Throughout these last three months I began to observe with a new perspective the irony surrounding my calling to the Brotherhood of Padre Pio. There may be a chance that God has been grooming me to be a religious all my life. It certainly isn't the typical road to heaven, but then again, what is typical to one may not be typical to another. Who is to judge God and who is to judge me for knowing that what I know now could have never been taught in a seminary.
It all began when I was a young 10 year old boy. I didn't look forward to Christmas like other kids. Christmas Eve was a night I would usually cry myself to sleep. Each Christmas my siblings were lavished with many gifts. I usually got one nice gift and maybe a nice new shirt. We were five children living in a small 2 bedroom home. My father worked all his life and was a great provider, while my mother was a stay at home mom. She kept an immaculate home and was a great cook and kept us impeccably dressed. My parents struggled to send us to Catholic schools.
Though I wasn't blessed with an abundance of gifts my mother was aware that I knew they were struggling to make ends meat. I now wonder how I could grasp the financial stress of my parents at just 10 years old and why I carried the weight on my shoulders. For years I resented my mother. Yet in the seed of that regret I learned a valuable lesson; to have compassion for the poor and families who struggle. I recognize the true gift in giving. The simplicity and joy of handing a toy to a child and to appreciate the priceless look on a child's glowing face.
I began to reflect on my mother sheltering me from the outside world until I was 21 and the feeling of isolation from the experiences of being a teenager. My mothers health prevented me from finishing High School. And while my siblings had many friends, I had none. I felt like an outcast yet within the seed of feeling as an outcast came the gift of compassion for the outcast in society and understanding their loneliness.
Who of us has never been lonely? Mother Teresa said " Loneliness and the feel of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."
I truly believe God called me. I truly believe he led me into these life experiences so that I could bring hope to others. I believe that to truly understand the emptiness that loneliness brings you must experience it within. To know poverty, you must experience being without. I had to be in love and broken hearted to understand both sides of a relationship. I had to be addicted to understand addiction. I had to be sick to have compassion for the sick. I have to face death with Aids to know death.
It was God's will for me to carry as many crosses I could bear. To make my shoulders strong enough for others to cry on. To be an example that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It was never God's intent for me to be a priest that went to a seminary. The ministry of a priest is based on the Mass, Sacraments and theological guidance. The will of God always comes with a rhythm and reason.
St. Padre Pio always said people need to talk. God called me to use my life's experiences to help others. God taught me to minister to those in need and to be able to say "been there, done that." Padre Pio also said "Pray, Hope And Don't Worry." My mission has been to pray, and bring hope to others so that they never worry.
What I have learned cannot be taught in a seminary. I had to live life to know life. The poet William Wordsworth wrote: "A deep distress has humanized my soul." Those who emerge from dark difficult times have a great desire to help others who are sufferings. How true this is. Throughout my life God had a plan for me. Though I lived in darkness, everything is perfectly clear now. It was God paving the way all along.
Br. Christopher Sale B.P.P.