. There was St. Mary Magdalene, the first witness, (Mark 16:9), then two of his disciples on the way to Damascus, (Mark 16:12), his apostles (Mark 16:14), and later to up to 500 (1 Corinthians 15:6) at once.

But not one was with him when he resurrected. Why is that?

The obvious reason is that it happened inside his tomb where only he lay. Yet it remains a wonder; considering how, in all the other ways God revealed Himself through His Son, He ensured there were witnesses:

  • At his conception (Luke 1:31)
  • At his birth (Luke 2:16)
  • At his baptism (Luke 3:21-22)
  • At his transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-2)
  • At the institution of the Eucharist (Luke 22:19-20)
  • At his Passion and death (Luke 23)

One would think that at the very moment our Lord makes good on his promise of his resurrection (John 2:19), he would make sure someone was there to see it!

Why wasn’t there?

Only God can answer that, but it is worth contemplating, since it was Jesus himself who asked,

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? (John 11:35-26).

Do you believe this?

Imagine you are there with Jesus in his Tomb. You are kneeling next to his body. He lays motionless, shrouded from head to foot in white linen. You hear a rumbling, and look to see a large stone being moved over the entrance—sealing you alone with Jesus.

The darkness is soon replaced by a small glow—because the tradition of the Church accords a lamp is to be kept alight to indicate and honor the presence of the body of Christ. Where is this light coming from?

You feel warm and realize the light is coming from you. It is your baptismal light; the fire of the Holy Spirit witnessing to the presence of Christ.

The Holy Spirit enlightens your soul with what will one day be proclaimed by the Church. We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 635) the following, taken from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began . . . He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam and his bonds and Eve, captive with him-He who is both their God and the son of Eve . . . “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son . . . I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell, Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”

Jesus rises, resurrecting before you. His burial cloths replaced by radiant light pouring from the wounds in his hands, his feet, and his side; all his other wounds are healed. He lovingly looks at you and asks, “What is dead in you that needs new life?”

You show the Lord your wounds. You tell him what hurts. As you do, your ugly, painful wounds transform, becoming rivers of light. You are new life in Jesus!

******

Let your imagination bring you into the present… Wonder at the likeness between the white linen-shrouded body of Jesus sealed in the Tomb and the white bread-shrouded Eucharistic Jesus kept in your parish’s tabernacle. Have you ever seen the edifice that has been built over the Tomb of Christ in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem? It resembles a larger brass tabernacle, complete with lighted lamps!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1374) states,

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained.”

Do you believe?

Scripture tells us that after his Resurrection, Jesus easily walked through locked doors in his glorified Body (John 20:19 & 26). This means he can easily walk through the locked door of the tabernacle in your local church right into your barricaded, stony, hurting heart! Every time you come into the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, he is there lovingly looking at you and asking, “What is dead in you that needs new life?”

Perhaps God did not will a witness to his Son’s resurrection in the tomb because He has reserved it as an intimate encounter between Jesus Christ and every soul.

Jesus awaits you in the Eucharist. He wants to heal you, transform you and bring you to fullness of life!

Believe!


Even in this time of COVID-19 protocols many Catholic Churches make Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament available for her faithful. Contact your local parish for days/times.  At Pilgrim Center of Hope, you are welcome to visit our Gethsemane Chapel and spend time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The chapel is open as the Center is open, usually Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:30pm. Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org or contact us at 210-521-3377.

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.

Renewal of Baptismal Promises

Leader:
Dear brothers and sisters,
through the paschal mystery
we have been buried with Christ in baptism,
so that we may walk with him in newness of life.
And so, let us renew the promises of Holy Baptism,
by which we once renounced Satan and his works
and promised to serve God in the holy Catholic Church.
And so I ask you:

Do you renounce sin,
so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?

I do.

Do you reject the lure of evil,
so that sin my have no mastery over you?
I do.

Do you reject Satan,
the author and prince of sin?
I do.

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth?
I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ,
his only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered death and was buried,
rose again from the dead,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting?

I do.

Leader:
And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
who has given us new birth
by water and the Holy Spirit,
and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins,
keep us by his grace,
in Christ Jesus our Lord,
for eternal life.
Amen.


(C) Text of the Renewal of Baptismal Promises from the New Roman Missal, 3rd Edition.