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!

A Good Friday Reflection: Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

Jesus at Golgatha

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2019.


A Prayer Before the Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today.

Saint  Catherine of Sienna wrote, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.

My sins wound me. Damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity. I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.

Focus on God

May Mary Intercede for Us

I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.

Mary at Foot of Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Failures, trials, and doubts will surround us throughout life. Uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary brings joys and peace in the struggle. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times.

Related Links

Where is Golgotha? Where did Jesus die? Church of Holy Sepulchre vs. the Garden Tomb

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 4- Jesus as the New Passover Lamb

Why Maundy Thursday is an Important Part of Holy Week

Thank you for sharing!

Miscarriage and the Sacrament of Time


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 19th, 2017


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My wife and I stood outside surrounded by our family and close friends at the local Catholic cemetery. It was a cool November afternoon. Gray clouds lined the sky and appeared to be about ready to burst at any moment. The priest from our parish recited the funeral rite.

Throughout this process, my wife and I simply existed. I did not truly take in the meaning or fully process the prayers uttered by Fr. John. Instead, the world seemed to have frozen in silence—a horrific silence.

We lost our unborn son Jeremiah.

The event of our miscarriage immediately effected and crippled my wife. For me, despair and desolation did not actually set in until several months later. I spiraled into a deep depression. Wrestled  over the belief in a good and generous God. Doubted my Creator’s providence and presence. Hope seemed futile.

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Moment of Transformation

Fast forward almost 2 years; this event has been without question the turning point of my life [so far]! According to the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Since the death of our son, his namesake’s words hit much closer to home. What I have come to realize is that St. Paul’s words in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose” is not a pious clique.

There exists actual weight, real impact,  and tangibility to his words. Let me explain. Yesterday, I had a day off from work. I decided to take my three kids to Jeremiah’s grave-site and place flowers on the grave. Before we left for the store, I was trying to wear out the children so they would not be too hyper at the cemetery. I made some paper airplanes for my son and daughter to toss.

Comfort Comes Unexpectedly

Along with making paper airplanes, my son wanted to color on the extra paper. I gave him the closest pen I could find. Soon into the process of drawing, he asked me how to spell three words. I was thinking, “Good, at least he is sitting down and this coloring is keeping him preoccupied. He’s thinking about school since he wants to learn to spell.”

It was not until we were traveling in the car after purchasing the flowers that my son’s true plan came to light. “Daddy, could we please get a little bag to put this book I made for Jeremiah into. I don’t want it to get wet” [it was starting to rain at this point], he said. I was floored by his reply. He actually took what I said to heart and sacrificed play time to make something for his unborn brother.

That was probably my proudest moment as a parent. What I have learned in the past two years is that God works all things for the good through the Sacrament of Time! Below are two ways I learned about this ordinary and sometimes forgotten gift from God.

prayer

Time Exists to Show Mercy

According to Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, in his work Time, “We must restore our spiritual sanity. One giant step in that direction is to think truly about time.” He goes on to talk about time existing within prayer as opposed to prayer existing in time. Prayer is communication with God.

Kreeft is saying that time should be viewed under the lens of communication with the Divine. “Prayer determines and changes and miraculously multiplies time…prayer multiplies time only if and when we sacrifice our time, offer it up. There’s the rub. We fear sacrifice. It’s a kind of death,” the Catholic professor tells us.

Through my experiences, I have learned that time grants me opportunities to display mercy as well. Forgiving others and showing mercy is tough. Time is one of God’s gifts to make mercy easier. I offered God countless prayers of lament  in the months after our miscarriage. This resulted in a seed of mercy planted in my heart.  Not until I sacrificed my time and prayed did I gain the ability to mercy toward myself and be able to learn to forgive God.

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Sadness Remains, but Transformed

Time heals all wounds. We hear this phrase mentioned frequently when a person experiences a hardship or loss of a loved one. This adage does not contain the full truth. In reality, time does not eliminate sadness or wounds, rather it transforms them. I still experience sadness when I think of my unborn child.

The sacrament of time has transformed this sadness from a despairing sadness to a joyful sadness [I know if sounds like oxymoron term but I am not sure how else to describe it!].

Time and prayer turn suffering from a destructive force to a purgative, and possibly redemptive force. I posted our loss on social media. People reached out to me saying they were inspired by the funeral service we provided for our unborn child.

A friend from high school told me when she heard about my loss,

“Your testament and story give me inspiration to have grave markers in our backyard to remember our miscarriages. This was helped me move on and provide healing,”

Seven Other Sacraments

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The sacraments are efficacious[effective] signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us” (CCC 1131). Formally there are seven sacraments. But God transforms (and uses) time into a sacrament too.

