Sunday, September 23, 2012
Padre Pio. By: C.C.
"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain" (Padre Pio)
Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Padre Pio. I have always been drawn immensely to St. Padre Pio growing up due to the amounts of pictures of him that were hung up in my nonna's (grandmother's) home. I recall a specific image on her fridge of St. Padre Pio's bandaged hands. As a child this confused me greatly as I tried to understand what these wounds were and why this particular saint was so popular in nonna's house - and in much of the Italian culture also. Nonna's broken English and my poor Italian vernacular at that time made any dialogue rather confusing between us and I battled to understand who this man was and what these wounds meant....I was definitely seeking for answers and it would be years until I truly understood who he was and the impact that he left upon the Catholic Church. Quite frankly, years would pass before I even understood what it truly meant to be Catholic, and St. Padre Pio was quite instrumental in my willingness for full surrender to my Catholic faith.
In 2008 I was in my final year of post-secondary studies and not a practicing Catholic. However, there was undoubtedly a deep yearning within me to feel peace, to feel home at Chruch, and the desire to live a Christ centred life. Given decisions I had made in my adolescent days and young adult life I cancelled myself out from being one who could live the way I witnessed others living. I admired those surrounding me who beamed with the light of Christ. Those who fully bore witness to what it meant to be Catholic and led rather devout lives. I dismissed myself from the reality that this could be attained by me. Suffering from the shame of sin and living for everything worldy. I felt that it was much too late for me to be anything more.
I was raised with a respect for the Catholic Church, but this seemed to be a much more cultural affiliated respect than a truly owned and nurtured exposure to the Church. I was not taught the power of prayer or the reasons for this. I heard the messages in Mass (when I would attend) and growing up I would witness the intense nightly prayer routines of nonna before she closed her to sleep. I knew it was important- I did not know how to connect this importance within my own life. Everything began to change when I began to learn about this mysterious saint.
As a student of literature I loved going into the local book store and walking up and down the isles for new finds to read. There is a section entitled "Italian interest" that I always gravitated to because in my final year I spent a lot of time studying Italian history. Within this search for historic books I stumbled upon a book entitled Prophet of the people- a biography of Padre Pio by Dorothy M. Gaudiose. There it was; that same familiar face from nonna's fridge. I bought this book and that is when "it all began".
I read through this book in 3 days..often staying up throughout the night to read it because I could not put it down. I could not deny the power of our Lord as I read about the life of this humble and faithful servant. Not once did I doubt anything I read in this book but was captivated by the life of St. Padre Pio and began to understand and realize that I needed to change. I would weep, often sharing the pain and sadness that Padre Pio must have felt in his life. I cried over his love of sinners and his desire to help save so many souls and share the love of God through bearing the wounds of Christ and heart so pierced with sorrow for the state of our world.
My conversion was sparked then and the journey since that day has been one full of learning, growth and yes, pain. However, I can now say that there has been much "flowering of the soul" and I continue to strive to live the way God has intended me to live. I have held Padre Pio very dear to me and do not hesitate to share his story. Today I pray especially for his intercession in all of our lives, and in the lives of those who have yet to surrender themselves entirely into the hands of our Lord.
May God be with you (C.C.)