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Finding Joy, Faith & Hope In Any Situation

Some Context

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a treasure, and to a pearl of great price. When they are discovered, the one who finds them sells all he has to acquire them. The point is not the value of the treasure or of the pearl, but of the kingdom of heaven, which leads us to the last comparison; the net thrown into the sea. At the end of the age, all humanity will be gathered together; some will be invited into the kingdom of heaven and others will not.

As Jesus says in another place, “Where ever your treasure is, so also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21). Those to whom the kingdom of heaven was of primary importance during their life and who were faithful witnesses of their love for God and neighbor will receive their treasure in heaven.

What To Seek

In the first reading, we see that Solomon answered wisely when God offered to give him whatever he asked for. When he asked for an understanding heart so that he could serve God and His people better, God was pleased. In his heart, Solomon was not far from the kingdom of heaven.

It was as if he was prophesying what Jesus would tell us in the Gospel of Matthew: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matthew 6:33). These words from Jesus are the light that will guide us into his kingdom. They are the fulfillment of the Two Greatest Commandments; we must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourself. When we order our lives toward God, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

So we must ask ourselves, where is our treasure? What are you willing to give everything you have for? In what are you investing?

How to Find the Treasure

One resource that we all have equally is time. Everyone of us has 24 hours each day, and how we use that time has a great deal to do with our proximity to the kingdom of heaven. All we need to make an eternal investment is our intellect and our free will.

I remember Fr. Bruce Nieli, a Paulist priest who used to live in Austin, telling us that when he was going through a difficult time he would visit a friend who was a quadriplegic. He said, this man, though handicapped was always filled with joy because of his love of God and his great prayer life. Joy does not mean the absence of difficulty; it means having great faith and trust that in the end “… all things work for good for those who love God…” as Paul tells us in the second reading (Romans 8:28).

I have heard people say they do not have time to pray. What is it that you are doing that you can do on your own without God’s help? It is His love that allows us to take our next breath. There is a saying, “No prayer means no faith,” because prayer is our connection to God. Without faith, we have no hope.

Perhaps it could be said that the kingdom of heaven is like the prayer of a faithful person, because it always puts us in the company of God. Jesus said, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). When we pray, we are always at least in the company of our Guardian Angel.

Make the Commitment

It is especially our commitment to daily prayer and to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist that keep us invested into eternal life and help us to reach our greatest happiness on earth. Prayer and the sacraments help us to be better husbands, wives, parents, children, etc. Whatever is most dear to our hearts is best protected by prayer and the sacraments of the Church.

Jesus closes this Gospel by asking, “Do you understand all these things?” Like Solomon, let us pray for the gift of understanding, but also for the greater gift of believing; because by faith we are often called to believe that which we cannot understand. The Scriptures and the Church will guide us into the kingdom of heaven if we believe what has been revealed to us, and then act on what we believe.

If you want to be close to the kingdom of heaven, make a commitment to spend time close to Jesus in his Eucharistic Presence in the Blessed Sacrament chapel. You’ll be glad you did.


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.

When We Ask God, “Why?”

Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32)

The death of Jesus on the cross was fresh in the minds of his disciples. They thought all was lost. They knew he was dead and buried, but forgot that he had prophesied that he would rise from the dead. The reality of what they saw and knew to be true prevented them from seeing that what had taken place was the fulfillment of the Scriptures and the very words of Jesus himself.

The Stumbling Block

Our human logic is necessary to make rational decisions, but sometimes logic must give way to faith. It is not logical that God would become human so that he could be tortured and killed by humans to save us from our sins, and indeed this is still a stumbling block for millions of people who refuse to believe.

For millions, even some Christians, it isn’t logical that Jesus loves us so much that he established the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist so that we can receive him body, blood, soul and divinity in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass. Even some of his disciples refused to follow him when he told them they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they were to have eternal life. So that there could be no confusion, he repeated this message four times. The disciples that remained with him did not understand the teaching either, but their faith in Jesus was stronger than their need to understand. As Peter said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Finding An Answer

Life is a mystery, and we all will be confronted by situations and circumstances we do not understand. We all have asked and will ask, “why.” The answer can be found in our purpose for being on this earth. We are here to know, love, and serve God so that we can be happy for all eternity.

