The Sanctity of the Holy Mass
This is my favorite chapter, for it was the holiness with which Padre Pio approached the altar of God and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the awesome Immemorial Mass, the height of Catholicism, that I associated with the Saint more than anything else, including Confession and the Stigmata. We were then at the lowest ebb after Vatican II, which had officially closed but remained wide open in full agenda to let all Hell let loose to prey on that which is the heart of the Church, the Mass, Hell with its diabolical disorientation of the Novus Ordo Missae. Padre Pio, it was said, by those who knew, had never said that Mass. This was such an amazing thing to me because every priest I knew did. I cried many a time at Mass and after Mass, and more and more often before Mass in those days. Something was wrong, but I did not know exactly what. Finally, a good priest, who felt he had to say that Mass in obedience to the Bishop and Rome, the priest who was then my confessor, bade me not to attend daily Mass again. I still wept most Sundays and felt no peace. And more and more I felt myself becoming less Catholic and more worldly, but I thought it was my fault and it was happening only to me. I wanted to know more about Padre Pio and soon I was to also know a lot about the author and chronologist of the history of the Tridentine or ancient Roman Mass, Michael Davies, may he rest in peace.
And then I knew what I was undergoing at the Mass of Paul VI, which violated Tradition and had incurred the anathemas of the Council of Trent, in reality, if not officially. Trent was a dogmatic council of the Church and not at all a council like the Second Vatican, a purely pastoral council according to the Pontiff who rashly convened it. I was being tortured, slowly but surely, for the New Mass was an experiment and not a holy thing at all, at least as was being said in the parishes I knew. I searched in vain for the faith that sustained me while I was growing up in the forties and fifties, the faith the Holy Mass conveyed in all its splendor and breathtaking depth, it was as if I was an alien in my own land and part of my horror was the sense of betrayal and abandonment. The sacred was being mocked under the guise of a more pristine beauty, a mere chimera, a lying fable, that existed only in the hearts of those who no longer had the faith if they ever did. I felt like a trapped animal with no place to run. The blasphemies and heresies that were part and parcel to the weekly experiment in profanity were so crushing to endure I could barely look at the Crucifix, where there was one, that is. It wasn't me, it was the thing concocted by a committee headed by a Mason and advised by Protestants, through the auspices of Pope Paul VI. Eventually things would settle a bit as the modernists left completely for even more pagan climates, except for those who stayed to prey for purposes I cannot name our decency; whole families fled en masse for other religions or nothing at all, and Rome put its foot down on only the worst of the worst atrocities. The genie could not be put back into the bottle as the saying goes: the New Mass, like a cyclone in fury had sucked the faith out of the people by and large who were now more Protestant than Catholic, and more pagan than Protestant. And they did not know that they did not know.
But among my fellow Catholics who clung to Tradition, some of us, after rediscovering our sacred heritage, was a gentleman who had been to San Giovanni and told me about the holy friar who had worked miracles there and about his Mass. The first picture of the Saint that I recall seeing was the one above. At the time priests who requested one could receive a celebret directly from Rome so as to keep saying the ancient Mass, the Mass of Saints and Martyrs for centuries. Suddenly, and I never learned how or why, the celebret was almost impossible to obtain. This may have been a perception and not reality but within a few years priests were under the impression they would be disobedient to Holy Mother Church if they did not say Paul VI's Mass.
