S. Giovanni della Croce
S. Teresa Benedetta
di Los Andes
|S. Maria |
di Gesù Crocifisso
di S. Maria
Maria Eugenio di Gesù Bambino
|Beata Maria Giuseppina|
di Gesù Crocifisso
|San Ciriaco Elia della Santa Famiglia|
|Beata Francesca d'Amboise|
|S. Teresa Margherita|
S. Raffaele Kalinowski
|S. Simone Stock|
|Beata Maria Candida dell'Eucaristia|
di S. Bartolomeo
|Beata Maria dell'Incarnazione|
|Beati Dionisio della Natività|
|Beata Giuseppa Naval Girbés|
|S. Andrea Corsini|
del Sacro Cuore
|Sant'Alberto di Gerusalemme|
|Beata Teresa Maria della Croce|
|Beato Francesco di Gesù Maria Giuseppe|
|Beata Elia |
|Ven. Lorenzo della Risurrezione|
|S. Maria Maddalena|
|S. Gioacchina de Vedruna|
|S. Maria Maravillas |
di San Luigi
di Gesù Sacramentato
Teresa di San Giuseppe
|Beati Martiri di Spagna|
|By Fr. Jean, OFMcap and printed originally in the May 1999 issue of The Angelus magazine|
|Padre Pio (May 25, 1887 —September 23, 1968) was beatified on May 2, 1999, by Pope John Paul II. He is the only priest known to have received the full stigmata. He never celebrated the Novus Ordo Missae.|
Much has been written about Padre Pio —more than 600 works, it seems —and the authors always stress the extraordinary side of his life: not only his particular charisms (reading souls, healing, raising people from the dead, bilocating, ecstasies, exuding perfume, prophesying, etc.), but also the incredible sufferings which he endured from his earliest childhood, the persecutions undergone from some churchmen and even brothers in religion, as well as his two great charitable works: the founding of the House of Suffering, and prayer groups.
In short, they present him to us as a "saint" more to be admired than imitated, so that, ultimately, we miss the most interesting lessons to be learned from this life, and the practical applications that could transform our own. We shall try, therefore, however imperfectly, to set forth a few of these lessons, hoping that we shall all be able to profit from them, and that the Padre, from high heaven, will himself succor us, as he has promised to all those who would like to become his "spiritual children."
At the dawn of this life totally sacrificed to God and to souls, there is to be found a pious, poor and numerous family, where the abnegation of each member softens and transforms the harsh realities of daily life. Here we see confirmed the saying of Bishop de Segur that it is in families where the spirit of sacrifice is lacking that vocations are most at risk. Baptized the day after his birth — a grace for which he was grateful all his life —Padre Pio was christened Francesco, presage of his Franciscan vocation, which was to be discovered on the occasion of a visit from a Capuchin monk begging food for the convent. Even so, his vocation was not decided without struggle:
He was not yet 16 years old when he entered the novitiate. Above the door of the cloister, as a welcome, he read the sign: "Do penance or perish." The daily rule of life included very many prayers, enough work, and little reading, being restricted especially to the study of the Rule and the Constitutions.
Brother Pio made himself conspicuous by the abundance of the tears he shed during the morning period of mental prayer, which in Capuchin houses is consecrated to the meditation of the Passion; tears so abundant that it was necessary to spread a towel in front of him on the floor of the choir. As with St. Francis, it was to this loving and compassionate contemplation of Jesus crucified that he was to owe the grace to receive later on the painful stigmata in his body. Even so, as he confided to his spiritual director, Fr. Agostino: "In comparison to what I suffer in my flesh, the spiritual combats that I endure are much worse."
Atoning for Sinners: Interior Trials
It would seem that God expects the just to expiate in a special way, by means of temptation, the public sins of their contemporaries. At a time when psychoanalysis, with its knack for explaining away guilt and sin, was gaining sway, Padre Pio —like the little Theresa —had to undergo an almost unbearable crisis of scruples, which tormented him for three long years. Then after the storm came the night, a night of the soul which lasted for dozens of years, with only occasional glimmers of light:
It is with the thought of his mystical experiences in mind that his maxims should be meditated: "Love is more beautiful in the company of fear, because it is in this way that it becomes stronger." "The more one loves God, the less one feels it!"
St. Theresa of the Child Jesus opposed to the proud rationalism of her day the little way of spiritual childhood, but she also expiated it by terrible temptations against faith. Her cry, "I will believe!" is well known. Padre Pio also experience violent and prolonged temptations against faith, as his letters to Fr. Agostino testify:
What precious lessons for us, should we, for example, be surprised at finding ourselves tempted to such a degree.
Padre Pio overcame these terrible trials by following what had been taught him in the novitiate: perseverance in prayer, mortification of the senses, unshakable fidelity to the demands of one’s duty of state, and, finally, perfect obedience to the priest in charge of his soul. His painfully acquired experience allowed him to draw to himself souls desirous of perfection, and to be demanding.
