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PADRE PIO Daily Reflections

. . . . . 28 W. Liberty St. Cincinnati, OH 45202

. . . . .

Our mission is to spread the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis.

Susan Hines-Brigger

Ash Wednesday—March 6 “The life and mission of Padre Pio testify that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted with love, transform themselves into a privileged journey of holiness, which opens the person toward a greater good, known only to the Lord.”—Pope John Paul II at Padre Pio’s canonization Mass in 2002 It is said that Ash Wednesday is the one day you can tell who is Catholic because they’re walking around with ashes on their foreheads. The ashes serve as a reminder of our sinfulness and mortality and provide a perfect beginning to the Lenten season. The next forty days will be a journey of reflection on our faith in light of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. On this journey, we will be accompanied by St. Pio of Pietrelcina, more commonly known as Padre Pio. This humble Capuchin friar embodied the true spirit of walking with Christ throughout his life. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, as we begin our Lenten journey, help us to die to ourselves and open our hearts to Christ in the same way that you did. Be our companion and guide us where we need to go. 1

Thursday after Ash Wednesday—March 7 “Do not immerse yourself in your work and other activities to such a degree that you lose the divine presence.”—letter to Raffaelina Cerase, December 17, 1914 Padre Pio was known for spending long periods of time in the confessional. It has been estimated that he heard two million confessions. He did not, however, allow this ministry to get in the way of his prayer life. Perhaps we could all learn something from his example. We are often in danger of spending more time and energy on our work than on the rest of our lives. We must work to find some balance between the two. Put down your phone or walk away from your computer and take a look at all the blessings surrounding you. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, remind us to slow down and focus on the many blessings that surround us every day. Let us see them for the true gift that they are.


Friday after Ash Wednesday—March 8 “Nothing represents an object more faithfully... than a mirror.”—Letters, Vol. 3, 90 Have you ever looked in the mirror and suddenly noticed all the flaws you hadn’t seen before? Mirrors are great for highlighting what you don’t want to see. They can also, however, be useful in helping to bring something in need of care to our attention. In this letter to Annita Rodote, one of his spiritual daughters, Padre Pio spoke to her about the virtues of modesty in all aspects of life. The image of a mirror is a good one to use because it reminds us to reflect on what others see in our behavior. How are we treating others? Are we presenting our best qualities for the world to see? Perhaps Lent is a good time for us to take a look in the mirror. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, you preached tirelessly the truth that we are made in the image of God. Help us to see ourselves clearly and work to reflect the person we were created to be.


Saturday after Ash Wednesday—March 9 “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” —Padre Pio It has been said by many that this phrase was St. Pio’s motto. He also used the phrase to counsel people. For him, the message seemed obvious. If God is watching over and caring for us, there is no need to worry. Padre Pio’s ability to hand things over to God is enviable. All too often we get stuck on things that we really have no control over. Yet for some reason we worry about them anyway. Try to remember that no matter what, we are in God’s care and his loving embrace. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, teach us how to hand over what we cannot control to God. Help us remember that we are always protected in God’s loving embrace.


First Sunday of Lent—March 10 “When you are unable to take big steps on the paths to which the Lord leads you, be content with small steps and patiently wait until you have the legs to run.”—Letters, Vol. 3, 116 Have you seen those images that on closer look are actually made up of many smaller pictures? In some ways, that’s a good example of Padre Pio’s story. Throughout his life, he dealt with various obstacles ranging from his health to people doubting his faith journey. Still, he continued on the path he believed Christ had set him on. The small steps—daily prayer, hearing confessions, and suffering quietly—added up, leading Padre Pio to become a faithful role model for others. So often we can be discouraged when we feel we are falling short of the big picture. Sometimes, though, we have to remember that the big picture can be the result of many smaller things—and often can only be seen from a wider perspective. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us focus on the smaller steps we take as part of our faith journey and give us the strength to take those steps, even when we think they’re not enough. 5

First Monday of Lent—March 11 “Joy, with peace, is the sister of charity. Serve the Lord with laughter. ”—Padre Pio Sometimes Padre Pio is portrayed as a less than joyous person. In reality, though, he was known to have a wonderful sense of humor. In fact, there are numerous stories of him pulling pranks on his fellow friars and other people. According to those who knew him, he loved to tell jokes and funny stories. There are also many pictures of him laughing. In the face of adversity, it can seem impossible to find any levity or something to smile about. But we must always remember that no matter what we’re going through, God is at our side. That alone is worth being joyful. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us remember the joy that comes from knowing that we are loved exactly as we are and where we are on our faith journey.


