In 1972, the magazine “Fra Ginepro” of the “Rosetum” Centre of Milan has published two unedited letters of Padre Pio addressed to the missionary Bishop of Allahabnb (India), Msgr. Angelo Poli. The letters today are collected in the “Epistolario of Padre Pio”.
The dates of the two letters are the 17th of February, 1921 and the 1st of February, 1922.
In the first letter Padre Pio writes: “I have made most vivid demands to my Director to be enrolled among your missionaries, but, poor me, he has not found me worthy. And nothing up to now is capable of obtaining for me this signal grace. I must return to the cell. Let you also recommend this affair to Jesus and tell Him that if He wishes me to be among His missionaries, let Him dispose my Superior’s will accordingly. And meanwhile, since it is not yet conceded to me to be in reality one of his missionaries, I will do my best to be a missionary in spirit. I will accompany you everywhere with prayers and with sighs, in the hope that you will not disdain to welcome me as one of your least missionaries”.
In the second letter Padre Pio repeats this desire and writes: “How much I desire and how content I would be if I also could find myself there so as to offer my poor work for the spreading of the Faith. But that good fortune is not reserved for me, but for other souls more noble and more dear to Jesus. I will exercise my mission with humble, fervent and assiduous prayer. Yes, Father, I remain here with my body, but in spirit I am near you and strongly united to you…”.
Let us consider these sections of the letters. In the first place we do not wish to let go unobserved the theological correctness of two expressions. The object of the missionary vocation is expressed exactly with the phrase “for the spreading of the Faith”, which, in a phrase pregnant with meaning, indicates all the various phrases of missionary activity in the land of the infidels (Cf. Ad Gentes, n.6).
Besides, Padre Pio does not know whether or not it is the will of God that he go as a missionary. His Director has not found him worthy and has, therefore, refused his permission to go. But this does not constitute ad insurmountable difficulty for Padre Pio. He knows well that if God wishes it, he will know how to actuate His designs, notwithstanding the contrary will of men. And this is why he beseeches the Bishop to whom he writes: “Let you also recommend this affair to Jesus and tell Him that if He wishes me to be among His missionaries, let him dispose my Superior’s will accordingly. These words are an echo of the solemn biblical affirmations: “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8,35 : LXX); “The king’s hearth is a stream of water in the land of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21,1); and also: “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2,13).
In the second place it is to be noted that Padre Pio had the greatest esteem for the missionary vocation. For him it is a “signal grace”, a “good fortune”, which Jesus “reserves for noble souls and for souls more dear to him”. He has a great desire for this grace. The phrase: “I have made most vivid demands”; “I must return to the cell”; “Let you also recommend”; “How much I desire and how content I would be”, indicate this clearly.
Finally, before his grace, Padre Pio shows a profound humility. Let us read again some expressions in which this sense of humility shows itself more: “…poor me, he has not found me worthy”; “do not disdain to welcome me as one of your least missionaries”; “my poor works”, “this good fortune is not reserved for me, although” … “I will exercise it with humble…prayer”.
“An immense crowd”
Padre Pio wished, therefore, to depart as a missionary. And we ought to be thankful to the review “Fra Ginepro”, which, with the publication of these two letters, has succeeded in bridging a gap in the knowledge we had of him. It seemed that he lacked something; but now, no: we are certain of it! In his heart burned the flame of the ideal missionary. Thus his stature is enriched with a new dimension and our picture of him becomes ever more perfect.
And besides, it could not be otherwise. The Second Vatican Council teaches that “the Church…by her very nature is missionary” (Ad Gentes, n.2; cfr also n,6); and Padre Pio, who lived the ecclesial life intensely, could not but feel in his soul the missionary anxiety of the Spouse of Christ. On the other hand, in this also, he ought to be a worthy son of St. Francis of Assisi, of that “apostolic man”, who made repeated efforts to go to convert the infidels and who, then, following the example of Christ, (Mark 16,15) the first in the Middle Ages to do so, sent his brothers into the entire world to preach the Gospel to every creature!
God, however, did not wish that Padre Pio be a missionary in the land of the infidels but left him on the rock of the Gargano to be a missionary of all the earth. Men from all parts of the world come to him: “an immense crowd … from every nation and tribe and people and tongue” (Apoc. 7,9).
For more than 50 years he exercised his mission by preaching, in the confessional, by the celebrating of Holy Mass and the administration of the other sacraments, by good example, by penance, and by “humble, fervent and assiduous prayer”.
by P. Gerardo di Flumeri Capuchin
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