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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.

Conversions Through Our Witness

Do you see the brilliant light shining in the bleak picture often painted of the Church’s future?

Over my 10 years in high school youth ministry and catechesis, I’d often hear adults exchange their condolences with one another, imagining their beloved young person setting foot on a college campus and immediately throwing their Catholic identity aside.

While it’s true that college has traditionally been one of the first places where a young person’s faith is challenged by the convergence of diverse beliefs in their campus community, this should be something we—people who believe the Truth sets free—celebrate rather than fear.

The Center for Applied Research In the Apostolate (CARA) has found that 40 percent of people who entered the Church as adults entered between the ages of 18-29.

My Eyewitness Account

I began working for Pilgrim Center of Hope here in San Antonio ten years ago, as a senior finishing my B.A. degree. During my time at university, I witnessed the baptism of two students whom I personally knew, and another’s entrance into full communion with the Catholic Church from a strongly Protestant background.

Their conversions were not the result of any particular programs or courses.

These three individuals were a part of my circle of friends, which had at its core several young adults who were striving to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Let’s be saints!” we would say.

We lived joyfully, cultivating a little family among ourselves wherein God was loved. I then began to see that our love for God and one another was contagious.

University life fostered organic conversations about what mattered to us. We would gather together, toast some bread, sit on the floor of the dorms, and talk about what we believed. Some of my friends initiated works of mercy and invited others to come along. Some decided to start praying Night Prayer together in their dorm room.

Our youth gave us a great advantage: authenticity and less inhibition. Without the burden of worry, we openly invited and welcomed people to come along to prayer or works of charity, or to meet our consecrated lay friends.

Soon, the dorm room was not big enough to hold the number of people who wished to stay for Night Prayer. Soon, our few shifts for Eucharistic Adoration at the parish next-door became a regular on-campus Adoration time for students. Soon, those who had never given much thought to religious faith were donning baptismal gowns.

How We Successfully Evangelize

Pope St. Paul VI hit the nail on its head when he said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

Programs, books, campaigns, and projects for evangelization are all wonderful things. At their core, however, they will only be successful if they are accompanied by our authentic Christian witness; our actual living of the Good News.

I learned this principle first-hand on my college campus. I see its vindication each day working for Pilgrim Center of Hope, which is primarily built on the grassroots model of evangelization that God himself established in the life of Jesus Christ and is carried on in the daily lives of Christians. Every day, my coworkers and I see the fruit that grows from the seed of God’s grace, planted in the authentic Christian lives of parents, friends, children, coworkers, and neighbors.

Yes, the rate of persons who leave or disown religious faith is increasing, but do not despair. This reality should remind us of the urgency of Christ’s calling for us to spread the Gospel.

We “are children of the light and children of the day” (1 Thess 5:5). We are not called to spend our time in anxiety or worry; on the contrary, we are called

“to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made [us] fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light” (Col 1:10-12)!

Let’s accept this challenge, and welcome God’s abundant gifts to help us live each day with hope. By living this way in our daily responsibilities—wherever God has placed us, be assured that we are each sharing the Gospel. That is Good News!


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.

Young Adults Today

Did you know that there are many active young adult Catholics? Young adult Catholics today are seeking the truth about God and the Church.

Jessica Rendon welcomes guests, Mario Moreno, President of Young Catholic Professionals’ San Antonio Chapter, and DJ Bernal, founder of Modern Teen Ministries and inspirational Catholic speaker, to discuss the state of young adults in the Church today.

Watch this week’s episode below!

Related

Young Adult Ministry Beliefs and Teachings from the USCCB.

Connect with Young Catholic Professionals nearest you! 
Click here for San Antonio. Click here for other cities.

Connect with DJ Bernal, Catholic Christian evangelist & speaker

Archdiocese of San Antonio Young Adult Groups – not all current ministries are listed here; please contact Ademola for further inquiries at sacyal.archdiocese@gmail.com Archdiocese of S.A. Young Adult Ministry FB Page

Youth Ministry in San Antonio

Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI, talks with Rudy and Delfie Garcia about their youth ministry experience in San Antonio, Texas.