Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Day: September 26, 2006

Prayer, Charity and the Joy of Forgiveness

Good evening everyone.

If you are visiting my blog for the first time, I want to welcome you and thank you for stopping byand for those of you who are returning, I am grateful for your time and your continued interest in coming back to my blog.

When talking with friends and family who are located somewhere outside the Boston area, especially when we are away from home for business or personal reasons, we are frequently curious about the weather and ask, so, hows the weather there? Well, the first few days in Rome the weather was sunny and very warm. However, it rained all day yesterday very hard at times – and we even had a bit of thunder and lightning. Today, it was cloudy with a few light showers, but comfortable temperature-wise. Regardless of the weather, its always beautiful in the Eternal City.

Yesterday’s Heavy Rain In Rome

I’d like to take a minute to inform you about an important Mass and event taking place this Sunday, October 1st, in Boston. At 11:30 am on Sunday, Bishop Irwin will celebrate the Annual Pro Life Sunday Mass – a Rosary of Life Mass – in my place, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End.

Following the Mass there will be a Pro Life Rally and Walk beginning at 1:00 pm on the Boston Common. Participants will gather at the corner of Beacon and Arlington Streets.

All are invited to this special Pro Life Mass and Walk. I am pleased to hear that many of our Parishes will have groups attending.

As I celebrate Mass on Sunday at Santa Maria della Vittoria here in Rome, I will be praying for all those attending the Pro Life Mass and events back in Boston that same day.

Thank you again for all your feedback and comments about the blog. There has been quite a bit of continued interest in Padre Pio. While I have already shared some of my thoughts about Padre Pio and my Homily from last weekends Mass at San Giovanni Rotondo, many have requested to hear more about my Homily and about St. Pio. So, from that wonderful celebration, Id like to share the following with you:

Prayer, Charity and the Joy of Forgiveness

The Saints are the masterpieces of Gods grace. Many Saints are hidden from view and remain unknown, but some saints are placed in the world to capture the attention of a society that has forgotten about God.

Malcolm Muggeridge, the head of British television, an agnostic, discovered Mother Teresa pushing a wheelbarrow carrying a dying man infested with maggots to a Hindu temple so that the man might die surrounded by love. She told Muggeridge that the poor were really Christ in a distressing disguise and that her desire was to do something beautiful for God. That encounter with a Saint, led Malcolm Muggeridge to discover God and to convert to the Catholic faith. Mother Teresas heroic love helped Muggeridge glimpse Gods beauty. How many people came to discover God because of an encounter with Padre Pio, at Mass, in the confession, through a letter, or just hearing a report about his life. Todays world is obsessed with celebrities, film stars, athletes, millionaires, singers, politicians, television personalities, writers. Padre Pio does not fit any of these categories. In 1971, three years after Padre Pios death, Pope John Paul II said to our Capuchin superiors:

Guardate che fama ha avuto, che clientela mondiale ha adunato attorno a se! Ma perch? Forse perch era un filosofo? Perch era un sapiente? Perch aveva mezzi a disposizione? Perch diceva la messa umilmente, confessava dal mattino alla sera, ed era difficile a dire, rappresent?nte stampato delle stigmate di nostro Signore. Era un uomo di preghiera e sofferenza.

Padre Pio, like Mother Teresa, like St. Francis allows people to glimpse the beauty of holiness, which is a reflection of Gods beauty. People look for happiness in passing beauty, in wealth, in power and in pleasure and are always disappointed. The Saints give us hope in the possibility of happiness, the power of love, the eternal beauty of God. I am struck by how quickly the chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the devotion to Padre Pio have spread all over the world. There is such a hunger for Gods mercy in this broken world. Padre Pio, our Saint, is a Saint of Gods mercy in the confessional. We are told that Padre Pio heard over 1,200,000 confessions, including the confession of the young Father Karol Woytyla. How powerful a spiritual experience to say in Christs name I absolve you of your sins and to raise a wounded hand to bless and console the sinner. Padre Pios whole life announces to the world that God loves sinners and rejoices over the one lost sheep that is found.

