The Saints are the masterpieces of God’s grace. Many Saints are hidden from view and remain unknown, but some saints are placed in the world to capture the attention of a society that has forgotten about God.
Padre Pio, like Mother Teresa, like St. Francis allows people to glimpse the beauty of holiness, which is a reflection of God’s beauty. People look for happiness in passing beauty, in wealth, in power and in pleasure and are always disappointed. The Saints give us hope in the possibility of happiness, the power of love, the eternal beauty of God. I am struck by how quickly the chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the devotion to Padre Pio have spread all over the world. There is such a hunger for God’s mercy in this broken world. Padre Pio, our Saint, is a Saint of God’s mercy in the confessional. We are told that Padre Pio heard over 1,200,000 confessions, including the confession of the young Father Karol Woytyla. How powerful a spiritual experience to say in Christ’s name “I absolve you of your sins” and to raise a wounded hand to bless and console the sinner. Padre Pio’s whole life announces to the world that God loves sinners and rejoices over the one lost sheep that is found.
Padre Pio was the great physician of peoples’ souls, like the Cure of Ars, St. Leopold and other great confessors of the Church. He was a living witness of God’s unfailing mercy, of the power the Risen Lord gave to His Church when on Easter Sunday He breathed on His Apostles and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them.”
No cures are as dramatic as the ones Padre Pio performed in the sacristy and confessional in the sacrament of God’s mercy. How much hope, how much grace, how much joy filled the hearts of those thousands of penitents, cured of the snake bite of sin like the Israelites in the desert who gazed on the bronze serpent Moses raised up. Padre Pio helped people to look at the crucified Christ with faith and love and experience the healing power of the cross.
St. Pio’s compassion for sinners finds another expression in compassion for the sick and suffering. The Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza is a monument to Padre Pio’s concern for the sick and suffering. He reminds us how one of the signs of the Kingdom of God is that the blind, sick, captives are cared for and the poor have the Good News preached to them. The sick and the sinners who are the protagonists of the Gospel, and the special objects of Jesus’ pastoral love are the reason for this shrine. The ministry of Padre Pio is to manifest God’s unfailing love and mercy for His People, especially for the little ones, the sick and suffering and for poor sinners.
Padre Pio was a man of prayer, a teacher of prayer and a witness of prayer. The three thousand prayer groups throughout the world show us how his prayer life has been an inspiration for so many. If today we could ask for one grace from this pilgrimage let it be the grace of prayer in our lives.
The Saint’s Mass was witnessed by over ten million people who came to assist at the Eucharist celebrated by this holy priest. One of my favorite quotes of Padre Pio is what he tells us about the Mass: “Every holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we ourselves do not know…It is easier for the earth to exist without sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
St. Gregory the Great says: “The present life is but a road by which we advance to our homeland. Because of this, by a secret judgment we are subjected to frequent disturbance so that we do not have more love for the journey than for the destination. The suffering St. Pio experienced in his ill health, in the persecution by the very Church he loved, the trials and set backs in establishing the hospital, the pain of the stigmata — all kept before his eyes the pilgrim nature of his vocation. What allowed St. Pio to persevere was the intense prayer life that he lived faithfully. He prayed more in a week than most people pray in a year. The test of authentic prayer is growth in goodness, growth in humanity, greater serenity in living and in facing hardship. Above all genuine contact with God effects a real displacement of self as the center of our existence.
Prayer is not withdrawing from the rest of humanity. It is more like a wedding feast to which we welcome all who cross our path. A strange thing takes place in prayer. There is a mysterious coupling of our own life with the lives of others – an embrace that includes the whole of humanity. At first prayer stems from a sense of personal neediness. Prayer progressively becomes less a self-centered plea for personal deliverance than a universal cry for help and for the coming of God’s kingdom.
Prayer and suffering transformed the life of Padre Pio and made him a living icon of God’s unfailing mercy and love. Too often we try to follow Jesus at a safe distance, like Peter after he fled from Gethsemani. Padre Pio’s life and teaching encourages us to climb Calvary to join Jesus in the moments of greatest pain and greatest love.
For Padre Pio, as for St. Francis, the cross was his book, the book where he read the greatest love story in history. Padre Pio lived his life planted at the foot of the cross in the company of Mary. Mary full of grace, the costly grace of discipleship, the grace that allowed Mary to renew her fiat, her yes to the Lord even in the face of the cross. There by the cross is our Mother, Our Lady of Grace.
Here we have a host of witnesses. We stand before the beloved Cross of Our Blessed Savior, we stand with Our Mother, Our Lady of Grace, and Padre Pio. We are not alone. Share with your families and neighbors the message of our beloved Padre Pio: Prayer, Charity and the Joy of Forgiveness