Suffering, Humility and Tradition

I have always been impressed by this Padre Pio, the stories about him inspire me, his miracles leave me in awe. In today’s article I would like to reflect about this simple man dressed in Franciscan garb.

Embracing his Suffering

In an age when the “culture of Death” is often promoted thanks to anti-life laws, at a time when euthanasia has become the talk of the day, we must turn our attention to this humble man who embraced life till the end even when he had to follow a difficult path in order to accomplish God’s mission for him. During his life Padre Pio lived in a state of poor health, at one point in his life he had to leave the community due to his precarious health. In fact this Capuchin friar saw suffering in a particular way in fact he wrote: “The greater your suffering the greater God’s love for you.” In another letter he wrote; “He wants you entirely for Himself, He wants you to place all your trust and all your affection in Him alone and it is precisely for this reason that He sends you this spiritual aridity, to unite you more closely to Him.

Humility

Once I saw a video of Padre Pio walking in church or outside (when his health permitted), only a couple of seconds had passed when people started approaching him to try and kiss his hands. In reaction to such an outburst of love and devotion, Padre Pio didn’t let them kiss his hands at one point in time he even appeared to be in a state of anger to such an outburst. Why? Perhaps the reason can only be described in one word: “Humility”, after all let us not forget that he once said: “You have respect for me because you don’t know me. I am the greatest sinner on this heart.” Padre Pio; a sinner?! I would never say that in my whole life, he was a man whose humility awe-inspired millions, especially me. But Padre Pio didn’t humble himself as part of some actor’s routine, on the contrary he insisted that in humility one can find Christ, in fact he wrote: “When Jesus sees you prostrated in humility, he will extend his hand and draw you to him.”

Traditional till the End

Padre Pio last mass was a unique moment in itself, first because he celebrated it whilst sitting on a wheelchair, due to his declining health and secondly because during the last part of the Pater Noster after saying: “sed libera nos a malo” his stigmata disappeared. For 51 years Padre Pio celebrated the Mass in Extraordinary From, for 51 years a man of deep reverence for our Lord offered the most reverent of masses, which in turn was celebrated by many saints before him who like him faced the Lord with humility and burning love for the Most Holy Sacrament.

At the end of this article I would like to present a quote by Blessed Pope Paul VI who upon hearing of St Pio’s death said: “What fame he had. How many followers from around the world. Why? Was it because he was a philosopher, a scholar, or because he had means at his disposal? No, it was because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from morning until night and was a marked representative of the stigmata of Our Lord. He was truly a man of prayer and suffering.”

 

St Teresa of Calcutta

The 4th of September 2016, will go down in history as the day when Mother Teresa was recognized as a saint of the Catholic Church. I used the word recognized because she was a saint long before, thanks to her charity and pro-life zeal.

Her Charity
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in the year 1950. It is recorded that while travelling throughout India, she experienced a “call within a call”. In fact she once said: “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.” Years later she founded the Missionaries of Charity whose mission was to help the “poorest of the poor”. Today there are 4500 sisters who are active in 133 countries. Like the mustard seed, the Missionaries of Charity have grown, from humble origins to international religious congregation.

Through tough times
Perhaps the most inspiring thing about saints is that they too, like us, have to endure harsh moments in order to bear witness to the message of the Gospel. Yesterday I wrote about Pope Gregory the Great who had to overcome difficult challenges during his pontificate from plagues to invasion from barbarians. Today we have Mother Teresa who wrote this about her challenging times she had to face during the founding of her order: “Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today, I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then, the comfort of Loreto [her former congregation] came to tempt me. ‘You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again,’ the Tempter kept on saying … Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.”

Her Pro-Life zeal
During the 20th century and even during the 21st century the Chinese government imposed the one-child policy. This meant that families had to have one child if they tried to have more they would be forced to have abortions. Millions died in such a way. In this light we can see why Mother Teresa wrote fervently against abortion in the letter she wrote for the 4th World Conference on Women in Bejing in 1985: “That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike! Yet we can destroy this gift of motherhood, especially by the evil of abortion, but also by thinking that other things like jobs or positions are more important than loving, than giving oneself to others. No job, no plans, no possessions, no idea of “freedom” can take the place of love. So anything that destroys God’s gift of motherhood destroys His most precious gift to women– the ability to love as a woman.”

Now that we have seen some of the reasons why Mother Teresa was, is and will continue to be a saintly force in the face of today’s challenges, it makes sense to turn to Jesus and like her pray: “Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.”

St Gregory the Great

As the Catholic Church continues to suffer attacks from within and without, today’s feast to such an important defender of the Faith comes at a crucial and much needed time for contemplation and reflection.

Gregorian Chant

 One of the contribution that St Gregory made to the Catholic Church was a musical one, “the cantus planus” or what we now call Gregorian Chant. Unfortunately today many see such a glorious chant as boring or unnecessary in their Catholic lifestyle. What such people fail to realize is that such hymns were composed at a time of struggle for Christian Europe; a time of plagues and invasions, thus they serve as a reminder of where we came from, our history and identity. It is also safe to say that as Catholics it is our obligation to love such reverent of music after all the saints throughout the ages had sung it as well. Even the apostles sung as Matthew chapter 26 verse 30 informs us: “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mountains of Olives.” Thus let us never forget what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said when he praised Gregorian Chant as being: “of huge value to the great ecclesial heritage of universal sacred music.”

Liturgical Reform

For this part of the article I would like to quote from Fr Peter J Stravinskas excellent article on such a matter: “Pope Gregory’s program was really quite simple: To return to the people of Rome a sense of sin and a sense of the sacred. He was indefatigable in pursuing both goals. His writing and preaching on the moral life were insightful and engaging; he also enlisted the assistance of his fellow Benedictines to raise the moral level of what had become a sewer of debauchery, not only by words but also by the witness of their lives. At the same time, he endeavored to return to his clergy and laity alike the lost sense of the sacred. He understood in his time what his successor of 14 centuries later, John Paul II, has stressed in our time: “A very close and organic bond exists between the renewal of the Liturgy and the renewal of the whole life of the Church. The Church not only acts but also expresses herself in the Liturgy and draws from the Liturgy the strength for her life.”

On Harming the Church

St Gregory the Great once wrote: “No one does more harm in the Church then he who has the title of rank of holiness and acts perversely.” An excellent quote said by a saintly pope, who defended the Church from those who abused their power either internally or externally, a Doctor of the Church who nearly bankrupted the Vatican coffers after giving  so much to the poor but enriched the Church by way of tradition and holy piety. St Gregory, Doctor of the Church, Defender of the Faith defend us as we battle the modern heretics and those who seek the Church’s destruction!