The Message in the Bottle

The Pope and St. Padre Pio, Lefebvrist ordinations, a summer rainstorm, and the message in the bottle…

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from Rome

What does holiness mean? What do we mean by the word “holy”?

It’s a serious question, just as serious as saying what do we mean by other words, like rain, or snow, or sunsets, or matter, or energy, or money, or life itself…

For a Christian, for a Catholic, the word “holy” has a central importance; that we know, even if we are at pains to give it a meaning.

The word “holy” is connected with God, with the nature of God, this we know — in the “Our Father,” which was the prayer Jesus himself taught us, the third phrase is “hallowed be the name” or “thy name be made holy” or perhaps even “your name is ‘HOLY’.”

Someone may contradict me, but it seems to me that this is near to the truth: that God’s “name” is to be regarded as holy, and, in fact, is “holy.”

So holiness is a quality of divinity, or the essence of divinity, or the nature of divinity. Which is a way of saying that holiness is something important, something truly real, not a dream, or a vision, but a reality connected to the eternal, and not just a word we use in this passing, temporal world.

The odd thing about Padre Pio is that we find it almost redundant to call him “St. Padre Pio.”

“Padre Pio” by itself seems sufficient… By this I mean that the fame of sanctity of Padre Pio, who died in 1968 and was canonized on May 2, 1999 — 10 years ago — was so great, that his reputation for being close to God was so great, that to say “Padre Pio” was already to say “St. Padre Pio.”

Yesterday, on the turning point between spring and summer, Pope Benedict XVI went from Rome across Italy to the little town of San Giovanni Rotondo where Padre Pio, St. Padre Pio, lived, died and is buried.

What was the essence of Benedict’s message?

That St. Padre Pio’s devotion to the Church’s sacraments, those mysteries of holiness we call the Eucharist and Confession, made him a model for all priests.

The Pope, who has just inaugurated the “Year of the Priest,” urged priests around the world to look to St. Padre Pio during this Year for Priests.

Confession, which has become much less common in recent years, whould be renewed in our time, Benedict added (Padre Pio spent many hours each day in hearing confession).

“The sacrament of penance must be valued more highly and priests must never resign themselves to seeing their confessionals deserted, nor limit themselves to noting the faithful’s lack of appreciation for this source of serenity and peace,” the Pope said.

Benedict also noted that Padre Pio fought continually againt sin, evil, Satan. His wasn’t a life of just sweetness and light.

“As it was for Jesus, the true battle, the radical combat Padre Pio had to sustain was not against earthly enemies, but against the spirit of evil,” Pope Benedict said. “The greatest storms that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, which he defended himself against with the armor of God, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”


Lefebvrist ordinations

The traditionalist Society of St. Pius X is planning to ordain a group of new priests at the end of June.

But the ordinations, if they occur, will be illegitimate, the Vatican said last week, on June 17.

The Society of St. Pius X has announced it will ordain three priests and three deacons at its seminary in Zaitzkofen, Germany, June 27, and that another 18 men will be ordained at its headquarters in Econe, Switzerland, and in Winona, Minnesota.

Commenting on the possible ordination of new priests, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, quoted from a March letter Pope Benedict had written to the world’s bishops explaining his actions toward the traditionalist bishops and clarifying the current status of the Society of St. Pius X.

Father Lombardi quoted the portion of the Pope’s letter that said, “Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers … do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the church.”

“Therefore, the ordinations are still to be considered illegitimate,” Father Lombardi said.

Here is a link to the complete story:

Yesterday, throughout the afternoon, a thunderstorm burst over Rome that sent rivers of water gushing through the streets.

By evening, the air over the city had cleared, and I was able to take a walk through the Doria Pamphili Park on the Janiculum hill above the Vatican.

At the end of the park, walking under a double-row of umbrella pines, I could almost reach out and touch the Alban Hills and Castel Gandolfo, the air was so clear.

And when the sun set in the west, it set in a blaze of glowing orange that burnt the hem of the world in the west, while the sky above was still an azure blue.

Never have the skies over Rome seemed so clear and fresh, and a cool wind unusual for June came up through the pines and lifted my feet on my return journey, as night fell.

At moments like these, Rome seems magical, as those of you who have lived here, or visited here, can testify.

The end of the story, the “message in the bottle” I wish to receive, and send, in an age of physics and technology, an age which has forgotten the transcendent, the eternal, and the mystery of the person and all that being a person implies:

It is holiness that is the fundamental reality of all reality.

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