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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.

Mercy, Love’s Second Name

We recently celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday, and are in the midst of the Easter season. This is the perfect time to dwell on God’s love and mercy so we might all yearn for it, be restored by it, and be more grateful for it.

As I am writing this, I am looking up at an image of Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son (inspired by the parable from Luke 15:1-3, 11-32) that hangs in my office. This painting has long captivated me and took on even greater meaning after I read Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.

My attention is always drawn to the hands of the father, holding the son, as if to say, “You are forgiven…everything is going to be okay.” It makes me think of all the hugs or abrazos shared over the years with family and friends, following an exchange of apologies over saying or doing something we regretted. By far, the most powerful and significant were the embraces shared with my parents. In these moments, I felt forgiven, loved, secure, and at peace.

Nouwen’s book enabled me to see that total surrender to God the Father is the key to truly being healed of past hurt and guilt. With that realization has come a greater appreciation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for the Paschal Mystery. And also, for the Eucharist.

Total surrender is not an easy thing to do, because it involves giving up control and acknowledging our failures. Nouwen wrote, “One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness.”

Gifts of Mercy

St. Pope John Paul II wrote his second Encyclical Letter Dives In Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), with St. Faustina Kowalska on his mind. This is a profound document which offers a new perspective on the theme of Divine Mercy:

  • God’s merciful love is his “most stupendous attribute.”
  • Christ came to make God present as love and mercy
  • When mercy is properly given, there is no humiliation, only gratitude
  • Love & Mercy in the world make conversion possible
  • Mercy is love’s second name

It was nineteen years ago on April 30, 2000 that John Paul II canonized St. Faustina and designated the Easter Octave – Divine Mercy Sunday. Faustina was given the message of Divine Mercy from Christ. In 1938 her journals were published as the Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul.

As a result of the apparitions of Jesus to St. Faustina we were given four devotions:

  • The Divine Mercy Image
  • The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • The Novena of Divine Mercy
  • Divine Mercy Sunday (receiving Reconciliation and Holy Communion)

During this Easter season, as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection and in anticipation of Jesus sending forth the Holy Spirit, consider dedicating yourself to the devotion of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy throughout the year.

Not only can these prayers help to keep you focused on the Passion & Crucifixion of Christ, but they can also give you a greater appreciation of the Eucharistic offering.

Responding to Mercy

Our staff at Pilgrim Center of Hope prays the Chaplet daily during the Hour of Mercy which begins at 3 pm, the hour of Our Lord’s death on the cross.

The opening prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet says it all: O Blood & Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you (Diary 84).

And then there is the call and response prayer that we repeat 50 times: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us & on the whole world (Diary 475-476). 

Reading John Paul’s Dives In Misericordia and practicing the devotion of the Divine Mercy Chaplet has allowed me to recognize and give thanks for all the times I have been shown mercy. More importantly, I am more conscious of the need to be more merciful toward others.

Pope Francis put it this way, “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.”

In order to bring more hope into the world and restore people’s dignity and humanity, we need to remember love’s second name and show more mercy and forgiveness in our relationships.

It all begins with our appreciation and understanding of God’s Divine Mercy.

So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help (Heb. 4:16).


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.

God Looks At You with Love

When I used to imagine how God looked at me, I felt like I was being judged.

However hard I tried, I felt that God would always point out something I had done wrong. Needless to say, I had difficulty connecting with Jesus’ parables about a God who celebrates and rejoices over one person, even though I could recite the parables and all their details.

One day, I earnestly prayed for openness as I read the day’s Scriptures. As I read from the Hebrew Scriptures in the Old Testament, I realized that my idea of God was wrong. As I read the New Testament with a new perspective, my eyes were opened:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:10-11)

Jesus said, “You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me.” (John 8:15-16)

How Jesus Looked

Although we don’t have a photograph of Jesus, we know much about how he looked at people.

Consider how Jesus simply “passed by” Matthew as he was working as a tax collector, at his daily post. Jesus only said to him, “Follow me,” and Matthew left his whole life behind to follow Jesus. In Pope Francis’ letter “The Joy of the Gospel,” he points out how powerful the gaze of Jesus must have been:

let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (JG, no. 120)

Can you imagine how Jesus must have looked at them? What kind of expression is so powerfully loving that it causes people to change the entire direction of their lives?

