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I am the Good Shepherd

In the Gospels, Jesus identifies himself with several titles that begin, “I am…”. For me, the title that is most tender and compassionate is when he says,

“I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

Jesus reveals in his ministry that he is the ultimate good shepherd because his purpose is to save the souls of all humanity and he completes his mission by laying down his life on the cross.

Although Jesus Christ completed his mission, he established his Church to carry on that work of saving souls. He built this Church on the confession of Peter who he charged with tending and feeding his sheep. Through the priesthood, he gave Peter and the Church the authority to forgive sins and to change bread and wine into his own body and blood so that those who believed in him might have eternal life.

Priests and Deacons

In an unbroken line from Peter and the Apostles to our present Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests Jesus continues his role as Good Shepherd as they all perform their ministry in persona Christi, which means in the person of Christ. As they minister the sacraments of the Church it is Jesus Christ himself who makes the sacraments effective through them.

Deacons are also ordained into this unbroken line dating back to the beginning of the Church. Though their ordination differs from that of bishops and priests, they are nevertheless called by Christ to serve his flock through the ministry of the Word and other services that require special formation. They can perform baptism, funerals, and witness marriages in the absence of a priest, or at the assistance of a priest. The Diaconate ministry covers a wide spectrum of service to the Church including but not limited to liturgy, evangelization, visiting the sick and imprisoned, faith formation, and assisting the bishop and their pastors as needed.

Consecrated Life

The consecrated life of the religious is also essential to Our Lord’s plan of caring for souls. Through the ages, the religious have been a heroic sign of the presence of Jesus Christ as they educate, evangelize and serve all who are in need. Religious organizations have produced thousands of canonized saints and their work has been indispensable in the passing on of the faith.

As the numbers of clergy and religious continue to decline we all must pray every day for vocations. Certainly, the Good Shepherd continues to call men and women to participate in his work of saving souls. Our prayer is for those he is calling to respond to the call, not only for the sake of the souls they will be helping, but also for their own sake because we can only reach our potential for happiness in this life by following the plan the Lord has for us.

Laity

We see the beauty of Jesus’ plan as he continues to shepherd souls, but what about the rest of the Church? Does he expect the small number of clergy and religious to be solely responsible for the salvation of humanity? There is a huge army that is expected to participate in this saving work called the laity. We are all baptized and have received the theological gifts of Faith, Hope, and love as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Every one of us is equipped and expected to participate in the work of saving souls by praying for the conversion of those who have separated themselves from God and by being a witness of what we believe by what we say and do. If we have experienced God’s love, mercy, and providence we certainly want to share this Good News with others.

When we pray for vocations, we also pray for holy marriages and sanctified single life. Every baptized person is expected to be a light in the world, bringing the presence of Christ into our homes and the workplace. When we read the lives of the saints and hear the stories of clergy and religious, we find that most discovered their calling from God through the faithful witness of their parents. The home is where children should first learn about God’s love for them as they are taught how to pray and ask for God’s guidance at a very early age.

There is no baptized person who does not have a calling from God. When we order our lives to God by a commitment to daily prayer, by living the sacramental life and continue to be formed in the faith through spiritual reading we give God the opportunity to influence our decisions as we continually draw closer to him, and then promises he gives us in the Gospels become a reality in our lives. In addition to the magnificence of creation, the reality of the existence of God should be apparent through the witness of those who believe in him.

How can we follow the Good Shepherd?

If there is chaos in our lives, in society, or in our world there is only one explanation- we, the society or the world are not following the Good Shepherd and the plan he has for us. His plan doesn’t eliminate all sickness, suffering, and disasters but he gives us the grace and peace to persevere with the confidence that he will bring us through. We see this reality repeatedly when we read the lives of the saints. Because God is patient for our salvation, it is never too late to begin anew in Christ. As a matter of fact, we know from his own words that he seeks out those who are lost. He will find his way to any soul that has a humble, contrite heart.

We know the words to say,

“Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.

Jesus, I trust in You.

Good Shepherd, lead me into the security your Sacred Heart.”


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.

Venice – Basilica of St. Mark

Join Angela Sealana and Debbie Garza – a pilgrimage group leader for Pilgrim Center of Hope – as they spiritually travel Venice, Italy, and the Basilica of St. Mark. The Basilica today is really considered to be a combination of Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian culture. It is built in the shape of a Greek cross. Angela and Debbie also speak about St. Mark the Evangelist whose feast day is April 25th.

