As you may be aware, the Cathedral hosted some of the relics of St. Padre Pio this past weekend. It was a blessing to see so many people come from near and far to venerate the relics of this relatively new saint in the life of the Church (less than 20 years canonized is pretty recent for the Church!). I spoke with one man this past weekend who was excited that we were hosting the relics, as he told me that he had the opportunity to attend a Mass celebrated by the saint in 1965. What an amazing experience that must have been!
Whenever the relics of a saint are made available for veneration, people come with various prayer requests for themselves and for others. One often wonders if any miracles came from such times of veneration. As of this writing, I have not been made aware of any miracles that took place this weekend, though there was something pretty remarkable that I myself recognized. We seemed to have a larger than normal number of people coming to confession, something I believe was aided by the intercession of our guest for the weekend, St. Padre Pio. It makes good sense to draw this conclusion as this was very dedicated to this great sacrament of mercy. He would often spend long hours in the confessional with penitents coming to him from all parts of the world. One estimate that I read suggested that he may have heard as many as five million confessions in his many years as a priest! That is simply amazing! As I head from the sacristy to the confessional, I often invoke his intercession to assist me in being a faithful instrument of God’s mercy.
What strikes me over and over again as I hear confessions is the freedom that this sacrament brings to penitents. People sometimes see going to confession as a place of admitting defeat, which is true to some extent, but even more, it is a place where Christ claims His victory in our souls again by granting us that gift of freedom from sin so that we can truly be who He desires us to be. Sin makes us become less than we are created to be, and being freed from those sins restores us to the place of our baptism when we were made His adopted sons and daughters.
During this month of November, let us also be reminded of the role that we play in helping others to attain complete freedom from the effects of sin through our prayers for the dead. Those who die in friendship with God, but who still carry the effects of sin on their souls go to Purgatory to have those effects purified before being admitted to Heaven. They are in need of our prayers to assist them in receiving this gift of ultimate freedom, so let us be generous in our prayers for the dead, especially by making visits to cemeteries and praying for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed. Doing so is a good investment for our future, for the aid which we offer to these souls now will not be forgotten when they arrive in Heaven. They will most gladly pray on our behalf to help us in our struggle to claim the reward of the freedom of the children of God that awaits us in Heaven.