Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Would YOU join us in asking Padre Pio’s intercession for my good friend who is being assailed by cancer?



This week, I got some scary news. A good friend of mine has been battling cancer for some time. But he has found out that the malignant cells have multiplied and spread throughout his body.  Chemo starts in early June.

My friend has a good dollop of Irish blood, was born in England where he has spent his life, and he has worked tirelessly to encourage other people (especially young people) in the Catholic faith.  I carry an image in my mind of God showing him the people who have made it to heaven because of his support and the graces he has won for them by his prayers.

He has a beautiful wife, a large family of lovely kids, is an ardent supporter of the Tridentine Mass and has great stamina and generosity in praying for others.  I know few other people who pray for others as much as he does.   He offers the suffering and pain of his cancer for the good of young Catholics.  A friend of mine says that, ‘he’s in the super-leagues, offering physical suffering for other people’. 

Now he really needs my prayers – and yours.  If you pray for him, he will return your prayers in abundance.  Also, his children need their father, and God will reward you greatly for praying for him.  Please also pray for his four children.

We are starting a novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where we will be asking Padre Pio to intercede on our good friend’s behalf.   Please come aboard and recite the novena with us.  You might leave a comment after this post if you are joining us in offering the novena.  If you can’t leave a comment, then we’ll know how many novenas were offered when we go to God.

God has blessed my friend before.  Last year, I prayed for him at the statue of St Peregrine at San Juan Capistrano, in California. But I placed my hand on the gash on St Peregrine’s leg and asked him to intercede for my friend. When I came home to London, my friend's doctor told him that the cancerous growth had disappeared – there is no scientific explanation for its vanishing.  
 
Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of...... (here name your request)
Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father....Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.


II. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of.......(here name your request) Our Father...Hail Mary....Glory Be To the Father....Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

III. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away." Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of.....(here name your request) Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father...Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours.
Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add: St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Eat the rich? Why not eat the proud?



Since Pope Francis became elected Pope, there has been much hand-wringing about the poor.  The dialogue has been dominated by one solution:  that the wealthy ought to give more to the poor. Often times, the Pope’s words are twisted into guilt-tripping, a how-bloody-bad-can-the-rich-be-made-to-feel. 

Last winter I witnessed something that got me thinking about a root cause of poverty that is rarely discussed.

I was in a Prêt A Manger in central London, it was a mercilessly cold day, and my blue-veined hands were wrapped around a hot cup of soup.  I had arrived very early for an appointment because I wanted time to warm up. I was waiting for a writer friend of mine.

From the nearby tube flowed a torrent of people, who flooded the café. They bought trays heaped with sandwiches, steaming beverages and sticky pastries. As often happens in a London café, the munching people caught sight of their watches in between bites of sandwiches, and then rushed out the doors.  Soon, it was eerily empty, except for a figure who strode in and took a place at the far side of the café. It was someone that I recognised.  It was a man that had been an acquaintance. Once we had some people in common, but many of those same people are not in touch with him anymore – for reasons that will become clear. 

He was dressed in the best threads – very costly shoes and clothes.  My only reservation on first spotting him was that he was trying too hard to dress like a man in his 20s.

Instinctively, I raised my hand to say hello, because I saw him looking around the restaurant.  He didn’t see me, or at least he didn’t let on that he saw me. But with trembling energy, he dipped his hand into a sandwich carton, pulled out a half-chewed egg sandwich and crammed it into his mouth.  (You might wonder how I know it was egg – I am one of those abnormal types with exceptional eye sight, and he is not a young man, so I think that his eye sight was not good enough to see me).  It seemed as if he hadn’t eaten in a long time. He drained the rest of a white paper cup with coffee stains on the sides.  His hand reached out to grasp scraps on another table when the waitress came to clean up. Like a scared cat, he stood bolt-upright and disappeared out the door. 

When I was preparing to write this anecdote, I got a good friend to advise me on how I would make it comprehensible for the reader.  Incidentally, the friend knows of the fellow described above, but my friend still cautioned, “my fear is that people won’t believe your account. He’s trying to make a good impression by wearing smart clothes, but wouldn’t he fear that getting caught eating scraps would be bad for his reputation?  It’s also too disgusting, how did you keep looking at him without your stomach turning?  It seems hard to believe, that a man in the best clothes would eat rubbish.  ” 

But that’s actually the point of my post. I’d like to show why a Londoner clad in such classy attire was eating food waste.  It’s from the time of Dickens to detail poverty as happening to people in rags, who have dirtied faces. But to be true to modern life, I think the most insidious poverty is the ‘brown boots and no breakfast’ variety. 

