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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."

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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 Life."

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 September 1968).

He followed the holy Gospel, in the footsteps of our Lady who was,

"The first to practice the Gospel in all its perfection and in all its severity, before it was even written" (Letters I).

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.]