Wednesday, September 16, 2009

St. Padre Pio Novena - Day 2

"My Father, how difficult it is to believe."
                        -Pade Pio

A strange thing occurred several years ago that I won’t soon forget. Let me set the scene: I was in my car, parked near the garage of St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, awaiting the arrival of my daughter from Confirmation class, which was in session in the school building nearby. It was a cool, crisp night, and very quiet. I was praying the rosary while I waited, paying little attention to the world around me. The world seemed quite content to go unnoticed; no one was walking about, the streets were empty, and everything seemed to be at peace.

Rather insidiously I became aware of a growing discontent in my heart. The peaceful air of the evening was suddenly thick with anxiety. As I prayed I became increasingly restless, and even a bit fearful. Something was up, that I was sure. Just what remained to be seen.

As I prayed I noted two black dogs, rather large, of a breed I cannot identify, slowly sniffing their way across an empty lot in the direction of the Mission. As I observed my heart began to beat quickly. I have not been gifted with visions or locutions, nor do I claim to be a mystic, yet on that night I instantly knew that those dogs represented evil. There movements were slow, methodical, and sinister. Nearly half-way to the Mission, they took notice of me in the car, and quickened their pace.

I paused in my prayer, fearful, not sure what to do. I was safe in the car, but I knew those dogs represented a danger that could reach beyond the safety of my situation. I froze. What if the confirmation class came out of the building at that moment? What if someone from the men’s shelter stepped out for a smoke? These dogs were dangerous, I knew. They wanted to frighten, to hurt, to injure.

I came out of my cloud of fear moments later, and resumed my prayer, asking for Mary’s protection, begging for angels to guard the Mission, and imploring St. Michael to keep us from harm. The dogs continued their approach, but suddenly stopped in the street at the driveway apron leading to the Mission parking lot; they paused, sniffed the air, and quickly turned away. I watched as they retreated, and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving. As they disappeared from sight, the air lightened, and peace returned.

Evil exists. Satan is real. Demons are among us. These are not fanciful literary devices to manipulate behaviors. We are at war. The enemy manifests itself in many ways, but its hallmark is sin.

Padre Pio suffered greatly at the hands of demons. He was spiritually and physically abused. He suffered bruising, assaults and physical harm. He also suffered temptations of disbelief, luring him from his vocation. In his letters he revealed these struggles, and the pain he endured. He was often physically ill, exhausted, and in spiritual turmoil.

Satan tries desperately to convince us that God has no care for us, that His will is of no matter, and that we are perfectly capable of existing without Him. One need not look far to see that Satan has enjoyed much success. Spiritual apathy, families broken and abandoned, drug and alcohol abuse, empty churches, abortion, licentiousness, discord and war all reflect and highlight the work of evil among us. Equally insidious is the reality that in this process Satan has convinced much of society that he does not exist at all. Our battle is real, our enemy is relentless, and the stakes are high.

Our weapons in battle are prayer and sacrifice, and our victory lies in adhering to the sacraments and clinging to our hope of eternal salvation. Mary, Mother of God, St. Pio, and all the saints and angels offer their prayers and protection. In the midst of the battle, as we are tempted to sin, as we are ridiculed in our vocations and mocked in our faith, we must turn to Jesus in our weakness. He is victorious.

On this second day of our novena let us ask for the intercession and guidance of Padre Pio as we join in the spiritual battle around us, that we may persevere and claim victory with Jesus, Mary, and all the saints. Keep us strong in the face of temptation. Never let us waver from our vocation. Draw us to reconciliation and the Eucharist. Most of all, remind us constantly that when we fail, when we fall, when we succumb to despair, God’s unfathomable mercy calls us home, welcoming us with love and forgiveness.  And with that, Satan can do nothing but stop, sniff the air, and retreat.

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