I have wanted to leave out a lot of detail, but my –friend-who-is-playing-the-role-of-editor has urged me ‘fill in the gaps’ so as to hold my case together.

The well-dressed-man has several different children with several different women. I’ve known one or two of the mothers, and they don’t have many good things to say about him.  He scarcely provided for the children, he spent vast sums on looking good, nights out, or on affairs with younger women. He likes skinny women. He even tried his charms on me once, but I pitied his wife and laughed at him, which hurt his pride.   

He hasn’t a lot of friends, having exhausted them by never paying them back or always sticking them with an enormous restaurant or bar bill. His children refuse to talk to him, embittered that they grew up in grinding poverty, while he spent money looking the part of the well-to-do man.  As long as he looks the part of the successful gent, then people think of him as doing well. 

He wants to satisfy his pride, without caring if his kids have enough. 

While I type this, I can hear the voices of older journalism colleagues in my head telling that he’s ‘an extreme case’ and that the story of a man spending money on his mistresses and fine clothes while his children go hungry is ‘an unfortunate stereotype’. 
I admit that he’s very far-gone, not even attempting to honour his responsibilities, and probably using credit cards to buy stylish suits.  And I see that he is easily pigeonholed. 

This may seem a crude, painfully obvious question, but would it not have been better had he spent the money (from his work or even that borrowed from the poor dupes, I mean, his ‘friends’) on the kids that he fathered, rather than on putting the best shirts on his back? Feeding his kids instead of feeding his vanity?

It’s not just men. But it’s easier to objectify feckless men. In my time, I’ve met women who were willing to let their children go wanting, while they spent money on expensive gym membership or regimens for getting slim. 

I don’t tar all men with the same brush, there are some men who have been married more than once, and have fathered children with different women, and they do care for their offspring, and see that they have enough.  But responsible men and their well-cared-for children are not in question – they are not ‘the poor’. 

The well-dressed-man in my story has children who are poor because of his actions. For all our talk about the poor, we are terrified and tongue-tied when it comes to even discussing such situations.

I might be accused of demonising the well-dressed-man.  He has a right to spend his money as he sees fit, and it’s his ‘choice’ not to care for his children. He gets let off the hook – but people who have saved money are blamed for the problems of the poor. But is it really better to demonise people who have made an honest crust? I’ll be demonised for demonising the well-dressed-man, but no one will be demonised for demonising the wealthy. #Denial 

I’m seeing a difficult trend in that people who have some money set aside are becoming very defensive.  It’s harder to coax successful people into the Church, they feel guilty that they are not doing more for the poor because they need their savings ‘for a rainy day’.  This might be more relevant to Londoners, because living in London is vastly expensive and it’s a magnificent feat if you can save some money.

I've been trying to interest a friend in becoming Catholic. She's a high-profile, devout Christian that seems to grow resolute that she won’t become Catholic. In the Francis era, she loves the attention given to the poor, the ordinary, and the disabled, but feels that there must be a more rounded approach that doesn’t castigate the rich for problems that are not of their making.

Monday, 26 May 2014

The prayer that Padre Pio said everyday for his followers and those who asked his prayers...

In the wake of my post about Gemma di Giorgi, the 'blind' woman who had no pupils, but who was able to see after Padre Pio interceded for a miracle, people have been asking, 'what prayers do we say to Padre Pio?!"

There have been many prayer requests left after this post and this one. Dear Readers, Please pray for the souls who have left their prayer intentions as blog comments.

Every morning, I offer the novena to the Sacred Heart.  I suggest that people wanting to pray to St Pio, pray the same prayer that Padre Pio said everyday for the intentions of those who petitioned his prayers.



Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Behold I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of...... (here name your request)
Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father.... 

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.


II. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." Behold, in your name, I ask the Father for the grace of.......(here name your request) Our Father...Hail Mary....Glory Be To the Father....

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

III. O my Jesus, you have said: "Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away." Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of.....(here name your request) Our Father....Hail Mary....Glory Be to the Father... 

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender Mother and ours.
Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add: St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.

If you get the answer to your prayers, you may do as Padre Pio requested and thank Our Lady...

