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Vultus Christi -- Holy Father's Homily

Saint Pio: Model of Priestly Holiness

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 San Pio Offertorio.jpg

Like all great men of God, Padre Pio had himself become prayer, soul and body. His days were a living rosary, that is, a continuous meditation and assimilation of the mysteries of Christ in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary. This explains the unusual presence within him of supernatural gifts and of human existence. And everything had its climax in the celebration of Holy Mass: there he joined himself fully to the crucified and risen Lord. From prayer, as from an ever-living source, love flowed. The love that he bore in his heart and transmitted to others was full of tenderness, always attentive to the real situations of individuals and families. Especially towards the sick and suffering, he cultivated the predilection of the Heart of Christ, and precisely from this origin the form of a great work dedicated to the "relief of suffering" took shape. One cannot understand or properly interpret this institution divorced from its inspirational source, which is evangelical charity, which in turn, is inspired by prayer.

Here is the Holy Father's homily at San Giovanni Rotondo on this first Sunday of the Anno Sacerdotale:

Dear brothers and sisters!

The Eucharist Was the Center of His Whole Existence

In the heart of my pilgrimage to this place, where everything speaks of the life and the holiness of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, I have the joy of celebrating for you and with you the Eucharist, the mystery that was the center of his whole existence: the origin of his vocation, the strength of his testimony, the consecration of his sacrifice. With great affection I greet all of you, those who have gathered here in such numbers, and those connected with us through radio and television. I greet, first of all, Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio, who, after years of faithful service to the diocesan community, is preparing to take on the care of the Archdiocese of Lecce. I thank him warmly also because he has made himself the spokesman of your affections. I greet the other bishop concelebrants. A special greeting goes to the Capuchin friars with the minister general, Fra Mauro Jöhri, the definitor general, the provincial minister, the father guardian of the convent, the rector of the shrine and the Capuchin fraternity of San Giovanni Rotondo. I also greet with great gratitude those who give their contribution in the service of the sanctuary and adjoining works; I greet the civil and military authorities; I greet the priests, deacons, male and female religious and all the faithful. I dedicate an affectionate thought to those in the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, to the lonely and to all the inhabitants of your city.

In the Face of Chaos and Destruction

We have just heard the Gospel of the calmed storm, which was preceded by a short but incisive text of the Book of Job, where God reveals himself as the Lord of the sea. Jesus threatened the wind and ordered the sea to calm itself; he addresses it as if it was identified with the diabolical power. Indeed, according to what we hear from the first reading and Psalm 106/107, the sea in the Bible is regarded as a threatening, chaotic, and potentially destructive element, that only God, the Creator, can dominate, govern and silence.

The Love of Christ that Moves the World

But there is another force -- a positive force -- that moves the world, able to transform and renew creation: the strength of the "love of Christ," ἀά ῦ ῦ (2 Cor 5:14 ) -- as St. Paul calls it in the Second Letter to the Corinthians -- not essentially a cosmic force, but divine, transcendent. It acts on the universe but also, in itself, the love of Christ is a power that is "other," and this, his transcendent otherness, the Lord has manifested in his Passover, the "sanctity" of the "way" chosen by him to liberate us from the domination of evil, as was done by the exodus from Egypt, when he brought the Jews out through the waters of the Red Sea. "O God -- says the Psalmist -- holy is your way ... On the sea your way, / your paths over the great waters" (Psalms 77/76, 14:20). In the paschal mystery, Jesus has passed through the abyss of death, since God so willed to renew the world: through the death and resurrection of his Son "slain for all," so that all may live for him who has died and risen for them" (2 Cor 5, 16).

