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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.

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.

What Does It Cost to Be Free? My Experience of Forgiveness

During a Holy Land pilgrimage, I saw a beautiful bush full of soft leaves, red berries and tiny white flowers. Our guide called it Spina Christi. She explains that when dried, the supple branches become sharp thorns. It is this plant which was weaved into the Crown of Thorns and pressed into the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, causing his blood to flow.

In contemplating why God would create this plant knowing its ultimate purpose in his Passion, I realized it is because he desires for his Precious Blood to be poured out for our salvation. He says at the Last Supper, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

It is important to know that Jesus was totally in charge of all that was happening to him. In the Gospel of John (10:17-18) we read, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.”

In God’s Justice, he deemed what is the cost for our salvation. God fulfilled his justice in the Passion and Death of his own son, Jesus Christ. God paid the price himself, “By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Spend time contemplating the Passion, and our only adequate response is gratitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced” (no. 1432).

To be set free costs you nothing… to remain free, costs your all.

I encountered Jesus a year following my tubal ligation. I knew when I said yes to this sterilization procedure that it was in opposition to Church teaching, but I was never taught why… nor did I seek to find out.

A merciful encounter with our Lord returned me to the Catholic faith. It was a slow process receiving the grace of forgiveness, as I blamed everyone for my sin but myself. I even blamed God for letting me fall. In the gentle care of the Holy Spirit, I eventually accepted responsibility. In confessing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I found consolation. However, I harbored a resentment towards the priests who had not properly catechized me. The fault of my sin is mine, but I do not carry this burden alone.

During the pilgrimage, we visited the Sacred Pit into which Jesus was thrown on the night of his arrest. It is carved from rock and is deep at the bottom of a hole that extends from where Jesus was questioned and beaten before the high priest, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57).

From inside the Sacred Pit, you can hear voices above. I imagine Jesus listening to his high priest (John 11:50-51) condemn Him. I think about His New Covenant priests, the Apostles, who at that time are fleeing, denying and betraying Him. In my hands is the Crown of Thorns. This is a grace of wonder given through the pilgrimage experience. I understand in it that God is acknowledging the injustice of His priests done to me; an injustice He shares.

In that moment of wonder, Jesus looks at me. He wills me to place the Crown of Thorns on his head so he can shed his blood; the price for our salvation which includes those who have trespassed against me.

This is a costly moment. It requires my all.

His gaze brings tears of sorrow, joy and a profound understanding. I know that I cannot stop Jesus from shedding his blood for sinners, but I can stop being the source of his suffering through my failure to forgive. In gratitude to our merciful our God, I pray, “I will to forgive them all, Lord.”  Note this is not a feeling… it is a free-will choice and has required of me multiple offerings.

To my unexpected delight, I soon discover a transformation which can best be described as freedom. This freedom has a divine power that has brought me continual healing, a growing compassion for others, a constant peace, and a closer relationship with God. It is this freedom that Saint Pope John Paul II writes in his encyclical, Dives In Misericordia (Rich in Mercy),

“Forgiveness demonstrates the presence in the world of the love which is more powerful that sin. Forgiveness is also the fundamental condition for reconciliation, not only in the relationship of God with man, but also in relationships between people.”

It is the same as our Lord promised on the Mount of Beatitudes; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Join us this Saturday for a morning of reflection – “Jesus, Teach Me to Forgive” at Pilgrim Center of Hope. All are welcome.


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.

Peace or Division: Did Jesus Contradict Himself?

The same Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” also proclaimed this in Sunday’s Gospel reading:

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

Did Jesus contradict himself?

During this month’s Meet the Master session at Pilgrim Center of Hope, I addressed this head-on with our participants. There are many instances in Scripture, even in the Gospel and the words of Jesus, where contradictions seem apparent. As mature Christians on our pilgrim journey, we need to learn how to wrestle with these questions rather than avoid them or write them off using trite statements.

Who Is This Jesus?

To avoid answering our main question from a particular point of view or agenda, we need to look at the entire context: the person of Jesus, his life, his words, his actions. That is why the Gospel is essential reading for us. As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Let’s fine-tune our original question, Did Jesus contradict himself? by looking at these seeming contradictions.

