Monthly Letter
June, 2005

Padre Pio Prayer Groups

National Office

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

Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio,

The Lord give you His peace!

This month we celebrate the anniversary of the canonization of the Founder and Father of our Association, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. Father's Day, June 16, 2002 was a triumphant day for thousands of people who had stormed heaven for years praying that their Spiritual Father and Founder would be declared a saint in the Church. The spirit and fame of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, the holy friar consigned to the then forgotten mountain-town of San Giovanni Rotondo, had gone beyond the confines of his solitary mountain refuge and had reached deep into the hearts and lives of so many people around the world.

The life of Padre Pio was filled with unique expressions of God's favor for him. His mystical experiences were a prelude to that awesome moment when the marks of our salvation would be impressed on his body for the world to see. Skeptics and cynics both had to retreat before the obvious image of the Crucified imprinted on his body. Those who examined and studied this man's life and spirit were left perplexed. No explanations could be given that would satisfy and exhaust the questions that society and science asked concerning the exceptional character and influence of this simple friar who awakened the spirits of millions, even those in the higher echelons of the Church and the world.

He was gifted with keen insight and foresight. His spiritual gifts of reading hearts, communicating in languages that he neither spoke nor had studied, knowledge of events as they happened in any part of the world and the ability to respond immediately, even before the parties involved in them had begun to write him asking his assistance, were undeniably authenticated by hundreds. His bouts with Satan - that others heard and feared because of the ferociousness of the sounds that emanated from his room - and his sternness with those who treated sin in their life with a blasť attitude, made people reflect and prepare well before they entertained thoughts of reconciling with God through him. His love for children, the local people, and all those who came to him with sincerity and simplicity, mellowed the image he portrayed at times of a seemingly harsh prophet of the Most High. All these traits spoke of a man deeply in love with God and all of God's children. They spoke of a man who was determined to help everyone he could to get to heaven. He himself would say that he was going to ask God not to let him enter heaven so that he could wait at heaven's gate until all of his Spiritual Children had safely entered. Who are his Spiritual Children? They are those who accept the challenge he gave to live Jesus, close to the Eucharist, with Mary, united as faithful children of God, loyal to Peter and his successors, living in charity one for another.

I could have mentioned the many hours he spent each day in prayer and reflection, or the depth of unity of spirit and body with the Eucharistic Mystery he celebrated and entered into each day at the altar, or the childlike love he had for our Mother Mary, or the concern he had for the poor and needy, especially those who suffered from any physical and spiritual infirmity that debilitated them and made them dependant on the charity and concern of others. While these are traits that indicate the depth of a person's relationship with God and his faith, as well as his love for all, unfortunately, the others are the ones that most people seek out when they search for the "saint".

We look for the "miracle-worker" rather than the man of virtue. We look for the power of God working through someone, rather the grace of God transforming one into an image of Jesus. We are "wowed" by the extraordinary, and fail to be overwhelmed by the ordinary expressions that breathe a serene and peace-filled holiness that gently leads others to come to the Lord. We look for the levitations, bilocations, prophecies fulfilled, and the like, but fail to recognize one who lives in heaven on earth, whose spirit reaches around the world and whose words fill the lives of others with encouragement and peace because he is a man deeply in love with and immersed in the divine life of God. Padre Pio lived with his heart in heaven but with his feet well grounded in the realities of the twentieth century.

Recently, I returned with a group from a brief pilgrimage to Italy. We were privileged to visit Assisi, San Giovanni Rotondo, Monte Sant'Angelo and Rome. The word pilgrimage has become synonymous with vacation, tour, rest and relaxation, etc., but not with what it is intended to be: a search for deeper meaning to one's life's through a penitential journey that leads through various experiences to a goal that speaks of God and His goodness. There are obviously other "definitions" that can be offered, but, fundamentally, a pilgrimage is a journey of the soul with God to God. The journey begins with an inspiration and a quest, and leads to places where we hope to find a sign of God's presence, and some response to the words St. Francis could be heard to say in his moments of ecstasy: O God, Who are You? O God, Who am I? The encounter with Him, Whom we have found at the end of our journey, seems to enter our lives and hearts more deeply and our lives are transformed into a grace-filled presence that speaks powerfully to those whom we encounter in our daily lives. Unfortunately, what should last a lifetime often lasts only long enough to remain a wonderful memory of what can be, but quickly dwindles into the usual routine of devotional practices with little substance or effect in our lives. How quickly we forget!

