Friday, September 23, 2011

Padre Pio's Suffering

Today is the memorial feast day of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. As the meditation for the day, the Magnificat offers the following words written by Padre Pio to his spiritual director:
“Jesus tells me that in love it is he who delights me, while in suffering, on the other hand, it is I who give pleasure to him. Now, to desire good health would mean seeking happiness for myself instead of trying to comfort Jesus. Yes, I love the cross, the cross alone; I love it because I see it always on Jesus’ shoulders. By this time Jesus is well aware that my entire life, my whole heart is consecrated to him and to his sufferings….
When Jesus wants to make me understand that he loves me, he permits me to relish the wounds, the thorns, the anguish of his Passion… But when he wants to be delighted, he speaks to me of his sufferings, he invites me in a tone which is both a request and a command to offer my body that his sufferings may be alleviated.”
Not exactly the norm in terms of what a spiritual director is given to work with! Here, it is likely the case that the director is chosen by God to witness the extraordinary gifts made manifest by God in this humble soul of a man. In and through Padre Pio we gain insight beyond what we ordinarily hear from the learned who attempt to convey some portrait of the divine.   
For instance, in telling us, “while in suffering…it is I who give pleasure to him,” Padre Pio is saying that Jesus takes pleasure in his suffering. Yes, that is what Padre Pio is telling us. Jesus is pleased with Pio’s suffering, not because he is suffering for suffering's sake, but because his entire life and his whole heart has been consecrated to Jesus and His sufferings. It is an expression of the cooperation of the human will with the divine will, an offering made by the human to the divine in response to His unique call to this soul, both a request and a command to offer his body… Padre Pio’s is a love that reflects the divine love itself which in Jesus undertook suffering for the sake of humanity. In other words, there is a human being, named Pio, who has undertaken to suffer for the sake of God, with the same love that God undertook to suffer for Pio’s sake. In Padre Pio we see a human being who has been willing to respond to God and His suffering in the very manner that God responded to human suffering.     
Having lived 50 years of his life bearing the stigmata of Christ in his own flesh, bearing the spiritual wounds of Christ in being privy to see the sins of human hearts, bearing the emotional pains of persecution, calumny and the like, and bearing natural human illnesses to which his body was subject as a man, all offered to Jesus in love, for the love of God and the good of souls, we hereafter are left not only with the memory of such a man and his letters, but even in death, Pio’s body still speaks of Jesus’ love for his suffering, in the divine will to preserve the body from corruption.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soul Kiss

Sunday night I stood before a room full of strangers and spoke of my experience with Lyme disease. It was because a certain priest had found my story miraculous insofar as I did not despair in the wake of bearing such an illness, that he invited me to speak to this group of charismatic intercessors. I had nothing prepared to say, and really, no intention of speaking. I just went along to see what was going to happen.
Well, what happened was, I spoke; not eloquently, but simply to say that God is our strength in weakness. That it would be impossible for me to stand at all without His willing that I be able to do so. That it was Him who moved my legs when I could not move them by myself, that it was Him who inhabited me at my weakest moments animating me with any life at all. That my brain was so profoundly infected at one time that I was unable to compose a coherent sentence and now I stood before them speaking cohesively and comprehensibly.
The key to getting to where I stood before them with nary even a fleeting fantasy of ending my suffering was that I always trusted in Him, and never lost trust in Him. With unwavering certainty, I knew that He knew every moment of trial I endured and I trusted that all of it would be put to good use with none of it going to waste. I knew that He was present with me in every moment, when I was conscious and unconscious, weary and worn out, pressing and pressing my legs to move on that treadmill, blinking through blurry eyes to read prayers, forcing food down my throat, sitting like a zombie before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, etc.
I concluded by announcing that my illness has been one of the greatest things ever to happen to me, for it set me within a disposition to God so utterly docile, so utterly in need, so utterly dependent that we became fused in a way that would otherwise have been impossible. With such an intimate fusion, there is inevitably a kiss that occurs, an ever deepening and eternal kiss so consuming as to absorb the soul in desire that it should never be parted from this kiss, neither from the act of kissing nor the kisser Himself. When it is Christ whose arms embrace us and whose heart is thirsting for us, how can we for even a moment stand to withdraw from His desire whatever it should be?
So, if it is my purification through illness and the benefits my suffering accrues to others that He desires, I say, let it be done to me according to Thy word.     

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows

Mother and Child
Corpus Christi Monastery, New York
After a couple weeks of working through the approval process with my insurance company, it came down to my IV line being inserted on this memorial feast of Our Blessed Mother when I was first diagnosed four years ago. A surgical nurse came to my home, sterilized the kitchen table and decked herself out in full scrubs to perform the procedure. I sat with my left arm outstretched, looking down at my lap while she prepared the area near the elbow bend with a bit of numbing stuff and antiseptic, telling me of her own experience receiving such a port, how the shock and pain made her faint.

I was not daunted, however, because it was September 15. When the moment arrived and I was told she was going ahead with the piercing, I began silently to pray, Hail Mary… and it was done. No fainting, but a quick gasp. It’s not the pain, but the violence of it that makes one gasp. And the arm itself does go into shock becoming ice cold to the touch and bloodless. But it is nothing, I imagine, compared to having a nail driven straight through a hand, wrist or foot.

“Let us adore Christ, the Savior of the world, who called his mother to share in his passion,” reads the Invitatory Antiphon for today’s feast. Adoring Christ, who in the midst of His passion gave His mother to us as our own, to me as my own, I am grateful. I am thankful that heaven would have it be that my illness was marked in such a way as to bear this particular wound of it on the day our Church recognizes Mary’s presence and her sorrow at the foot of her child’s cross. As she was present with Jesus in His being pierced, so was she present with me in mine. As she wept for Jesus’ suffering, she was also weeping for mine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Triumph of the Cross

The cross is the bridge that connects heaven and earth.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


From the writings of Saint Rose of Lima...

Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: "Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven."

Thursday, September 1, 2011


From today's Magnificat meditation...

Since God draws some men to him by means of joy and others by means of sorrow, by which of these did he draw the disciples? The answer is found in considering their life. It was passed in our Savior's company in much hardship, ending in great shame and distress. So they were drawn to God more by sorrow than by joy....

And the way to God through sorrow is more like Christ's way in all his life, and in his death. It is, besides, a better sign of God's love, for it is written: "Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise." (Rv 3:19) It is, indeed, true that the disciples enjoyed a close familiar companionship with the divine Master, but it was embittered by the knowledge that for every gift they got they must suffer the death of all self-love. And as fast as God relieved them of one suffering he sent them another just as hard -- for God is always accustomed to thus treat his beloved friends. The disciples found this to be the case, and so must they keep on suffering to the end, according as their heavenly Father arranged for them. Until at last their sorrow was turned into joy, and they were glad to suffer for the name of Jesus.

By Father John Tauler, O.P.