Lessons from a Holy Man What Today's Catholics Can Learn from Padre PioCHARLES M. MANGAN
What is there to glean from the life of Padre Pio? Plenty! His enthusiasm for Jesus Christ and His Church is contagious.
Padre Pio, the Franciscan priest who bore the wounds of Jesus Christ in an extraordinary way, died 30 years ago this autumn. In these past three decades, millions of persons throughout the world have invoked the intercession of this humble Italian friar and pondered his virtuous life, seeking to imitate his profound commitment to God.
The anecdotes and stories about Padre Pio are many and diverse, but certain elements appear repeatedly in the scores of sketches that describe the person and message of the holy man from San Giovanni Rotundo. Even before his death in 1968, Padre Pio had been proposed as a model of sanctity. Pope John Paul II, who met the famous stigmatist, has extolled his continual attention to the Almighty and His will.
As we prepare to enter the third Christian millennium, what can we learn from Padre Pio?
1. Prayer is essential for every Christian. Padre Pio not only practiced intense communication with the Lord Himself but he also exhorted his listeners to do the same. He acknowledged that prayer is indispensable for anyone who is serious about following Christ. The spiritual life devoid of prayer is a sham — it isn’t the spiritual life. Padre Pio spent long hours in private prayer. He saw his priestly duty to pray not as a burden to be tolerated but as a means to grow closer to His Master. This gentle but firm spiritual giant never tired of encouraging others to set aside time for frequent, sincere communion with the Creator. Prayer is not solely the domain of priests; it is for all.
2. The Holy Eucharist is the treasure left behind by Christ Himself; the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is necessary for authentic development in holiness. Much of Padre Pio’s prayer time was spent in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. In concert with the long tradition of the Church, he recognized the supreme value of being before the tabernacle and pouring out one’s heart in prayer. Padre Pio was clear with those who approached him for counsel: There is no prayer that surpasses in efficacy the Holy Mass. “The world would be better off without the sun than without the Holy Mass,” he would say. The re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary is the greatest and most sublime activity with which any Catholic may be involved. The Mass and the Holy Eucharist are the vehicles by which the disciple of Jesus, properly disposed, will infallibly progress in the likeness of the Savior.
3. The Sacrament of Penance can’t be overestimated in its power to transform. Padre Pio was painfully aware that intense blindness plagued the consciences of countless persons. He was also aware that the Sacrament of Penance was shunned by some as “obsolete.” By his thousands of hours in the confessional as both confessor and penitent, Padre Pio taught the value of regular Confession. To ignore Confession is to neglect the primary instrument by which a Christian who falls into sin is reconciled to God. Padre Pio unhesitatingly proclaimed the importance of frequent Confession.
4. The ever-virgin Mother of God loves her children and helps achieve their real conformity to the Risen Lord. This son of St. Francis of Assisi was strongly devoted to Our Blessed Mother. He daily prayed multiple Rosaries and urged his steady stream of visitors to have recourse to the Madonna. She is, after all, the most perfect pattern of the Messiah. Padre Pio entrusted the sick in body, mind, and spirit to the care of Blessed Mary.
5. Mortification is the friend of the disciple of Jesus. Although our modern age has little affection for self-denial, it still is applicable for all Christians. Padre Pio’s personal penances were arduous and even heroic. He took some upon himself (“voluntary mortifications”), while others he cheerfully accepted from the merciful hand of God (“involuntary mortifications”). In each case, he yielded to the divine summons to carry his cross as Jesus did. His advice to those who consulted him included the appeal to perform self-denial not in the spirit of seeing how much one can endure, but in pursuit of true holiness after the example of the Redeemer.
6. Loyalty to the Vicar of Christ and the Church are crucial. Padre Pio submitted himself wholeheartedly to the judgment of the Church. When he was informed that he was the subject of an investigation by Church authorities, he responded with no pouting, no press conferences, no volumes replete with fancy rejoinders to the Magisterium. In a word, he silently obeyed. Later, when vindicated of all charges, Padre Pio didn’t gloat but meekly received the news of the outcome. He professed allegiance to the Holy Father and his religious superiors — and lived it. His fidelity to the Holy See provides a needed example to those who are tempted to rebel against the Church.
7. A certain gravity in attending to one’s responsibilities in the spiritual life needn’t cancel out the requisite joy of being a Christian. Padre Pio is recalled as being rather stern. His was a “no nonsense” approach to the Gospel. He wasn’t beyond rebuking those who were deceptive and feigned piety. Yet, those who knew him best attest to his utter joy in serving Christ. Padre Pio was living proof that a serious effort to imitate Jesus isn’t meant to be an exercise in sourness. Gravity and joy aren’t mutually exclusive.
What is there to glean from the life of Padre Pio? Plenty! His enthusiasm for Jesus Christ and His Church is contagious. His love of his “Mother in the order of grace” and his fervent desire for prayer and penance are edifying. His frequent recourse to the sacraments and his unwavering allegiance to the Successor of St. Peter are inspiring. His spiritual sobriety and delight are moving. Padre Pio is unquestionably an esteemed guide on our pilgrimage to Paradise.
Saunders, Rev. William. "Lessons from a Holy Man What Today's Catholics Can Learn from Padre Pio ." Arlington Catholic Herald.
This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.
Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.
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