Book Review— The Pandemic of Padre Pio: Disciple of Our Lady of Sorrows

Saint Padre Pio

Throughout history humanity has experienced periods of suffering and loss. Suffering often causes people to question previously held beliefs—even belief in God. Why does God allow pain and torment? How can He be good if disease, war, and domestic violence exist? If you are asking these questions don’t think you’re alone. I’ve wondered these things before (especially in the days and months after losing babies to miscarriage).

Suffering Unites Humanity

Suffering is humanity’s common denominator. It’s inescapable. And it comes in many different forms. Financial. Mental. Emotional. Physical. Spiritual. You’ve likely suffered multiple different ways the past year. The Covid-19 pandemic caught many people off-guard and upended (and eneded) countless people’s lives. I contracted the coronavirus in late April 2020 and it was a miserable experience. Prayers helped sustain me during the lowest points.

Some of the unexpected blessings from my experience was getting to know other Catholics online and developing regular correspondence. Another fruit has been people emailing me opportunities to review books related to the suffering that occurs during pandemics.

The Saint of Suffering

The Pandemic of Padre Pio

Our hope is in the Lord. How often have you heard this? My mom has told me this over and over. And I read about this message in the writings of the saints. One of the best spiritual role models from the last century is Saint Padre Pio.

The book The Pandemic of Padre Pio: Disciple of Our Lady of Sorrows by Stefano Campanella and translated by Bret Thoman is a timely read for our current suffering.

Divided into two sections this book focuses on Padre Pio’s experience of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Campanella tells of the saint’s experience using several letters he wrote. He accepted the suffering from contracting the virus as a way to save souls and bodies by offering his pain to God.

Padre Pio’s Marian Devotion

While the first part of the book provided more historical context, the second half gave a glimpse into Padre Pio’s spiritual life. Campanella wrote, “The maternal presence of Mary was constant, visible, and concrete in the life of Padre Pio” (page 57). The Capuchin priest had mystical experiences often (he received the gift of the stigmata too!). One of my favorite parts of the book is this quote below:

I feel everything burning without fire; I feel tight and tied to the Son through this Mother without even seeing the chains that hold me so tightly; a thousand flames consume me; I feel as if I am dying continuously, and yet I still live (page 60).

The fiery imagery to describe his connection to Christ reminded me of Saint Catherine of Siena’s description of God’s love as a “furnace of Divine Love”. She too was gifted with stigmata.

I highly recommend The Pandemic of Padre Pio. At only 83 pages you could complete this book in one sitting or digest his wisdom little by little. Reading about his direct experience with a pandemic was both informative and comforting. My only regret is that I didn’t discover this book earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic. Padre Pio will gave you spiritual insights on how to deal with pain and found joy in carrying your cross. Get your own copy of The Pandemic of Padre Pio: Disciple of Our Lady of Sorrows today!

P.S. Special thanks to translator Bret Thoman for reaching out to me about writing a review on this book.

Related Links

How Padre Pio responded when asked about the Spanish Influenza Pandemic

Padre Pio’s powerful words of advice when a pandemic hit Italy

Thank you for sharing!

Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 4

Another weekend gone and a new Monday is here.

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday. 😊

I can’t unsee this now. My eyes will automatically flip spiralled churches to the side. 😊😅
This meme never fails to hit you on the funny bone.
#truthbomb
Love endures forever!
Be an encourager. 😉

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!

A Snow Story to Keep Spirits High

Grey skies. Blustery winds blow over the landscape. There is no one else in sight.

Friends? Brothers? Fellow soldiers in this fight?

All gone home 🏡.

Only you. And the enemy.

A cold 🥶 and formidable foe. One whose tenacious tactics demoralize the ordinary.

But you are not an ordinary fighter. You are extraordinary 💪

You are motivated by honor and duty. Duty to the city and fellow citizens.

You will not rest until the battle is won.

Progress is slow going. But inch by inch you gain traction.

Has it been 10 minutes or 10 hours? Certainly not 10 days you hope!

Victory is on the horizon. You are almost done. One last effort. There!

You’re done.

Sweat mixed with ice to form a salty slush on your face. 😓 You’re exhausted, but proud.

The driveway has been shoveled.

What did you think I was talking about?!

Thank you for sharing!

Muffingate— Case Closed But Do Shenanigans Win Out?

After months on the run, the Muffin Miscreant finally was found by local authorities.

No one truly knows the amount of shenanigans the blue-eyed blueberry bandit committed. Detective Daddy estimated it could be upwards of 2020 tomfoolery incidents.

Witnesses claim the Muffin Miscreant expanded her shenanigan supply to include waterworks, toothpaste terror, and diaper-removal dances.

