This pandemic brought mixed emotions to everyone. Some feel more fear, panic and hopelessness; others more time for solitude and be still; others hunger for food, for company of friends, for love of family or just longing for self-esteem after losing their daily routine of work. Yet others find time to be more creative to hone other skills. I see all these as choices as to where we wanted to put life in perspective.
For me as I went through some papers, I found my notes when Fr. Anthony Ho gave a very inspiring and practical tips. I am sharing this with you as reference for a better perspective. These notes are on how to achieve holiness given by Fr. Ho during the last PPPG meeting before the COVID -19 lock down. It’s helpful to write them down and let’s use these notes when our spiritual journey needs uplifting or when days seem all cloudy and confusing.
Can’t go out to eat so I’ve been binge watching the Cooking Channel. Can’t meet up with friends so we Zoom or talk through text longer than ever before. Can’t go to mass so I pray less than I used to when churches were open and Adoration Chapels were available to all. What’s wrong with me?
I’ve been struggling spiritually during the quarantine and feel like I must be the only one. A friend was explaining how she watches livestream masses daily, prays four rosaries and reads the Bible now that she’s not distracted with window shopping and other time killers. But the opposite seems true for me.
When I was driving around town to go to school and run errands, I would pray in the “hermitage” of my car. When I was swamped with school assignments and helping out my teen, I would carve time in between my hectic schedule to listen to Bishop Barron or audiobooks on the saints. But now I feel lost.
My involvement in St. Mary ‘Parish ministry “Padre Pio Prayers Group” has been for me both as an opportunity to my express my gratitude to God and to quench a quest for spiritual enrichment.
It is gratitude because, despite the hardships that most of us face regularly in our daily live, I consider that I have been blessed multiple times by the Holy Trinity and Mother Mary. Indeed, many times, with the Saints, Angels and Archangels, they came to my help and protected me and my family even before I ask for their Mercy.
So, moved by a spirit of thanksgiving I feel the need to give back to our Christian community after all these graces received. This is the way I see my contribution by for example setting the chairs for the audience before our prayer group meeting or simply welcoming this public at the entrance with handouts and a box where they can leave us their prayer requests. I feel joy and happiness doing it. And, it is like they are giving back too.
For the year of 2020, our prayer group is blessed to have the whole year booked with the prominent keynote presenters including our own Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, from the Archdiocese of Vancouver who is scheduled to come in July 2020. Having different presenters add different characteristics and dynamics to the prayer group which attract many people from our own parish and the surrounding parishes.
I love dealing with different presenters, each one of them is unique and wonderful. I look forward to every prayer meeting. Meeting our presenters and our members bring me special delight. Sometime though a presenter might need to cancel due to health reason or an emergency that cannot be averted, then a replacement must be found or try to find a different way to fill in the time, if in any case all efforts were in vain, then the prayer meeting has to be cancelled. So far, God always provided me with a presenter needed for that particular month, He provides the replacement speaker. Praise God. I have never had to cancel a prayer meeting. But that was before COVID19 outbreak!
I made a plea in January 2019 asking for help to run our prayer group. First, I prepared a short presentation to explain various tasks that required to run a prayer meeting. I decided to have 5 teams: publication, hospitality, setup, prayer intentions writers and prayer requests. After the presentation, it was so heartening to see so many people stepping up to join the various teams. I especially want to acknowledge those who have already been part of the PPPG Team. In addition, it was truly wonderful to see so many people coming forward volunteering to bring food and refreshments to share with everyone! I’d like to share about more specific encounters with generosity.
One of our publication team members wrote this recently on her email to me -- this is in the context of making a poster for the upcoming prayer meeting – “I used the picture of Jesus with children, as Jesus said: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” She used the color purple for the title of the talk, she continued to explain that; “Purple is a combination of blue (the color of the Word of God) and red (the color of the Holy Spirit), so the combination is purple which means royalty and priesthood.”
The story about the Relic of Saint Padre Pio.