Jesus As A Peacemaker

Did Jesus wish peace upon others?

  • He taught his disciples to wish peace to those they met. “As you enter a house, wish it peace.” (Matthew 10:12)
  • Those whom Jesus healed, he sent away in peace. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)
  • As Jesus appeared to the disciples after his Resurrection, he greeted them with peace. He stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36)

Let’s look deeper into the meaning of “peacemaker.” For the Hebrews, this was a “pursuer of peace” like Aaron, who during conflicts would sit with each party individually. Aaron would speak with and listen to each individual until all bitterness was removed from each one’s heart. Finally, the parties once-at-odds would embrace and be reconciled. (cf. Rabbi Hillel, Avot) To be a pursuer of peace means to foster reconciliation.

Was Jesus a pursuer of peace?

  • He and his disciples shared meals with those in society who were despised. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. (Matthew 9:10)
  • He accepted invitations from not only the despised, sick, and desperate, but also the leaders & revered members of society. (ex. Luke 7)
  • Jesus forgave people of their sins, and taught his disciples that they should forgive perfectly and without exception. (cf. Matthew 18:22)

By all of the above, it is clear that Jesus did bring peace – and Christians throughout time attest to his continued peacemaking throughout history and in the world today.

Jesus As A Source of Division

However, our original question considers Jesus’ assertion that he came to bring division (symbolized by “the sword” in Matthew 10:34).

Jesus “did not come to establish peace upon the earth” because, contrary to popular hopes at the time, he did not come as the mighty Messiah expected to end all war. Rather, Jesus himself became a cause for division.

  • When Jesus healed and forgave sins, he was often criticized by the religious leaders. (ex. Matthew 9)
  • When Jesus tended to the despised members of society, he received similar criticism. (ex. Luke 15:1-2)
  • For having revealed himself as the Son of God, religious leaders had Jesus condemned to death. (cf. John 5:18)

Jesus’ pursuit of peace and reconciliation thus brought conflict and division among those persons who would not accept it. While he desires God’s peace to be with all, the Prince of Peace causes controversy.

How Can We Truly Be At Peace?

As Jesus’ followers, how can we be truly and sincerely “at peace”, while division takes place all around us? As we strive to reconcile people with each other, with themselves, and with God, we will experience joy tinged with discomfort and desolation. Not everyone is ready to accept the radical message of peace and reconciliation that Jesus brings. We have all been there once; preferring control and security as the Pharisees and scribes did.

Instead, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection shows us that the way to perfection is vulnerability and self-giving love. Jesus did not contradict himself, but he tells us the truth while subverting his listeners’ expectations.

As Pope Francis says, For Christians, (holiness) involves a constant & healthy unease (Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 99). Let’s reflect on this while Our Lord’s words echo in our hearts:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)


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.

Redeemed from Destruction

Has your desire for productivity seeped into your faith or prayer life?

What have I done for God today? is a common question in religious circles – whether in personal reflection or otherwise. For years, I focused on what I was doing… or not doing …for God. My good intentions steadily morphed into unhealthy scruples. Even as I spoke of his mercy, my heart actually regarded God as a strict judge who needed appeasing. Then I saw my various trials as punishments from God, and I figured that I deserved them all.

But no; I had it all wrong. Instead of punishing me, God had placed two people in my path who helped me see clearly.

A Familiar Connection

When I pray Morning Prayer with my coworkers at Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH), I think of my deceased great-uncle. Holding open his Christian Prayer book, I see where he had moistened his finger to turn the now-yellowed page corners.

For forty-six years, he was a member of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), and he was widely-beloved. Twenty years of his life as a religious priest, however, he spent on a leave of absence.

Were it not for the personal struggles that brought him home to San Antonio, I may never have known him. But because I remembered the musky smell of his chair in my great-grandmother’s living room, and because I had been entrusted with some of his most treasured possessions, I gained an interest in the founder of his Congregation: St. Alphonsus Liguori. 

An Unexpected Advisor

Alphonsus is often depicted as an elderly man, bent over a desk, writing away with a wry smile on his face. His arthritis kept his neck bent over so much so that his chin bruised his chest. Alphonsus was a brilliant man; someone we’d call today a prodigy. His life story is inspiring; look him up!