Trusting Abandonment to the Father

The solemn gesture of calming the stormy sea is clearly a sign of the lordship of Christ over the negative powers and leads us to think of his divinity: "Who is this -- the disciples ask stupefied and terrified -- that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mk 4:41). Theirs is not yet a strong faith; it is taking shape; it is a mixture of fear and trust; Jesus' trusting abandonment to the Father is, on the contrary, total and pure. Because of this he sleeps during the storm, completely safe in the arms of God. But a time will come when even Jesus will taste anxiety and fear: When his hour comes, he will feel upon himself the entire burden of the sins of humanity, like a gigantic wave that is about to crash down upon him. That will truly be a terrible storm, not cosmic, but spiritual. It will be the last, extreme assault of evil against the Son of God.

The Son of God as One Abandoned

But in that hour Jesus did not doubt the power and presence of God the Father, even if he had to experience the full distance of hatred from love, of lies from truth, of sin from grace. He experienced this tragedy in himself in a lacerating way, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane, before the arrest, and then during the entire Passion, until his death on the cross. In that hour, Jesus was, on the one hand, one with the Father, fully abandoned to him, and on the other, in as much as he was in solidarity with sinners, he was as one separated from him and felt abandoned by him.

God Never Annuls That Which Is Human

Some saints have lived intensely and personally this experience of Jesus. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is one of them. A simple man of humble origins, "seized by Christ" (Phil. 3:12) -- as the Apostle Paul writes of himself -- to make of him an instrument chosen by the perennial power of his cross: power of love for souls, of forgiveness and of reconciliation, of spiritual paternity, of effective solidarity with those who suffer. The stigmata, which marked his body, united him closely to the Crucified and Risen One. A true follower of St. Francis of Assisi, he made his own, like the Poverello, the experience of the Apostle Paul which he describes in his letters: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20), or: "in us death is at work, but in you life" (2 Cor 5, 12). This does not mean alienation, loss of personality: God never annuls that which is human, but he transforms it with his Spirit and he ordains it to the service of his plan of salvation. Padre Pio kept his natural gifts, and even his own temperament, but he offered everything to God, who has been able to freely use them to extend the work of Christ: to proclaim the Gospel, forgive sins and heal the sick in body and spirit.

Prayer and Suffering

As it was for Jesus, the real struggle, the radical combat Padre Pio had to sustain, was not against earthly enemies, but against the spirit of evil (cf. Ephesians 6, 12). The biggest "storms" that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, against which he defended himself with "the armor of God" with "the shield of faith" and "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:11,16,17). Remaining united to Jesus, he always kept in mind the depths of the human drama, and because of this he offered himself and offered his many sufferings, and he knew how to spend himself in the care and relief of the sick, a privileged sign of God's mercy, of his kingdom which is coming, indeed, which is already in the world, of the victory of love and life over sin and death. Guide souls and relieve suffering: thus we can sum up the mission of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, as the servant of God, Pope Paul VI said about him: "He was a man of prayer and suffering" (To the Capuchin Chapter Fathers, 20 February 1971).

That People Would Return to God

Dear friends, Capuchin Friars Minor, members of prayer groups and all the faithful of San Giovanni Rotondo, you are the heirs of Padre Pio, and the inheritance that he left for you is holiness. In one of his letters he writes: "It seems that Jesus has no need for your hands other than to sanctify your soul" (Epist. II, p. 155). That was always his first concern, his priestly and fatherly concern: that people return to God, that they would experience his mercy, and, inwardly renewed, that they would rediscover the beauty and joy of being a Christian, of living in communion with Jesus, of belonging to his Church and of practicing the Gospel. Padre Pio attracted others to the path of holiness by his own testimony, showing by example the "track" that leads to it: prayer and charity.

His Days A Living Rosary

First of all prayer. Like all great men of God, Padre Pio had himself become prayer, soul and body. His days were a living rosary, that is, a continuous meditation and assimilation of the mysteries of Christ in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary. This explains the unusual presence within him of supernatural gifts and of human existence. And everything had its climax in the celebration of Holy Mass: there he joined himself fully to the crucified and risen Lord. From prayer, as from an ever-living source, love flowed. The love that he bore in his heart and transmitted to others was full of tenderness, always attentive to the real situations of individuals and families. Especially towards the sick and suffering, he cultivated the predilection of the Heart of Christ, and precisely from this origin the form of a great work dedicated to the "relief of suffering" took shape. One cannot understand or properly interpret this institution divorced from its inspirational source, which is evangelical charity, which in turn, is inspired by prayer.

Live in Serenity and Cultivate Joy

All this, my beloved brothers and sisters, Padre Pio today puts before our eyes. The risks of activism and secularization are always present; because of this my visit has also the purpose of confirming you in your fidelity to the mission you inherited from your beloved father. Many of you, men and women religious and laity, are so taken by the complex duties required by the service to pilgrims, or to the sick in the hospital, that you run the risk of neglecting that which is truly needed: to listen to Christ to do the will of God. When you see that you are close to running this risk, look to Padre Pio: to his example, to his sufferings; and invoke his intercession, so that he obtain from the Lord the light and strength that you need to continue his mission permeated with love for God and fraternal love. And from heaven may he continue to pursue the exquisite spiritual fatherhood that has distinguished his earthly existence; may he continue to accompany his confreres, his spiritual children and the entire work that he has begun. Along with St. Francis, and the Blessed Virgin, who he loved so much and made others love in this world, may he watch over you all and protect you always. And then, even in the storms that can suddenly rise up, you can experience the breath of the Holy Spirit that is stronger than any contrary wind and which pushes the boat of the Church and each of us. That is why we must always live in serenity and cultivate joy in our hearts, giving thanks to the Lord. "His love is forever" (Psalm Resp.). Amen!


2 posted on 06/22/2009 4:54:47 PM PDT by Salvation (With God all things are possible.)
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To: All
Vultus Christi -- At the end of the Pope's pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo

Messa San Pio.jpg

It is extremely noteworthy and significant that the Holy Father chose to spend the first Sunday of The Year of the Priest in pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo. Saint Pio may well be the best known priest of modern times. In many ways, his priestly ministry resembles that of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. We have entered into an "acceptable year of the Lord" (Is 61:2), a time for contemplating the living icons of priestly holiness set before us by the Church, and for seeking their intercession for all priests. In the text below emphases in boldface are my own.

Discourse of the Holy Father at the Church of Saint Pio


Dear men and women religious,
Dear young people,

With this our encounter my pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo comes to a close. I am grateful to the Archbishop of Lecce, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio, and to Father Mauro Jöhri, secretary general of the Capuchin Friars Minor, for the words of cordial welcome that they have given me on your behalf. My greeting is now turned to you, dear priests, who are daily engaged in the service of God's people as wise guides and diligent workers in the vineyard of the Lord. I greet with affection the dear consecrated persons, called to offer the testimony of a total dedication to Christ through the faithful practice of the evangelical counsels. A special thought for you, dear Capuchin Friars, who lovingly care for this oasis of spirituality and evangelical solidarity, welcoming pilgrims and devotees gathered by the living memory of your holy confrere, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Thank you very much for this valuable service you render to the Church and to souls who here rediscover the beauty of faith and the warmth of divine tenderness. I greet you, dear young people, to whom the Pope looks with confidence as to the future of the Church and society. Here in San Giovanni Rotondo, everything speaks of the sanctity of a humble friar and a zealous priest, who this evening, also invites us to open our hearts to the mercy of God; he exhorts us to be holy, that is, sincere and true friends of Jesus.

