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Facing Difficulties – Lessons from St. Patrick and the Irish

Image Credit: Tom Szustek, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ireland’s greatest saint is remembered March 17, which falls during Lent, and while most Americans might shrug at this and chug their green beers, Paddy is actually more closely connected to fasting and penance than to feasting and beer.

St. Patrick, determined to evangelize the Irish, was at first unsuccessful at preaching. Legend tells us that when he preached about Hell and Purgatory, no one would believe him — UNLESS! — a man could go there, live, and come back to tell them. (Sounds outrageous until you consider that these were Irish folk, and if I know anything about my Irish family members, it’s that we live for a good story.)

St. Patrick became furious at their lack of faith. It’s said Christ led Patrick to a cave, where he saw visions of Hell and Purgatory. One story leads to another, and it’s said a man was lowered into the cave, experienced Purgatory, and ‘lived to tell’.

Owain’s World

We learn more from the story of Sir Owain, or Knight Owain, whose journey through the famous cave is re-told in Tractatus de Purga-torio Sancti Patricii (Treatise on St. Patrick’s Purgatory). This Treatise is clearly the product of Irish didactic storytelling. From it, we can glean a few gems to help us with our trials here on earth:

What We Should Think

As Owain enters the cave, monks advise him that although the road ahead is treacherous, he can survive by thinking about one thing: “Hold God in your heart, and think upon the Passion that he suffered on the cross for you.”

This advice has been passed down to us from the apostles and saints through the centuries, but we seem to meditate on Jesus’ Passion only during Lent. Why? Perhaps we’re too caught up in our search for comfort and pleasure, as if these would solve our problems. But only through meditation on God’s ultimate sacrifice, on Christ’s love-above-all-love for us, can we rise above our trials.

What We Should Speak

Owain is also advised: “Use God’s exalted name and the fiends can do you no harm.” Scripture tells us that at the name of Jesus, “every knee shall bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth…”

Owain learns the power of Jesus’ name as fiends tie him up to be burned, but he “called out to Our Lord and at once the fire disappeared and not so much as a coal or a spark remained.” Soon, he realizes that whenever he speaks Jesus’ name, or thinks about His love, the fiends are rendered powerless. This holds true for us, too. Demons may seem frightening, but what is actually frightful is that they are so weak(!), and we can only be damaged when we give in to their weakness. Rather, strength comes from humility; when we rely on God. So in our trials, we should pray in Jesus’ name for protection.

What We Should Ignore

As Owain walks along, he sees people undergoing unthinkable sufferings, which correspond to their sinful attachments on earth. Each time he observes one of these horrors, Owain hears demons cry out to him, variations of this message: ‘You are such a terrible sinner! Look at what penance you’ll have to endure! But you don’t have to endure suffering! We’ll take you to be our friend, and where there are comforts!’

Owain simply ignores the demons and continues forward. What a simple, yet profound, lesson! Jesus teaches us this lesson; during his temptations, he rebukes Satan with the words of Scripture. We ought never to believe our tempters, because they serve the Father of Lies. Rather, we should ignore them and continue on our journey, trusting in God.

St. Patrick and Almighty God

I hope you’ve enjoyed this bit o’ Irish lore; filled with timeless truths. As we remember St. Patrick, let’s remember this great saint — great because he knew these truths, and thus knew the power of God’s mighty love.

“So I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in the time of my temptation. […] He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties.” – St. Patrick of Ireland (from his Confession)


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 since 2010. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.

Peter Gallicantu Part II

As we continue to through Lent, join us for the conclusion of our 2 part virtual pilgrimage to St. Peter in Gallicantu located in Jeruselum, Isreal. Last week Mary Jane Fox guided us through this Holy Site as she described the location, terrain, and its surroundings. This week, Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox give us a better understanding of Jesus’ surroundings on the evening of  “Holy Thursday.”

In part 2, we take a deeper dive into the following questions:

  • Who would have been kept in the underground prison?
  • How far is it from the Via Dolorosa?
  • What is the significance of the Psalm read in the Sacred Pit?
  • Much more!

Listen to this program now:


Jewel for the Journey:

Deepen your knowledge of Jesus which ends loneliness, overcomes sadness and uncertainty, gives real meaning to life, curbs passions, exalts ideals, expands energies in charity, brings light into decisive choices. Let Christ be for you the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Saint Pope John Paul II



The Transfiguration Makes a Way for the Cross

“Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray.”