The most ironic thing about him is that he was so brilliant, knew Church law and moral theology backwards and forwards, was a merciful confessor, yet he himself battled scrupulosity. What kind of God allows a scrupulous man to become a Doctor of the Church who is known for his teaching on morality? Only our God – who redeems everything in our life for good. As St. Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:11)

In his famous work, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, Alphonsus quoted St. Teresa of Avila: “God never sends a trial, but he forthwith rewards it with some favor.” In other words, while our trials and struggles don’t come from God, God’s love can turn what is bitter into something better.

Letting God love us is the key. As our PCH chaplain Father Pat Martin reminded us during Mass last week, what is essential is what God does for us! Why were the Pharisees threatened by Jesus’ teachings and actions? Perhaps it was because their relationship with God had been based upon what they did for God; checking off boxes and maintaining control. Jesus invited them to consider a God who loved everyone, who dined with even the people who did not check the boxes!

Allowing someone to love us requires vulnerability and loss of total control. Are you ready to let God love you?

God loves us so tenderly, that he not only desires, but is solicitous about our welfare… Let us, then always throw ourselves into the hands of God, who so ardently desires and so anxiously watches of our eternal salvation. Casting all our care upon him; for he hath care of you (1 Peter 5:7). – St. Alphonsus de Liguori


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.

What Effect Does the Lord’s Prayer Have?

What is prayer and why should we pray? We saw in Sunday’s Gospel that even Jesus, the Son of God, spent time in prayer. When his disciples ask him to teach them to pray, Jesus teaches them what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Here in the gospel according to Luke, we have an abbreviation of the prayer we are familiar with from Matthew – the prayer we pray together at every Mass and many other times throughout the day.

Are we really aware of the importance of what we are saying and of the far-reaching effects of this prayer?

Jesus tells us to pray: “Father, hallowed be thy name”

Prayer is first of all a relationship with Our Father in heaven who loves us, is interested in our good, and is near to us. He is the Father of all humanity, but especially of us who have been baptized and call ourselves his children. We are not praying to an unknown god who is far away from us. When we say hallowed be thy name, we are acknowledging that God is holy, almighty; the creator of all things and we are his lowly creatures. We should praise God every day throughout the day for his benevolence. He is our Father now and for all eternity, and he wants a personal, intimate relationship with each of us, so that we may know his goodness and experience his goodness.

“…your kingdom come”

In the prayer we are familiar with from Matthew, we add, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Kingdom of God is at hand when we do the will of God. God has a great plan for humanity, and has revealed that plan through the Scriptures and the Church. We reach our potential for happiness in this life when we discover the specific plan God has for each of us by asking for his help every day in prayer and by keeping the commandments he has given us to guide us in the right direction.

“Give us each day our daily bread…”

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are dependent upon God even for our next breath. It is God who keeps everything in existence. Everything we have is a gift from Him and He expects us to be good stewards of what we have received. When we are concerned about what we need ,we should first turn to God. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus tells us:

“Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat? Or what are we to drink, or what are we to wear? All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”

When we place God first in our lives, he will help us make good decisions about what we really need.

God provides our daily bread par excellence in the Bread of Life; Jesus Christ himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Holy Eucharist. What more do we need than God himself? He is the source and summit of our lives.

“…and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive anyone in debt to us”

Forgiveness is essential for our spiritual, mental, and physical well being. There is no offense that may be committed against us that we should not forgive; unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, hatred, etc., are all obstacles to the love of God. They enslave us to a life of misery – even to the point of affecting our physical health. If there is something we have not been able forgive, we can begin by asking God for the grace to desire to forgive because he commands us do so. He will liberate us from our enslavement.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus Christ himself forgives our sins through the priest and gives us the grace to make progress in our spiritual life. If we want to deepen our faith, we should participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a month for the reason that we need the help that our Lord wants to give us through this sacrament.

“…and do not subject us to the final test.”

Our whole life is a process of purification. The closer we are to God through our worship, prayer, and sacramental life, the more aware we will be of how close he is to us in the challenges and difficulties that come our way. If we ask, God will give us the grace we need for every circumstance of our life. No matter how bad we have it on the worst day of our life, there will always be someone who has it worse and yet is still able to experience peace & joy – because of their faith and trust in God.

God’s Promise & Our Persistence

Jesus follows with a parable about the necessity of persistence in prayer; “I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him what ever he needs because of his persistence.”

We also must be persistent. Saint Monica prayed for her son Augustine’s conversion for sixteen years. Her perseverance was not only instrumental in her son becoming a great saint; it was also instrumental in Monica becoming a saint.

If we persevere in prayer, we can be confident that it will be answered. It may be answered in the way we hoped it would be, or we may discover that God has a different plan, more consistent with the coming of His kingdom.

This Gospel closes with a promise; “… how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” If we ask, seek, knock and persevere, the Lord will send us the Holy Spirit to help us know his will – so that we remain close to him and be happy now and for all eternity. It’s a promise.


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.

What Does It Cost to Be Free? My Experience of Forgiveness

During a Holy Land pilgrimage, I saw a beautiful bush full of soft leaves, red berries and tiny white flowers. Our guide called it Spina Christi. She explains that when dried, the supple branches become sharp thorns. It is this plant which was weaved into the Crown of Thorns and pressed into the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, causing his blood to flow.

In contemplating why God would create this plant knowing its ultimate purpose in his Passion, I realized it is because he desires for his Precious Blood to be poured out for our salvation. He says at the Last Supper, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

It is important to know that Jesus was totally in charge of all that was happening to him. In the Gospel of John (10:17-18) we read, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.”

In God’s Justice, he deemed what is the cost for our salvation. God fulfilled his justice in the Passion and Death of his own son, Jesus Christ. God paid the price himself, “By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Spend time contemplating the Passion, and our only adequate response is gratitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced” (no. 1432).

To be set free costs you nothing… to remain free, costs your all.

I encountered Jesus a year following my tubal ligation. I knew when I said yes to this sterilization procedure that it was in opposition to Church teaching, but I was never taught why… nor did I seek to find out.

A merciful encounter with our Lord returned me to the Catholic faith. It was a slow process receiving the grace of forgiveness, as I blamed everyone for my sin but myself. I even blamed God for letting me fall. In the gentle care of the Holy Spirit, I eventually accepted responsibility. In confessing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I found consolation. However, I harbored a resentment towards the priests who had not properly catechized me. The fault of my sin is mine, but I do not carry this burden alone.

During the pilgrimage, we visited the Sacred Pit into which Jesus was thrown on the night of his arrest. It is carved from rock and is deep at the bottom of a hole that extends from where Jesus was questioned and beaten before the high priest, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57).

From inside the Sacred Pit, you can hear voices above. I imagine Jesus listening to his high priest (John 11:50-51) condemn Him. I think about His New Covenant priests, the Apostles, who at that time are fleeing, denying and betraying Him. In my hands is the Crown of Thorns. This is a grace of wonder given through the pilgrimage experience. I understand in it that God is acknowledging the injustice of His priests done to me; an injustice He shares.

In that moment of wonder, Jesus looks at me. He wills me to place the Crown of Thorns on his head so he can shed his blood; the price for our salvation which includes those who have trespassed against me.

This is a costly moment. It requires my all.

His gaze brings tears of sorrow, joy and a profound understanding. I know that I cannot stop Jesus from shedding his blood for sinners, but I can stop being the source of his suffering through my failure to forgive. In gratitude to our merciful our God, I pray, “I will to forgive them all, Lord.”  Note this is not a feeling… it is a free-will choice and has required of me multiple offerings.

To my unexpected delight, I soon discover a transformation which can best be described as freedom. This freedom has a divine power that has brought me continual healing, a growing compassion for others, a constant peace, and a closer relationship with God. It is this freedom that Saint Pope John Paul II writes in his encyclical, Dives In Misericordia (Rich in Mercy),

“Forgiveness demonstrates the presence in the world of the love which is more powerful that sin. Forgiveness is also the fundamental condition for reconciliation, not only in the relationship of God with man, but also in relationships between people.”

It is the same as our Lord promised on the Mount of Beatitudes; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).


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 Jesus Offers Us, the World Does Not

Have you ever asked yourself what inspired men to drop everything to follow Jesus, when He called out to each of them? How is it that a man whose life depends on his career, leave his work to follow a man named Jesus?  What did they see or experience that would cause them to follow?

