Happy Feast of St. Padre Pio

Today is the fourty-seventh anniversary of the death, or rather natalis (the Latin word for birthday, often applied to the last day of a saint’s life on earth), of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcino.  Padre Pio lived the life of a Capuchin monk at the town of San Giovanni Rotonda, Italy.  He won renown during his life as the greatest miracle worker of the 20th century, and through his stigmata and charisms  lead perhaps hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.  Often, he would spend over fourteen hours in the confessional to shrive the multitudes of pilgrims from across the globe who sought to see him.  For which reason, when the pope asked a priest what Padre Pio did at San Giovanni Rotunda, the priest responded: “He takes away the sins of the world.”  Pio’s last words were “Jesus, Mary,” persons to whom St. Pio had dedicated his entire life.

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At any rate, I hope that my Catholic readers celebrate this feast by asking Padre Pio’s intercession and even possibly going to mass.  May my other readers be edified by reading about Padre Pio’s example or delighted to learn something new.  A while back, I linked to this page on Padre Pio for some anecdotes.  That link also has a ton of pictures of the saint.  And I shall link other pages below for your pleasure.

St. Pio carrying Christ's cross

At the Padre Pio shrine in Italy, Pio is shown holding the place of St. Simon in the Fifth Station of the Cross.

EWTN’s Two Page Biography of Padre Pio

Quotes from Padre Pio

 

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Scrambling for Freedom: How Mardock Scramble Points to Freedom as the Goal of Christian Life

Several of my readers may have come across Mardock Scramble and been dissuaded from watching it by reading descriptions of this show.  In that case, retain your original resolution not to watch it, because it does contain scenes which are downright gruesome and characters representing the worst levels to which a human being can fall.  At the same time, the evolution of Rune Balot from a prostitute leading a miserable existence to a woman capable of great compassion and virtue stands among the most beautiful anime has to offer.

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The anime describes this transition from prostitute to heroine as the same as from slave to free.  That these three OVAs focus on freedom as their main topic makes itself apparent in the three ending songs.  (Yes, I loved this anime so much that I listened to the ending songs so that I might get every drop of it out.)  The first OVA plays “Amazing Grace,” the second “Ave Maria for Balot,” and the third Megumi Hayashibara’s (Rune Balot’s voice actress, by the way) “Tsubasa,” which means “Wings” in English.  These songs point to the three steps of salvation: 1) Christ finds us and saves us from hell; 2) we struggle for righteousness through the grace of God–especially sought through prayer; and 3) we fully realize the freedom found in abiding in God’s will.  The very highest freedom exists in heaven, where we shall no longer be tempted by evil choices and only chose from several goods.

Yet, people often look at things like the commandments and religious obligations, which lead them to come to the opinion that religion represses freedom.  But, let us examine these “strictures.”  The commandments order us not to do evil.  Constantly doing evil leads to vices forming on the soul.  What is a vice except a form of slavery on the soul?  Whether one looks at pride, envy, anger, greed, lust, gluttony, or sloth, it will become evident that these things limit a person.  Pride blinds us to truth, envy prevents us from loving others, anger prevents rational thought and action,  greed blinds us to what we really need, lust prevents us from seeing persons as persons, gluttony produces a body unfit for strenuous activity, and sloth prevents us from developing our talents.  In essence, by God telling us to be good, He tells us to be free.

Our Lord delivered St. Mary Magdalene from seven demons.  In the same way, He delivers all souls from the seven deadly sins.

Our Lord delivered St. Mary Magdalene from seven demons. In the same way, He delivers all souls from the seven deadly sins.

In the case of religious obligations like attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation, receiving the Eucharist at least once a year, or going to confession at least once a year during Easter if we have committed a mortal sin, these merely oblige us to do what we should decide to do on our own initiative if we were not so ignorant.  Eating the Body of Christ and drinking the Blood of Christ is our very salvation.  And can one complain about having to go to confession if one is in a state of mortal sin–a condition where a sudden death might deprive them of eternal life?  Do not people who decline to go to confession out of fear or laziness rather than run into the arms of their merciful Father and steadfast Brother strike one as foolish?  Certain people have enough leisure that they receive the Eucharist daily or the Sacrament of Reconciliation weekly or even daily–ever dwelling in the Mercy of God imparted in the sacraments.  To wisely fulfill one’s obligations is not slavish but free.