In the Gospels, there are several moments of significance when Jesus takes Peter, John, and James to be alone with him. Here, on Mt. Tabor, the three apostles will witness something that the other apostles did not. They will see Jesus glorified speaking with Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the prophets. All that God had revealed to His Chosen People could be summed up in the Law and the Prophets. Now Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah and he is above them; he is the fullness of God’s revelation, being God and man.

Mt. Tabor is unlike most of the mountains or hills in the region which are usually connected or part of a chain. Mt. Tabor is a mountain all by itself in the middle of several valleys and is only a few miles from Nazareth and Cana. As a matter of fact, you can see Nazareth from the top of Mt. Tabor which you reach by way of a zigzagging road that is too narrow for a bus.

Nowadays, when you arrive at the top you see a beautiful church with three domes; the one in the center is larger and taller because it is over the altar dedicated to Jesus Christ. The one on the left is dedicated to Moses and the one on the right is dedicated to Elijah. These three domes were inspired by the words of Peter:

“…let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

For the moment, Peter was caught up in the ecstasy of that mountain top experience and wanted to remain on the mountain.  However, if they would have remained on the mountain, they would have neglected their mission. It is a temptation for all of us to hope we will find a place where everything will be okay and we won’t have to be concerned with trials and difficulties. However, that was not a reality for the Apostles and it is not a reality for us. The Lord will continue to take us to places where we must depend upon him so that we can become spiritually mature and be filled with hope, even in the most difficult circumstance.

By his transfiguration, Jesus is preparing Peter, James, and John for the scandal they will witness when he enters into his passion. There will be many things they will see and hear as they follow Jesus that will challenge their faith and so he has given these three this glimpse of his glory to strengthen them so that they, in turn, can strengthen the others.

We must make concrete choices

We are beginning the second week of Lent. The purpose of this liturgical season of Lent is to renew the mission of Christ in our lives so that by cooperating with his grace we will be reconciled to God and one another. It doesn’t happen automatically. We must make concrete choices. That is why once again we look at prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as a means of surrendering our hearts to the Lord. If we do not have time to pray, if we are not generous with what we have and if we allow our appetites to dominate us, we are far from the kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ is not just a God of miracles that we look to in our time of need, hoping he will fix everything for us. Sometimes he does that, but most of all he wants a personal relationship with us that draws us into intimate and fervent prayer that leads us to trust him completely with every aspect of our lives. This trusting relationship will free us from anxious dependency on our own resources so that we will be generous with what we have, knowing that God can not be outdone in generosity.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves and the people we love is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus by being faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. He is the one who brings peace and happiness into our lives, but on his terms because he knows what is best for us. If we do not look to God for direction as we make our plans we are destined for unhappiness.

St. Augustine once said:

“Our hearts are restless O’ Lord until they rest in you.” Lord, you have created us to be in relationship with you. There is no other way we can reach our potential for happiness. Give us the grace Lord to love you above everything else and our neighbor as our self so that we may be happy now and for all eternity.


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.

Finding Freedom through Fasting. Catholicism Live Feminine Faith First special edition show. How will fasting help you grow in faith? Tune-in to our Feminine Faith edition of Catholicism Live! March 7, 2017 at 11 am central standard time.

Finding Freedom through Fasting

We talk about setting your Lenten goals with a focus on fasting. Plus, we’ll introduce you to Blessed Esperanza de Jesus, AND give you a Spa Moment for your Soul!

Tips for Living Lent “Entering the Lenten Season” written by Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox

Mother church gives us the gift of the Liturgical Calendar for many reasons, most especially to remind us of the Salvation Plan of God and to help us, her faithful to be united with the Triune God. For instance, during Lent, we are asked to live the three pillars of the Lenten Season – Almsgiving, Fasting and Prayer.

The following are a few ideas or suggestions you can consider doing during the Lenten Season.