First Tuesday of Lent—March 12 “Do not allow yourself to be overcome by discouragement if you don’t always visibly see your every effort crowned. Jesus sees, rewards, and commands good will and not good success...”—Letters, Vol. 3, 792 Each of us have had periods where our faith is shaken and not as strong as we want it to be. Given all that is going on in the Church these days, it is certainly understandable. Padre Pio also had these times. Sometimes he questioned the challenges that God was putting before him. But he always kept his gaze on the greater purpose and worked his way past these periods. What a powerful example he provides for us that, while we will have times of challenge in our faith lives, the light of Christ will always guide us out of the darkness. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, serve as a guide and companion to us as we work our way through any periods of spiritual doubt and struggle.


First Wednesday of Lent—March 13 “In order to be good servants of God, we must be charitable toward our neighbor.” —Letters, Vol. 3, 932 Throughout his life, Padre Pio offered himself as a sacrifice. He was willing to take on physical sufferings in order to save the souls of others. Such actions seem rather counter to the way that many of us think today. Society as a whole seems to be rather me-centric; often we think more of ourselves than others. When we do think of others, we often do so not out of genuine concern or love, but rather through the lens of judgment. This season of Lent is a wonderful time to remember that our brothers and sisters are children of God the same as we are and deserve our love and respect. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us open our hearts to others and treat them with the love and respect that they deserve as children of God.


First Thursday of Lent—March 14 “Confession is the soul’s bath. You must go at least once a week. I do not want souls to stay away from confession more than a week.”—Padre Pio Over the years, Padre Pio heard millions of confessions. People flocked to him, so much so that he would spend long days sitting in the confessional. Frequent confession was a priority for him. He often used the example of dusting a room, pointing out that even if you dust a room, when you come back the next week it will need to be dusted again. But he also had the gift of seeing one’s soul and was not afraid to call out those he felt were not truly sorry for their sins or had simply come to see the priest with the stigmata. The act of baring one’s soul and sins before God was extremely important to him and he expected that same respect for the sacrament from those seeking absolution. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, inspire in us the yearning to take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance offered to us, so that we may clear our minds and souls of our sins and once again be in communion with God. 9

First Friday of Lent—March 15 “In books we seek God, in prayer we find him. Prayer is the key which opens God’s heart.” —Padre Pio When Padre Pio’s parents took him to the Capuchin monastery at the age of fifteen to see if their son could enter, the friars said he had to have more schooling before being considered. Padre Pio returned to his hometown and received private tutoring to help him meet the necessary requirements to enter the monastery. Eventually, he was accepted. Throughout his life, though, it was his prayer life, not his intellect, that sustained him. God for him was not a foreign figure to learn about, but more a companion to be encountered daily on his faith journey. It was this desire to truly know Christ that drove Padre Pio to immerse himself in a life of prayer and devotion to Christ and his message. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, may we be as open as you were to learning about Christ through prayer and personal experiences. Help us to keep our eyes open for Christ’s presence in our lives. 10

First Saturday of Lent—March 16 “I beseech you wholeheartedly not to waste time in thinking about the past. If it was used well, let us give glory to God; if badly, let us detest it and confide it to the goodness of the heavenly Father —letter to a fellow priest called to serve in World War I, February 9, 1916 One of the songs from the popular Disney movie Frozen contains the words, “I’m never going back. The past is in the past.” Padre Pio would probably agree with those lyrics. For him, dwelling on things that we can no longer control or change is not worth our time—especially when we can begin again each time we partake in the Ssacrament of Penance. After all, why would we want to look backward when we can focus on the joys Christ has given us today and the hope of what lies ahead? Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us keep from looking behind at what has been and instead turn our gaze toward the future and what is yet to come.


Second Sunday of Lent—March 17 “By all means desire what you told me, but let this be in a calm manner, and be patient in awaiting the Lord’s mercy.”—Letters, Vol. 3, 837 We live in a time of instant communication and gratification. If we buy something we can have it shipped to us the next day. If we need an answer to something, we simply Google it or ask Alexa. Because of that, we don’t know how to wait patiently anymore. During the time when Padre Pio was under investigation by the Vatican and unable to say Mass, hear confessions, or communicate with his spiritual director, he spent his days patiently waiting—and praying. Eventually, his prayers were answered and he returned to his ministry of helping others become closer to Christ. Perhaps we should follow his example and seek out some time to stop and talk with God. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, remind us that we don’t have to constantly be doing something and that it’s OK to wait for things. Inspire us to slow down and learn to be more patient. 12

Second Monday of Lent—March 18 “Don’t let difficulties you encounter stop you from doing good. Jesus is with you, and you have nothing to fear.”—Letters, Vol. 3, 1055 In nature, when anything blocks the flow of naturally running water, the water must find a way to reroute itself around that obstacle. That serves as a wonderful image for us to follow in our own lives. When we encounter difficulties, as Padre Pio says, we must find a way to work around that challenge with the help of Christ. Throughout his life, every time Padre Pio encountered something challenging, he leaned into God and found a way to reroute it into something good and share that with others through his work and ministry. What a wonderful reminder that even when challenges are placed in front of us, we can persevere. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, you provide us with a shining example of the power of accepting and pushing past any challenges that we find in our way. Help us remember that with God all things are possible.


