|Padre Pio: The Perfect Capuchin
By Gerardo Di Flumeri
Capuchin spirituality is based on the Passion of Christ. Their
crosses do not bear a corpus, because it is the friar who is to take Christ's place.
We know the prayer Padre Pio made in the month of November
1922, when writing to a spiritual daughter,
"Therefore, speak to Him for me,
that He might grant me the grace of making me a less unworthy son of Saint Francis, so
that I can be an example to my confreres, in order that fervor may continue to grow more
and more within me, making me a perfect Capuchin."
The figure of Padre Pio as a
"perfect Capuchin" has always been before me, but this last September it became
pronounced in a more definite way. In preparation of the celebration of the 28th
anniversary of his blessed transit, the speakers, from the 14th to the 23rd, one after the
other illustrated the different themes contained in the Apostolic exhortation of the Pope
on the consecrated life. Reference to Padre Pio was obligatory, so that there emerged a
wonderful portrait of Padre Pio whom Cardinal Giovanni Canestri, in the last evening of
the novena, synthesized in his homily, entitled, "Padre Pio, Model of Religious
It is not possible for me, in this brief article, to refer to
all that the speakers said. Here, I would like only to mention a few elements that made
Padre Pio, a model of religious life" and "a perfect Capuchin."
The Regola Bollata of St Francis (that of 1223) begins with
the following words, "The rule and life of the friars minor is this, to follow the
holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, with no possessions of t heir
own and in chastity." Padre Pio lived continuously and heroically all these things,
from the morning of his profession (22 January 1904) to the night of his death (23
He followed the holy Gospel, in the footsteps of our Lady who
"The first to
Gospel in all its perfection and in all its severity, before it was even written"
The Gospel identifies with the Cross.
No one practiced it like Mary, who as Our Lady of Sorrows stood at the foot of the cross.
No one practiced it like St Francis, who for two years bore the stigmata of Jesus. No one
practiced it like Padre Pio who for 50 years was pierced with the wounds of the Cross.
Padre Pio lived in obedience. I would like to synthesize this
point in the following affirmations. Padre Pio, like Jesus, was obedient unto death. St
Francis was the saint of poverty; Padre Pio was the "saint" of obedience. The
documents of his life are there to bear witness.
Padre Pio lived in poverty. Padre Pio, like his Seraphic
Father, the Poor One of Assisi, loved and lived this evangelical virtue. Here are two
concrete and irrefutable facts: the poverty of his cell and his detachment from money.
From 1916 to 1945, Padre Pio lived in cell number five. In it reigns the most absolute
poverty. Visiting it, I always marvel at the thought that in that very cell at that small,
dark, simple writing table Padre Pio wrote his sublime letters from September 1916 on.
After 1945, the Padre lived in cell number one, today open to
the public. The signs of his Franciscan poverty are easily visible and verifiable. One
would not think that that cell was the abode of a man through whose hands flowed huge sums
of money. And with this we are at the second concrete and irrefutable fact.
Through Padre Pio's hands there passed millions and billions
of lire. But he did not keep one penny. Detached from money, he collected huge sums,
solely for the glory of God and the relief of the suffering of his neighbour.
Padre Pio lived in chastity. He was an angel in human flesh
and in this fashion passed in the midst of the crowds of men and women, who each day
surrounded him from morning till evening. With regards to this virtue, I would like to
mention a fact I have noticed reading his letters. Very seldom in those hundreds of
letters does Padre Pio mention the virtue, of purity. Why? Because purity is a beautiful
virtue, but a virtue that is easily sullied. It is necessary to possess it in one's soul
and in one's heart.
Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis, the confessor and
spiritual director of Padre Pio has left the following testimony of his disciple: I could
swear that Padre Pio has preserved until now his virginity, he has never sinned even
venially against this angelic virtue" (Diary).
A model of religious life. A perfect Capuchin. This is how he
was considered during the celebrations of the 28th anniversary of his holy passing.
And it seems to me this message of last September is relevant
for all religious and lay people alike. Through baptism, in fact, everyone has been
consecrated in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
[From the Voice of Padre Pio, January 1997,
Friary of Our Lady of Grace, 71013 San Giovanni Rotondo, (FG), Italy. Used with permission
of: The National Center for Padre Pio, 2213 Old Route 100, Barto, PA 19504, through which
a subscription may be obtained.]