Another biographer of Padre Pio, Maria Winowska (Le vrai visage du Padre Pio - "The True Face of Padre Pio") described his Mass in these words: "The Capuchin's face which a few moments before had seemed to me jovial and affable was literally transfigured - Fear, joy, sorrow, agony or grief - I could follow the mysterious dialogue on (his) features...Suddenly great tears welled from his eyes, and his shoulders, shaken with sobs, seemed bowed beneath a crushing weight...Between himself and Christ there was no distance..."
On July 25, 1965, Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter Humane Vitae. This angered much of the world, and many Catholics as well. There was disapproval, even hatred expressed toward this Pontiff, and disobedience was widespread, and continues to be widespread today. On September 12, 1968, just a few days before his death, Padre Pio wrote to Pope Paul VI. It is a humble letter of filial love and submission to a heart-broken Pontiff. Padre Pio began his letter: "I unite myself with my brothers and present at your feet my affectionate respect, all my devotion to your august person in an act of faith, love and obedience to the dignity of him whom you are representing on this earth…I know that your heart is suffering much these days in the interest of the Church, for the peace of the world, for the innumerable necessities of the people of the world, but above all, for the lack of obedience of some, even Catholics, to the high teaching that you, assisted by the Holy Spirit and in the name of God, are giving us…May God grant victory to the truth, peace to his Church, tranquility to the world, health and prosperity to your Holiness so that, once these fleeting doubts are dissipated, the Kingdom of God may triumph in all hearts, guided by your apostolic work as Supreme Pastor of all Christianity."
In his life, Padre Pio exemplified the beatitudes, as well as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. His life shone forth for all as a living, breathing reminder of all Christ said, taught, and did for His people, and which continues even to the end of the world. In Padre Pio, the Gospels were alive and new, filled with meaning that glowed as a fire glows in the moonlight. God is always with us. Our Lord tells us so in the Scriptures. However, with our finite minds, overwhelmed as we are with the business of life, we often feel alone, abandoned, afraid. Our faith is weakened by our internal strife. In His Merciful Goodness, Almighty God, throughout the ages, has raised among His people, individuals whom He has chosen, to bring to our minds clearly that God is in our midst. Everyone of us should be privileged and give thanks for the blessings of living during the time of this wondrous saint for the ages - a Blessed who still walks among us in mystical ways that only Heaven can explain, but in ways we believe with all our heart because a simple, humble, totally devoted Capuchin friar named Blessed Padre Pio showed us proof.
Actually the Triumph is an on-going process that first began at the instant of her Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother Saint Anne. Just as Jesus has been coming again since the day He ascended into Heaven and has manifested this in the Holy Eucharist by coming to us daily as the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, so also the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart is an on-going part of salvation history for all who follow her Divine Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is just another manifestation of her role as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. Yet, no one clearly understands the specifics of what the Triumph entails. Blame it on our own mundane way of thinking, but it isn't the first thing we as finite beings have misunderstood. As Catholics we have a better understanding about its culmination point, for our minds can grasp the unity of one Flock and one Shepherd and this is beginning to take shape as we see the actions of our visionary Pope making the effort to reunite the faiths from the Eastern Orthodox to the Protestants, even to reconciliation with Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim. When will that become a reality? Only God knows in His time, not ours. Why? Because not one living soul on earth can grasp the Infinite Mind of Almighty God and that is how He intends it to be. So why worry?
Should we be worried or upset if the clock turns to one second after midnight on January 1, 2000 and the world continues on its merry way to hell in a handbasket? No! But we should be concerned for those ignorant souls who don't realize the direction they're heading and pray for them. Should we weep and gnash our teeth, rent our clothing and cry aloud that all the prophecies are false, and those to whom messages were given should be cast into hell because they did not come about in our time-frame of mind? No again. Look at the Old Testament, then the New Testament. The Old Covenant proclaims the coming of the Messiah, and the people of that time expected it to occur each and every month of every year they lived. How many, we wonder, died with sadness upon their soul, for the promised Messiah had not come, and the prophets were condemned as false witnesses of God? It is much the same in our own day and age. The prophecies have been given, mostly from Rue de Bac in the early 19th century right up to the present. They say that Our Lady's Heart will triumph by the new millennium. However, again we emphatically repeat, we can only measure time in a linear fashion...past, present and future. God has no time. Consider the days of creation in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning..." The first day...was that a day, a year, a thousand years or a millennium or more? No one knows; only God Who has no time. When we study anthropology, archeology and geology we can see that the earth is millions and millions of years old. Yet we trace Adam and Eve back to 4,000 years before Christ as represented by the 4 weeks of Advent, each week representing a thousand years. In other words, by our finite syllogism it doesn't compute. Remember, man was the last creation God created on the sixth day. So who is to say it wasn't millions, possibly billions of years between that and His creation of the Heavens and the earth in total darkness. That would explain the Cenozoic, Mesozoic, Paleozoic and Precambrian age, the latter of which is estimated at 600 million years ago. Mind-boggling? How about that God has no beginning? He always was! Now that's mind-boggling!!!
