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Padre Pio’s Mass

Padre Pio was ordained to the priesthood in Benevento, Italy, on August 10. 1910. On the back of the holy card commemorating his first Holy Mass, he wrote: “Jesus, my desire and my life, when today, trembling, I bring you forth in the mystery of love, grant that I may be for the world the way, the truth, and the life, and for you – a holy priest and perfect victim.”

Padre Pio was ordained to the priesthood in Benevento, Italy, on August 10. 1910. On the back of the holy card commemorating his first Holy Mass, he wrote: “Jesus, my desire and my life, when today, trembling, I bring you forth in the mystery of love, grant that I may be for the world the way, the truth, and the life, and for you – a holy priest and perfect victim.”

When Padre Pio said Holy Mass, people felt that he was truly participating in Christ’s passion and crucifixion. Here is how Our Lord speaks of him in a private revelation: “He has my power, for I, Jesus, live in him…. His gestures, words, and glances are more eloquent than any great orator’s address. I impart value to everything that comes from him. He is my mercy’s masterpiece. To him I have given all the gifts of my Spirit. He is my perfect imitator, my Host, my altar, my victim, my likeness, my glory!”

On September 21, 1962, Fr Jerzy Tomlinski, Superior General of the Polish Order of Pauline Fathers, took part in a Mass celebrated by Padre Pio. What most struck him, he recalls, was the moment of the Consecration: “Padre Pio acted as though he were seeing Christ. He leaned forward on the altar, put out his hands as if embracing the cross, and gazed on the Host. He saw the Lord Jesus suffering and dying. He saw Him in the Host – you could tell by his face. It was something out of this world….It was not a priest saying Mass that I saw but the Passion of Our Lord on Golgotha. I saw the Lord Jesus suffering and dying – shedding blood. Thanks to Padre Pio, I saw and tasted heaven on the altar.”

In The Real Faces of Padre Pio, author Maria Winowska describes Padre Pio’s Eucharistic liturgy as follows: “His face became transformed the moment he approached the altar steps. You did not need to be a sage to see that he was entering a world to which we had no access. Suddenly I realized what it was that drew such crowds to his Masses, what it was that riveted them and won them over. From the very beginning we are drawn into the depths of the mystery. Like the sightless surrounding one who sees. For we are like blind people outside of reality’s pale. This is the mission of the mystic: to summon to life our inner eyes, which have atrophied, eyes intended to gaze upon a blinding splendor incomparably more powerful than the light visible to the mortal eye….For my part, I can say that at San Giovanni Rotondo I discovered in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass an abyss of love and light, which had been scarcely perceptible to me before. This is a crucial point….the task [of the mystic] consists not in doing something “different” or “better than others,” but in enabling us to grasp, taste, and incorporate into ourselves the unique sacrifice that is the Holy Mass….For you have to be blind not to see that this man approaching this altar is suffering. His step is heavy, unsteady. It is not easy to walk on feet that have been pierced by nails. His arms lean heavily on the altar as he bends down to kiss it. He behaves as if his hands are wounded, like one forced to economize every movement. Finally, raising his head, he gazes up at the cross. Involuntarily, I turn my eyes away; it is as though I am afraid to watch this mystery of love. The Capuchin’s face, which expressed jovial politeness just a moment earlier, becomes transformed. Waves of emotion wash over it as though, summoned to battle by invisible forces, he experiences in turn fear, joy, sorrow, terror, and pain. His face seems to mirror a mysterious dialog. He protests, shakes his head, then awaits a reply. His whole body seems tensed in one silent act of begging….Time stops, or rather stops being reckoned. This priest who stands riveted to the altar seems to have brought us into another dimension, in which time loses its meaning.

“Great tears suddenly start to his eyes. His shoulders, wracked with sobbing, seem to bend under an overwhelming load. A wartime memory flashes through my mind: the sight of a condemned man receiving his death sentence. No movement of the jaw muscles but the whole body contracts, withdraws into itself. This slow agony – this learning to die – prepares you to look the firing squad in the eye. Padre Pio has taken Christ’s drama for his very own. The distinction between him and Christ becomes blurred: “Vivo ego jam non ego” (“I live, but no longer I”) Would the Lord renew His sacrifice in an unbloody form only that we should forget the price of His blood? Every Mass is an invitation for us to participate in our Redeemer’s Passion. For it is He who lives, suffers, and dies in His Mystical Body. Are we not all, in this sense, cooperators in the Redemption? Is the Mass not for each of us a place of transubstantiation, in which our wretched suffering, assumed by Christ, takes on eternal value? …

“I was there one Friday when, like an exhausted wrestler in the ring, he strove in vain to say the words of the Consecration. Eventually, after a titanic struggle, he succeeded, but the effort utterly wasted Him. Another time, during the Sanctus, beads of sweat poured down his forehead to bathe a face contorted with sobbing. At these times he was the personification of pain striving with agony. There were times when he said the words of Consecration while suffering like a martyr…

“Finally, he holds up the God-Host. Narrow rivulets of blood stream down his back. For a brief moment his features soften and his face beams with joy. At times a smile passes over his lips and his eyes seem to caress the Host with a tender look. I do not know the depth of darkness to which his faith descends, but I have no doubt as to the penetrating reach of his eye, which cuts through all appearances. Whoever doubts the Real Presence should go to one of Padre Pio’s Masses. I am not saying that faith – which is a grace – will instantly and automatically flow down over every person who does, but I am convinced that everyone will come away with the same question that a friend posed to me after I had sent him to San Giovanni Rotondo: “One of the two things,” he said to me in a letter. “Either I am an idiot, or Padre Pio is a saint.” Of the two eventualities – he added – he was inclined to favor the first.

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