Monthly Letter
April, 2005
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,

Alleluia! He is Risen! The Joy of the Risen Lord be with all of you! Alleluia!

At daybreak on the first day of the week, they (the women) took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb (to anoint the body of Jesus). They found the stone rolled away from the tomb... Two men in dazzling garments appeared to them...They said to them, why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you...(Luke 24: 1-7).

Holy Week had devastated the followers of Jesus. They had lived in the light of His spiritual power and human magnetism during His three-year ministry. They had been deeply concerned about the escalating open animosity of the leaders of the people, but not worried; they knew Jesus would take care of them. But now, betrayed, captured, accused and could they believe that He was alive? No one was capable of extricating himself from this definitive situation called Death! Even the two disciples on the way to Emmaus that first Easter Sunday, when questioned by Jesus whom they had met on the way without recognizing Him, recount the report of the women at the tomb and still say, We had hoped. They no longer hoped. Hope was a wonderful memory of times that were. They were going back to their home. Why stay in Jerusalem any longer to carry on the mission of a dead man?! They still loved Him, but at this moment, death seemed stronger than love.

The fire of love and the flicker of faith had not been fanned by firm belief but covered over and even blown down to a faint spark by discouragement and fear. Fear about their own future led to worry. Worry led to doubt. Doubt led to skepticism and cynicism, even at othersí personal experience of the Risen Lord. However, they still could not stop loving the One Who had always been so patient, compassionate, understanding and loving with them. But to believe in life from death...NO WAY! But they would soon surprisingly realize that no matter how dark the night...You canít hold back the dawn!

Life is filled with dark moments. The sun seems to lose its light everyday at dusk when we see it go below the horizon, ushering in the darkness of night. The moon at night is often overshadowed by storm clouds or by the earth itself during an eclipse, making the night so dark. Discouragement from illness, loneliness, unsuccessful endeavors, broken relationships, an uncertain future, etc. dampen or destroy hope in tomorrow, darkening our ability to see the possibilities available to us and to discover the courage deep within each one of us urging us to confidently forge ahead. Fear at some unexpected or unwanted situation or circumstance makes us unable to go beyond the moment. Our love urges us to go and weep our misfortunes at the tomb of the Loved-One Who died, rather than to continue our course in the joy-filled expectation of meeting the Risen Lord of Glory and God of Life on our journey. As the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we often lose hope in the One Who calls us to trust in Him Who is the Resurrection and the Life. When we are in the darkness of these moments, we must remember that midnight is the darkest moment of night that signals the beginning of the coming of the light, because...You canít hold back the dawn!

Our own Padre Pio was no stranger to those dark nights that shake the person to the very roots of belief and trust. A light of encouragement and direction for thousands of souls, Padre Pio would lay bare his soul to his Spiritual Director expressing the anguish he felt during the periods of spiritual darkness he was asked to endure. He participated in the mystery of the Cross in its ultimate expression of victimhood. He became the victim of his own love for God, a victim who lives and loves in the darkness of unknowing while at the same time shining in a world for others to see more clearly themselves and their God. His personal Via Crucis would stand out for all people as a reminder of that one and only Passion-Death-Resurrection of the Lord of history, Whose Paschal Mystery made heaven accessible for all eternity to those who lived in the brilliant light of the shadow of the Cross. Through all he was asked to bear, Padre Pio maintained a joyful and balanced demeanor that never suggested anything of the trials he was asked to sustain for the glory of God and the good of souls.

The Minister General of our Capuchin Franciscan Order, having spoken with Padre Pio on a personal visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, wrote: I was profoundly impressed by his...serenity...humility...manner of speaking...constant recollection...tender affection for the Superiors...his sound and unexaggerated piety and modesty. Padre Pioís participation in the Passion of Jesus, both at Mass and in his daily experiences, may have affected his senses or shaken his body, but never unbalanced his soul that already lived in a union of love and grace with God. He shared and lived the Easter gifts: Pardon, Peace and the Paraclete. While bearing the signs of the Passion of the Christ on his body, Padre Pio already lived in the light of the Resurrection. Why?... because You canít hold back the dawn!, even for one who is asked to live in the darkness of unknowing for himself. The Spirit with Whom he was filled made him an instrument of rebirth and joy. The pardon he administered in the name of God to suffering souls, and the peace they saw, felt and received made Easter joy come alive once again in their lives. Christ was alive and well! He, the Lord of Life, came to dispel their darkness through Padre Pioís ministry because...You canít hold back the dawn!

Easter is the dawning of a new and brilliant day for all who call Jesus, Lord-Savior, Redeemer, GOD - enfleshed in human history! His Resurrection is the beginning of what humanity had dreamed of experiencing for centuries. Humanityís hopes and fears which met at Bethlehem when the manger embraced the Infant Jesus, are raised on Calvary in Jesusí tortured presence, fulfilled and dispelled at the empty tomb in one eternal blast of glory. The stone of ignorance, fear, prejudice, pride, indifference, over-indulgence, hypocrisy, etc. is rolled away in one eternal burst of love. Christís Resurrection brings new meaning and light to any difficulties or doubts we might have harbored within our hearts, because...You canít hold back the dawn!

Our Lenten journey took us through a re-evaluation of our relationship with God, an accountability for our personal response to Godís graces, and an awareness of our responsibility for the life of those around us. We realize that we have fallen short in all these areas. We may have felt discouraged at the picture our heart painted for us. We forget what Jesus tells us over and over again: I am the Resurrection and the Life. He is the One Who conquers the darkness of our doubts. He is the One Who saves us from ourselves and our sins. He is the One Who redeems us so that heaven is ours. He is the visible image of the Eternal God Who loves us beyond all imagining. He is the Light Who enlightens all who believe in Him. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Love can and will do that, because... You canít hold back the dawn!

Our love for God, ourselves and each other is often affected by the dark moments we experience around us. We forget to let love have its moment of truth and shine through the spiritual or physical shadows we allow to darken our lives. But...You canít hold back the dawn!

On Resurrection Sunday the stone must be rolled away - the stone of those many things that we have allowed to close us in on ourselves and shut us out from the light and life God has entrusted to us; God and we roll that boulder away together. We peer into the empty tomb. We recognize Godís messengers and message in the people and circumstances of life. When we accept our moment in life and believe in the Lordís Resurrection, ignorance gives way to knowledge, fear to courage and strength, prejudice to impartiality and tolerance, pride to humility, indifference to concern, over-indulgence to self-control, hypocrisy to sincerity, discouragement to hope, doubt to faith, and hatred to love, because...You canít hold back the dawn!

Let the light of Christís Resurrection shine in your life. He came that we might have life, and have it in abundance. We who believe in Him are an Alleluia People called to preach with our lives that God is alive and well. Our God lives and journeys with each one of us that we might reach lifeís goal: eternal life with the Father, Whose Son, risen from the dead, tells us that...You canít hold back the dawn! ... of the new and eternal day we are all called to share.

May the Risen Lord Jesus shower you and your loved ones with peace, joy and abundant blessings for a Happy Easter; may Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, help you to live with Jesus in the light of the new life His Resurrection offers each one of us; and may Padre Pio watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Easter Blessings of Peace and Joy!

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