During this program:

  • Learn about St. Mark the Evangelist. Who was he?
  • Discover the religious and historical significance of a city like Venice having a Patron Saint, especially in those times.
  • Take a dive into the various elements of the holy site.

Listen to this program now:


Jewel for the Journey:

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).  


A Closer Look at the Basilica of St. Mark:


Where is the Basilica of St. Mark?

ENCORE: Mount of Beatitudes Revisited

 

This week’s virtual pilgrimage with Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox takes us to the Mount of Beatitudes!  During our time together, our Hosts discuss the following:

  • What is symbolic about the area surrounding the church?
  • How do we apply beatitudes to our life?
  • What did Pope Francis mean when he said called the Beatitudes, the Christian ID Card?
  • Much more!

WHERE to TUNE IN:

Live – Wed., April 21 @ 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.


Jewel for the Journey

“The Sermon on the Mount is addressed to the entire world, the entire present and future and yet it demands discipleship and can be understood and lived out only by following Jesus and accompanying him on his journey.” – Excerpt from  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI book,  Jesus of Nazareth


What is a Christian’s Identity Card?

 

 

A Closer Look at the Mount of Beatitudes:

 


Where is the Mount of Beatitudes?

Palm Sunday – The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ

Did you feel left out? Because of the pandemic, we do not have missalettes in the pews and the congregation didn’t have a part to play in the reading of the Passion of our Lord. One of the most important moments in the narrative is when we all together say, “crucify him.” I’m going to provide that opportunity now. Please together say:

Crucify Him!

It was easy for us together to say, “crucify him.” If time allowed, how would it be if each one of us were individually asked to say, “crucify him.” It might help us to understand our personal role in the Passion of Jesus. In reality, all of us have said, “crucify him” many times. Every time we sin, we say crucify him because sin is a choice and he died for every sin. When we read the Passion of Christ, we see the sin of many people, but what is most important is that we see the consequence of our personal sins.

Display a Crucifix In Your Home

The universal sign of our Catholic faith is the crucifix because it reveals both the love of God for us and the consequence of our sins. For this reason, every Catholic home should have a crucifix on display. The crucifix must be visible in a prominent location in every Catholic Church, which Christ founded to continue his saving work. In his Church, Christ has made available to us every means to overcome sin and grow in virtue. Though God is everywhere and loves everyone, it is through his Church and her sacraments that we are promised the greatest possible personal and intimate relationship with God. In baptism, we become children of God and the way is made open to us to receive the other sacraments that support our every need during life on earth. It is especially in the sacrament of reconciliation that we have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who forgives our sins through his priest and grants us the grace to make progress in our spiritual life. In addition to eternal life, the greatest gift Jesus gives us is himself in the Holy Eucharist. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, during Mass, bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that we must be free of all mortal sin by a sacramental confession and believe that the Host we receive is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus.

Encounter Christ At Mass

Every Mass is a pilgrimage toward Christ. During the Penitential Rite, together we ask forgiveness for the sins we have committed that were not serious enough for the sacrament of confession. At the end of the Liturgy of the Word, together we profess our faith in what we believe as a Church. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, together we proclaim Hosanna in the highest and the Lord’s prayer. And then individually, as we come forward to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist we proclaim, “Amen”, acknowledging that we are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church and believe all that she teaches, and we believe we are receiving the real presence of Jesus Christ and we have prepared our self spiritually.

At every Mass, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus are made present to us, and at every Mass our personal “Amen” when we receive our Lord is a reparation for the times we said, “crucify him.”


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.

How can my relationship with God impact all my relationships? Tune-in to our new Feminine Faith edition of Catholicism Live! Every Tuesday at 11 in the morning Central time. Helping you keep your faith alive!

Finding Joy in Relationships

Mary Jane Fox, Angela Sealana, and Julie Reyna look at relationships & Valentine’s Day from a Catholic point of view, give couples 4 steps for praying together, and have a Heart-to-Heart discussion: “How can my relationship with God impact all my relationships?” Plus, we’ll introduce you to a married couple on the road to sainthood, AND give you a Spa Moment for your Soul!

Finding God in the Chaos

Need help finding God in the midst of a busy schedule or chaotic life? We have some great tips for you.

