When the disciples, as the Evangelist says, arguing among themselves as to “which one of them would be greater in the kingdom of heaven”, Jesus called a little child and stood him in their midst and said: ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you change yourselves and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever, therefore, humble themselves like this child will be greater in the kingdom of heaven.’”
Christ loves the childhood that he first took up in both soul and body. Christ loves childhood, the teacher of humility, the rule of innocence, the mage of gentleness. Christ loves childhood, to which he directs the characters of older people, to which he brings back old age. Those whom he would raise up to an eternal kingdom he disposes to follow his own example…
May there be no memory of offenses, no desire for importance, but only a love for sharing things together and a natural equality. It is a great good not to know how to harm and not to have a taste for malice. To inflict and to pay back injury belongs to the wisdom of this world, but “to repay evil for evil to no one” represents the childhood of Christian self- possession…
Let humility be loved. Let every exaltation be avoided by the faithful. Let all prefer others to themselves… That way, when an inclination to do good will abounds in us all, the poison of hate might not be found in any one.
The denigration of Pope Pius XII is one of the most shameful episodes of contemporary anti-Catholicism. In the past decade alone, there has been a torrent of books and articles—some by dissident Catholics whose real target is Pope John Paul II—attacking Pius for his alleged silence and inaction during the Holocaust. These indictments of Pius have been ably refuted not only by Catholic apologists but also by Jewish historians such as Pinchas Lapide, Martin Gilbert and reputable non-Jewish scholars such as Owen Chadwick and Anthony Rhodes.
But, for some reason, it is the anti-Pius diatribes of Daniel Goldhagen, James Carroll and John Cornwell—none of whom are scholars, all of whom are anti-Catholic—that hold the media’s attention. The simple truth is that Pius was responsible for saving more Jewish lives during World War II than any other individual, including Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg.
There is considerable delicacy in the media about mentioning anyone’s failures with regard to the Holocaust—always with exception of Pius. Just recently, two diplomatic documents, which had been sitting quietly in an archive at Harvard University, have been discovered by a Jesuit researcher that put to rest the charge that Pius was a secret Nazi sympathizer. One document is a private memo written in April 1938 in which the future Pius says that compromise with the Nazis is “out of the question.” The other a report in 1937 when Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli called Hitler “a fundamentally wicked person” and “an untrustworthy scoundrel.”
Anyone who has studied the matter already knows that he despised the Nazis and all their works, but it is good to have these new reminders. . .
Pius’ most determined critics will probably pay no attention to this new evidence. But their campaign of detraction is looking weaker all the time.
Padre Pio could look into the minds and hearts of people and inspire in them repentance and conversion, a turning away from selfishness and sin, and turning back to God, accepting his love and his mercy. It is reliably recounted that the saint appeared, after his death, to some who prayed fervently for his intercession. But his message was always the same. He did not promise relief from their crosses, but encouraged them to accept their burdens and to see them as a sharing in Christ’s redemptive suffering.
This holy Capuchin friar was truly an extraordinary instrument of divine love and mercy; especially through the long and, for him, painful hours he spent in the confessional. Padre Pio was a kind and patient confessor, but he was uncompromising when faced with the reality of sin and the necessity for repentance. This particular charisma of Padre Pio can inspire in all of us a renewal of living faith in the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession, and its necessity in our lives.
However, our new saint would affirm that his most precious gift from god was the stigmata through which he was so intimately associated with the suffering of our divine Savior in his passion and crucifixion.
Padre Pio first received the interior marks and the constant pain of the stigmata 1915, just five years after his ordination to the priesthood at the age of twenty-three. Three years later, the five wounds became clearly visible on his hands, his feet, and his side, and were accompanied by substantial bleeding. Padre Pio experienced this unceasing and intense pain, as well as the shedding of his blood, daily, until his death fifty years later in 1968.
But above all, it is clear that the Mass was the center and summit of the saint’s life, and the source of his strength and his courage to follow Christ. Those who were blessed to be at his Mass spoke of this as a profoundly moving experience, a moment of conversion. They were deeply affected by the devotion with which Padre Pio celebrated the Eucharist, bearing witness to his absolute faith in the sacrifice of Christ made truly present on the altar, the sacrifice so dramatically reflected in his own body, in the bleeding wounds. It was obvious that the saint was truly living in the Eucharist as both priest and sacrificial offering in Christ.
In the celebration of the Mass, this sacrifice of our Lord is made truly present on the altar and the saving effects of the cross are continued in our world. This is the deepest meaning of our Lord’s command to his apostles when he instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist at the last supper. After changing bread and wine into his own Body, and Blood, Jesus instructed them: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Our Lord was calling for a continued celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy, but, beyond that, “do this” means that we are to live the Eucharist, to make ourselves a total offering to God in Christ, for our salvation and that of all the world. The Church, in her members, exists precisely to celebrate and to live the Eucharist.
The life of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina offers us a profound appreciation, a deeper understanding, in the light of our faith, of the redemptive value of our own suffering, for ourselves and for others. Each person in suffering, and all of us suffer in one form or another, can become, consciously, a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ; becoming, ourselves, a living Eucharist, an offering of praise and thanksgiving to God.