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Seniors: Embraced By God’s Gifts of Age & Grace

Fr. Charlie Banks, OMI, speaks to seniors about how they are “Embraced By God’s Gifts of Age & Grace” at the 2nd annual Catholic Seniors’ Conference, organized by Pilgrim Center of Hope at the request of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS.

God Is With Us: God’s Presence in our Daily Life & Struggles

A Peek ‘Behind the Curtain’

Here at Pilgrim Center of Hope, our staff consults monthly themes as we create articles, reflections, speaking presentations, and events. We discern these themes at our annual planning workshop held every October; utilizing the Catholic liturgical calendar to focus on feast days, the liturgical seasons (Ordinary, Lent, Easter, Advent), and the Sunday Gospel messages to help us in creating our content.

Having a monthly theme mined from the rich treasures of the Catholic Church and through the flow of her seasons, provides an infinite source of spiritual jewels and assures us we are being guided by the ever-renewing breath of the Holy Spirit. Mother Church is as St. Augustine describes, “Oh Beauty, Ever Ancient, Ever New.”

Our April theme is: God is With Us; God’s Presence in our Daily Life & Struggles. I find it so consoling how a theme we chose last October is exactly what we all need to hear as we struggle through the pandemic. I am amazed at the tender care of the Holy Spirit to guide our planning efforts to focus April 2020 on how we can be assured of God’s Presence to us despite the loss of physically receiving and being with our Lord Jesus Christ who is truly with us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.

Seeing God’s Presence

The Friday I heard Sunday Masses were being cancelled, I became very upset. I am a daily communicant and have formed a habit of placing myself in the Presence of God in Eucharistic Adoration for at least 30 minutes either before or after Mass. I use my time in God’s Presence to help me draw closer to Him, to more clearly hear Him speak to me, and to bear Him company in gratitude for His Goodness and in atonement for all the years I dismissed Him.

I cried to my spiritual director by text message, and I cried to our Blessed Mother Mary in prayer. Both gave me the same assurance, “God is in charge.”

I have been meditating on this ever since, and have witnessed so many signs of how God has in no way left me:

  • I receive him into my heart through the Church-honored, Spiritual Communion Prayer* while participating at daily online Masses.
  • I hear him speak through his Word when I mediate on the daily Mass readings.
  • I adore Jesus by enfolding into my daily Rosary my desire to be present to him since I know Jesus and Mary are joined at the heart and cannot be separated. If I am with her, then I am with him!

This time in isolation and social distancing has also given more time for contemplation; to wonder about higher, spiritual things since the distractions from driving, running errands, meetings, etc., have paused.

For instance, since we just celebrated Palm Sunday, I am contemplating the throngs of thousands who followed Jesus. I think about how the many people whom Jesus forgave, freed, healed and brought back to life in the three years of his ministry will now fall away as he enters his Passion to die alone for us on Good Friday.

Having Hope

I imagine Mary and Jesus meeting at the Fourth Station of the Cross:

  • Did she wonder where all his followers were?
  • Did she wonder why the Father was allowing this?

I, too, wonder. I imagine Mary, who had to learn from Jesus how to accept all in obedience and faith, hoping against hope, receive in her Son’s eyes the same assurance she gave me, “God is in charge.”

I pray for a miracle that I will be at my church worshiping and physically receiving our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist with my pastor and fellow parishioners at the Holy Mass of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. I know, however, that when Jesus rose that first Easter morning, it was only St. Mary Magdalene there to greet him (cf. John 20:1).

And yet, I have hope!

For Scripture tells us that for the next 40 days after Easter… Jesus appeared to many (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:5-7), and three thousand were baptized and came into the Church on Pentecost Sunday (cf. Acts 2:1-41). Our Pentecost Sunday falls on May 31, 2020.

We do not know what the future holds, but praise God we do know this: our Lord always finds ways to make Himself Present to us… and God is in charge!

*Spiritual Communion Prayer
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.


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.

Living Fully Alive, Right Now

The readings this weekend are about life, death, and resurrection, which should be part of our daily reflection, because we do not know the day or the hour when we will pass from this life to the next. As Paul points out in the second reading, eternal life begins now. He says:

If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.

In other words, the one who created us out of love sustains that life in us by the presence of the Holy Spirit, from now unto eternity.

The most important question of our life is: How do we know if God’ Spirit is dwelling in us?

  • We know we received his Spirit in baptism when we became children of God and members of his Church. It is in his Church that he has given us the means to be confident that his Spirit is dwelling in us.
  • He makes available to us an abundance of his grace through the sacraments, which are a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus waits for us to approach him in the sacraments so that we can receive the grace necessary to live our lives in communion with him.

Without this grace, the Holy Spirit cannot dwell within us. God has a wonderful plan for each of us, but he has to be the most important part of the plan. St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” We can only be fully alive when the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us and influencing the way we live. The choice is ours.

Now Is the Time

We are all tempted to think, There is no urgency to taking the word of God seriously; there will be time enough later to prepare for eternal life. However, if the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in us because we are not faithful to what God asks of us, how can we expect him to help us make right decisions in the future? Now is the time to prepare for the future.

We are presently living in a time like no other. The whole world is affected by the novel corona virus. Many of the things we took for granted last month have been taken away from us. We do not have the freedom we once had. This is a sample of how millions of people throughout the world experience as a normal way of life. For many people in this country, life will never be the same. They may have lost loved ones, lost savings for retirement, or lost their means to provide for their family. One of the things we never dreamed of is the loss of our place of worship and the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This, too, we may have taken for granted. There are Catholics in other parts of the world who rarely can attend the Holy Mass and receive the Lord.