Angela Sealana, Julie Reyna, and Jessica Rendon dive into…

  • New year’s resolutions: Catholic style
  • Spiritual tips
  • A heart-to-heart conversation with special guest Professor Kathe Lehman-Meyer
  • An inspiring saint.


***Video begins at 1 minute and 55 seconds.

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.

How God Is Your Friend

No matter how much you live the experience of these years of your youth, you will never know their deepest and fullest meaning unless you encounter each day your best friend, the friend who is Jesus.

For the past several weeks, we have been discovering through Christus Vivit, Pope Francis’ exhortation to young people and people of all ages, that Jesus is alive! It may be news to you that God is your friend. The remainder of this blog focuses on this great news.

153. Friendship is so important that Jesus calls himself a friend: “I do not call you servants any longer, but I call you friends” (Jn 15:15). By the gift of his grace, we are elevated in such a way that we truly become his friends. With the same love that Christ pours out on us, we can love him in turn and share his love with others, in the hope that they too will take their place in the community of friendship he established. And even as he enjoys the complete bliss of the life of the resurrection, we, for our part, can work generously to help him build his kingdom in this world, by bringing his message, his light, and above all his love, to others (cf. Jn 15:16). The disciples heard Jesus calling them to be his friends. It was an invitation that did not pressure them, but gently appealed to their freedom. “Come and see”, Jesus told them; so “they came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day” (Jn 1:39). After that unexpected and moving encounter, they left everything and followed him.
154. Friendship with Jesus cannot be broken. He never leaves us, even though at times it appears that he keeps silent. When we need him, he makes himself known to us (cf. Jer 29:14); he remains at our side wherever we go (cf. Jos 1:9). He never breaks his covenant. He simply asks that we not abandon him: “Abide in me” (Jn 15:4). But even if we stray from him, “he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:13).
155. With a friend, we can speak and share our deepest secrets. With Jesus too, we can always have a conversation. Prayer is both a challenge and an adventure. And what an adventure it is! Gradually Jesus makes us appreciate his grandeur and draw nearer to him. Prayer enables us to share with him every aspect of our lives and to rest confidently in his embrace. At the same time, it gives us a share in his own life and love. When we pray, “we open everything we do” to him, and we give him room “so that he can act, enter and claim victory”.

As our staff discussed this, we saw the mission of Pilgrim Center of Hope in the words of St. Oscar Romero:

“Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed, rules to be followed, or prohibitions. Seen that way, it puts us off. Christianity is a person who loved me immensely, who demands and claims my love. Christianity is Christ”.

Pope Francis concludes this encouraging section on friendship with these inspiring words:

157. Jesus can bring all the young people of the Church together in a single dream, “a great dream, a dream with a place for everyone. The dream for which Jesus gave his life on the cross, for which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost and brought fire to the heart of every man and woman, to your heart and mine. To your heart too, he brought that fire, in the hope of finding room for it to grow and flourish. A dream whose name is Jesus, planted by the Father in the confidence that it would grow and live in every heart. A concrete dream who is a person, running through our veins, thrilling our hearts and making them dance”.

We hope you have enjoyed this dip into the waters of the ocean of Church teaching contained in papal encyclicals such as Christus Vivit. We encourage you to read the entire document as we are called as Catholics to keep learning our faith. The magnificence of our 2000 years of Catholicism is the libraries of teaching we can discover. The wonder of our day and time is that those libraries are available at the click of mouse! We encourage you to visit the Church’s website of the Holy See at www.Vatican.va. Papal documents can be found by clicking on the pope or the century. Amazing! Make it journey; pick a document and go. You can dive in wherever you want and stay as long as want.


Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Catholic Women’s Conference can be experienced both in-person OR live-streaming! Join us 10/31/2020 for a day of fellowship, inspiration, music, prayer and encouragement in our dignity and calling as women and daughters of God. Register at CWCSanAntonio.com and discover more about Pilgrim Center of Hope at PilgrimCenterofHope.org.

How to Live to the Fullest, Today!

Our world is filled with beauty!

In these times of worry and anxiety due to fears of pandemic and social unrest, the Church comes to bring hope!

In his encyclical, Christus Vivit, Pope Francis exhorts young people and people of all ages to remember that Jesus is alive! He is God and God does not forsake us!