If you enjoyed this post, you might like, Writing about Padre Pio, how it influences real life.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Two moments awakened in Pope Francis a deep devotion to Our Lady

Ten years ago I read about Our Lady’s request at Fatima that we say a daily rosary. At first I flinched at the notion of saying one every day. I thought it impossible; I’d never have the time, the concentration or the patience to meditate on five decades each day. But it got easier. Now, even if I have worked for 12 hours, and struggle to fit in the five decades, I still manage it, even if I forfeit sleep or a social occasion or have to eat a late dinner and pray the rosary at the same time.

But I’d never measure up to Pope Francis.


Our Pope recites 15 decades of the Rosary every day, three times that which Our Lady asked for at Fatima. Two days ago he tweeted that the month of May is dedicated to Our Lady and it is “fitting” to start the habit of a daily rosary now. The rosary is a time-honoured prayer and difficult to say, but by promoting it, Pope Francis is giving people the means to win graces that will enable them overcome their problems. One of the 15 promises given those who recite the rosary is that “they will never be conquered by misfortune”. I often tell my friends of mine to say a rosary when they are in-between jobs, stumped with a huge bill or they have been reminded of their student debt.

The Pope’s confidence in Our Lady developed because of two key personal awakenings that happened in the mid-1980s.

In 1985 he attended a rosary that was being led by St John Paul II. The sight of the Polish Pope on his knees greatly moved him. He did some acute soul-searching as to how much he trusted Our Lady, and he later reflected: “I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to St Juan Diego: ‘Don’t be afraid, am I not perhaps your mother?’”

From that day forth, he said 15 decades of the Rosary.

In 1986, the then Padre Bergoglio finished as rector in the seminary, and was sent to Germany for six months. At the time, to borrow modern parlance, Fr Bergoglio was not in a good place – the Dirty War had exacted a heavy toll on his nerves and he worried that the Jesuit community would never recover from the many mutinies that had taken place in their ranks. But it was here in Germany that he would find solace when praying before the painting of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, in Augsburg.

He carried the devotion from Germany back home to Argentina. A copy of the original German painting was done in an ordinary Argentinean church, San José del Telar. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would stroll into this modest church and pray before the painting.

Now as Pope, he has used the symbolism of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, to explain matters of the faith. For Pope Francis, the knots represent the sins that separate us from God, and Our Lady, in untying them, brings us closer to God. As the Pope has said: “Mary, whose ‘yes’ opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy.”

 I wrote this blog for The Catholic Herald. Do pop over and see the array of news and comment pieces on the website.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Padre Pio is confronted with a dead baby in a suitcase, and restores the babe to life



Padre Pio and Dr Sanguinetti deep in conversation

 Dr Sanguinetti was a medical doctor, a convert to Catholicism and one of Padre Pio’s most trusted friends.  And the good doctor was witness to an astonishing miracle where a dead baby was brought back to life.

A devout mother had a six month old baby who was in such poor health that he was near death. She decided to take a long, difficult train ride to Padre Pio. There was a risk in that the journey would be rough on her baby who would die by inches on the way, but so full of confidence was the mother in Padre Pio’s intercessory powers with God, that she set off for San Giovanni Rotondo.

When the mother arrived at the church, she was clutching a wicker suitcase and joined the line of ladies who were waiting for Padre Pio to hear their confession. Her baby was nowhere to be seen. She was in great distress and wailed loudly.  When it was her turn, she approached Padre Pio and opened the wicker suitcase, and confronted him with a dead baby swaddled in tattered old clothes. The baby had perished on the way to San Giovanni and in desolation, the mother had hidden the baby’s lifeless body in the suitcase, and pressed on, holding onto hope that Padre Pio would pray for a miracle. 

Now, here she was, holding out her deceased child to Padre Pio. Pio was cut to the heart.  He took the dead baby into his arms, lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed. Some moments later, he handed the baby back to his mummy, saying, “stop screaming, can’t you see your baby is only sleeping?” The mother gazed at her baby and saw that he was breathing without difficulty and was sleeping peacefully. She cried tears of joy.  

Dr Sanguinetti was watching the sequence of events, and later said that if the child had been alive when he was put in the wicker suitcase, that the little one would have definitely suffocated, so there was no question that the baby had been dead at the moment his mother presented him to Padre Pio. 

If you liked this post, you might also like, Writing About Padre Pio, how it influences real life
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