Fr Leonard E Dollentas
Many remembered Padre Pio de Pietrelcina for receiving the stigmata and this is what he is often known for. However, this privilege of sharing the suffering of the Lord was certainly not the greatest legacy he left behind. It was obedience, grounded in patience and trust in Jesus Christ which led to his extraordinary legacy. As he was known for his obedience to God, he did not waver in being obedient to Church authorities as well.
In 1940, when Padre Pio initiated a project to build a hospital, many people began to support him and he gained immense popularity. This has caused people to be jealous of his attention and some got interested in the money pouring in to support his project. These people worked hard to push Pio out of control of the leadership of the hospital.
The Church leadership, even some of his own religious brothers, lied to him and put him through unnecessary investigations when he gained much popularity due to the stigmata and reported miracles attributed to his intercessions. The Vatican imposed severe sanctions on Pio in the 1920s to reduce publicity about him and removing him from public life: “Padre Pio is to be stripped of all the faculties of his priestly ministry except the faculty to celebrate the Holy Mass, which he may continue to do, provided that it is done in private, within the walls of the friary, in the inner chapel, and not publicly in church.”
When the superior of the monastery read to Padre Pio the decree, the saintly friar responded, “God’s will be done … The will of the superiors is the will of God.” The period following the imposition of sections was a difficult cross for him to bear. The Holy See made statements from 1924 to 1931 denying that the events in Pio’s life were due to any divine cause. He obeyed and submitted to the decree and never uttered any word to defend himself or fight back
In 1933 the tide began to turn in favor of Padre Pio. Pope Pius XI ordered a reversal of the ban on Padre Pio’s public celebration of Mass, arguing, “I have not been badly disposed toward Padre Pio, but I have been badly informed.” In 1934, the priest was again allowed to hear confessions and given permission to preach. Pope Pius XII, who assumed the papacy in 1939, even encouraged devotees to visit Padre Pio.
The life of St Padre Pio, particularly regarding obedience, reminds us of what St Faustina wrote about what Jesus Christ told her: “The devil can imitate humility, but he cannot imitate obedience.”
Indeed, Padre Pio’s simple obedience made him more relevant for our times than ever before. This simple, poor friar who offered himself for others and loved others more than himself, forgave those who attacked him and lied about him. He sought only to do the will of God and left us the greatest lesson on the way to holiness. Obedience.