Because of the persistent pandemic the trial for the Muffin Miscreant had to be done mostly through online Zoom meetings. This added a time delay before her sentencing could occur.

Police tactics came under fire due to an national incident. Protesters gathered in the streets asking for reform in the justice system and to show more mercy towards perpetrators of shenanigans.

Social workers and teachers gave professional development sessions to the Chicoineville police department.

Detective Daddy learned about the importance of patience and understanding should another level 7 shenanigan event happen.

The Muffin Miscreant served a few months under house arrest but was able to cut her sentencing short through community service. She helped write a Christmas letter for a busy young family.

The new year began with much promise and hope. Shenanigan awareness will be a major discussion topic in city council meetings. But important questions remain:

❓How far will society go in making shenanigans seem normal?

❓Will Detective Daddy continue to serve as the premier local gumshoe? Or will he finally realize shenanigans may have beaten him?

❓Will the Muffin Miscreant stay away from muffins (and toothpaste too)?

❓Is this finally the end of the story dubbed “Muffingate”—a level 7 shenanigan event?

📍 Stay with PRNT TV 📺 to receive full coverage on future shenanigans.

📍Text “Muffingate story” to 55555 to receive a link to the entire Muffingate.

📍This has been I.M. Shocked with PRNT News reporting. Thank you for watching (reading)!

Thank you for sharing!

An Unexpected Journey? The Case For The Canonization Of J.R.R. Tolkien

In high school, I checked out Tolkien’s The Hobbit from the municipal library for the first time. I was a chapter or two into the book before I abandoned the work. “This is incredibly long-winded and includes boring descriptions. How could anyone consider this a classic of literature?!” I thought.

Five years and a master’s degree in theology later, I purchased a gold-leafed leather copy of The Hobbit at a local used book store. Perhaps I matured in my taste and knowledge of good writing. Or maybe God provided me the ability to make it through the verbose explanations of hobbits and their dietary preferences.  Since my unexpected return back to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, I developed a hunger for Middle Earth and his other literary works.

Tolkien

Being a cradle Catholic myself, I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not realize until recently that Tolkien was a devout Catholic. He even called his masterpiece  “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” Whenever I read his writings, whether it be tales about hobbits or Middle Earth in general, Farmer Giles, or my personal favorite Leaf by Niggle, nostalgia for a deeper reality and a sense of wonder invades my heart, mind, and soul.

Tolkien’s Impact on Faith

Aside from the writings of spiritual greats like Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, and John Paul II, to name a few, no other writer has impacted my life as much as J.R.R. Tolkien.  He inspires me to yearn for joy and realize that this life is a journey for the next. I would like to argue the case of the canonization of the great 20th century English writer using examples from both his writings and my personal life to demonstrate his impact on our pilgrim journey towards Heaven.

The canonization process is quite lengthy. After five years have passed since a person died, the Bishop of the Diocese upon which the individual passed away would need to petition the Holy See of Rome to start a Cause for Beatification and Canonization. This examination of the individual’s life is rigorous. Any miracles that are attributed to them are further scrutinized. Further information about this process may be found at the link at the end of this article.

Tolkien’s Strong Marian Devotion

Besides the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the communion of saints provide me the most consolation during times of despair. They testify to the truth safeguarded in the Catholic Church. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The term ‘communion of saints’ refers also to the communion of “holy persons” (sancti) in Christ who “died for all,” so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all” (961).  J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings helped further my understanding of the Catholic faith and promoted teaching truth for all!

Cure for Despair—Love of the Eucharist

Tolkien and Eucharist

As imaginative and impressionistic, Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth is what stood out first for me is his thoughts about the Most Holy Sacrament. He said the following about the Eucharist:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. . . . There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires (Letters of Tolkien, no. 43 pp. 53-54).

Food for the Journey

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1324 refers to the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Tolkien held this belief as well. “The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion,” he wrote. The Eucharist was a fixture in his life. Tolkien created a literary equivalent to the Bread of Life in his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Elven bread known as lembas, provided nourishment for travelers. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee ate this food during their arduous journey to Mount Mordor to destroy the One Ring.

Fellowship Never Fails

Fellowship of the Ring

Along with Tolkien’s profound love for the Eucharist and his implicit references to the Holy Communion in the Lord of the Rings, his focus on the importance of camaraderie—especially in suffering—is a Catholic tradition that he teaches believers and nonbelievers through his literature.

While Frodo bears the burden of carrying the One Ring, he did not lack help. In The Fellowship of the Ring the wizard Gandalf puts together a motley crew of four hobbits, two of the race of men, a dwarf, and an elf to sojourn across Middle Earth to destroy the Ring. At the end of the first part of the trilogy all hope appears lost when the fellowship is fractured leaving Frodo alone save for his friend and fellow hobbit—Samwise.