145. Contrary to what many people think, the Lord does not want to stifle these desires for a fulfilling life. We do well to remember the words of an Old Testament sage: “My child, treat yourself well, according to your means, and present your offerings to the Lord; do not deprive yourself of a day’s enjoyment, do not let your share of desired good pass by” (Sirach 14:11.14). The true God, who loves you, wants you to be happy. For this reason, the Bible also contains this piece of advice to young people: “Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth… banish anxiety from your mind” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). For God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).
146. How could God take pleasure in someone incapable of enjoying his small everyday blessings, someone blind to the simple pleasures we find all around us? “No one is worse than one who is grudging to himself” (Sirach 14:6). Far from obsessively seeking new pleasures, which would keep us from making the most of the present moment, we are asked to open our eyes and take a moment to experience fully and with gratitude every one of life’s little gifts.
147. Clearly, God’s word asks you to enjoy the present, not simply to prepare for the future: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own; today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). But this is not the same as embarking irresponsibly on a life of dissipation that can only leave us empty and perpetually dissatisfied. Rather, it is about living the present to the full, spending our energies on good things, cultivating fraternity, following Jesus and making the most of life’s little joys as gifts of God’s love.
148. Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, when imprisoned in a concentration camp, refused to do nothing but await the day when he would be set free. He chose “to live the present moment, filling it to the brim with love”. He decided: “I will seize the occasions that present themselves every day; I will accomplish ordinary actions in an extraordinary way”. As you work to achieve your dreams, make the most of each day and do your best to let each moment brim with love. This youthful day may well be your last, and so it is worth the effort to live it as enthusiastically and fully as possible.
149. This can also be applied to times of difficulty, that have to be fully experienced if we are to learn the message they can teach us. In the words of the Swiss Bishops: “God is there where we thought he had abandoned us and there was no further hope of salvation. It is a paradox, but for many Christians, suffering and darkness have become… places of encounter with God”. The desire to live fully and experience new things is also felt by many young people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities. Even though they may not always be able to have the same experiences as others, they possess amazing resources and abilities that are often far above average. The Lord Jesus grants them other gifts, which the community is called to recognize and appreciate, so that they can discover his plan of love for each of them.


Pilgrim Center of Hope invites all women to experience God’s desire for your abundant life by participating in the upcoming Catholic Women’s Conference, which can be experienced both in-person OR live-streaming! Join us October 31, 2020 for a day of fellowship, inspiration, music, prayer and encouragement in our dignity and calling as women and daughters of God. Register at CWCSanAntonio.com.

How to Stay Authentically Yourself Today

Everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies. -Carlo Acutis, who will be Beatified this year

In the apostolic exhortation, Christus VivitPope Francis writes to both young people and the entire people of God about current issues we experience. He brings up the dangers of the digital environment and the opportunities it provides. He speaks about the immigration crisis and how mass movement of people across the globe can bring us in greater unity with one another.Pope Francis gives us hope through this encyclical that the Church is with us here and now. It speaks to those of us trying to navigate our ‘new normal’ of work at home and school online worlds.

He shows how the Church does not fear to go into the dark places of the world and shine the light of the Gospel. The remainder of this blog is from Christus Vivit; the inspiring story of Carlo Acutis, a boy who loved computers and loved Jesus more! He died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15 and lived a life that has earned him sainthood. Venerable Carlo will be beautified this October.

104. I remind you of the good news we received as a gift on the morning of the resurrection: that in all the dark or painful situations that we mentioned, there is a way out. For example, it is true that the digital world can expose you to the risk of self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure. But don’t forget that there are young people even there who show creativity and even genius. That was the case with the Venerable Carlo Acutis.
105. Carlo was well aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity. Yet he knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty.
106. Carlo didn’t fall into the trap. He saw that many young people, wanting to be different, really end up being like everyone else, running after whatever the powerful set before them with the mechanisms of consumerism and distraction. In this way they do not bring forth the gifts the Lord has given them; they do not offer the world those unique personal talents that God has given to each of them. As a result, Carlo said, “everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies”. Don’t let that happen to you!
107. Don’t let them rob you of hope and joy, or drug you into becoming a slave to their interests. Dare to be more, because who you are is more important than any possession. What good are possessions or appearances? You can become what God your Creator knows you are, if only you realize that you are called to something greater. Ask the help of the Holy Spirit and confidently aim for the great goal of holiness. In this way, you will not be a photocopy. You will be fully yourself.


Rejoice in Hope! You are invited to a virtual multi-day event to raise hope! Join the journey at PilgrimCenterofHope.org/Rejoice