23 Sep – Memorial for St. Pio of Pietrelcina, priest
Padre Pio was one of the first saints whose lives I took an interest in finding out more. He was a man who had many spiritual enemies. The devil would sometimes appear to him as an ugly animal, to fill him with terror; young girls, nude and provocative, to test his chastity; but to Padre Pio, the greatest danger was when the devil appeared to him in the form of one of his religious superiors, or in a sacred form such as Jesus, Mary, or St. Francis. More about him can be found here: http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=1021
Padre Pio (1887-1968) was born Francesco Forgione to a southern Italian farm family, the son of Grazio, a shepherd. At 15, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars in Morcone, and joined the order at 19. He suffered from several health problems, and at one point his family thought he had tubercolosis. At 22, he was ordained in 1910.
While praying before the cross on Sep 20, 1918, he became the first priest ever to be blessed with receiving the stigmata. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following the Second World War, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the house, and was reportedly able to read the consciencs of those who held back. He was also reportedly able to bilocate, levitate, and heal by touch.
In 1956, he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920s, he started a series of prayer groups that continues today with over 400,000 members worldwide.
When Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House of Relief of Suffering, was admitted with meningitis to the intensive care unit of the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo (founded by Padre Pio), his condition deteriorated such that by morning, doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy’s internal organs had ceased to give signs of life.
That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo’s mother and some Capuchin friars or Padre Pio’s monastery, the child’s condition suddenly improved. When he awoke from his coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him, “Don’t worry, you will soon be cured.” The miracle was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and on Dec 20, 2001, he was canonized by Pope John Paul II.
Oh Jesus, full of grace and charity, victim for sinners, so impelled by your love of us that you willed to die on the cross, I humbly entreat you to glorify in heaven and on earth, the servant of God, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who generously participated in your sufferings, who loved you so much and laboured so faithfully for the glory of your heavenly Father and for the good of souls. With confidence, I beseech you to grant me, through his intercession, the grace of ________ , which I ardently desire.
Say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and Glorias.
– Source: Patron Saint Index
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49
Someone may ask, “How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?” They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that. It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.
If the soul has its own embodiment, so does the spirit have its own embodiment. The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.
With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, Jesus used this parable:
“A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up. Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture. Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.” Saying this he cried, “Listen, anyone who has ears!”
The disciple asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, “They mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that
they may see but not perceive,
listen but not understand.
“This, then, is what the parable means: the seed is the word of God. Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it and then the devil comes and carries away the word from their hearts in case they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are people who, hen they first hear it, welcome the word with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up. As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity. As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.”
Do you watch Singapore Idol? Even if, like me, your answer is ‘no’, you must have heard of it. Singapore Idol is talent and popularity contest where thousands of Idol hopefuls audition for a chance to be chosen by four judges to have a shot at being Singapore’s next music idol. As the series of shows progress, the idol hopefuls are coached by the producers of the show and those who take the advice gradually improve with time and become more appealing to the public, who will vote to eliminate one or a few contestants each week.
Of course, with every batch of idol hopefuls, there are those who listen to the advice of the coaches and the judges, but they do not act on it, preferring to “do it my way”. Before long, these are eliminated, because they have disregarded the judges’ well-meaning criticism.
Then there are those who do listen to the judges and act on it, but due to public pressure or for one reason or another, maybe due to family commitments, drop out of the competition. Also, there are those who do well in the competition, but choose to drop out in order to further their studies or to complete university etc. In addition, there are those who let their new-found popularity go to their heads, and instead of concentration on rehearsing and performing well at the next show, they are busy doing something else. In the end, they get eliminated as well for poor performance.
Finally, there are those who listen to the advice of the judges and coaches, sincerely put in effort to improve, and the transformation over time is significant. You can really see how at first, they were just wannabes, and now they have honed their talents and really become stars, whose are so popular that they are even known by those who do not watch the show.
Even if they do not end up being the Singapore Idol, they are not the same person they used to be; they have become new people because of all their experiences, and they will never be completely the same as they used to be; they are better people now, because of their experiences, and certainly they see the world, particularly the television and music industry in Singapore, for what it really is.
In the same way, when we listen to the Word of God, and we apply it to our lives, and sincerely put in time and effort to improve our spiritual lives, we too will become stars that shine brightly in the world. Some of us truly are “light of the world” and even known by those who are not Christians.
These people, once they become “new” people, can never go back to being the same as they were before because of all the spiritual experiences that they have had. These too, because of their experiences, see the world, particular life and death, God, and the resurrection, for what it really is. With this insight, it is impossible to go back to what they were before.
And that is really the purpose of our life on earth. It is one big Idol competition, where we are all striving to become better people than when we were brought into the world. Some of us listen to the good advice of spiritual leaders, but prefer to do it our way. We won’t get far this way. Others face external pressure and give up on their spiritual development. Still others choose to stop growing spiritually in favour of other matters such as career advancement etc.
Finally, there are those who listen to the Word of God and as it is explained by spiritual leaders, and they do their best to apply it to their daily lives, all the while seeking to grow spiritually and to develop themselves to their fullest capacity. These are the ones who will one day reach spiritual maturity and “yield a harvest through their perseverance”, shining the light of Christ brightly in the world, so much so that even those who do not know Christ will know him because of his light that shines through us.
Dear Jesus, we ask for the grace to continue to persevere in growing more fully in our spiritual lives. Help us to listen and understand what it is that you are revealing to us each day as we reflect on your Word to us. May our perseverance and humility be blessed with spiritual fruits so that more people will come to know you. In your name, we pray. Amen.
Give Thanks to the Lord for: A new perspective on an old parable.
Sun, 24 Sep – Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16 – 4:3; Mark 9:30-37; Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Disclaimer: The reflections expressed in this e-mail are the writer’s own. They may not necessarily reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church. Nonetheless we should all be able to learn something from it.