Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Padre Pio or St. Pius of Pietrelcina.
The actual name of this saint is Francesco Forgione. He was given the name Pio (English: Pius) when he entered the Order of Capuchin Friars. “Pietrelcina” is the name of the village in Italy where this saint was born in1887.
He was ordained a priest in 1910. In 1916, Padre Pio was sent to the Capuchin Friary in the village of San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy where he remained until his death in 1968.
On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet, and side. (Franciscan Media) In other words, the marks of the crucified Christ were visible on his body. He remained a stigmatic for the remaining 50 years of his life.
St. Padre Pio’s priestly ministry was focused on 3 areas.
- He celebrated the Eucharist with great love and devotion. His Masses, which were always packed, would last for hours due to the mystic visions he experienced during the celebration.
- He celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation with great love and devotion. He usually heard confessions for 10 hours a day.
- He prayed with great love and devotion. He claimed that his only ambition in life was to be a “poor friar who prays”. He never left San Giovanni Rotondo, but busloads of people would come to him. He spent time with countless individuals, prayed with them, gave them whatever advice and assistance he could and blessed them.
In 1971, 3 years after his death, Pope Paul VI said of him: “Look what fame he had, what a worldwide following gathered around him! But why? Because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk and was – it is not easy to say it – one who bore the wounds of our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering”. Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio in 2002.
I would like to make a connection between the life of this saint and the words of the refrain of today’s Responsorial Psalm: “Your word, O Lord, is a lamp for my feet”.
We all have had that experience of being in the bush in the night. If we want to leave a camp or a tent when it’s dark and walk outside, we need to take a light with us. If we go outside without a light, we will stumble and fall. The light marks out a path that can be followed in the midst of the darkness.
We are all familiar with the Gospel verse: Jesus is the light of the world. What the Responsorial Psalm is emphasizing that Jesus is the light for each of us as individuals. (“a lamp for MY feet”). Christ is the light for our personal steps; he prevents our feet from stumbling.
For example, when Christ becomes our light, the darkness of fear, anxiety and uncertainty associated with the current pandemic does not blind us. We can still see even though there is the darkness of a deadly virus around us.
Two questions come to mind. Question1: What is the implication of the reality that the Lord can become our personal and individual lamp in the darkness?
When we reflect on St. Padre Pio’s life, we can see an answer. Padre Pio lived through the sufferings caused by world War I, the fascist regime in Italy and World War II. As described in the Volume 2 of Padre Pio, the Man, one of his famous sayings was, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”. During difficult and troubling times, he always advised Christians to recognize God in all things and to desire above all things to do the will of God.
We can do the same. We can trust in God’s presence in our lives and in our world and entrust everything to him regardless of what is to come. We, too, can allow the Holy Spirit to invade our total being so that nothing but God and his will matter.
Question 2: How do we let the light of Christ shine in our lives so that our feet do not stumble?
St. Padre Pio’s lifestyle provides the answer: prayer and the Sacraments. Daily prayer and frequent celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, are the fuels that keep the light of Christ burning brightly in our lives.
Pope Francis gave some interesting advice in one of his writings last month. Yes, the world is in the grip of deadly physical virus. But the Pope cautions us against making things worse. He encourages us to work together to ensure that humanity is not sickened by deadly mental, emotional, psychological, relational, moral and spiritual viruses. What I would like to suggest is that Padre Pio’s formula of prayer + Eucharist + Reconciliation = the antidote, the vaccine that will prevent a deadly virus from afflicting our minds, hearts and souls.
As our Eucharist continues, let us offer 2 prayers to God. First, like St. Padre Pio, may the Lord become our lamp in the darkness so that we can move forward in total trust in God. Second, like St. Padre Pio, through our commitment to prayer and the Sacraments, may the light of Christ prevent our steps from faltering.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
September 23, 2020