Tomorrow is the memorial of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, called by some the greatest man of the 20th century.
|Frank Rega writes, in Padre Pio and America:|
Some might say that Padre Pio is now gone. However, in his old age, when people had expressed their apprehensions about his approaching death, Padre Pio would reply gruffly yet playfully:"Silly person, I will be here in your midst, more than before. Come visit my tomb. Before, in order to speak to me, you had to wait. Then, it is I who will be waiting there. Come to my tomb and you will receive more than you did before!"Padre Pio frequently stated, "In the tomb I will be more alive than ever!" And when one of his collaborators ventured the opinion that, with so many persons to pray for, the Padre must simply lump everyone together in one big kettle or cauldron, Padre Pio responded:"In a cauldron is where I am going to throw you! I remember them and I call them one by one, and count their hairs, and then some."
When I was a kid I thought the stigmata was something really cool. It never dawned on me that there would be any pain involved for the recipient. (This somewhat recalls my view of Christian life, which assumed a shape that denied the cross, obviously a constant temptation to this day.) Yet Padre Pio suffered tremendous pain due to the stigmata for fifty years. One asks why and I've arrived at three ideas, all mostly unsatisfactory. One is for expiation for others' sins, something that still is hard to figure out given that you always ask the question of why a loving God would require expiatory sacrifice. ("It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.") Another is that his time of purification came on earth instead of Purgatory, suggesting that our purgatories will be far worse. And finally, it's possible that the gifts of Pio were so extraordinary that he needed a "thorn in the flesh", ala St. Paul, to keep him humble. Given human nature this would make sense.
From a 9/25/1917 letter to his aunt and niece:
"My daughters, we must resign ourselves to what we have inherited from our ancestors Adam and Eve. Self-love never dies before we do, but it will accompany us to the tomb. Dear God, my daughters, what unhappiness this is for us poor children of Eve! We must always feel the sensitive assaults of the passions, as long as we are in this miserable exile. But what of it? Should we perhaps become discouraged and renounce the life of heaven? No, most beloved daughters, let us take heart. It is sufficient for us not to consent with our deliberate will; deliberate, firm and sustained."
Another legacy of the saint, from Rega's Padre Pio and America (review):
Some may feel an affinity with his humble beginnings, or be drawn by the wondrous miracle stories, or be fascinated by the stigmata. And how can a 'practical' American not be astounded at the cloistered monk who build one of the greatest hospitals in Europe, in what was then a backward area of southern Italy?