In his apostolic exhortation regarding holiness in today’s world, Gaudete Et Exsultate, Pope Francis directly quotes from his predecessor’s homily for the Solemn inauguration of the Petrine Ministry, of 24 April 2005, which says: “All the saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me”. When looking at what God’s grace actually did in Padre Pio’s life I can easily and happily subscribe to what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said.On September 23 the Church annually celebrates the feast of St Pio of Pietrelcina. The latter has a lot of teachings that can be of immense benefit both spiritually as well as humanly. This must be so because Padre Pio’s wise and insightful words are not the result of some self-centred spirituality which was completely indifferent to other people’s hardships. On the contrary, Padre Pio’s union with Christ Crucified brought him closer to the people’s suffering of his time. Adding to this, Padre Pio lived up to the high price of being a faithful brother to his Capuchin confreres as well as being a faithful son to Mother Church. Due to his faithful adherence to both realities he had to endure the cruelest of persecutions. However, God’s loving truth always prevailed up to the point that the same Church who treated him so harshly was the same Church who later, had a “change of heart” and ended up beatifying and canonizing him as a saint.
For Padre Pio prayer is the unifying factor not simply for the Church but also for society at large. Wisely, he said: Today’s society does not pray. That is why it is falling apart. Only prayer can really help us, as a society, to seek what is true and just in total solidarity especially to the vulnerable and the poorest of the poor. Only direct communication with God can truly motivate us to leave our comfort egoistic zones and start treating each other with respect, love and compassion, as brothers and sisters would rightly because we are all sons and daughters of the same Father in Heaven.
In the hustle and bustle we are living in today, where we hardly have time to talk to each other calmly, since we are so busy working and, when it happens to us to meet for a rest, we cannot resist that sweet and sour temptation of giving that protracted glance at the mobile phone to catch up with the flow of WhatsApp messages we receive. In view of such a hurting situation, the stigmatised Capuchin wisely counsels us: Do not be so given to the activity of Martha as to forget the silence of Mary. May the Virgin who so well reconciled the one with the other be your sweet model and inspiration.
As one can easily detect from the latter mentioned piece of wisdom, Padre Pio always regarded Mary as his model and inspiration. For him Mary was the one who followed wholeheartedly her Son Jesus. She obeyed His Word up till the last moment. And, from Heaven, she keeps watching over us, her children, who are struggling here on earth until we reach the Heavenly Jerusalem where Mary, together with the Angles and Saints, resides to welcome us. Thus, to you and me who are going through rough waters in this valley of tears, Padre Pio encourages us with these words: You must remember that you have in Heaven, not only a Father but also a Mother… Let us then have recourse to Mary. She is all sweetness, mercy, goodness and love for us because she is our Mother.
Mary’s maternal loving care for you and me is not merely spiritual but also psychological. As a dedicated mother would do, Mary is pivotal in our psychological and human affectivity. A case in point is the upcoming reflection about how to harmonize one’s activity with the need for silence and reflection. In order to strike that much-needed balance Padre Pio resorts to Mary as the sedes sapientiae or the Seat of Wisdom for her maternal guidance and accompaniment in this delicate yet an essential aspect of our lives. Do not be so given to the activity of Martha as to forget the silence of Mary. May the Virgin who so well reconciled the one with the other be your sweet model and inspiration.
In these simple but hugely profound pieces of heavenly wisdom one cannot refrain from noticing the emphasis Padre Pio gives to the eternal sweetness and gentleness which fills up the heavenly realities. From his personal sufferings as well as from the harsh struggles people around him underwent the stigmatised Capuchin knew perfectly well the bitterness and sourness such conflicts leave on those who live through them. His direct and authentic experience with Jesus taught Padre Pio that it is solely when one meets face to face with Jesus’ infinite sweetness that he and she can have the courage to keep fighting till the end to win the decisive battle. He exhorts you and me, exhausted as we are from our life’s trials: We must always have courage, and if some spiritual languor comes upon us, let us run to the feet of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and let us place ourselves in the midst of the heavenly perfumes, and we will undoubtedly regain our strength.
When confronted with indifference and apathy let us have recourse to the Name of Jesus! His is the Name above all names! His is the Name which evicts evil from us and our midst and makes presence in and around us, that heavenly peace, joy, perfume, hope, trust, forgiveness, in a word, that unconditional love we all long for to have! Padre Pio advises you and me: Do not fear. Jesus is more powerful than all hell. At the invocation of his name every knee in heaven, on earth and in hell must bend before Jesus; this is a consolation for the good and terror for evil.
With Padre Pio and St Faustina we joyfully shout to you, O Lord: JESUS I TRUST IN YOU!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap