Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pray for Us, Padre Pio

Today is the feast day of St Pio of Pietrelcina. Padre Pio is significant to me mostly because of our 6-month-old son, Noah. During his birth my wife's hands had been pierced multiple times as different nurses unsuccessfully tried to draw blood. When the room was empty, she lifted her bandaged hands and said she felt like Padre Pio, who bore the stigmata of our Lord. I left that night from the hospital and stopped for a cheese steak. I sat down and waited for my late supper and looked up at the wall to my right and was somewhat surprised to see a picture of Padre Pio, the only religious picture on the wall. So I began calling Baby Noah "Pio" on occasion, as I felt that Padre Pio was near us that night, praying for us.

Today is the first full day of Autumn. It is the feast day of St Pio of Pietrelcina. Coincidentally, Noah was born on the first day of Spring, six months ago on March 20. Noah's half birthday is Sept 20, which is the day Padre Pio received permanently the marks of Christ upon his body.

What does it all mean? To some, talk of saints is silliness and superstition. "Those who are dead," they might say, "are dead; they know nothing of us or our lives." Or they believe that prayers to the saints are undeserved, unnecessary and take away from Christ - like clouds before the sun. And I understand that. But for others of us, the saints are very real and present in our lives - indeed, part of what the "I believe ... in the communion of saints" means. They pray for us, and we ask for their prayers - not in opposition to Christ, not robbing anything from Christ, but because of Christ (who, as St Athanasius says, became man that we might, by God's grace, become God [in his energies, not his nature]). God does not dwell alone. God is not selfish. He does not hoard himself. He gives himself. He does not demand our worship. But he draws us into communion with him, into his very life. Pours himself out for us. And when we are drawn into him, reconciled to him - who is love - we adore him because there is nothing else to do. And when we adore him, we worship him with a great company. The glory of the saints is Christ, and their glory magnifies the glory of Christ - it shows forth God's glory.

We have communion with Padre Pio - a connection, to put it in more sterile terms. He and Noah are brothers. But not simply because of the correspondences of certain milestones in their lives, but because they are in Christ. Padre Pio is our brother. And he loves my son and points him to Christ. He walks before and beside him - always and only gesturing to Christ.

My words are insufficient and poor. So I will simply ask today for the prayers of Padre Pio, remembering his holiness, his compassion, his love and his life. Happy feast day!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Crazy Love and a Quiet Life

I recently read Francis Chan's Crazy Love. I'm not a big fan of the book, if you care. Sometimes we get caught up in wanting to live an extraordinary life for Christ - to do something extraordinary for God - but at the heart of it, it is little more than vainglory. Or, sometimes our desire to "do something great for God" is little more than our desire to be someone great.

St John the Forerunner says, "He must increase and I must decrease."

Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," "love as I have loved you," and "love your enemies."

St Paul says, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands."

Mother Teresa says something like, "We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love."

Maybe God is calling you to Africa or India - so go already. But it's more likely he isn't. Strive to be less, to be no one. Love your wife. Be gentle with your children. Go to Liturgy. Pray always. Judge no one.

When we love our enemy, love the crazy fool of a pastor who wants to burn Qur'ans, love the one who wishes us harm - then we have begun to be in communion with Christ. For it is Christ who loves these.

If Wishes Were Horses

My seven-year-old, Avery, said, "I wish I could bite my butt like dogs do."


"I wish I was a girl but I had a boy's bottom," said Avery.

"Why?" I said, suddenly interested.

"Because," she said, "Then I wouldn't have to have a period."