By Michael H. Brown
Saint Pio, June 16, 2002
All week we have been focusing on Padre Pio, the famous Italian stigmatist. We have been doing that because his canonization is no ordinary canonization. There are thousands of saints — only God knows the hierarchy — but from our vantage point we see saints like St. Anthony, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bridget, and St. Catherine of Siena at the top rungs.
Expect Padre Pio — St. Pio — to now take his place along that kind of illustrious company.
And expect favors, blessings, and protection to erupt from this new, potent saint.
Pray to Pio for healing. Pray for him when seeking relief from the devil. And follow his standard of Mass. This was where his true colors became most pronounced. So intense was Padre Pio during Mass that many claimed his face transfigured into that of Christ’s, especially during Consecration. At times, St. Pio held the Host up for more than ten minutes, seeing a reality others could not see, feeling One with Jesus, realizing the Real Presence. So prolonged were such moments that his Mass typically lasted more than two hours (without a homily, which he rarely gave).
“Whoever attended just one Mass of his, never forgot it,” noted a friend of his, Padre Alberto D’Apolito. “It produced such an impression that time and space between the altar and Calvary disappeared. The Mass of Padre Pio visibly reproduced the Passion of Christ, not only in a mystical form, but also physically, in his body. Waves of emotion made Padre Pio tremble at the altar as if the struggle with invisible persons filled him, time after time, with fear, joy, sadness, anguish, and pain. From the expression on his face, one could follow the mysterious dialogue.”
It is said he saw the entire Passion and we know that he physically suffered the wounds of Jesus — so intense that often he wept during the readings. Notes another biographer, the saint was motionless for long moments at the offering of bread and wine, “as if nailed by a mysterious force,” eyes moist, staring at the Crucifix. During Consecration St. Pio’s hands sometimes jerked back with pain (the Consecration lasting several times normal) and after he seemed exhausted from the suffering, leaning over the altar for minutes at a time to commune with the Lord.
He suffered during Consecration. He glowed during Communion. He saw angels and saints. He saw the splendor of God and paradise open. Throughout Mass St. Pio seemed to be peering into another dimension. At the side he said he could see the Blessed Mother.
Was the Madonna present at every Mass, he was asked. “Yes.” Did angels always attend? “The whole celestial court is present.”
Whoever doubted the Real Presence, says D’Apolito, had only to assist at St. Pio’s Mass.
This was the liturgy. This was praying the way God wanted us to pray. Even bishops learned from him. This was the epitome of prayer from the heart.
When Padre Pio — St. Pio — did that, he was separated from our world and when Mass ended many were awestruck and in tears.
St. Pio, we love you and congratulate you and of course we beg your intercession. We need you, St. Pio. Be with us. It is a difficult time in human history and we know your miracles will flow and we thank God you have now taken your high and rightful place.