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Why Purgatory?

In November, the Catholic faithful remember especially in prayer those persons who have passed away from this earthly life, especially those who are in purgatory. There are many misconceptions about this teaching, which itself stems from early Judeo-Christian tradition and teachings.

To examine purgatory, we begin with this question: Does God have expectations of humanity? I believe anyone who prayerfully reads the Scriptures would answer yes, because throughout the Bible, God reveals his desire for relationship with us – and every relationship has expectations.

Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This should encourage us, because God is the source of all love and everything that is good.

Still, we find it difficult to live in perfect union with our Heavenly Father, who has revealed his love to us. Jesus tells us, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We are commanded to do this; something we can only do with the help of God’s grace.

That grace comes to us, discovering the joyful plan that God has for us, when we make God our priority; through a commitment to daily prayer and faith formation as revealed through the Scriptures and the Church. We’ve seen this lived by so many role models, including the saints.

What happens, however, if we ignore God, and allow our appetites and desires to dominate us? Since we are made in God’s image and likeness, living such a life ultimately leads to unhappiness and hopelessness. Does this mean God is finished with us? No, God’s love sustains us even when we choose to be far from him; he desires the salvation of all humanity.

What happens to the millions of people who believe in God, and yet live with little regard for faithfulness to his revelation? If in the end, they repent and seek his mercy, we believe that they may be saved, but will need to be purified before uniting themselves totally with God in the glory of heaven. Thus, purgatory is not a final destination, but more like a journey through which some souls undergo “on their way” to heaven.

Pope Saint John Paul II wrote that, at the end of our lives, “We present ourselves before the power of Love itself… It is Love that demands purification, before man can be made ready for that union with God which is his ultimate vocation and destiny.”

Our ancient belief in purgatory is fundamentally based on how much our loving God wants us to live perfectly united with him for all eternity, even if we haven’t been perfect. For this reason, at every Mass everyday throughout the world, we pray for those who have died. We believe that prayer can assist them in their purification process, just as our prayers assisted them in their earthly trials.

Truly, Scripture teaches us that our present trials and difficulties can help us make reparation for our sins against God and humanity, if we intentionally unite them with the sufferings of Christ.

However, at the end of our life, if we have not rejected God and yet have not reached the state of perfection that God has expected of us, in his mercy, he will purify our soul after death through what we call purgatory.

Deacon Tom Fox is co-director & co-founder of Pilgrim Center of Hope. This column was originally submitted for the San Antonio Express-News “Belief” column in its Faith section.

A Fresh Look at the Rosary

Originally printed as San Antonio Express-News “Belief” Column

The Roman Catholic Feast of the Holy Rosary on Oct. 7 offers an opportunity to introduce the rosary, an iconic image to some and a religious symbol to others, to all Christians and people of prayer.

While some people wear it as jewelry, the Catholic faithful see the rosary as the anchor to their prayer life, a revered string of 59 beads that begins and ends with the crucifix, Jesus Christ on the cross of salvation.

Any glossary of Catholic terms will tell you the rosary is a sacramental, a tangible object, which when blessed by a priest, carries with it a power strengthened by one’s faith. Like a talisman believed to have powers, a rosary is considered a special object and is often passed down through generations.

Like other sacramentals such as holy medals and prayer cards depicting saints, the rosary is cherished because it might have been used by a bearer throughout their prayer life. It’s not uncommon to see a Catholic buried with a rosary in hand as proof of their love for Jesus Christ.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is of my dear mother, praying the rosary every night before bed. Her prayers were always for friends and family, most especially her children. She prayed for our protection, success, good health and happiness, if it be God’s will.

That gives me great consolation and has instilled in me a deep interest in the rosary. The more I have learned about it, the more I have relied on it.

The rosary cord contains 59 beads separated into sections of 10 beads called decades. They come in all colors, sizes and styles.

Originally, it contained three sets of five mysteries, or events, in the life of Christ — the joyful ones surrounding his birth; the sorrowful events of his passion, or suffering; and the glorious events about his resurrection.

When first introduced, the rosary was popularized by illiterate Christians unable to read the Bible. The devotion was popularized also by the Dominican order in the 13th century; by the 16th century, it took the form used today.

In an apostolic letter in October 2002, Pope St. John Paul II — known as the pope of the rosary — recommended an additional set of mysteries, called the luminous mysteries, or the “mysteries of light,” that focus on Christ’s public ministry.

