-This was the last letter Padre Pio ever wrote. I am sure Padre Pio would say the same thing Lucia said, "He who is not with the Pope is not with God." Or Faustina who was told by Christ, "The devil can imitate humility but he cannot imitate obedience."
-Padre Pio's holiness is so extraordinary that it might even be frightening. He is the Simon of Cyrene of this century. His stigmata are the proof, but also his very long days in the confessional. And then his nights dedicated to penance, prayer, struggles with the devil. This is his mysticism of expiation.
I have considered Padre Pio's legacy all my life, as he was one of the two reasons for my coming back to the Catholic Church - the other being Fatima.
His love of the Mass, his love of confessions, his suffering and the stigmata, his many miracles, his constant conversations with the angels, his prayers and love of the souls in Purgatory, his spiritual direction, his very proof of God in the middle of two world wars by atheists who were out to prove there is no God, all these things are legacies of Padre Pio.
But the greatest legacy is his obedience to his superior, and to Rome at a time when many very conservative and traditional Catholics were attacking the Holy Father for the changes in the Church.
Falsely accused of disrupting the Mass, Padre Pio was ordered by the Holy Father to say Mass privately in his room and without a single objection he did so for six years. His superior trying to hold down the crowds to his daily Mass ordered them said at 4:00 AM and Padre Pio never even asked why.
At a time when the world was attacking Pope Paul VI for the changes to the Mass, Padre supported him with a letter dated 12 September 1968, just 11 days before Padre Pio died on 23 September. This is that letter by Padre Pio to Pope Paul VI:
"I well understand what profound afflictions you carry in your heart these days for the lot of the Church, for world peace, for the many necessities of the people, but above all for the lack of spirit of obedience of a certain number of Catholics as to the enlightened teachings that you, assisted by the Holy Spirit, and in the name of God, have given us.
Permit me, as your humble spiritual son, to offer you my daily prayer and suffering, imploring God to comfort you with His grace in order that you may go forward, in your straight and arduous path, in the defense of those eternal truths that remain unaltered with the changing times.
I thank you also, in the name of my spiritual children and 'Prayer Groups' for the clear and decided words you have given us in Humanae Vitae and I reaffirm my faith, my unconditional obedience to your illuminated instructions.
May Our Lord concede the triumph of the truth, peace to His Church, tranquility of heart to all the people, health and prosperity to Your Holiness, in order that with the passing of these clouds the Kingdom of God may triumph in all hearts through your apostolic work as Supreme Pastor of all Christianity."
This was the last letter Padre Pio ever wrote. I am sure Padre Pio would say the same thing Lucia said, "He who is not with the Pope is not with God." Or Faustina who was told by Christ, "The devil can imitate humility but he cannot imitate obedience."
I am making a special point about Padre Pio on obedience to the Holy Father because of his love of Fatima, and in Fatima we find Jacinta praying at the well and there seeing the Holy Father being attacked by his own people and later again seeing a vision of the Holy Father suffering the attacks of his own Church. In the secret of Fatima, we again see a vision of him being attacked by his own and in fact killed. I will not be one of those attacking my vicar for any reason whatsoever. Even here in Fatima I live next door to a Sedevicantist, a very nice man, he never lies and truly believes what he preaches. Nevertheless, he has left the Church believing he knows more than the Church itself. Like the Holy Father does to Protestants and Jews, I will treat him with love and kindness in order to keep open a dialogue where by can bring him back to the faith. My love for him is the very thing that he and others hate about the Holy Father and his love for those who have left the Church.
The Shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo
When I went to San Giovanni Rotondo to ask the superior about some claims people made about the good Padre, I arrived late in the day. Out front was a priest who spoke English and I asked, "Father, I have not been to Mass yet, is there a Mass yet today that I can attend." I was somewhat irritated that he did not answer me but just smiled and motioned to go inside. Inside there was continuous Masses going on in his chapel, in the main church, and below on both sides of his tomb. It was off season so the 30 or 40 confessionals had only about 20 priests hearing confessions. I stayed three weeks.
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is among the most loved saints throughout the world. The Shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy, where Padre Pio lived, receives over 6 million pilgrims a year. It is now third in terms of visits by the faithful, after the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico and the Vatican.
"What is the secret of so much admiration and love for this new saint?" the Holy Father asked. "Above all, he is a 'friar of the people,' a traditional characteristic of Capuchins. Moreover, he is a holy miracle-worker, as proved by the extraordinary events that filled his life. However, above all, he was a religious who was sincerely in love with the crucified Christ."
"In the course of his life he participated in the mystery of the cross, including physically," the Pope said.
Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, visited the friar in 1947, and went to confession to him in San Giovanni Rotondo where Padre Pio told him, "You will someday be the Pope."
Padre Pio followed this path "in profound communion with the Church," the Pontiff clarified. "He was not hindered in this filial obedience by momentary misunderstandings with one or another ecclesial authority."
In fact, Padre Pio endured investigations and restrictions in the exercise of his priestly ministry, imposed by the Holy Office, because of false accusations by people who were resentful of his extraordinary impact on others.
In particular, the Holy Father proposed the new saint as a model for every priest, singling out Padre Pio's Mass! "The Holy Mass was the heart and source of his all spirituality," John Paul II emphasized. "St. Pio of Pietrelcina appears before all of us -- priests, religious and laity -- as a credible witness of Christ and his Gospel," the Pope continued. "His example and intercession encouraged every one to live with an ever greater love for God and in concrete solidarity with one's neighbor, especially the neediest."
"Padre Pio's proposal for the man of our times, disoriented by materialism and secularization, is holiness," said Father Raniero Cantalamessa who, like the friar of Pietrelcina, is a Capuchin religious. "With his example, Padre Pio wishes to tell us that holiness is a way that is also accessible today. "
Padre Pio's holiness is so extraordinary that it might even be frightening. He is the Simon of Cyrene of this century. His stigmata are the proof, but also his very long days in the confessional. And then his nights dedicated to penance, prayer, struggles with the devil. This is his mysticism of expiation.