Monthly Letter
September 2004
Padre Pio Prayer Groups
Office of the National Director

St. Francis Renewal Center
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809

Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio,

The Lord give you His peace!

Throughout the twenty-five years plus of the pontificate of our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, our Catholic Church has seen hundreds of men and women beatified and canonized. These men and women are the Church's "Hall of Famers" in the Spirit. They are our heroes. They stand out as examples to encourage and assist us on our journey through life.

It is interesting how biographies written about the same person can be so different. Their lives are seen from the perspective of the writer. Thus, the illusions of sanctity, rather than its reality, color the vision the writer has of the person and the events of his / her life. Often they are portrayed as having been born ready-made saints. We do not notice in these lives the relationship between them and sinful humanity. We pray to them for spiritual and material assistance because their holiness makes them "powerful before God". We forget that they too, as we now, fought the battle and struggled through life cooperating with God's grace and seeking to live more profoundly in the Father's Will.

They grew in holiness as they grew in their human-ness. Our saints and blesseds were not born holy; they all were born in original sin. They did not levitate at every moment, nor did they heal everyone they touched, nor did they convert everyone who heard them speak, nor were their lives filled with unlimited success in all their ventures. They were as human as we are. Many were veritable human failures throughout their lives. The saints are called to be signs of contradiction. They live in this world as pilgrims and strangers. They participate in all the legitimate demands of nature and society, but have their hearts set on the home prepared for us by the Father. They live with their feet well planted on earth but with their hearts rooted in heaven. As Saint Irenaeus states: "The glory of God is the person fully alive", thus fully human.

"Fully alive people", our mission is that of being members of the Mystical Body of Christ, fully alive in love, one for another, supporting each other in our quest for holiness through prayer and service. We are witnesses to unity in our one Lord and one faith in the one Church of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, unity of mind and heart must always be a priority among us, unity within our particular groups, unity among the groups of our region, nation and the world. We express our unity as faithful children of Padre Pio by our unequivocal fidelity to the Holy Father and the teachings of the Magisterium, by faithfulness to the requisites of our Statutes that form a bond among all the Prayer Groups of the world in our common monthly practices, and by our humble acceptance of each other in the Group.

September 17th is the Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis. Our Seraphic Father St. Francis bore the wounds of Jesus as the epitome of a life totally immersed in the Incarnate Word. St. Francis bore the wounds of the Passion for several years before the end of his life. There is also another day - not a liturgical feast - that all Padre Pio's Spiritual Children remember, September 20th, the day Padre Pio received the visible Stigmata (September 20, 1918). Padre Pio bore them for fifty years. Both men were set aside by God to be living witnesses to a world grown cold to Eternal Love. Both men accepted to be a living Crucifix that others, through them, might return more deeply into the embrace of God's grace and the unity of the Mystical Body - the Church. Both men entered into the mystery of God's love. Both men became living instruments of God's powerful presence among His people, touching and transforming those lives open to the Father's Will.

As we celebrate the feast of our beloved Padre Pio, let us strive to live in the spirit he wanted to instill in his children. As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio we are people of faith, prayer, witness, service called to unity in mind and heart for the glory of God, edification of his people and the salvation of our souls.

Faith leads us to God who lifts us up to know Him and realize that we are valuable to Him and have something to offer others. Prayer places us in a continued relationship with God that allows us to be open to the Lord who speaks to the depths of our hearts leading us along the way to Him. Service is the expression in act of our faith and trust in God that gives to others what God has given to us in blessing. As we realize the value of our service to one another, we accept the Suffering (or Burdens) attached to doing the right and good thing when others may criticize us for it. This leads us to be Witnesses (Good Examples) of all we believe, thus encouraging others in our common journey to God, inviting them to accept the challenge to become "holy as your heavenly Father is holy". This simple daily process leads to Unity of mind and heart. Jesus prayed for this unity the night before He died, and Padre Pio sought to instill this same spirit of unity in his Spiritual Children as a bulwark against the seductions of a materialistic world.

Is this not the process that we as Spiritual Children of Padre Pio are called to follow? Are we not expected to give witness to our faith by supporting one another as a family in communion with the Church and one another, united in prayer and service? Are these not the qualities Padre Pio expected of those who accepted the challenge of being hearts ablaze with love and beacons of light witnessing God's presence in a world that has grown cold to His love?

How many of our brothers and sisters celebrate Padre Pio of Pietrelcina in their personal private prayers! How many speak about Padre Pio and his life! All this is well and good. Remember, however, that the value of devotion we have for a saint is based not on how much lip-service we offer in his / her honor, but how much we are willing to emulate and imitate the virtues and counsels of the one whom we honor. With the transparency of a child and the straightforwardness of one who lives in the Truth, Padre Pio opened the hearts of others to the truth about themselves "without gloss". He held nothing back. He expected his "children" to live in the truth about God and themselves, and to be faithful to the Church and united members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

The holiness we seek is so close to us and yet so far: Close, because it is accessible; far, because we hesitate to let go of our comfort zones of self-centeredness. Our gatherings must be prayerful, and centered on the Eucharist, the Rosary and the sharing of our Catholic values, in the presence and with the qualified input of the Spiritual Director. Our unity and strength as examples of praying communities find their strength and expression through our intensity and faithfulness to the spirit of the Prayer Groups. In light of this, I ask all the members of our Prayer Groups to please strive to live the spiritual foundation encouraged by Padre Pio himself and contained in our Statutes.

May God bless you, Our Lady guide, guard and protect you, and Padre Pio watch over all of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. May he help us, as we celebrate his Feast day, to learn from his life to live as faithful children of so loving and caring a father.

Peace and Blessings,

Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
National Director