Ever notice how the right people happen to cross your path just when you need them most? When we lost our firstborn we were introduced to so many other moms and dads who shared our experience as grieving parents. When we began home schooling doors opened and behind them stood fellow home educators. As our family grew beyond the standard-size, we were placed in a new community filled with large Catholic families. So it is with our sainted brothers and sisters, they tend to find their way into our lives when we need their intercession and inspiration the most.
In my kitchen there is a little shrine to the Blessed Mother. Filled with reminders of heavenly intercessors and symbols of our faith, the shrine grabs my attention every morning when I go to draw some water for my coffee pot. Of course, like most familiar objects and portraits in our everyday surroundings, sometimes my attention is fleeting. One particular day, as I was filling the water dispenser, the small portrait of Padre Pio appeared out of place. Like he’d moved front and center to garner my attention, I took special notice of him and it sparked my curiosity.
One by one I interrogated my children seeking to find the culprit behind Padre’s move, but each in turn denied having taken part in his transportation effort. Okay, it isn’t uncommon for no one to take credit for odd going’s on in our household. In fact, I’m pretty well convinced that we have any extra person living in our home that goes by the name of Itwasntme, but something about Padre’s move intrigued me.
The day happened to be Tuesday, the day of the week we attend a home school co-op, so off we went. Standing around at co-op I overheard a few fellow moms discussing the retreat they’d attended that weekend. I’d wanted to go myself, but hadn’t been able to so I was only half listening to the conversation. And then I heard his name…Padre Pio. My ears perked up as they mentioned a relic of the saint had been available during the retreat. The lucky women who’d attended had been prayed over with the relic. All the more disappointed I felt now. Recalling Padre’s portrait, it seemed as though he was reaching out to me, but had I missed our meeting?
My stepdad had a devotion to Padre Pio when he was alive, but in truth I knew very little about the saint or the reason behind the devotion to him. In the years just before his death, my stepfather actually looked a bit like the holy Italian man. In fact, one of our older boys used to favor a particular holy card of Padre because it reminded him of his grandpa Dan, but that was the extent to our friendship. Padre was my stepdad’s patron, that’s all I knew of him.
On that Tuesday, I was struggling physically and emotionally. Since having a fourth consecutive miscarriage, my body seemed unable to return to a state of normal and while I was coming to terms with the losses I still had a lot to process. So, I asked the retreat coordinator if I might be blessed to come into contact with the relic, to receive Padre’s blessing. Unfortunately, the relic was enroute to its owner, who lived several states away, but my friend advised that she’d be happy to send my request for prayer along to him. Days later I composed an email to the relic holder explaining my prayer needs. Simple, perhaps, but it seemed as though he was the intercessor for me and I just couldn’t shake the thought.
Once that petition set sail, Padre Pio began to appear around every corner, on posters, in brochures, in books, on facebook, on holy cards. Opening an email from a Catholic products provider, I was excited to discover they were giving away bottles of Padre Pio’s holy relic oil with every order of the day. Seeing as we were in need of new scapulars anyway, I seized the chance and placed an order.
Interestingly, I received two bottles of oil, but it seemed gluttonous of me to keep both. Just as I was pondering what to do with the second bottle, a friend asked for prayers for her husband, who’d just been diagnosed with cancer. Obviously, the second bottle must belong to him. I suppose that may have been Padre’s plan all along, so in the mail it went.
The miracles weren’t immediate, but the graces received due to the intercession of this great saint were unmistakeable. Additionally, I stumbled upon many quotes and teachings attributed to Padre and he began to teach me how to embrace suffering. An idea I’d been introduced to throughout our two years of cross-bearing, Padre Pio spoke directly on the subject. He knew suffering and he was asking me to thank Jesus for mine, quite a life-changing idea.
In time, my physical ills healed and more importantly I began to see the value of suffering which lifted the weight of sorrow. Padre Pio became my spiritual director, my patron. Throughout the year to follow I blessed myself daily with the oil and I discovered the beauty of this communion of saints. Like beloved siblings and good friends, they are here to teach us, to inspire us, to relate to and to pray for us.
Padre Pio may or may not have moved that little portrait on my kitchen shrine, but he did surely move into my life, into my heart.