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St Pio’s Feast Day Focuses on ‘Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry’

ULU TIRAM, Johore: The feast of St Pio of Pietrelcina was celebrated on 24 Sept 2023 at the St Pio’s Spirituality Centre here. It was preceded by a triduum of Masses Sept 21-23 at the Church of the Holy Family in the town centre.

The invited speaker for the triduum was Fr Alberto Poblete ofmcap of the Philippines based on the theme “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry” elaborated on St Pio’s love for the family (first night), for the church (second night), for the society (third night), and for ecology (feast day).

On the first night, Fr Poblete touched on Padre Pio’s love for family, going back to his early experiences of love and communion, of intimate prayers, of toil and hard work in his family, of his spiritual visions and desire to serve the Lord as a living sacrifice for souls. He also noted the great threat to a family’s communion and the subsequent loss of real spirituality due to misuse and abuse of social media to the point of addiction – something, he said, we have to regulate better by spending more time together at home (praying together, eating together, telling our stories, recreating together, etc).

On the second night, the priest reflected on Padre Pio’s love for the church by focusing on the way he lived and celebrated the Holy Eucharist as well as by hearing confessions for long hours. In this way, he contributed to the building up of the unity of the church by nourishing her and healing her wounds.

Padre Pio’s love for society was the focus of the third night. One way of showing it was his reverence for the Pope at that time, Paul VI. He would always pray for him and write him letters of encouragement. He also left spiritual and material legacies for his spiritual children, the “Padre Pio prayer groups” – the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza and two other social institutions for the education of poor children (Santa Maria delle Grazie and Pace e Bene Kindergartens), and the Institute of Tertiary Capuchins of the Addolorata for Professional Training (Instituto Tecnico Commerciale Statale since 2002). Even in the midst of great suffering such as calumny, unjust censorship by the Holy See due to all sorts of false accusations (mishandling of money, illicit relationships, etc) to destroy his reputation and to stop his social projects of charity, he remained calm because he lived out his motto of “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry,” noting that “God is merciful and He will hear your prayer,” but that is, if we are doing His will.

Like St Francis of Assisi, there are also anecdotes of how animals could sense Padre Pio’s holiness and obeyed him, similar to Francis’ encounters with the wolf or his preaching to the birds at Mount La Verna. It was observed that when Padre Pio celebrated Mass in the early days, stray dogs from surrounding areas would come and sit in the square just in front of the church. When Mass was over, they would leave the area. If he were alive today, Padre Pio would admonish us about the state our world is in and how we have done poorly as stewards of life and creation. We have to accept the fact that we have, to some extent irreversibly, already damaged our world. Not stopping emissions and allowing global temperatures to rise mean that our children and grandchildren would have to bear the brunt of our inaction and deal with unimaginably devastating consequences.

The above scenario was sketched by the Filipino priest during his homily on the feast’s culminating Eucharist on Sunday at the concelebrated Mass under a huge canopy at the friary square. Almost a thousand pilgrims, devotees, volunteers and friends from the different parishes within and outside the Melaka-Johor Diocese as well as from Singapore attended the Mass.

The priest said the first reading from Isaiah 55:6-9 provided a hermeneutical key for their reflection. “God’s ways are not man’s ways,” says the Lord, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts.”

According to the homilist, we have to start thinking of the Earth and how to preserve it so that we “don’t die out…so that we don’t become extinct. Extinction is not only because of natural phenomena like asteroids hitting the earth and causing various species of plants and animals to die. No. We can bring it on ourselves if we worry too much about not having enough…Greed is what is going to harm us. Our refusal to let go and give up what we have and entrust all to God’s wisdom and plan for our lives is what is going to get us into trouble. If we don’t do something now, there will not be a future generation. We might be the last generation.”

He ended with the familiar quote of Padre Pio: Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry that, according to him, is a reflection of what Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel in chapter 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…”

At the end of the Mass, Fr Valentine Gompok ofmcap, the custos/guardian of the Malaysia-Singapore Patrimony, thanked all those present and invited them to take part in the simple lunch prepared for them. He also invited them to return next year with more friends and relatives.

Prior to the Mass, there was rosary recitation in the different languages and testimonies by those who have been healed through the intercession of Padre Pio, after which the statue of Padre Pio was carried in procession to the sanctuary despite the inclement weather. – Sr. Anna Yap,fsp

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