By Rita Buettner
Maybe it’s because the excitement of the holidays has passed and the Christmas lights are disappearing.
Maybe it’s because the time off from work and school is over and we aren’t quite sure when our next vacation will be.
Maybe it’s just that it’s January.
Whatever it is, there is a dreariness to this time of year. Spring will come, we know, but it’s certainly not imminent. We could still have snow or — more likely — days of cold, gray rain before warm sunshine. We might have weeks of frost to scrape off the windshield before we start to see the sunnier days and the buds on the trees.
We might be feeling kind of meh.
Well, it turns out there’s a saint for that. There is, of course, a saint for everything. But the saint who is patron of the January blues is a particularly awesome saint: St. Pio of Pietrelcina or, as many call him, St. Padre Pio. He was a mystic whose life held its own miracles, as he was able to bilocate and see into people’s souls during confession. He had a deep love for the Eucharist and a relationship with Jesus that is truly inspiring.
I don’t know whether Padre Pio liked or disliked January or whether he himself had seasonal affective disorder. But he knew suffering. He struggled with poor health. He had the stigmata — painful wounds on his hands and feet that mirrored Jesus’ wounds.
Padre Pio was also a Franciscan Capuchin priest who lived with great faith and abiding joy. He is quoted as saying, “Pray, hope, and do not worry.” What a powerful line for the bleak days of January, or for any dark time in life.
Pray, hope, and do not worry.
Leave it in God’s hands and trust that all will be well. Because, of course, ultimately, it will be.
Padre Pio knew he would give his life to Jesus by the time he was 5. It was in January 1903 when he was just 15 that he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars. On January 22, he took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience along with the Franciscan habit — and the name of Pio.
That January for him was a time of change, a time of closing doors and opening new ones. Perhaps that is part of why he is a good saint to turn to during January, reminding us that the dark, cold days of January are still times of growth, though it may be quiet. Even in the cold stillness the earth is preparing for the new, fresh growth of spring.
Maybe this is also a time of quiet growth within our own lives.
There is a beauty to these days, too. And there is a little more light each day, as we inch through winter and toward the arrival of spring. Perhaps Padre Pio can be a friend to walk with us on this journey, praying and hoping and not worrying.
“Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor,” Padre Pio used to pray after Communion in this beautiful prayer. “Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.”
With Jesus walking with us and Padre Pio as our friend, maybe January isn’t so dark after all.
Special thanks to Dylan, a third grader at the School of the Cathedral in Baltimore, for inspiring me to learn more about Padre Pio.
Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review’s Open Window blog.