Padre Pio Prayer Groups
St. Francis Renewal Center
Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio,
The Lord give you peace!
For what profit comes to a man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored?… All his days are sorrow and grief are his occupation. (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23) Even the plebeian suffered the same as the king. (Wisdom18:11) Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering. (Lamentations 1:12) Why does Sacred Scripture deal with suffering and sorrow so much? The easiest response is the obvious fact: Suffering is at the center of every human experience.
In his Encyclical Salvifici doloris, Pope John Paul II writes: Suffering, in fact, is always a trial - at times a very hard one - to which humanity is subjected. The Gospel paradox of weakness and strength often speaks to us from the pages of the letters of St. Paul, a paradox particularly experienced by the Apostle himself and together with him experienced by all who share Christ's sufferings. Paul writes in the second letter to the Corinthians: "I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12: 9) In the second letter to Timothy we read: "And therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed." (2 Timothy 1: 12) And in the letter to the Philippians he will even say: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4: 13). The distinction St. Paul conveys, that Pope John Paul II repeats, is: I believe the person and thus live his words (for I know whom I have believed); I believe in him and thus trust his power to save (I can do all things in him).
Suffering has touched all of us in some way or another. We suffer at the news of a loved one who has an incurable disease. We are saddened when a family happily awaiting the birth of a child is told that this new life will be burdened with physical or psychological challenges for all his/her life. We feel inadequate and helpless when we see suffering in our loved ones and have no power to help them. We suffer with our own spiritual and physical vulnerabilities. What about the terrible social, economic, meteorologic calamities that affect whole families, cities, nations!? Suffering is around us and in each one of our lives. How do we respond to this universal ‘companion’?
A physician, writing some years ago in the Voce di Padre Pio, states: We respond to suffering with a fatalistic and passive attitude that blindly accepts what cannot be changed permitting this cruel destiny (to overwhelm us). This pagan perspective seems to pervade in every age. Other attitudes are: resigning one’s self to fate and giving up the fight; overcoming suffering by trying to eliminate all desire and passion in life; trying to play ‘mind over matter’ games like some ‘superperson’; despairing and just giving up; attempting to overcome suffering by ‘buying our way out of it’; forgetting troubles by going ‘head over heels’ into the pleasures of life; rationalizing suffering away by denying it. So many other ‘methods’ have been tried, but to no real success… It matters not how we try to eliminate suffering from our lives; suffering will always be there at one time or another, in one form or another.
How did Padre Pio respond to the question of human suffering, particularly in his own life? Corresponding with Padre Agostino, he writes: Believe me, dear Father, I find happiness in my afflictions. Jesus himself wants these sufferings from me, as he needs them for souls. But I ask myself what relief can I give him by my suffering! What a destiny! To what heights has our most sweet Jesus raised my soul! (1912). I suffer and I want to suffer more and more; I feel I am being consumed and I want to be consumed more and more. I long for death for no other reason than to be united by indissoluble bonds to the heavenly Bridegroom (of my soul). Yet I desire to live so as to suffer more and more, since Jesus has given me to understand that the sure proof of love is only to be found in suffering&hellip (1913). Padre Pio is fully aware and convinced that his earthly mission is to embrace the cross and follow Jesus to Calvary: I seem to know one thing for certain, that the Lord will keep his promises: Fear not I will make you suffer…- Jesus continues to tell me. I desire your soul to be purified and tested by a daily, hidden martyrdom. Do not be frightened if I permit Satan to torment you, the world to despise you, those dearest to you to afflict you… (1913). In these few lines we see the design of God for Padre Pio. His earthly mission was Suffering! A mission of suffering for the sake of suffering?! Of course not! His mission was that of participating in the Redemptive Passion of Christ - the ultimate gift that every true Christian is asked to perfect in his/her life. He participated as Victim and Priest in the celebration of the Eucharist; he participated in taking upon himself the sins of the people in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; he participated personally and uniquely in bearing the wounds of the Passion and experiencing their physical effects daily. In all this, Padre Pio manifested a peace and serenity, together with a joy of life and interest in the sufferings and joys of others.
The Lenten journey we have begun introduces us each year into the Mystery of the Suffering Servant of God. We are asked to listen to His words and follow in His footsteps. This ‘following’ can be frightening when we understand what the call entails and realize our weaknesses. But, it can be uplifting when we acknowledge the One Who has preceded us and invites us to follow me. Lent encourages us to participate in the ministry of the Person of The Suffering Servant - Jesus. We are asked to be not only spectators but protagonists of the Mystery of Calvary. We are offered the opportunity to ‘be one with Christ’ in the whole work of our salvation.
