Monthly Letter

Padre Pio Prayer Groups

National Office

St. Francis Renewal Center
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
December 2009

Dear Spiritual Children and Friends of Padre Pio,

The Lord give you His peace!

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to…Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph…the virgin’s name was Mary…The angel said to Her: O highly favored…The Lord is with you. Blessed are you…Do not fear…You shall conceive and bear a son and name him Jesus…The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God…Nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1: 26-38)

Those brief words tell of the most central moment in the history of humanity. Mankind reached a point of no return. Time itself would be calculated from all that followed that moment. Almighty God took the initiative to fulfill the promise He made humanity millennia before. God’s creatures turned their back on God in Eden; God turned His Face towards them promising that all would be restored in due time. He, their Almighty and Loving Creator, Life-Giver, their Eternal Father would personally come to their rescue. Disobedience and arrogance would be overcome by the obedience and humility that only a loving God - a Loving “Parent” - could accomplish. The process would be long (until the end of the age) and arduous (the Son of Man must be rejected and die). Rebellious human beings - systematically oblivious to God’s Love, Mercy and Providence - will challenge the fulfillment of God’s Promise for them until the end of time. Prophetic words, powerful signs, and miracles all seem ineffective over the centuries leading to the moment of God’s explosive yet gentle entrance into time. God once again takes the initiative to “reconnect” with His Children, and the Creator becomes a creature. God becomes one with humanity so that humanity can become one with God.

The simplicity and calm of God’s entrance into human history as one of His own creatures did not detract from the impact of this “explosion of love”. Sin and its consequences were killing man’s soul, and God would love us to Life. Love is stronger than death. Eternal Love made Flesh would restore to humanity what the erosion of sin had taken from the human heart. The new ground of a renewed spirit would blossom into a Presence that would “overshadow” with increasing power the darkness that had overwhelmed the human heart. Eventually humility and love will topple the great idol (cfr. Book of Daniel) that people have been constructing since the beginning of time and will calm the rebellion of God’s children to their Father’s Will in Eden. Arrogance and self-centeredness, disregard for the One Who is the Giver of life, will eventually and trustingly yield to the God Who journeys with His People. This Mystery of Redemption and “Miracle” of Love begins with the “overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit, just as it did at the beginning of Creation, when the Spirit of God “overshadowed” the nothingness. This “overshadowing” has continued and will continue till the end of time. Every time the priest “overshadows” the gifts of bread and wine with his hands and invokes the power of the Holy Spirit to renew the Sacrifice of Calvary, God becomes one with creation. His Presence is “Real” - the Real Presence of Jesus, the Son of God, in the Eucharist - for nothing is impossible with God.

The “overshadowing” presence invoked eclipses the brightest of any light and offers the condition for the greatest mystery and “miracle” to take place. At the word of a mere servant - at the service of all God’s People - wherever this “overshadowing” takes place, the re-presentation of Calvary renews the Promise and the “challenge” to “return to the future” and become who we were created to be. The priest repeats the words that Jesus said at table with His Apostles the night before He died. Taking the bread he says: This is my Body given for you; and taking the chalice he says: This is the cup of my blood poured out for you. Bread becomes flesh; wine becomes blood. Separate in Sacrifice, one in Sacrament, Jesus is once again and always present in created matter with us. The “Overshadowing Presence” of the Holy Spirit now, and as we receive the Lord in Communion, consecrates us in Jesus that we become, each according to our cooperation with grace, an image of that Jesus who continues to journey with His Pilgrim People. His Presence encourages, enlarges and enlivens our lives.

We have heard it said so often, You cannot separate the Crib from the Cross. Advent, with all its flamboyance of colors, lights, sounds, gifts, food, and the like, is always a season of joyful expectation for One Who was born to die. A somber reality intended to instill joy rather than sadness. The purpose of His birth was that He might teach us the love of the Father without end by showing us the depth of love in His own Sacrifice on Calvary. From Bethlehem to Calvary the life of Jesus is “overshadowed” by the bright promise of the Cross. This instrument of torture was used to express the disdain and total disregard that one people had for the integrity and dignity of another - the Romans toward the Jews. The Edict of Caesar Augustus demanded a census that disregarded the dangers and hardships simple, conquered, and displaced people would have to endure. God, Who writes straight on crooked lines, used this moment in time to fulfill His Promise to the world and begin the “Process” of our Redemption. The Cross, from the outset, would always loom in the background until it was placed on His shoulders to fulfill the last part of the “Process” and be the “Key” that would open to a new Life for everyone who accepted His message.