When I presented the plan to invite keynote speakers for our monthly prayer meeting back in November 2018 to Fr. Gabriel de Chadarévian, O.P. (Fr. Gabriel) the Spiritual Director of St. Mary’s Padre Pio Prayer Group (PPPG), I learnt that Fr. David Bellusci, O.P. (Fr. David) works in Rome during Summertime. Fr. David’s name came up during the meeting as he would be one of the priests that I would invite to give presentation for PPPG.
After the initial meeting with Fr. Gabriel, I begin to send out the invitations, including an invite to Fr. David. He was quite responsive, and we then settled on a date for him to come to give a talk to our prayer group on May 4, 2019. When Fr. Gabriel mentioned the city of Rome, I immediately thought about the Relic of Padre Pio.
Let’s back up a little to the era when Fr. Pierre Leblond, O.P. (Fr. Pierre) was still the pastor of St. Mary’s and the Spiritual Director of our PPPG, we started the initiative to request for the first-class Relic of Saint Pio from the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (Latin: Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum). We discovered that there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled and upon approval, that the Relic will only be released in person and to be picked up from the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin headquarters in Rome. The initiative later had to be put on hold due to the news of Fr. Pierre’s sabbatical.
At last month’s prayer meeting, for the first time ever, we incorporated music. We were blessed to have Agnes Tao from St. Augustine’s Taizé Prayer Service come and sing at our Rosary prayer session. It is now official: Taizé will be a regular part of our PPPG meetings!
When I first heard Agnes and her team sing at St. Augustine’s, I was blown away with the wonderful meditative quality of the songs. I dreamed and wished they would come to PPPG. One of the songs I heard that evening was “Nada te Turbe.” I am familiar with a few Taizé songs, but I heard “Nada te Turbe” for the first time that day and instantly fell in love.
Later I discovered that it is a poem written by St. Terese of Ávila or Santa Teresa de Jesus (1515 – 1582) based on Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples in John 14: “Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid.”
Last month we published the first PPPG Experience from one of our members. I encouraged others to do the same. You might think this invitation applies only to those who are gifted in writing. Some people are afraid to put pen to paper and share their experiences. Afraid that their story is not compelling. Perhaps it’s too ordinary or people will judge it to be unworthy… There are any number of reasons that may prevent you from sharing your story.
The fact is that every time we tell our story, our testimony, we give honor and glory to God. Your story—regardless of how “ordinary” you may think it is—is a story about God’s goodness manifested in you. If I have had a profound experience after becoming a spiritual child of Padre Pio, wouldn’t I want people to know how good God is in my life!
I am very grateful to Father Pierre Leblond, O.P. for sharing with us “The Prayer of St. Padre Pio” and “The Four Habits of Relational Prayer’ at last September’s PPPG meeting.
When we said the prayer together, I was so touched that I almost wanted to cry because the words of the prayer were the very words I wanted to say to God:
Lord, stay with me for I always forget you.
Lord, I am weak, I need your strength.
Lord, I want to follow you.
Jesus, stay with me for death and judgement is coming close.
Lord, I want to love you forever.
Father also explained that if we are to have relational prayer, we need to open ourselves up, our hearts, and talk to God about our joys, desires and concerns. In addition to that, we need to trust in Him and be prepared to receive whatever graces He gives.
Father Pierre’s teachings really inspired me and confirmed that God is here. He loves and cares deeply about me. All I need to do is to love Him back and trust in Him.
God, thank you for seeking me out and loving me first. I trust you and ask that you stay with me ALWAYS!
By: Patty Mak
Joining PPPG has been a blessing to me, not only did I meet beautiful people who also have the same goal to continue to strive to live a holy life but they also inspired me to do my other ministries in the church more effectively.
I always look forward to the talks and the presentations on the life of St. Padre Pio as it energizes me and makes me love to pray and do more things for God. Being an intercessor for people who need our prayers is a wonderful work of charity that teach me to love, appreciate and understand others. PPPG has a special part in my heart and I really look forward to seeing it with more members and help them to reach heaven.
By: A spiritual daughter of Saint Pio
PPPG Bloggers the faithful members of St. Mary's Padre Pio Prayer Group
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