Padre Pio was one of my favorite saints growing up. Although I was initially enamored by his gifts of bilocation, stigmata, and the ability to read the hearts and minds of those who came to him, there was something else unexplainable which drew me to him. As I grew older, my admiration for this Capuchin friar deepened as I became immersed in the spiritual treasury of wisdom he left behind. Throughout the years, Padre Pio always reemerged with some practical advice on living the Christian life, whether it be reminding me not to worry when having to suddenly move, or to pray to my guardian angel. Here are some lessons Padre Pio has taught me over the years:
Hope in God: “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.” These words are a challenge to grow in the virtue of hope, which is fitting for they seem to re-emerge in my life during periods of transition and difficulty. One such time occurred the summer after graduating college. I had accepted a teaching position out of state within two weeks of school starting. I was worried about relocating so quickly while preparing for the school year. Padre Pio’s advice encouraged me not to worry, and to bring my request to God in prayer, trusting in his providence (after all, Scripture reminds us that we cannot add to our life by worrying!). Of course, the transition went smoothly – I soon discovered a friend was relocating to the same area, and so we found housing together. Additionally, I found that at the commencement of the school year, I was prepared for the first couple of weeks of school! Hence, Padre Pio tells us “worry is useless and God will hear our prayer” for we are of more value than the birds of the air and lilies of the field for which God provides.
Live in the present: “My past, O Lord to Your mercy; my present, to Your love; my future to Your Providence.” A couple of years ago, a friend and I walked part of the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James. There, we lived the reality of living in the present, for we only were focused on the basic needs of the day: replenishing our water bottles, finding a place to eat or purchasing food when hunger struck, and finding a place to stay for the evening when we arrived in town. During our pilgrimage, God provided for us daily and tomorrow’s concerns were just that: the cares of another day. All that matters is to remain in the present: in the abiding presence of God who supplies his grace for all my needs.
Stay close to Mary and pray the Rosary: “Love the Madonna and Pray the Rosary.” Padre Pio had a special love for the Virgin Mary and the Rosary. When people entrusted their prayers to Padre Pio, he would bring their petitions to Mary, and would often proclaim for all to “love the Blessed Mother and help others love her.” Padre Pio’s devotion to Mary reminds me that on the cross, Christ gave Mary to be my mother, too. She loves me as her child, and I am called to love her as a mother. One way which I can honor Mary as mother is by praying the Rosary, for by doing so I can draw closer to Mary by contemplating Christ’s life through her eyes. Padre Pio’s example of continually praying the Rosary throughout the day – he is known to have prayed up to 50 Rosaries some days! – challenges me to take time to pray the Rosary and entrust my petitions to Mary. After all, Jesus can refuse his mother nothing. This is why the saintly friar relays “all graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother” and that “the holy Rosary makes hell shake when prayed with faith.”
Recognize God’s will in all: “In all the events of life, you must recognize the Divine will. Adore and bless it, especially in the things that are the hardest for you.” This perhaps is one of the harder teachings of Padre Pio for me to live by. Yet, Padre Pio’s life is a beautiful testament in recognizing and surrendering to God’s will. Padre Pio meekly obeyed his superiors when being subjected to detraction and persecution, and when prohibited from hearing Confessions, offering public Masses, and replying to correspondences. In all these events, he would respond “God’s will be done,” thus instructing that whatever happens in life ultimately is for one’s salvation. I often recall this when my patience runs short after a long day, or upon finding myself in traffic, because Padre Pio teaches me to recognize that God is extending his grace to grow in virtue in this particular moment. By accepting God’s grace, I can work out my salvation here on earth. This is why Padre Pio says to adore and even thank God for all that happens, that all which we experience is for our salvation.
Recall and speak to your guardian angel: “Do not complain about not having a soul-mate to whom you can open (your heart) and to whom you can confide your sorrows – for the love of God, do not forget this invisible companion [angel] who is always present to listen to you and always ready to console you.” Padre Pio had a special relationship with his guardian angel (he was known to affectionately call his angel “Angelino”— little angel!) and he inspired others to develop a devotion to their guardian angels. Padre Pio would even encourage his spiritual children to send him their guardian angels to convey a message to him! Padre Pio reminds me that in God’s sheer goodness, he has gifted me a spiritual companion to be with me — who never leaves my side! Padre Pio’s devotion to his guardian angel also encourages me in moments of need to ask my angel to convey messages for me, to comfort a friend in their affliction, or to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament when I cannot.
Love God: “Only one thing is necessary: lift up your spirit and love God.” This great saint rightly cautions that being too concerned with the material ends in discouragement and distraction from life’s true goal: heaven. However, Padre Pio provides the remedy for this: Focus on God and simply strive to love him as best one can each day. An easy way to prioritize the day consists in praying the morning offering. By offering the day’s joys, sorrows and difficulties to God, I am actually giving God my day as an act of love. Throughout the day then, whatever I do, whether it be working, speaking to a friend, or cooking, I can recall that God is with me and once again offer my actions to God in love.
We can glean much spiritual insight from this 21st century saint. Whether we are prone to worrying, desire encouragement, need to be challenged or reminded of important aspects of the faith, Padre Pio always has some wisdom to offer. By taking to heart Padre Pio’s advice, I can deepen my love for God, grow in my spiritual life and become a saint like him.