Tuesday, September 15, 2009

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 1

Our novena intentions today draw us to contemplate the meaning of suffering in our lives. We begin, most appropriately, on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. As we consider the Seven Dolors of Mary we are introduced anew to her extreme faith that did not simply allow suffering but transformed it into a continual “fiat” to God. In the life of our Blessed Mother, as well as in the example of St. Pio, the mystery of redemptive suffering is revealed. Through their intercession we can offer our suffering as a gift of love for our own salvation, the salvation of our families, and that of the whole world.

Our Blessed Mother was, as we are aware, no stranger to suffering, nor was she timid in the face of it. Her first Dolor, the prophecy of Simeon, in which he revealed, “…and a sword shall pierce your heart”, reminds me much of the suffering of mothers everywhere: Mothers who watch their children suffer hunger and thirst. Mothers who see their children ensnared in drugs, alcohol and violence. Mothers who suffer the pain of abandonment and neglect from their own children. Mothers who endure the pain of seeing their children abandon the faith and refuse the love of God. Such mothers, and fathers, too, share the pain of Mary, to whom the inevitability of suffering was revealed at a time of joy, at the presentation of her beloved son, Our Lord, in the temple. She understands the pain of parents. She calls us to faithfulness and prayer, to perseverance and peace.

So too does she understand the suffering of the homeless, those in great financial distress who suffer inadequate housing, and those who must hold the family close in the face of uncertainty and chaos. As she fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod she and Joseph suffered greatly. Despite this her sole purpose was to protect and nurture Our Lord. She is not blind to the suffering of mothers and fathers as they struggle to provide for their families. She is not distant to those who are separated from the ones they love by distance or misunderstanding. She calls us to hold one another up in prayer, and to strengthen ourselves in the enormity of God’s merciful love.

Mary knows the suffering of mothers who must work outside the home and leave their children in others’ care. She understands the pain of parents losing children to gangs, to drugs, to pornography. She sees the pain of he who cannot understand why their spouse, child or loved one is distant, cold, and unwilling to share in the life of the family. She knows the anguish of those who feel abandoned, forgotten, and ignored. As she suffered while searching for Jesus for three days, finally finding Him in the temple, she had to abandon her fears to God. She calls us to do the same, and to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Mary met Jesus on the road to Calvary, so, too, does she meet us and comfort us as we watch the suffering of our parents, grandparents, spouses, children and friends. As she watched Jesus suffer, knowing that this was meant to be, she did not intervene, thus continuing her submission to God’s will. She knows how hard it is to watch those we love endure illness, pain, and mental anguish. Yet she calls us to strengthen ourselves and those we care for by constantly reaffirming God’s abiding love. St. Padre Pio said, “Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering.” Seek that relief, and extend it to those around you.

Even as her son was crucified, died, was taken from the cross, and laid in a tomb, in her unfathomable grief she submitted to God, knowing that nothing said or done was in vain. For we who have suffered the loss of someone dear God’s promise of eternal life is the power that gives meaning to our life, our suffering, and our death; without this certainty despair is inevitable, crippling, and overwhelming. Mary calls us to faith, a faith that joyfully reunites us with one another in our true home, free from illness, grief, pain, addiction, brokenness, and division.

St. Pio suffered greatly in his own life: physical illness, the pain of the stigmata, and spiritual anguish in the midst of great personal battles with evil and temptation. As we ask for the intercession and strength of our Blessed Mother let us also seek the companionship and guidance of St. Pio. Let us offer our struggle as a gift to God. Our suffering need not be empty of value. Our pain can be offered as a prayer for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world. Suffering endured with love is power beyond understanding.

St. Pio teaches us, "The longer the trial to which God subjects you, the greater the goodness in comforting you during the time of the trial". Remain in prayer. Seek the consolation of the Holy Spirit. Turn to the Blessed mother for intercession and comfort. Implore St. Pio to help us bring meaning to our suffering. Most importantly, remain in God’s love in perseverance. Then will we deserve, as St. Pio taught, “the exaltation after the combat.”

Novena Prayers

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