Our Response & Hope

How we react to this crisis is a measure of our spiritual maturity. The following quote from 1 John 2:17 is especially for these times, “Yet the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.”

The will of God for us right now is that we find strength in a faithful relationship with him because we trust in all the promises he has given us in the holy Scriptures, and we act on those promises.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus comes to the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha after Lazarus has died. Jesus, says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” she said to him, “Yes Lord I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

Everything about our life on earth will pass away except our relationship with God. During these times we may have lost much, but if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us because we have chosen to live in a faithful relationship with God, we can be confident that we will be “fully alive,” now and for all eternity. This is the message of hope that we must share in these difficult times.


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.

Our Lady of Hope (Pontmain, France)

Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI, shares the story of Our Lady of Hope, an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Little Ways to Transform Your Heart

Dr. Susan Muto presents how the simple life of St. Therese of Lisieux, suffering terminal illness, drew her closer to Christ – transforming her into one of the greatest missionaries; and what her Little Way can teach us in the life we live. Includes American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation.

This presentation was given during a Catholic Seniors’ Conference presented by Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Becoming People of Hope

Today, we can be easily discouraged amid bleak headlines, divisive words, and life’s many challenges. How can we make a difference in a world that seems to have lost hope? With joy and humor, Pope Francis’ Missionary of Mercy visited San Antonio to celebrate Pilgrim Center of Hope’s 25 year anniversary and re-awaken us to the hope that God gives.

God Is Close to Us

Professional counselor, wife, mother, and spiritual director Jeannette Santos provided a message of hope at the 2019 Catholic Seniors’ Conference about how God is close to us especially in our times of need, suffering, and distress.

Fr Patrick Martin

God Redeems It All

During Pilgrim Center of Hope’s 2019 Catholic Seniors’ Conference, blind priest Fr. Patrick A. Martin provided a message of hope about how God redeems our experiences of suffering and “brokenness.”

In Suffering: Where Is God Now?

In times like these, it can be especially challenging for humanity to believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God.

This phenomenon has happened for millennia. In the Psalms, the Israelites sang about how people questioned them: “Where is your God?” Where is your God while you are captives? While you are in famine? While you are suffering?

Shaking Fists at Heaven

As a twenty year old, I began to experience fiery pain in my hands, feet, arms, legs—as if I were being bitten by fire ants. My body felt like it always had bruises. I was physically exhausted, as if daily life required as much energy as running a marathon. After dozens of blood tests and even a brain scan, my doctors could not provide me with relief.

I recall very clearly standing in my dorm room and shaking my fists at heaven as I cried aloud. What is this?? Why me? I have always done my best to serve you. What have I done to deserve this?

God’s Power Against Evil

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. (John 9:1-3)

In Jesus’ time, and sometimes even in the modern day, people would view suffering as the direct result of that person’s sin (or their parents’ sin). In Sunday’s Gospel, however, Jesus corrected this line of thinking. Suffering is not good, and therefore cannot be from God.

Rather, God is so good, so powerful, and so loving; even amidst evil, God can bring about life and healing.

After I had lived with my symptoms for a while, my eyes began to open to the gifts that were coming to fruition in the midst of my ailments:

  • Because I was weaker, I needed to ask for help more often. Thus, my pride and desire for control were being chipped away, bit by bit.
  • Because I suffered, my heart began to open in greater sympathy for other people’s challenges. I began to start from a foundation of giving people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Because my suffering was hidden behind the appearance of youth, I soon acquired the ability to look beyond people’s appearances and see their hearts.

These gifts were far more valuable than physical health.

Healing Beyond Understanding

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus heals the blind man, and slips away. The man is brought before the religious leaders and questioned alongside his parents. The inquisitors cannot believe or accept that a healing occurred. They considered Jesus’ act as “doing work on the Sabbath” which was therefore sinful in their eyes. Further, they could not fathom why God would take away the blindness that they thought was a punishment for sin. They could not understand how God could bring goodness out of a situation that appeared to them to be evil.

The same often rings true for us. Our created minds cannot fully comprehend the ways of the Creator.

This is why our relationship with Jesus is so important. Jesus is God. He is Emmanuel, meaning God-with-us! Our Creator knows that it is impossible for his creatures to understand his ways, yet he wants to assure us of his nearness and love. That is one of the main reasons why the second person of the Holy Trinity, God the Word, became one of us; and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).

One day, as I was overwhelmed by pain, I closed my eyes and cried out to God. In my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus on the Cross, and I saw that he was suffering with me. It was then that I realized: God is always with us.

Light of Life

I pray that in our confusion, in our suffering, in our struggles, we will turn to Jesus. Let’s spend time with him in the Gospel. May we find hope by trusting Jesus’ words:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

In times of suffering, when we focus on the darkness, it will appear that God is gone. But when we choose to turn toward the light, we see that God is with us. God is in every instance of healing, every act of care, every look of love, every miracle of selflessness. God is bringing about the good. As children of light, let’s be bearers of light. Let’s illuminate for others God’s presence and nearness to us now.


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 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

Seniors: The Joy of Being Known by God

Dr. Margarett Schlientz speaks on “The Joy of Being Known by God” at the 2nd annual Catholic Seniors’ Conference, organized by Pilgrim Center of Hope at the request of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS.