Padre Pio, synthesis of prayer and charity of a holy life

June 16, 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of the canonization of the cappuccino of San Giovanni Rotondo.

Antonino Piccione-September 12, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes

Photo: the Pope in prayer before the body of Padre Pio. ©CNS foto/cortesia Santuario di S. Pio da Pietrelcina

Testo originale del articolo in inglese qui

"Il mio giogo è dolce e il mio carico leggero" (Mt 11:30).

This is the core of the omelia that Pope John Paul II pronounced on 16 June 2002, during the solemn rite of canonization of Blessed Pio da Pietrelcina (born Francesco Forgione in 1887 and died in 1968), a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Cappuccini: "L'immagine evangelica del 'giogo' - ha detto il Santo Padre - evoca le tante prove che l'umile cappuccino di San Giovanni Rotondo ha dovuto affrontare. Today in Lui we contemplate how sweet is the "giogo" of Christ and how light is his face when it is carried with faithful love. The life and mission of Padre Pio testify that the difficulties and pains, if accepted with love, are transformed into a privileged path of sanctity, which leads to prospects of a greater good, known only to the Lord".

An intense interior life

Asking for some biographical notes, and taking advantage of the precious reconstruction offered by the web pages of the Dicastero delle Cause dei Santi, it is stated that after his priestly ordination, received on August 10, 1910 in Benevento, Pio remained in his family until 1916 for health reasons. In September of the same year he was invited to the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo where he remained until his death.

He saw his vocation as the goal of contributing fully to the redemption of mankind, according to the special mission that characterized his entire life, which he put into practice through the spiritual direction of the faithful, the sacramental reconciliation of penitents and the celebration of the Eucharist. The highlight of his apostolic activity was the celebration of the Holy Mass. The faithful who took part in it have always perceived the apex and the strength of its spirituality.

La carità, prima virtù

On the level of social charity, he committed himself to alleviating the pain and misery of many families, in particular by founding the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, inaugurated on May 5, 1956. The love of God fulfilled him, fulfilling all his aspirations; charity was the principle that guided him in every day: to love in order to be loved by God.
His particular concern: to grow and help others grow in charity. He has expressed the utmost of his charity towards the next by welcoming, for more than 50 years, many people, who came to his ministry and to his confessional to receive his advice and his consolation.
It was almost a siege: they approached him in church, in church, in church, in convent. And he gave himself to all, reviving faith, distributing grace, bringing light. But above all in the poor, the poor and the sick he has seen the image of Christ and has given himself especially for them.

La croce nella tua vita

He soon realized that his path would be that of the Cross, and suddenly he accepted it with courage and love. For many years he has experienced the sufferings of the soul. For years she endured the pain of her wounds with loving serenity. When he had to submit to inquiries and restrictions in his priestly service, he accepted everything with deep humility and self-assurance. In the face of unjustified accusations and calumnies, he has always been confident in the judgment of God, of his direct superiors and of his own conscience.

He sincerely considered himself useless, devoid of God's gifts, full of misery and, at the same time, full of divine grace. In the midst of all the admiration of the world, he repeated: "I only want to be a poor man who prays". His health, at the end of his youth, was not very flourishing and, especially in the last years of his life, declined rapidly. He died at the age of 81. Her funeral was characterized by an extraordinary crowd of people.

The reputation of sanctity

In the years following his death, his fame of sanctity and miracles grew more and more, becoming an ecclesiastical phenomenon, spread throughout the world, among all categories of people. Not much time passed before the Order of Friars Minor Cappuccini took the steps foreseen by canon law for the advancement of the Cause of beatification and canonization.

On December 18, 1997, in the presence of Pope John Paul II, the Decree on the erudition of his virtues was promulgated. On May 2, 1999 His Holiness Pope John Paul II beatified the Venerable Servant of God Pio da Pietrelcina, setting September 23 as the date of the liturgical feast. The decree of canonization was promulgated on February 26, 2002.

A very special design

A life, that of Padre Pio, at the service of and in communion with other lives. Among these we like to remember that of Don Salvatore Pannullo, with the recent publication of "Zi' Tore, the 'parish priest' of Padre Pio" (author Raffaele Iaria, casa editrice Tau. NDT: Zi' Tore = Zio Salvatore).

It is about a priest who made history in Pietrelcina, seeing among the first the sanctity of a young man who would have become the first stigmatized priest in history, and one of the most followed in the world.

Don Pannullo, in fact, was parish priest of this center from 1901 to 1928. He is a somewhat transcended figure in the biographies of Padre Pio and, nevertheless, important for having been at his side in the maturation of his religious vocation. He was in a certain sense his advisor and guide, teacher and friend. He was the priest who followed the young Forgione during the last months of his preparation for the priesthood, offering him instructions on the liturgy, accompanying him in his final exam and on the day of ordination. He was also the first to learn about the history of the invisible stigmata of the priesthood, a month after his ordination.

What is, in short, the most distinctive feature of Padre Pio's biography and work? Where is the origin and strength of his apostolate? The answer can still be found in the words spoken by Pope John Paul II in the Vatican Basilica that Sunday of twenty years ago: "The deep root of so much spiritual fecundity is found in that intimate and constant union with God, of the long hours spent in prayer and confession that were an eloquent witness. It pleases him to repeat: 'I am a good brother who prays', convinced that 'the prayer is the best weapon we have, a key that squeezes the Heart of God'".

A distinctive aspect of his spirituality that continues in the groups of preaching founded by him, which offer to the Church and society "is the formidable contribution of incessant and faithful preaching".
Padre Pio has joined to the preaching also an intense charitable activity, of which the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza is the extraordinary expression. Preghiera and charity, this is a very concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching.

NDT: Zi' Tore = Zio Salvatore

The authorAntonino Piccione

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