Happy St. Padre Pio Day! This is the day on which he flew to Heaven, and it being his heavenly birthday, he has lots of gifts to give (being in no need of any himself, now that he has God completely in view). This is also the day our dear Padre launches us into our St. Therese novena, but first we must finish his! So gather your intentions - or simply offer your heart and mind which contain them all, some hazy, some clear as can be - and let's ask for what's needed and what's desired. I don't know about you, but the prayer requests coming my way throughout this novena have just gotten bigger and huger and almost overwhelming in their urgency. The good news is that nothing is too big for God, and His saints love to intercede for us. If you are just joining us now, don't worry, you've been included already, and you can finish with us before we start again!
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O Saint Padre Pio, holy bearer of the Wounds of Christ, accept us this day as your spiritual sons and daughters and keep us always on the Little Way by your intercession. And do thou, O our Spiritual Father, stay there at the Gates of Heaven until all of your spiritual children have entered through, even and including us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Dear Padre Pio, I recall your promise to the Lord, “Lord, I will stand at the gates of heaven until I see all my spiritual children have entered.” Encouraged by your gracious promise, I ask you to accept me as a spiritual child and to intercede for my prayer requests (Here state your petitions). Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, world without end, Amen.
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Ah, Padre Pio!
Do you know that he is one of the most warm-hearted and gentlest saints around? And yet, again this past week I heard another dear friend admit she couldn't help but be a bit scared of him, and I don't blame her (though I hoped to change her fear into affectionate confidence!). He just had that gruff demeanor sometimes, and the stories do get around. I hastened to reassure her that she would not be one to earn his anger - although maybe I would have earned a scold!
I could see myself, had I the good fortune to be in his presence, trying to cut off just a small relic from his habit! He had to bark at the Italian women who did so because otherwise he would have been quite a cost to the community, needing new robes once a week at least!
Then there were those who came into the confessional to trick him, to find out if he would know they hadn't committed the fake sins they were confessing, or perhaps do the opposite and leave out mortal sins they didn't want to give up! Then he would bark again, and when those who were approaching the confessional in total insincerity left, they had time to absorb what he had said and would very often return, finally repentant!
Lastly, there was the problem we can all pray to have: namely that the gentleness of Jesus, His compassion and mercy filled Padre Pio, and so Pio said to a confrere that he sometimes had to walk gruffly and seemingly uncaringly through the crowds waiting to speak to him because if he didn't hurry with his head down and a scowl on, he'd simply burst into tears with the sorrow he felt at all their sufferings!
So yes, again and again I defend my Padre, but alas, he did bark, he could be gruff, and so, hearing those stories, many are afraid of him. I've decided today that my best bet at erasing the image of angry Padre Pio (and I will repeat: he is not angry at you, dear reader!) is by sharing a couple wonderful pages I came across this morning in Patricia Treece's little book, Quiet Moments with Padre Pio.
She writes, "Padre Pio disarmed everyone with his affable simplicity, even those who had gone on purpose to see the supernatural in him and who wanted to see something of that extraordinary nature in him at all costs. One evening while he was going to the prayer stalls, he said to someone he knew intimately, 'Really, I don't feel like praying this evening, and I don't even have the excuse of good intentions, because I really don't want to.'"
Why that should delight me, I'm not exactly sure - except to show that our dear father understands us! He was human and felt the same ways we do! Don't feel like praying? I've felt this way lately, and we're in good company! Padre Pio, help us persevere, and gain for us the grace to love praying - at least sometimes!
In another account, Andre Mandato of New Jersey wrote:
"When I first started visiting Padre Pio, there wasn't much of a crowd, because it was hard for the people to get there. We could go into the little garden, where there were maybe ten people, and we visited with him. He was jovial, in good humor. He told jokes. When you were by yourself, you would say: 'He is a saint.' But when he talked with you, you didn't see the saint. You saw a human being like everybody else, smiling, joking. I could touch him. I'd talk with him just as I'd talk with anyone else."
I hope you can talk to him today, on this his feast, just like you'd talk with anyone else. I hope you can tell him, and be sure I am telling him for you, that you could use a good joke or two, some laughter to lighten the load, and definitely his friendship. And then, let him lead you on to his little sister and ours, St. Therese. As I mentioned in the last post, the one time I know that Padre Pio bilocated just for his own consolation was when he was seen at St. Therese's canonization, in Rome, even while he never left his monastery! And this morning I had more confirmation that he is sending us to her (and her to us) because the first page I opened in his book had the heading "A Little Flower." Padre Gerardo of Deliceto, who lived with Padre Pio for years, wrote:
"The sixteenth of October was the anniversary of my feast day. As always, I had gone to the office to work. I had not seen the Padre and therefore waited impatiently for 11 o'clock to greet him. That morning I didn't hear his rhythmic and dragging footsteps accompanied by loud coughs.
