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How Unexpected Experiences Can Become A Blessing

When we read the lives of the saints, why were so many of their lives impacted after an unexpected experience?

St Anthony de Padua with Child Jesus by MurilloFernando Martins was born in Lisbon, Portugal in the 12th century into a large Catholic family. He was ordained into the priesthood and began his new life with great fervor. His life as a young priest took a crucial turn when the bodies of the first five Franciscan martyrs were returned from Morocco. Fernando wanted to become a Franciscan Friar after hearing the stories of the Franciscan Friars’ charity for others and their courage to persevere to the end.

He did enter the Franciscan Order, and was given his new name, Anthony. He was to set sail across to Morocco to be a witness for Christ. His ship experienced a storm, and was forced to dock in Italy. There, he attended a Franciscan Chapter meeting with 3,000 friars in attendance; little did he know that he would be chosen to preach to the large number, resulting in the new discovery of his eloquent charism of preaching.

The unexpected experience of being shipwrecked in Italy turned into a greater call for Friar Anthony, who became St. Anthony of Padua. Since then to this day, he is known throughout the world for his spiritual writings and stirring sermons that have given hope to thousands. He was canonized a year after his death in 1232. The richness of his spiritual teaching contained in his sermons was so great that he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

If Friar Anthony did arrive in Morocco and died as a martyr, perhaps the thousands who had been given hope and a renewed confidence in God because of his preaching may have been lost, may have remained in despair. It is apparent God had a plan for Anthony!

Do we believe God has a plan for each of us?

Oh yes, you must believe He does! In the book of Deuteronomy 31:8, we read:

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Is your current plan united with the plan God has for you?

Only God who sees all things and knows each one of us by name, sees our hearts and knows our needs can lead us on the right path. We must ask for his guidance. He will not infringe on our free will.

How does one begin to ask His guidance?

Approach him as you would a dear friend. Invite him to guide you and help you see his plan for you. It may take days, weeks, months or longer; believe he hasn’t left you at any time! Invest in discovering his plan for you by reading Scripture and continue to ask him; What is your will for me today?  What will not change is Jesus’ gaze upon you. Let us place our lives into his gaze, and trust that his gaze is one of purity, tenderness, and loving.

This realization of God’s plan for me was a turning point in my life; and yes, his plan has been an interesting journey. For this reason I have given my life to him as a Missionary of Hope. Even when the journey appeared quite rough, his words in the Gospel of Mark 6:50 resounded in my soul and gave me consolation and hope:

Immediately he spoke to them and said, Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.


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.

Where Is Your Lenten Journey Taking You?

Hopefully this Lent finds you journeying alongside Jesus toward closer union with God. In many ways, this 40-day time of prayer and reflection, in preparation for Holy Week & Easter, resembles the ancient tradition of going on pilgrimage.

While you may not be traveling to a sacred destination, there are some key parallels which may help you to arrive at a place of transformation come Easter Sunday. To be a pilgrim this Lent involves the following:

  • Deviating from Your Regular Routines
    During Lent this means following in the footsteps of Jesus.
  • Traveling Light for the Journey
    Now is the time to assess your priorities and weed out whatever prevents you from traveling the narrow road that leads to life (cf. Matthew 7:14).
  • Hope of Interior Transformation
    Throughout the remainder of Lent, be open to God’s love and his graces

Let’s take a closer look at each of these three points along with some tips on how to make a more effective Lenten pilgrimage.

Following Jesus Christ

To be a disciple, we must be willing to follow Jesus, even when we don’t fully understand where the path is leading. We need to let Jesus take us where he wants us to be. Following Jesus involves total surrender, having an open heart, and trust.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. – Psalm 33:22

Weeds and Wild Beasts

Mark 1:13 tells us that while Jesus was in the desert, He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. As we make our pilgrimage, recall that Jesus was tempted several times by Satan while in the wilderness.

If we are to make our way out of the wilderness during Lent, we need to tame our personal “wild beasts;” desires or lusts, angers or fears, and addictions or vices. The weeding out and the taming cannot be done alone. During this time, we need to allow God to care for us. If we will seek him out, he will speak to us.

Christ’s Transfiguration Offers Us Encouragement

The pilgrimage journey of a Christian is not easy; temptation and distraction are all around. Any time I get discouraged, I turn to my favorite depiction of the Transfiguration by artist Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo (shown here).

I also recall the time I spent on Mount Tabor in the Holy Land. As part of my Pilgrim Center of Hope pilgrimage, I was able to visit the Basilica of the Transfiguration (at which the photo above was taken). Within days of the feast day (August 6), I found myself kneeling at the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist with my eyes fixed on the rock—visible through a glass window—where the Transfiguration took place.

Every Christian wanting to go on an authentic spiritual journey, should make the trip in their lifetime. Our next Holy Land pilgrimage is scheduled for June 23 through July 4, 2020.

