20160606 Padre Pio offered his life and time

Pope Benedict XV urged all Christians to pray for an end to the World War in July 1918. On July 27, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim for the end of the war.
Soon after the offering, Padre Pio had two extraordinary mystical experiences. He described an experience of the piercing of his heart to his spiritual director.
“I was listening to the confessions of the young men the night of Aug. 5 when all of a sudden I was very frightened upon seeing with the eyes of my mind a celestial visitor who appeared right in front of me.
“In his hand he carried something like an iron lance with a very sharp tip. It seemed as if fire was coming out of the tip. I saw the person thrust the lance violently into my soul. I could barely complain when I felt I was dying.
“I told the young man to leave the confessional because I felt very sick and did not have the strength to continue. This martyrdom lasted without any interruption until the morning of Aug. 7. From that day I felt a great affliction and a wound in my soul that is always open and causes me agony.”
A month and a half later, Padre Pio experienced the bleeding of the five wounds. He described the experience to his spiritual director.
“It was the morning of Sept. 20, 1918. I was in the chapel praying the prayer of thanksgiving for the Mass and I felt little by little that I was elevated to a softer prayer. Suddenly a great light blinded me, and Christ, Who was bleeding in all parts, appeared to me.
“From His wounded Body came out rays of light that looked like arrows that hurt my feet, hands, and side. When I returned to myself, I found myself on the floor and full of wounds. My hands, feet, and side bled and they hurt even enough to make me lose all my strength to stand up.”
The spiritual gifts of Padre Pio gave people hope as they began to rebuild their life after the war. Despite the pains of his mystical wounds, Padre Pio led a very busy life, rising at 3:30 every morning and praying the Divine Office, then celebrating Mass at 5 a.m.
Padre Pio was a man of prayer. He once said, “I want to be only a poor friar who prays.”
Mass celebrated by him could last for three hours; he would experience the Passion and pray for all those who had recommended themselves to him. In time this length declined, until, during the years before his death, it lasted about an hour.
Padre Pio was once asked how he could spend so much time standing on his wounds during the entire Mass. He replied, “My daughter, during the Mass I am not standing, I am hanging with Jesus on the Cross.”
After Mass, Padre Pio made a prolonged thanksgiving. He then took a glass of water as his breakfast, and went to hear confessions. According to the common practice of the time, men and women confessed separately: the men in the sacristy, mainly in the open with a portable grill; and the women in the church in the confessional.
At noon he took his only meal of the day. A normal day for Padre Pio was a busy 19 hours: Mass, hearing confessions, and handling correspondence. He usually had only three or four hours rest at night.

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20160530 Padre Pio receives the stigmata

