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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.

The Wonders of Expectation: Remaining with God When Our Expectations Aren’t Met

Do you actively seek to follow the will of God?

If so, I am sure you have experienced the satisfaction of being a cooperator in the Holy Spirit.  Being docile to his prompting, just like Mary, you go in haste to care for a sick friend, comfort a stressed co-worker, or console a grieving stranger. It is so gratifying to see their smile, feel their hand squeeze yours, and know that through God’s grace, you made a difference.

Or, perhaps your receptivity to act in God’s will brought the opposite response. Instead of the smile and the warm hug, you are yelled at, insulted, and rejected. This is tough, to be sure, but even in these most unwelcome outcomes, we can be confident we are in God’s grace; for as he tells us in Scripture,

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus, they persecuted the prophets who were before you, (Matthew 5:11-12).

But what about those times when we step out of our comfort zone, take courage in God’s grace, open our hearts to serve as His hands and feet, storm heaven with our trust-filled prayers, and our miracle does not come? Those times when we do not feel rejection from our fellow man, but from God himself?

Following A Prompting

On Thanksgiving morning, I felt a strong prompting to visit a friend in ICU. When I had visited him the day before, I learned he had taken a dramatic downturn. He had gone from speaking and joking to his current state: barely conscious, unable to speak, and with a look of fear in his eyes. I took his hand in mine, and prayed for God’s mercy. He did not want to die. His wife wanted her husband back. When I left, I continued to intercede asking for a miracle.

This prompting to return to his bedside brought with it the call to use our faith’s treasure of miracle makers. To cooperate in God’s healing, I would pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet using my Rosary from the Holy Land and bring a blessed Miraculous Medal. Nervous—because the man and his wife are not Catholic, but confident in my docility to the Holy Spirit, I went.

The man’s wife was very receptive. Whew! I read out loud a paragraph from St. Faustina’s diary (1146) and asked her if I had her permission to pray the Chaplet. She agreed. I gave her the Miraculous Medal and she placed it on his chest. She remarked she had been given Lourdes water. I smiled to myself, ‘God has everything in place,’ as I instructed her to bless him with it.

After we prayed, I went home and waited for the miracle call. My imagination soared in wonder of what I would hear: He is speaking!  His cancer is gone!  I thought of all the conversions to come from those who witnessed this man go from death’s door back into the fullness of life.

Forty-eight hours after my visit, the call came.  He died.

The Desert of Docility

At Advent—our time of expectant joy at the coming of Christ, I walked into what I call the desert of docility. A desert of docility is that dry, barren, forsaken place where our acts of faith seem to go nowhere. When our expectations of God do not match reality. We are tempted to doubt.  We wonder if God is with us.

I endured this desert dryness by remaining in my daily spiritual routine of prayer, Mass, and staying close to our Lady through the Rosary. I was brought to memories of when God did meet my expectations, when he exceeded my expectations, and the times he came unexpectedly.

These memories brought me to an understanding that God also has expectations. He wants to know if we are with him. Emmanuel is God With Us. Jesus is God Saves. Do we believe, or are we only with him as long as we get our way?

If you are enduring an Advent desert, our faith offers ways through it:

  • Be in Communion with our Lord through the Sacrifice of the Mass – go as often as you can.
  • Speak to God through Scripture – take the daily Gospel and pray with it. Ask him your questions. Share with him your doubts.
  • Share your struggles with our Blessed Mother – through praying the Rosary and asking her intercession, she brings you to her son Jesus.
  • Draw closer to Christ through the Sacrament of Reconciliation – nothing separates us from God, but our sinfulness.
  • Share your heart with his Sacred Heart by spending time in Eucharistic Adoration where our Lord is truly present and is waiting for you.

I wish I could wrap this reflection up in a pretty bow, but the truth is I may never know what my going to this man’s bedside brought; that is between God and him. What I do know is faith is a choice of our will; it is a choosing to remain close to God even when we do not feel him, understand his Way… or get ours.