This past Sunday’s Gospel reading of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8), should remind us all that just as Peter, James & John were strengthened by witnessing the Transfiguration, if we too will love Jesus above all else, through his grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will receive the encouragement we need to persevere in our faith journey.

At his Transfiguration, Christ showed His disciples the splendor of His beauty, to which He will shape and color those who are His: ‘He will reform our lowness configured to the body of His glory.’ -St. Thomas Aquinas

Still to come on our Lenten journey – the Last Supper, followed by Christ’s Passion, Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.

Now is the time to check your “spiritual GPS” to ensure that your Lenten pilgrimage continues to prepare you not only for Easter, but for your eternal life in the heavenly Jerusalem.


 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.

Conversions Through Our Witness

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

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

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

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

My Eyewitness Account

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How We Successfully Evangelize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

An Example to Follow: Inspiration for My Ordinary Life

As my birthday approaches, and with it my sixtieth year of life, reality has been tapping me on the shoulder and whispering, “You have more years behind you than those which are to come.” This message could tempt me to despair. It could make me anxious. It could invade my peace with thoughts like, “I am running out of time to do anything extraordinary with my life!”

Thankfully, we have the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) in our Communion of Saints who show that God can transform our ordinary into his extraordinary at any age. We have young saints like Jacinta who was only seven when the Blessed Mother appeared to her at Fatima. We have old saints like Elizabeth who became the mother of St. John the Baptist in her advanced age. Considering my current state in life, it is the witness of St. Elizabeth I have been pondering lately.

St. Luke’s Gospel writes of the advent of the long-hoped for Messiah by first telling Elizabeth’s story…

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. (Luke 1:5-7)

Like the long liturgical time that precedes the Church’s season of Advent, Elizabeth’s story is marked by its ordinariness. Of all the pivotal players at God’s incarnation which include Mary, Joseph and Zechariah, Elizabeth is the only one who did not get a visit by an angel. Her barrenness and old age would seem to disqualify her from producing anything of worth; yet it was the Lord Jesus who said of Elizabeth’s son, I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John (Luke 7:28).

And what did Elizabeth really do? Surely becoming pregnant at an old age is unusual, but not unprecedented. When Sarah gave birth to Isaac, she was in her nineties (Genesis 17:17). Elizabeth did what is ordinary for a woman; she bore life into the world.

St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. “Prophet of the Most High,” John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom,” whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 523)

To which I symbolically drop the mic exclaiming, “…and his mother is Elizabeth!”

There are two messages we can learn from the example of St. Elizabeth.

Firstly, God views humanity differently than we see ourselves.

To God, Elizabeth was not barren, she was patient. We read that along with her husband, she was righteous in his eyes and obedient to his law. Unlike her husband, she was not struck mute due to a failure to believe (Luke 1:20). Despite her lack, she remained full of faith. In fact, God respected her so much that it was to St. Elizabeth he gave the honor of announcing to the world that the Son of God does indeed dwell among us.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,

Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. (Luke 1:41-45)

Secondly, God chooses us to play our part in his mission.

We each have our role to play in God’s Salvation Story. He is the hero. He is the protagonist, but he shares through grace all that each of us needs to join in his story, his mission. He states in the Gospel according to John 17:20-23:

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

St. Elizabeth answered blamelessly to God’s call for her by fulfilling her vocation to womanhood. She did so in many ways:

  • Through physical motherhood by giving birth to St. John the Baptist
  • Through the fertility of her will by remaining open to God’s plan for her
  • Through her spiritual fecundity in praising God with such boldness it sparked the Mother of God to proclaim:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1:46-55)

Let us follow the example of St. Elizabeth to:

  • Be docile to God’s will and timing however long it takes
  • Remain steadfast in faith in him no matter what
  • Praise God and encourage others always
  • Welcome all who come to us in haste, whether holier than us or not
  • Put our life and vocation in God’s hands, confident he will be the one to exalt us

…so that others will follow us!


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.

Are You Prepared To Receive Jesus?

Not only is Advent a time of coming (in Latin Adventus); it is also a time of waiting and receiving.

As we enter the fourth and last week of Advent, now is not only the time to prepare for the commemoration of Christ’s birth, two-thousand years ago, but also the time to prepare ourselves for what St. Bernard of Clarivaux called the Mystery and Majesty of the coming of Christ.

St. Bernard said that Christ in fact comes to us three times or in three ways:

  • In History – the Birth of the baby Jesus as described in the Gospels of Matthew (1:25 & 2:1) and Luke (2:6, 7)
  • In Mystery – through the Holy Eucharist, which is in the here and now
  • In Majesty – at the end of time when Christ will return in all His glory, as our Profession of Faith tells us, “to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”

Since discovering this particular spiritual teaching from St. Bernard, about ten years ago, my anticipation of and appreciation for Christmas has grown into a year-round and what will be a life-long affair. This has also led to a greater love for the Eucharist and to striving to be better prepared for when Jesus comes again.

Talk about having an epiphany; an illuminating discovery!

