23 September 2009

How Many Rosaries!?

“Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today.”

These are the words of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina or perhaps more affectionately known as Padre Pio. This Capuchin priest and son of Saint Francis of Assisi loved the Rosary. He wrote often about our Blessed Lady and among those writings is this gem: “Rest your ear on her maternal heart and listen to her suggestions, and then you will feel all the best desires for perfection being born in you.”

Padre Pio wrote and said many things that were deeply spiritual. Because of who he was: a devoted priest, spiritual director, confessor, stigmatist, mystic and visionary, much of what he said or wrote is believable beyond a shadow of a doubt because of our gift of faith, but at the same time seems unattainable for most to ever experience personally. For example, Padre Pio said that the entire celestial court is present at the Sacrifice of the Mass. Most of us know that but carrying that thought to Mass with us or actually seeing this with our own eyes is unlikely.

Somehow, the laws of time and space mingled with eternity in this holy soul known as Padre Pio. How else could anyone explain his gift of bi-location?

There was also a childlike innocence that occasionally emanated from him. When he was asked why he didn’t share publicly the fact that our Lady visited him often, his response was that he thought everyone experienced visions of her. He once even asked his spiritual director Padre Agostino: “Don’t you see our Lady?” Difficult to know for certain if that was innocence or humility – or perhaps both.

Another example of how time mingled with eternity in this Capuchin saint was that he prayed thirty-five complete Rosaries per day; that is, the Joyful Mysteries thirty-five times, the Sorrowful Mysteries thirty-five times, and the Glorious Mysteries thirty-five times. Obviously Padre Pio was able to perform other priestly functions while at the same time praying his Rosary, a tremendous gift within itself. His long hours of hearing confessions and his often two to three hour Masses are renowned and occupied a great deal of Padre Pio’s daily life.

Even if he did absolutely nothing else all day but pray the Rosary, it seems unlikely that thirty-five complete Rosaries could be squeezed into a twenty-four hour day. Somehow through the great mystery of eternity, Padre Pio was able to do things that defy all we know and comprehend about time and space.

That childlike innocence was also present when asked about the Rosary. When questioned about how many Rosaries he prayed per day, and Padre Pio’s response was, “thirty-five complete Rosaries,” and when that question was followed up with how he could possibly pray that many Rosaries in one day, Padre Pio’s childlike response was: “How can you not pray that much?” It was as if he didn’t understand that praying thirty-five Rosaries per day was supernatural. Most likely Padre Pio had some kind of understanding about his supernatural gifts but knew that any explanation of these gifts was beyond human comprehension.

Many of us probably find that fitting in a single set of Mysteries per day is challenging enough, and then even if we can do that, trying to pray those Mysteries without the mind wandering off into unwanted areas is yet another challenge. And then turning our thoughts to this gifted Capuchin priest who was able to pray thirty-five complete Rosaries with great devotion is edifyingly mind boggling to say the least.

Of course, every time we pray earth mingles with heaven, the natural with the supernatural, mortality with immortality, and time with eternity. This is especially true when we receive the Eucharist.

That which we see, however, is veiled. But Padre Pio saw beyond the veil and lived the words of Saint Paul: “I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernatural vocation of God in Jesus Christ. Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:14, 20).