There is a certain romanticism associated with pilgrimages. We think of the famous pilgrim roads leading to the Holy Land and the areas where Jesus lived, to Saint James the Apostle at Compostella in Galicia Spain, to Our Lady's Shrines at Fatima or Lourdes, through the Franciscan heartland of Italy and the famous areas blessed by the presence of Saint Francis of Assisi, to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, to Padre Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo. And there are many more you could add. But these pilgrim journeys are for a relative few. Many factors impede most people from going on pilgrimage. Whatever the factors may be, we are still a pilgrim people and our pilgrimage, one that really matters and can be extremely effective, can be experienced by anyone anywhere. It is the pilgrimage of the heart and mind that reaches the depths of one's soul and can produce the same, if not greater effects, as the pilgrimage that takes us around the world.

While many cannot leave their homeland to travel on pilgrimage, they can still benefit from the pilgrim experience. We are all called to be pilgrims and strangers in this world: strangers to the seductions of the world affected by the evil one's allurements, and pilgrims who journey each day in quest of the One Who makes life more meaningful and fulfilled.

We are all pilgrims. We all can benefit from the spiritual gifts that the pilgrims enjoyed. How? Well, think of the beginning of each day as the beginning of a journey. As you awaken, thank God for the new day and ask that you may see His image wherever you go and understand His will in the events of the day. Then, as you leave your room to begin the day, accept each moment as another experience that speaks to you of God. Try to reflect on how God works through, with and in you. Just as the pilgrim who journeys many miles is on a quest, your pilgrimage is a quest throughout the day for a better knowledge and understanding of God's will and his grace in your life. All your experiences are transformed into "stations" that speak of your relationship with God and the forward steps of your journey. Even if the unique and heavy gift of victimhood through infirmity that might even keep you homebound is asked of you, every moment of your day can be a sharing in the Passion of Christ as you journey along the Way of the Cross with Jesus to the ultimate goal of Golgotha and the Resurrection.

We can set any goal we desire each day. The ultimate goal, however, as Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, should be the Eucharist - intimate union with Jesus. When our day's quest and journey leads to the Eucharist, either through sacramental communion which is the optimum or spiritual communion, our day is filled with Jesus. The anticipation of the One we hope to encounter keeps our hearts aglow from the very beginning of our daily pilgrimage. We live each step in the expectation of meeting the Lord in the Sacrament of His Love.

The anniversary of the canonization of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is a strong reminder that we are called to follow the one whose spirit we seek to live and whose Spiritual Children we want to be. As his Spiritual Children we are called to be holy as well - not necessarily canonized officially by the Church, but surely canonized by God's grace and love for all eternity in His eternal loving embrace. To be holy is to be truly human, human as God intended, that is, intimately united to Him, walking with Him on life's journey until we walk with Him into heaven.

There are so many ways for us to creatively live out our spiritual journey effectively in a secular world. We can begin living our heaven on earth, in spite of the hellish experiences that may come our way. That is what a pilgrim expects - the unexpected. But the pilgrim is never discouraged to the point of despair, disillusioned to the point of defeat. The pilgrim sees every event and circumstance as another step in the journey and another experience that speaks of God.

In the spirit of our Father and Founder, Padre Pio, let us take that first step on our daily pilgrim journey. As Saint Francis of Assisi said to his first followers as he lay dying, I have done my part, now you must do yours . We are our Father's backup plan. He expects us to continue his mission to make Jesus and His Gospel come alive in the world. As we move forward on our pilgrim journey, we will touch the lives of many according to how we live our own. May all people see Jesus through Mary in our lives and accept the challenge to join the band of pilgrims as we journey through life to Life.

May the Lord bless; Our Lady guide, guard and protect you; and may Padre Pio watch over all of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings,

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