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Ordinary Time: September 23rd

Memorial of St. Padre Pio

Other Commemorations: St. Linus, Pope and Martyr (RM); Sts. Zechariah and Elizabeth (RM) ; Other Titles: Padre Pio of Pietrelcina; Francesco Forgione

MASS READINGS

September 23, 2013 (Readings on USCCB website)

COLLECT PRAYER

Almighty ever-living God, who, by a singular grace, gave the Priest Saint Pius a share in the Cross of your Son and, by means of his ministry, renewed the wonders of your mercy, grant that through his intercession we may be united constantly to the sufferings of Christ, and so brought happily to the glory of the resurrection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

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Padre Pio was born in 1887 in the small Italian village of Pietrelcina. He joined the Capuchin Friars at the age of sixteen and was ordained a priest seven years later. For fifty years at the monastery of San Giovanni Rotundo he was a much sought after spiritual advisor, confessor, and intercessor whose life was devoted to the Eucharist and prayer. Yet despite such notoriety, he would often say, "I only want to be a poor friar who prays."

According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Linus, the immediate successor of St. Peter in the government of the Church. He is mentioned after the apostles in the Roman Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer I). It is also the feast of St. Thecla, a virgin of Asia Minor in the early days of the Church. Her cultus, which is very ancient, goes back to the second century. She is considered the first woman martyr.


St. Pio or Pius of Pietrelcina
Born to a southern Italian farm family, the son of Grazio, a shepherd. At age 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars in Morcone, and joined the order at age 19. He suffered several health problems, and at one point his family thought he had tuberculosis. He was ordained at age 22 on 10 August 1910.

While praying before a cross on September 20, 1918, Padre Pio received the stigmata. He is the first priest ever to be so blessed. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. He was reportedly able to bi-locate, levitate, and heal by touch.

In 1956 he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968 at age 81.

Today there are over 400,000 members worldwide in prayer groups begun by Padre Pio in the 1920s.

His canonization miracle involved the cure of Matteo Pio Colella, age 7, the son of a doctor who works in the House for Relief of Suffering, the hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. On the night of June 20, 2000, Matteo was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital with meningitis. By morning doctors had lost hope for him as nine of the boy's internal organs had ceased to give signs of life. That night, during a prayer vigil attended by Matteo's mother and some Capuchin friars of Padre Pio's monastery, the child's condition improved suddenly. When he awoke from the coma, Matteo said that he had seen an elderly man with a white beard and a long, brown habit, who said to him: "Don't worry, you will soon be cured." The miracle was approved by the Congregation and Pope John Paul II on 20 December 2001.

—Adapted from the Discount Catholic Store, Inc.

Things to Do:


St. Linus
Following the crucifixion of Peter, Linus, who had served as an assistant to the apostle, continued the leadership of the Church, for once the Christian faith had been firmly established in Rome, Peter and Paul had commended Linus to this responsibility. However, because the one-man episcopate had not yet emerged in Rome, we have no way of knowing exactly what duties were expected of Linus. In a letter directed to the Oriental churches, Linus told how Peter's body was taken from the cross by Marcellus, bathed in milk and wine, and embalmed with precious spices.

Linus, believed to be the son of Herculanus, was an Italian from the region of Tuscany. He has been identified by the early writer, Eusebius, as the same Linus who is mentioned by St. Paul in his letter of salutation from Rome to Timothy in Ephesus. His episcopate is said to have been approximately twelve years. A brief respite from persecution for the brethren is said to have existed at this time, for legend has it that Nero, in a frightening vision, was so chastised by Peter that he abandoned the wrath which he had once so fiercely set upon the Christians.

Much is unknown of Linus, to be sure, but it is said that he, at Peter's direction, decreed that all women would now cover their heads when entering a church. In the ancient canon of the Mass, his name is cited after those of Peter and Paul.

According to legend, Linus was martyred and buried on the Vatican Hill alongside his beloved Peter.

—Excerpted from The Popes: A Papal History, J.V. Bartlett

Symbols: Triple cross; fleeing demons.

Things To Do:


St. Elizabeth
The name Elizabeth, which has been borne by several saints, means in Hebrew "worshiper of God." All that we know of Elizabeth, wife of Zachary and mother of John the Baptist, is to be found in the book of Luke. A descendant of the priestly line of Aaron, she was a kinswoman - how close we are not told – of the Virgin Mary.