He Who redeemed us without our help, will not save us without our help. God can do all things; He can save anyone He so wills to save. However, although Jesus died once for all on the Cross, we must continue to make up in our bodies what is still wanting in the passion of Christ, as St. Paul tells us (Colossians 1:24). The continuation of the Mystery of Calvary in our lives is an ongoing process of healing with, through, in Jesus. We continue a spiritual process to eradicate whatever in our life may be harmful to our growth in God’s grace. We strive to control whatever could lead us astray from our relationship with God.
Lent is a time for us to seek spiritual healing that ultimately affects our very lives. We may try to accomplish this by very practical ‘sacrifices’: foods, TV programs, entertainment, etc. We may increase the prayers we recite, or the time we spend reading Scripture or some other spiritual writing. We may offer our time, talents and ‘treasures’ to assist the needy with Corporal or Spiritual Works of Mercy. These practices and many others are commendable. We participate in the sufferings of Christ by accepting to bear these small crosses each day as we prepare for the celebration of New Life in Jesus at Easter. But there is something we still must do if all these practices are to be effective, if they are to achieve the purpose for which they were done. We must start from where we want to arrive if we ever expect to eventually get there! We must Come to the Center!
Come To The Center! We must get to the ‘core’ of things. We must get to the ‘heart’, the Heart of God, that Heart opened for us on the Cross that we might enter the Father’s loving embrace - the Heart of Jesus, the Heart of the Eternal High Priest Who is both the Lamb of Sacrifice and the Priest Who offers the Sacrifice. It is in this Sacrifice that we enter the ‘heart’ of the matter and the Heart of the Lord, Whose footsteps we seek to follow and Whose Cross we are asked to bear according to the strengths allotted us by Divine Providence. It is the Eucharist and all that the Eucharist means that is the point of departure as well as the point of arrival of any worthwhile ‘sacrifice’ and ‘penance’. To make our lives sacred (‘sacrifice’=‘make sacred’) we must do ‘penance’ (‘penance’= ‘metanoia’ = ‘change of mind/heart’). Thus, Lent is a time to be holy by changing our hearts. To do this we must…
Come to the Center! Jesus is the ‘Center’. The Tabernacle, the Eucharist, that is where our focus should be, not just during Lent, but always. It is there that we re-present the great Mystery of our Redemption in the Passion-Death-Resurrection of Jesus. It is the Eucharist, celebrated, received worthily, and adored with love, that gives meaning to what we do, and fills our hearts with the divine graces necessary to grow in our faith and relationship with God.
Padre Pio’s life was always centered on the Eucharist. He was the victim for others, as he became one with the Lord he offered on the altar. There are many practices that we will be doing during this holy season of renewal and rebirth. The journey lasts only forty days, but the effects are everlasting.
Come to the Center! The Eucharist is not a devotion; the Eucharist is not ‘another sacrificial practice’; the Eucharist is not an ‘option’ among many others. The Eucharist is Jesus! What greater experience could we allow ourselves to deepen, that in turn would transform us, than to focus on the Eucharist and make our Sacramental Jesus, Eternal High Priest and Lamb of Sacrifice, the Center of all we seek to do and become during the Lenten Season.
As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, let us always remember that the Eucharist was Padre Pio’s very life. His strength came from his Sacramental Lord Whom he celebrated and received. What about us!? If we do only a few ‘things’ for Lent, let us make an effort to deepen, sincerely and with commitment, our participation in and love for the Eucharist. This may take herculean efforts for many because this requires daily and/or concentrated and regular preparation before, focused participation during, and calm centered praise and thanksgiving after the celebration of the Eucharist, each day if possible. From this will flow abundant graces and unimaginable strength to meet the demands of life and to live in a peace and serenity that only God can give. I hope that all of us, Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, will make the Eucharist the first and foremost goal of our Lenten journey. Jesus, and Jesus alone!
Come to the Center! Let Jesus be the focus of our Lenten journey, because Jesus is the real goal of this season. In the Eucharist, we re-live the awesome experience of our Redemption in His Passion-Death-Resurrection. Only in Jesus, does anything we ‘do’ make sense, and any sacrifice we ‘make’ have a lasting and meaningful effect.
May this holy season fill you with the graces necessary to strengthen your resolve to become holy through ‘sacrifice’, in a profound change of mind and heart through ‘penance’, by a daily resolute decision to Come to the Center! Come to the One from Whom all graces flow and to Whom all life must go if we are to grow in the New Life we celebrate at the end of this holy season. What a wonderful opportunity we are offered. Let us make the effort Lent asks of us. 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.
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