From staff reports

The Catholic Commentator

A special Mass celebrating the feast day of St. Padre Pio is scheduled Sunday, Sept. 23 at 3 p.m. at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet will be sung beginning at 2:30 p.m.

Father Steve Rodrigues OFM Cap is scheduled to celebrate the Mass. Father Rodrigues annually visits the Diocese of Baton Rouge from the St. Anthony Capuchin Province in Goa, India to appeal for his mission works for the poor, orphans and the neglected, all following in the example of St. Padre Pio, a Franciscan Capuchin friar who is considered by some to be one of the church’s greatest saints.

“St. Padre Pio was blessed by God in many ways, the most dramatic and visible being the stigmata,” Father Rodrigues said. “Among his other gifts were bilocation, prophecy, reading of souls, levitation, apparition, conversion, odor of sanctity and miraculous cures.

“People are still being cured through his intercession in ways that cannot be explained by medicine or science.”

St. Padre Pio was born May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, a small town in southern Italy, and died Sept. 23, 1968. Though he suffered through intense, prolonged physical pain, he persevered and met with throngs of people who sought his blessing, healing and advice.

The core of his message to all, a message many associated with miraculous healing, was the simple command of “pray, hope and don’t worry.”  “Once you make known your needs, fears, hopes, concerns, doubts and struggles to God in prayer, and have asked for his help, you have to now trust the Lord to listen because of his great compassion,” St. Padre Pio once said.

“His motto is the synopsis of his application of theology in daily life. He preached that a Christian should recognize God in everything, offering everything to him saying, ‘Thy will be done,’ ” Father Rodrigues said. “He said all should aspire to heaven and put their trust in God and not worry about what one is doing, as long as it is done with a desire to please God.”

Regarding Mass, St. Padre Pio once said, “it is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the holy sacrifice of the Mass.” 

St. Padre Pio was known for sitting in the confessional for up to 15 to 17 hours a day; the tireless confessor is said to have heard millions of confessions, giving hope to the desperate and distressed penitents. Despite his suffering, he was unfailingly compassionate and jovial and gave spiritual and physical assistance to families who came to him for advice.

One of the pilgrims that came to meet the mysterious monk, and who had great admiration, esteem and veneration, and who confessed with him, was St. John Paul II, who said: “I wish to thank the Lord for having given us dear Padre Pio, for having given him to our generation in this very tormented century. In his love for God and for his brothers and sisters, he is a sign of great hope.”

On June 16, 2002, St. John Paul II declared his spiritual friend, Padre Pio a saint.

The rosary was important to St. Padre Pio because of his love for Mary. He called the rosary the “weapon against Satan for these times, a weapon of defense and salvation.” Above St. Padre Pio’s door were the words: “Mary is the reason of all my hope.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of St. Padre Pio’s death and centennial since receiving the stigmata.

“God gave us (St.) Padre Pio to remind a skeptical world that God exists and that the intrigues and scandals are trivial compared to the great goal of heaven,” Father Rodrigues said. “In everything, St. Pio counseled people by word and example to pray, hope and don’t worry.

“Could there be a more fitting message for our time of stress and uncertainty – or a more effective means to spiritual growth? Life is stressful, but Padre Pio had the way to deal with all of life’s troubles; and so it is wise and still relevant today to follow the admonition – pray, hope and don’t worry.”