John Paul II said the rosary is a gospel prayer in which, with Mary, we contemplate the face of Jesus.

The words of the prayers — the Our Father and the Hail Mary — are scripturally based. The Hail Mary consists largely of Bible verses in the Gospel of Luke 1: 28-45 and reflect major moments in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

Even non-Catholics pray the rosary. “I’m a Methodist,” one said, “but I absolutely adore the rosary, and prayer beads of all kinds. I love that with a simple set of beads I can meditate on the entire life of Christ as seen by the woman through whom he is genetically related to the rest of us. Prayer beads help me focus my mind, something that is difficult at times.”

The rosary is a family prayer and a way to teach children about the life of Christ. It can be prayed in less than half an hour, and the beads enable you to free your mind from the task of counting.

For anyone seeking to grow closer to God through prayer, the rosary offers a path to a relationship with him. The rosary has given hope to many who feel lost or alone and is a source of hope and not superstition.

Robert V. Rodriguez is the public relations and outreach assistant at Pilgrim Center of Hope. He writes about the Catholic faith for TV, radio, blogs, print and social media.

350 Renewed In Hope: Prayer Brunch 25th Anniversary (Videos & Photos)

SAN ANTONIO – Nearly 350 persons participated in Pilgrim Center of Hope’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Prayer Brunch on Saturday, September 22 at the Omni Hotel at the Colonnade. Festivities included “Saints Alive” – volunteer actors portraying Saints Anthony de Padua, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Francisco & Jacinta Marto; Silent Auction with unique items as well as opportunities for attendees to sponsor monthly needs of the ministry, and the debut of a new video called “Casting Three Nets” which leads viewers through a mini spiritual pilgrimage around Galilee with testimonies from persons who have been impacted by Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Mark Your Calendar – Next year’s Prayer Brunch is set for October 12, 2019 at the Omni Hotel at the Colonnade!

Congratulations to Raffle Winners…

Renee Talamantez (Holy Trinity parishioner)
Cres Wellman (St. Matthew parishioner)
Rosie Farias (St. Matthew parishioner)
Mr. & Mrs. Roger and Elida Robles (Holy Trinity parishioners)
Cora Lunan (Our Lady of Perpetual Help/Selma parishioner)
Cristina Contreras (Holy Name parishioner)

A highlight was the keynote address, “Becoming People of Hope,” by Paulist Father Bruce Nieli, a Missionary of Mercy commissioned by Pope Francis, and a founding Board Member of Pilgrim Center of Hope:

Pilgrim Center of Hope staff members also spoke about Pilgrim Center of Hope’s past, present, future, and why it is unique among other Catholic ministries:

Event Photo Gallery (Photographer: Daniela Garcia)

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Local Prisoners Touch Calvary

Left: Looking up from inside the cell, seeing the hole from which Jesus would have been lowered by a rope around his waist. Right: Pilgrims gather inside the cell to pray.

Jesus was held captive within the ancient cistern pictured above, which is located beneath the former house of Caiaphas in Jerusalem. Today, a church called St. Peter Gallicantu surrounds the cistern and the house, to preserve the sites where Christ began his Passion.

Two pilgrims who journeyed with us to the Holy Land last year, Gene and Terri Espinoza, were so touched by their pilgrimage experience that they decided to enter bereavement ministry and prison ministry. Recently, Terri shared with us about how going on pilgrimage with Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH) impacted and transformed her and her husband.

At Calvary, where Christ was crucified, Terri had a moving experience; she recounted her realization, “I felt so grateful to have a merciful Jesus, who through his suffering gives us everlasting Life. […] That became very real….life is going to go on because of his death.” The faith of Terri and Gene came alive on pilgrimage, in a way it never had before.

Now, the Espinozas share their hope and sense of being loved by God with the prison inmates to whom they minister. When they pray together, Gene and Terri share with inmates from their personal experiences of being where Jesus, too, was a prisoner and suffered out of love for them. Each inmate has a chance to hold an olive wood crucifix from the Holy Land that contains a stone from Calvary (a gift especially for this purpose, from PCH Directors Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox).

Terri became emotional as she told us how inmates bathe this crucifix in their tears, while she and Gene remind them that, “Jesus is waiting…if we just open our lives to him and make him part of our everyday lives.”

Join us on a life-changing journey of faith! Learn more about our Ministry of Pilgrimages here.

Women’s Conference impacts 1400 women, communities

Women from as close as San Antonio and as far as Nigeria came to Pedrotti’s North Wind Ranch Event Center in Helotes on July 27 and 28 for the 17th annual Catholic Women’s Conference. They came to be taught, inspired, and challenged in what the Catholic faith professes on the dignity and vocation of woman.

On the first evening of this 2-day conference produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry located in San Antonio, the following was read from the Address of Pope Paul VI to Women on the occasion of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, December 8, 1965:

And now it is to you that we address ourselves, women of all states—girls, wives, mothers and widows, to you also, consecrated virgins and women living alone—you constitute half of the immense human family. As you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.

“This message was written to all women, and is what the Catholic Church has always professed, but is rarely heard – even by Catholic women,” says conference founder and ministry co-director, Mary Jane Fox.

Fox explains that it is a goal of Pilgrim Center of Hope to ensure this message is heard because she says, “Women have it tough! Too high expectations are placed on women to be the smartest, most beautiful, and most ambitious in all things. Jesus Christ gives women another way, and it was as radical when He first delivered it as it is now: Be Women of Faith! In the Gospel, we hear Jesus praising women because of their faith. This is what matters to God, and our conference exists to deliver this message of hope for all women.”

To expound on this message of hope, speaker Colleen Mitchell spoke on ‘When We Were Eve,’ based on her book of the same title. She said, “As God created, He called everything ‘good’ – until it came to Adam being alone. Adam could not find another creature like him; that God said, ‘is not good.’ So, as His crowning glory, He created Eve to show Adam what it means to be human, causing Adam to proclaim, ‘At last bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!’ God called this Very Good!”

Was the message of hope heard by the women who attended?

According to one attendee, Amy Maloney, the answer is yes, “I think our world likes to pit women and men against one another. That is not how God created women and men to be. This conference has helped me to see that it is not an accident or a coincidence that I am a woman. I want to know more about how God sees me, why He created me to be a woman. That knowledge excites me; it gives me hope.”

Archbishop’s Visit on 25th Anniversary

We begin the month of July, having reached a major milestone in the history of Pilgrim Center of Hope (PCH); the celebration of our 25th anniversary! June 18 was a historical day for PCH, marked by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S celebrating Mass, blessing the land for the future site of Stella Maris Center for evangelization, and graciously remaining with us to visit and enjoy anniversary cake with all those present.

As part of his homily, Archbishop Gustavo shared his thoughts about Pilgrim Center of Hope: It’s a blessing to see how God is calling people to a closer relationship with Him. To be living stones in the Church and to proclaim the Good News of the Lord. So, we pray that the goal of the new Stella Maris Center is fulfilled as this new step is taken to be faithful to your mission.

Praise be to God, not only for having Archbishop Gustavo present, but also for those PCH Missionaries of Hope who filled our Gethsemane Chapel with their spirit of hope and for sharing their joy throughout our day of celebration. We are grateful for everyone who has made possible these 25 years of fulfilling the urgent mission of hope.

Why the Blessing Now?

From the very beginning, we have striven to obey God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, making sure to always have the blessing of our Archbishop (of the Archdiocese of San Antonio) before we move forward with any major efforts. We began PCH in 1993 with the blessing of Archbishop Patricio F. Flores, received the blessing of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, and now the renewed blessing of Archbishop Gustavo as we move forward with our Building Hope Initiative (the realization of our additional evangelization center).

This is an exercise of 2 of our Core Values; Humility & Trust and Docility & Discernment.

Throughout this journey, which began at the Sea of Galilee and was confirmed at the Garden of Gethsemane, the mission of ‘Guiding People to Christ’ has borne much fruit, because we have followed the teaching of St. Benedict to balance prayer and work (ora et labora). Prayer and work go hand-in-hand, and we should approach both with constant effort; the journey to heaven is a long pilgrimage.

Minute of Hope!

Each month, listen to local Catholic radio for a Minute of Hope from Pilgrim Center of Hope!

Minute of Hope – June 2018

Forming A Forgiving Heart with Mary

Now available to listen! An audio recording of “Forming A Forgiving Heart with Mary,” an Evening with Mary presented by Pilgrim Center of Hope. Alexandra Kubebatu, a local author and evangelist, shares with you her presentation given during Evenings with Mary about forgiveness.

