Stigmata, Physical and Spiritual

We Christians, by the grace of God, live in union with another Person. We share His undying life. Namely…

Ok. Now, raise your hand if you have ever heard of Padre Pio.

Padre Pio Dominus VobiscumWhen some of us were born, St. Pio of Pietrelcina still lived on this earth. He died 46 years ago today.

During his lifetime, Padre Pio wore special gloves because of a gift that the Lord Jesus gave him.

Receiving this particular gift involves a great deal of physical and spiritual pain. The Lord gives this gift only very rarely.

Anybody remember what it’s called, when a living saint receives the same wounds in his or her body that the Lord Jesus suffered when He was crucified? “I bear the ______ of Christ on my body.” Stigmata.

Hopefully all of us long to become saints. As I said, only very, very few saints receive the stigmata in their palms, in their own bodies. But being a saint requires receiving spiritual stigmata.

What do I mean by that? In the first reading at Holy Mass today we hear the following commandment:

He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will himself also call and not be heard. (Proverbs 21:13)

The cry of the poor gives a living saint spiritual stigmata. When someone near him or her suffers, the saint suffers, and does anything possible to bring relief. Remember, ‘the poor’ do not live somewhere else, far away. The cry of the poor comes to me whenever anyone needs help or love or support.

Now, the second part of the commandment. Shutting my ears to the cry of the poor means that someday I will cry, and not be heard. Someone who tries to become a saint, then, is really being practical about the future, when you get right down to it.

One way or another, sooner or later, we all find ourselves crying out for help. We all find ourselves among ‘the poor’ one way or another. If we want the Lord to hear us when we cry out then, let’s listen for the cry of the poor now.

Why and Wherefore of Good Advice

When the Lord asked the Apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” He certainly was not confused about His own identity. But the Son of God set an important precedent here: He approached the leaders of the Church with a question.

Christ did not need advice. But we do, we human beings.

Why did Padre Pio become so popular? Because he received the stigmata? Because he prayed so much? Yes. But I think it all started with something humbler: Padre Pio gave excellent advice, clear advice, based on the soundest principles.

The teaching of Scripture and the Church provides the foundation for good advice. With these principles and a disciplined mind, we can deal pretty easily with 99% of life’s difficulties. At least, we can know what the right thing to do is. Then we need help from above and support from each other actually to do it.

Don’t you think that these days we face a crisis of good advice? To be honest with you, I know that, when I was young, I did not receive the kind of good advice I probably should have gotten from some teachers and counselors. Thank God I had my parents.

I don’t mean to aggravate anyone. But how is anyone supposed to get good advice in any setting where people think a man can marry a man? Or that a mother can have her unborn baby killed? Or that it doesn’t matter whether you go to church or not? Or whether you have a child in a marriage or outside of one?

Good advice proceeds from people who perceive the most fundamental facts. The two most fundamental facts of all are: heaven and hell.

I don’t need a saintly priest to tell me how to keep my car running. But if I need advice about an important decision, or about the basic habits of life that we all need to have—I want someone smart whose primary concern is helping me get to heaven so that I can be with Jesus Christ and His saints.

May God help me to offer such advice as a priest. May the government not make it illegal for us priests to offer such advice. And may all of us have the humility to seek the advice we need from the people who will give it to us.