“Padre Pio´s proposal for the man of our times, disoriented by materialism and secularization, is holiness,” said Father Raniero Cantalamessa who, like the friar of Pietrelcina, is a Capuchin religious. “With his example, Padre Pio wishes to tell us that holiness is a way that is also accessible today.”
Q: Padre Pio´s holiness is so extraordinary that it might even be frightening.
Father Cantalamessa: In “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” specifically in regard to holiness, the Pope clarified that external phenomena, namely supernatural manifestations, may or may not take place.
Q: Padre Pio´s life, in fact, is immersed in supernatural categories.
Father Cantalamessa: It´s true; however, it´s not necessary to reject these realities, which confound our desire to rationalize. One who argues about the supernatural seems to be trying to teach God his job. A miracle is always a call, a pedagogical admonition in face of the fragility of our faith.
Q: How should we see Padre Pio´s miracles?
Father Cantalamessa: With gratitude. Padre Pio´s presence is a great gift of God. In any event, a man of his stature represents an extraordinary event for humanity. And God chose to make him live in our time. Let us thank the Lord.
Q: Is it possible to compare St. Francis and Padre Pio?
Father Cantalamessa: I think that both of them have been invested with a cyclone of glory of worldwide resonance. And then there is the love of the cross, the stigmata, the habit. However, the comparisons stop here. Their temperaments were very different.
Q: Miracles also flowered around St. Francis.
Father Cantalamessa: Francis traveled throughout the then known world. Padre Pio always stayed in the confessional. However, millions of people came to him. And, seeing this extraordinary flow of souls that are searching, we understand Padre Pio´s originality.
Q: Is there a particular aspect that stands out in his mysticism?
Father Cantalamessa: Its essence is this daily meeting with souls. His mysticism is that of expiation. He took upon himself the burden of all the souls who came to him.
Q: And if we would like to find a biblical symbol?
Father Cantalamessa: Undoubtedly it is the Cyrenian [Simon of Cyrene]. His stigmata are the proof, but also his very long days in the confessional. And then his nights dedicated to penance, prayer, struggles with the devil. This is his mysticism of expiation.
Q: Given the stigmata, the bilocations, the miracles, some have described Padre Pio as an archaic saint. Do you agree?
Father Cantalamessa: Holiness cannot be confined to temporal definitions. Therefore, it is never archaic or modern. It is at once new and old. In the history of the Church there has been no lack of holy men who live this way, nor are they lacking today.