Second Tuesday of Lent—March 19 “Pray, pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayers. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray, pray to the Lord together, because God too needs our prayers!”—Padre Pio The day after Padre Pio’s beatification, Pope John Paul II spoke to the pilgrims in Rome for the ceremony. He spoke of the many blessings the friar bestowed upon people. One thing he highlighted was the prayer groups that Padre Pio helped to form. Pope Paul VI had asked people to gather and pray together; in response to this call, Padre Pio encouraged groups to do as the Holy Father was requesting. Suddenly prayer groups began to form and to this day there are Padre Pio prayer groups throughout the world. While they did encounter some resistance from Church authorities who saw them as more Padre Pio fan clubs than prayer groups, they persist to this day. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, join together with us in prayer for all so that they will come to know Christ and his message of love and spread it to others. 14

Second Wednesday of Lent—March 20 “Look what fame he had, what a worldwide following gathered around him! But why? Perhaps because he was a philosopher? Because he was wise? Because he had resources at his disposal? Because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk and was—it is not easy to say it—one who bore the wounds of our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering.”—Pope Paul VI Following Padre Pio’s death, Pope Paul VI told the Capuchin friars that what made Padre Pio such an important person to so many was his devotion to prayer and suffering. That falls right in line with Padre Pio’s declaration during his life that “I only want to be a poor friar who prays.” As unsettling as it was to him, Padre Pio became so much more to people through his life and ministry. What a wonderful example he offers of accepting and living out who we feel we are truly called to be by Christ. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us to stay true to ourselves and live our lives in the spirit of who Christ made us to be.


Second Thursday of Lent—March 21 “I understand and am deeply aware that the trial is hard and the battle fierce. But I also understand that the fruit you will gather in due course is very abundant.”—Letters, Vol. 2, 410 All of us have things in our lives that we would rather not have to deal with or face. They might be uncomfortable or too much to bear. When he first received the stigmata—wounds similar to those borne by Christ—Padre Pio begged that the outward signs of it be taken away. And while they originally did—though the pain did not—the marks eventually came back. He often said that he would have preferred to suffer in silence and became frustrated with those he felt were only seeking him out to see the markings. Still, he continued to minister to others despite the pain and struggle of bearing the wounds of Christ. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us to remember that we may not fully understand the trials and challenges we face, but to have faith that God is always with us.


Second Friday of Lent—March 22 “May your homes be full of sweetness, peace, agreement, humility, and piety as regards conversation.”—Letters, Vol. 3, 567 Padre Pio was born and grew up in the town of Pietrelcina in Italy, where he was known by his given name of Francesco Forgione. His family was very devout, attending Mass daily and saying the Rosary together each night. By the age of five, Francesco said that he knew he wanted to devote his life to God. But his health was precarious and he was often ill. After joining the Capuchin order, there were times when Francesco—who had assumed the name Pio—would become so sick that he was sent back to his hometown in hope that he would recover. Even at home his illnesses never fully went away, but they did seem to subside a bit. Sometimes home can be a place of healing and peace when we most need it. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, your home was a place of refuge for you. Help us to make our own homes places of peace and love for all. 17

Second Saturday of Lent—March 23 “My only regret is that, involuntarily and unwittingly, I sometimes raise my voice when correcting people.” —Letters, Vol. 1, 1305 All of us have had times when we’ve reacted harshly or unkindly to someone. Padre Pio was not exempt from this either. At times he would scold people who he felt weren’t truly sorry for their sins or if he thought they had not come to confession for the right reasons. (Some people would come to his confessional simply because they wanted to see the priest with the stigmata.) Padre Pio, realizing his tendency to do this, acknowledged this weakness so many of us have and expressed frustration over it. His self-awareness and struggle serve as reminders to be aware of the way in which we speak to others and to try to do so with love. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us to recognize when we are speaking to others in an unkind or impatient manner. Spark in us the desire to be gentler when speaking with and of others.