On the island of Marthas Vineyard we have a lovely Church, St. Augustines. There are in the Church lovely stained glass windows depicting the seven Sacraments. The first window one sees on entering the Church is that window representing the Sacrament of Penance. On the window there are the keys symbolizing the power to loose and bind, a priestly stole and the words: Go and sin no more. But in the summertime, when it is very hot, they open the windows to allow some air to circulate. However, the part of the window that opens is the part where the word “no” is written. Then what people read on the window is: Go and sin more. I never heard of any complaints. (lol)

The greatest heresy of the modern age is the denial of sin. We have lost a sense of sin, a sense of the offense it causes to God, the destruction it does to ourselves and our loved ones, the poisonous effects it has on the fabric of society. We are like people with a deadly disease and in complete denial, refusing to admit that we need a physician. We have made such advances in science and technology and have become so blind to the reality of our human nature.

Padre Pio was the great physician of peoples souls, like the Cure of Ars, St. Leopold and other great confessors of the Church. He was a living witness of Gods unfailing mercy, of the power the Risen Lord gave to His Church when on Easter Sunday He breathed on His Apostles and said: Receive the Holy Spirit, Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them.

No cures are as dramatic as the ones Padre Pio performed in the sacristy and confessional in the sacrament of Gods mercy. How much hope, how much grace, how much joy filled the hearts of those thousands of penitents, cured of the snake bite of sin like the Israelites in the desert who gazed on the bronze serpent Moses raised up. Padre Pio helped people to look at the crucified Christ with faith and love and experience the healing power of the cross.

St. Pios compassion for sinners finds another expression in compassion for the sick and suffering. The Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza is a monument to Padre Pios concern for the sick and suffering. He reminds us how one of the signs of the Kingdom of God is that the blind, sick, captives are cared for and the poor have the Good News preached to them. The sick and the sinners who are the protagonists of the Gospel, and the special objects of Jesus pastoral love are the reason for this shrine. The ministry of Padre Pio is to manifest Gods unfailing love and mercy for His People, especially for the little ones, the sick and suffering and for poor sinners.

The Rule of St. Francis commands the friars to work but insists non spengano lo spirito della santa orazione e devozione, al quale devono servive tutte le altre cose temporali.

Padre Pio was a man of prayer, a teacher of prayer and a witness of prayer. The three thousand prayer groups throughout the world show us how his prayer life has been an inspiration for so many. If today we could ask for one grace from this pilgrimage let it be the grace of prayer in our lives.

The Saints Mass was witnessed by over ten million people who came to assist at the Eucharist celebrated by this holy priest. One of my favorite quotes of Padre Pio is what he tells us about the Mass: Every holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we ourselves do not knowIt is easier for the earth to exist without sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

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 set backs 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 Gods kingdom.

Prayer and suffering transformed the life of Padre Pio and made him a living icon of Gods unfailing mercy and love. Too often we try to follow Jesus at a safe distance, like Peter after he fled from Gethsemani. Padre Pios life and teaching encourages us to climb Calvary to join Jesus in the moments of greatest pain and greatest love.

In todays Gospel, planted at the foot of the cross are these few brave disciples. I am sure that Marys 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 Gods 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: preghiera e carita e la gioia del sacramento del Perdono.

Prayer, Charity and the Joy of Forgiveness

Getting Things Ready Before Vesting & Saying Mass

A visitor to the blog inquired about my mention of saying Mass at the Vatican residence before going to dinner last night. There are small chapels in the residence for that purpose. Its the ideal that priests say Mass every day. Its the greatest prayer that we can offer for the Church and for our people. That was why we were ordained. I would never miss the opportunity to say Mass. Each time we say Mass, the whole Church is present, even if we are alone.

In the Mass we pray for the Pope, the other Bishops, for the living, for the deceasedeveryone who has ever been part of the Church is part of the celebration of the Mass. Its the greatest service that we can give. To Padre Pio, his celebration of Mass was the most important part of his day. He would to take hours to celebrate Mass.

One of the Small Chapels at the Vatican Residence

I had a very nice dinner meeting with Msgr. Deeley last night. Msgr. Deeley holds a position at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, an office that was once headed by Pope Benedict, who was at that time, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Msgr Deeley was once Pastor at St. Anns in Quincy. I have asked him to contribute a post to my blog sometime in the next few days. I believe that he can offer you a perspective that is unique, as one of our own, a Bostonian, who is now living in the Eternal City and working in a very important post at the Vatican. I hope that you will find his view from Rome to be informative and interesting.

In the coming days, I would also like to make time to share with you my visit to the Ges, the Mother Church of the Jesuits, and where Saint Ignatius is entombed.

Good Night and until my next post.

God Bless,

Cardinal Sen

September 2006