Spirit Daily


Canonization Of Padre Pio Likely To Be Most Momentous Since Therese Of Lisieux And Lead To An Explosion Of Grace

By Michael H. Brown

First story

On June 16, when the Pope canonizes Padre Pio -- the famous Italian priest -- it will be the most momentous canonization since Therese the Little Flower. Not since St. Francis of Assisi has there been such a miracle-worker, and elevation of this great mystic to sainthood is bound to unleash a torrent of heavenly power. This is a man who healed literally thousands -- while he was still alive; who could read souls -- knowing in case after case exactly what a person in Confession had done; who was seen in dozens of cases in bilocation (appearing far from where he actually was). This is a man who suffered legitimate stigmata -- deep wounds that bled until they miraculously healed upon his death. This is a priest who could predict the future and could see into heaven and led many to the faith. To understand the potency of Padre Pio, one has only to know that during World War Two, pilots seeking to bomb the vicinity of San Giovanni Rotundo, where he lived, time and again recounted how they had been unable to bomb the area after spotting the apparition of a monk -- at times a towering apparition -- in the clouds.

As documented in a solidly researched book, Padre Pio: The True Story (by an initially skeptical Protestant minister), there were accounts that defy the belief of even the most ardent believer: a sighting of him at the Vatican even though he never left the San Giovanni monastery; the transfiguration of his face into that of Jesus' during consecration; a worker named Giovanni Savino who lost an eye that later materialized under the bandages after Pio visited him in bilocation. 

"Reports of bilocation came from all over the world, from Hawaii to St. Peter's, where Padre Pio allegedly put in an appearance at the canonization of St. Therese of Lisieux in 1925," writes the minister, Bernard Ruffin. "Within the Mass, however, Padre Pio admitted to an intense mystical involvement with the unseen world. He apparently saw, as in a vision, the entire Passion, and actually felt, physically, the wounds of Jesus. During the offering of the bread and wine, Padre Pio often remained motionless for moments on end, as if 'nailed by a mysterious force,' gazing with moistened eyes upon the crucifix. At these moments, he said, his soul was 'separated from all that is profane.' At the Commemorations of the Living and the Dead, he maintained that he saw all his spiritual children at the altar, 'as if in a mirror.'"

It's impossible to do justice to the entire array of miracles. They are endless, and they have transcended his death. Many are those who claim he has interceded in hopeless cases -- especially with children -- or have seen him in apparition: in one memorable case he materialized on the altar to give Communion to a startled woman at San Giovanni Rotundo! 

One day, recounts Ruffin, a priest named Padre Constantino "entered Pio's room and was struck by what he saw. 'His countenance was shining with a rosy flame of light such as I had never seen before and shall, I think, never see again. It was but for an instant, but I shall never forget it.' This phenomenon was observed in Moses when he came down from Sinai with the two tables of the Law in his hands."

As for the sky phenomenon: "There are many stories concerning Allied pilots who attempted to bomb San Giovanni but were stopped by an apparition of a 'monk' standing in the air with his arms outstretched," says Ruffin. "There are fliers who swore that they had sighted a figure in the sky, sometimes normal size, sometimes gigantic, usually in the form of a monk or priest. The sightings were too frequent and the reports came from too many sources to be totally discounted. Several people from Foggia, where thousands were killed in the air raids, said that a bomb, falling into a room where they had huddled, landed near a photograph of Padre Pio. They claimed that when it exploded, it 'burst like a soap bubble.' Others reported that while bombs were raining down upon the city, they cried, 'Padre Pio, you have to save us!' While they were speaking, a bomb fell into their midst but did not explode."

If in the 1990s a million a year were already visiting his tomb, we can only imagine what the figures are today -- and what they will be following canonization. His canonization may break records for attendance. His beatification did -- attracting 300,000. Virtually every charism reported with Francis of Assisi was also recorded with Pio -- around whom a large pilgrim center has been built, similar to the development of Assisi. Hundreds of thousands flocked to see him when he was alive and hundreds of thousands will be pouring into St. Peter's Square on June 16. Watch for an explosion of devotion to him. This will not be a normal canonization. This is not typical sanctity. When Pio is canonized, it will be into the pantheon of the Church's greatest saints. 

Former Aide To Padre Pio Says The Saint Had Incorporated Part Of The New Mass

Second story

An Italian priest who served as a liaison between the famed Capuchin St. Padre Pio and English-speaking followers says that the saint had incorporated elements of the new or "Novus Ordo" Mass into his own celebrations of the liturgy before his death in 1968 despite rumors to the contrary.

The assisting priest, Padre Ermelindo Di Capua -- currently stationed in San Giovanno, Italy, where St. Pio spent nearly his entire ministry -- says the saint strictly adhered to dictates from Rome and sought information on precisely what he needed to do in order to conform with new strictures as the liturgy was changed from the Latin Rite after Vatican II.

The remarks are significant at a time when controversy has arisen over both the legitimacy of the Novus Ordo and the reaction to it by Pio -- considered a paragon of discernment.

It also comes at a time of enhanced interest (including here) of reintroducing elements of the Latin Rite into the modern Mass to bring back its mystical aspects. "It's not just old-timers wanting to cling to pre-Vatican II ways who are coming to the liturgies," notes one newspaper recently. "People in their twenties and thirties are filling many of the pews, finding serenity and a sense of awe in the solemn rituals." Additional interest has been sparked by director Mel Gibson, who recently made headlines with his movie about the Passion and who reportedly adheres only to the Latin Rite.

While there is no indication that Pio embraced all the reforms of Vatican II -- and indeed are even reports that he was distressed by certain Church trends -- Padre Ermelindo told Spirit Daily there was no indication that the saint opposed the new way of saying Mass, which has the priest facing the congregation and speaking in the national vernacular, which many believe detracts from reverence.

Ermelindo notes that the Novus Ordo is the only rite used at San Giovanni today and that visiting priests who request to use the Latin Rite are denied in conformance with the national bishops.

"He used to say Mass according to the new order," asserts the Franciscan, who lived in the same monastery as Pio and answered his English-speaking correspondence. "By 1968 [when Pio died] the new order was not yet complete, but had changed some things from Latin into the Italian language. He attempted to say Mass according to the new disposition of the Church. He tried to learn and adapt himself to the new rules of the Mass. There was still some Latin. It wasn't yet completely changed. The canon I don't remember exactly." "

Latin proponents have asserted that in fact Pio never did recite the new rite. "When the Mass of 1965 was introduced, bearing the first changes that were the precursors to the Novus Ordo, Padre Pio, without even reading the text, publicly took the position that he did not want to celebrate it," claimed one such correspondent. "He died before the full-blown Novus Ordo was issued in 1969 (and then recalled for doctrinal flaws)."

Padre Ermelindo -- who left San Giovanni Rotundo in 1970 and returned four years ago -- contradicts that, saying that he never heard Padre Pio criticize the new rules and that Pio always referred to Rome as "our mother." Ermelindo adds that the sainthood of Pio would have been impossible without strict obedience and that the greatest miracles around the saint were conversions. During his last Mass Padre Pio, who was too ailing to stand, sat on a chair in front of the people, says the assistant.

As for rumors that Pio's body has been moved from his tomb or that items from it have been taken, Ermelindo dismisses those out of hand.

"He was never moved from his tomb," says the priest, adding, however, that the shrine is waiting for Rome to decide whether to relocate St. Pio's body to a new crypt.

April 2004

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