Padre Pio had belonged to the favored few. He had died almost as soon as the New Mass was becoming so normative that for all practical purposes it was as if the promises of Pope St. Pius V's Quo Primum had been supplanted and placed in the trash bin of history. Of course, this had never occurred because the Holy Ghost was indeed protecting the Church and Pope Paul VI had never officially abrogated what cannot be abrogated. It has only been in the last decade that we, the laity, have learned the truth, although we understood, that, theologically, morally speaking, ontologically, it could not have possibly been abrogated. Pope John Paul II had asked for a group of cardinals to convene to see what the status of Quo Primum was, as if this was necessary in the first place. They concluded that it had never been abrogated, but enough of the bishops were making noises of "schism", at least this was said to be the prevailing "wisdom". The Pontiff was advised to set the matter aside, where it has been lingering in the dust ever since. Meanwhile here had been this priest who said the Mass I loved and could not attend, Padre Pio. The Saint died in 1968, and although the New Mass was not official, already the experimentation had begun in anticipation of what "would be permitted". The Mass as I had known it was no more. In 1966 Mass was being said in the vernacular with the Canon still in Latin. Two years later no longer recognized it, before any official promulgation of the Novus Ordo. Bad ideas travel faster than bad news. By the time of Padre Pio's beatification the Mass he loved so intensely was no more in most quarters of the Church, in fact the Mass that was said at the rite of his Sainthood was not the Mass he would have said. What a travesty and an irony. Churchmen no longer honoring the Mass he loved while honoring him!
Only a God Who is the only God could create the most beautiful and perfect creature ever made, the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, and only a God Who is the only God could have created the next most beautiful creature in the order of grace, the Catholic priest, whose tasks are sacerdotal, a creature set aside from among men, to reign with Jesus Christ in the holy of holies, the sanctuary of Sacrifice. Show me how a priest says the Mass and I will show you the manner of priest and the manner of man, the only way for a common lay person to measure such things, if this were possible beyond a mere very occasional glimpse, a sudden and special grace, for we are not permitted to "enter therein" so to speak.
Let me provide this rare, enchanting glimpse into Padre Pio as he says Mass, as he prepares for Mass, as he gives thanks to God after Mass, through they eyes of those who either knew him best or studied him best. But I will do this only after I let the Saint himself permit this glimpse through his heart and soul:
"I am going to the wine-press ot the Church, to the holy altar, where from the Blood of that delightful and unusual Grape, is distilled the sacred Wine with which only a few fortunate people are permitted to become inebriated.
"If it is not possible for you to remain at prayer for a long time, or to read, etc., you must not be perturbed. As long as you receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament each morning, you should consider yourself fortunate.
"Father, I feel that I am unworthy to receive holy Communion. I am unworthy of it!
Reply: It is true, we are not worthy of such a gift; but it is one thing to receive unworthily in the state of mortal sin, and something else, to be unworthy. We are all unworthy; but it is He Who invites us, and He Who desires it. Let us be humble, and receive Him with our hearts full of love.
"I never tire of standing so long, and could not become tired, because 1 am not standing, but am on the cross with Christ, suffering with Him.
"The holy Mass is a sacred union of Jesus and myself. I suffer unworthily all that was suffered by Jesus Who deigned to allow me to share in His great enterprise of human redemption.
"I should like to shed, not a few tears, but torrents of tears when faced with the mystery of a God Victim. We priests are the butchers of Jesus during the Mass, while all of Paradise reverently descends on the altar.
"When attending holy Mass, renew your faith and meditate on that Victim Who is being immolated for you in order to placate Divine Justice, and render it propitious for you. Do not leave the altar without shedding tears of pain and of love for Jesus Who was crucified for your eternal well-being.
"In these sad times when faith is dead, and impiety is triumphant, when we are
surrounded by those who have perpetual hatred in their hearts and blasphemy on their lips, the surest means of remaining immune to the pestiferous disease that surrounds us, is to fortify ourselves with Eucharistic food. This cannot be achieved by those who, month after month, live without satiating themselves with the Immaculate Flesh of the Divine Lamb.
"Every holy Mass, heard with devotion, produces in our souls marvelous effects, abundant spiritual and material graces which we, ourselves, do not know.
"It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
"Jesus my breath and my life, today when trembling I elevate You, in a mystery of love, with You may I be for the world, the way, the truth, and the life, and for You a holy priest, a perfect victim . . . O Jesus, my Victim, my Love . . . Make me an altar for Your Cross. A
golden chalice for Your Blood, Holocaust, Love, Prayer.
