That Saint Pio was a mystic in the trues Catholic sense, there can be no doubt. Mary Ingoldsby teaches about his ascent by pointing to what he himself wrote in his Letters. Cardinal Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, RIP, said: "the true story of Padre Pio's spiritual life is to be found in his Letters."
These letters were penned while Padre Pio was still a young priest, yet was making advancement in sanctity in leaps and bounds. Before he was even thirty, he has attained the summit of mysticism, "transforming union." Like St. Teresa of Avila, whom the young friar esteemed. Here are a few extracts from his writings:
The first one we present was written on January 30, 1915---the experience he describes was a familiar one to mystics who also wrote about their ascent:
"I feel my heart and my whole interior permeated by the flames of an immense fire. Along with the atrocious agony caused by these flames, my soul experiences an exceeding sweetness which makes me burn with love for God. I feel annihilated and I find no place in which to hide from this gift of the Divine Master. I am ill with an illness of the heart and I can bear it no longer. It seems as if the thread of life is about to snap at any moment, yet that moment never comes. My dear Father [he is writing to Padre Benedetto], how sad is the state of a soul which God has wounded by his love. For pity's sake, pray to the Lord that He may put an end to my days, for I just haven't the courage to go on in such a state. I see no other remedy unless that of being consumed once and for all by these flames which burn yet never consume me. Do not think that it is merely my soul which experiences this martyrdom. My body also, even though indirectly, shares in it to a very great extent. While this Divine operation continues, my body is becoming utterly powerless."
Before this, on April 18, 1912 the Padre wrote to Papa Benedetto:
"There are some things which cannot be translated into human language without losing their deep and heavenly meaning. This morning the heart of Jesus and my own---allow me to use the expression---were fused. No longer were two hearts beating, but one alone. My own heart had disappeared as a drop of water is lost in the sea. My joy was so intense and profound that I could not contain myself. My dear Father, man cannot understand that when Paradise is poured into a heart, this afflicted, exiled and weak mortal heart cannot bear it without weeping. The very joy that filled my heart was what made me weep for so long."
On March 8, 1916 he wrote to his spiritual director:
"Once only did I feel in the secret depths of my soul something so delicate that I cannot describe it. First of all, without seeing anything, my soul felt His presence. Then, let me put it this way, He came so close to my soul that I felt His touch, exactly as happens---to give you a faint idea---when one body touches another. I can say no more about this. I can only confess that I was seized at fIrst with the greatest fear, which changed a little later to heavenly exultation . . . I cannot tell you whether, when that happened, I was aware or not of still being in the body. God alone knows this. I am unable to say anything more to give you an understanding of this important occurrence."
Two years later, on July 27, 1918, he described another experience of 'Divine touch'.
"Here is how it came about. I call to mind that on the morning of Corpus Christi, a breath of life was offered to me during the Offertory of the Mass. I cannot give you the remotest idea of what occurred , within me in that fleeting moment. I felt utterly shaken, I was filled with extreme terror and I very nearly died. There followed a complete calm such as I had never before experienced. All this terror, agitation and calm one after the other was not caused by the sight of anything, but by something I felt touching the most profound and secret depths of my soul. I can say no more as to how it really happened."
Six years before, he had written on August 26, 1912:
"I was in church last Friday making my thanksgiving after Mass when I suddenly felt my heart pierced by an arrow of such living and ardent fire that I thought I should die. I have no adequate words to convey to you the intensity of that flame. The soul that is a victim of these consolations is struck dumb. It seemed to me as if some invisible force had plunged me entirely into this fire. I had experienced these transports of love before, but on the other occasions the fire was less intense. This time a second more would have been sufficient to separate my soul from my body."
January 24, 1915 his account of an interior wound of love was even more graphic:
"The agony I am experiencing is so great that I do not believe I shall suffer more at the supreme hour of death. I feel that someone is plunging a knife into me time after time, a knife with a very sharp point and as if it were emitting fire, which passes through my heart and searches its very depths. Then with all his might this person pulls it out, to repeat a little later the same operation. All this, as these knife-thrusts are repeated, causes my soul to blaze up more and more with exceeding love of God."
Mary Ingoldsby pauses in her chapter on the Saint's mystical ascent, to tell the reader that "mystical writers describe the wounds of love as being deeper and more lasting than what they describe as strokes of love. Moreover, the former are manifested in some external manner, either by a physical piercing of the heart (transverberation) or else by appearing in some parts of the body, such as hands, feet or side (stigmatization). St. Teresa of Avila experienced the extraordinary mystical phenomenon of transverberation, sometimes called 'the seraph's assault'." [Padre Pio: His Life and Mission, p. 44.]
St. John of the Cross teaches us that "the soul inflammed with love of God is interiorly attacked by a seraph" who sets it on fire by "piercing it through with a fiery dart."
On August 21, 1918:
"By virtue of obedience I have made up my mind to reveal to you what happened to me on the evening of the 5th and for the entire day on the 6th of this month . . . I was hearing our boys' Confessions on the evening of the 5th when I was suddenly filled with great terror at the sight of a heavenly person who presented himself to my mental gaze. He held in his hand a kind of weapon, like a very long sharp-pointed blade which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant in which I saw all this, that person hurled the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and thought I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by that weapon and nothing was spared. From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and causes me continual agony."
Padre Pio's director wrote to him that this suffering was one of union rather than purgation. His mystical ascent reach its zenith with the Stigmata.
Before we leave this page on our Saint, for the next, let us briefly read about the assault of Satan:
"Satan is constantly at my side with his tireless promptings. I make every effort to fight him, but I realise that I am powerless to free myself by a strong act of my will. I am afraid he is gaining some advantage, because he is always around me and returns continually to the attack. The opposing forces are advancing, dear Father, and they strike at the very centre of my defence. Holy obedience, which was the last prop left to keep the tottering fortress from falling, seems to be yielding like the rest before the Satanic invasion" (5 September, 1918).
All excerpts taken from Ingoldsby, pp. 42-47.