  • When you start your day – implore the grace of God to help you see His love for you today.   “Father, Son and Holy Spirit – help me see your love for me today.”
  • Implore your Guardian Angel to assist you throughout the day. Pray the traditional prayer to our Guardian Angel or simply ask your Guardian Angel to walk with you and help you from falling (literally), to help you remain focus.
  • Pray! Make an effort to spend at least 10-15 minutes daily in concentrated prayer.
  • Ask Mary to help you in all you do. Pray the Rosary daily! It only takes 15 minutes. There are so many Rosary meditations available for you to use.
  • Read the Word of God – the Bible. The Word of God is alive and refreshes the soul, because it is The Word! A suggestion would be to read the daily gospel.
  • Fast! Fasting can be food or a meal. However, fasting from something that is keeping you from spending a few minutes with God in prayer. For example: limit time watching television.
  • Almsgiving – collect a few cents/dollars a week and place them in a box/bowl. After the 40 days, you will be surprised what you have collected. Then give this collection to a ministry serving the poor.
  • Read a book that will help you in your spiritual growth.
  • Make an effort to schedule a Holy Hour once a week. OR sometime in silent prayer before Jesus in His Eucharistic Presence. Do not be tempted to bring lots of reading material during this Hour. This Holy Hour is your special time with Jesus, the Son of God! Speak briefly, listen and listen!
  • If married: pray with your spouse daily. Before you sleep –pray the Memorare or other favorite prayer.
  • Pray the Act of Contrition daily, especially before you sleep!
  • Go to Confession. Receive this Sacrament of Reconciliation and healing. Try to schedule this Sacrament once a month.
  • Watch a religious movie such as “The Passion of Christ” by M. Gibson. Or the “Ten Commandments”, a classic.
  • Read a story of a Saint. There are so many! Their lives witnessed courage and humility.
  • Attend one of the spiritual events sponsored by the Pilgrim Center of Hope or a parish mission.

Where is fasting found in the Bible?

Matthew 6:16When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
Galatians 5:17For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.
Romans 7:15 – What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.
Romans 7:5For when we were in the flesh, our sinful passions, awakened by the law, worked in our members to bear fruit for death.
Romans 7:24Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?
Romans 8:4-6So that the righteous decree of the law might be fulfilled in us, who live not according to the flesh but according to the spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit.  The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:13For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Galatians 5:24Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.
1 Corinthians 9:27No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

What do the Saints say about fasting?

St Peter Chrysologus – “Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others.”  

St. Basil the Great – “Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful; fasting makes lawgivers wise. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.”

St. Jose Maria Escriva – “The world admires only spectacular sacrifice, because it does not realize the value of sacrifice that is hidden and silent.”

Where Is Your Lenten Journey Taking You?

Hopefully this Lent finds you journeying alongside Jesus toward closer union with God. In many ways, this 40-day time of prayer and reflection, in preparation for Holy Week & Easter, resembles the ancient tradition of going on pilgrimage.

While you may not be traveling to a sacred destination, there are some key parallels which may help you to arrive at a place of transformation come Easter Sunday. To be a pilgrim this Lent involves the following:

  • Deviating from Your Regular Routines
    During Lent this means following in the footsteps of Jesus.
  • Traveling Light for the Journey
    Now is the time to assess your priorities and weed out whatever prevents you from traveling the narrow road that leads to life (cf. Matthew 7:14).
  • Hope of Interior Transformation
    Throughout the remainder of Lent, be open to God’s love and his graces

Let’s take a closer look at each of these three points along with some tips on how to make a more effective Lenten pilgrimage.

Following Jesus Christ

To be a disciple, we must be willing to follow Jesus, even when we don’t fully understand where the path is leading. We need to let Jesus take us where he wants us to be. Following Jesus involves total surrender, having an open heart, and trust.

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. – Psalm 33:22

Weeds and Wild Beasts

Mark 1:13 tells us that while Jesus was in the desert, He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. As we make our pilgrimage, recall that Jesus was tempted several times by Satan while in the wilderness.

If we are to make our way out of the wilderness during Lent, we need to tame our personal “wild beasts;” desires or lusts, angers or fears, and addictions or vices. The weeding out and the taming cannot be done alone. During this time, we need to allow God to care for us. If we will seek him out, he will speak to us.

Christ’s Transfiguration Offers Us Encouragement

The pilgrimage journey of a Christian is not easy; temptation and distraction are all around. Any time I get discouraged, I turn to my favorite depiction of the Transfiguration by artist Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo (shown here).

I also recall the time I spent on Mount Tabor in the Holy Land. As part of my Pilgrim Center of Hope pilgrimage, I was able to visit the Basilica of the Transfiguration (at which the photo above was taken). Within days of the feast day (August 6), I found myself kneeling at the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist with my eyes fixed on the rock—visible through a glass window—where the Transfiguration took place.

Every Christian wanting to go on an authentic spiritual journey, should make the trip in their lifetime. Our next Holy Land pilgrimage is scheduled for June 23 through July 4, 2020.

