The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
MEMORIAL OF SAINT THÉRÈSE OF THE CHILD JESUS, VIRGIN AND DOCTOR CELEBRATION OF THE COLLABORATION OF LA CASA SOLLIEVO DELLA SOFFERENZA AND CATHOLIC HEALTHCARE INTERNATIONAL CAPPELLA DI SANTA MARIA DELLE GRAZIE, SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO
OCTOBER 1, 2009
Duplicating Padre Pio's Hospital Model
- Through God’s Providence, our celebration of a new collaboration in the Catholic care of the sick takes place on the Feast of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. It was, in fact, Saint Thérèse’s reflection upon the passage from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, which is the First Reading for her feast day, which led her to a deeper understanding and experience of God’s tender love of us, His little children who place all our trust in Him. God comforts us, especially in our suffering, as a mother carries a child in her arms and fondles the child on her lap (Reading I). Through her meditation upon chapter 66 of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, the Little Flower came to understand Our Lord’s teaching of spiritual childhood in today’s Gospel. She, in turn, understood so deeply the mystery of God’s love of us that the Servant of God Pope John Paul II gave her the title of Doctor of the Universal Church, and, in a particular way, of the Science of Divine Love, which teaches us to recognize our total dependence upon God and leads us to abandon, with childlike trust, our whole being into the Heart of God the Son Incarnate, finding in His glorious pierced Heart the lasting joy and peace of the Kingdom of Heaven (Gospel) (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter “Sancta Teresia a Iesu Infante et a Sacro Vultu Doctor Ecclesiae univeralis renuntiatur,” 19 October 1997, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. 90, pp. 930-931, and 944). Saint Thérèse’s Little Way of total humility before God and total confidence in His unfailing love is surely what Saint Pio of Pietrelcina wanted to instill in the sick who would be received as guests and those who would care for them in the The Home for the Relief of Suffering (La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza).
- Saint Pio of Pietrelcina was a most ardent student of the Science of Divine Love. He participated so completely in the mystery of God’s love of man, expressed in its fullness in the Redemptive Incarnation of God the Son, that he was granted the singular favor of bearing in his body the wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Pio’s carrying of the Cross of Divine Love, as “Everybody’s Cyrenean,” inspired in him a particular compassion toward the suffering. On March 26, 1914, he wrote to Father Benedetto, his spiritual director, about the particular gift of compassion toward the suffering, with which Our Lord had blessed him:
When I know that a person is afflicted in soul or body, what would I not do to have the Lord relieve him or his sufferings! Willingly would I take upon myself all his afflictions in order to see him saved, and I would even hand over to him the benefits of such sufferings, if the Lord would allow it (Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Letters, Vol. 1, 2nd ed., ed. Father Gerardo Di Flumeri, O.F.M.Cap., San Giovanni Rotondo: “Padre Pio da Pietrelcina” Editions, 1984, p. 519).
From the union of his heart with the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, Saint Pio drew the inspiration and strength to found The Home for the Relief of Suffering, what he also called “The Cathedral of Charity.” So intense was the union of his heart with the Heart of Jesus that Saint Pio understood that the place in which we welcome the suffering as our honored guests is indeed the House of God, the Hôtel-Dieu, as the Servant of God Pope Pius XII reminded a distinguished group of surgeons from the United States during an audience granted to them on May 24, 1956 (“A un distinto gruppo di chirurgi degli Stati Uniti, 24 maggio 1956, Discorsi e radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII, Vol. XVIII, 2 marzo 1956-1º marzo 1957, Città del Vaticano: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1957, p. 243).
- In The Home for the Relief of Suffering, those who have grown weak through advanced years or serious illness or because of special needs receive the best possible medical care, but, first and foremost, they receive the care of their souls, in accord with the teaching of the Church. In The Home for the Relief of Suffering, the sick, through the spiritual care given to them, come to understand their participation in the suffering of Christ for the love of all men and, therefore, Christ’s altogether particular closeness to them, especially through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. In his visit of May 23, 1987, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, in greeting the medical personnel and patients of The Home for the Relief of Suffering, expressed the extraordinary gift of God’s grace, given to Saint Pio for the establishment of The Home:
Padre Pio’s great intuition was that of uniting science in the service of the sick together with faith and prayer: medical science, in the always more advanced battle against illness; faith and prayer in the transfiguring and sublimating of that suffering which, despite all the progress of medicine, will always remain, to a certain extent, the legacy of life here below.
For this, an essential aspect of Padre Pio’s great plan was and is that a stay in this Home should be able to bring about, yes, a cure of the body, but also a true and proper education in love understood as Christian acceptance of suffering. And that ought to be able to happen, above all, thanks to the witness of charity, offered by the medical, paramedical and priestly personnel who assist and care for the sick. In such a way, a true and proper community founded on the love of Christ should be formed; …. (Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, Vol. X, 2 [1987 Maggio-Giugno], Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1988, p. 1770; English translation is mine).
Through the gift received by Saint Pio, we have all received the gift of a living model of Catholic healthcare. Even as the personnel and guests of The Home for the Relief of Suffering must convert each day anew to Christ, discovering in Him the gift of suffering as an act of love, even so they invite others to join them in the great work of love, which comes from the Heart of Jesus, on behalf of the suffering.
- Rightly, Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti, a founder, with Saint Pio, of the Home, referred to the foundation as a “first link in a great chain” and as “the model for many other, innumerable Homes with the same name, and above all the same spirit, which must bring Love to all of humanity” (Guglielmo Sanguinetti, Bolletino della Casa Sollievo di Sofferenza, July 1950). Today, we will be blessed to witness the signing of a collaboration agreement which has, in view, the establishment of a link in the chain of Catholic healthcare, according to the spirit of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, in the United States of America and beyond.
- Homes for the Relief of Suffering are so much needed in a culture which more and more views the helpless, the weak and the sick as a burden for society and even presumes to act against human life, in grave violation of the moral law, for the sake of a more convenient and less burdensome situation. The same culture manifests a godless disregard for the conscience of the healthcare worker who is asked to assist in diminishing or taking human life, against the most sacred dictates of his conscience. Understandably, in such a culture, both the suffering and those who care for them lose hope, for they no longer perceive the reality of human suffering as an act of love, united to the Sacrifice of Our Lord, especially through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. How much we need the beacon of sure and enduring hope offered by The Home for the Relief of Suffering!
- Let us pray most fervently that the noble resolve of Catholic Healthcare International will enjoy an abundant outpouring of God’s blessings. Let us also pray that it will receive the needed support, in order to fulfill all that it is resolved to do for the sake of those who have the first title to our care, the sick and the suffering. May the Holy Spirit give to the leaders of Catholic Healthcare International and to all who work with them a generous portion of the spirit of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, the spirit which is alive and active in The Home for the Relief of Suffering.
- Let us now lift up our hearts, through the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, opened by the soldier’s spear to receive all men with pure and selfless love. Let us draw from the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus the inspiration and strength to bring His love to our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and to found for them The Home for the Relief of Suffering, “The Cathedral of Charity.”
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us.
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, pray for us.
The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke
Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis
Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura