|Padre Pio and Christ's Priesthood
The greatest feature of Padre Pio's life is
its perfect conformity to Jesus Christ the Priest. To understand what this means it is
necessary to first understand the Priesthood of Christ.
The entire Old Law, with its
institutions and rituals, was a preparation for, and foreshadowing of, the New
Covenant of Jesus Christ. Foremost among the properly religious institutions was the
spiritual leadership of Jewish worship, with its three-fold division of High Priest,
Priests and Levites. The role of the Priest was to accomplish the ritual sacrifices
commanded by God, in thanksgiving for His blessings, in expiation for sin and in petition
for needs. These sacrifices ranged from the bloody expiatory victims (lambs and bullocks)
to the unbloody offerings of incense and cereal (grain). They were most notable for their
sheer quantity, offered again and again, day after day, on behalf of Israel, and Israel
However, while commanding these
sacrifices God makes clear that he does not need them and that they do not in fact satisfy
for sin (Ps.
6:6). Through His prophets He tells of a time when an acceptable sacrifice will
be offered by His Suffering Servant (Is.
53:11), and that this Sacrifice will be perpetuated among the Gentiles from end of the
world to the other (Mal.
Furthermore, with the change of
victim (from lambs to the Lamb) there needed to be a change of priesthood, from one
fixed in time by bodily descent, to an eternal priesthood that transcended time and was
thus spiritual. This priesthood was already anticipated in Scripture and foretold by King
David to be present in his descendant, the Messiah.
Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought
out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these word:
Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth ... (Gen.
The LORD says to you, my lord:
"Take your throne at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool."
The scepter of your sovereign might the LORD will extend from Zion. The LORD says:
"Rule over your enemies! Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy
splendor before the daystar, like the dew I begot you." The LORD has sworn and will
not waver: Like Melchizedek you are a priest forever." (Psalm
The author of the Letter to the
Hebrews explains it this way.
Every high priest is taken from among
men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset
by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for
the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as
Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high
priest, but rather the one who said to him: "You are my son; this day I have begotten
you"; just as he says in another place: "You are a priest forever according to
the order of Melchizedek." In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers
and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from
death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience
from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal
salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest according to the order of
Thus it was that on the night before
He consummated His Sacrifice on the Cross He conferred this Priesthood on the apostles,
taking bread and saying,
This is My Body which will be given
for you, do this in memory of me.
and taking wine and saying,
This cup is the new covenant in My
Blood, do this in memory of me.
Thus, He not only
fulfilled His promise to give Himself as spiritual food and drink to His disciples (Jn.
6: 54-55), elevating them to eternal life, but left the New Israel of His Church a
priesthood which could sacramentally re-present His Sacrifice offered "once for
10:10) on Calvary "until He comes again" (1
Cor 11:26, Mal.
Padre Pio's Conformity to Christ the Priest
It is into this priesthood, whose
gifts are bread and wine and whose priest and victim are one and the
same, Jesus Christ, that Padre Pio was ordained on 10 August 1910. The Church
teaches that at the supreme moment of the sacramental re-presentation of Calvary in the
Mass that the ministerial priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of
Christ), showing forth in a mystical way the death of the Lord by the separate
consecration of His Body and Blood.
To this Holy Sacrifice, offered
visibly by way of signs - bread and wine - but presenting the invisible and eternal
sacrifice of Christ (Heb.
5:6), Padre Pio dedicated His most intense acts of piety, and obtained from the Father
perfect conformity to the crucified Lord. So, close was this conformity that he lived it
out even outside of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, through the immolation of the service
of the confessional, dedicating long hours to the reconciliation of sinners, through a
ministry of intense sufferings offered on behalf of others, through enduring the assaults
of the devil that his spiritual children might not, and through the mystical conformity of
the stigmata, the wounds of Christ's crucifixion, as the first priest in the history of
the Church to do so. In all these ways Padre Pio was both priest and Victim like our
High Priest Jesus Christ.