According to the Gospel, Elizabeth had lived a blameless life with her husband in one of the hill-towns of Judea. Having reached an advanced age with her prayers for a son unanswered, she thought that her barrenness was a reproach. One day, while Zachary was serving in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appeared at the right of the altar, and announced that a son would be born to Elizabeth. It was in the sixth month of her pregnancy that the Virgin Mary came to visit her - a touching and beautiful scene pictured by many great artists.

The Angel Gabriel, having lately announced to Mary the destiny that awaited her, also told her that her kinswoman Elizabeth was with child. The Virgin Mary, eager to share in Elizabeth's happiness and to confide that she too would bear a child, traveled down the dusty road from Nazareth. On Mary's arrival, she was amazed when Elizabeth, having foreseen knowledge, greeted her as "mother of my Lord." Elizabeth's salutation was in these words: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, the moment that the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who has believed, because the things promised her by the Lord shall be accomplished."

The Gospel story tells us further that at Elizabeth's delivery her friends and neighbors rejoiced with her, and when the child was brought to be circumcised, they were going to call him after his father Zachary, but his mother said, "His name shall be John."

—Excerpted from Lives of Saints, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

Patronage: expectant mothers, diocese of Fulda, Germany.

Often Depicted As: elderly woman holding the infant John the Baptist; pregnant woman with the Virgin Mary; in the company of Saint Zachary


St. Zachary
St. Zachary, whose feast is celebrated on the same day as that of St. Elizabeth, his wife, was of the tribe of Abia, and a member of the priestly class. It was customary for the priests whose week it was to serve in the temple to cast lots each day for the performance of the various rituals. One day, during Zachary's period of service, the privilege of offering incense on the altar in the holy place fell to him, and while he was alone before the altar performing this rite, the Angel Gabriel appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar. Zachary was troubled and afraid. Then Gabriel spoke, saying that the prayers of the priest and his wife would be answered; a son was to be born to them, and his name was to be John. Zachary found this hard to believe, for both he and Elizabeth were advanced in years. Overcoming his fear, he asked the angel for some sign. Because he doubted, the angel announced that Zachary would be stricken dumb and would regain the power of speech only when the prophecy was fulfilled. Then the angel disappeared and Zachary came forth from the temple. The people saw that he was unable to speak and they knew then that he had received a vision from the Lord.

Elizabeth conceived and gave birth to the one who was to be the Precursor of the Lord. After eight days, when the child was about to be circumcised, Elizabeth told the people that he was to be named John; and Zachary, still unable to speak, asked for a tablet, and on it he wrote the words, "John is his name." At this moment Zachary's tongue was loosed, and he began to praise the Lord. The New Testament tells us nothing further concerning St. Zachary. In Hebrew his name means "Jehovah hath remembered."

—Excerpted from Lives of Saints, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

Things To Do:

  • How beautiful that from the lips of Elizabeth and Zechariah we have parts of prayers that are prayed universally throughout the ages: Elizabeth's praise: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" became part of the Hail Mary and Zechariah's praise after his tongue was looked became the Canticle Benedictus, prayed every day for Morning Prayer in the Divine Office.

  • See the National Gallery of Art for a close-up on The Visitation with Saints Nicholas and Anthony Abbot by Piero di Cosimo.


    Meditation: Ember Friday in September, “Do penance”
    This excerpt from Benedict Baur is based on the 1962 Missal. The current Missal does not include special propers and readings for Ember Days.
    At the church of the Twelve Apostles we were absolved of our sins on Holy Thursday and received again into the community of the Church and reconciled with God. Today we assemble again at this stational church to do penance for the sins and infidelities of the last three months and to obtain pardon. We come with Magdalen, the sinner and penitent, to hear from Christ Himself the words: “Thy faith hath made thee safe; go in peace” (Gospel). “Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord; seek ye the Lord and be strengthened” (Introit).

