September 23, 2005
St. Padre Pio da Pietrelcina
In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity."Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease.
Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income.
At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic.
On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side.
Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924.
Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned.
Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds.
A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters.
One of Padre Pios sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.
Some quotes from Padre Pio, also one of my favorites:
In all the events of life, you must recognize the divine will. Adore and bless it, especially in the things which are the hardest for you.
In my greatest sufferings, it seems to me that I no longer have a mother on this earth, but a very compassionate one in Heaven.
Remember that God is within us when we are in a state of grace and outside of us when we are in a state of sin; but His angel never abandons us. . . He is our most sincere and faithful friend even when we sadden him with our bad behavior.
Prayer is the best weapon we possess. It is the key that opens the heart of God.
You must always humble yourself lovingly before God and before men, because God speaks only to those who are truly humble and He enriches them with His gifts.
Humility and purity are the wings which carry us to God and make us almost divine.
Hold on tightly to the Rosary. Be very grateful to the Madonna because it was she who gave us Jesus.
Love our Lady and make her loved; always recite the Rosary and recite it as often as possible.
Imagine Jesus crucified in your arms and on your chest, and say a hundred times as you kiss His chest, "This is my hope, the living source of my happiness; this is the heart of my soul; nothing will ever separate me from His love." . . . Say to Him often, "What can I have on earth, or what can I hope to have in Heaven, if not You, oh my Jesus? You are the God of my heart and the inheritance that I desire eternally."
Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is I want it to be a place of consolation for You, a nest of love.
Love Jesus, love Him very much, but to do this, be ready to love sacrifice more.
Our Lord sends the crosses; we do not have to invent them.
Charity is the measure by which Our Lord judges all things.
Don't allow any sadness to dwell in your soul, for sadness prevents the Holy Spirit from acting freely.
Our present life is given only to gain the eternal one and if we don't think about it, we build our affections on what belongs to this world, where our life is transitory. When we have to leave it we are afraid and become agitated. Believe me, to live happily in this pilgrimage, we have to aim at the hope of arriving at our Homeland, where we will stay eternally. Meanwhile we have to believe firmly that God calls us to Himself and follows us along the path towards Him. He will never permit anything to happen to us that is not for our greater good. He knows who we are and He will hold out His paternal hand to us during difficulties, so that nothing prevents us from running to Him swiftly. But to enjoy this grace we must have complete trust in Him.
The more you are afflicted, the more you ought to rejoice, because in the fire of tribulation the soul will become pure gold, worthy to be placed and to shine in the heavenly palace.
In the spiritual life you must take one step forward each day in a vertical line, from the bottom up.
Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother.
Our Lord sometimes makes you feel the weight of the cross. This weight seems unbearable but you carry it because in His love and mercy, the Lord helps you and gives you strength.
You must not be discouraged or let yourself become dejected if your actions have not succeeded as perfectly as you intended. What do you expect? We are made of clay and not every soil yields the fruits expected by the one who tills it. But let us always humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are nothing if we lack the Divine assistance.
When Jesus wants to make me happy, He fills my heart with that spirit which is all fire, and speaks to me about His delights; but when He wants to be consoled, He speaks to me about His pains, and invites me in a manner that is both a request and a command, to offer my body to alleviate His sufferings.
I have worked and I want to work. I have prayed and I want to pray. I have been attentive and I want to be attentive. I have cried and I want to cry - always for all of my brothers who are in exile. I know and understand that this is very little but this is what I know how to do; this is what I am able to do; and this is all that I can do.
Keep your eyes fixed on Him who is your guide to the heavenly country, where He is leading you. What does it matter to you whether Jesus wishes to guide you to Heaven by way of the desert or by the meadow, so long as He is always with you and you arrive at the possession of a blessed eternity?