Today is the 45th anniversary of the death of Padre Pio. While the Catholic media is persnickety about calling him Saint Pio, skipping the bit about him being a Father, the sensus fildelium gets it right, continuing to call him Padre Pio, Father Pio, or even, just to aggravate the situation, Saint Padre Pio. Hah!
People wonder what the secret of his sanctity was. His stigmata? His knowledge of souls? His visions of Jesus and Mary and the saints? No, none of this. To hell with novelty.
As with all saints, the “secret” of Padre Pio’s sanctity was the sanctifying grace provided to him in all friendship by Mary Immaculate’s Son, Jesus. End of story.
Pretty boring, huh? Not at all. All those who know something of sanctifying grace, in trying to keep up with the sacraments, know something about the love our Lord has for us, providing us with our faith, our hope, and the charity into which our Lord draws our lives. Enthralling.
Of course, all saints manifest a particular aspect of God’s love for us. Padre Pio’s “specialty”, if you will, was to show us what it means to be a priest, just your run-of-the-mill priest. The mill, mind you, which grinds the “wheat”, is the passion and death of our Lord, His resurrection, His Sacred Heart having priestly hearts be like unto His own.
- The more Padre Pio was acutely aware of the stigmata of Christ Jesus Himself, the more he knew that such are imprinted upon the souls of all priests. If we were to see the eternally imprinted character of the Sacrament of Orders upon the soul of a priest, I think we should see the stigmata of our Lord. All priests are to carry about the death of Christ so as to manifest His resurrection.
- The more Padre Pio heard confessions, hours and hours and hours on end, the more he is an example to all priests of what they are to do in their priestly ministry.
- The more Padre Padre Pio knew things about the souls into which he came in contact, the more it is evident that all priests are to intercede for the souls given to them whether they know anything about them or not.
- The more Padre Pio worked this or that miracle, the more your run-of-the-mill priest is to know that he is also take care, inasmuch as he can, of the physical needs of those in his care. He is to be a Father in every way.
You get the idea. We mustn’t be distracted with such things, as if they were special to Padre Pio. They are not. Not in any truly extraordinary fashion, outside of his having taken up the grace provided to him, of course. You have to understand that, as Padre Pio himself said, the worst suffering he had in this life is not the pain of the stigmata, or the attack of Satan, but the humiliation he had of being given the stigmata in his body, for he knew he was nothing special. He learned that it was his vocation to let us know that, indeed, such things are not special to him. Of course, there are many, very many priests who do not know anything of this. Pray for us priests.
An analogy. When I began the doctoral thesis on Genesis, I had the idea that I absolutely did not want to come up with anything novel, anything new, anything effervescently exciting and nice, anything politically correct. I just wanted to examine the text – rather closely mind you – like no one else had done so before, purposely distancing myself from anything that did not emanate from the text itself. I knew that it this way, I would meet up with that the very revelation of God, which is never boring, but always enthralling.
Indeed, after the most unrelentingly scientific, letter by letter, historical philological study, and after letting, against all odds, the historical syntax speak for itself across the centuries – and having done all this with a completeness incomparably outdoing the thousands of commentaries and studies and monographs and Festschriften and such like that I’ve been through – what I saw was a presentation of God, incarnate of the Immaculate Virgin, our Redeemer, our Savior, the One who will provide us with life eternal, having undone original sin (passed along by propagation, not imitation) and having brought us to Himself.
In other words, the results of an application of common sense, of steely reason (so boring to the innovators) mirrored what we have always believed about this passage by way of the faith, for faith and reason, both given by God, go together. I don’t mean that there was any eisegesis, any reading of any doctrine into the passage. Rather, faith rejoiced to see what was scientifically manifested in the passage, faith first of all having done the favor of stripping the soul of the researcher of any fear of what might be found, such as the absolutely terrifying battle between the Son of the Woman and Satan, a battle which we are all to witness.
The more thoroughly the work was stripped of novelty, the more enthralling it was, however agonizing the actual scientific work was to do. No novelty = great joy. O.K., one could say that the novelty of the work was to have no novelty whatsoever. One could say that the novelty was the proof of what the primary purpose of the text happens to be (outlined above) against the same having been thought to be merely a secondary nicety of the text by our more noveltied exegetes. To hell with novelty!
The same with Padre Pio.
This was the statement of his priesthood to us priests: To hell with novelty! We priests are just to manifest The Priest, Christ Jesus, Mary Immaculate’s Son, in our lives. That’s it, and that’s wonderful. But novelty, throwing in something of our own stupidity, is boring. There is nothing more boring than novelty. There is no One more life giving than Jesus.
Padre Pio was all about Christ Jesus, a good example for us priests.
But there is more. I’ve been thinking about Padre Pio quite a bit recently (here and here and here and here, etc., as has Father Gordon MacRae – about- here). If I could make a prophesy, it would be this, that Padre Pio is destined to become a great saint in the eyes of most all priests in the world. This has not been the case. But this will come about. Padre Pio, pray for us!
If anyone thinks I’ve dissed the stigmata, miracles, etc., of Padre Pio in this article, that person would be wrong. These other manifestations of Christ’s enthusiastic priesthood among us were meant to bring us to Christ’s enthusiastic priesthood among us. The novelty to which I’m referring above is the idea that these other things were somehow extra special, even more important than the priesthood of Jesus in Padre Pio (by way of Holy Orders and sanctifying grace). What is most important is Who is most important: Jesus and His Priesthood.