Padre Pio Prayer Groups
St. Francis Renewal Center
| Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio, |
The Lord give you His peace!
Many of the venerable religious Orders of the Church number among their sisters and brothers delightful ‘characters’ who’s words, example and ‘antics’ have become proverbial and legendary. Our own Capuchin Franciscan Province of the Sacred Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi has several of these memorable friars. One was a lay brother who came from Sicily to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. When young men came seeking admission to the Order in our Province often they would meet Brother Emmanuel in one of our friaries; he would inevitably ask: Why have you come? Have you come for vocation, vacation, or to eat?! He was not among the designated formation personnel, nor was he trying to be difficult with these aspirants to our life. He loved his religious vocation and wanted anyone else seeking to become brother with him in our Capuchin Family to reflect on the beauty of our life in response to God’s call and their true motives for seeking entrance.
Why did you come? Did you come for vocation, vacation, or to eat? As simple as it sounds, the question really does hit the heart of the matter. Many religious communities would have these words, Why have you come?, posted on many of the doorways of their formation houses as a constant reminder to reflect on what led their aspirants to the particular religious community. The question could be asked of all of us, regardless of the life we have chosen to lead. Unless God and God’s will is in the equation, we cannot hope to succeed in life as we were destined by God’s love. What are you looking for? was the question Jesus Himself asked the disciples who followed Him after the Baptist indicated Him as the Lamb of God.
Unfortunately, there are those whose choice becomes a real burden to so many because they have come either ‘to eat’ or for ‘vacation’. It may seem rather caustic and judgmental, but it must be said. When God calls - if you believe that God is calling! - the response must be total in every way, and joyful. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9). Most often we have to work towards the totality of the response, but the heart must be focused on that goal and centered on the Lord, not on ourselves nor issues and agendas.
Those who come ‘to eat’ are not necessarily looking for three square meals a day, although in some cases and countries that is definitely the case - higher social status with all the amenities. These are those who have wants they have transformed into needs. They come expecting to receive with little ambition to give of themselves.
Those who come for ‘vacation’ soon find that any walk of life has enough demands that the idea of a life’s ‘vacation’ is soon dispelled. Whether it be religious life, married life, celibate life, and/or any other profession or job, stark reality strikes anyone expecting others to do everything while he/she reaps the benefits. Every life suffers with malcontents. These become busy bodies. Not accepting their own limitations, they target others. It matters not the call we have accepted or created; when we do not enter with wholehearted commitment and enthusiasm, eventually it leads to frustration, irresponsibility, infidelity.
Those who come for ‘vocation’ have heard God calling in the depths of their hearts. They recognize their own unworthiness. Yet, believing that it is God’s will, aware of their own faults and sins, they respond wholeheartedly and strive every day to recommit themselves to faithfulness in the life they have accepted. They cheerfully advance through the joys and struggles, the successes and failures. Trust in obedience is key!
The one great asset in all this is obedience: obedience to God directly, or to God indirectly as He speaks to us through others. Obedience is still a virtue!, a virtue whose name means ‘to listen to’. Thus, ‘obedience’ is not a servile slavish succumbing to another’s arbitrary demands, but a prudent attentive awareness to another’s desires.
The spirit of ‘individualism’, and ‘doing my own thing’, are attitudes today, among all age groups, that make obedience seem anachronistic. It seems as though our spirit of independence and freedom have made us forget that the strength of a church, nation, family is based on the integrity of each member and an interdependence based on love. No longer does this central aspect of the life of the Master seem relevant to our society. It is true that certain explanations of the excellence of obedience were centered on a distorted presentation of ‘blind obedience’. All God’s children are encouraged as well as expected to be open and obedient to God’s Word and Will. How much more for those called (‘vocation’) to a life of greater intimacy with the Lord as ‘bridge builders‘ between God and His People; how much more for those called to serve Christ hidden in the vast masses of humanity loving them untiringly as the ‘other Christ’ each priest/religious - and for that, any Christian - is called to be? Without obedience, how can any of us expect to be a living image of the savior who became obedient unto death, and death on a cross (Philippians 2:8-9)?
