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Conversions Through Our Witness

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

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

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

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

My Eyewitness Account

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How We Successfully Evangelize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Clearing the Way for the Love & Mercy of Jesus Christ

I’m Not Worthy

When Jesus died on the Cross, he opened up a road to restoration for every man and woman that will ever live till the end of time. You might be saying, “Oh, come on, Robert, everybody knows this.”

What I’m saying is that, it’s not enough to just know it, you have to believe it with all your heart, mind, body, and soul! Having unwavering faith is the key to maintaining hope, no matter what life throws at you.

When we say things like:

  • I am unworthy of Christ’s love and mercy
  • God will never forgive what I have done; my sins are too great
  • I am cursed and will just have to live with my injury or affliction

it is like saying, I don’t believe that Jesus died for my salvation, or telling God that allowing his son to be sacrificed is not enough.

This can happen when we let our wounds, hurts, and past sins prevent us from recognizing our need for God. (I have been in this place more than once in my life.) It can happen when we allow negative thoughts or the discouragement and condemnation of others to silence our prayers, drive us away from the Church, and deny God.

Acknowledgment, Confession, and Repentance

We – both men and women – need to be more like Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, and Zacchaeus, the short-statured tax collector from Scripture.

Here were two men – one suffering with the physical malady of blindness, and the other from a soul injured by sin – who could have easily convinced themselves they were “lost causes” unworthy of the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Instead, both of these men believed in and recognized Jesus as the Messiah and each, in their own way, placed themselves in front of Jesus, so he would acknowledge them and respond to their need for healing.

Like Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, we need to have great faith in Jesus’ ability to heal and transform our lives. We need to recognize our profound need for God in our life by choosing to avoid sin and follow Jesus.

Alive Today!

The same Jesus who passed by Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus is alive today. Jesus walks into the dusty streets of our lives this day! We simply need the eyes of living faith to see him and the renewed heart to follow him on the way.

In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus addresses Bartimaeus saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” to which Bartimaeus replies, “Master, I want to see.” (Mark 10:51)

Prayer is the fuel which keeps living faith alive and keeps our eyes open to see. No matter what we have done in our past, Jesus always shows up for those who have their spiritual eyes opened to see him.

Open The Eyes of Your Heart at Upcoming Men’s & Women’s 2020 Conferences


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.

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.

Prayers of Hope: Words of Courage

by Francis Xavier Nguyen Thuan

Imprisoned by a communist government for thirteen years, cardinal van thuan sought meaning in the darkness of prison life. Written in the silence of his cell, these prayers and reflections resound with christian hope and courage.

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