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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.

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.

How Unexpected Experiences Can Become A Blessing

When we read the lives of the saints, why were so many of their lives impacted after an unexpected experience?

St Anthony de Padua with Child Jesus by MurilloFernando Martins was born in Lisbon, Portugal in the 12th century into a large Catholic family. He was ordained into the priesthood and began his new life with great fervor. His life as a young priest took a crucial turn when the bodies of the first five Franciscan martyrs were returned from Morocco. Fernando wanted to become a Franciscan Friar after hearing the stories of the Franciscan Friars’ charity for others and their courage to persevere to the end.

He did enter the Franciscan Order, and was given his new name, Anthony. He was to set sail across to Morocco to be a witness for Christ. His ship experienced a storm, and was forced to dock in Italy. There, he attended a Franciscan Chapter meeting with 3,000 friars in attendance; little did he know that he would be chosen to preach to the large number, resulting in the new discovery of his eloquent charism of preaching.

The unexpected experience of being shipwrecked in Italy turned into a greater call for Friar Anthony, who became St. Anthony of Padua. Since then to this day, he is known throughout the world for his spiritual writings and stirring sermons that have given hope to thousands. He was canonized a year after his death in 1232. The richness of his spiritual teaching contained in his sermons was so great that he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

If Friar Anthony did arrive in Morocco and died as a martyr, perhaps the thousands who had been given hope and a renewed confidence in God because of his preaching may have been lost, may have remained in despair. It is apparent God had a plan for Anthony!

Do we believe God has a plan for each of us?

Oh yes, you must believe He does! In the book of Deuteronomy 31:8, we read:

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Is your current plan united with the plan God has for you?

Only God who sees all things and knows each one of us by name, sees our hearts and knows our needs can lead us on the right path. We must ask for his guidance. He will not infringe on our free will.

How does one begin to ask His guidance?

Approach him as you would a dear friend. Invite him to guide you and help you see his plan for you. It may take days, weeks, months or longer; believe he hasn’t left you at any time! Invest in discovering his plan for you by reading Scripture and continue to ask him; What is your will for me today?  What will not change is Jesus’ gaze upon you. Let us place our lives into his gaze, and trust that his gaze is one of purity, tenderness, and loving.

This realization of God’s plan for me was a turning point in my life; and yes, his plan has been an interesting journey. For this reason I have given my life to him as a Missionary of Hope. Even when the journey appeared quite rough, his words in the Gospel of Mark 6:50 resounded in my soul and gave me consolation and hope:

Immediately he spoke to them and said, Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.


Mary Jane Fox, D.H.S. 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. Mary Jane is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Dame 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.

How Being YOU Can Change the World

There’s something that most of us adults have in common: We’ve got a talent for pointing out what’s wrong with the world.

We write newspaper articles about it. We broadcast our grievances across the globe – on TV, radio, and the Internet. We stand around at parties and bemoan the politics of the day. We gather in groups and gossip about the problems and flaws of others. You can fill in examples from your life, too, right?

Remember when we were kids, and the world was absolutely amazing? Remember when we had grand aspirations to grow up and do big things? If we saw one hungry person, we’d ask, “Why are they hungry? Where’s their mom? Can I help them?” Many of us wanted to grow up and be superheroes!

Then we grew older, and dismissed the delusions of youth. Was it because we realized that the world “just doesn’t work that way”?

Unfathomable

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

This is one of St. Catherine of Siena’s most famous quotes. She truly believed that every single person could change the world for the better. Was she delusional?

You might respond, “Well, maybe she wasn’t crazy, but she was special! She was a saint. I’m not on that level; most people aren’t.”

Catherine believed that an inestimable Fire could change the world. Her words call to mind Jesus’ own words in the Gospel: I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! (Luke 12:49)

In prayer, Catherine encountered the inestimable Fire—the triune God, who is Love.

Her famous quote means that you and I are meant to be that fire; the living image of God. You see, Christians profess a belief that is unfathomable by other faiths: when we are baptized, God actually comes to live within us.

It Just Isn’t Right!

In the New Testament, we learn that John the Baptist was baptizing people for the forgiveness of their sins.

When Jesus asked John to baptize him, John protested, thinking: I am not even worthy to unfasten your sandal strap! You want ME to baptize YOU?

At John’s response, God—who had humbled himself to become human, to be born in a stable, to be vulnerable and weak—looked him in the eyes and acknowledged that John was right.

Jesus answered him, Allow it now. (cf. Matthew 3:13-15).

Jesus the God-Man, had the divine vision to see beyond a human—or more accurately, a fallen—concept of justice.

In our eyes, none of this makes sense: God is perfectly just, and yet he humbled himself to be baptized by a human being. God is Almighty, and yet, he chose to submit himself to human beings. Yet, God cannot act unjustly; so true justice must somehow be beyond our comprehension.

What if we saw with God’s eyes?

New Vision

When most of us “grew up” and decided that being a superhero was no longer possible, it was because we had allowed our concept of what is possible to be shaped and limited by a world that suffers from sin. We had each lived through disappointments, wounds, struggles, and those all had consequences. In the face of pain, it’s natural to shift our focus onto what’s wrong with things.

But what if, instead, we turn our focus to God? What if we remain open to the marvels possible through Love?

You and I may look at Jesus and protest, “This is not right.” We may approach him, carrying all our burdens, and say, “I am not worthy, Lord.”

But Jesus will tell us, “Allow it now.”

Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 45)

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. Allow the unfathomable God to live within you. You will be the fullest version of “you” that you were ever meant to be. You will set an inestimable Fire into view for each person who encounters you, and Love will renew the face of the earth.

Will we dare to believe the unfathomable?


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.

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.

Gethsemane & The Agony in the Garden

Travel along with Mary Jane Fox & Ed Batis to the foot of the Mount of Olives and discover the Garden of Gethsemane. Such a place still exists, the place where Jesus, Son of God spent time.

This program will address these four points:

  • The significance of the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Why was this a place of rest for Jesus and His Apostles?
  • What does it mean to watch and pray?
  • How can we draw strength from our Lord’s suffering?

Jewel for the Journey:
The first end I propose in our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills it; and thirdly to do it because it is his will.
– Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Listen to this program now:

Visit PilgrimCenterofHope.org for more information.