The gaze of Jesus upon these men and others who followed Him, was extraordinary and different from any other person because he is God; he was sent by the Heavenly Father to tell us of the Father’s love and to die for us so we can experience true freedom from the enslavement of sin.

This gaze of God penetrated the soul of each person, with love and true humility.

People in the Bible such as the apostles, Mary of Magdala, and others who encountered Jesus stayed with him. They were recipients of this gaze of God.

They would hear Jesus say:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

What Following Jesus Offers Us

Following Jesus offers us something that the world cannot offer. We will never find real rest and peace unless we go to Jesus. St. Augustine said: Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in thee.

People are busier now versus 50 years ago. All the appliances and modern technologies that were supposed to make life easier, have made our lives more complicated. The more we have – the more there is to do. Daily routines are so busy, there is little time for relationships – for families to be together. So, there is little time for peace. Our main purpose is not to do, but to be… To be truly human – living in a right relationship with God.

Do you want the rest and peace that Jesus is offering you?

We naturally want to do things our own way, according to the way we understand things – our human logic.   No matter how smart we are, or how much money or things we have – we will never have true peace and rest without Jesus.

Accepting Jesus’ Invitation

Take to heart the words of Jesus to you: Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. We must have the desire in our hearts to approach Jesus; he will be there for you.

Do you believe Jesus can bring new meaning into your life?

Thirty years ago, I decided to take the words of Jesus seriously. Yes, I had to make some changes, like everyone else who decides to take the words of Jesus seriously. For example, if we are going to accept his invitation to come to him, we must develop a discipline of prayer and spend some time reading the Scriptures every day, so that we can know him better through the Word. I joined a prayer group, and after a few weeks I began to feel closer to Jesus. I even had an internal vision of him reaching out to me, as to draw me close to him. This happened at a low point in my life when I was sick, both physically and spiritually. This encounter was life-changing and gave me confidence in Jesus’ love for me even though I didn’t feel worthy.

In his love and mercy, he healed me to see the changes I needed to make with the help of his grace. I have come to welcome the ongoing call to conversion, because I trust Jesus will gently guide me to become the person he has called me to be. I have entered the process of discovering my potential for happiness now and for all eternity.

Jesus is inviting us to come to him. The first step may be difficult… however, once you make that first step, the rest of the journey to his heart is a journey that leads to true freedom and peace.


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.

How Can I Possibly Make A Difference?

Life can be overwhelming, especially when we consider all the problems in the world, in our country, our state, city, neighborhood, family, and our own selves.

Most of us do not have vast circles of influence, nor huge sums of money to fund solutions to the giant questions and tough issues of our time. We’re people who work, are retired, handicapped, sick… So, how in the world can we reconcile our daily lives with Jesus’ bold prophecy?

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Especially in the United States, we tend to maintain an attitude of “taking things on” and “tackling” them ourselves. However, as our Pilgrim Center of Hope chaplain reminded us at Mass this past Friday, we are not alone! When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we don’t say, “My Father who art in heaven…” Each of us is a member of a family; of the Body of Christ.

Examples of Hope

Driving home this reality is a long list of people who lived in almost complete obscurity, and are now saints who are celebrated worldwide.

This year, our staff has been teaching each other about a different holy woman or man. Among them is Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who was inspired by Jesus’ life of obscurity in Nazareth. Although he lived as a hermit in the Middle East, there are still communities of people who have been inspired to follow his example of simplicity.

Another saint we have met is André Bessette, who lived in Canada filling ‘hidden’ positions such as doorkeeper, laundry worker, and sacristan. Yet, his relationship with God was so obvious to those who encountered him, that his prayers were greatly sought-after. Even during his humble life on earth, many miracles were attributed to his prayerful intercession.

Although we may think that we cannot make a difference in the people or situations of our lives, we can look to the saints and to the Gospel for reminders of the truth. You are an important member of the Body of Christ. Ask God to invite others into the lives or situations that you feel you cannot impact alone. As long as we strive to follow Jesus, uniting ourselves with the entire Church as the Body of Christ, God’s grace will change the world far beyond what we could imagine.

Let’s strive to live each day of our lives with 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.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for nearly 10 years.

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.