Let Jesus Look At You

There are so many possible reasons why we may struggle to imagine a completely loving and merciful God. One reason is our experience of hurts, wounds, painful experiences, and sins committed by others or ourselves. In my case, it took time along with the power of prayer, spiritual direction, the sacraments, and professional counseling, for me to gain a healthy and reconciled view of God… but it is still a journey.

So I ask you: Are there moments when you place yourself quietly in the Lord’s presence, when you calmly spend time with him, when you bask in his gaze? Do you let his fire inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire. How will you then be able to set the hearts of others on fire by your words and witness? If, gazing on the face of Christ, you feel unable to let yourself be healed and transformed, then enter into the Lord’s heart, into his wounds, for that is the abode of divine mercy. (Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, no. 151)

I have this little prayer that I say now, “Father, help me to see myself as you see me.” When I struggle to love someone as I’m called to, I pray, “Jesus, help me to see (person’s name) through your eyes.”

God’s gaze is truly healing, truly loving, truly merciful, and truly beyond our comprehension… but it is not beyond belief. Amid the dark times we all experience, let’s strive to see and believe.


This month and beyond, Pilgrim Center of Hope is offering many opportunities to help you discover God’s loving gaze. Answering Christ’s call, we guide 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.

Mercy: The Secret to Healing

Statue at the Sea of Galilee depicting Christ and Saint Peter after Peter is forgiven for denying Jesus.

 

In his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), Saint Pope John Paul II writes,

by becoming for people a model of merciful love for others, Christ proclaims by His actions even more than by His words that call to mercy which is one of the essential elements to the Gospel ethos. In this instance, it is not just a case of satisfying a condition of major importance for God to reveal Himself in His mercy to man: “The merciful […] shall obtain mercy.” (II, The Messianic Message)

What is the pope saying?

He is saying what we all know we are called to do if we profess to name ourselves Christian; followers of Jesus Christ. We must, like our Master, be merciful through the action of forgiving those who hurt us.  Ouch!

There is something more…

The pope says it is not just a matter of what we are called to do (satisfying a condition); it is the way for God to reveal Himself in His Mercy to man (i.e. you and me):

…“The merciful […] shall obtain mercy.”

Finding Healing through Mercy

I have found this to be true. There are people who I feel have let me down. Whether real or just in my imagination, I have felt slighted, unrecognized, dismissed. Through the grace of God, I have chosen in my hurt to offer a prayer: “Lord, ________ hurt me, yet through You, I will to forgive.”

This ‘willing’ to forgive does not deny the justice due to me; it just puts the gavel in the hands of God—our Savior and Just Judge. I have discovered in my surrender to his will, by being merciful to the ones who hurt me, I have received healing. Even more amazing, I have received the recognition, the acceptance I felt was denied me by others through the grace of a closer relationship with Jesus. God sees me!  God knows!  God cares!

God’s Mercy for Us Now

We have a great opportunity this week to enter Healing through God’s gift of Divine Mercy.  Pope Francis has called this time we live in especially filled with God’s Mercy, saying,

“[L]isten to the voice of the Spirit that speaks to the whole Church in this our time, which is, in fact, the time of mercy. I am certain of this… It is the time of mercy in the whole Church… ]” (Pope Francis, address to the priests of the Diocese of Rome, 3/6/2014).

Next Sunday, April 28, is Divine Mercy Sunday.  Our Lord Jesus said to St. Faustina about this Feast:

On that day [Divine Mercy Sunday], the very depths of My tender mercy are opened. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. […] On that day, all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. (Diary of St. Faustina, no. 699)

Finding God’s Mercy

To forgive may be Divine, but it is also very hard! Why not take advantage of this gift of “a whole ocean of graces” by participating in the Feast of Divine Mercy?!  If you need assistance finding a parish that is offering Divine Mercy Sunday services, contact us at Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Pilgrim Center of Hope is offering a unique experience this year to encounter Jesus through our monthly Meet the Master events.  Our May event will be held during the annual Catholic Seniors’ Conference, which is open to all ages.

Jesus asked in the Gospel of John (1:38-39), “What are you looking for?” He responds to our request for healing and mercy, just as he responded to those in the Gospel, “Come! and you will see.”


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.