Monthly Letter

Padre Pio Prayer Groups

National Office

St. Francis Renewal Center
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
May 2009
Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio,

Alleluia! He is Risen! The joy of the Risen Lord continue to be with all of you! Alleluia!

We are still in the Easter season. The end of this month will bring us to the climax of the Paschal Mystery and the beginning of a new experience for the Church. The Holy Spirit has been with Creation since the beginning of time, but when the Spirit descended as fiery tongues on the Infant Church gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, God’s People, redeemed in the Blood of Jesus the Christ, had firsthand and express knowledge of the Paraclete’s strengthening power that urged them out of the Cenacle and into the world. The Holy Spirit opened the closed doors of fear and hesitation and “breathed” the first followers into the challenging world that we, the Church, are called to encounter with Her message of hope and new life.

It was a rather motley crew that would change the face of the earth. Several weeks before, they would be cowering in seclusion for fear of the leaders of the people of Israel, their own co-nationals. They would experience the Risen Lord several times among them. He spoke to them, ate with them, even had them touch him to see that it was truly He. They were joyful in their belief, yet, as St. Matthew mentions in the conclusion of his account of the life of Jesus, some were still confused and wondered or perhaps even doubted!?

In the midst of this, there was one figure whose mere presence was enough to instill hope and courage. The faith of this person was the support of the disciples’ often tottering faith. The encouragement this person offered by continuing to remain with them, after all they had done during the terrible days of capture, trial and execution of Jesus, helped them to bond in their faith in Jesus and their love for Him…and for Her as well. Mary silently continued to fulfill the role entrusted to Her the day She pronounced Her ‘yes’ to the Father’s will. From the Incarnation of the Son of God within Her virginal womb to the birth of His Mystical Body at Pentecost, and throughout the ages until all creation achieves its restoration in Christ, Mary is always there. A mother’s love knows no limits and never rests. Mary sees Her children beyond their faults and failures; She loves them into Her heart and prays that there they may be conformed to the image of Her Incarnate Son, their Eternal Brother and Lord and God, Jesus.

The last time we hear Mary speak in the Gospels is at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. In fact, according to the Gospel account of St. John, She is responsible for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Mary’s concern for a newly-wed couple’s embarrassing predicament launched Jesus into a ministry that eventually led to Calvary. The words She says to the waiters at Cana are the last we hear from Her lips and yet they sound loudly and deeply in our hearts. Do whatever he tells you. True to form, our Mother remembers Her ‘yes’ and encourages us to follow Her example. Her verbal silence throughout the rest of the Gospel accounts, however, does not deprive us of Her example that speaks volumes.

In the first silent moment, we encounter Mary as She goes in search of Her Son, now a well-known and sought after teacher. A mother’s love senses her child’s moments of need, sadness and joy. Jesus made a name for himself. Many listen and follow; many listen and avoid; many listen and begin to target this uncomfortable person who is “rocking the boat” and disturbing their comfort zone. A mother knows. Mary probably heard the negative remarks, and perhaps even the plots being forged to entrap Her Son that He might be accused and condemned by the leaders of the Temple and nation. Told of His Mother’s presence - your mother and brethren are here and are asking for you (Mark 3: 32) - Jesus replies, Who are my Mother and brethren?…Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me (Mark 3: 33-34). Always the example for others, Mary understands that Her faith has brought Her to this fulfillment of the prophecies regarding Her Son. He is Her Son by natural birth, but He is ‘Brother’ to all God’s children, in all things but sin, because of Her faith. The Mother of Christ now is seen also as the Mother of all God’s Children.

The second silent moment finds us with Mary at the foot of the Cross. She has followed Her Son to Calvary. She bore in Her heart the anguish that only a mother can bear. On the Jerusalem road She followed Him from treachery, to capture, to mockery, to trial, to accusation, to condemnation, to execution. With a regal dignity She weeps the tears of the innocent and watches with love - only a Mother can experience - the ultimate sacrifice needed to fulfill Her original ‘yes’ as She associated Herself with the sacrifice of Her Son. The Mother of the Christ hears the words, Woman, behold your son … Son, behold, your mother. In the awesome silence of Her heart and anguish of a mother’s love, at the foot of the Cross, and at the feet of our many crosses throughout life, we embrace Mary and She embraces us to support, encourage, and guide us to Jesus. Here, the Mother of the Christ becomes the Mother of the Christian.