Relics of St. Leopold Mandic and St. Pio of Pietrelcina arrived in Rome in February for the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Francesco Forgione (the future Padre Pio) was born on May 25, 1887, in the small village of Pietrelcina, near Benevento in Italy.
Francesco was a deeply religious boy. When he heard the name of God, Our Lord, or the Blessed Virgin taken in vain, he would run off and hide weeping, and kneel down in a corner to pray.
One day as Francesco’s father, Orazio, was watching his older son working in the fields under the sun, he turned to Francesco and said, “I am never going to let you see the sun!”
Francesco asked what he meant. Orazio answered, “I am going to have you study to become a monk.” Francesco protested there was not enough money for him to study. Orazio said he would go to New York and earn what was needed.
While Orazio was working in New York, the family had Francesco study under Dom Domenico, had been relieved of his duties as a parish priest because he was not faithful to his commitment to celibacy. Francesco’s mind was closed to the teachings of such a sinful man.
Dom Domenico finally told Francesco’s mother that the child had better go to work in the fields, as he had no brains for book learning. When Francesco was told this, he said with great indignation: “My head is no good? You mean that his head is no good! He is living in sin in his own house!”
Years later, Dom Domenico repented of his sins and went to confession to his former pupil, Padre Pio. Two days after his confession, Dom Domenico died a good Catholic death.
After their son had worked in the fields for awhile, the family chose another teacher for Francesco: Maestro Caccavo. Under him, Francesco made great process.
In 1902 Francesco entered the Capuchin Monastery at Morcone. His religious name was “Pio” after St. Pius V. Fra Pio faithfully observed the rules of the community.
He spent long hours in prayer and was often seen reading his textbooks on his knees. However, his life of prayer and penance was interfered with by fevers, nausea, and the attacks of evil spirits.
Despite difficulties, Fra Pio persevered in his vocation, and he was ordained a priest on Aug. 10, 1910. During World War One, Padre Pio was called up for military duty, but he was eventually discharged for health reasons. He settled for good in San Giovanni Rotondo.
On Sept. 20, 1918, Padre Pio was in the choir alone making his thanksgiving after Mass when suddenly he gave a piercing cry and collapsed. He was found to be bleeding profusely from five deep wounds in his hands, feet, and side.
He was taken to his cell, and when he regained consciousness, he begged his fellow friars to keep the event secret. However the news soon spread, and people flocked to the friary to see the stigmata for themselves, and to confess their sins to this “living saint.”
For the next few years Padre Pio suffered a “prolonged martyrdom.” Besides the constant pain from the wounds, he was repeatedly subjected to medical investigations and attempted cures.
When asked once if his wounds hurt, he replied: “Do you think that the Lord gave them to me for a decoration?”
The wounds of the stigmata lasted for 50 years. They caused Padre Pio considerable pain, so much that he was unable to close his hands into a fist, and when descending stairs from the altar to distribute Holy Communion, he was obliged to walk backwards to relieve the pressure on his feet.

20160523 St. Leopold Mandic

Relics of St. Leopold Mandic and St. Pio of Pietrelcina arrived in Rome in February for the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
St. Leopold Mandic was born on May 12, 1866, in Castelnuovo, Croatia, the 12th child in the family. His baptismal name was Deodatus, which means “God-given.” He was poor in health and small in stature (he stood only four feet five inches tall as an adult), yet he had tremendous spiritual strength.
When he was 8, one of his sisters scolded him for a slight fault and led him to the pastor of the parish, who made him kneel in the middle of the church.
Leopold later recalled: “I stayed there, deeply saddened, and wondering within myself: why treat so severely a child for such a slight fault? When I get big, I want to be a religious, a confessor, and treat the souls of sinners with much goodness and mercy.”
At 16, Deodatus went to Udine, Italy, to study at the Capuchin Seraphic School. After 18 months, he entered the Capuchin Order as a novice on 20 April 1884, taking the religious name Brother Leopold. He studied in Padua and Venice and was ordained a priest in Venice on Sept. 20, 1890.
Father Leopold desired to work for the return to Catholic unity of the Orientals separated from the Church of Rome. After ordination, his desire to leave for the missions in Eastern Europe intensified, but his health had suffered from the hard work during his years of study.
He was assigned to various friaries in the Venetian Province from 1890 to 1906 to recover his strength. This was a big disappointment, but he accepted it with deep faith, not wanting to direct his life by personal inspiration, but by obedience.
In 1906 he was assigned to Padua, Italy. During World War I, Father Leopold spent a year in prison because he would not renounce his Croat nationality. In the prison camp he ministered as a priest to his fellow inmates.
In Padua, Father Leopold’s main vocation was hearing confessions, which he did for about four decades. The Capuchin friars often criticized him for his approach to confession, calling him too lenient.
He was lenient and compassionate towards his penitents. He was very understanding and sympathetic to the people who came to him, and would treat them with great sensitivity. Father Leopold would spend 10 to 15 hours a day hearing confessions and counselling.
It was not easy: the confessional was very hot during summer and very cold during winter. A friar once asked Father Leopold: “How is it that you are able to stay in the confessional so long?”
He answered with a smile: “You see, that’s my life.”
Another time, he said: “Since God has not given me the gift of preaching, I want to consecrate myself to drawing souls back to Him through the sacrament of penance.”
Father Leopold had a deep devotion to Our Lady. He referred her as “my holy boss.” He prayed the rosary often, and celebrated Mass daily at the side altar of the Virgin Mary.
On July 30, 1942, Leopold collapsed while getting ready for Mass. When he regained consciousness, he received the anointing of the sick. Then he repeated the pious prayers which his superior whispered to him.
At these words of the Salve Regina: “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary,” he passed from this earth to eternal life.