One of the most difficult spiritual challenges to overcome is forgiving someone who has caused us physical, emotional, and mental pain. Sometimes the betrayal can be overwhelming, and we may be inclined to re-live those events in our minds. Our hearts may want to harbor the pain for years, or even decades. Mary is the epitome of true mercy and forgiveness, and teaches us how to move past the pain and into the fullness of Christ. Please join us for this Evening with Mary on how, through Mary’s example, Christ can heal our hearts through the power of forgiveness.

Evenings with Mary are mini-conferences (typically in a parish church) that welcome anyone who desires more peace in his or her life—including families—and who is open to learning about Mary’s role in God’s plan for us. Through presentations that are crafted for any Christian, and enriched by meditative prayer of the Rosary, you will receive spiritual tools and examples of how Mary can assist you in your daily journey of faith.

Are you interested in bringing an Evening with Mary to your parish? We only need Father’s blessing & your help; many presentation topics are available… Contact us!

Newspaper Column on Eucharist

The following Pilgrim Center of Hope “Living Catholicism” column appears in Today’s Catholic newspaper (June 8, 2018 edition).

In that little host is the solution to all the problems of the world.

These words of John Paul II on the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ give an answer to so many questions, doubts, and problems people experience today. In that little host is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ; also referred to as his Real Presence who dwells in the Tabernacle.

Volumes have been written on this greatest and most fundamental mystery. Christians have given their lives for the Eucharist, people have become Catholic because of the Eucharist, healings have occurred because of the Eucharist. John Paul II continues, The church draws her life from the Eucharist.

For 2,000 years, Catholics have believed this truth, and have offered the sacrifice of the Mass every day throughout the whole world. What a consolation to know there is a Mass offered somewhere in the world at every hour, considering the various time zones and churches throughout the world. The words of the Eucharistic Prayer during the Mass include each one of us and those who have left the Church: Father, hear the prayers of the family you have gathered here before you. In mercy and love unite all your children wherever they may be.

Discover Jesus in the Eucharist
Father John A. Hardon, S.J. wrote extensively about the Catholic faith. He states, We believe that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ – simply, without qualification. It is God become man in the fullness of his divine nature, in the fullness of his human nature, in the fullness of his body and soul, in the fullness of everything that makes Jesus. He is in the Eucharist with his human mind and will united with the divinity, with his hands and feet, his face and features, with his eyes and lips and ears and nostrils, with his affections and emotions and, with emphasis, with his living, pulsating, physical Sacred Heart. That is what our Catholic faith demands of us that we believe. If we believe this, we are Catholic. If we do not, we are not, no matter what people may think we are.

Spiritual writers identify the Eucharist as the Presence Sacrament. Christ is on earth. He wants to perform miracles of his grace, especially miracles of conversion in what is becoming a Christ-less age. The key to tapping the resources of his grace is our deep faith in Christ’s living presence among us in the Blessed Sacrament.
Go to him!

  • Take time to adore Him. Make an appointment with Jesus; we do for so many other things in our life. There are numerous churches offering availability for Adoration. St. Maximilian Kolbe said: God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.
  • Take a couple of moments after receiving the Eucharist at Mass to thank Him for this gift. He is in your soul. Take Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s advice: If I can give you any advice, I beg you to get closer to Jesus in the Eucharist.
  • Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation to prepare you to receive the Real Presence.

Leave behind for a while the noise, the agitation, the superficial; and enter into this time of silence where he awaits you. In this encounter with Jesus, we do not seek entertainment or comfort. We seek God. It is a challenge demanding effort and sacrifice. Have an encounter with Jesus, mysteriously present in the Eucharist. Discover the joy of adoring him in a silence of love.

In that little host is the solution to the problems of the world; this reality becomes our hope for our daily journey.

Mary Jane Fox, along with her husband Deacon Tom Fox, are co-founders and co-directors of Pilgrim Center of Hope. Living Catholicism is a regular column of this Catholic evangelization ministry that is answering Christ’s call, by guiding people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. PilgrimCenterofHope.org

Facebook Live! Q&A

So many people feel drawn to a pilgrimage, but they aren’t sure how to make the best decision. With pilgrimages being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and our Ministry of Pilgrimages being an area of our expertise, we offered the first Pilgrim Center of Hope Pilgrimage Q&A Facebook Live! on Saturday, May 12.

Watch below. If you have any questions about pilgrimages, be sure to explore the Pilgrimages section of our website!

We welcome your calls & emails:
210-521-3377 or ministry@pilgrimcenterofhope.org