Oeufcoque

To take the case of Rune Balot, she has obligations to Dr. Easter, who saves her from certain death through his medical technology, to help him testify against the man who used her as a concubine before attempting to burn her alive.  She is given Oeufcoque, a golden, talking mouse who can change into practically any tool–from computerized gloves to a hand cannon, as a partner.  Her acceptance of this duty leads to many violent confrontations, and she does have one major fall from grace.  When she realizes the extent of her fault due to Oeufcoque suffering from his aversion to her evil deeds, she comes to herself and repents straightway.  She had determined to love Oeufcoque earlier, but she had not taken into account her obligations to her new partner.  Without meeting these obligations, she cannot be free.

Rune Balot

Freedom is not without structure.  The order to which freedom adheres derives from moral law.  When we fit into this order, we bring our freedom to perfection.  The struggle of overcoming ourselves and conforming to virtue leads to us gaining true freedom.  And to what end ought we put our freedom?  Love.  Toward the end of the series, Balot tells Oeufcoque that she has known many men whom she wished would love her, but he is the first being she wished to love of her own initiative.  As conformity to the moral law leads to us becoming more at home in the universe, we become the persons we were meant to be and our desires are met in ways we never dreamed possible.  The ending of Mardock Scramble indicates that Balot, despite the pain of her recent experiences, has found happiness and rejoices in living–something which would never have happened had she not been providentially rescued from her wayward lifestyle.

Forgetting One’s Sins

Dear Readers, the idea for this article came from my reminiscences about my Alma Mater, Hillsdale College.  I feel that I was too shy to take proper advantage of the great minds and personalities which surrounded me there.  Among my reminisces, one professor stands out: Dr. Reist.  He was a hoot.  A professor not easily forgotten.  I’ll never forget the first time he walked into my classroom:

He says: “My wife broke her leg.”  The students collectively gasp.  Then, Dr. Reist says: “I told her having sex standing up was dangerous.”

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That’s a masterful way to break the ice!  One day, when he noticed people were not participating or had not done the readings, he told us that we weren’t free.  Which is an interesting way to put it!  And sealing one’s lips as one looks down at an unfamiliar text hoping that the professor won’t call on one may be compared to slavery.  After all, how much more preferable is it to be able to gaze steadily upon the teacher confident in being able to provide an answer to any question and being free to participate or not as you list?

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This professor, a fellow New Jerseyan, had once been Catholic but converted to a variety of Protestantism–even became a minister.  I suspect the reason for his conversion lay in that he felt Catholicism’s emphasis on faith and works placed too much emphasis on personal merit than on God’s election.  (But, even our merits are God’s gifts to us.  The idea of cooperation between grace and free will tends to overcomplicate matters from most Protestant perspectives.)  However, he seemed grateful for many of the lessons he learned as a Catholic.  For example, he once told us: “Do you know that it’s a sin to forget your sins?”

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And it certainly is: the sin of pride.  In our unending process of repentance, we ought always remember where we have been and all the patience God has shown us and continues to show us despite our iniquity and lack of amendment.  Even if we claim that we have progressed far from where we once were, that does not cancel out the fact that we did not deserve to be extricated from our wicked ways of living–that it was pure Mercy which brought us out of each vicious circle.  Even after confession where our guilt is washed away, can we ever stop mourning for the wounds we have placed on Christ’s body or forget that we still deserve temporal punishment and have deserved everlasting flames?

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So, whenever a non-believer claims that Christians have a nonchalant attitude toward sins because God is so ready to forgive, you can tell him that this is the attitude of the proud or the ignorant.  An educated Christian knows that he ought never stop pouring tears into his pillow or cease remembering the wounds of Christ until Christ himself has wiped away every tear  and welcomes us into Our Father’s house.