To those who declare themselves unworthy to receive holy Communion, he answers:
To another, who told him that the daily examination of conscience seemed useless, since his conscience showed him clearly at each action whether it was good or bad, he replied:
When Padre Pio was condemned to not exercise any ministry, he spent his free time, not in reading newspapers —"the Devil’s gospel" —but in reading books of doctrine, history and spirituality. Despite this, he would still say: "One looks for God in books, but finds Him in prayer."
His counsels for mental prayer are simple:
The same holds for assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: it is more concerned with making acts (of contrition, faith, love...) than with intellectual reflections or considerations. To someone asking whether it is necessary to follow the Mass in a missal, Padre Pio answered that only the priest needs a missal. According to him, the best way to attend the holy sacrifice is by uniting oneself to the Virgin of Sorrows at the foot of the cross, in compassion and love. It is only in paradise, he assures his interlocutor, that we will learn of all the benefits that we received by assisting at holy Mass.
Padre Pio, who was so affable and pleasant in his relations with people, could become severe and inflexible when the honor of God was at stake, especially in church.
Not even an inattentive choirboy would be spared: "My child, if you want to go to hell, you don’t need my signature."
The post-war fashions fell under the same censure:
One day his spiritual director reproached him for his harsh conduct. He replied: "I could obey you, but each time it is Jesus who tells me how I am to deal with people." His severe manner, then, was inspired from above, uniquely for the honor of God and the salvation of souls.
And let no one reproach him for lack of charity: "I beg you not to criticize me by invoking charity, because the greatest charity is to deliver souls held fast by Satan in order to win them over to Christ."
Padre Pio and the Novus Ordo Missae
The same year, during the conciliar euphoria that was promising a new springtime to the Church, he confided to one of his spiritual sons: "In this time of darkness, let us pray. Let us do penance for the elect"; and especially for the one who has to be their shepherd here below: All his life, he immolated himself for the reigning pope, whose photograph was among the rare images that decorated his cell.
Renewal of Religious Life?
There are other scenes from his life that are full of meaning, for example, his reactions to the aggiornamento the religious orders concocted in the wake of Vatican II. (The citations here are taken from a book bearing an imprimatur):
A year later, the same scene was repeated for the aggiornamento of the Capuchins:
One day, some confreres were discussing with the Father Definiteur General [The counselor or adviser to the general or provincial of a religious order —Ed.] the problems in the Order, when Padre Pio, taking a shocked attitude, cried out, with a distant look in his eye: "What in the world are you up to in Rome? What are you scheming? You even want to change the Rule of St. Francis!" The Definiteur replied: "Padre, changes are being proposed because the youth don’t want to have anything to do with the tonsure, the habit, bare feet...."
If we consider that Padre Pio was a veritable alter Christus, that his entire person, body and soul, was as perfectly conformed as possible to that of Jesus Christ, his stark refusal to accept the Novus Ordo and the aggiornamento should be for us a lesson to learn. It is also noteworthy that the good Lord desired to recall His faithful servant just before they were implacably imposed on the Church and the Capuchin Order. Noteworthy, too, is the fact that Katarina Tangari, one of Padre Pio’s most privileged spiritual daughters, so admirably supported the priests [of the SSPX] of Ecône until her death, one year after the episcopal consecrations of 1988.
Final Lesson: Fatima
Padre Pio was even less obliging towards the prevailing social and political order, or rather, disorder (in 1966): "the confusion of ideas and the reign of thieves." He prophesied that the Communists would come to power, "by surprise, without firing a shot... It will happen overnight."
This should not surprise us, since the requests of our Lady of Fatima have not been listened to. He even told Bishop Piccinelli, that the red flag will fly over the Vatican, "but that will pass." Here again, his conclusion rejoins that of the Queen of Prophets: "But in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph." The means by which this prophesy will come to pass, we know: by the divine power; but it must be prompted by the two great powers in man’s hands: prayer and penance. This is the lesson which our Lady wanted to remind us of at the beginning of this century: God wants to save the world by devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and there is no problem, material or spiritual, national or international, that cannot be solved by the holy rosary and our sacrifices.
This is also the last lesson that Padre Pio wanted to leave us by his example, and especially by his "prayer groups," which he established throughout the world. "He was never without a rosary, there was even one under his pillow. During the day he recited several dozens of rosaries." A few hours before he died, as those around him urged him to speak a few more words, all he could say was: "Love the Blessed Virgin and make her loved. Always say the rosary!"
The imminent elevation of Venerable Padre Pio is certainly going to arouse in many souls both curiosity and admiration. We could take advantage of the opportunity to remind them of these few lessons, if indeed we know how to put them into practice ourselves, in the merciful love of the Most Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary.