Monthly Letter

Padre Pio Prayer Groups

National Office

St. Francis Renewal Center
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
June 2008
Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio,

The Lord give you the gift of His peace.

Our Church has been blessed with many Popes who have enhanced the prestige of their office and our religion before a world that looks for signs of integrity and credibility. No other sign will be given the world than the sign of contradiction - Jesus. As each Christian of our Catholic tradition seeks to live the Gospel in his or her life, the image of Jesus is more or less made visible to the world. The basic purpose of our Association of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups, as well as all other associations of the faithful, is to make Jesus come alive in our hearts and lives, and thus affect the world in which we live - our own world of family, neighborhood, city, etc. We as a Church have been graced with an unbroken succession of men beginning with Peter, whom the Master Himself appointed His Successor and Chief Shepherd of God’s people. Assisted by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the unique Office of Universal Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, we are guaranteed God’s continued presence and protection from error in all that pertains to faith and morals. Where Peter is, there is the Church. When Peter speaks, and we accept in faith, there is unity and direction.

God so loved the world that He sent us His only Son, so that all who believe in Him might have life. The Father’s plan led Jesus to the cross and the piercing of His most Sacred Heart. That Heart, pierced for love of all humanity, is the open door inviting all people into the Father’s eternal loving embrace. It is during this month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we celebrate the Solemnity of the two columns of our faith: Saints Peter and Paul. We are reminded in the Scripture readings for the Solemnity that God places as requisites for leadership the acknowledgement and acceptance of who Jesus is You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God and the will to love Jesus Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You Love is a total trusting surrender of the one loved. In that love and total surrender to God, leadership finds its strength and courage to pursue whatever is asked of it.

Our nation was recently blessed with the visit of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. The Media followed his few days in the U.S.A. and the positive press he received was a real favorable ‘shot in the arm’ for the Catholic Church in the U.S.A. Prior to the Conclave that elected Cardinal Josef Ratzinger to the Office of Chief Shepherd of the Church, people voiced comments not always complimentary about his tenacity in upholding the orthodoxy of our Roman Catholic Faith. At the time of Pope Benedict XVI’s election and installation there were varied and cautious remarks regarding the hopes and fears of the Catholics polled. How surprisingly pleased many were as time proceeded and all began to see a man centered on the truth, whose heart compassionately and pastorally recognized the human condition affected by the times. His first two Encyclicals: Deus Caritas est (God is Love) and Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope), manifest the heart of a leader who understands the hopes and needs of humanity. His leadership in the truth has manifested itself in an openness to dialogue, with a clarity of values and principles, and a patience to seek what brings us closer together rather than what separates us, without compromising those essential articles of our faith that have been the foundation of who we are as a Family of Faith since the time of Jesus and the Apostles.

The office of Vicar of Christ and Successor to St. Peter as Chief Shepherd of the Roman Catholic Church is a unique ministry entrusted to only a few over the past two thousand years. Their election, like that of Matthias who took the place of Judas the Iscariot to the Apostolic College, may be the external fruit of human working, but definitely the effect of God working through the instrumentality of His creatures. In the Acts of the Apostles we read: They (the followers gathered in the Cenacle after the Ascension of Jesus) prayed: You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two (Barsabbas and Matthias) you have chosen to take the place in the apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away … Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles. Prayer linked the action with God and God’s divine will, but the lots were the human action that would determine what the followers would accept, and whom they would appoint. The soul and the body worked together.

Not all Popes in our millennial history have been exemplary individuals. Some before, and some even after their election to this awesome office, brought their vulnerable and faulty human nature to affect the image of the office they accepted. Some may have been outright scandalous in centuries gone by. But, never did those historically considered to be the least exemplary touch the Deposit of Faith. Jesus assured Peter and the Church of His continued presence and protection from error in all that pertains to the Faith and Christian Morals when He said: Peter, I have prayed for you that you not falter. And you, once you have been confirmed in your faith, strengthen your brethren. It is this gift of indefectibility and infallibility in matters of faith and morals that assures the Holy Father, and consequently the whole Church in union with Him, of an assured path that leads to Life.

Humanly frail and sinful, we are still vehicles of salvation through which the Father, with His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, continues to pour His abundant blessings upon all creation. If we lament that the world is in turmoil and we fear the spread of violence, war, or evil of any kind, let us remember that God will not abuse the great gift of free will He has entrusted to all His children. Thus, evil perpetrated through the abuse and misuse of free will by some of God’s children can be counterbalanced and overcome by the faith-filled cooperation with God’s Will of all those who strive to seek the Lord and His righteousness in all things. The renewal of life depends on our cooperation with grace and God’s Will. No man is an island. The good we do also showers blessings on others; conversely, the evil we do is equally destructive in the life of others. Without strong leadership, the human factor is prone to falter, and possibly fail. It is necessary for us to have a ‘point of reference’ that offers us a sure source of orthodoxy of truth and integrity of life.