Third Sunday of Lent—March 24 “What a dreadful thing war is! In every person wounded in the flesh, there is Jesus suffering.” —Padre Pio During World War I, Padre Pio was required to serve in the armed forces but was repeatedly put on medical leave due to poor health. He was eventually relieved of his duties after 182 days of service. As the war raged on, Pope Benedict XV implored all Christians to pray for an end to the fighting. Padre Pio offered himself as a sacrifice for the end of the war. Following a vision in which Christ appeared and pierced the friar in the side with a sword, Padre Pio was left with a physical wound to his side. This mark was just one of many that Padre Pio willingly bore throughout his life for the suffering of others. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, how brave of you to offer yourself on behalf of others. Inspire us to be as willing to be of service to those in need.


Third Monday of Lent—March 25 “Make a particular effort to practice sweetness and submission to the will of God, not only in extraordinary matters but even in the little things that occur daily.... And if you should fail in this, humble yourself, make a new proposition, get up, and continue on your way.”—Letters, Vol. 3, 708 Between Masses, hearing confessions, and prayer time, Padre Pio’s day usually lasted about nineteen hours. Not only that but, it began at 2:30 a.m. when he would wake up to begin his morning prayers. He was able to carry on an incredibly busy schedule with minimal sleep and while only consuming an average of about 300-400 calories a day. It was noted that he very rarely left the monastery and never took even a day’s vacation from his grueling schedule in fifty-one years. Each day for him was another opportunity to bring people closer into communion with Christ. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us to see our failures as great opportunities and encourage us to embrace the lesson and move ahead. For in the little things we can learn the greatest lessons. 20

Third Tuesday of Lent—March 26 “Jesus likes to give himself to simple souls; we must make an effort to acquire this beautiful virtue of simplicity and to hold it in great esteem.”—Letters, Vol. 1, 677-78 “Stay with me, Lord . . .” That was the prayer Padre Pio often recited—simple, straightforward, yet to the point. It is a reminder to us that prayers don’t need to be lengthy or filled with scholarly words and phrases. Have you ever heard a child pray? There’s a beauty in the simplicity of their conversations with God. Perhaps we should try to emulate that. Sometimes prayers such as “Help,” “Thanks,” or “Give me strength” simply and powerfully express the message we wish to convey to Christ. Even if our prayers can only come out in short, simple expressions, God hears them. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us remember that Christ is always with us, even when we don’t feel that he is near.


Third Wednesday of Lent—March 27 Let your whole life be spent in self-surrender, in prayer, in work, in humility, in giving thanks to our good God.”—letter to Annita Rodote, February 6, 1915 “I don’t have time,” is a familiar mantra for a lot of people. We bemoan the fact that we are too busy for any number of things—exercise, work, prayer. The reality is, though, that we do have the time, we just need to prioritize and schedule it. We tend to make the time for things that matter to us. Padre Pio’s spiritual life was everything to him and everything he did contributed to it. He could have very easily taken some days off from waking early for prayer or cut his day in the confessional short, saying he was tired. But he never did. He made the time because it was important to him. In that spirit, spend time reflecting on the things that truly matter and ways that you can devote more time to them. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us to focus on those things that matter the most in our lives. Remind us to spend time on endeavors that will bring us closer to God. 22

Third Thursday of Lent—March 28 “If you happen to notice a feeling of impatience arising, immediately have recourse to prayer.... Above all, turn your thoughts to the annihilation that the Son of God suffered for love of us.” —Letters, Vol. 3, 60 Padre Pio suffered from poor health his entire life, beginning around the age of nine. In his later life, after his ordination to the priesthood he was separated from his religious community for almost five years because of his health. Although the cause of his prolonged illness remained a mystery to his doctors, Padre Pio did not become discouraged by the difficulties. When impatience arose, he turned to prayer to find peace and meaning in the despair. Reflect on what the suffering in your life looks like. Rather than becoming impatient, think of how you can turn your weakness into a strength and offer up what God has given you for a greater good. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, let your suffering serve as an example to us that often times in suffering there is a purpose. Help us to be patient in seeking that purpose and embrace it, as you did. 23

Third Friday of Lent—March 29 “Love makes us take giant strides forward, but fear, instead makes us look cautiously at every little step we take lest we stumble on the path that leads to heaven.”—letter to Raffaelina Cerase, April 25, 1914 At one point or another, you have probably taken a hike in the woods and spent the majority of the time looking down so that you didn’t trip over a rock or tree root. Now, imagine how much more enjoyable that walk would have been if you had taken in your surroundings, knowing that you would not fall or that, if you stumbled, someone would be there to help you back up. Padre Pio reminds us that if we walk with God there is no reason to worry about every step. God wants us to keep looking toward the ultimate destination. And even if you stumble while walking, God will pick you up, dust you off, and walk with you. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, be our companion as we walk this path to heaven and our journey toward Christ. Help us find our way and remind us to take in the beauty of the journey. 24

