Padre Pio: Ardent uninterrupted prayer
His love for Mary found expression in ardent, confident, uninterrupted prayer. Who could count the number of Rosaries he recited in the course of his long life? Padre Pietro Tartaglia told: “I can see him today as he appeared to me when I was a youngster. It was beautiful to see him there in the silence of his cell when we Capuchin aspirants went to him for confession. A subdued light gave a mystical touch to his emaciated but radiant countenance. Near him was a photograph of his mother who had died a short time before, and a little statue of Our Lady. He spoke about her to us and taught us to love her. At a certain hour he would walk in the friary garden, absorded in his sufferings and his love, while the beads slipped through the fingers of his wounded hands. And how full and ardent was his voice when he recited the Angelus with the others, in the garden, in the choir or at the window. Who could fail to be moved by the sight o him as he walked with painful steps towards the altar for evening devotions and in a voice breaking with emotion recited the Visit to Our Blessed Lady ?”.
Imitation of her virtues
With Padre Pio love for Our Lady meant continual imitation of her virtues. We quote once more Padre Pio Tartaglia: “Reproducing her virtues, with her virtues, with her help, he drew ever closer to his Lord and Master, so very close as to be transformed into him. His imitation of Mary meant, in the first place, imitation of her humility. For him that humility was a constant interior torment, a slow and painful agony, the anguish of not knowing whether he was corresponding to divine grace or not. You could read that deep humility on his face even when he was sorrounded by the enthustiastic crowds who believed in him, who trusted in his prayers and expected innumerable graces from him day after day. On such occasions he remained in deeply humble recollection. It was this profound and Mary-like humility that made him accept cheerfully and in dignified silence the misunderstandings, humiliations, calumnies and moral sufferings which were showered upon him in abundance”, especially, we may add, at one particular period of his life.
“His deep love for Mary the Mother of God”, continues Padre Pietro, “induced him to unite with her in utter donation, in the continual sacrifice of a loving victim, by excruciating sufferings without an instant’s respite”. He was to write one day in 1915: “May the most holy Virgin obtain for us a love of the Cross, a love of pain and suffering, and may she who was the first to practise the Gospel in all its perfection before it was written, enable us and stimulate us to follow the example. We must make every effort to walk close to her, since there is no other path leading to life except the path followed by our Mother” (Letter to Padre Benedetto, 1 July 1915).
His love engendered cheerful and boundless trust: “Hasn’t God placed all his graces in Our Lady’s hands?” he wrote to Padre Agostino. “He has placed the cause of my salvation and the ultimate victory in her hands. Protected and guided by so tender a Mother, I will continue to fight as long as God wills, full of confidence in this Mother and certain that I will never succumb” (9 May 1915).
This same love prompted him to practise continual mortification. He implored his spiritual director to let him abstain from eating fruit on Wednesdays and asked him to suggest a means of pleasing this Blessed Mother in all things and at all times. He became an apostle of the love of Mary: “I would like to have a voice loud enough to invite the sinners of the whole world to love Our Lady” (1 May 1915).
Padre Pio had a voice that was powerful even when he was silent. It was a voice that touched the depths of people’s hearts, that dug down into their consciences, to torment and shake those who were too easygoing. It was a voice that was terrible as the crashing of thunder in the night, yet sweet as a caress, a voice that brought people to their knees and raised them up, a voice that consoled and dispensed forgiveness.
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