On the 25th of May 1887 Padre Pio was born. In my parish, at the Holy Trinity church in Marsa, Malta, a solemn mass was celebrated to commemorate this great event.
If every person is a gift to the world, we can certainly say that of Padre Pio, whose spiritual legacy thrives on and on. Countless is the number of people who have been converted to God thanks to his powerful intercession. Padre Pio is a great vocational promoter too. Personally speaking I know my Franciscan Capuchin vocation thanks to the experience I had on 23 September 1993, the twenty-fifth anniversary from his entrance into Heaven.
Padre Pio is like a gem which, as time passes, one starts to appreciate it more and more. Pope Francis shared two interesting reflections on Padre Pio. The first one is directly related to the Jubilee Year of Mercy of 2016, when the Holy Father presented the Capuchin of the stigmata as being an eloquent example of a good confessor. Let us also remember that on that occasion, together with Padre Pio’s remains, there were also those of St Leopold Mandić which were brought to St Peter’s Basilica for veneration. On that occasion Pope Francis not only took the opportunity to go and pray before them, as an incalculable number of people certainly did. He said to my Capuchin brethren priests during the Mass he celebrated in the Basilica:
Either you perform the office of Jesus, who forgives, giving His [whole] life in prayer, so many hours there [in the confessional], seated as were those two [St Padre Pio and Leopold] there or you perform the office of the devil who condemns, who accuses.
In 2018, two years after this Mercy Jubilee, Pope Francis spoke about Padre Pio again. This time the occasion was to commemorate the 50 years since the holy Capuchin’s death as well as the first centenary when he received his stigmata. For the occasion Pope Francis went down from Rome to the two southern Italian cities of Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio lived. In his homily during the Eucharistic concelebration at the Square of the Church “San Pio da Pietrelcina” (San Giovanni Rotondo), on Saturday 17 March 2018, the Holy Father said:
Prayer is an act of love, of staying with God and laying the life of the world before him: it is an indispensable work of spiritual mercy. Thus, if we do not entrust our brothers and sisters, situations, to the Lord, who will? Who will intercede, who will take care to knock on God’s heart to open the door of mercy to humanity in need? For this, Padre Pio left us prayer groups. He said to them, “It is prayer, the united force of all good souls, that moves the world, that renews consciences … that heals the sick, that sanctifies work, that elevates healthcare, that gives moral strength … that spreads God’s smile and blessing on every languor and weakness (Words to the Second International Congress of Prayer Groups, 5 May 1966). Let us safeguard these words, and ask ourselves again: do I pray? And when I pray, do I know how to praise, do I know how to worship, do I know how to take my life, and that of all people, to God?
In that beautiful homily, Pope Francis spoke about Padre Pio’s wisdom. He said: In the first Reading God says: “Let not a wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might” (Jer 9:23). True wisdom does not lie in having great qualities, nor does true strength lie in power. Those who show themselves to be strong are not wise and those who respond to evil with evil are not strong. The only wise and invincible weapon is charity inspired by faith, because it has the power to disarm the forces of evil. Saint Pio fought evil throughout his life and fought it wisely, like the Lord: with humility, with obedience, with the Cross, offering up suffering for love. And everyone admired him; but few do the same. Many speak well, but how many follow his example? Many are willing to put a “like” on the page of the great saints, but who acts like them? Because the Christian life is not a “like”; it is “my offering”. Life is scented when it is offered as a gift; it is tasteless when it is kept to oneself.
Let us now taste Padre Pio’s scented life by appreciating the following few wise observations he gave for you and me as God’s gratuitous gift of love.
“Jesus is with you even when you don’t feel His presence. He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles. He is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight your battle courageously. He is there to ward off the enemy’s blows so that you may not be hurt.” (8/15/1914).
“The storms that are raging around you will turn out to be for God’s glory, your own merit, and the good of many souls” (6/15/1914).
“Every sacrifice which your soul makes, every good it does is directed to God for the sanctification of all” (4/2/1917).
“Don’t be daunted by the cross. The surest test of love consists in suffering for the loved one, and if God suffered so much for love, the pain we suffer for Him becomes as lovable as love itself” (7/14/1914).
“True and substantial devotion consists in serving God without experiencing any sensible consolation. This means serving and loving God for His own sake” (7/14/1914).
“The greater your sufferings, the greater God’s love for you” (9/19/1914).
“He wants you entirely for Himself, He wants you to place all your trust and all your affection in Him alone and it is precisely for this reason that He send you this spiritual aridity, to unite you more closely to Him” (7/14/1914).
“We have close to us an angelic spirit who never leaves us for an instant from the cradle to the grave, who guides and protects us like a friend or a brother” (4/20/1915).
“You must have boundless faith in the divine goodness, for the victory is absolutely certain” (5/25/1914).
“You complain because the same trials are constantly returning. But look here, what have you to fear? Are you afraid of the divine craftsman who wants to perfect His masterpiece in this way? Would you like to come from the hands of such a magnificent Artist as a mere sketch and no more?” (1/1/1921).
“When we suffer, Jesus is closer to us” (4/2/1912).
“You say you are anxious about the future, but don’t you know that the Lord is with you always and that our enemy has no power over one who has resolved to belong entirely to Jesus?” (3/29/1914).
“I recommend calm and calm all the time” (2/3/1922).
“How unbearable is pain when suffered far from the Cross, but how sweet and bearable it becomes when it is offered close to the Cross of Jesus!” (5/20/1915).
“If we earnestly endeavor to love Jesus, this alone will drive all fear from our hearts and soul will find that instead of walking in the Lord’s paths, it is flying” (8/17/1913).
St Pio, happy birthday! Pray for us!