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An Example to Follow: Inspiration for My Ordinary Life

As my birthday approaches, and with it my sixtieth year of life, reality has been tapping me on the shoulder and whispering, “You have more years behind you than those which are to come.” This message could tempt me to despair. It could make me anxious. It could invade my peace with thoughts like, “I am running out of time to do anything extraordinary with my life!”

Thankfully, we have the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) in our Communion of Saints who show that God can transform our ordinary into his extraordinary at any age. We have young saints like Jacinta who was only seven when the Blessed Mother appeared to her at Fatima. We have old saints like Elizabeth who became the mother of St. John the Baptist in her advanced age. Considering my current state in life, it is the witness of St. Elizabeth I have been pondering lately.

St. Luke’s Gospel writes of the advent of the long-hoped for Messiah by first telling Elizabeth’s story…

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. (Luke 1:5-7)

Like the long liturgical time that precedes the Church’s season of Advent, Elizabeth’s story is marked by its ordinariness. Of all the pivotal players at God’s incarnation which include Mary, Joseph and Zechariah, Elizabeth is the only one who did not get a visit by an angel. Her barrenness and old age would seem to disqualify her from producing anything of worth; yet it was the Lord Jesus who said of Elizabeth’s son, I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John (Luke 7:28).

And what did Elizabeth really do? Surely becoming pregnant at an old age is unusual, but not unprecedented. When Sarah gave birth to Isaac, she was in her nineties (Genesis 17:17). Elizabeth did what is ordinary for a woman; she bore life into the world.

St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. “Prophet of the Most High,” John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom,” whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 523)

To which I symbolically drop the mic exclaiming, “…and his mother is Elizabeth!”

There are two messages we can learn from the example of St. Elizabeth.

Firstly, God views humanity differently than we see ourselves.

To God, Elizabeth was not barren, she was patient. We read that along with her husband, she was righteous in his eyes and obedient to his law. Unlike her husband, she was not struck mute due to a failure to believe (Luke 1:20). Despite her lack, she remained full of faith. In fact, God respected her so much that it was to St. Elizabeth he gave the honor of announcing to the world that the Son of God does indeed dwell among us.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,

Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. (Luke 1:41-45)

Secondly, God chooses us to play our part in his mission.

We each have our role to play in God’s Salvation Story. He is the hero. He is the protagonist, but he shares through grace all that each of us needs to join in his story, his mission. He states in the Gospel according to John 17:20-23:

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

St. Elizabeth answered blamelessly to God’s call for her by fulfilling her vocation to womanhood. She did so in many ways:

  • Through physical motherhood by giving birth to St. John the Baptist
  • Through the fertility of her will by remaining open to God’s plan for her
  • Through her spiritual fecundity in praising God with such boldness it sparked the Mother of God to proclaim:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever. (Luke 1:46-55)

Let us follow the example of St. Elizabeth to:

  • Be docile to God’s will and timing however long it takes
  • Remain steadfast in faith in him no matter what
  • Praise God and encourage others always
  • Welcome all who come to us in haste, whether holier than us or not
  • Put our life and vocation in God’s hands, confident he will be the one to exalt us

…so that others will follow us!


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 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.

Jesus, What Is Your Plan for Me?

Have you caught yourself asking this question?  Asked by young and old throughout generations, it continues to be a question that causes one to wonder if there is a plan the Lord has for each one of us.

I have asked the Lord for direction, and have prayed, “I would like a stone tablet in the mailbox please!”

Oh, if it would be that easy, one would not need faith and trust in the Divine Savior who knows us more than we know ourselves! It is incredible to ponder that reality; the Divine Savior knows us. So you may think, Well if he knows us, tell me what to do! 

Importance of Our Will

Recently, I read a book titled Finding True Happiness containing excerpts from the many writings of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. One chapter especially struck me because he described the will of every person as the secret to true happiness.  Sheen writes:

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.

This should strike our minds and hearts! Each person has a will, a freedom to make choices.  Sheen continues:

We always make the fatal mistake of thinking that it is what we do that matters, when really what matters is what we let God do to us.  […] Since God is a better artisan than you, the more you abandon yourself to Him, the happier He can make you.

When we ask Jesus, What is your plan for me? we can think about our own will. Will we chose to know the Divine Savior? I believe two elements are important: prayer and trust.

Prayer

True happiness begins with a relationship with God that develops from our prayer life, which is primarily communication with God.

  • Part of that prayer is encountering God by reading the Scriptures, which contain his general plan for all humanity. The more we read the Scriptures and spend time in prayer, we begin to see that God is a Father who loves us and wants what is best for us.
  • Silence is important. Spend time in silence to hear God speak. Silence is difficult at first, but if you persevere, it will be rewarding. I never heard God’s “voice”, but I have received insights in my quiet prayer that helped me to draw closer to God. It is not possible to have a relationship with God or discover his plan without prayer.

Trust

Trusting is a form of hope. It is believing God will bestow grace when we do what we can.

Men and women through the history of Church who have become canonized saints are great witnesses of trust and hope!  This is why it is so important to read the lives of the saints. They are so inspiring! Some became saints by reading the lives of other saints. We see that they all had their difficulties to bear and yet they lived in great peace and happiness. This is because they learned to trust God with their entire life. They knew that any difficulty they experienced would unite them more closely to God and lead to greater happiness.

When we put our total trust in God, he may take us to places we do not want to go, but he will walk with us through our trial and bring us to a place of great joy and peace. We can only reach our potential for happiness through perseverance in prayer and total trust in God.

John Henry Newman, the 19th-century’s most important English-speaking Roman Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer, and eminent theologian in both churches.

I came across one of his meditations offering encouragement and hope.  May it inspire you to ponder God’s presence in your life!

The Mission of My Life
A Spiritual Reflection by St. John Henry Cardinal Newman

God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.


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 Can I Possibly Make A Difference?

Life can be overwhelming, especially when we consider all the problems in the world, in our country, our state, city, neighborhood, family, and our own selves.

Most of us do not have vast circles of influence, nor huge sums of money to fund solutions to the giant questions and tough issues of our time. We’re people who work, are retired, handicapped, sick… So, how in the world can we reconcile our daily lives with Jesus’ bold prophecy?

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Especially in the United States, we tend to maintain an attitude of “taking things on” and “tackling” them ourselves. However, as our Pilgrim Center of Hope chaplain reminded us at Mass this past Friday, we are not alone! When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we don’t say, “My Father who art in heaven…” Each of us is a member of a family; of the Body of Christ.

Examples of Hope

Driving home this reality is a long list of people who lived in almost complete obscurity, and are now saints who are celebrated worldwide.

This year, our staff has been teaching each other about a different holy woman or man. Among them is Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who was inspired by Jesus’ life of obscurity in Nazareth. Although he lived as a hermit in the Middle East, there are still communities of people who have been inspired to follow his example of simplicity.

Another saint we have met is André Bessette, who lived in Canada filling ‘hidden’ positions such as doorkeeper, laundry worker, and sacristan. Yet, his relationship with God was so obvious to those who encountered him, that his prayers were greatly sought-after. Even during his humble life on earth, many miracles were attributed to his prayerful intercession.

Although we may think that we cannot make a difference in the people or situations of our lives, we can look to the saints and to the Gospel for reminders of the truth. You are an important member of the Body of Christ. Ask God to invite others into the lives or situations that you feel you cannot impact alone. As long as we strive to follow Jesus, uniting ourselves with the entire Church as the Body of Christ, God’s grace will change the world far beyond what we could imagine.

Let’s strive to live each day of our lives with 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.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for nearly 10 years.