May 5, 2020
Dear Family of Mary!
“…Little children do not permit trials to harden your heart and for prayer to be like a desert…”
(April 25, 2020)
Our Lady knows that if we are afraid of trials and suffering and our faith is weak, we will close our hearts to her Son. And with closed hearts, our prayer becomes superficial and empty, barren like a desert. A closed heart says ‘no’ to God, ‘no’ to trust in God, ‘no’ to self-sacrifice and ‘no’ to love.
Fear is most powerful in closing our hearts. We are afraid to suffer. We want to run. It is a normal reaction, but not a Godly one.
I want to share something written about Padre Pio, and his response to suffering. I know he is an extreme example of one who is willing to sacrifice for God and for others. But the description is very helpful for us in examining our consciences about fear and hard-heartedness.
It is written by Fr. Pietro Tartaglia, a Capuchin priest who lived with Padre Pio and knew him well. He wrote a book about Padre Pio and the mysteries of the Rosary which is very beautiful. Fr. Pietro is writing here about the Carrying of the Cross, and how Jesus (and Padre Pio) embraced the Cross with such great love for us. Here is the excerpt:
“So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha” (Jn 19:17).
“Whoever wishes to be with me, let him take up his cross and follow me!”. And so, the way of the cross begins.
The life of Christians fits into and is illuminated by this painful road. What is the importance in discussing the form of the cross carried by Jesus? The discussion leaves the heart arid and cold. But the “Cross” has become a real sign; the living sign and sincere expression of all human suffering which wounds the bodies of men and saddens their spirits. The cross carried by Christ as a sacrament of freedom and redemption, can be gathered with generosity, and become the precious stairway of ascent along the way of perfection. It radiates vivid light; it gives strength and courage; or it can be accepted with a cry of contempt, rancor, desperation, and thus become a weight that crushes, demoralizes, oppresses and closes the heart of man to all possibility of salvation.
Jesus spoke of two pathways: One is ‘narrow,’ stony, difficult and exhausting, but it leads to salvation. The other is ‘wide’ and it facilitates man’s journey and makes his steps smooth, but this path finds its outlet, as a rule, in ruin and eternal perdition.
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina chose his path! “You must fight against him,” a mysterious personage had told him. The enemy against whom he fought was the devil. Padre Pio accepted the difficult struggle without pause or rest!
“Choose your path!”. Padre Pio replied: “I want to be a friar with a beard!” He dressed in a humble habit; girded his cord with the rosary and, on his bare feet, he wore sandals.
He wanted to be a Capuchin Friar; an authentic witness of simplicity, austerity, prayer and poverty, in order to teach the world “the royal path which leads to God.”
“Choose your path!” And he chose, as a privileged gift, SUFFERING, without any reservation or limit.
He asked Jesus to unite him to His martyrdom, to His mission, as a “Redeemer” of the world; to cancel the sins of the world; to bring once again into the midst of men, the freedom and liberty of sons of God.
The way of the cross was his favorite path. He took the cross from the shoulders of Christ and gathered it onto his own, thus becoming “Everybody’s Cyrenean,” substituting others in an essential and demanding task.
On the Cross of Christ with the tremendous weight of the sins of men, in everybody’s name, he carried that weight at all times: Every hour, every day for more than fifty years; a living visible crucifix, in order to relieve the pains of Christ for the redemption and salvation of all his brothers and sisters.