Padre Pio was a friar, priest, confessor, stigmatist, and mystic, now venerated as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina of the Catholic Church. He had an extraordinarily personality, which if I delved into at length, would be enough to fill the pages of a book, and hence, I will restrict my reflection to only one aspect: confessor.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Padre Pio lived his life in conformity to the Paschal Mystery including the ministry of reconciliation, its fruit. With great passion, he dedicated many hours of the day to the confessional, both in the morning as well as post noon. He also brought with him a charism that few confessors have, the ability to read hearts. This enabled him to know when someone was being deceitful in confession or simply had forgotten a serious sin, perhaps through lack of an adequate examination of conscience. In such cases he was able to tell the penitent exactly what they did and when, as well as any relevant circumstances. This drew hundreds to him daily, moved by the grace of sincere repentance and the knowledge that Padre Pio could guide them with the wisdom of God in their spiritual life.
He also drew those who did not believe in his gifts or who intended to test him. These people were invariably unmasked, often in harsh ways. In the end they often repented, made a sincere confession and renewed their lives, despite their initial intentions.
I used to find it difficult to go for a confession to priests whom I knew very well or with whom I work closely. This incident took place sometime in November 2014. It had been months since my last confession and the burden of carrying my sin within me made me feel terrible. Every time I had attempted to go for a confession, I would find only our parish priest or assistant parish priest and I used to back out. Though I taught many people that it really does not matter which priest you go to, that the priest will not judge you, that what is shared will be confidential, etc., for me personally, this was something I struggled putting into practice.
That night, when I was about to go to sleep, my attention was caught by a relic of St. Padre Pio that was kept besides my bed. Realizing that he was an amazing confessor and that he was a spiritual father to many, I picked up the relic and looking at it, I told him that I wanted to make a confession and that I wanted him to get me the required grace for it. I also asked him to be my spiritual father.
When I woke up the next morning, I could feel the grace that was drawing me to this sacrament. I went to church, spent time before the tabernacle and then I asked my assistant parish priest if he would hear my confession. That was such a beautiful moment. I walked out a free man.
After about two months, I found myself in a similar situation once again. This time I had even forgotten to call on this saint. One afternoon, I was working from home and I had to log into a conference call. That day everything seemed to be going against me. My internet broad band disconnected, my land line refused to work and my mobile was not picking up the signal anywhere in the house. So I decided to go and take the call on the terrace. While I was standing there and talking on the phone, an eagle came and clawed my head and attempted to carry me off. Its nails had bruised my head and filled with fear and pain I ran into my house. There I heard an inner voice asking me to open Matthew 24:28. It read
“For wherever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together”.
I knew what that meant. The next morning, I went and met my parish priest and asked him to hear my confession. After my confession, while I was doing my penance, I heard the voice of St. Pio saying,
“How is it that you forgot to call on me this time? Remember, you had asked me to be your spiritual father. You might have forgotten that, but I didn’t”.
I also realized then that it was he who sent that eagle so that I would make a confession.
We are so privileged to have so many saints and angels to help us live out our call to holiness.