The angels to the shepherds on the hillside of Bethlehem sang, Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth. No one would then, or even can today, understand this peace until they saw with the eyes of faith the new life in the Crib overshadowed by New Life through the Cross, and accept to let the Holy Spirit “overshadow” each one with His transforming power. The word is powerful! - “Overshadow”. It means that we are spiritually enveloped - embraced - and become totally immersed in the One Whom we offer and receive; then, as He, we are sent to be the Father’s love, mercy, and providence to a waiting world. The Spirit that overshadowed the “nothingness” at Creation, that overshadowed Mary at the Incarnation, that overshadows the bread and wine at the Consecration, is the same Holy Spirit that overshadows our hearts and souls to become the One Whom we offer and receive. Do we ever take time to reflect how much we are a part of the great mystery of the Eucharist? Do we priests especially consider what an awesome privilege and responsibility we have for and with the People of God?! O admirable exchange! God becomes one with man that man might become one with God! … Nothing is impossible to God!

When the priest raises his hands over the Gifts before the Consecration to invoke the Spirit’s power, like the power of the Father Creator he calls out of the “littleness” - the “nothingness” - of the bread and wine for the Almighty Lord of lords and King of kings to re-present by His Divine Presence that one great Saving Act of Love that turned Creation back on its course to Him. The faithful associate themselves with the words of the priest and acclaim their consent to become one with the Victim. Christ is re-presented in all His saving grace for us to Come, let us adore Him!

We must ask the Holy Spirit to “overshadow” us with His transforming presence and gifts, as Padre Pio writes to his spiritual daughter Raffaellina Cerase (23 October 1914): this is the finest grace that can be asked by and on behalf of those who aspire to the spiritual life, namely, an increase of heavenly light…which is directly infused by God…we must ask the Spirit, the Comforter, to enlighten us with regard to three great truths in particular. Firstly, to make us unceasingly aware of the excellence of our Christian vocation. The fact of having been chosen, having been elected among innumerable others and knowing that without any merit on our part, this choice, this election was decided by God from all eternity, ‘before the foundation of the world’…Secondly, let us pray that He may enlighten us more and more as to the immensity of the eternal inheritance which has been reserved for us by the goodness of the heavenly Father…Finally, let us pray to the Father of all light to enable us to penetrate more and more deeply into the mystery of our justification…our justification is such an enormous miracle that sacred Scripture compares it to the Resurrection of our divine Master…

As Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, let us listen to what Padre Pio is telling Raffaelina; he is telling us as well. We must be open the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. His power must be the “overshadowing” force that enlightens our lives to the reality of God’s wonderful creation and His Presence in our midst. That same force of the Spirit brings out of the littleness of our frail human nature an image of Jesus. His birth as an infant charted the course of human events, challenged those who knew and know Him, and changed the lives of those who trustingly accepted the invitation. We too must appreciate and be grateful for the gift and dignity of our Catholic Christian faith; keep our hearts focused on the wonderful promise of Eternal Life for the faithful; pray that the Holy Spirit’s “overshadowing” presence may assure us a share in Life with our Redeemer King, Whose Birthday we celebrate.

May the joy of this Advent Season of Great Expectations of the One Who has already come and will come again in the fullness of His glory, make us more aware of His Divine Presence in our midst. The Eucharist the priest offers immerses us with the gifts consecrated to become a “consecrated people” by the “overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit, that Christ may be born each day in the hearts of all. It is in the Eucharist and through it that we can sing with the angels, Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth; and recognizing His Presence among us we can acclaim with the people of Jerusalem who hailed His entrance with palm and olive branches six days before Calvary, Hosanna, Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna! Yes! Glory and Peace at the Crib…Hosanna and Grace at the Cross…Eternal Life and Joy at the Resurrection. What a powerful and beautiful story, crucial and incisive message, eternal and loving relationship Christmas initiates for all who see the effects of the overshadowing presence of the Spirit in the Child of Bethlehem, JESUS THE LORD.

May you and your loved ones have a most blessed and happy Christmas. May the Christ Child help you discover the simplicity and joy of this season, in the love of the Infant Savior, and share it, as the greatest gift you can give anyone. God bless you; Our Lady and St. Joseph guide, guard, and protect you; and Padre Pio watch over each one of you, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.

Peace and Blessings in the Christ Child,

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