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.

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.

Why Is Humility So Important?

 

Pilgrims walk through the Gate of Humility, door leading into the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

To be humble is to know the truth about who we are and who God is.

God’s Love for Us

Through baptism, we became adopted children of God, created in his own image. No matter what our physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional strengths or weaknesses may be, it is only in our relationship with God that we will discover our true dignity.

It offends God when we think we do not need him or that we can reach true happiness without his help. It is also offending to God when we think that he does not love us or is not interested in who we are or what we do.

The only thing that stands between us and God’s plan for our happiness is our unwillingness to place God above everything else in our life and to be faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures.

A Powerful Choice

When we read the lives of the saints, we see they came from every background… some were great sinners, some were attracted to God from their youth; some lived in terrible poverty and painful circumstances their entire lives, and some were kings and queens. However, they all had one thing in common; they all, at some point in their life, had the humility to make the decision to love and worship the Lord Our God with all their mind, heart, soul, and strength—the only way to temporal and eternal happiness.

Humility enables us to believe the mysteries of our faith that we do not understand. The fact that God became man and died for our sins is truly a mystery, but if we believe it and reinforce that belief with faith formation and prayer, it is life changing.

Remarkable Gifts

It is a remarkable mystery that Jesus loves us so much that he gives us himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. When we receive Holy Communion, we are receiving God!

This is not a casual event; we should be properly prepared and disposed for this personal intimacy with Jesus Christ. This is the central truth of our faith. Do you believe that when you receive Holy Communion you are receiving God? You do not have to understand, but you do have to believe. If we do not believe, we should not receive Holy Communion.

The Lord desires that everyone should receive him in Holy Communion, but he demands that we believe and be prepared. This, of course, is why we have RCIA and CCD classes to instruct us about the truths of our faith. While those means of education are important, they will have no effect if we do not make the personal decision to love and serve God. To be Catholic is a life -long process of learning, growing, serving and surrendering our will to the will of God.

These same truths have been believed by all the saints through the ages who were witnesses of their great love for God by their lives; we also should have the humility to believe them. If we believe these mysteries of our faith, we would never contemplate leaving this Church which Jesus Christ founded or missing the opportunity to worship this God who loves us so much.

Help Toward Humility

It is only in our relationship with God that we receive the grace necessary to do the things we find so difficult by nature. Through the grace of the sacraments—especially confession, the Holy Mass, and the Holy Eucharist—we are able to forgive the deepest hurts and to be merciful. We can be freed from bitterness, resentment, jealousy, envy, and greed. Of course, it isn’t automatic; we must sincerely want to draw close to God and allow him and change our hearts.

If we have the humility to faithfully follow Our Lord in this life, we can be certain that we will be exalted in the next life.


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.

Do You Have An Intimate Relationship with God?

I recently attended a weekend conference on the Spirituality of the Cross, presented by the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. A presentation called, “Do This in Memory of Me: A Process of Holiness,” by Fr. Vicente Monroy, MSpS, reminded me of how important mental prayer is to the spiritual life of every Christian.

Father Vicente pointed out that we need to focus more on God and not ourselves, and that instead of being obsessed with our own interests, we need to devote more time to growing in holiness. Father said, “A baptized Catholic who is not growing in holiness, is a failed Christian.”

He went on to say that our soul must be fed constantly, and that if a relationship with God is important to us, we will make the time and put in the work necessary to grow spiritually.

“I’m Too Busy / Too Distracted”

If this is your reaction to the idea of mental prayer, the good news is that mental prayer helps you to detach yourself from the world and from distraction in the same way that a good heart-to-heart conversation with your closest confidante helps you to regroup in the face of a crisis.

Wouldn’t you love to have those same type of intimate conversations with God? Wouldn’t you love to rest your head against the chest of Jesus – simply resting in the Lord – the way St. John did when he needed to be consoled and renewed?

