Sunday, August 19, 2018

Padre Pio, the Living Portrait of Christ Crucified

Reposting from the above link:

The July-September 2018 issue of Le Chardonnet (#340) includes an article by Fr. François-Marie Chautard on Padre Pio, the stigmatized priest who died 50 years ago on September 23,1968. 
One of Padre Pio’s missions was to “make the cross of Jesus Christ visible”. Christ took on the human form in order to make the invisible visible. This revelation of God did not end with His Ascension, for upon His return to His Father, Our Lord sent the Spirit of Holiness. Since then, every century has had its share of saints whose perfect lives in imitation of Christ seem to renew His Incarnation. The exterior life of some saints sometimes espouses that of Christ so perfectly that they relive His Passion in their own flesh.
St. Francis of Assisi is the most well-known of them all, and many an artist has illustrated the Poverello receiving the stigmata. Other saints also experienced this extraordinary phenomenon: St. Catherine of Sienna, or Madame Acarie (Blessed Marie de l’Incarnation), whose stigmata were invisible.
But until September 20, 1918, not a single priest, despite their sacramental union with Christ the High Priest, had ever yet been chosen to renew in his own flesh the mystery of the Sacrifice of the Cross.
On September 20, 1918, as he was praying before a crucifix hung before the monks’ choir, rays of light from the crucifix pierced his hands, feet and side like arrows. The young 31-year-old Capuchin did not know it yet, but for the next fifty years, until September 20, 1958, he would bear the visible marks of the Passion of Christ that he relived every day.
One of Padre Pio’s missions had begun: that of making the cross of Jesus Christ visible, of enlightening souls as to the reality of the sacrifice renewed on the altar and reminding priests and faithful of the priest’s vocation as a victim: “Unless the grain of wheat dies, it will not bear fruit.” “Do as you have seen Me do.”
Born on May 25, 1887, into a peasant family, little Francesco Forgione was the fourth of seven children. His parents had a very simple life and lived in a poor home in Pietrelcina. They were solid Christians and hard workers.
The parish church is dedicated to St. Pius I, pope and martyr, and it was in his honor that the young Capuchin chose the name of Fra Pio.
As a young boy, Francesco was already favored with visions and extraordinary phenomena. From his earliest years until the end of his life, Padre Pio was used to receiving visits from angels, Marian apparitions and.... being subjected to diabolical violence. At first, the child thought all other boys his age experienced the same things.
Beware, dear reader, for this is where devotion to Padre Pio could go astray. As the spiritual authors explain, extraordinary phenomena are not sanctity; they sometimes, and even often, go hand in hand; they can occur without sanctity, but they must be carefully distinguished from it. If Padre Pio is a saint, it is not because of his bilocation and other exceptional phenomena, but because of his heroic virtues.
And little Francesco practiced heroic virtue from the very start. Did his mother not find him sleeping on the ground, with his head on a rock? His piety was solid, his obedience absolute, his diligence in his studies and duties more than admirable, and his friendship exemplary.
At the age of fifteen, a strange vision implicitly revealed his future to him: an angel invited him to fight against a giant much stronger than him. Reluctantly, the young teenager fought and won. With this divine commemoration of David and Goliath, Providence announced to Francesco the violence of the battles to come.
A few weeks later, on January 22, 1903, at the age of fifteen, he entered the Capuchin novitiate of Morcone, and took the name Fra Pio da Pietrelcina.
His mother was there, but his father was in the United States, working to pay for his children’s studies. For seven years in all (3 and then 4), this admirable father was separated from his no less admirable wife and his dear children in order to provide for them all.
The young novice’s studies continued until 1909. The young monk proved serious, studious and satisfactory, but not brilliant. Towards the end of his studies, he rapidly ascended the sanctuary steps; after receiving the first minor orders in 1908, he was ordained a deacon the following year in July 1909.
But health troubles came to try the young monk. He had to interrupt his studies and even the convent life and was ordered to go rest at his family’s home in Pietrelcina. This temporary rest would last…seven years. Despite this difficulty, he was ordained a priest in the cathedral of Benevento on August 10, 1910, and celebrated his first Mass in Pietrelcina on August 14.
Separated from the other Capuchins, and a prey to terrible interior trials, he corresponded regularly during this period with Fr. Agostino, his spiritual director, who told him to write down his interior combat and the extraordinary graces he received.
One superior planned to send him away to live as a secular priest, but he was told to return to the convent in 1911. The devil was furious, and he attacked and beat the young mystic so violently that the guardian of the convent, moved by a very Franciscan inspiration, ordered Padre Pio to ask for the grace to be tormented… in silence from then on. This grace was granted that very evening, to the great joy of the Capuchins who were a bit tired of the noise and the villagers who were beginning to be a bit worried.
But Padre Pio’s weak health soon forced him to return to Pietrelcina. The doctors had a hard time finding a diagnosis. One of them even announced he would not last more than a week.
He left Pietrelcina again to go to Foggia, where the air did not suit him at all. On July 28, 1916, he was advised to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to rest for a few weeks. He would remain there until his death…