So then, why should we quibble about a mere few years in pinpointing the end or beginning of the millennium? Some say we're already there and have been for a year, even a few years. Others insist it won't be the new millennium until 2001; while still others say it won't occur until 2033 when Our Lord died, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. So who's right? God is and when we realize that, we won't be concerned about timelines. But there is someone who wants us to be concerned with timelines, the one who's time is running out and is desperate to confuse and disillusion. That would be, of course, satan. He wants us to argue the point, to set us up for disappointments, move us to anger, bitterness and even hatred. You can be sure of one thing, he won't stop until he succeeds or until the great Triumph. The evil one intrinsically knows this too but his pride will not allow him to admit it, to realize he will be beaten by a woman; not just any woman, but the most pure human ever created by God. It's one thing to lose to the Almighty Who he turned his back on way back when, but to be humiliated by a mere human is beyond comprehension, to have his head crushed by a human's heel is the ultimate defeat. We can't wait!
But we have to and therein lies the rub. Patience is not a virtue many of us have. Anyone who has had to drive in Christmas traffic or rush hour can attest to that. We're a nation of impatient people who want things instantly. Years ago it was the telephone, then microwave, now computers. Who wasn't happy five years ago to have a 286 IMB clone computer that had a whole 4 megs and a dot-matrix printer? Then five years ago it was the 486 and the new ink-jet printer. Today if we have to wait ten seconds for a download we're upset because our computer is too slow even though we might have 64 megs of RAM, a 333 megahertz hard drive and nearly 6 gigs of memory. What's next? Will the dreaded and overhyped Y2K "bug" eliminate computers, shut down the country, and force us to return to a way of life in the pre-computer age? While, in a way it's an interesting thought that would prompt more people to turn to God, we truly believe it's not going to happen. It's all hype that has been blown out of proportion. Oh, there will be some breakdowns as is inevitable, especially in other countries that have networked with outmoded computer programs, but there has been so much preparation in America that it seems highly implausible it will cripple our economy; an economy that is running out of control in the U.S. How spoiled are we? With two-thirds of the world starving, we're concerned if we can't find our favorite brand at a bargain price in the grocery store. Some even go so far as to believe Y2K is merely a cover-up, an excuse to marshal FEMA's forces to round up the dissident Christians, something that has been spread by Protestant evangelists who are expecting the rapture to take them out of all this and avoid the cross.
Catholics must take Christ's words in Matthew 16: 24 to heart, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." Our Lord has told us that in order for us to share in His Resurrection, we must also share in His Calvary and Crucifixion. It is our only ticket to Heaven. The saints have proved it. We can't think of one who was plucked from this earth without suffering some for Our Lord. We, too, have much suffering to come. What kind of suffering you ask? It could be anything from persecution, ridicule, and Catholic-bashing to natural or man-made disasters to imprisonment and torture for our Faith. Again, only God knows. So we shouldn't worry too much about what is to come even though we know the ultimate will be glorious. Our Lady at Medjugorje has proclaimed an era when there will be but one Flock, and one Shepherd. Our Lady's messages from Rue de Bac on have conveyed the path we must follow in order for God's Will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. "Pray! Pray! Pray! Fast, make sacrifice, repent of your evil ways, and pray with your heart." Have we done this? Perhaps we have, perhaps not. No one is perfect, and we all have some soul-cleansing to do each and every day of our lives. She proclaimed the same at Garabandal, indicating that first we must go through a kiln of cleansing on earth through the Warning in which every man, woman and child of every faith will know the state of their soul as God sees them and make amends accordingly. His Holiness John Paul II has understood this and for the Jubilee has asked all of Christendom to make reconciliation. He, too, knows we fall short of the goal we set for ourselves. We become discouraged and then we stop trying to follow in the footsteps of Christ. The Pope is urging us not to give up or douse the flame of hope. He reminds us that God wants us to be faithful disciples to the end...regardless of when that is, or what will happen or not happen, to our finite way of thinking.
