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Simple Way to Boost Your Spiritual Life – Advice from a Young Soldier

Drafted into the WWI German army at 18 years old, Josef Engling didn’t live to see the war’s end.

Josef Engling

His life lasted only 20 years, but his legacy continues today through a spiritual movement called Schoenstatt – of which Josef was a founding member. Why does he remain so influential? Well, he was just like you and me: teased for his crooked walk and slurred speech, engaged in the struggle to live a good life – even when he felt confused, useless, or weak.

Yet Josef had learned the secret to success in this life:

I want to become all things to all people and to belong totally to Our Lady (Mary, Mother of God); I want to be faithful even in the smallest things and to carry out the ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

Sacrifices for Mary

Easter 1916, before the war: Josef was a seminarian with the Pallotine Fathers in the Schoenstatt region of Germany, but he was feeling lost. Even with Easter’s celebratory atmosphere, his spiritual life was weak. Sitting in reflection, he looked around him and noticed all the flowers in bloom.

Suddenly, inspiration hit.

As any son who loves his mother would, Josef wanted to offer flowers to his mother. That is, his spiritual mother: Mary. She is the one who remained faithful to God continuously; from Jesus’ conception to his crucifixion, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit after the first Easter. Josef knew that Mary would help him boost his spiritual life. But how? He wrote her a letter:

May Blossoms from the garden of my heart presented to the Queen of May in May 1916. Mother, the whole garden of my heart is dedicated to you. For you I will plant and cultivate in it:

…and he began a list of “blossoms” he would offer her. Notice how easily we can imitate this young man’s novel idea.

The Rose of Love and Esteem

As the rose is the queen of flowers, so you be the Queen of my Heart. I place everything at your disposal, my Queen.

  1. Acts of honor and reverence toward Mary and her picture
  2. Reading and speaking about Mary
  3. Visits to the chapel and praying the Rosary
  4. Receiving Holy Communion
  5. Any act that promotes the Gospel
The Forget-Me-Not of Faithfulness in Your Service
  1. Praying my prayers well
  2. Being attentive at studies and spiritual reading
  3. Doing my chores well, including making my bed properly and keeping my desk in order
  4. Obeying the rules
  5. Following my conscience
The Violet of Humility and Modesty
  1. Accepting corrections or criticism patiently
  2. Forgiving offenses
  3. Obeying cheerfully
The Passion Flower of Crosses and Love of Sacrifice
  1. Patient acceptance of unpleasant things
  2. Working on good manners and courtesy to others
  3. Making little sacrifices at meals
  4. Faithfulness to my examination of conscience
  5. Other sacrifices
The Lily of Purity
  1. Guarding my eyes, especially in the dormitory
  2. Not getting involved in chatter about impure things
  3. Praying for the gift of purity before Holy Communion

Each of Josef’s ordinary, everyday activities were transformed into gifts for the Mother of God, his own spiritual Mother. As time passed, his growth and maturity was noticeable.

Soon all the young men who lived with Josef adopted this practice. On Sundays, they would draw pieces of paper from a margarine tub containing their “blossoms” for the week. The priests who oversaw the boys were surprised at the tremendous increase in respect, order, kindness, and spirituality among them.

On the Battlefield

Fast-forward to the war: As a soldier on the battlefield, Josef found himself amidst gunshots, grenade explosions, hunger, fear, and fallen companions. In his journal, he wrote:

Mother, if it wasn’t for the support I feel from you, I would be totally confused and nervous. Today, my company is resting from the fighting – except for myself, who must stand guard. Tomorrow, it will be the same. I am so hungry and thirsty, with little hope of getting letters. All I receive is the mockery from my comrades. But my love for you helps me bear everything.

I want to become a great saint. Shouldn’t I take all that is happening now with patience and serenity?

You see? Josef was normal like us; the Christian life was still a struggle. But he knew he must follow after Jesus and daily take up his cross. Josef’s fellow soldiers mocked his schedule of prayer and penance. But, wishing always to please his beloved Mother Mary and her Son, he stuck with it.

Josef’s example is one we can all follow. He knew he had to live each day, each moment, as a Christian. At the same time, he recognized, he was never alone…

We have a host of friends in Heaven by our side, cheering us on. First among them is our Mother. We can do this.


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.

Following the Good Shepherd with 3 shepherd children

 

Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” He died on the cross so that we might be his. So are we really his? Do we really belong to God? No one can take us from him, but it is possible for us to refuse to follow. One of the greatest gifts we have received from God is our free will, but at the same time it is the gift that makes it possible for us to reject him.

The purpose of our Christian faith is to guide us in the choices we make; to form our conscience, which is also a gift from God, so that we will be able to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him to safety. He invites us to follow him; he doesn’t force us. When we continue to do things we know we shouldn’t do, it makes it more difficult to recognize his voice and follow him.

The Good Shepherd wants all of us to be happy, even if things are very difficult. He promised he would help us if we would come to him. Why is it so difficult for us to come to him? Do we think he will expect too much from us? Do we think we are not good enough to expect anything from him? He loves us unconditionally and only wants what is good for us.

The three shepherd children of Fatima

In Fatima, Portugal, in 1916, an angel appeared to three young shepherds as they tended their flock; Lucia was age ten, Francisco eight and Jacinta seven. He was preparing them for the apparitions they would receive from the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the prayer he asked them to pray: My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.

This simple prayer reveals to us what is necessary in our relationship with God.