Christ became obedient … Jesus was obedient to the Father. My food is to do the will of Him Who sent me (John 5:30). Christ, though Son, learned obedience from what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). Since the obedience of Jesus, which He learned at such a high price, was so meritorious to our salvation, how much more must we as Christians realize obedience as essential to our relationship with God! We, the Mystical Body of Christ, cannot expect to be given different standards than our Head, Jesus, was given!
- Jesus was obedient to the Law of God: He fulfilled all the religious practices: every year He went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41); He paid the Temple tax (Matthew 17: 24-27); He fulfilled the responsibility of synagogue prayer on the Sabbath as he was in the habit of doing (Luke 4:16; Mark 1:21).
- Jesus was obedient to legitimate authority. He never entered into political debate with Pilate, He only affirmed: You would have no authority if it were not given to you from above (John 19:11). However, Jesus also confronted the legitimate authority of His people when it contradicted the authority of the Father: His parents when they questioned his remaining in Jerusalem unknown to them (Luke 2: 41…); the religious leaders when they accused Him of violating the Sabbath (Mark 2: 23…); the leaders of the people when He accused them of hypocrisy(Matthew 23) - in this regard however He added to His accusation of them Do as they say but do not do as they do (Matthew 23: 3).
- Jesus was obedient to His parents for thirty years, as we are told in the Gospels: He was obedient to them (Luke2:51).
All Priests, when they respond affirmatively to the call to be ordained, reiterate their obedience to the authority of the Church ordaining them and to all legitimate authority. They place their hands in the hands of the ordaining prelate and promise obedience. If the priest is not obedient, eventually the souls he is called to shepherd will soon go astray, or at the least be misguided. Obedience is a sharing in the responsibility of feeding and tending God’s flock - not fleecing and milking them as St. Anthony warned the clergy - as we ourselves are tended and fed with the spiritual gifts of Scripture, Tradition, Sacraments, Magisterium of the Church, always available and receptive to the Spirit of God.
In writing to the Campanile Sisters, Padre Pio writes: Be content with obedience, which is never an easy matter for a soul which has chosen God as its portion, and resign yourself for now … Always humble yourself lovingly before God and men, because Go speaks to those who truly have a humble heart before him, and he enriches it with his gifts (23August 1918). Obey despite the interior conflict, and without being comforted by obedience. Jesus’ obedience in the Garden and on the Cross was marked by immense conflict, and he knew no relief; but he obeyed up to the point where he complained to the apostles and to his Father, and his obedience was excellent and all the more beautiful … Keep cheerful then, and don’t by any means doubt (undated).
Padre Pio’s extraordinary gifts from the very beginning of his religious life until his death in 1968, were the source of his many spiritual joys but also caused him many heartaches: misunderstood, rashly judged, slandered, silenced in everything but the private celebration of Mass. These are but a few generalizations to remember how intensely he lived the words he wrote to the Campanile Sisters and that he repeats to us now. Priests are ‘sons of obedience’ called to be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy (Leviticus 19: 2), to be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5: 48), so that he can do this as a remembrance of me (Luke 22:19) - the only command of Jesus that has been faithfully kept uninterruptedly for two thousand years by His priests. The Eucharist is the act of thanksgiving the Church offers through Jesus in the Holy Spirit to the Father for Jesus’ total obedience unto death for the life of us all. It is in this obedience that we priests, and all the faithful, will become one with the Name above every other Name (Philippians 2: 9).
As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio let us pray for all priests - Bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians - who are called out from among the people (ek-klesia - church - a people called out), to be sent out to be with the people of God as one who stands in the breach between time and eternity, in persona Christi, interceding for himself and all the people. Pray for all God’s people, that following the example of good shepherds we may grow in holiness through obedience to God’s Will and God’s Word in the Church. One of Padre Pio’s maxims for us to remember says it so simply: Where there is no obedience there is no virtue, where there is no virtue there is no good, where there is no good there is no love, where there is no love there is no God, and where there is no God there is no Paradise.
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