Padre Pio’s Answer to Anxiety

Today we celebrate the feast of Padre Pio, a saint whose story is too big for a single post. The humble friar would probably dislike that today he is mostly known for the sensational aspects of his story. We should not allow the sensational to distract us from what formed the core of his life: trust and surrender to the Lord.

When he was stripped of all priestly faculties except the ability to celebrate Mass (which he had to do privately), he responded in total obedience, writing to the local bishop about those who were rallying to protest: “I must add that many times I have appealed directly to them to stop the rebellious attitude toward the rulings of the church, but with no result. I turn, therefore, as a son most humble and completely obedient to the Catholic Church.”

His life is marked with suffering, but it is also marked with humble surrender. It’s not surprising, perhaps, that he was close to the author of the Surrender Novena, Don Dolindo Ruotolo.

One of the most well-known quotes of Padre Pio (written on t-shirts and stickers all over Etsy and Instagram stores) reminds us of this need to surrender. 

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

Elsewhere he elaborates: “Do not worry over things that generate preoccupation, derangement, and anxiety. One thing only is necessary: to lift up your spirit and love God.”

These are not words from a man who had no cares; they are not advice from a man who didn’t suffer. Padre Pio was able to remind us of these things because he practiced trust and surrender in his life when he very well could have worried or become preoccupied with temporal anxieties.

The persecution, accusations, and slander he endured could have caused him to question the Lord. His intense physical suffering could have turned him bitter. But he recognized that, in light of the first reading today, everything has its time. In the mysterious plan of God, there is a time for joy and a time for suffering. There is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing. There is a time for war and a time for peace. 

We are not God. We do not know his mind, although in this vale of tears, we strive to put on the mind of Christ, through the help of the Holy Spirit. We may not know his plan. We do not know what lies ahead, just around the curve. What he asks of us is trust, surrender, love, and hope.

If you are in a season of suffering, this too shall pass. It will not get easier through worry. Preoccupation with the things of this world is not the answer. Rather, occupy yourself with the things of God. Know that he has a plan, you are part of that plan, and that he knows your future. He loves you.

Place your anxieties, your worries, and everything that threatens your peace, into his hands. Ask him to take care of it, and then move on, knowing that your loving Father will take care of you. He may not remove the suffering. He may not correct the slander that is out there or untie all the knots in your life. But through it all, he will take care of you.

The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” In this world, we might not see what God is doing. Know that He is here. He is working. And we should look to eternity with hope.

One of Padre Pio’s biographers, who had the opportunity of speaking to him twice, said, “Throughout his life, in the midst of the most difficult trials, he always looked to the future with a spirit of optimism, faith, and love.” Let us imitate him today.

“The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord.”

Pope John Paul II

Image credit: “Statue of Padre Pio in Bronze” (detail) – And.martire [CC BY-SA]

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