If we don’t like that answer, we should read the lives of the saints who found their purpose and their happiness in their faithful relationship with God. Many of them died young, lived in poverty with poor health, and suffered many trials. Some of the saints were kings, doctors, lawyers, farmers, husbands, wives, children, and from every walk of life. And yet their hearts burned with love for God because they entered into a personal relationship with him that was more important than anything else in their lives and they experienced great peace and happiness.

Jesus longs for everyone of us to experience that same peace and happiness. No matter who we are or what we have done, Jesus reveals his Sacred Heart to us and desires that we come to him to experience his mercy right now, without hesitation. When we surrender our hearts to the heart of Jesus, we can be confident he will give us the grace we need for every situation, even if we have to suffer for a time.

Jesus, set my heart on fire for love of you! Jesus, I trust in you!


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.

Take Courage, It Is I! | Journey with Jesus

 

Mary of Magdala | Journey with Jesus

 

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.

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.

A Plan of Fulfillment & Assurance

There are four accounts of the Gospel in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each one is unique and offers us fulfillment and assurance.

One specific passage, which is one of my favorites, is from Matthew 11; verses 28-30:

 Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

These words from the Son of God are simple, direct and meek; and yet these words are an invitation from the heart of Jesus Christ.

Come to me are the words of the Master, the Son of God. He calls everyone to come to him.

In ancient Palestine, 2000+ years ago, Jesus spoke these very words to crowds following him. Many were helpless. They were weighed down by daily burdens. They were living under Roman Occupation, which wasn’t a just situation for everyone. The people witnessed persecution and even criminals crucified.

Jesus, the Lord, does not focus on the negative or the burdens. He first invites and then refreshes. He assures them—and us today—through his Word, about taking the weight off of us.

Jesus is telling us, “Dare to trust me!”

How many of us remember as children, running to our parents or a grandparent after falling down or after being hurt; yearning for the warm acceptance and gentle caress of someone who sincerely cares for us? Didn’t our tears go away shortly after?

Accepting the Invitation

We, too, can run to Jesus, the Lord. God created man as a rational being, conferring on each one of us the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his or her own actions.

Yes, part of who we are as a rational being, with dignity of a person who can control our own actions, is the Will. The will is free, having the ability to choose. Archbishop Fulton Sheen expressed this concept well:

There is one thing in the world that is definitely and absolutely your own, and that is your will. Health, power, life, and honor can all be snatched from you, but your will is irrevocably your own.

Let’s listen to what the Church asserts about our will:

God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2730)

Perfection here means fulfillment, completion.

This is the plan of God for us today! In using my will, I have a choice to live the faith daily, to read the Gospel and be given the assurance needed to bring true peace into my soul.

Jesus is offering us something that the world cannot offer: an invitation to come to him and discover a plan that will lead us to rest and walk with him no matter who we are, where we are in our walk or position, or what we have right now.

His promise is his plan for us, and he includes complete rest. This can result in a true joy, happiness, and perhaps with time, a complete surrender to him! No matter how smart we are, how much money or how many things we have, we will never have true peace and rest without God.

Faith is involvement, passion, mind, and heart beating together in an attempt to answer the question of Christ, which engages one’s life. – Fr. Bruno Forte


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.

What Is the Solution to All the Problems In Our Lives?

In the past few weeks, I have experienced some unexpected challenges. After receiving a disappointing phone call, I put down my phone and sighed, “Jesus, I trust in You,” for I know from Scripture and from personal experience, God works everything for the good (Romans 8:28).

Even though we may know we can trust him, persevering confidently in God’s trust until we can witness the good can be very difficult. It is precisely in these out-of-our-control situations that we are called to act in faith and discipline ourselves to not withdraw into our fears. Instead, we are to order our thoughts toward and prioritize our gaze on God and on his fatherly providence and protection.

With burdens weighing me down, I kneel in front of our Lord in his Eucharistic Presence in a parish’s Adoration Chapel. As I look up at the Lord enthroned in the monstrance, a thought is allowed into my mind: ‘I am putting all my trust into a little piece of bread.’