In the third book The Return of the King, weariness weighs down on Frodo more as he ascends Mount Doom in his attempt to destroy Sauron’s Ring. Listen to the hero’s lament when the evilness of the ring tempts him:


Frodo: I can’t recall the taste of food, nor the sound of water, nor the touch of grass. I’m naked in the dark. There’s nothing–no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I can see him with my waking eyes.

Sam: Then let us be rid of it, once and for all. I can’t carry the ring for you, but I can carry you! Come on!


Helping others shoulder their cross is the hallmark of Christianity. Cooperation in suffering pervades the history of Christianity. From Simon the Cyrene helping Jesus bear the weight of the cross up Calvary, to the modern day saints like Saints John Paul II and Maximilian Kolbe offering their suffering and death to alleviate the suffering of their fellow mankind, we are all called to a Catholic [a universal] camaraderie. J.R.R. Tolkien also reminds readers of this universal truth!

Teacher of Truth

J.R.R. Tolkien

A third reason why I believe J.R.R. Tolkien should be canonized as a saint is due to his ability to instruct without resorting to sounding preachy or judgmental. His short story Leaf by Niggle is instructive. It contains truths about the importance of our pilgrim journey on earth, purgatory, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The main reason I enjoy Leaf by Niggle is due to the clear catholicity contained within the characters, plot, and symbols. Niggle represents everyman—humanity as an individual and as a collective. When I looked up the word “niggle” in a thesaurus, I learned that the name has synonyms which included: annoy, bother, discomfort, and anxiety. According to Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church),

“On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified” (7)

Niggle also suffered various disturbances of his artwork while he was on a pilgrim journey.

Plan for the Journey (Beyond)

Tolkien quote

Tolkien’s The Hobbit also teaches us the importance of preparation. An unexpected responsibility of helping a group of dwarves upended Bilbo Baggins’ cozy life. So too living the Gospel sometimes shakes up our “perfect little world”.

While I fear the unknown, I gained a sense of peace and joy as I read the writings of Tolkien. I have also discovered during my interactions with fellow LOTR fans [friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even strangers] that a true sense of unity occurs. I can’t quite explain it but I always leave a conversation about Middle Earth with a joyful twinkle in my eyes. Any of his works have this effect in me. In fact, I leave with a more compassionate heart towards others in general. He possessed an ability to unite divergent people through literature and the world. This quality hints at his overall holiness and love of humanity.

Patron Saint of Fantasy Stories?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s name has become a token (no pun intended) reference for everything related to fantasy and epic-storytelling. The more well-known Catholic saints include priests, bishops, martyrs, nuns, or theologians. However, the Holy Spirit does work in mysterious ways above man’s total comprehensive nature. Is it possible that God has used the fantasy world created by Tolkien  to further belief in Jesus Christ?

According to St. Catherine of Sienna, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.” Tolkien certainly followed his natural (and supernatural) gifts. As a storyteller, he brought the world an unexpected set of characters that gained universal appeal. I pray for the opportunity to see the canonization of J.R.R. Tolkien in my lifetime. His writings have deepened my Catholic faith and love for humanity and God!

Thank you for sharing!

All Things Work for God’s Good Plan

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” —Romans 8:28

Everything is from God.

Good and bad. And the boring middle stuff.

Suffering has been my companion this year.

But He tested me through fire in 2014 and 2017 with the death of my unborn children due to miscarriage.

I still struggle with anxiety and depression but my past hurt made me stronger.

I know all things work for the good.

Trusting in the Author of my story has made my journey more rewarding and hope-filled.

I’m thankful and in wonderment at the various writing opportunities God has opened up for me the past few weeks.

To be able to help pay for bills by doing something I’m absolutely passionate about and find fulfillment in is a blessing.

I didn’t plan for these doors. I only strive to develop my craft daily and learn from writers more creative, witty, and intelligent than I am.

All I can do to thank Him is to mediate on the Rosary and give thanks specifically in Mass.

How do you view suffering?

What are you grateful for that the Author of your story has given (or allowed to happen) in your life?

Unexpected Blessings

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” —Romans 8:28

Thank you for sharing!

First Family Christmas Card Commission

I’m commissioned to write my family’s inaugural Christmas card.

Pray I have inspiration to think up of something before next week’s deadline.

I did receive a message from my future self that the words: platypus, shenanigans, inaugural, and wherewithal must be included in it.

P. S. If you’re wondering about the time travel don’t question it. It is 2020 after all.

P.P.S. I won’t talk about the “successes” of my perfect life because my life ain’t perfect. I’m limping to the finish line of 2020. But I will be jovial and honest about my year.

P.P.P.S. Do you write family Christmas cards? Why or why not?

Awkward Family Christmas card meme
Thank you for sharing!