Time exists in prayer not the other way around. Kreeft tells us, “Eternity is not in the future but in the present. The future is unreal, not yet real” (Time). Don’t worry about the past or future. Embrace now, the present. Welcome the sacrament of time—now!

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Related Links

Containing Joy—Rainbow Baby After Miscarriage Maelstroms

All Things Work for God’s Good Plan

How to Bury Your Baby After a Miscarriage

Catholic Miscarriage Support

Thank you for sharing!

A Letter to United States Catholics

Letter

Dear American Catholics,

In the Catholic world, January 6th, 2021 was primarily to be the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 528, “The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world.” God became man in a humble stable. He used the language of science to appeal to the Eastern wisemen. They noticed a brightness in the night sky (the crossing of Jupiter and Saturn) of a “star”.

The events at the United States Capitol plunged social media and news networks into a darkness. Chaos. Confusion. Hurt. Division. Strife. Call it what you want. It’s the result of humanity’s fallen nature.

Jesus Christ became man to save humanity from sins. The God-man acts as a bridge for the human race to reconcile with the Holy Trinity. Saint Pope John XXIII wrote, “It is impossible to be joined to God except through Jesus Christ; it is impossible to be united to Christ except in and through the Church which is His Mystical Body.” Last century, that claim certainly seemed commonplace and it was abnormal to reject. Unfortunately, we live in a time in history where the greatest threats to the Church come from within.

What is the truth?

What is truth

It’s a question philosophers throughout history pondered. Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Descrates, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, and all in between. But it’s a question people ask on a daily basis.

Fake news has become a staple in Catholics’ everyday conversation. Cynicism, doubt, fear, worry, and anger result from the confusion. I’ve been silent far too long on the behavior I see by prominent Catholics on both sides of the political spectrum.

What is truth? That’s the wrong question to ask. Truth isn’t a what but a who.

Who is truth?

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

It shouldn’t be a surprise to know that the answer to the question is Jesus. Saint John the Apostle tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus ascended to God the Father forty days after his Resurrection so how exactly can we come to Jesus? It is through the sacraments. Christ gave his Apostles the authority to forgive sins and ability to be channels of grace for the other sacraments.

The Catholic Church is meant to be a light to the nations. One, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic are the distinguishing marks of the Catholic Church. Navigating the rabbit holes that are social media comments section on political topics you won’t think of those qualities at all!

falling in rabbit holes

False claims on both sides and vitriol dominate many online Catholic conversations. Trump. Biden. Republican. Democrat. Those aren’t the four marks of the Catholic Church. Too many times American Catholics put country and politics above the Creator of the Universe. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for decades because of worshipping false gods.

People maybe aren’t worshipping golden statues. But they certainly give the impression that it’s okay to idolize “golden” personalities.

How Does the Church Get Back on Track

What is the solution

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, my priest gave an amazing homily on the ark of the covenant. In the Old Testament, the ark was a sacred vessel that housed the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s staff, and the manna from the desert. The main point of the homily was the Israelites’ success in battle when carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Troubles came when they failed to travel with it.

The Ark of the Covenant carried the presence of God. His laws and food for the journey. Catholics refer to Mary was the New Ark of the Covenant. Why? Because she housed God during her pregnancy with Jesus. The Catholic Answers website has an informative and detailed article for more reasons why Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant.

Our Theological GPS

Mary is guide to Jesus

Mary is the perfect guide to Jesus.

Where Mary is present so too her Son is. How does the Church get back on track? The theological GPS back to Jesus is Mary. And the most effective prayer is the Most Holy Rosary. Anytime I fall away from the faith or lapse in my duty to love God and neighbor I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary for guidance. Saint Louis de Montfort said, ““For never will anyone who says his Rosary every day become a formal heretic or be led astray by the devil. This is a statement which I would sign with my blood.”

Wow! The French saint’s words may sound like hyperbole but they’re true. Mary is the connection to Christ. Mothers have an intimacy with their children. Why should it be any different for the Mother of God? Plus, through my direct experience I have learned about the efficacy of the Rosary. The goal of prayer is to get closer to God— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Prayer isn’t simply a recitation of words. The amount of times you pray the Rosary doesn’t increase or decrease your holiness level. Vocal prayer is a starting basis and important. But it shouldn’t be the end destination. God desires us to draw us into deeper communion with him. Vocal prayer should be followed (eventually) with mental prayer. Allowing our thoughts, wishes, desires, worries, fear, anxieties, doubts, joys, and everything be an offering to God.