    “Return, O Israel, to the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen down by thy iniquity. Take with you words and return to the Lord and say to Him: “Take away all iniquity and receive the good, and we will render the calves of our lips…Neither will we say anymore: The works of our hands are our gods” (Epistle). Thus we are called to do penance with a contrite and humble heart and to confess to the Lord. Magdalen is an example for us. She comes to the Lord and throws herself at His feet. She washes His feet with tears, kisses them, and anoints them with the ointment she has brought with her. She comes with a heart full of shame, full of contrition, full of courage, in self-accusation and humility. She is determined to amend her life. The Lord responds to this contrition and love which He Himself through His mercy planted in the heart of the sinful woman. “Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much; but to whom less is forgiven, he liveth less. And He said to her: Thy sins are forgiven thee” (Gospel). We, too, are sinners. We, too, are penitent. We come to Him in the Holy Sacrifice, when He appears in our midst. We confess to Him that we have sinned and have offended God. We accuse ourselves in the presence of His representative. We hear the consoling words: “I absolve thee of thy sins. Go in peace.” We obtain pardon in proportion to our contrition and love. “To whom less is forgiven, he liveth less.” But on the other hand, less is forgiven to Him who loves less.

    “I will heal their breaches, I will love them freely; for My wrath is turned away from them. I will be as the dew; Israel shall spring as the lily, and his root shall shoot forth as that of Libanus. His branches shall spread, and his glory shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as that of Libanus…. They shall live upon wheat [the Eucharist], and they shall blossom as a vine” (Epistle). With great tenderness and charity the Lord accepts the contrite, penitent soul, as is clear from His reception of the sinner Magdalen. Simon the Pharisee is a witness against the sinner who entered and threw herself at the feet of Jesus. He says to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know surely who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him, that she is a sinner” (Gospel). But the Lord has come in search of sinners that He may save them. He has no word of blame for Magdalen. He does not wait until He is begged before she is allowed to appear before Him. He draws her with the power of His love and grace, and He forgives her entire debt. She renounces the false gods she has served till now, and follows the Lord. She is the first of the holy women to see the risen Savior. She received special graces and becomes a great saint, whom we may all admire and imitate.

    The self-righteous Pharisee, who has invited the Lord for dinner and the sinful, penitent, contrite Magdalen present a striking contrast. The Pharisee is a type of the Jewish people, while Magdalen represented those converted from the Gentiles. In the mind of the liturgy, we are the contrite Magdalen, for the first step to grace and holiness is penitence.

    We give expression to our repentance when we fast on Ember days. We sanctify our fast through the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. At this sacrifice we unite our fasting and penance to the suffering and death of the Lord, and we beseech God that He may be pleased with the sacrifice of our fast and make us worthy of His grace, which we expect from the Mass. This grace will lead us to the promises of eternal life (Secret).

    Christians in our day seem to have lost their sense of the necessity of penance and reparation. It is therefore even more necessary to accompany the liturgy today into the house of Simon the Pharisee and learn from the example of Mary Magdalen, how to do penance for our sins. From this holy penitent we can learn to trust in the mercy of the Lord, and thus to be purified so that we may share His blessedness.

    Prayer: Grant, O almighty God, we beseech Thee, that by our devout keeping of the holy observances year by year, we may in body and in soul give pleasure to Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    —from The Light of the World, Volume Three by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.


    Ember Friday of the Autumn or September Embertide
    Station at the Twelve Holy Apostles (Santi Dodici Apostoli, also Santi Apostoli):

    Traditionally, this is the place where the Romans choose their candidates for priesthood (Rite of Election). It was erected by Julius I (337-352) over the barracks of ancient Rome's firemen and entrusted since 1463 to the Conventual Franciscans. Originally dedicated to the Apostles St. James and St. Philip, it was rededicated to all the Apostles in the 16th century.
    The Church leads us today to the "the twelve apostles," on whom the Lord conferred His power to forgive and retain sins. Bearers they are of those precious keys that open the merciful heart of God as well as the contrite heart of man, uniting the latter to the former by means of the cleansing and sanctifying blood of Jesus Christ. This Ember Friday is an appropriate occasion for giving our weekly "Friday-abstinence" a new spirit. So often we observe the day thoughtlessly--perhaps even reluctantly....Give your soul a new direction by a fruitful "ember confession." The sacrament of penance is the sacrament of liberty which frees us from the disgracing chains of our sins. True humility and sorrow are oil from the Holy Spirit which make the "keys of forgiveness" turn with heavenly smoothness. "Remove from me reproach and contempt, because I have sought out Thy commandments, O Lord; for They testimonies are my meditation."

    For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.
    Rome Art Lover: SS. Apostoli