20160516 John Paul canonizes St. Faustina

After the death of St. Faustina, the devotion and message of Divine Mercy spread throughout Poland through pamphlets and prayer cards.
In 1940 Father Joseph Jarzebowski met St. Faustina’s spiritual director, Blessed Michael Sopocko. Father Jarzebowski took Divine Mercy devotional materials to the United States, and spread the devotion.
Because of the popularity of the devotion, the superior general of St. Faustina’s community asked a sister to type the handwritten notebooks of her diary.
Unfortunately this was not done carefully, and the final typescript was full of errors and omissions. These errors led to the Holy Office issuing a notification in 1959 which prohibited “spreading of the devotion to Sister Faustina, pending clarification of concerns.”
This notification caused great suffering for many people, especially Blessed Michael Sopocko. St. Faustina had predicted the suffering of Father Sopocko in 1935.
She wrote, “Once, as I was talking with my spiritual director, I had an interior vision, quicker than lightning, of his soul in great suffering, in such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work.
“There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendour for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago.”
“When this triumph comes, we shall already have entered the new life in which there is no suffering. But before this, your soul [of the spiritual director] will be surfeited with bitterness at the sight of the destruction of your efforts.”
Father Sopocko died in 1975, and so when the prohibition was lifted in 1978, both St. Faustina and Blessed Sopocko had already “entered the new life in which there is no suffering.”
Archbishop Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II) was instrumental in the lifting of the prohibition. The Polish laity kept petitioning Archbishop Wojtyla to begin the beatification process of St. Faustina.
On Aug. 21, 1965, after meeting Blessed Sopocko, the archbishop wrote: “This matter is foremost on my mind, maybe we will still be able to begin it this year.”
Less than a month later, Archbishop Wojtyla was in Rome for the final session of Vatican II. He consulted the prefect of the Holy Office, Cardinal Ottaviani, whether it were still possible to begin the process of St. Faustina’s beatification, given the prohibition.
The cardinal replied, “What? You haven’t started it yet? Hurry and start it before the witnesses die.”
On Oct. 21, 1965, Archbishop Wojtyla started the process for St. Faustina. The information gathered during the process eventually led the Holy Office to issue a new notification on June 30, 1978: “This Sacred Congregation, having now in [its] possession the many original documents, unknown in 1959; having taken into consideration the profoundly changed circumstances, and having taken into account the opinion of many Polish ordinaries, declares no longer binding the prohibitions contained in the quoted ‘Notification'” of 1959.
On Oct. 16, Archbishop Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II. On April 18, 1993, he beatified St. Faustina, and on April 30, 2000, he canonized her.
During his homily at the canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II said, “It is important that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the Word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.'”
“By this act, I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium.”