While Medjugorje and Garabandal are still under investigation, they have not been condemned and the Church allows the dissemination of these messages because they are in harmony with Holy Mother Church. So also, Fatima, which has been approved. And here we have our greatest hope for the Triumph because Our Lady promised it at the Cova in Portugal. She promised the children Francisco and Jacinto Marto, both of whom will be beatified at Fatima on May 13 next year, and Lucia, now Sister Lucia that "in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph." What gives us even greater expectation is that Our Lady told Sr. Lucia that she would live to see the Triumph. She is presently cloistered in Coimbra, Portugal and in her nineties. She won't live forever, and if it is true that Mary promised her that, then, folks, we're not that far away! The same with the Warning and subsequent Miracle foretold at Garabandal, for Our Lady has also said that Joey Lomangino, who has been blind, will witness these. So how close are we? Very, very close. Can we pinpoint a year, month or date? No. Because God doesn't want us or anyone else to. He only allows so much knowledge for our own good. If He wanted all or anyone to know the exact hour, don't you think His Blessed Mother would have told any of the countless visionaries or messengers she has communicated to?
Some may ask why she hasn't and we can turn to Divine Revelation for the answer for nothing new was to be revealed, as we pointed out in yesterday's "Gift of Faith" series, after John's Apocalypse (or Revelation, as it's called today). Sacred Scripture and Tradition compose Divine Revelation. So what is to come therefore can be nothing new. Rather it will be a fulfillment of what God has promised and revealed in Divine Revelation. These private revelations over the past two hundred years are merely guideposts to help keep us on the straight and narrow path. Salvation history is filled with prophecies that did not occur in the next week, month, or year after the messenger delivered the message. But they have and will be fulfilled because they come from the All-knowing One. We have the knowledge of Divine Revelation to spur us on. We need to spiritually regroup and make our promises anew to Our Lord to be one with Him until the end, praying assiduously that the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart takes place sooner rather than later because we have believed, and lived, and acted with total trust in God. To do less is to mock the Word of God. To do less is to open the door, throw down the red carpet, and allow satan to drag us by our own conscious realization into the abyss of desolation.
There is no need for fear or desolation as the new millennium draws nigh. Rather, we should all be rejoicing that we are here to see a millennium turn. After all, it won't happen for another thousand years and we doubt anyone will be around for an encore. We should rejoice that God looks upon us with Mercy and Peace, and wants us to pray from and with our hearts for the fulfillment of His Will upon earth. If we are doing that, then we truly will grasp the meaning of Divine Revelation, and realize that the messages from around the world are spoken in God's Infinite Time, not in our finite time. There are several efforts underfoot to celebrate the new millennium on New Year's Eve by either lighting a candle for Peace beginning in Bethlehem, to saying Rosaries on the hour from nine p.m. until midnight, to spending that transitional hour from the second to the third millennium with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. This last idea is the best for we can pray the Rosary at the same time. And besides, all of us want to spend New Year's Eve with our loved ones and Who is more loved than Jesus? Wouldn't it be wonderful if Catholics everywhere could welcome in the new millennium by adoring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? How many parishes, chapels, convents and monasteries are going to have Eucharistic Adoration on New Year's Eve? Very few. But if you go to your pastor and ask for just an hour to have it, how can he say no?! It's up to you then to recruit others to join you. Our preference, always, is to be with Jesus every day. It has been our practice for over ten years to welcome in the New Year by our silent adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Maybe that's one of the reasons He has so blessed this ministry. Why not invite Him into your hearts by spending an hour with Him rather than partying it up and getting inebriated. We too plan on getting inebriated on New Year's Eve, not with liquor but with the sweet libations of Christ's Love emanating from the Holy Eucharist where He waits for each of us.
So don't worry over the timing. God's in charge, always was, always will be. He'll enlighten us when we need enlightenment, and He tells us what we need to know, what we need to do through His Holy Church. It is in the disposition of hearts, an act of our free will to seek and do only the Will of God, that shall hasten the culmination of Mary's Immaculate Heart. Even the apostles knew of Mary's Immaculate Heart, and a few even thought that Jesus would come again during their own lifetime. We have the history of the world to hold us upright, to keep us moving forward in faith, hope and love. We have our Faith and Divine Revelation to remind us. We have Christ's Vicar on earth to reinforce us and we have the daily Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to fulfill us.
This New Year's Eve should be a time of reflection, meditation, contemplation, and prayer in welcoming not only a new year, but a new millennium. Think of how the world has changed just in this last century, and then you'll realize that in the twinkling of an eye, God can bring about the fulfillment of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, casting satan into the abyss forever, and bringing the peace to this earth as He meant it to be. But He needs us to help and pray. So let's pass on Auld Lang Syne and pick up on His call to pray with Him. As we wait and watch for the Triumph let's wait and watch with Him and be among those who can say "Yes" to His query in Matthew 20: 40, "Could you not watch one hour with Me?"