Through St. Bernard’s teaching, I now understand that we all can live thousands of Advents. From Sunday to Sunday of each week or in between every Mass we fully participate in; each time we anticipate receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is another Advent.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel – Matthew 1:23

Emmanuel means God is with us. During the Bread of Life discourse which Our Lord presented at the synagogue at Capernaum, he pledged to us his perpetual presence in the Holy Eucharist… He remains with us always!

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever – John 6:51

The Bread of Life was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.” He was laid in a manager, but it did not matter to the shepherds and the Magi. They came to adore Jesus and present him gifts fit for king.

Make Room For Jesus
I urge you to use this last week before Christmas to reflect on how to better receive Jesus in your heart. All of us – including me – can make more room for Jesus in our lives. There was no room at the inn for the Holy Family; no one wanted to make room for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Make A Pilgrimage To An Adoration Chapel
Like the shepherds and the Magi, go out to him and shower Jesus with love, praise, and gratitude. Prostrate yourself before the monstrance as the Magi did before the manager.

The Magi are symbolic of people who normally don’t want to step out of a world that is fixated on power, prestige, and possessions. The Magi were willing to leave the certainty of their kingdoms and follow the Star of Bethlehem to discover the newborn King of the Jews. Discovering and encountering Jesus oftentimes requires stepping out of our comfort zones.

Do not be afraid…Put out into the deep and let down your nets – St. Pope John Paul II

After Christmas Day has come and gone, never stop remembering that Jesus is always among us in Word and Eucharist.


Robert V. Rodriguez is Public Relations & Outreach Assistant for Pilgrim Center of Hope. He combines a passion for the Catholic faith together with years of professional experience as a TV news journalist, video producer, and PR/marketing specialist. Robert also serves as Chairman for our annual “Master, I Want to See” Catholic Men’s Conference.

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

Why We Cannot Be Complacent In Our Spiritual Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Threefold Calling

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

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


Robert V. Rodriguez is Public Relations & Outreach Assistant for Pilgrim Center of Hope. He combines a passion for the Catholic faith together with years of professional experience as a TV news journalist, video producer, and PR/marketing specialist. Robert also serves as Chairman for our annual “Master, I Want to See” Catholic Men’s Conference.

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

The Spark: How to Succeed When Failing

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

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

Our answer to both questions is Jesus!

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

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

The Spark

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

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

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

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

But what if we fail?

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

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

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

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

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


Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

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

What Am I Living For? Hope When All Seems Lost

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

How often do you wish for more time?

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

A Man Who Lost Everything

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

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

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

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

When Everything Fails

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

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

Finding Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready to discover a new reason to live?


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

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

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.

Let’s Go!

The Holy Father has named October, Extraordinary Mission Month, with the message: Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.

What does this mean?

Pope Francis is reminding us Catholics, that we exist as a Church whose very identity is to answer Christ’s call to spread His Gospel; to go out and invite everyone to encounter our Lord Jesus Christ! It is who we are! It is what we do!

If this scares you, then take heart that a Doctor of the Church, who is the co-patron of missions, is a young nun who never left her convent!  St. Therese of Lisieux’s mission in the world was lived out in what she called her little way of offering her given tasks, her received sufferings, and her intentional acts of kindness, for love of Jesus.

Pope Francis encourages us, as well. He explains that this ‘going out’ does not mean hitting people over the head with a Bible but through sharing the gift of the Treasure given to us. He says,

Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church. Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practice proselytism  – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf. Matthew 10:8), without excluding anyone. God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4; Lumen Gentium, no. 48). – Extraordinary Mission Month

What an exciting adventure we are called to! We head out from this proclamation inspired to give God’s Divine Mercy, show our family and friends the beauty of our rich faith, and share the daily journey accompanying others on the path of salvation… that is until we are met with opposition. It is very difficult to keep up the enthusiasm in the face of hostility, lack of interest, and when we find ourselves more annoyed by, than loving of, others.

Is there a way to stay on mission and not grow weary? Yes!

We can not only sustain but actually increase our faith, deepen our love for and trust in God, and grow in heroic virtue by walking daily with the one person who first received God’s Treasure, bore him into the world, and eternally shares him with all: the Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother.

This daily walk with Mary is the Rosary.

Providentially, October is also the month of the Rosary. Just as Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs, (Luke 10:1), he continues through his Church to do the same. A library of writings and personal stories attest to the power of the Rosary and its ability to convert our hearts, spiritually nourish our souls, and embolden our faith. Our Pilgrim Center of Hope chaplain, Father Pat Martin, says the Rosary is the most powerful weapon because it destroys pride.

During this special month of October dedicated to the Church’s mission and to the Rosary, enter your first conquest! Challenge yourself to offer a daily Rosary.

It may help to imagine yourself walking beside Mary as you accompany Jesus and his disciples as he goes from village to village. Ask her to tell you about her son as you mediate on the mysteries of the Rosary.


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.