Immediately comes the counter-attack, ‘No, you’re not! You are putting your trust into the Creator of the Universe who died on the Cross so that you could have eternal life and in Whose great kindness condescends to become present in a little piece of bread so that you may enter into his life here and now!’

This truth comes by privilege of placing myself before the very presence of God in which no lie can stand.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1380) states,

[…] In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us, and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love:

The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.

It is important in our world with so many anxieties, inconveniences and things just not going our way to spend quality time with our Lord in prayer every day. It is even better, if we place ourselves in his Presence through Holy Mass (at least every Sunday) and in Eucharistic Adoration, as often as we can.

We find confirmation of this path through the life of Saint Alphonsus Liguori. He experienced suspicion from civil authorities and betrayal by a fellow priest. In the face of people and situations out of his control, this humble man chose to bring it all to the One who orders all things and controls all things. He writes, “If you desire to find him immediately, see he is quite close to you. Tell him what you desire, for it is to console you and grant your prayer that he remains in the tabernacle.” Pope Saint John Paul II simply says, “In that little Host is the solution to all the problems of the world.”

And, of course, there is the Virgin Mary, the exemplar of constancy to God!

In just a few days, we will be celebrating her Assumption into Heaven. Her eternal reward follows a lifetime of perseverance, putting the priority of God’s will before her own, discipline to remain close to Jesus through the temporal obstacles, and a vigilance to dare to believe that what God revealed to her in prayer would be realized.

Take advantage of this great feast day and holy day of obligation by celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15. Make this the first of many frequent encounters with Christ in his Eucharistic Presence. Ask his Mother to help you persevere as she did.


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.

St Therese of Lisieux

Story of a Soul

The Story of a Soul (l’Histoire d’une Âme) is the autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. It was first published on September 30, 1898, a year to the day after her death from tuberculosis at the age of 24. The book was a single volume formed from three distinct manuscripts – manuscripts of different length, written at different times, addressed to different people, and differing from one another in character. The work of unifying these disparate manuscripts was carried out by Pauline, the sister of Thérèse. It was initially published with a limited audience in mind, the Carmelite convents and certain religious personalities, and just 2000 copies were printed. It quickly became a publishing phenomenon however and Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus was canonized in 1925.

Manuscript A, entitled The Story of a Little White Flower, and dedicated to her sister Pauline, was written between the beginning of January 1895, and the 20 January 1896. Pauline has described how, as she sat with her sisters on a winter evening in the one room of Carmel where there was a fire, the writing of the first manuscript was decided. ” One evening in the beginning of the year 1895, I was with my two sisters Marie and Thérèse. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus told me several happenings of her childhood and Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart (my eldest sister Marie) said to me; ‘O Mother, what a pity that all this should not be written down for us. If you were to ask Sister Thérèse to write down her childhood memories, how much pleasure this would give us!’..I turned to Sister Thérèse, who laughed as though we were teasing her, and said: ‘I order you to write down your memories of your childhood.’

Manuscript B is a letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart (the eldest sister of Thérèse), and written at her request in three days between the 13 and 16 September 1896. Marie asked Thérèse to write down her spiritual discoveries, what Marie described as her little way of trust and love.

The origin of the third part of the autobiography of Thérèse has been described by Pauline : “It seemed to me that these accounts were incomplete. Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus had concentrated on her childhood and early youth as I had asked her to do, her life as a nun was hardly sketched in. ..I thought it a great pity that she had not described the development of her life in the Carmel in the same way, but just then I had ceased to be Reverend Mother and Mother Marie de Gonzague held this office…seeing that Sister Thérèse was so ill..about midnight on the evening of the 2 June 1897..I went to see Mother Prioress.” Pauline asked the Prioress to order Thérèse to write about her life as a religious and the next morning Marie de Gonzague did so… Most of this manuscript was written during the month of June, 1897. Thérèse stopped writing in the first days of July, 1897. “Eventually the pencil fell from her hand as she wrote the last word, love. It is the final word of all three manuscripts.”

(source)
A Story of a Soul is available for reading at Storyofasoul.com and Project Gutenberg.

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