"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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