Half-alive, he was still enlisted, until they took a closer look. There is a photo from this time of the Capuchin friar as a conscript, wearing a uniform and holding a gun; he had never shot a firearm and looks a bit out of place in the picture. It was during this period that he bilocated for the first time. The Italians had just been severely defeated in Caporetto on October 24, 1917, and the commander-in-chief, General Cardonna, decided to commit suicide; as he was raising his gun, a Capuchin entered his office and persuaded him to change his mind. The general did so, then thanked the good priest and showed him out. He immediately asked his subordinates who the priest they had let in was. No one had seen him go in or out. The general only recognized him in a photograph many years later.
Upon returning to his convent after his time in the military, he received the grace of a wound of love on May 30, 1918. On August 5, he received a transverberation, and on the 20th, the stigmata, with intense pain. But do not be mistaken. As he wrote to Fr. Agostino, his spiritual director, “in comparison with what I suffer in my flesh, the spiritual combats I am undergoing are far worse (…); I am living in a perpetual night… Everything troubles me, and I do not know if I am doing good or evil. I can see that these are not scruples, but the doubt I feel about whether I am pleasing God or not crushes me.”
At first, Padre Pio tried to heal his wounds. It was useless. To hide them. In vain. The pilgrimages to San Giovanni Rotondo began.
From 1918 to 1921, the priest’s apostolate grew and the doctors who observed his wounds were convinced of their inexplicable nature. Pope Benedict XV even went so far as to say that “Padre Pio is one of those men God sends to the earth once in a while to convert nations.”
The year 1921 changed the course of events. An ecclesiastical conspiracy of corrupt priests living with women and presided over by a bishop who practiced simony was influential in Rome. The bishop of Manfredonia, the diocese the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo belongs to, even claimed he had seen Padre Pio put on perfume and powder and pour nitric acid on his wounds to deepen the stigmata! And the canons of San Giovanni Rotondo, at least some of them, gossiped about the juicy profits the Capuchins were making off their “stigmatist”. The worst is that they were taken seriously.
Worried by these episcopal claims and canonical revelations, Rome was wary… of the Capuchins. A difficult period followed for Padre Pio, as the apostolate entrusted to him was little by little taken away. There was even talk of transferring him to another convent. This was enough to stir up the locals, who were determined to keep and defend their “santo”. A rebellion was not far off. Thinking he was going to leave this little village perched on the headland of Gargano, Padre Pio wrote this touching letter, whose final words are now engraved in the crypt where he used to be buried.
“I will always remember this generous people in my poor and assiduous prayer, imploring for them peace and prosperity; and as a sign of my affection, being able to do nothing else, I express the desire that as long as my superiors do not object, my bones will be laid to rest in a tranquil corner of this ground.”
A Capuchin superior even considered sneaking Padre Pio out in a large barrel on a cart. Obedient, but neither servile nor stupid, the Father Guardian refused this masquerade.
Punishments continued to rain down upon the poor priest. On March 23, 1931, the Holy Office forbade him all ministry, any public celebration of Mass and any contact with any Capuchins outside of his convent. After remaining stoic when he discovered in the refectory the letter that his brothers had put off revealing to him out of discretion, he burst into tears upon reaching his cell. A good brother who witnessed the scene felt sorry for him, but Padre Pio gave him an answer worthy of that given to the holy women of Jerusalem: he was weeping not for himself but for all the souls that were going to be deprived of graces of conversion.
As a recluse, Padre Pio was able to spend time reading. The History of the Church by Rorhbacher and in a single day, the Divine Comedy – paradoxically suffering from headaches upon reaching Paradise.
In 1933, the sanctions began to be lifted. Padre Pio resumed his ministry, especially in the confessional, where he regularly spent up to 10 hours a day.
The peaceful years passed. In 1940, a sick man if ever there was one, Padre Pio launched the project for what would become the Casa Sollievo della Sofferanza, a large hospital with modern material and eminent doctors. As in all providential undertakings, there was no lack of obstacles, but the hospital was inaugurated in May 1956. It still exists today.
At the same time, Padre Pio created prayer groups throughout the entire world mainly thanks to his spiritual sons and daughters that included Freemasons, swindlers, a famous tenor (Gigli) and women of little virtue.
Pius XII confided prayer intentions to him, but his death in 1957 opened a new and painful chapter in the life of the Capuchin. Some of his high-ranking brothers showed an anything but religious interest for the enormous sums that passed through his hands. They wanted them for themselves. A “brotherly” conspiracy supported by the authorities of the Order was formed; they even went so far as to put microphones in the Padre’s cell and confessional. The affair was discovered – the priest complained to some of his friends – and the brothers guilty of this far from evangelical surveillance were relieved of their functions and sent to other convents.
The end of his life was more peaceful, though still spent in the all-absorbing ministry to souls.
Two events in the last few months of his life are worth mentioning. The New Mass promulgated in 1968 was preceded by normative Masses. Padre Pio asked to be allowed to keep the Mass of all time and this permission was granted to him.
During the same year, 1968, Paul VI’s encyclical on birth control was promulgated. Padre Pio, with only two months left to live and at the summit of his mystical life, sent a letter to the pope thanking him for this encyclical that caused so much controversy.
This second Curé d’Ars felt the end approaching. On the night of September 20 to 21, 1968, fifty years to the day after they appeared, his stigmata disappeared: the skin on his hands became smooth and clean without the mark of a scar. His jubilee of blood was complete.  Eternity was approaching, and on the night of September 22 to 23, Padre Pio went to be with his Maker.