Third Saturday of Lent—March 30 “Peace is simplicity of spirit, serenity of mind, quietness of soul, and the bond of love.” —letter to Father Agostino of San Marco in Lamis, July 10, 1915 Peace can be a rather elusive state for us. Perhaps it’s because it seems too big and overwhelming of a challenge and so we give up the fight. Padre Pio, however, had a remedy for that feeling of discouragement: Always turn to God. Only then will we even have a chance of finding any peace. As he went on to say in the letter to Father Agostino, peace “is the holy joy of a heart in which God reigns.” Sit quietly with God for a few minutes and let him lead you toward peace. He will show you the way. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, in times of turmoil, remind us to seek peace and comfort in God’s presence. For it is in Christ’s arms that we will find the answers we seek.


Fourth Sunday of Lent—March 31 “We are not all called to the same state [of life] and the Holy Spirit doesn’t work in all souls in the same way.... Live completely at peace because there will be light.”—Letters, Vol. 3, 108 The reality for most people is a very different one from that of Padre Pio. He spent most of his life at the monastery where he prayed, heard confessions, and celebrated Mass. That does not mean, however, that we cannot aspire to the same spiritual connection with God. It is a matter of finding the way to live Christ’s message within our own lives. Even amongst his fellow Capuchin brothers Padre Pio ministered in a different way. Such is the way with all of us. Parents minister differently than single men and women. People in various careers minister in their own unique way. The importance, however, is that we use our life to help spread the message of Christ to others. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, you know that each of us is on our own unique faith journey based on where we are in life. Help us to find the way to lovingly use our lives and talents to lift up others. 26

Fourth Monday of Lent—April 1 “God commands us to love him but not as much and how he deserves, because he knows our capabilities, and so he does not command or require from us what we cannot do.” —letter to an unknown addressee, June 3, 1917 We are flawed. We know that, Padre Pio knew that, Christ knows that. There is no getting around it. So there is no use throwing our hands up in the air in exasperation over what we feel we cannot do. What we can do is to accept our limitations and try to work within them. Will we always pray as often or devoutly as we wish? Probably not. But Christ hears all prayers, no matter their form. The important thing is that we continue to love and honor God in the best way possible at that particular moment. Some days will be better than others. But God sees and knows that we are trying. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us to realize and accept our limitations and do the best to serve and honor God in spite of them.


Fourth Tuesday of Lent—April 2 “Fear nothing. Jesus is and will always be totally yours, and nobody will take him from you.” —Letters, Vol. 3, 792 It must have been rather frightening for Padre Pio to experience some of the things that occurred to him throughout his life—things such as bilocation, attacks by the devil, and receiving the stigmata. Can you also imagine what it must have been like to experience any of those things at a young age, as he did? He also did not welcome the notoriety that came once word spread of him bearing the wounds of Christ. Still he accepted each of the burdens that the Lord laid upon him, seeing them as the will of God. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, give us strength to endure whenever we feel weak or unprepared for any challenges that may come our way.


Fourth Wednesday of Lent—April 3 “Holiness means loving our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. In this connection holiness means loving those who curse us, who hate and persecute us, and even doing good to them.” —Letters, Vol. 2, 562 Being loving toward those who aren’t loving back to us is not easy. Becoming defensive would be a completely understandable reaction. But, if we do, then we are behaving no better than they are. Padre Pio is revered by many, but there were—and still are—people who doubted his experiences. In fact, during the 1920s the Vatican investigated him and placed sanctions on him that forbade him from saying Mass in public, blessing people, answering letters, or showing his stigmata publicly. In spite of this, though, he was able to look at the bigger picture when it came to dealing with such critics. As hard as it is, we should try to do the same. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, you are a shining example of how to deal with those who challenge and are not loving toward us. Help us to realize that the hurtful things they say or how they behave does not diminish Christ’s love for us. 29

Fourth Thursday of Lent—April 4 “Flee turmoil and anxiety with all your strength. Otherwise all your spiritual efforts will have little success or bear no fruit.”—letter to Fr. Basilio of Mirabello Sannitico, February 9, 1916 The world today is full of turmoil, so it’s hard to escape it or the anxiety it causes. Even though we sometimes just want to say, “Stop the world, I want to get off,” we can’t. We are called to live out the Gospel message, even if it’s difficult at times. During this season of Lent, we can draw strength from the example of Christ and Padre Pio who fought back against both turmoil and anxiety over what they were called to do. It’s easy to live your faith when it’s comfortable. The challenge is to continue to do so when you are surrounded by uncertainties and fear. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, give us the strength to try to calm the turmoil around us and fearlessly live out our faith as an example for others.