Finally, St. Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles, They went to the Upper Room … together they devoted themselves to constant prayer. There were some women in their company, and Mary the mother of Jesus (Acts 11: 13-14). Mary again is with the little flock of Her Son. Fear of possible capture, embarrassment for cowardice, petty vying for first places among the group, worldly hopes for a new political order, hatred for the dominant forces, condemnation of those not inclined to accept their experience of ‘the Christ’, ‘concern for tomorrow’ … all these feelings and much more began to dissipate. Jesus and only Jesus and His message mattered. Mary was there to confirm them and love them as they awaited the promised Paraclete. She, who received the Paraclete’s life-giving and creating presence when She pronounced Her ‘yes’ thirty plus years before, would receive, together with Her children here, the flame of the Spirit’s empowering presence. Mary, Mother of the Christ, Mother of the Christian, becomes the Mother of the Church.

Mary’s ‘yes’ was perfect from the first moment She pronounced it in Nazareth, and yet it developed through the years. There can never be a halting in the forward journey of our relationship with God in the Spirit. Each day offers us the opportunity to hear God’s voice as He speaks to our heart through the events of our lives or through the people entrusted with the ministry of accompanying us on our spiritual journey. Each day we are challenged to go beyond ourselves and the flimsy securities we create not to be inconvenienced beyond our strengths. Growth, however, comes only when we go beyond ourselves. Lord, grant me not the challenges that meet my strength, but the strength to meet my challenges. Mary accompanies us as She did the first brothers, sisters and mothers of Jesus, in the conviction and commitment of our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

With so awesome and powerful a presence in the life of the Church at its beginning and today, we can understand how Mary, our Heavenly Mother, had a very special place in the heart of Padre Pio. He loved Her with a childlike affection and sought to instill that love and devotion in the hearts of those who sought his guidance. She was the Mother whose love for him accompanied his entire life. From early childhood in the conversations with Her, to his last days when he invoked Her name, She was always there to encourage, support, protect … and embrace him with Her love. He responded with such affection, that it might seem unlikely for a man of his “spiritual caliber”, the stigmatized priest friar to whom thousands came seeking counsel and consolation, to act in such a way in Her regard. It is only the one who is at peace with himself and his God who can let go of foolish inhibitions and let the heart take over. His affection for Mary was the free expression of a heart in love. The titles he gave Her, Her feasts he remembered, the rosaries (how many rosaries every day!) he prayed, the prayerful sighs in moments of distress and illness, were signs of a person he had come to know as deeply as Her Son, Whom he was asked to image in the most solemn aspect of His earthly life.

What a beautiful month the month of May is! This month speaks so eloquently of Mary’s sweetness and beauty … I wish I had a loud voice so that I could invite all the world’s sinners to love the Madonna … How many times have I confided the sorrowful anxieties of my troubled heart to this Mother! … The only thing that displeases me is that I do not have sufficient ways in which to thank our beautiful Virgin Mary … Now it seems that I can understand what the martyrdom of our sweetest Mother was, if humankind were able to understand this torment! Who would be able to suffer with our dear Co-redemptrix? … The strength of Satan is terrible. But long live God! For He has placed my salvation and the ultimate victory in the hands of our heavenly Mother…under the protection of this most holy Mother! Let us strive also, like many chosen souls have done, to follow behind this blessed Mother, to walk always in Her presence, for there is no other road that leads to life than the one taken by our Mother.

As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio we have our Spiritual Father’s example of loving affection and fidelity to our heavenly Mother to guide us. As he himself said: Let us strive to follow as chosen souls behind this blessed Mother. With childlike confidence let us place ourselves in her Immaculate Heart, so that, enveloped by Her Motherly love, we may more easily approach our Lord and Savior, and in Him, through Her, see all those with whom we share life’s journey as sisters and brothers in faith, children of the one Great Creating Father Who calls the Family of Humanity to the fullness of life in Jesus His Son.

With every best wish for you during this season of new birth and new life, I pray we all be open to the working of the Holy Spirit. May He inflame our hearts as He filled Our Mother Mary. Animated by this Holy Spirit, may we follow the Spirit’s inspiration and confidently respond, as Mary and Padre Pio did, with a determined ‘Yes’ to all the Father asks, that we may be more like Jesus.

May God bless you; Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you; and may Padre Pio watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care. May Pentecost Sunday signal a New Pentecost for each one of us to witness the Resurrection everyday of our lives.

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