I have struggled with thinking I was holier than others because of how I followed certain Catholic traditions. This is rooted in my selfishness, pride, and lack of fully trusting in God.

Evidence for Spiritual Growth?

Spiritual growth

One of the things I learned growing up was the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. But lately, that information remained merely a factoid in my memory bank. Inviting the Holy Spirit to dwell in your heart and soul increases your knowledge of God but more importantly your actions are transformed. Spiritual growth is determined by the fruits you notice. Here are a list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

  • Charity
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Faithfulness
  • Modesty
  • Self-control
  • Chastity

Are you displaying these traits in your online (and offline) interactions? Does disagreements make you impatient or cause a rush to judgment? Do you currently lack self-control? Or faith in God’s Divine Plan?

These questions should be pondered often. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom, knowledge, understanding, reverence, awe/wonderment, courage, and counsel.

Ask the Holy Spirit for Help

These times are confusing. Uncertainty appears to be the new standard. Don’t fear! Our Common Enemy wants us to be afraid because this leads to movement away from God. Know Jesus is Truth, look to Mary to help point you to Him, and ask the Holy Spirit for the gift to live intentional and follow the will of God. The Catholic Church in America is in trouble but if you seek personal holiness you will be a salt to renew the joy of the Gospel.

In Christ,

The Simple Catholic

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!

How Pressure and Suffering Makes You Beautiful and Stronger

🚫 Demands without the grace of time & patience makes success almost impossible.

This year has been bat**** (no pun intended) crazy from millisecond number one.

Mind blowing stuff right?!

I never juggled while getting chased by a rabid platypus but I think I still have time to check that off my not-bucket list. 😉

Your plans probably didn’t work out (unless you’re currently on contingency plan 215— this means you probably beat life and unlocked bonus levels).

😔 Mine haven’t worked out not in the slightest.

Frustration brews daily.

What new challenge will slam us now?

2020 meme

I’m writing this post with the four minutes of free time I have to get this message out— suffering doesn’t make you a failure.

No, suffering means you’re a human. A freaking normal, beautiful human being.

Crises bring out the worst in people.

But pressure and stress over a long time can transform ugliness into beauty.

Thankfully, you have have time.

💎 Time to achieve your dreams (it not be how you planned or expected but God’s plan usually surprises people)

Are you coal or a diamond or something in between?

God making diamonds out of us

💎 How have the pressures of 2020 transitioned you from coal into a diamond?

#writing #personaldevelopment #2020 #life

Thank you for sharing!

A Letter to the Downtrodden and Suffering


Editor’s note: Article originally published on September 7, 2017.


Dear Fellow Souls and Pilgrims on this Earthly Journey,

Hopelessness seems to cover the world. Hurricane Harvey decimated large parts of Houston. South Asia continues to experience chronic flooding. People suffer across the globe in large and small ways. Today, I wish to share my recent episodes of depression, I am not writing to complain about my situation, rather I hope to unite my suffering [albeit quite small in comparison to others] to others in great need. I want to be in communion with my fellow man.

According to Helen Keller,

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

I cannot grow as a decent human being without learning from the school of suffering.

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Depression Strikes Often

Depression hit me again the past few weeks. Similar to an ocean, anxiety and sadness move in waves with brief periods of respite before the next deluge of depression comes crashing onto my shore. I feel a sense of hopelessness.

What is going on with my life to trigger these feelings? To be frank, I am not sure. Life appears to be going well: I have an amazing wife, family, good shelter, and a job. I had a recent change in anxiety medicine and changes are occurring rather frequently at work. Still, these concerns should be minor compared to people suffering loss due to the recent natural disasters. Depression shrinks my perspective. I see through narrower glasses.

Perhaps, you are similar to me. If you suffer from depression, whether it is severe or mild I want to unite myself to your suffering. I wish to take up my cross if only it may help widen my scope. Prying open a narrow gaze is painful. However, authentic and natural development involves growing pains.

Share Your Suffering with Others

If you are downtrodden, as I am currently, share your experience. Talk with people you trust. Talk to God—it works. Prayer is effective because it is communication with Him who created the universe. Oftentimes, I need to fall unto my knees and become downtrodden before I am able to gaze upward in prayer. Saint Mother Teresa once said, “Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

Although, I know my depression may likely come back again, I am aware of a strength to get me through the valley of tears—prayer. Prayer ultimately leads me toward an even-keeled path in my pilgrim journey on earth.

With great love and hope to alleviate your downtrodden soul,

Matthew, The Simple Catholic

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Thank you for sharing!