Fourth Friday of Lent—April 5 “Meditation is a means to attaining God, but it is not a goal in itself. Meditation aims at the love of God and neighbor.”—Padre Pio Padre Pio had a rather structured prayer life. In addition to some of the things Padre Pio is more well known for, he was also a treasured spiritual adviser to many. He often corresponded with people, trying to help them live more fulfilling prayer lives. One of the things he often told people was that he believed there were five principles that every Catholic should practice in their lives. Those principles were: go to Confession weekly; receive Communion daily; perform an examination of conscience every evening; do spiritual reading every day; and meditate twice a day. For him, these steps were the key to maintaining—and growing— a strong faith life. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, thank you for the spiritual direction you have provided us with through your five principles. May they help us to live a more fruitful faith life.


Fourth Saturday of Lent—April 6 “A seed has been sown in the ground which the Lord God shall warm with the rays of His love.” —Padre Pio at the opening of the House for the Relief of the Suffering In 1940, Padre Pio came up with the idea for what he referred to as a “cathedral of charity”—the House for the Relief of Suffering in San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio, himself, offered the first donation of one gold coin to help make it a reality. His followers immediately joined in to support his efforts. In 1956, the hospital officially opened on the hill above the town. It still operates to this day and as well as being a full-service hospital, it is also a world class scientific research center. Perhaps because of his own suffering, Padre Pio was devoted to alleviating the suffering of others, both physical and spiritual. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, bring your healing touch to our spirits. Guide us on our quest to seek communion with God.


Fifth Sunday of Lent—April 7 “Many are ready to ‘like’ the page of the great saints, but who does what they do? The Christian life is not an ‘I like,’ but an ‘I give myself.’” —Pope Francis on the fiftieth anniversary of Padre Pio’s death Toward the end of his life and after his death, Padre Pio has become a rather popular saint among Catholics. Last year, Pope Francis made a visit to Pietrelcina to mark the centenary of Padre Pio receiving the stigmata and the fiftieth anniversary of the saint’s death. While there, he invoked the spirit of Padre Pio, encouraging those in attendance to put their faith into action. He urged them to follow the saint’s example and seek comfort and solace in prayer and the arms of Christ. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us be active in our faith and be of service to others in order to help spread the Gospel message.


Fifth Monday of Lent—April 8 “We are not all called by God to save souls and to glorify him through the lofty apostolate of preaching.... A soul can proclaim the glory of God and work for the salvation of souls through a genuine Christian life by praying to the Lord without ceasing.”—letter to Raffaelina Cerase, April 11, 1914 When we think of someone like Padre Pio, it’s easy for us to think there is no way that we could ever minister to people as well or the way he did. Of course we can’t. And God is not asking us to. Each of us has our own unique situation through which we can help spread the Gospel message. We are spouses, parents, children, friends. We work in different careers and locations. No, we cannot preach in the same way as Padre Pio did. But we can spread that same message through our own lives. In that sense, we are all preachers. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, remind us that we are all called to do the work of God in our own way. Help us use our talents and strengths to bring others closer to Christ. 34

Fifth Tuesday of Lent—April 9 “I am an instrument in divine hands; an instrument which only succeeds in serving some purpose when it is handled by the divine Craftsman.” —Padre Pio Have you ever closed your eyes when listening to an orchestra? It’s beautiful the way all of the instruments seem to meld into one and play in harmony with one another. If one instrument is out of tune or plays the wrong note, however, the overall experience is very different. To get to that level of achievement takes many years of instruction and practice. Our faith lives can in some ways resemble being a musician. We need guidance and practice when it comes to our faith. God is the conductor and the many saints and holy people we encounter along the way serve as our instructors. The ultimate goal, as with the orchestra, is achieving harmony with Christ. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, through your example, accompany us as we continue to learn ways to develop and deepen our faith lives. 35

Fifth Wednesday of Lent—April 10 “Do not listen to or believe the enemy when he tells you that God has rejected you or that God is punishing you for some hidden unfaithfulness and is wanting to chastise you to remove it from your soul. That is not the least bit true.” —letter to Margherita Tresca, May 17, 1918 We are surrounded on a daily basis by people who spread gossip and untruths about others. Unfortunately, we often end up taking part in this behavior, even though we know it is wrong. Other times, we may find ourselves on the receiving end. When that happens, it can get in our heads and cause us to question ourselves or start to believe what we’ve heard. Padre Pio underwent a lot of scrutiny during his life, especially regarding his stigmata. But while he admitted despair over it, he offered up the suffering because he knew it was God’s will for him. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, let us remember the pain that you suffered because of people’s words. May we be kind and loving in our thoughts and words about others. 36