The person of the Holy Father fulfills this need. While some Pontiffs through the centuries may have been politically or socially weak in responding to the needs of the times, the past century and a half has seen Popes who were - and our present Holy Father is - men of conviction and prayer, truly committed to strengthening their sisters and brothers in the Faith, and fearless prophets of the Gospel Message of God’s love for us in Jesus. They placed their own welfare on the line, as did many of the Pontiffs of the first centuries who followed in the footsteps of their Lord and His Vicar St. Peter even to the shedding of blood. Since the middle of the last century, we remember how the Popes have been targeted by people non-sympathetic to the Church’s teachings and policies: Pope Pius XII was threatened by Hitler; Pope Paul VI was openly criticized by those within the Church and even affronted by a fanatic in the Philippines who sought to stab him; Pope John Paul II was openly criticized as ‘too conservative and unflexible’ regarding Catholic teaching in all areas, and was also victim of an unsuccessful assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square; and, Pope Benedict XVI has been criticized from within the Church even before his election to the see of Peter. In the midst of all this, these men, chosen from among all humanity, have steadfastly continued to proclaim the Gospel and they have remained firm in the Faith we profess and steadfast in the ‘front lines’ wherever and whenever our Catholicism is threatened

Courage is a gift that flows from a deep sense of faith and trust in the One Whom we believe. Courage does not take away the threat to us, but urges us to confidently move forward regardless of the dangers we encounter for a greater good. Courage is living what we are reminded of in Scripture: Greater is the One within you, than the one who is in the world. If God is for us, who can be against us? Where does this courage come from and how is it maintained in frail human beings?

One answer can be found in the Gospel according to St. John, in the passage about Jesus’ encounter with the Apostles at the Sea of Galilee after His Resurrection. He asks Peter, Do you love me?, three times. Each time Peter responds, Jesus entrusts the care of the Church to him. The Office entrusted to Peter and his successors is a responsibility founded on love for Christ, which is the ultimate fruit of a deep faith in Christ and trust in His words and commands. Once we accept the fact that our Holy Father is the true successor to Peter, then, just as in the apostolic Church, our love and fidelity to Christ, His words, His Church … and consequently His representative (Vicar) on earth must be expressed in our personal response of faithful love and obedience in all that pertains to our eternal life.

Saint Francis of Assisi, in his Rule to the friars, states quite categorically: Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to our Lord Pope Honorius (the Pope at the time St. Francis of Assisi wrote the Rule of the Friars Minor) and his successors canonically elected and to the Roman Church…If there is any who wish to accept this life and come to our brothers … let the ministers (name for the superiors of a province [religious territory]) examine them carefully concerning the Catholic faith and the sacraments of the Church. It was Blessed Thomas of Celano, first biographer of St. Francis, who called Francis the man who was totally Catholic. St. Francis of Assisi saw the Holy Father as the visible rock of faith and direction who gives stability to the external expression of our faith in Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

Padre Pio, a true son of St. Francis of Assisi, in the Capuchin tradition, lived the words of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi to the point of heroism. His fidelity to the Church and our Holy Father was exemplary. Regardless of the directives regarding him, even when they deprived him of his ministry and contact with the faithful for several years, Padre Pio loved, obeyed and encouraged others to love and obey the Holy Father. The Church was demanding on our Spiritual Father, yet through all the period of that difficult time in his life, his serenity in the midst of his sadness was strength for others. His acceptance and peace confirmed the integrity of his faith and the credibility of his counsels to others. He too, like his Holy Father St. Francis, was a man totally Catholic and faithful in all things, in good times and in bad.

As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, where is our allegiance? Do we believe with the Church, or do we run after every whim and fancy that crops up to tickle our ears with novelty? Does the Holy Father speak to us with the authority of Peter, or have we become his critics? Do we love, revere, respect and follow his teachings as Leader of the Church, or do we see him only as a figurehead aloof and unaware of what really matters? Have we reduced our beliefs to personal political and social issues and programs, rather than convictions rooted in faith in God’s Word? Padre Pio prayed for the Holy Father always, and was known to have encouraged several by letter, assuring them of his undying love and fidelity to them and the Church. How true are we to the spirit of our Spiritual Father?! Pray for the Holy Father, love him, listen to what he says … and open your hearts to accept the Truth of our Faith as he proclaims it to us. The Voice of Peter, through Benedict XVI, continues to respond in our name to the question of Jesus whether we stay or leave Him, saying: Lord, to Whom shall we go. You have words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God. If we believe this, let us then begin to live as we believe!

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