"When you feel despised, imitate the kingfisher, who builds its nest on the masts of ships. That is to say, raise yourself up above the earth, elevate yourselves with your mind and heart to God, who is the only one who can console you and give you strength to withstand the trial in a holy way."
In an isolated mountain village on the east coast of southern Italy, Padre Pio lived for 50 years in a Capuchin friary. Often hounded and persecuted by Church officials, he submitted to their restrictions with patience -- saying, "Let God's will be done."
Pio was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002. His shrine is visited by millions each year; in popularity, it is second only to Mexico's basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"The fascination of his gruff manner and the magnetism of his extraordinary saintliness drew people to him... The only way to talk to him personally was through the medium of confession."
I've enjoyed paging through Magic of a Mystic by the Duchess of St. Albans -- stories of Padre Pio told in a folksy way (her sister lived for many years in the priest's village of San Giovanni Rotondo), along with interesting photos of the people and landscape. A huge Franciscan hospital rose up during the priest's lifetime, "built exclusively with mule and bullock transport."
Pio suffered greatly, literally bleeding for his flock. Things were always exciting in his orbit as he thundered, when necessary, at folks in the confessional; made simultaneous appearances in two places; and converted violent Communists.
|An opera star (L) sings for his friend Padre Pio|
"If you can talk with the Lord in prayer, talk to him, offer him your praise; if, due to great weariness, you cannot speak, do not find displeasure in the ways of the Lord. Stay in the room like servants of the court do, and make a gesture of reverence. He will see you, and your presence will be pleasing to him. He will bless your silence and at another time you will find consolation when he takes you by the hand."
UPDATE: "Father Pasquale Cattaneo also gives us a testimony showing Padre Pio’s ability to read hearts. Fr. Cattaneo had received permission from his superiors to visit San Giovanni and to go to confession to Padre Pio. During his bus trip he prepared himself with a good examination of his conscience so as to be ready to make a sincere confession of his sins. With the help of the Holy Spirit he looked into every comer of his soul, and made new promises of amendment. However as the bus going to the Gargano was on the last part of the journey and the town came into view, he ended his examination perplexed thinking: 'The spiritual life at times seems like trying to climb glass.'
"When he arrived at the friary, he went into the sacristy and told the friar who helped with the confessions that he had come to confess to Padre Pio and afterwards he patiently waited for his turn. When the time came he entered the confessional, greeted Padre Pio and made his confession. After confessing his faults, Padre Pio gave him absolution. He then arose, feeling happy that he had made a sincere confession, when he turned one last time and glanced at the Padre--the Padre smiled at him and with an amused look he wittingly said: 'So, the spiritual life seems like climbing glass, eh?'
The Duchess of St. Albans wrote her book 15 years after Pio's death. Several times at her home in France, she experienced (though, earlier, she had been skeptical hearing of it from others) the sweet spicy "odor of sancticty" that emanated from him -- in life and death, in rural Italy and far beyond.
With no hesitation, if someone asked me the craziest year I've witnessed in the world, my answer would be 1968. It surely is more than coincidental that Saint Pio (the most unique of all modern saints) was taken to heaven then, to fulfill his prediction that he would be able to do more for humanity after his death than he had in life.