Fifth Thursday of Lent—April 11 “Be firm in your resolutions. Stay in the boat the Lord has placed you in, and when the storm comes, you will not perish. It may seem to you that Jesus is sleeping, but it only seems that way.”—letter to an unknown addressee, December 27, 1917 We have all had moments in our lives when we feel as if God doesn’t see or hear us—times when things don’t make sense and you feel beaten down by life. Padre Pio was certainly no different. There were many times when he suffered under the burden of the things Christ had laid upon him. But St. Pio never lost faith that there was a greater purpose for his suffering. He knew that Christ was and always would be right there beside him in the boat during his times of struggle. The question is, can we do the same when we are challenged? Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, remind us that Jesus is always with us— even when we are struggling and feeling alone. Let your example of always turning yourself and struggles over to Christ serve as a model for us to follow. 37

Fifth Friday of Lent—April 12 “You must be modest in speech, modest in laughter, modest in your bearing, modest in walking.” —Letters, Vol. 3, 90 Padre Pio was a man who admired simplicity. He wholly lived the Franciscan spirit of poverty with detachment from self, possessions, and comforts. There was no doubt that he had a great love for the virtue of chastity, and his behavior was modest in all situations and with all people. In his lifetime, Padre Pio reconciled thousands of men and women back to their faith. After Pio’s death, Pope Paul VI said of him, “…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.” Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, in the midst of our busy and sometimes overly abundant lives, may your example of simplicity remind us to embrace the smaller blessings of life.


Fifth Saturday of Lent—April 13 “May your good guardian angel always watch over you, and be your guide on the rough path of life.”—letter to Annita Rodote, July 15, 1913 Throughout the Bible there are many stories of ways in which angels helped convey the message of God. From a very young age, Padre Pio spoke of interactions he had with angels, as well as saints and demons. In fact, when he was a child, he often spoke of his guardian angel as his friend. That friendship continued throughout his life, with Padre Pio often turning to his lifelong companion in times of despair. It was, for him, yet another sign that Christ was always with him in some form. We are blessed with those same friendships. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, help us see God through the many ways that he reveals himself to us. May we be open to Christ’s messengers in our lives.


Palm Sunday—April 14 “One who comes [to the confessional], comes seeking comfort, pardon, peace in his soul; let him find a father who embraces him and says, ‘God loves you,’ and makes the penitent feel that God really does.” —Pope Francis, speaking of Padre Pio Even before he was officially recognized as a saint by the Church, Padre Pio was held in highest regard by the people of San Giovanni Rotondo, where he lived for a good part of his life. In fact, when Padre Pio’s superiors considered relocating him amidst speculation about his stigmata, the townspeople angrily gathered together to protest the move and even barricaded the monastery. In Padre Pio they found a model of faith. To this day, Padre Pio is venerated for his holiness, simplicity, and poverty—three characteristics we can all try to emulate. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, may we be as effective in spreading Christ’s message through our actions as you were. Let our lives be a true witness to others. 40

Monday of Holy Week—April 15 “Let us answer God’s call for the sake of goodness, with all us doing our duty: I myself through the unending prayers of a humble servant of our Lord Jesus Christ; you through the burning desire to hold the whole of suffering humanity close to your breast.”—Padre Pio When we think of the Church, we must remember that it is made up of each one of us individually. We are the Communion of Saints that brings the Gospel to life. By using our strengths and talents, we each play a special role in building up the kingdom of God. Padre Pio devoted himself and his ministry to alleviating the suffering of others through both the sacraments and his work to manifest his ministry through things like prayer groups and a hospital. Each of us has a special role to play in the life of the Church. Our task is to prayerfully discern what that role is. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, provide insight for us so that we may use our talents to help others grow in their faith and become more connected with Christ and his Church. 41

Tuesday of Holy Week—April 16 “Courage. Suffice it for us to know that Jesus loves us greatly.”—Letters, Vol. 4, 1005 Padre Pio spoke often of the physical attacks he endured from Satan, many of which left him visibly bruised and beaten. He also expressed great discomfort at bearing the outward signs of the stigmata because of the attention it drew to him. He endured multiple investigations by Church officials and even the Vatican and was subject to constant speculation regarding the authenticity of his stigmata. While things were not always as he wished, Padre Pio accepted what the Lord had asked of him. What a wonderful example for us of pushing forward and accepting things that make us uncomfortable and are not what we would like them to be. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, be with us in situations where we are being challenged. Help us to summon the courage to do what is being asked of us and to remember that we are always in Jesus’s loving care.


