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Glowing Humility

Sometimes I have trouble trying to come up with topics for my weekly blog. I’ve been writing it for over 2 years… that’s over 100 topics I’ve had to come up with. So it is extra nice when friends and readers suggest topics to me, saves me a little effort. Recently, my friend Lance did just that when he shared an interesting science/history story with me that I just had to share.

In April of 1862, Major General Ulysses S. Grant was leading troops in Shiloh, Tennessee. On the morning of April 6, Confederate troops ambushed Grant’s troops, hoping to defeat them before Union reinforcements could arrive. The Confederates were too slow, though, and the Union reinforcements arrived and overpowered them. The battle was bloody leaving over 3,000 dead and thousands more injured.

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Neither side’s medical team was ready for that kind of carnage, so it took 48 hours before all of the wounded were removed from the battlefield and given help. If the bullet and bayonet wounds weren’t bad enough, these soldiers were fighting in a swampy area which meant the wounded were laying in mud and dirty water while they waited for help, increasing their chances for infections. During the night, the wounded noticed something strange; some of their wounds had started to GLOW! Then when they finally got help, those whose wounds had glowed had a higher survival rate! No one could explain why.

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Over the years, this “Angel’s Glow” had become folklore. Many thought it couldn’t possibly be real… until a 17 year old boy named Bill Martin, who had a microbiologist mom, went searching for answers. He and his friend, Jon Curtis, found that the bacteria Photorhabdus luminescens live in the guts of parasitic worms called nematodes. These nematodes hunt down insects, burrow inside, and puke up the P. luminescens. The bacteria then is bioluminescent, giving off a soft blue glow, and produces lots of chemicals to kill the insect prey and any other microorganisms inside it.

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Their theory was that the nematodes went after the insects that were in the soldiers’ wounds. The bacteria made the wounds glow while it was busy killing off the invaders that might have caused the soldiers gangrene or other infections. The only problem with this theory is that the bacteria can’t survive in the hot temperature of the human body, BUT since it was a cold night, many of the men had gotten hypothermia which would lower their body temperature enough for the good glowing bacteria to work until they were able to get moved to the nice warm hospitals. Wow! A scientific mystery solved almost 150 years after it occurred!

Reading about this battle and the science behind it was mind-blowing, but reading about it while my husband was reading a biography of St. Padre Pio gave me a different perspective.

For those of you who have never heard of him, Padre Pio was a Capuchin Monk in Italy until his death in 1968. He is well known for his many miracles during his lifetime and having the stigmata, marks corresponding to those left on Jesus’ body by his crucifixion. Unlike many saints who die relatively unknown, he was quite famous during his lifetime. Many wanted to see his miracles. Others saw how holy he was and simply wanted to be near him, to be blessed by him.

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Some priests in the church were jealous of his popularity. They wrote to the Vatican saying that he was becoming too much of a distraction and he was detracting from the focus of Jesus Christ. Based on these letters, Pope Benedict XV ordered Padre Pio be investigated and remain in the monastery, out of the public eye and unable to hear confessions or say Mass. Padre Pio had not wished to live a cloistered lifestyle, but he had taken a vow of obedience and humbly did what the Pope asked of him. He never complained.

The priests who wrote the letter thought that they were getting rid of this priest they didn’t like by bad mouthing him to the hierarchy, but nothing could diminish the holiness of this great man. Nothing these other priests said could take away from the radiance of Christ’s love that shown through Padre Pio in everything he did. After his couple of years in isolation, he resumed his life in the public and continued to serve others. He went right on glorifying God through his actions and is now seated in heaven with God.

Wow Dani, those are both really amazing stories… but how did your brain possibly link the two? Well, since you asked, in both stories, the person’s adversaries are trying to cut them down, but they fail. In Padre Pio’s case, these men were trying to hide the gifts that God had given Pio to share with the world. They tried to tear him down for his immense faith and holiness, but they did not succeed.

I hope that you will be inspired by Padre Pio’s story. All of us have people or situations that are actively working to tear us down. They want to stop us from reaching our full potential. Padre Pio shows us the strength in humility. He gives us a great example of not lashing out and causing more hurt. Instead, we must humbly persevere, knowing that God has set each of us on a path and no earthly power can stand in His way. This week I invite you to pray for and strive for humility. It can be one of the hardest virtues to live out, but an extremely powerful one. This week, with his feast day tomorrow (9/23), ask Padre Pio to intercede for you, that you might have humility and strength like he did.