Padre Pio Prayer Groups
St. Francis Renewal Center
Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio,
Summer is upon us with its sweltering heat, muggy nights and hot days. What most people look forward to during this period is some time off when they can cool down and relax. Technology has given us machinery that can cool us down and entertain us, but the relaxing part has to come from us. No air conditioner, swimming pool, long-awaited two-week vacation, or anything else can relax us unless the heart and mind are willing to let go of the tensions that we allow to build up within us. Maybe this sounds like a bit of street corner psychology, and it probably is, but there is a basic truth that the hand will not reach for what the heart does not desire. Unless we can find that sense of inner purpose to our life, we can never find that serenity of heart and soul that allows us to relax and just “chill”, even in the hottest circumstances.
Maybe the adage I just mentioned seems somewhat out of place. Don’t we desire to relax? Don’t we desire to be at peace? Then why can’t we really feel that way? Or better, why can’t we be that way? The answer again comes from the desire, and what it is we are really hoping to attain. Like joy, which is confused so often with happiness, peace is all too often confused with a lack of activities or problems of some sort. This period of truce with our tensions may allow us a little time to gather our wits about us, but this is not peace; this is not inner calm.
A peace-filled person is one whose serenity is not affected by uncontrolled erratic expressions, even though that person may be walking in the midst of all kinds of turmoil. If only we could achieve this state, how different our personal lives would be! How different the world would be!
The heat of the summer is nothing compared to the overwhelming heat of our human passions. These characteristics of being a creature can control us to the point of delirium. Just think of someone in a fit of anger, or whose uncontrolled tensions lead them to intemperate use of alcoholic or pharmaceutical substances, or whose desire for a person’s affections leads to uncontrollable lustful attempts at acquiring them, etc. The list is endless. The heat of our passions can incinerate the soul more than fire can burn the body. We need to cool down; we need to chill; but we need to do so without losing or compromising the excitement and enthusiasm that the Spirit of God gives all of us.
To calm down does not mean to stop doing. It does not mean to stop being who we are. It means, as Saint Ignatius of Loyola said, I must work as though all depends on me, and I must pray as though all depends on God. It is obvious here that St. Ignatius wants us to realize that God’s will and ours work together for a meaningful and fruitful life. The God within us brings peace and calm, but at the same time, the Spirit of the God within urges us further and further in our relationship with God and our sisters and brothers.
As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, we have been given an example of a passionate man, whose life was lived always on the edge. No matter what he did or said, because of his extraordinary gifts, he was viewed, reviewed, inspected, dissected, judged and, in the beginning, often condemned by those who should have understood the working of the Holy Spirit in him. Through it all, Padre Pio was really a balanced individual. Things hurt him. People upset him by their fanatical and exaggerated demands. His ministry of the confessional placed a heavy burden of bearing others’ sins and often dealing with unrepentant individuals who sought a quick fix, rather than God’s grace through a sincere repentance and change of heart. The Eucharist he celebrated tore at his heart as he entered the heavenly realm of the Divine Presence but was pulled always down to live with his feet well-grounded in the reality of his everyday encounters that he most often would bring to the Eucharist in prayer and from the Eucharist to those in need. Through all this, and more, our Father and Founder, Padre Pio, found the passion and excitement of his life in the enthusiasm with which he lived out every moment, yet never lost his inner peace, his inner calm.
This letter began by talking about finding time to be calm and relax - physically we need that or our bodies will give out. But, I also speak of enthusiasm and excitement about who we are and what we do. There is no contradiction here. It is only the person who has found balance with himself and God who can be calm within and be a vibrant powerhouse of enthusiastic endeavors aimed at making God’s gifts available and effective in the lives of others. Peace is my gift to you…not as the world gives peace do I give it, were the words of Jesus to his followers. Jesus gave a peace that would set the world aflame with understanding and confusion, joy and sadness, acceptance and persecution, love that would disarm the heart and hatred that would refuse the challenge of love and close the heart. Jesus’ peace was an operative peace; His was a peace that would not stay still, but one that sought to overflow into the lives of others.
We are called to be passionate about our faith in Jesus. But, often we allow our passions to run away with us. Like wild horses running in all directions, our passions often pull us away from our center - Jesus. We are so filled with our ideas, our opinions, our hurts, our needs, … we are so filled with our-selves…, that we fail to find the calm and peace that allows us to be the Spiritual Family of Prayer Padre Pio envisioned his Spiritual Children as being. We do not allow our wounds to heal, and when they do, we make sure all can see our scars and know why we got them. Only Jesus had the right to do that, because He is Pure Love. Only Jesus can continue to show us his wounds to remind us of His love and mercy. Our wounds are usually shown to tell a story of someone’s faults and our need to be pitied. Inner peace, in the midst of all that we must do, allows the wounds to heal and the scars to disappear. All that matters is Jesus, and the Jesus I am willing to see in my sister and brother.
Often I ask what I can do to make our Prayer Groups appreciate more deeply the wonderful ecclesial presence they are. How can we of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups appreciate and value more profoundly the great spiritual treasure entrusted to us by the simple things that Padre Pio asked us to do? How can we appreciate the many wonderful graces that flow from our commitedness to the spirit of the Prayer Groups? The joy that we are loved so much should fill us with peace and calm, and urge a response that sets a tidal wave of graces in motion to overwhelm the world by all we do.
A militia is a group of persons who are always on the ready. They stop, look, listen and respond. Our militia of prayer stops to reflect, looks for God’s presence in all that is planned and done, listens for God’s will to make itself known, so that the militia can respond with a hearty and affirmative YES to the challenges proposed. As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio our passion for the Eucharist and Our Lady should keep our hearts constantly on the ready and our souls calmly basking in the light of the Son of God whose love we share with others through our prayers and works.
Padre Pio writes to an unidentified person on June 3, 1917: Before anything else, we should try to live in tranquility of spirit. Not because tranquility is the mother of Christian content, but because it is the daughter of love of God and of the resignation of our own will. We can have occasion to practice this daily, because contradictions are never lacking, and when there is nothing that causes this, we form it ourselves. In a letter dated June 11, 1918, Padre Pio writes to Erminia Gargani: Keep your eyes well open…Do not let the sight of your misery and bad humors frighten you; think of your heart with a great desire to perfect it. Have an untiring desire to set it straight…above all, work as hard as you can to strengthen the upper part of the soul, without dwelling on feelings and consolations, but, rather, on resolutions, propositions and aspirations which faith, guidance and reason inspire in you.
Spiritual Children of Padre Pio seek inner tranquility as the daughter of God’s love, but are urged on by an untiring desire to work to set things in order by working hard as a means to strengthen the soul. It is the age old method of Prayer that strengthens our relationship with God and gives us peace, and Work that others may grow in or know of their relationship with God and with their sisters and brothers. Padre Pio’s vision of the Prayer Groups intended to help people find peace in a world in turmoil (has it changed much since then?!) and offer that peace to others. With Saint Francis of Assisi, our own Padre Pio says, I have done my part, now it is up to you to do yours. Don’t underestimate the power that is ours if we pray as we ought. What peace!…What joy!…What sense of Spiritual Family!…What enthusiasm!…What excitement!… We could be collaborators with God in bringing about all these things. Let’s let it happen! Let’s let the Spirit of God and the spirit of our Father and Founder Padre Pio urge us on to be the militia of prayer that courageously accepts the challenges that prayer opens the eyes of our hearts to see, recognize, understand and acknowledge…in serenity and peace.
May the Lord bless you; Our Lady guide, guard and protect you; and Padre Pio watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings