This is the prepared text of the homily delivered by Cardinal
Seán P. O’Malley at the St. Padre Pio anniversary Mass that took
place Sept. 23 2006 at St. Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. The cardinal
delivered the homily in Italian.
The saints are the masterpieces of God’s grace. Many saints are
hidden from view and remain unknown, but some saints are placed
in the world to capture the attention of a society that has
forgotten about God.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the head of British television, an agnostic,
discovered Mother Teresa pushing a wheelbarrow carrying a dying
man infested with maggots to a Hindu temple so that the man
might die surrounded by love. She told Muggeridge that the poor
were really Christ in a distressing disguise and that her desire
was “to do something beautiful for God.” That encounter with a
saint, led Malcolm Muggeridge to discover God and to convert to
the Catholic faith. Mother Teresa’s heroic love helped
Muggeridge glimpse God’s beauty. How many people came to
discover God because of an encounter with Padre Pio, at Mass, in
the confession, through a letter, or just hearing a report about
his life-- Today’s world is obsessed with celebrities, film
stars, athletes, millionaires, singers, politicians, television
personalities, writers. Padre Pio does not fit any of these
categories. In 1971, three years after Padre Pio’s death, Pope
Paul VI said to our Capuchin superiors:
“Look what fame he had, what a worldwide following gathered
around him! But why? Perhaps because he was a philosopher?
Because he was wise? Because he had resources at his disposal?
Because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk
and was -- it is not easy to say it -- one who bore the wounds
of our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering.”
Padre Pio, like Mother Teresa, like St. Francis, allows people
to glimpse the beauty of holiness, which is a reflection of
God’s beauty. People look for happiness in passing beauty, in
wealth, in power and in pleasure and are always disappointed.
The saints give us hope in the possibility of happiness, the
power of love, the eternal beauty of God. I am struck by how
quickly the chaplet of the Divine Mercy and the devotion to
Padre Pio have spread all over the world. There is such a hunger
for God’s mercy in this broken world. Padre Pio, our saint, is a
saint of God’s mercy in the confessional. We are told that Padre
Pio heard over 1.2 million confessions, including the confession
of the young Father Karol Woytyla. How powerful a spiritual
experience to say in Christ’s name “I absolve you of your sins”
and to raise a wounded hand to bless and console the sinner.
Padre Pio’s whole life announces to the world that God loves
sinners and rejoices over the one lost sheep that is found.
On the island of Martha’s Vineyard we have a lovely Church, St.
Augustine’s. There are in the Church lovely stained glass
windows depicting the seven sacraments. The first window one
sees on entering the Church is that window representing the
Sacrament of Penance. On the window there are the keys
symbolizing the power to loose and bind, a priestly stole and
the words: “Go and sin no more.” But in the summertime, when it
is very hot, they open the windows to allow some air to
circulate. However, the part of the window that opens is the
part where the word “no” is written. Then what people read on
the window is: “Go and sin more.” I never heard of any
The greatest heresy of the modern age is the denial of sin. We
have lost a sense of sin, a sense of the offense it causes to
God, the destruction it does to ourselves and our loved ones,
the poisonous effects it has on the fabric of society. We are
like people with a deadly disease and in complete denial,
refusing to admit that we need a physician. We have made such
advances in science and technology and have become so blind to
the reality of our human nature.
Padre Pio was the great physician of peoples’ souls, like the
Cure of Ars, St. Leopold and other great confessors of the
Church. He was a living witness of God’s unfailing mercy, of the
power the risen Lord gave to His Church when on Easter Sunday He
breathed on His Apostles and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit,
Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them.”
No cures are as dramatic as the ones Padre Pio performed in the
sacristy and confessional in the sacrament of God’s mercy. How
much hope, how much grace, how much joy filled the hearts of
those thousands of penitents, cured of the snake bite of sin
like the Israelites in the desert who gazed on the bronze
serpent Moses raised up. Padre Pio helped people to look at the
crucified Christ with faith and love and experience the healing
power of the cross.
