I went to the Padre Pio Shrine in Barto, Pa seeking inspiration.
How could I summarize St Padre Pio?
He had many spiritual gifts; the stigmata, bi-location, gifts of prophecy, and visions. Some say he was cantankerous and would throw people out of the confessional, yet pilgrims still sought him out, desiring edification. He was intense, yet known for the carefree mantra, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
There is much to say about such an enigmatic man!
But while at the shrine I ran into Deb Mirenda, co-captain of the Philadelphia Chapter of Life Runners. She reminded me that Padre Pio was the patron saint of the unborn. And, as it turns out Padre Pio had an active role in the creation of Life Runners too.
In 2006, Pat Castle, had an incredible encounter with Padre Pio, Pat was participating in the Pikes Peak Ascent race, a marathon up a mountain. Just when the going got tough, Padre Pio gave him encouraging words which strengthened his resolve to push forward, finishing the race under his goal of three hours!
After this encounter, Pat co-founded Life Runners. Today Life Runners is the largest pro-life running/walking group in the world with 16,841 teammates in 40 nations. Teammates have the shared goal of “crossing the finish line that ends abortion.” Teammates wear bright blue shirts with the Jeremiah 1:5 message, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew You….”
The word of God on these shirts often speaks to people who happen to read them while running or walking by.
Deb shared a few such stories;
“While running the Philly Marathon, Ted (my husband) was a couple miles into the early part of the race and having a lil mental convo w/ himself along the lines of: ‘why am I doing this; why did God put me here, etc. And Lo-n-behold, he feels a tap on his shoulder from another runner, “Hey, what’s this ‘Remember the Unborn’ message about?” … So they ran the next couple miles together sharing a Pro-life conversation. The guy wound up joining and has been a member of the Philly team since.
Another time while a few of us were doing the Valley Forge Revolutionary 5mile Run, another runner noticed our shirts & shared with us that her mom was a young single mom when she had her & thus the Protection of Unborn Children is a very personal cause for her. She promptly joined and is a consistent teammate wearing her shirt and sharing the message.”
On another occasion, a woman saw the shirt and was inspired to join because her mother had become pregnant with her when she was just 15 years old in 1975. The woman shares, “When I run, I remember that some people advised my Mom to have an abortion. I’m grateful that she and my Dad wanted me to be born, even though the pregnancy was unplanned. They married in the summer of 1975 and celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary in July.”
Such beautiful stories of the power of the word of God to evangelize! And as Catholics, we often forget that many people are hungry and looking for faith. If we make ourselves available we allow the holy spirit to use us. Padre Pio was a man that engaged in a spiritual battle every day. His weapons were prayer, the sacraments, and the rosary.
As we begin this 40 days for Life in Philadelphia we are called to engage in this battle too. But Life Runners proves that fighting for life can be fun! And we don’t engage in culture wars alone. We need teammates.
Padre Pio said his ministry would begin after his death. And he seems to be good on his word. I think if there is one thing to add to his “Pray, hope, don’t worry” it might just be and get moving!
Interested in joining Life Runners? Visit: www. LifeRunners.org.
Running is Optional! But jerseys are required and Faith/prayer is necessary!
Watch an interview with Pat Castle about his encounter here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f_dRVoUl1c
Here is also an article I wrote about the Liferunners Chapter in Philadelphia during the 20216 Philadelphia marathon.