20160509 Faustina enters eternity

When St. Faustina was dying, Sister Amelia Socha spent many hours at her bedside.
A week before her death, Sister Amelia said to her, “Sister, how good the Lord Jesus is to let you die so young and so consciously. How much I, too, would like to contract pulmonary tuberculosis and die one year after you.”
Sister Amelia suffered from tuberculosis of the bones, and she feared that she would become an invalid and a burden to the congregation.
St. Faustina understood Sister Amelia’s motives. She said, “Sister, if I shall have any graces with the Lord Jesus, I will ask that one year after me, He will take you.” Sister Amelia died of pulmonary tuberculosis just over a year later, Nov. 4, 1939.
During her last night, Oct. 4-5, 1938, St. Faustina suffered intensely from thirst and pain. On Wednesday, Oct. 5, Sister Amelia had morning duty at her bedside. St. Faustina sang quietly, “Neither the eye has seen, nor the ear heard, nor has it entered the thought of man, what awaits a virgin in heaven.”
At 4 p.m. Father Joseph Andrasz came and gave her the last rites. She was suffering immensely and asked for an anesthetic injection, but a moment later, she changed her mind and did not receive the injection. She decided to offer up the pain to God. Her final agony began in the evening, and she said, “Today Jesus is going to take me with Him.”
The bell rang during dinner, and everyone knew she was dying. The chaplain and the sisters prayed the prayers for the dying. At around 10:45 p.m., after long suffering borne with great patience, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska died. She was 33.
On Oct. 6 the sisters moved the body to the crypt. The casket was open until the funeral. Father Andrasz said, “In the casket, Faustina regained her freshness and loveliness; she was far more beautiful than during her life.”
Mother Irena Krzyzanowska said, “None of the sisters feared the deceased, as usually happens in such cases. Sister Faustina’s face radiated peace.”
The funeral of St. Faustina took place on the first Friday of the month, Oct. 7, the feast of the Holy Rosary. None of her family members attended the funeral. She had not wanted her relatives to be notified of the funeral because of the high cost of travel. However her sister, Natalia Grzelak, knew of her death before the news arrived.
Natalia saw Faustina in her room. Natalia recalled: “She was as white as a Communion wafer, so thin, with folded hands. She said to me, ‘I have come to say goodbye to you, because I’m leaving. Remain with God. Do not cry, you mustn’t cry!’
“She kissed me on the cheek, and I couldn’t say a word. I just pressed my face into the pillow. When she left, I started to cry…. Then the door opened again, and my sister stood there, so white, and said, ‘I have asked you not to cry, and you are crying. There’s no need to cry, and I beg you: do not cry!”
The following entry was put into the convent’s register of the deceased: “Sister Faustina, of blessed memory, arrived at a complete union with God in her relationship with Him, through loving and seeking the will of God in every event and in every order given by her superiors.”
A few years before her death, St. Faustina had written, “I feel certain that my mission will not come to an end upon my death, but will begin.”

20160502 Faustina prepares for death

When St. Faustina stopped writing her diary in June 1938, she anticipated that the diary would be published after her death for the comfort of souls.
She left a note saying, “No one is permitted to read these notebooks and the notes contained in them. Father Andrasz must first review them, or Father Sopocko, considering that they contain the secrets of a conscience.
“It is God’s will that all of this be given to souls for comfort. The notebooks themselves are not to be given to the sisters to read, the superiors excepted, until they are printed.”
St. Faustina’s health further deteriorated, and her superior came to see her on June 24. The next day a confessor came to administer the last rites. A religious sister asked Faustina whether she wished to be taken home so that she could die in the company of her congregation.
St. Faustina smiled and then said, “I am not going to die yet, so please leave me here for now, Sister, because my presence in the convent would be too much of a bother, since one of the sisters would always have to be near me.”
A moment later she added, “But please do whatever you see fit and what the superiors wish.”
In July a superior visited her in the hospital. Towards the end of the visit, St. Faustina joyfully said, “Oh, dear Mother, what beautiful things the Lord Jesus tells me,” and pointing to where the notes of her diary lay, she added, “Dear Mother, you will read all of this.”
In August St. Faustina wrote a farewell letter to Mother General. She expressed gratitude for all the goodness she had received and begged pardon for all the faults of her whole life.
She concluded the letter with the words, “Goodbye, dearest Mother. We will see each other in heaven at the foot of God’s throne. And now, may God’s mercy be praised in us and through us.”
St. Faustina was feeling significantly worse by Aug. 24. A superior came and spent the night beside her, and the next day the chaplain gave her the last rites. She received the sacraments piously, but she said to one of the sisters, “I knew that, anyway, I was not going to die.”
Blessed Michael Sopocko visited Faustina a number of times in late August and early September. They talked about the new congregation to honour the Divine Mercy that had been in the mind of St. Faustina in the past few years. Faustina promised to talk to Jesus about it.
The next day, as Father Sopocko was celebrating Mass for St. Faustina, a thought came to him: “Just as she had been unable to paint that image, but only gave¬†instructions, so she would be unable to establish the new congregation, but would only give general directives.”
At their next meeting, on Sept. 2, Father Sopocko asked Faustina what she had to say about the new congregation. She replied that she did not have to say anything because Jesus had already enlightened him with an answer during Mass.
Father Sopocko recalled, “This answer shook my spirit, because Sister Faustina could not have known the thoughts I had had during the Mass I had celebrated.”
On Sept. 17 St. Faustina was brought to the convent in Lagiewniki so that she could die at home. The infirmarian, Sister Alfreda Pokora, recalled: “Sister Faustina’s final weeks were very edifying. She always showed great kindness and patience, requesting nothing for herself.
“When asked if she was suffering greatly, she would answer, ‘Yes, very much, but I’m fine with it.'”
On Sept. 22 St. Faustina asked pardon of the entire congregation for her unintentional failings. A few days later Father Sopocko met her for the last time. St. Faustina seemed like an “unearthly being,” and predicted to Father Sopocko that she would die in nine days.

20160425 Faustina longs for Jesus

In the last months of her life, St. Faustina demonstrated strong detachment from the world and deep longing for God.
One evening the Lord asked her, “Do you not have any desires in your heart?” She answered, “I have one great desire, and it is to be united with You forever.”
The Lord replied, “That will happen soon. My dearest child, your every stirring is reflected in My Heart. My gaze rests kindly upon you before any other creature.”
Our Lord taught her about the interior life. He said, “Never claim your rights. Bear with great calm and patience everything that befalls you. Do not defend yourself when you are put to shame, though innocent. Let others triumph.
“Do not stop being good when you notice that your goodness is being abused. I Myself will speak up for you when it is necessary. Be grateful for the smallest of My graces, because your gratitude compels Me to grant you new graces.”
St. Faustina treated Jesus as her dearest friend. One morning in May, 1938, Faustina went out to the garden to meditate on the blessings of God. Her heart was burning with love, when suddenly Jesus stood before her and said, “What are you doing here so early?”
She answered, “I am thinking of You, of Your mercy and Your goodness toward us. And You, Jesus, what are You doing here?”
Jesus replied, “I have come out to meet you, to lavish new graces on you. I am looking for souls who would like to receive My grace.”
On the Feast of the Ascension in 1938, (May 26), Faustina experienced great longing for God. She also saw the scene of the Ascension, and that Our Lady yearned for Jesus with the whole force of Her love.
She said to Faustina, “The soul’s true greatness is in loving God and in humbling oneself in His presence, completely forgetting oneself and believing oneself to be nothing, because the Lord is great, but He is well-pleased only with the humble, He always opposes the proud.”
One day, when St. Faustina was praying for Poland, she heard these words: “I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming.”
On Aug. 17, 2002, St. John Paul II consecrated the International Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, Poland, and entrusted the world to Divine Mercy.
He said, “May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: from here there must go forth ‘the spark which will prepare the world for My final coming.”
The last months of St. Faustina’s life were filled with happiness, which flowed from her union with God. In June 1938 she stopped writing her diary. One of the last entries was about an experience of bilocation.
Our Lord told her she would go to a dying sinner and she would continue to recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. She wrote, “Suddenly I found myself in a strange cottage where an elderly man was dying amidst great torments. All about the bed was a multitude of demons and the family, who were crying.
“When I began to pray, the spirits of darkness fled, with hissing and threats directed at me. The soul became calm and, filled with trust, rested in the Lord. At the same moment, I found myself again in my own room. How this happened … I do not know.”