Mental prayer takes us beyond our vocal prayer—where we often end up simply saying words instead of engaging in a conversation with Our Lord.

“The Father Is In; No Appointment Necessary”

For those who want to add mental prayer to their spiritual life, Jesus has prepared the way. Jesus set the example. He would withdraw from daily life, activities, and the demands of his ministry to be alone with his Father. Jesus invites us to do the same.

Getting Started

Begin with a loving heart and a reflective mind. Next, engage the three powers of the soul: your memory, your intellect, and your will.

Start small by adjusting your daily schedule by 15-minutes; getting up earlier and going to bed earlier. Mornings tend to be the best time, as they are often much quieter and peaceful.

Choose a spot where you can focus on a crucifix or a piece of sacred art. If you live near a church with a perpetual Adoration Chapel, you can spend your 15-minutes in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Place yourself in God’s presence. Open up your heart & soul, surrendering yourself so you can receive God’s thoughts & promptings.

Come Prepared

As you prepare for mental prayer, remember the four C’s:

  • Concentrate – Bring along your Bible or the spiritual writings of a saint. This will help to guide you and keep your mind from wandering.
  • Consider – As you reflect on what you are reading, consider what God is saying to you through the Scriptural passage or saint’s words. Invite the Holy Spirit to work within you by increasing His fruits & gifts.
  • Converse – This is the time to have that heart-to-heart conversation with God. Offer up the day in thanksgiving. Over time, this will lead to your becoming more adept at waiting and listening for God’s response.
  • Commit – Make a resolution to grow in a particular virtue or to work on a vice or bad habit that may be hindering your spiritual growth. The resolution can also involve your committing to dealing with a difficult person or trying situation with more patience, understanding, and compassion.

Be Patient with Yourself

Mental prayer is a process much like the Walk to Emmaus where, with burning hearts, we are compelled to walk with Jesus, to listen to him, and finally to recognize him and become fully conscious of his presence within us.

When one has begun to meet Christ daily on this level of friendship, his entire relationship with to God will undergo a revolutionary alteration. Christ will no longer be a historical figure who lived some two thousand years ago. He will, instead, be a living, personal, knowable friend. – Peter Thomas Rohrbach, Conversations with Christ

Mental prayer is to your spiritual life, what an engine is to a car, it is crucial to your being able to fully experience God’s love & wisdom. St. Teresa of Avila called mental prayer the “royal highway to heaven,” a journey which leads us to meditation and eventually into contemplation.

Our Meet the Master mornings of prayer and reflection are an excellent way to introduce you to mental prayer. Consider joining us. We invite you to visit us at our peaceful place in northwest San Antonio.


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.

Encouraged, At My Friend’s Funeral

Attending funeral services is both sad and inspiring. Sad, because we are mourning the loss of a family member or friend. Inspiring, because it reminds us of the way the Catholic Church honors the deceased person through the prayers, incensing, and blessings.

I attended a funeral service of a dear friend in his parish church. The casket was placed in the front of the main sanctuary. The piano and violin spiritual music in the background added to the atmosphere of sadness, but also as a reminder of our final destination—eternal life with God.

Memories of my friend came to mind; his blue eyes, his gentle soul, his big smile, and his love for God. He was now lying at rest, in this Church where he had worshipped with his family, where he had experienced a community of friends and support through the years.

The service begins when the priest sprinkles the casket with holy water as a reminder of our baptism. Then, a white pall is placed on top of the casket by his family members. As a child, he was baptized and dressed in white; now we once again dress him in white. The priest offering Mass may something similar to this:
In the waters of baptism (name of person) died with Christ and rose with him to new life. May he now share with him eternal glory.

The entire service, which is the Mass of the Resurrection, is rich in its prayers—reminding us of the omnipotent mercy of our Savior. At the end, the priest offers the last prayers for my friend.

