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  • Sarah Raad

Bitterness

“The earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…” (Saint Padre Pio).

The Crucifixion of Christ

I have been reflecting on the words of the beautiful Saint Padre Pio which reflect on the bitterness of sin…


“Oh! How bitter is the thought of having to account to God for sins we made others commit because of our careless behaviour or to account for the good that was not done for souls through ignorance or, God forbid, through negligence!.... It is true I have always commended myself to God concerning this very important matter, but who can guarantee that I did all that it was my duty to do? My God, that is a thorn that is always lodged in the depth of my soul and that tears at me regularly.”


Saint Padre Pio had the stigmata of Christ. When he was celebrating the Holy Sacrament of the Mass, the pain of his stigmata intensified. Once a woman asked how he managed to stand through the duration of the Mass when his hands and feet felt such pain. He replied, “My good lady, I do not stand during the Mass. I hang!”


And I have been reflecting too on this reality of this special soul, who suffered agony with Christ for sins. I listened to a talk by a priest who I do not know, who said, that he believed that if it were not for Saint Padre Pio, God could have ended the world. For Saint Padre Pio did great good through the sacrifice of his suffering. The Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, that there is a lot of wasted suffering in hospitals. Imagine, said the Venerable Bishop, how much good the sacrifice of such suffering could do?

And I imagine that sacrifice now, as I reflect on the words and actions of other saints… For sacifices do not have to be massive to have value.

Saint Josemaria Escriva – who was the founder of Opus Dei – openly sought correction from his subordinates, as an act of mercy to his soul and a sacrifice of his pride. This sacrifice though not extreme was still a difficult one to accept… Once after being corrected by his spiritual brother, Blessed Alvaro, Saint Josemaria said, “Lord, Alvaro’s right and I’m wrong.” But then he said, “No, Lord, this time I am right. Alvaro doesn’t let me get away with a single thing, and that doesn’t seem like affection but cruelty.” Still later he said, “Thank you, Lord, for placing my son Alvaro near me, who is so fond of me that he doesn’t let me get away with a single thing!”


And it seems to me that this sacrifice of pride is a most useful tool to please God and help us to follow the advice of Saint Padre Pio who said that we should “keep our gaze fixed firmly on the heavenly home that awaits us.” And without sacrifice we cannot possibly do that because we will be confounded by the things of this world.


For in the words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” (2 Corinthians 4:18).


And what I have come to realise through this brief reflection on the words of the saints, is that there is wisdom in the words of Pope Francis, who said, “The Lord of Mercy always forgives me; He always offers me the possibility of starting over. He loves me for what I am, He wants to raise me up, and He extends His hand to me…”


And trusting in that wisdom, I reach up despite the bitterness of my miserable weakness and sin. I reach up as the gall was raised to my Beloved’s lips on the Cross, “they offered Him wine to drink, mixed with gall…” (Matthew 27:34). Only this time, I wish to raise up fresh sweet water to His Precious Lips. And I have come to realise that the only way to do that is for me to consume the bitter gall myself – as a sacrifice for Him.


And even for this – this sacrifice for love of Him – I need Him. I cannot make this offering alone. For though I am nothing – He is everything… And in Him I find strength… Because as Saint Padre Pio reminds us, “The earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…”


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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