By: Jason Songe
In 1892 a five-year-old boy lived in Pietrelcina, Italy. His name was Francesco Forgione, and he had to make a decision.
Would he cooperate with God’s grace and will for his life? Or would he not?
Forgione said yes, consecrated himself to Jesus Christ, and we now know him as St. Padre Pio, according to “Padre Pio The Man,” an article on ewtn.com. On Wednesday night at St. Rita Church, Fr. Jeffrey Montz, who is a professor of spiritual theology at Notre Dame Seminary, will lecture on St. Pio.
“The favors he received as a young child were extraordinary,” said Fr. Montz from his office during a recent interview. “He had locutions and would talk to saints and his guardian angel. He thought this was the norm for everyone.”
Not everyone gets the same gifts, Fr. Montz said. On the physical level gifts aren’t distributed equally. It’s the same in spiritual realm, he added.
St. Pio joined the Capuchin Franciscan Friars at age 15 in San Giovanni Rotundo, Italy, and he was ordained a priest at 23. As he aged St. Pio received more gifts, including the reading of souls. Though, as a confessor, this was advantageous, it was a burden, as well. When he read the souls, according to Fr. Montz, Jesus would bring St. Pio into their sufferings. As a result he felt compelled, though also encumbered with a long list of personal intentions, to take the time to petition for them.
“He’s got all these people he wants to pray for and the Lord brings all these other people to him for prayers,” Fr. Montz said, adding that it was an example of how God involves us in his plan of salvation.
“God could trust him.”
St. Pio, now known for bilocation, levitation, and the stigmata, became famous, and people began to flock to his friary in Italy.
“Those things were a source of suffering because they drew so much attention. He was humble,” Fr. Montz said. St. Pio did not reveal his stigmata to his superior until it could no longer be hidden, according to a book by Pascal Cataneo entitled Padre Pio: Glimpse into the Miraculous.
Fr. Montz warns against focusing on the mystique of his gifts.
“We can miss out on his substantial prayer life, the way he’d direct souls—and his very basic message,” Fr. Montz said. “To live a moral life and pray deeply. He never lost sight of the real point to life, for him—intimacy with Christ.”
That intimacy was what brought him pain. Yes, more pain. According to Fr. Montz, he entered into the way of Christ on the cross and as a result felt abandoned by God. He no longer felt God’s love, though he was still madly in love with Jesus.
“He had his dark night of the soul,” Fr. Montz said. “It’s when we’re so close to the source of light that our eye is incapable of taking in the light, so the soul perceives it as darkness.”
What can we learn from Pio?
“It’s a difficult vocation to be a Christian in the world,” Fr. Montz said. “Laypeople must have the elements of a friar. They must be rooted in prayer and silence…Pio encouraged people to learn about the faith and form their consciences properly.”
Fr. Montz is excited about the relics of Pio making a stop at St. Rita on October 4th.
“Relics can lead us through the senses to greater devotion to the Lord. And He grants graces through the physical presence of relics.”
On Wednesday, September 27, at 630 p.m. Montz will present a lecture on St. Padre Pio at St. Rita Catholic Church. A Q and A will follow. Admission is free.
About the Author: Jason Songe
Jason Songe is a seminarian in Pre-Theology 1.
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