Monthly Letter
February 2006

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!

Don't despise humble beginnings. Don't belittle what seems insignificant. It is often in and through the common and ordinary that great things happen. It is often in humble beginnings that great people are born and formed. There is a powerful reminder that states: The three hours of redemptive suffering of Jesus on the cross were preceded by three years of ministry among God's people in Israel and thirty years of silent preparation in Nazareth.

Jesus lived thirty years in the anonymity of the humble town of Nazareth. He lived as a laborer, although qualified in His field as an exceptional wood worker, but manual laborer nonetheless. Scripture tells us that after His return from Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph at the age of twelve, he came down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them, and grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men. These words strike us somewhat strangely. Jesus, Who is God, grew in wisdom, age and grace!? As we are reminded in Scripture, He was like us in all things but sin. Jesus had to experience all that it means to be human. He knew the often humdrum pace of everyday living. He knew what it means to experience enthusiasm about the possibilities available to His efforts, and yet He did not expect surprising and extraordinary events - miracles - to assure His choices and the positive outcome of His work. He lived in the uncertainty of the next moment, just as we do.

We have not yet learned to live and accept the wonderful gift of God's providence when we expect to be titillated by special happenings, pats on the back for everything we do, or even expect God to step in with a minor miracle, just to make sure we are on the right track. The exciting experience is life itself! The hidden years that far surpass the years of ministry and hours of redemption are a powerful reminder for all who are always waiting for the miracles of God. They encourage us to move on and to get acquainted and in harmony with the God of miracles. They encourage us to wonder gratefully at the many ways God makes His providence known, rather than to constantly seek after His wonders. As an unknown writer once stated: when you are able to see the invisible, you will be able to accomplish the impossible. To see the invisible is to live in faith. To see the invisible is to expect no outward show and still to know that God is with you. It is this hidden life, without the "frills" of faith, that has the power to transform us.

Our Spiritual Father and Founder, Padre Pio, was not a stranger to the hidden life. Although his unique gift of the stigmata made him world-renowned, his life was that of the simple, humdrum, ordinary life of any friar. He rarely, if ever, left the area of the Convento and Church of La Madonna delle Grazie or the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza. People came in the hundreds and thousands over the course of the years to see and hear him. Regardless of this, his life was that of a friar who obediently fulfilled the normal daily ministry of celebrating Mass and hearing confessions. The extraordinary experiences that made him renowned among people flowed from his response to grace and God's will. Others shared in his giftedness according to their perception and response to the Lord Who spoke to them through him. Padre Pio was an obedient son of St. Francis. The extraordinary gifts were God's acknowledgment of Padre Pio's total availability to the Divine Will.

The Stigmata, years of loss of blood and minimum food intake without losing strength or weight, the reading of hearts, the bilocations, the levitations, the graces God granted to people through his intercession while he was still on this earth, and much more, are not insignificant gifts in the life of our Father. Nevertheless, his life was lived in the common, ordinary experience of any other friar. In fact, because of the extraordinary gifts the good Lord granted him, he was less able to be free to move around as he willed and was truly "nailed" to his friary - in the same place - for fifty years.

Padre Pio was a man profoundly in union with God, yet he still went on spiritual retreats like all the other friars to strengthen his prayer life. He was a man who was effectively able to intercede with God for the healing of others, yet he himself suffered from physical ailments and even needed the expertise of qualified surgeons like any one else. Padre Pio was a man who directed hundreds of souls in the course of his years, and who was able to lead many back to a deeper relationship with God, yet he himself had a spiritual director to guide him, a confessor to absolve him, ... and even suffered often from a sense of abandonment, just as many of us may feel at times when things get rough and our faith is challenged.

The hidden life of Jesus, and the wonderful example of our Founder and Father, Padre Pio, are eloquent reminders of where we encounter God and how we are called to grow in holiness. We encounter God where we are, and we grow in holiness by doing what we know and believe to be God's will, even if it is in fulfilling the normal responsibilities of everyday life.

As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, each Group is a unique expression of unity in diversity. There are so many factors that distinguish one Group from another, and even one member in the Group from another in the same Group. Yet, our common bond in Jesus, Mary, and Padre Pio brings us together on our journey to the Father through a God-centered and holy life. Our Groups are powerhouses of prayer. They are made up of people who experience the power of prayer because they pray. The Spiritual Children of Padre Pio who constitute the Prayer Groups live in the hidden reality of their daily lives, but who impact acutely on the life of the Church and the world because of their relationship with God. The monthly meeting of Eucharistic Prayer, devotional prayer and fraternal sharing of our Catholic beliefs is a strengthening experience that urges our sisters and brothers to live the hidden life the rest of the month, until the next meeting, with increased commitment and joy. The unique expressions of each Group form a wonderful mosaic of the vitality of our prayer life and the gift that our Catholic faith is.

As members of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups, you are not bound by vows or promises. There are no sanctions placed on those who fail to participate in a meeting. Here in our United States most people within the Church still do not know anything about the Spiritual Children of Padre Pio and the Prayer Groups. Many of you become Apostles of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups by offering opportunities for others to find what you have found by letting them notice how your journey in the spirit of Padre Pio has impacted your own everyday life. Some Groups are rather small and yet continue with enthusiasm and constancy. Other Groups are rather large and have more activities to attract others to various celebrations. But all, without exception, from what I have been able to glean from the information that arrives by phone, land mail, e-mail, etc. feel a loving relationship with Padre Pio whose life and words have touched their lives.

It is my earnest desire that you share with me the activities and plans of your Group. If your Prayer Group publishes a newsletter, I would appreciate having two copies each time you print them out. This will allow me to know what is happening around the nation, and it will help me to keep International Headquarters informed on the progress of our Groups in the USA.

The position of National Coordinator, as mentioned already in a previous letter, is not a policy making position. Nor is it a position that intends to destroy the uniqueness of each Group's expressiveness. The National Coordinator keeps in touch, as best possible, with the Groups. He serves as liaison between the Groups and the General Director and General Headquarters in San Giovanni Rotondo. The National Coordinator is one who also seeks to convoke national and regional gatherings for the spiritual growth of the members who are able to attend, and through them for the edification and information of those who could not participate but will learn about the proceedings from the participants from their Group. Some aspects of my ministry are quite simple to fulfill, but others require a great deal of cooperation from those whose talents and availability are offered for the good of the Groups who will profit from their self-sacrifice.

Though few if any have commented to the fact, there are still some whose questions and apprehensions urge me to state quite categorically that my ministry is that of a brother working with his sisters and brothers bound by a common goal - our sanctification. Everything else is peripheral.

After the Christmas celebration there are almost two months of what some call the "blah days" - days with no specific solemnity to celebrate, and thus no exciting happenings. This is a time not to be bored, but to enter into the depths of our soul, our family, our Group and reflect on the wonderful gifts there. In another month we will begin the solemn period of Lent that leads us to Calvary and the celebration of our redemption in Jesus. The manger is never too distant from the Cross. One is the humble prelude to the magnificent act of love of the other.

Let us take the opportunity of this month to reflect upon our own response to God's will. Let us examine more deeply our participation in the Prayer Group spirit of prayer, reflection and service. Let us pray for each other throughout the Association that we may feel a deeper sense of our being one family in the spirit of Padre Pio. As we continue our monthly routines, let us keep in mind the gift we can be to our sisters and brothers around the country by sharing the good things that God accomplishes through us with one another. Please give some serious consideration in sending me any newsletters, bulletins, etc. that your Prayer Group publishes, so that I can make use of them as an encouragement to all.

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard and protect; and Padre Pio watch over each of you with loving care.

Peace and Blessings

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