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Sunday, August 05, 2018

August - The Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Green Scapular

Dear readers, if only I have the time to write more, I would! but here, something I read from somewhere else on the web... and how important that we hold dear to our devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary! 

August, the month dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

(taken from

The Green Scapular or Scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is, like the Miraculous Medal, a gift of our Blessed Mother to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. 

On November 27, 1839, Justine Bisqueyburu, destined by Providence to make known this devotion, entered the Novitiate of the Daughters of Charity, 140 Rue du Bac, Paris. On January 28,1840, during her first retreat, the young sister was favored with a celestial vision. Our Lady appeared to her clothed in a long white robe over which hung a bright blue mantle. In her hands she held her Heart, from the top of which issued brilliant rays. The same apparition was repeated four or five times during her novitiate. This favor seemed to have no other end than to increase in the Sister herself tender devotion to Mary Immaculate. 

Clothed with the habit, on September 8, 1840, feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, Sister Bisqueyburu was favored during prayer with an apparition of the Mother of God, who held in her right hand her Heart surrounded by flames, and in her left a sort of scapular, consisting of a single piece of green cloth suspended from a cord of the same color. On one side was a picture of the Blessed Virgin as she had shown herself in the apparitions; on the other, a Heart all inflamed with rays more brilliant than the sun, and clearer than crystal. This heart pierced with a sword was surrounded by an oval inscription, surmounted by a cross. The inscription read: "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." At the same time an interior voice revealed to the Sister the meaning of this vision. She understood that this new Scapular, through the medium of the Sisters of Charity, would contribute to the conversion of those who have no faith, and above all, procure for them a happy death, and that it should be distributed with confidence. As the scapular was distributed, wonderful conversions and some bodily cures were produced. 