Dear priests, just the other day, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day of priestly holiness, we began the Priestly Year, during which we will recall with reverence and affection the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the holy Curé d'Ars. In the letter I wrote for the occasion, I wanted to stress the importance of the sanctity of priests for the life and mission of the Church. Like the Curé d'Ars, Padre Pio also reminds us of the dignity and responsibility of the priestly ministry. Who was not impressed by the fervor with which he re-lived the Passion of Christ in every celebration of the Eucharist? From his love for the Eucharist there arose in him as the Curé d'Ars a total willingness to welcome the faithful, especially sinners. Also, if St. John Mary Vianney, in a troubled and difficult time, tried in every way, to help his parishioners rediscover the meaning and the beauty of sacramental penance, for the holy friar of the Gargano, the care of souls and the conversion of sinners were a desire that consumed him until death. How many people have changed their lives thanks to his patient priestly ministry, so many long hours in the confessional! Like the Curé d'Ars, it is his ministry as a confessor that constitutes the greatest title of glory and the distinctive feature of this holy Capuchin. How could we not realize then the importance of participating in the celebration of the Eucharist devoutly and frequently receiving the sacrament of confession? In particular, the sacrament of penance must be even more valued, and priests should never resign themselves to seeing their confessional deserted or to merely recognizing the diffidence of the faithful for this extraordinary source of serenity and peace.

There is another great lesson that we can learn from the life of Padre Pio: the value and necessity of prayer. To whomever that would ask him about himself, he used to reply: "I am nothing but a poor friar who prays." And he really did pray always and everywhere with humility, confidence and perseverance. Here is a key point not only for the spirituality of the priest, but also that of every Christian, and even more for you, dear men and women religious, chosen to follow Christ more closely through the practice of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Sometimes one can become taken by a certain discouragement before the weakening and even the abandonment of faith that exists in our societies. Surely we must find new channels to communicate the message of the Gospel to the men and women of our time, but since the essence of the Christian message is always the same, it is necessary to return to its original source, to Jesus Christ who is "the same yesterday and today and forever "(Hebrews 13:8). The human and spiritual life of Padre Pio teaches that only a soul intimately united to the Crucified will be able to transmit even to those who are far away the joy and richness of the Gospel.

Love for Christ is inevitably linked to love for his Church, guided and animated by the power of the Holy Spirit, in which each of us has a role and a mission to accomplish. Dear priests, dear men and women religious, different are the tasks which are entrusted to you and the charisms of which are you are interpreters, but may the spirit with which implement them be always one, so that your presence and your work within the Christian people, become an eloquent witness to the primacy of God in your life. Was not this what everyone perceived in St. Pio of Pietrelcina?

Permit me to speak a special word to the young people, which I see are so many and so enthusiastic. Dear friends, thank you for your warm welcome and for the heartfelt sentiments your representative has expressed. I noticed that the pastoral plan of your diocese, for the years 2007-2010, devotes much attention to the mission regarding youth and family and I am sure that from this attitude of listening, encounter, dialogue and verification in which you are committed, there will result an ever better care of families and a timely hearing of the actual expectations of the younger generation. I have present in mind the problems facing you, dear young men and women, and which threaten to stifle the enthusiasms typical of your youth. Among these, in particular, I mention the phenomenon of unemployment, which affects so many tragic young men and women from Southern Italy. Do not lose heart! Be "young people of great heart," as it has been repeated often this year since the Diocesan Youth Mission, animated and guided by the Regional Seminary of Molfetta last September. The Church does not abandon you. Do not abandon the Church!

Your input is necessary in order to build living Christian communities, and societies that are more just and open to hope. And if you want to have "great hearts," seek the school of Jesus. Just the other day we contemplated his heart, great and full of love for humanity. He will never abandon or betray your trust, he will never lead down mistaken paths. Just like Padre Pio, be faithful friends of the Lord Jesus, cultivating a daily relationship through prayer and through listening to his word, the diligent practice of the sacraments and the cordial membership in his family, which is the Church. This must be the basis of the program of life of each of you, dear young people, as well as you, dear priests and of you, dear men and women religious. To each and every one of you I assure my prayers and implore the maternal protection of Holy Mary of Grace, who watches over you from her shrine in which crypt lie the remains of Padre Pio. I thank you very much, yet again, for your welcome and I bless you all, together with your families, communities, parishes and your entire diocese.

(Translation by Zenit)


3 posted on 06/22/2009 4:57:01 PM PDT by Salvation (With God all things are possible.)
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