This past Sunday’s Gospel reading of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8), should remind us all that just as Peter, James & John were strengthened by witnessing the Transfiguration, if we too will love Jesus above all else, through his grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will receive the encouragement we need to persevere in our faith journey.

At his Transfiguration, Christ showed His disciples the splendor of His beauty, to which He will shape and color those who are His: ‘He will reform our lowness configured to the body of His glory.’ -St. Thomas Aquinas

Still to come on our Lenten journey – the Last Supper, followed by Christ’s Passion, Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.

Now is the time to check your “spiritual GPS” to ensure that your Lenten pilgrimage continues to prepare you not only for Easter, but for your eternal life in the heavenly Jerusalem.


 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.

Trusting What God Says About Me

Have you ever been falsely accused?

  • Did a dear one of yours ever accuse you of lying when you didn’t?
  • Have you ever been rejected by someone you love because they misunderstood your good intention as bad?

It hurts.

It is a piercingly deep hurt, not only because you are innocent, but because you realize you are not known by someone you love. You wonder, I would never intentionally hurt them… How do they not know that about me?

This has happened to me, and it brought me to an even more sorrowful conclusion… I have been guilty of the same with God.

So many times, I have not taken God at his Word:

  • As the Father loves me (Jesus), so I also love you. Remain in my love. (John 15:9)
  • You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. (Psalm 139:13-14)
  • Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

I realize . . .

  • When we believe we are unloved… we accuse God of lying.
  • When we hate who we are… we reject God, misunderstanding his intention.

For those who can relate, I would like to suggest a particular Lenten journey this year. Lent is a penitential period in the Church when we intentionally walk with Jesus the forty days he was in the desert fasting, praying and being tempted. We have a traditional discipline in the Church during this time to also fast, pray, and give alms.

Consider for Lent to:

Fast from your opinion of God; read who God reveals Himself to be through the daily Mass readings. Read slowly, ask for the gift of understanding where your opinion of God and his Word clash.

Give alms to God with what we value most: our time. We can hear God’s voice through the voice of the needy. Spend time speaking with or being present to someone who is in need this Lent, and see how valuable and precious God has made you to be for others.

Pray to know the God who is. The one who knows God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, best is our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary. Pray a daily Rosary asking her, “Mary, show me God’s love for me today.”

The best way to know someone is to spend time with them. Add a Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and quiet time where God is truly and really, present: in his Eucharistic presence. So many churches have Adoration chapels. Find one, kneel before Him, then sit and simply speak to our Lord what is in your heart, and let him speak his heart to you. Lord Jesus has told many saints such as St. Faustina and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque how he longs for our company. St. Faustina writes what our Lord told her,

“[…] Why do you not tell Me about everything that concerns you, even the smallest details? Tell Me about everything, and know that this will give Me great joy.” (Diary of St. Faustina, no. 921)


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.

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.

A Deeper Look at the Prodigal Son

The parable in this Sunday’s Gospel reading is often referred to as “The Prodigal Son,” because it seems to focus on the behavior of the younger son. However, there much more to reflect on here.

The Prodigal Son

Certainly, we see how the selfishness of the younger son drew himself into deeper sin, which brought him to the point of despair. He set aside the love of his father and the security of his home to satisfy his attraction to pleasure and self- indulgence. He even asked for an inheritance which was not rightfully his until his father died; as if saying to his father, “My inheritance is more important to me than you are. I wish you were dead.”

It wasn’t until he ran out of money that the son was able to see the tragedy of his choice. When he began to starve, he remembered how good he had it before he left home. His repentance was not of the best of motives; his main reason for returning home was to satisfy his hunger. However, he did confess that he no longer deserved to be called his father’s son & was willing to be treated as a servant.

The Father

The most important person in this parable is the father. Even though he was treated with disrespect, he longed for his son to return.

As the Gospel states, “While he (the younger son) was a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was moved with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” He restored his son to the position he’d had before he left.

This is an image of our heavenly Father’s unconditional love for us.

  • No matter what we have done, he longs for us to return to him and to renew our relationship as son or daughter of our Heavenly Father.
  • For this renewal to happen, like the younger son, we must have a contrite heart and return to God, so that we can experience his unconditional love.
  • He never stops loving us, but when remove ourselves from him we do not have a since of his loving presence. When we do so, we lose sight of the plan he has for us and become sad, even hopeless.

The Eldest Son

Meanwhile, when the older son hears the reason for the celebration, he becomes angry; his brother is welcomed back after such a shameful departure. The older brother’s jealousy prevents him from sharing his father’s joy upon the return of his brother. It seems he would rather his brother continue to suffer the consequences for his selfish behavior—which of course is also selfish behavior.

His father tries to convince him of how much he is loved, and wants him to share in the joy of his brother’s return.

Finding Ourselves In the Story

With which of the three characters in this parable can you identify?

  • How about the younger son? Have you ever made a selfish decision that hurt someone else deeply? If so did you return to ask forgiveness? The best reason for reconciliation is not that we find ourselves desperate and believe that it’s the only way we can get what we want. The best reason is because our conscience tells us it is the right thing to do. Unless we have allowed our heart to become hardened, we cannot be at peace with ourself when we know we have been unjust.
  • Maybe we can relate to the older son, who allowed his jealousy to blind him of the joy his father wanted him to share in. Jealousy does not allow us to recognize our own gifts and talents, and prevents us from becoming what God wants us to be. Like selfishness, jealousy can cause us to be unhappy and hopeless. To refuse to forgive is to choose bitterness over happiness.
  • With the help of God’s grace, I hope we all can relate to the father. I hope that at times we all have been able to forgive for the sake of forgiveness & love for the sake of love.

I personally have been able to relate to both the younger and the older sons at different times in my life. I have also been able to forgive myself and others, and develop a desire to love God above all things and my neighbor as myself,  for the love of God.

We all are on a journey; what we were yesterday and what we are today, should not be the same as what we will be tomorrow.

Hopefully, this parable will convince us of the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father, and what we can do to experience that love. Forgiveness is a choice, and love is a choice.


Deacon Tom Fox 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. Tom continues to serve as a permanent deacon, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio.

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 Weakness, His Strength

Throughout salvation history, God has chosen to accomplish great things through men and women whom he calls into his service beginning with Abraham. In today’s first reading God calls Moses to lead the Chosen people out of their slavery in Egypt. To get Moses’ attention God speaks from a burning bush and reveals his name as “I am who am.” Moses is speaking with the Almighty, He who is without beginning or end and he must take off his shoes in His presence.

Trapped by Our Weaknesses

In the next chapter of Exodus, we will see that even though Moses has heard the voice of God and is given miraculous powers, he still doubts his ability to carry out the mission God has given him. He was focused on his own weakness instead of the power of God.

Especially, in matters of faith, we can be like that.

Freedom In Faith

In baptism, we received the gifts of faith, hope and charity as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In baptism, we all start out equal as children of God. We become members of His body, which is the Church, and in this Church we have every means to grow in our faith and discover the gifts that God has given us. Which will be necessary for our vocation and for the building up of the Body of Christ. God expects that the gifts he has given us will bear fruit, but we can stifle those gifts by just living for ourselves and whatever makes us comfortable.

You are planted.

This brings us to the Gospel and the parable of the fig tree. The purpose of the fig tree is to bear fruit. The owner of the tree wants to cut it down because it does not produce fruit, but the vine dresser asks for more time to cultivate the tree hoping that it will produce fruit. Jesus is the patient vine dresser and we all are fig trees in this parable. In baptism, we are planted in the kingdom of God through water and the Holy Spirit. We receive equally everything we need to come into full maturity and produce fruit according to God’s plan for us. Through the Eucharist and Confirmation, we receive nourishment to sustain us. We are pruned through the sacrament of reconciliation and the sacrifices and reparations that make up our life’s experiences.

Get fed.

No matter what our career is, our most important purpose is to produce fruit for the kingdom of God and for this we all have an equal opportunity. Our fruitfulness depends upon our own desire to be faithful to what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. We cannot produce fruit on our own; we must be connected to God. By having a personal relationship with Him by daily prayer, reading the Scriptures and the lives of the saints, living the sacramental life, and being involved in our faith community.

Bear fruit.

This is where we discover and use the gifts God has given us and by continuing to be formed in the faith. When we live our lives close to God in this way, we become witnesses of His presence so that others might come to believe in him. God’s plan for the salvation of the world is that those who believe in him will live and share their faith, so that others will come to believe in Him.

Like Moses, we may not feel adequate to play a role in God’s plan of salvation, but like Moses we must say yes anyway, take our eyes off ourselves, keep focused on God, and allow him to work through us. It is only in God that we will find the strength we need to carry us through the painful circumstances of our lives and the grace that will enable us to make the difficult choices we know we must make.

This is when our faith truly bears fruit, so that we can experience the peace and hope that only Christ can give!

Pilgrim Center of Hope offers spiritual resources to help nourish & guide you on your journey and connect you to God and His Church. Visit us in person, by phone at 210-521-3377, or explore our website!

You do not have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.


Deacon Tom Fox 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. Tom continues to serve as a permanent deacon, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio.

Connecting with Our Creator: An Experiment In Healing

Closeup of a bronze lifesized Stations of the Cross sculpture wherein Jesus is being nailed to the cross

In the movie Mary Shelley, the author’s father says of Dr. Frankenstein (the scientist who is bent on creating life in her novel Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus),

[The story] ascertains the absolute human necessity for connection. From the moment Dr. Frankenstein’s creature opens its eyes, it seeks the touch of its creator. But he recoils in terror, leaving the creature to its first of many experiences of neglect and isolation. If only Frankenstein had been able to bestow upon his creation a compassionate touch, a kind word; what a tragedy might have been avoided.

Juxtapose those words with what Scripture says about human connection with the Divine Creator:

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
(Psalm 139:13-16)

Only 18 years old when she wrote her famous work, Mary Shelley had already experienced death, grief, betrayal, and abandonment. Upon reading the novel, her half-sister—who has just been rejected by the father of her unborn baby, tells Mary, “It chilled me to the bone.”

Mary replies, “It is good to enjoy a ghost story now and then.”

Her sister responds, “We both know this is no ghost story. I have never read such a perfect encapsulation of what it feels to be abandoned.”

Our Personal Monsters

In one way or another, we can each tell our own ghost story about the monsters of loss, grief, betrayal, abandonment, and loneliness that rage within us. They are the consequences of evil wrought by sin; the reality of living in an imperfect world.

Mary Shelley’s lover at the time, Percy Shelly, advises her to re-write the story so that instead of a monster, Dr. Frankenstein creates the perfect creature. “Imagine,” he tells Mary, “He creates a version of ourselves that shines with goodness and thus delivers a message for mankind. A message of hope and perfection.”

Mary looks at him—the man whose selfish choices are responsible for much of her feelings of betrayal and abandonment—and responds, “It is a message for mankind! What would we know of hope and perfection!? Look around you! Look at the mess we have made!? Look at me!”

We understandably question, and should question, why evil exists. We should work to eradicate it and certainly not be a cause of it.

Our error comes in accusing God for the evil in the world. Mankind’s folly is always in falling for the ancient lie that we can do a better job of creating than God.

Healing from Our Creator

However, with our Creator, praise God, we have true hope of authentic freedom from evil.

He (Jesus Christ) did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 549)

Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, who recoils in terror at the sight of his imperfect creature, God comes to us in our imperfection, through His Son, Jesus Christ…

And even when you were dead [in] transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

God came in the flesh, and continues to come to us through . . .

  • His Word
  • His Sacraments
  • His Church

God knows our deep desire for the good and the perfect; He is the one who created that desire in us, so that we would seek our true self, found only in relation to Him. Saint Pope John Paul II states this in Dives in Misericordia (God, Who is Rich in Mercy), “Man and man’s lofty calling are revealed in Christ through the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His Love” (DM 1).

In a final scene of the movie, Percy Shelly tells a group who thought it was he who wrote Mary’s book, “You could say the work would not even exist without my contribution. But to my shame, the only claim I remotely have to this work is inspiring the desperate loneliness that defines Frankenstein’s creature.”

Of ourselves, humans are capable of great evil. Of ourselves, we are finite. Mother Church teaches us that true healing—which is authentic freedom from sin—begins with this knowledge. She encourages us to, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15), using the very words of the Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, who leads us to our Father, and His Love.

During Lent, many parishes offer reconciliation services, providing opportunities to re-connect with God and receive healing through the rich Mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We invite you: contact your local parish office for more information, and participate in this true healing and freedom!

Only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful that to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. (Pope Benedict XVI)

Pilgrim Center of Hope offers spiritual resources to help guide you on your journey and connect you to God and His Church. Visit us in person, by phone at 210-521-3377, or explore our website!

Join us for our newest program, Meet the Master. You are invited to attend one or more of this nine-part monthly series, as we hear and reflect on the words of Jesus and spend some quiet with Him in our Gethsemane Chapel.  You do not have to be perfect to begin anew in Christ.


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; a Catholic evangelization ministry that that answers Christ call by guiding people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.