The Scapular is not the badge of a confraternity but simply a double image attached to a single piece of cloth and suspended from a cord. The Blessed Virgin declared to her faithful servant that no special formula of blessing was necessary. It suffices that it be blessed by a priest and worn by the one for whom it is intended. It may be placed in the clothing, on the bed, or simply in the room. The only prayer to be recited is the inscription surrounding the heart on the reverse of the Scapular: "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." This should be repeated daily, if not by the one wearing it, by the one giving it. The Scapular may be distributed everywhere. Although wonderful graces are attached to it, they are proportionate to the confidence with which it is given. The Green Scapular was twice approved by Pope Pius IX, in 1863, and again in 1870 when he said: "Write to these good Sisters that I authorize them to make and distribute it." 

Rev. Leo Steinbach

When I first came in contact with this devotion, I read an explanation which seemed to give the impression that it was intended only for lax Christians. I thought it might be useless for me since I had very little contact with Christians, be they good, bad or indifferent. My contacts were mostly with Buddhists and Shintoists whom I was trying to christianize. However I put a few scapulars in my pocket and decided to try one out. That very day I went to a nearby hospital where I discovered a non-Christian woman patient who had been unconscious for 10 days previously. The doctor explained to me that she would very probably die within three days without regaining consciousness. He and a nurse escorted me to the room. I addressed the sick woman but she gave no indication whatsoever that she understood a word I was saying. Thereupon I took a green scapular from my pocket, applied it to her forehead and repeated the invocation, "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." 

And what happened? The woman immediately regained consciousness, joined her hands and very devoutly asked God to forgive her sins. I was amazed. The doctor and the nurse both non-Christians were also flabbergasted. I immediately instructed and baptized the dying patient that same day much to her joy. She remained perfectly conscious for three days more during which time she very devoutly received Holy Viaticum. She breathed her last while praying to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. 

News of this double miracle spread rapidly. People kept asking me for green scapulars and since I only had a couple dozen which I had received from an army chaplain and since I had no means of replenishing my supply, I started to lend my remaining scapulars with a proviso that they be returned after three days. I did this in order to help as many people as possible. Meanwhile a Catholic newspaper reporter helped me procure the necessary materials and we began making them. During the past 25 years we have made and distributed many tens of thousands to people living all over Japan. We have also sent quite a number to the United States, Brazil, Paraguay, Korea and Indonesia. A Catholic magazine here in Japan published an explanation of the green scapular about a year ago and we have been receiving requests daily ever since. On one single day we received 140 letters and we try to fulfill each request promptly. We never charge for them nor do we ask for postage. However we have never been in debt. Grateful people send us donations which cover the cost of materials and postage. 

It is edifying to read the letters of gratitude. Many people report spiritual blessings and there have been miraculous cures too of almost every type of human ailment including blindness, deafness, cancer, tuberculosis, high blood pressure, rheumatism, arthritis etc. Luke-warm Catholics and non-Catholics seem to receive more favors than good practicing Catholics. 

An 80-year-old non-Christian lady said she would like to visit the church in her vicinity but she was unable to walk because of arthritis. Every winter both her ankles and wrists were swollen and very painful. She was given a green scapular which she applied daily but since she could not remember the prayer she merely asked the Mother of Christ for help. Within a few days she was completely cured. After a brief instruction and Baptism, she attended mass daily and always received Holy Communion. She kept up this habit for two years until she was called to her reward. During this interval she converted her aged friend who lived just across the street from her home and she had the happiness of being her godmother. Her good husband, a staunch Shintoist, also treasured his green scapular but no one could induce him to become a Christian. However, just three days before he died, he had a change of heart. He died very happily after receiving the sacraments. 

The owner of a fleet of 60 taxis in Kyoto asked his pastor to bless his vehicles on New Year's Day, whereupon he presented each of his drivers a new green scapular. He encouraged them, although they are non-Christians, to recite the prayer at least once a day. During the year there were just a few bent fenders but there were no accidents that caused a personal injury. The Blessed Mother is never invoked in vain. Her prayers are powerful. Japanese "kamikaze" drivers moving at a high speed in all kinds of weather, day and night, are very grateful to their Protectress. 

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