St. Pio’s compassion for sinners finds another expression in
compassion for the sick and suffering. The Casa Sollievo della
Sofferenza is a monument to Padre Pio’s concern for the sick and
suffering. He reminds us how one of the signs of the Kingdom of
God is that the blind, sick, captives are cared for and the poor
have the Good News preached to them. The sick and the sinners
who are the protagonists of the Gospel, and the special objects
of Jesus’ pastoral love are the reason for this shrine. The
ministry of Padre Pio is to manifest God’s unfailing love and
mercy for His People, especially for the little ones, the sick
and suffering and for poor sinners.
The Rule of St. Francis commands the friars to work but insists
they should “not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and
devotion, which all other temporal things should serve.”
Padre Pio was a man of prayer, a teacher of prayer and a witness
of prayer. The 3,000 prayer groups throughout the world show us
how his prayer life has been an inspiration for so many. If
today we could ask for one grace from this pilgrimage let it be
the grace of prayer in our lives.
The saint’s Mass was witnessed by over 10 million people who
came to assist at the Eucharist celebrated by this holy priest.
One of my favorite quotes of Padre Pio is what he tells us about
the Mass: “Every holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our
souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces
which we ourselves do not know…It is easier for the earth to
exist without sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
St. Gregory the Great says: “The present life is but a road by
which we advance to our homeland. Because of this, by a secret
judgment we are subjected to frequent disturbance so that we do
not have more love for the journey than for the destination. The
suffering St. Pio experienced in his ill health, in the
persecution by the very Church he loved, the trials and setbacks
in establishing the hospital, the pain of the stigmata -- all
kept before his eyes the pilgrim nature of his vocation. What
allowed St. Pio to persevere was the intense prayer life that he
lived faithfully. He prayed more in a week than most people pray
in a year. The test of authentic prayer is growth in goodness,
growth in humanity, greater serenity in living and in facing
hardship. Above all genuine contact with God effects a real
displacement of self as the center of our existence.
Prayer is not withdrawing from the rest of humanity. It is more
like a wedding feast to which we welcome all who cross our path.
A strange thing takes place in prayer. There is a mysterious
coupling of our own life with the lives of others -- an embrace
that includes the whole of humanity. At first prayer stems from
a sense of personal neediness. Prayer progressively becomes less
a self-centered plea for personal deliverance than a universal
cry for help and for the coming of God’s kingdom.
Prayer and suffering transformed the life of Padre Pio and made
him a living icon of God’s unfailing mercy and love. Too often
we try to follow Jesus at a safe distance, like Peter after he
fled from Gethsemane. Padre Pio’s life and teaching encourages
us to climb Calvary to join Jesus in the moments of greatest
pain and greatest love.
In today’s Gospel, planted at the foot of the cross are these
few brave disciples. I am sure that Mary’s faith and courage was
a source of strength for all of them. Mary stood at the foot of
the cross. At that dramatic moment, before His death Jesus gives
us a gift, His most precious possession, His Mother. Behold your
mother. Mary is now not only Jesus’ Mother. She is also our
For Padre Pio, as for St. Francis, the cross was his book, the
book where he read the greatest love story in history. Padre Pio
lived his life planted at the foot of the cross in the company
Mary full of grace, the costly grace of discipleship, the grace
that allowed Mary to renew her fiat, her yes to the Lord even in
the face of the cross. There by the cross is our Mother, Our
Lady of Grace.
Recently Our Holy Father Pope Benedict said, “He who believes is
not alone.” Here we have a host of witnesses. We stand before
the beloved cross of Our Blessed Savior, we stand with Our
Mother, Our Lady of Grace, and Padre Pio. We are not alone. When
the Apostles came down from Tabor, they carried in their hearts
a glimpse of God’s Glory. When you return to your homes, share
with your families and neighbors the graces of this pilgrimage
and the message of our beloved Padre Pio: Prayer, charity and
the joy of forgiveness.