Wednesday of Holy Week—April 17 “I say to bear our imperfections with patience, and not at all to love and caress them, because humility is nourished in this suffering.” —Letters, Vol. 3, 684-85 Though he was a very holy man, Padre Pio was fully aware of his flaws and weaknesses. Often he would write to his spiritual adviser and others lamenting his lack of patience or acceptance of God’s will. He never thought he was holy enough, obedient enough, or prayerful enough. It was a constant struggle throughout his life. But he always turned to God when he became focused on these imperfections. We, too, have those moments when we feel as if we’re not doing things well enough to please God. We must always remember, though, that God knows us and what’s in our hearts and loves us—imperfections and all. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, sometimes we are painfully aware of our shortcomings and can, at times, obsess over them. Help us remember that we are made in God’s image and truly loved. 43

Holy Thursday—April 18 “When you sit down to eat, prayerfully reflect that you have in your midst the Divine Master and his holy apostles at the last meal he had with them when he instituted the sacrament of the altar.” —letter to Raffaelina Cerase, December 17, 1914 For most of us, the image we most associate with Holy Thursday is the one painted by Leonardo da Vinci of Christ and his disciples breaking bread on the evening before Jesus was betrayed and turned over to be put to death. At some point, all of us have taken part in large meals, either with friends or family. From them we receive not only physical nourishment, but also the spiritual nourishment that comes from being together. That combination of community and sustenance is what we find when we receive Holy Communion. Though he himself did not eat very much, partly due to his illnesses, Padre Pio found great nourishment in receiving the Holy Eucharist, just as we should. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, let your love of the Holy Communion be a shining example for us and inspire in us a willingness to partake in the sacrament as often as possible and fully embrace its meaning. 44

Good Friday—April 19 “Do not say you are all alone in climbing Calvary and that you are all alone as you struggle and weep, for Jesus is with you and will never abandon you.”—Letters, Vol. 2, 479 Padre Pio is recognized as a saint now, but there were certainly times of spiritual trial during his life. He was investigated by the Vatican more than once regarding his claims of the stigmata and many people suggested that he was inflicting the wounds on himself. For a period of time, the Vatican imposed sanctions on him stating that he was not allowed to say Mass, hear confessions, or communicate with his spiritual adviser. These restrictions were painful to Padre Pio. Yet he delved deeper into his prayer life and found peace in knowing that all he endured was for the glory and honor of Christ. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, you remained faithful to Christ, even during your times of trial. Help us to prayerfully acknowledge the sacrifices Christ made on our behalf through his suffering on the cross. 45

Holy Saturday—April 20 “You must have boundless faith in the divine goodness, for the victory is absolutely certain.” —Padre Pio For years, followers of Padre Pio waited for the Church to recognize what they felt they already knew—Padre Pio was a saint. Even after his canonization process was opened, it was another twenty years before he became St. Pio of Pietrelcina. As we wait in anticipation of Christ’s Resurrection, we are reminded that as difficult as it may be, the waiting is worth it. For it is through doing so that we realize the true blessing of what is yet to come. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, teach us to be joyful in our waiting and use the time to stop and reflect on the importance of that for which we’re waiting.


Easter Sunday—April 21 “The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord.”—Pope John Paul II at Padre Pio’s canonization Mass Today we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, who suffered, died, and rose again for all of us. Padre Pio understood the power and meaning of Christ’s suffering, willingly joining in that suffering for the sake of others. Much was asked of the Lord, who in return asked much of Padre Pio. For the past 40 days he has guided us through his words and examples. As we celebrate this joyous day, let us remember to move forward in the spirit of Padre Pio—caring for and serving others so that they may come to know Christ. Praying with Padre Pio St. Pio, your life serves as a powerful example of sacrifice and love. May you continue to love and guide us as we walk our faith journey toward Christ. 47

Quotations from Padre Pio taken from books in Franciscan Media’s Padre Pio collection, including Padre Pio’s Spiritual Direction for Every Day and Through the Year with Padre Pio.

Cover and book design by Mark Sullivan ISBN 978-1-63253-281-7 Copyright ©2019, by Susan Hines-Brigger. All rights reserved. Published by Franciscan Media 28 W. Liberty St. Cincinnati, OH 45202

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Lent with Padre Pio  

Lent with Padre Pio