Let the world turn topsy turvy, everything be in darkness and Mount Sinai all aflame, covered with lightning, thunder — God is with you. But if God lives in the darkness and Mount Sinai is all aflame, covered with lightning, thunder, and noise, will we not be safe near Him?
- St. Pio of Pietrelcina
A half century has passed since Padre Pio left us and yet his words still reverberate true in these topsy turvy Covid times. Cathedrals remain closed, victims cough thunderously, young people silently descend into darkness but “will we not be safe near Him?”
Father Elton Fernandes, SJ, gently guided our PPPG members to choose hope when he led last month’s (January 9th, 2021) Zoom prayer meeting on “How we can hear Christ’s voice more clearly in our lives.” First and foremost, “test the spirits,” he counseled. For our world is drowning in noise and news so it would behoove us all to dedicate time to discern.
In the January PPPG prayer meeting, Fr. Elton Fernandes, SJ of Taipei Ignatian Spirituality Centre guided us on how to hear Christ’s voice more clearly?
It was such an excellent talk. Father Elton explained thoroughly on how God speaks to us, that His voice is often very subtle and need to be discerned. He pointed out the two keys of discernment: consolation and desolation and then he ended the talk with the process of discernment. He also gave many examples from our daily lives.
For almost fifty years, I turned to our Blessed Virgin Mary for all my needs. Then I had an intimate encounter with our Lord Jesus. After that, I continued to pray the rosary but it was Jesus with whom I most related.
One day when I was praying in front of the tabernacle, I felt a desire to go the statue of our Lady. It was as though Jesus was telling me, ‘go to her.’ On doing so I experienced peace and a great comfort. After a while I felt a desire to go before the statue of St. Joseph. This time it was as though Mary was telling me to visit with him. From then on my triangular relationship was with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
I recall that throughout my life while I showed reverence to other saints, I hardly ever kept a devotion to or actively sought out their intercession. Encouraged under the guidance of our parish priest, I developed an admiration for St. Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata and St. Jean Marie Vianney.
My dog Lulu is a certified Therapy Dog, and she is assigned to do pet therapy at a local hospital. She has the best job on Earth visiting anyone of us who want the therapeutic moment from her. Working or being in the hospitals could be stressful, or especially when our loved ones are being treated. This is where therapy dogs can help us release the stress, lower our blood pressure, and help us cope with the day.
The first time my dog Lulu and I started our visitation, I discovered the most rewarding experience that I would remember for the rest of my life. Lulu and I were walking passed the Intensive Care Unit waiting area, some people reacted and patted Lulu, it was nothing out of the ordinary. We were about to move on when this older lady ran up to us and asked Lulu to visit her husband who was in the ICU. In her right hand she was holding a paper cup, probably a coffee or tea to energize her while in the hospital attending to her husband. She said: “You must visit my husband; my husband loves dogs.” We were not supposed to be in the ICU area, so this lady must obtain permission from the doctor if dog visitation was allowed.
“How long, O Lord?”. After seven months of lockdowns, quarantines, masking, distancing, and various other restrictions, it seems that the opening line of Psalm 13 might have been (and/or still is) on millions and billions of peoples’ minds – mine for sure! St. Paul lets us in on a hopeful and inspiring message which could be read as a wise response to this question in Romans 5:20: “where (evil) abounds, grace abounds all the more!”; adapting this hopeful quote to our present circumstances: where pandemics abound, Grace abounds all the more! Great way to shift our perspectives on the trials stemming from the pandemic, huh? It sure ain’t easy to make that shift, though! Padre Pio could help: he once said: “Our Lord sometimes (allows) you (to) feel the weight of the cross. This weight seems unbearable but you carry it because in His love and mercy, the Lord helps you and gives you strength.” He lavishes us with His Grace.
Alone but Not Lonely…
The ceremony of the Rosary prayer was established to unite us with Mary so that the Church can always enjoy her protection. On the 7th of October the Group meets for a catechesis and for the Rosary ceremony. The rosaries are blessed and the commitment to the recitation of the Rosary is renewed.
Here is the download the complete prayer:
Our Catholic Church encourages the faithful to receive frequent Holy Communion. Since the pandemic especially during the full lock down, Holy Masses are offered without attendances and we can participate from home via live streaming without Holy Communion being received. We are asked to make an Act of Spiritual Communion originally written by St. Alphonsus de Liguori. Although it is a beautiful prayer, nothing can be compared to receiving the actual Host.
Currently in Vancouver, the BC Local Health Authority has only started to re-open businesses in stages and so religious gathering is now yet allowed, although with seats limitation we can come to Mass again. There are new rules or regulations being applied at Church, and if we can attend Masses, we are happy to comply. I could not wait for the day when I could attend Mass. When that day came, when that moment to receive Communion was upon me, I was full of joy walking towards the altar to receive once again in my hand the Holy Host.
Sometimes we have this need to pray where we would like to be in solitude. We can experience solitude taking a quiet walk in the forest; we can journey great distances like a pilgrim; we can even separate ourselves from a crowd and take a moment to be alone. Of course, there is the Church where we can place ourselves in front of the Blessed Sacrament and unite ourselves with Jesus, heart to heart.
This past summer I went to San Giovanni Rotondo to pray before St. Padre Pio’s relics. Even though the crypt had people sitting on the pews, kneeling before the St. Padre Pio’s remains, and standing in prayer, the crypt felt incredibly silent while packed with prayer. Silent prayer. The people arrived with petitions, thanksgiving, and acts of veneration. God has given us a Saint – a Saint in our midst to strengthen us and to guide us. St. Padre Pio does what every Saint is meant to do: lead us to greater sanctity by their intercession and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Like each of us, each saint has a story. The story of the Saint is shaped by two fundamental principles: Truth and Love. The prayers from the Vigil of St. Padre Pio (Sept 22) focus precisely on these qualities of the life of the Saint: to burn with love, to be driven by truth.
It has been a difficult time. Who would think this invisible tiny virus could turn our world upside down? More than 12m people have now tested positive for Covid-19 worldwide. More than 500,000 have died. Schools and shops are closed. Gatherings are limited or not allowed. People are scared to go to restaurants for dine-in. Travels are banned. As a result, almost all our economic activities are halted, people are losing their jobs. For the time being, our new normal includes staying home as much as possible, keeping physical distance from each other and wearing face masks.
Study with devotion. Fr. Ho gave gave some recommendable books to start like "Conversations with God" by St. Jose Maria Escriva, "Divine Intimacy" 4 volumes Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene (the Ignatius Press).
3. ENERGY/ PRAYER. Find time to pray and meditate. Pray the rosary and mediate on the mysteries asking our Blessed Mother to pray for us "NOW" and in the "HOUR" of our death. This is the bigger challenge we need to face, to take time to sit STILL, mediate, pray and converse with GOD.
Find time to do meditation, to know God in the morning and do examination of conscience in the evening for all our sins of commission and our sins of omission. What is my vice to correct, my virtue to improve? (Sin is a habit so is virtue.) Is my will aligned to HIS will, so HIS will be done on earth as it is in heaven? Pray persistently, pray consistently knowing GOD is our father.
PPPG Bloggers the faithful members of St. Mary's Padre Pio Prayer Group
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