. . . . .Prayer, charity and the joy of forgiveness
St. Gregory the Great says: “The present life is but a road by which we advance to our homeland. Because of this, by a secret judgment we are subjected to frequent disturbance so that we do not have more love for the journey than for the destination. The suffering St. Pio experienced in his ill health, in the persecution by the very Church he loved, the trials and setbacks in establishing the hospital, the pain of the stigmata -- all kept before his eyes the pilgrim nature of his vocation. What allowed St. Pio to persevere was the intense prayer life that he lived faithfully. He prayed more in a week than most people pray in a year. The test of authentic prayer is growth in goodness, growth in humanity, greater serenity in living and in facing hardship. Above all genuine contact with God effects a real displacement of self as the center of our existence.
Prayer is not withdrawing from the rest of humanity. It is more like a wedding feast to which we welcome all who cross our path. A strange thing takes place in prayer. There is a mysterious coupling of our own life with the lives of others -- an embrace that includes the whole of humanity. At first prayer stems from a sense of personal neediness. Prayer progressively becomes less a self-centered plea for personal deliverance than a universal cry for help and for the coming of God’s kingdom.
Prayer and suffering transformed the life of Padre Pio and made him a living icon of God’s unfailing mercy and love. Too often we try to follow Jesus at a safe distance, like Peter after he fled from Gethsemane. Padre Pio’s life and teaching encourages us to climb Calvary to join Jesus in the moments of greatest pain and greatest love.
In today’s Gospel, planted at the foot of the cross are these few brave disciples. I am sure that Mary’s faith and courage was a source of strength for all of them. Mary stood at the foot of the cross. At that dramatic moment, before His death Jesus gives us a gift, His most precious possession, His Mother. Behold your mother. Mary is now not only Jesus’ Mother. She is also our Mother.
For Padre Pio, as for St. Francis, the cross was his book, the book where he read the greatest love story in history. Padre Pio lived his life planted at the foot of the cross in the company of Mary.
Mary full of grace, the costly grace of discipleship, the grace that allowed Mary to renew her fiat, her yes to the Lord even in the face of the cross. There by the cross is our Mother, Our Lady of Grace.
Recently Our Holy Father Pope Benedict said, “He who believes is not alone.” Here we have a host of witnesses. We stand before the beloved cross of Our Blessed Savior, we stand with Our Mother, Our Lady of Grace, and Padre Pio. We are not alone. When the Apostles came down from Tabor, they carried in their hearts a glimpse of God’s Glory. When you return to your homes, share with your families and neighbors the graces of this pilgrimage and the message of our beloved Padre Pio: Prayer, charity and the joy of forgiveness.
By Cardinal O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap.
Archdiocese of Boston