Those of you who keep up with the news are aware of the problems in the Church. In the fifty years leading up to the year 2000, there were some priests, deacons, and seminarians who behaved shamefully. And the bishops failed in their responsibility to take appropriate corrective action and tried to cover up the problems. As we read in this week’s Gospel (Mk 9:30-37), the apostles Jesus chose acted poorly as they discussed who was the greatest. When questioned by Jesus, they were too embarrassed to tell him what they were discussing. The Church has always had a good portion of weak, sinful men and women.
But the Church has also had some great, wonderful saints! This weekend—Sept. 23rd—is the feast day of one of the great ones of the 20th century, St. Pio of Pietrelcina. He was more readily known as Padre Pio. Ordained in 1910, he spent a short time in the Italian army during WWI. In 1917, he was sent to the friary of San Giovanni Retondo on the Adriatic coast. A year later, while praying after Mass, he had a vision of Jesus. When it ended, he had the wounds of Jesus (the stigmata) on his hands, feet, and side. The stigmata has been given only to a few saints in the history of the Church and is a sign of sanctity. As news of him spread, busloads of people came to his 5:00am Mass and went to him for confession. Often he heard confession for 10–15 hours a day! One special gift was of bilocation or being in two places at the same time. Allied pilots during WWII while attempting to bomb the area around San Giovanni Retondo report seeing a Franciscan friar in robes flying along with their planes and were too intimidated to drop the bombs!
He so loved the Mass saying, “It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” His motto was “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” That’s good advice for us all today.