Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI visited the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, where St. Padre Pio lived. During his visit, he spoke to those present about the importance of maintaining a life of prayer amidst a secular world that often discards the faith.
In the morning, the Holy Father visited the cell of the monastery where Padre Pio died, and venerated his mortal remains. Afterwards, he celebrated Mass in front of the church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina.
In his homily, the Pope spoke of St. Padre Pio, emphasizing how prayer was the foundation of all his priestly work of “guiding souls and alleviating suffering” in a spirit of unity with Christ.
“His days were a living Rosary, a continuous meditation upon, and assimilation of, the mysteries of Christ, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary,” Benedict said. “This explains the unique simultaneous presence in him of supernatural gifts and of concrete human qualities. And the culmination of everything came in the celebration of Mass.”
The Holy Father continued to explain the great charity that was the fruit of this prayer. “The love he carried in his heart and transmitted to others was full of tenderness, ever attentive to the real situations in which individuals and families lived,” he said.
The Pope also warned that “the risks of activism and secularization” are always threatening to draw the faithful away from God.
“Many of you, religious and lay people, are so absorbed by your many obligations in serving pilgrims or the sick in hospital, that you run the risk of neglecting what is truly important: listening to Christ and accomplishing the will of God,” said Benedict.
“When you realize that you are close to running this risk look to Padre Pio, to his example, to his sufferings, and invoke his intercession that he may obtain from the Lord the light and strength you need to continue his mission.”
Later in the day, the Pope met with priests, religious, and young people at the church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. He spoke to the clergy about the newly-inaugurated Year for Priests under the patronage of St. Jean Vianney, highlighting the importance of the Sacrament of Penance to both Padre Pio and the Cure d’Ars.
“The Sacrament of Penance must be further enhanced,” said the Holy Father, encouraging the clergy present to renew their commitment to the Sacrament. “Priests must never resign themselves to seeing their confessionals deserted, nor limit themselves to noting the disaffection of the faithful for this extraordinary source of serenity and peace.”
Benedict again emphasized “the value and necessity of prayer,” in Padre Pio’s life, describing it as “a fundamental point not only for the spirituality of priests but also for that of all Christians, and even more so for yours, dear religious, who have been chosen to follow Christ more closely by practicing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.”
The Holy Father encouraged the clergy not to become discouraged at the way that the faith is weakening and even being abandoned in secular society. Instead, he invited them to unite themselves with Christ in a spirit of prayer.