PADRE PIO'S SPIRITUAL CHILDREN
All those belonging to the Prayer Groups throughout the world considered themselves Spiritual Children of Padre Pio. They look to Padre Pio as a sure guide through life. The first group of Spiritual Children can be said to have begun at San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy in 1917. The local friary became the first gathering place for his Spiritual Children. They gathered to participate in his spiritual conferences in the visitors' area of the friary.
The first Spiritual Children of Padre Pio would gather with their Spiritual Director usually on Thursdays and Sundays. He would speak to them of virtue and vice, weaknesses that had to be fought, good that we are called to live. His approach was simple and practical, rich in a wealth of experiences, directed toward the essence of the Christian life, spurring his Spiritual Children to generosity encouraging them by his own mere conviction and personal example. He insisted much on obedience, trust in one's Spiritual Director frequency in receiving the Sacraments, and the need for meditation and mortification.
The group of Spiritual Children grew. One day Padre Pio remarked to one of them: "Many, many, many more will come, but my arms will reach out to embrace the whole world." Padre Pio fulfilled his ministry as director of souls. He would say that: "I neither call them to me nor do I send them away."
To those who wished to be numbered among his Spiritual Children he would say: "I accept you willingly as my Spiritual Children, on the condition that you always be good and not give bad example before God and man, that you be examples of a good Christian life. Otherwise I also know how to use the whip.".
One day Padre Pio said: "If it were possible, I would like one favor from the Lord: I would want, if He said to me 'Go to heaven' , I would like to have this grace: Lord, do not allow me to enter heaven until the last of my children, the last of those persons entrusted to my priestly care, have entered before me...
On another occasion, to one of his Spiritual Children, Padre Pio said: "I have made an agreement with the Lord that when my soul is purified by the flames of purgatory and is worthy to enter heaven, I will stand at the gates of Paradise and will not enter until I have seen the last of my sons and daughters enter.".
Through the Prayer Groups and the commitment of his Spiritual Children, Padre Pio was able to fulfill part of his great mission: to bring the world to God. He wanted to be among all people to proclaim out loud who this great God of mercy is.
Before his death on September 23, 1968, Padre Pio gave a special blessing to the Prayer Groups, the sick, and all of his Spiritual Children. Padre Pio's influence continues to this day. In the spirit of their holy founder, the Prayer Groups of Padre Pio and his Spiritual Children throughout the world continue to grow. Let us remember that our prayers, like incense, rise to God.
Let us be instruments of God's peace and love to those we meet.
"I love my Spiritual Children as much as my own Soul and even more."