Saints of God, come to his aid!
Hasten to meet him, angels of the Lord!
May Christ, who called you, take you to himself;
may angels lead you to the bosom of Abraham.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.

I was inspired at my friend’s funeral Mass. These same words will be prayed for me one day. The saints of God will come to my aid! The angels of the Lord will meet me and lead me to the bosom of Abraham. What hope! This reminded me of the vast spiritual richness of our Catholic faith! As baptized members, we are united in this One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church! The words of these prayers are written for all Catholic clergy to follow throughout the world. These prayers unite us as members of the Body of Christ.

As I continued to think about this, I walked out of that Church, following my friend as he was escorted by family and friends to his final resting place.

The Psalms abound in hope:

My soul, be at rest in God alone,
from whom comes my hope.
God alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not fall.
(Psalm 62:6-7)

Guiding people to live each day with this hope is our mission for Pilgrim Center of Hope. As our chaplain Fr. Pat Martin says, “What a gift.”


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.

Finding Peace In Our Times

How can we find peace in our times?

Let’s start by looking at Sunday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which shows us the first council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem, resolving a conflict that was disturbing the peace of the early Christians.

Jewish converts to Christianity were expecting that Gentile converts should undergo circumcision and abide by the same guidelines that were fundamental to the Jewish faith. This Council marks the first time that a collective decision was made for the faith community which was not confirmed by Mosaic Law or the Jewish Scriptures, but rather on the authority given by Christ to the Church. The Apostles said, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriages.” Thus, the Council relieved the new converts of those burdens.

Church Councils: Working for Unity & Peace

Did you know that, through the centuries, the Church has similarly convened councils to define matters of faith which affect our practice of the faith today? For example, the Church formulated a set of beliefs called the Nicene Creed which we recite at every Sunday Mass, during the Council of Nicea in the year 325.

Also at that time, many written letters and texts were circulating among the Christian community and used during gatherings for prayer and liturgy. At the Council of Nicea, the Church decided which of these scriptures were the inspired Word of God.

The latest council (the Second Vatican Council or “Vatican II”), was convened at the Vatican to bring new life into the Church. In spite of the holiness of many people, others had fallen into living as a “Church of routine.”

I was a freshman in college when changes happened. One Sunday, the celebration of the Mass was as usual; but the next Sunday, my local church implemented the Vatican II changes. The altar was moved with the priest facing the congregation, and the Mass was in English instead of Latin. The main reason for these changes was the Council members’ hope that every Catholic would be more formed in their faith and influenced by it—instead of expecting that the priests and religious should have the main responsibility of living out the Word of God. The Council was especially directed to the lay faithful and our personal responsibility to live and share the faith as a response to our baptism. Other documents would follow, such as “On Evangelization in the Modern World,” which is a beautiful directive on how the entire Church is expected to live and share the faith. It was a directive that is still waiting to be fulfilled.

Experiencing True Peace In Our Lives

This Sunday’s Gospel could be a brief explanation of why Vatican II was necessary. Jesus says,

Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and, we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

Each of us is personally responsible to live our lives in communion with God. No one can love God for us and no one can keep his word for us. Even though we are sustained by the unconditional love of God, our personal experience of that love depends on two things: Loving God above all else and keeping his Word.

It is natural for us to want to relate to God on our own terms, but it is impossible for a relationship to happen that way. God has revealed a plan that will bring purpose and happiness to our lives; we see how this plan works in the lives of the saints. Still, somehow we think there may be a different plan for us that won’t require such a commitment. However, if that were so, God would be untrue to himself.

The world we live in does not offer us the peace that gives rest to our soul. That peace is found in a personal relationship with God who is the source of all love and everything that is good. If we want to know how to love God and experience the peace that Jesus offers, we should:

  1. Decide to believe what God has revealed to us. Seek to understand God’s revelation to us through the Church and the Scriptures.
  2. Ask for the grace to do what you know is right, but often find difficult to do. Ask for the grace to forgive people who have hurt you deeply. Hatred, bitterness, stubbornness, resentment and jealousy are a few of the sins that are obstacles to experiencing the love of God and the peace he offers us.
  3. Remain close to God by participating in the sacraments. Almighty God, who wants us to call him Father, knows us better than we know ourselves. For this reason, our Heavenly Father has given us the Church and her sacraments as the means to make grace available to us. If we want to love God, we will then want to be reconciled to God and to others through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We all sin and need the help of God’s grace to overcome temptation and grow in virtue. We will want to worship Our Lord during the holy sacrifice of the Mass and receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion and spend time with him in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

When we remain close to Our Lord in this way, God will help us to experience true love and peace in every circumstance—even the most difficult trial, because Our Father is true to his word.


Deacon Tom Fox, K.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

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

How Your Lent Can Be A Journey to Freedom

There are two ways that many people think of the Lenten Season:

  • Some  may think it to be constricting; because in these forty days, the Church is guiding us to fast, give alms and spend time in prayer.
  • On the other hand, some people see this Season of Lent as a journey of healing that can lead to true freedom in Christ.

Before we decide which of these you agree with, let’s look at this question: What does it mean to be have true freedom in Christ?

He Fell On His Knees

While on a recent pilgrimage, our group of pilgrims had an opportunity to spend time in prayer at a holy site; where there was a garden, sitting places, quiet atmosphere, warm breeze; it seemed perfect. During this time, priests were available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As our time concluded and the group regathered for prayer, we were able to share our insights.

There was a young adult who had previously shared with the group about his stress, and worries about family and work. Now, he began sharing how he had never experienced such peace or extended time in prayer; it had been years since he had been to Confession. As he spoke, he fell on his knees. With tears in his eyes, arms extended, he began thanking God for the immense joy he was experiencing—the relief of burdens. He asked, “How can this be? Can Christ be so attentive to me?”

Setting Us Free

Freedom in Christ is freedom from the slavery of sin, of the burdens that weigh us. Sure, we will have stress and concerns in our daily lives. However, when we move our eyes from focusing on these things to focus on Christ—imploring his guidance, we can experience peace and freedom.

Jesus said:

If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32)

As the young man cried out, “Can Christ be so attentive to me?” Yes! Christ knows each one of us. His Sacred Heart yearns for our love. The Church is his plan to assist us in our daily lives, which is another reason the Church is often referred to as Mother Church. We need the Season of Lent to remind us of the realization of Christ’s love for us.

Truly Cleansed

The world offers ways to cleanse ourselves of unhealthy foods and contaminations; the greatest cleansing is of the soul! The Season of Lent can be a journey to freedom in Christ, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Do not be afraid: this sacrament—also called Confession—can help you begin anew. It is never too late! The guidelines of Mother Church leading us to fast, sacrifice, and take the initiative to spend time in prayer, are steps in this journey that can lead us to experience peace and freedom.


Mary Jane Fox 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.

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

It’s February! This month, Mary Jane Fox, Angela Sealana, and Julie Reyna will 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!

Two WAYS to watch us LIVE: on Catholic Television of San Antonio via Time Warner Cable channel 15 or online via the CTSA Facebook Page! Comment on Facebook to participate in our live show!

You can also watch the Encore here after the show or listen online Wed. at 8pm CST at grnonline.com “Catholic Radio for your Soul” to our previous show “100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima”.

Registration for the Catholic Women’s Conference is now open! Get your early bird discount for our conference taking place July 28-29! Need spiritual inspiration that can fit in your purse? Get the “Come to Me” spiritual companion book.

Register for  Catholic Men’s Conference – March 17 & 18…  Encounter Christ at these annual conferences that will help you grow in your faith.

Afternoon Tea with Blessed Jacinta & Francisco Marto the children of Fatima – Thursday, February 16th @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Free.