My thoughts along the Tiber this morning took me back to San Giovanni Rotondo the place where Padre Pio was buried and where I had been on pilgrimage yesterday. I was touched by the inscription by Pope Paul VI on the plaque in the crypt near his grave. In Summary it stated: Devotees from all over the world flocked to visit him, not because he was a philosopher or a sage or a man of means but because he fulfilled faithfully his pastoral ministry of celebrating the Eucharist humbly and of hearing confessions patiently. He was a man of prayer and of suffering!
Prayer sustains us in our suffering and suffering in tum intensifies our prayer. I recalled what I had once been told by one of my pastors back in Bombay. "Prayer", he noted, "is like the grains of incense. If it is to rise as a pleasing fragrance to the Lord, it must be poured onto burning coals of suffering!"
Today, many a priest suffers from a loss of identity. It is not that the identity of the priest has been lost; rather, it is just that it has been forgotten. While priests need to mobilise people’s movements and animate causes for justice and peace, they need to remember that these causes and movements will not move - or if they do, they will soon come to a grinding halt unless they are empowered by those giant turbines of intense prayer and suffering.