June 16,2002 Padre Pio was canonized by Blessed Pope John Paul II and was made a saint; today we celebrate his feast day.
This great saint knew a thing or two about living a life of Christian perfection. In order for us to live the virtues, God gives us circumstances and situations in which we can practice those virtues. Padre Pio's life held no shortage of these circumstances and situations.
Among the more well known facts of his life are the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, he bore for 50 years, the intensely devout and reverent manner which he celebrated Mass, and the hours he spent hearing confessions.
What is not so widely known is that he not only suffered Christ's physical wounds, but His betrayal, false accusation and humiliation. He was accused of sexual misconduct with penitents, and of self~inflicting the wounds of the stigmata. These accusations came from within the Catholic Church.
Padre Pio endured all of this with heroic virtue which led him to a life of Christian perfection.
The following is an excerpt from his letters that included his teaching on Christian perfection. It was written to his spiritual daughter Raffaelina Cerase.
PADRE PIO TEACHES ON CHRISTIAN PERFECTION Taken from Letters II, Oct. 23, 1914Padre Pio told his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, to pray to her Guardian Angel and to the saint whose name she bore for grace and wisdom. This heavenly light is the finest grace one could ask for. It cannot be acquired by prolonged study or through human teaching, but is directly infused by God.We must ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to three great truths: 1) our Christian vocation, 2) greater knowledge of our eternal inheritance, 3) to penetrate more deeply the mystery of how wretched sinners such as ourselves have been led to salvation.A person who desires perfection needs to undertake both internal and external action. In striving toward internal perfection, we must first practice the virtue of charity. When a person loves money, honors and good health, he does not always possess what he loves, whereas he who loves God possesses Him at once. Also, the soul needs patience. The virtue of patience maintains order in one's interior life. Love, joy and peace are virtues which perfect the soul with regard to what it possesses, while patience perfects it with regard to what it endures.Padre Pio encourages his spiritual children to practice externally the virtue of kindliness, to be agreeable and courteous. Polite manners draw others to imitate him in the devout life. If others do not respond to kindness, we need the virtue of forbearance. Never desist from one's effort to help others, even if they are not deriving benefit of our help.Strive for meekness, which makes us stifle our anger when we see our efforts repaid with ingratitude, insults or offenses. Add faithfulness, by which the soul gains confidence.Virtues which perfect the devout person with regard to control of his own senses are modesty, continence and chastity: modesty, governing all exterior acts; continence, restraint over senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing; chastity, which ennobles our nature and makes it similar to the angels.Happy the one who possesses these fine virtues, all of them fruits of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. Such a soul has nothing to fear and will shine in the world as the sun in the heavens.
For a more in depth post on the spiritual sufferings of Padre Pio, visit Fr. Gordon MacRae at These Stone Walls.
Fr. Gordon has much in common with Padre Pio in the way of spiritual suffering. He is serving what amounts to a life sentence for crimes of sexual abuse which he did not commit.
Let us ask St Padre Pio for his prayers and intercession, not only for ourselves, but for our priests as well. Let us pray for his intercession especially for those priests who, like Fr. Gordon, have been falsely accused.