My God, I believe…

What does it mean to believe in God? We all received the gift of faith in baptism, but to believe is a choice. What we believe right now is a consequence of choices we have made. God has revealed his plan for each of us through the Sacred Scriptures and through the teaching authority of the Church so that we might believe in him and be saved. To believe in God is to believe in what he has revealed and to be faithful to what we believe.

I adore…

What does it mean to adore God? First of all we must have the wisdom to recognize who God is and who we are. In Psalm 111 it says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom…” This is not a cowering fear, but an awesome fear. Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit that helps us to be docile to receive inspirations from God. God is eternal and Almighty and we are his lowly creatures, and yet he loves us so much that he created us in his very own image so that we might be called children of God. He loves us so much that his own Son died on the cross to save us from our sins. It is the desire of God that we worship and adore him. That’s why we participate in Mass every Sunday, but to adore God is more than just spending one hour a week. To adore God is to honor him for who he is and to desire to please him; to spend time with him in prayer every day. We should begin our day with him, asking him to help us in all we do. We should pray before every meal, every time we get in a car, every time we begin a new task no matter what it is. We should pray before going to bed. We should pray for our needs and the needs of others and praise God for all the good things he has done for us.

I hope…

What does it mean to hope in God? It means to have a trust in God that perseveres to the end, no matter how difficult the circumstances. It is a trust that places the Kingdom of God before everything else. It is this hope in God that enabled martyrs to die for their faith and allows us to experience peace and joy, even when undergoing trials.

and I love you.

What does it mean to love God? “We must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, with all our strength and with all our heart.” This is not a suggestion as some people might think. God commands us to love him because he created us for himself, and we will never discover true and lasting happiness unless it is in relationship with him. He is the source of all love; the more we love him, the more will be able to love others. The most important thing you can do for yourself and for the people you love is to keep the first commandment.

My God I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you and I ask pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.

In this prayer that the angel taught the three young shepherds, God is telling them, and us, that we must live the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity; and that we must adore God who loves us so, that we can discover our purpose in life and to be happy now & for all eternity. These three children took this prayer to heart and faithfully followed the Good Shepherd, who led them safely to heaven.

If we will pray this little prayer every day with the same fervor as the three little shepherds, we will certainly recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd and allow him to guide us through all the difficulties of this life and to bring us safely home to the Father when we have reached the end of our earthly pilgrimage.


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.

Imitation of Mary, Pt. 2

Explore all the practical ways Mary can help us to better live our Catholic faith.

Learn more about the Blessed Virgin Mary’s important role in God’s plan to bring about our salvation and also to continue to nurture, guide, and intercede for us as we seek to fulfill God’s will to proclaim the Good News and bring healing to his people.

Living Catholicism is a ministry of broadcast, print, and digital media connecting our pilgrimage of daily life with the faith & teachings of the Catholic Church; produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope. It was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Imitation of Mary, Pt. 1

Explore all the practical ways Mary can help us to better live our Catholic faith.

Learn more about the Blessed Virgin Mary’s important role in God’s plan to bring about our salvation and also to continue to nurture, guide, and intercede for us as we seek to fulfill God’s will to proclaim the Good News and bring healing to his people.

Living Catholicism is a ministry of broadcast, print, and digital media connecting our pilgrimage of daily life with the faith & teachings of the Catholic Church; produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope. It was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Mary, Most Powerful Woman

When you think about powerful women, who first comes to your mind? In December 2015, National Geographic magazine called Mary, Mother of God, the most powerful woman in the world.

Join Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox as they discuss the impact Mary has had on the world since the beginning of Christianity. During this program we will look at Mary’s role as Mediatrix and intercessor, how often she is mentioned in the Bible, and why Catholics revere her.

Message of Hope:
Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle.  – St. Josemaria Escriva

Living Catholicism is a ministry of broadcast, print, and digital media connecting our pilgrimage of daily life with the faith & teachings of the Catholic Church; produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope. It was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Virgin Mary – Her Life & Devotions

Explore our Blessed Mother’s life, from her birth, free of original sin, until her Assumption; and various devotions to Mary:

  • First Saturdays
  • Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Green Scapular of Our Lady
  • Brown Scapular
  • Chaplet of Our Lady of Sorrows

Living Catholicism is a ministry of broadcast, print, and digital media connecting our pilgrimage of daily life with the faith & teachings of the Catholic Church; produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope. It was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Witness to Our Lady of Kibeho

Three children in Kibeho, a small town in the southern region of Rwanda, Africa, witnessed a supernatural phenomenon. Crowds gathered around them in the schoolyard as they reported interaction with the Blessed Virgin Mary. We discussed this apparition with Brother Alexis Marie Secondaire, O.P. Miss. who was present during the extraordinary apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho.

Catholicism Live! was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Image of Mary holding a Rosary

Evening with Mary: Marian Apparitions since 1000 AD

After watching, we invite you to pray the Rosary!

Author Karen Robertson offers a presentation about Our Lady of Fatima, and Deacon Ed Domowski leads the Rosary. Evenings with Mary is an outreach ministry of Pilgrim Center of Hope in San Antonio, Texas, providing opportunities to discover how the Rosary can lead individuals, couples and families to a deeper relationship with Christ, and facilitate healing and peace.

Image of Mary holding a Rosary

Evening with Mary: Our Lady of Fatima

Author Karen Robertson offers a presentation about Our Lady of Fatima, and Deacon Ed Domowski leads the Rosary. Evenings with Mary is an outreach ministry of Pilgrim Center of Hope in San Antonio, Texas, providing opportunities to discover how the Rosary can lead individuals, couples and families to a deeper relationship with Christ, and facilitate healing and peace.

Our Lady of Hope (Pontmain, France)

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