"I carried on with my work when, suddenly, it seemed to me that someone had stopped at my door and touched it delicately. Suspicious, I got up and opened the door. It was he, smiling and a bit embarrassed, like a child surprised by his mother while playing some trick.
"'Good wishes,' he said to me, and gave me a little flower that he had put in the keyhole."
All I can think is that our Padre is ready to introduce St. Therese! She is the Little Flower he has tried to put into a keyhole so she can see into the room of our hearts and gather up the intentions filling every nook and cranny. You know the whole "keep it if it brings you joy?" mantra that's become so popular? Well our dear sister, following our dear father, is ready to take away all that Doesn't bring us joy! She's great at decluttering our souls of these myriad intentions that turn into anxieties and weigh us down.
No need to worry any longer! We have two superhero saints who love nothing better than to come down and wrestle our troubles away from us to replace them with God's healing gifts! They know how much He loves us, they share in that love, and they are ready to lavish it on us.
Here we are, hoping just to remember to say the novena prayer to get their attention. Again, I say no worries! They are paying such close attention already! They're right outside the door, trying to push each other and many roses through that keyhole. Ha! Though Padre Pio survived on the Eucharist and only a tiny smackerel of food and drink (hardly anything, and he'd lose weight if they made him eat more!), he managed to be a good sized man, and I doubt St. Therese is going to be able to stuff him through the keyhole, so we'd better open the door!
Before I put your hand on the doorknob (which will turn with our novena prayer to little Therese), Marcel, Therese's little spiritual brother, has something to add. He wrote for us the words Jesus spoke to him for our benefit, and this particular passage (492 in their Conversations) does a great job reminding us that God is even more eager to give than we are to receive. Jesus says:
"Come, come, little brother, the goodness of your true Father is without measure, as I have told you many times already. Even if, in His Love, He indulged you in everything, filling all your desires, He would never find it enough for His Love; He would only be afraid that you might not have the strength to receive all His treats. Whatever I do to spoil you, I consider it all as being nothing. Little brother, do you understand?...You have no more reason to worry."
One of my intentions in this double novena - the one we've just finished to Padre Pio and the one we are beginning to St. Therese - is that we will all begin to understand God's infinite love and mercy waaaaaaaaaaay more! Jesus complains (at 412 in Conversations):
"Little brother, there is still too little confidence in my Love. Revive this confidence in my Love, this is the work you must accomplish . . . "
Yes, Marcel, as we pray to our sister St. Therese, get busy helping her answer. First get us more confidence in Jesus' love for us. And then, just in case she's sleeping for a change, tickle her! Wake her! Get Padre Pio to rouse her too. Or if she's busy somewhere else in the globe, draw her attention to our part of the world as well, that she might shower her roses on all those who stand in so much need of our prayers, and on us, also, who desperately need her affection and Little Way.
Are you, as you read this, ready for roses? Let's pile all our needs into the center of the room (we don't want to block the doorway!), and invite in Therese to set them on fire with God's love. She says we can trust Him to do her will now that she is in Heaven, since she always did His when she was on earth. I'm so relieved we have her help! She desires to let us know His Love as she did - so let's go for it and let her in!
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O Little Therese of the Child Jesus
Please pick for me a rose from the heavenly garden
and send it to me as a message of love.
O Little Flower of Jesus,
ask God to grant us the favors
we now place with confidence in your hands . . .
St. Therese, help us always to believe as you did,
in God’s great love for us,
so that we may imitate your Little Way each day.
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And now, a few last definitions and explanations . . .
1. A "Little Novena" is one where you forget to say it after day one, or miss a day here and there, or forget to name all your intentions, etc.
2. St. Therese is all about little, so a "little novena" in her honor works perfectly well!
3. In conclusion, let's not worry about getting this novena "right." And know that I'm including all your intentions in mine, so you're covered!
To make our prayers even more powerful, let's ask Padre Pio to pray our St. Therese novena with us. He has the advantage of being very near to her and able to poke her if she doesn't seem to be responding quickly enough! Thanks, Padre!
May God reveal to you His infinitely tender love on this feast of His and our dear Padre Pio, and may the roses begin to fall, showering you and yours with graces beyond measure, and beyond even what you dare to hope. I know that some of your intentions have been offered up to Him so many times that you begin to wonder if He's just decided it's just a "No."
I understand! But if you look ahead on the Little Way that St. Therese shows us, you'll see in the near distance the persistent widow who won't leave that unjust judge alone, but keeps pestering him until even he gives her what she asks and insists on! God, who told us this parable, is not unjust - far from it - and much more our Savior than our Judge - though St. Therese loved to consider His justice, because she knew that He understands our total weakness and frailty, so we can hope just as much from His justice as from His mercy!
In other words, keep hoping, and if your hope is wearing thin, let's add that to our intentions: Little Therese, gain us confidence like yours, that we may trust all our needs to God with the assurance that He will answer us. And then get us those answers we so desire, for the glory of His adorable name!
Draw me, we will run!
"Yes, Jesus is there with His cross! Privileged one of His love, He wills to make you like Him! Why be frightened at not being able to carry this cross without weakening?" -St. Therese, the Little Flower
Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and a more mysterious and confusing feast I have yet to come across! Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, the Incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, left eternal bliss to ultimately be crucified and die to save us. And, as St. Therese explains, "Jesus has for us a love so incomprehensible, so delicate, that He does not want to do anything without associating us with Him. He wants us to participate with Him in the work of saving souls." Oh good Jesus, perhaps You are too good! But Your ignominy, Your suffering and humiliation conquered hatred, evil, and death, and opened the gates of Heaven wide for us, so that now we can say, "Hail Cross, our only hope!" What a mystery!
Further mysterious to me is the history of this feast, which manages to celebrate all sorts of things in one day. I've found the clearest, or at least the simplest, explanation at the Vatican website:
"On 13 September 335, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was dedicated. The following day, the cross that Empress Helena had discovered on 14 September 320, was venerated in a solemn ceremony. In 614, the Persian King, Chosroes II, waged war on the Romans. After conquering Jerusalem, he confiscated many treasures, among which was the Cross of Jesus. The Byzantine emperor Heraclius initiated peace negotiations, but was rejected. He then waged war and won near Nineveh, asking for the restitution of the Cross, which then returned to Jerusalem. Today, the cruelty of the Cross is not what is exalted, but the Love that God manifested to humanity by accepting death on the Cross."
I remember a dear friend asking why it was that God didn't choose another way than suffering to lead to Him - perhaps the way of beauty. For myself, I thought, yes, exactly, what about the way of joy? But one thing we can say about God is that He knows best, and so suffering it is, even if I relate most heartily to Marcel's position on the subject. As Jesus said to our little brother on April 26, 1946, so He seems to repeat to me often in 2022:
"What a pity! Marcel (Miss Marcel), you are truly very weak. Simply hearing the word suffering is almost enough to make you lose control."
Exactly! Ah, but then how can I fail to quote the rest of Jesus' words here . . .
"Little brother, before sending you any suffering, I want, first of all, to let you know how weak you are. You must realize that if you have not got the strength even to hear the word suffering uttered, still less do you have the strength to put up with suffering . . . Little brother, although this is so, you must accept suffering; but you cannot understand how much Love suffers even more than you, having to make you suffer. Oh Marcel! Although you are truly very weak, the sight of your weakness makes you more lovable in my eyes than any gestures of love that you show me would be able to . . ."
This last bit reminds me so much of the Heavenly Father's attitude toward His Beloved Son Jesus: "The sight of your weakness [on the cross] makes you more lovable in my eyes than any gestures of love that you show me would be able to . . ."
A mystery indeed!
And one who embraced this mystery, making it even more mysterious (if possible) is our own beloved Padre Pio - whose novena we must begin either today or tomorrow if we want to end just before or on his feast of September 23, when we will begin our novena to St. Therese, to end on October 1st! I love to tease Padre Pio that his feast is very memorable as the beginning of our novena to his sister St. Therese. I discovered a few years ago that the one time he seems to have bilocated for his own pleasure was when he was seen in Rome, at St. Peter's, at the canonization of St. Therese (though he never left his friary in San Giovanni Rotondo!)!
I like to start my novenas to end on the feast of the Saint whose intercession I am imploring, but it never hurts to start a little early in case we little ones accidentally skip a day! Anyhow, whether you start today or tomorrow or sometime next week (for a really little novena!), here is our prayer:
O Saint Padre Pio, holy bearer of the Wounds of Christ, accept us this day as your spiritual sons and daughters and keep us always on the narrow path by your intercession. And do thou, O our Spiritual Father, stay there at the Gates of Heaven until all of your spiritual children have entered through, even and including us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Dear Padre Pio, I recall your promise to the Lord, “Lord, I will stand at the gates of heaven until I see all my spiritual children have entered.” Encouraged by your gracious promise, I ask you to accept me as a spiritual child and to intercede for my prayer requests (Here state your petitions) Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
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Praise be Jesus Christ, our Beloved Spouse and Savior, Who chose the Holy Cross to exalt us with Him into the arms of the Heavenly Father!
Draw me, we will run!
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