"I was hardly able to get to the Divine Prisoner to say Mass. When Mass was over I remained with Jesus in thanksgiving. Oh, how sweet was the colloquy with Paradise that morning! There were things which cannot be translated into human language without losing their deep and heavenly meaning.
"The Heart of Jesus and my own---allow me to use the expression---were fused. No longer were two hearts beating but only one. My own heart had disappeared, as a drop of water is lost in the ocean. Jesus was its Paradise, its King. My joy was so intense and deep that I could bear no more and tears of happiness poured down my cheeks.
"When I am close to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament my heart throbs so violently that it seems to me at times that it must burst out of my chest.
"Sometimes at the altar my whole body burns in an indescribable manner. My face in particular seems to go on fire.
"How happy Jesus makes me! How sweet is His Spirit! But I am confused and can do nothing but weep and repeat: Jesus, my Food! . . . What distresses me most is that I repay all this love of Jesus with so much ingratitude . . . He continues to love me and to draw me closer to Himself.
"Moreover, instead of being appeased after I have received Him sacramentally, this hunger and thirst steadily increase. When I already possess this Supreme Good, then indeed the abundance of sweetness is so great that I very nearly say to Jesus: 'Enough, I can hardly bear any more'. I almost forget that I am in the world; mind and heart desire nothing more.
"Only God knows what sweetness I experienced yesterday, the feast of St. Joseph, especially after Mass, so much so that I still feel it. My head and my heart were burning with a fire which did me good. My mouth tasted all the sweetness of the Immaculate Flesh of the Son of God. Oh, at this moment when I still feel almost all of this sweetness, if I could only bury within my heart these consolations, I should certainly be in Paradise.
"Jesus asks me almost all the time for love, and my heart rather than my lips answers Him: 'O my Jesus, I wish . . .' and then I cannot continue. But in the end I exclaim: 'Yes, Jesus, I love You; at this moment it seems to me that I love You and I also feel the need to love You more; but, Jesus, I have no more love left in my heart, You know that I have given it all to You. If You want more love, take this heart of mine and fill it with Your love, then command me to love and I shall not refuse. I beg You to do this; I desire it.'
"What hurts me most, dear Father, is the thought of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. My heart feels drawn by a higher force each morning before I am united with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. I have such a hunger and thirst before I receive Him that I almost die, and precisely because I am incapable of not uniting myself with Him, I am sometimes obliged to feed on His Flesh when I have a fever.
"Jesus said to us: 'He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will have life everlasting.' So then, let's approach holy Communion with holy love and fear. May the entire day be preparation and thanksgiving for holy Communion."
Taken from Our Lady of Grace Prayer Book, pp. 100-117.
It has been said, and often that to attend a Mass of Padre Pio's was like receiving a jolt, if one was lukewarm and merely curious; those who did so were so changed they amended their lives.
Mgr. Giuseppe Petralia, Bishop of Agrigento in Sicily said:
"I believe that the moments in which this priest was truly Christ's Cyrenean were those in which he celebrated Mass. Artists have attempted to interpret the meaning of Padre Pio's Mass and I feel sure that theologians will also have a lot to explore in that extraordinary Mass. I believe that Padre Pio received the grace and the burden not merely of renewing in a mystical manner the sacrifice of the cross but of living over again in his heart and in his body the tragedy of the Passion. He was made to suffer in those moments the agony of Gethsemane, the scourging in the praetorium, the crowning with thorns, the mockery of the crowd, of the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers, the humiliation of the unjust sentence, the carrying of the cross, and the crucifixion with all its torments and humiliations. This was Padre Pio's Mass: a genuine participation, a mission of reparation."
------Padre Pio: His Life and Mission, pp. 99-100.
Another bishop, speaking in Brindisi said:
"It is impossible for anyone who saw him celebrate Mass even once to forget it: the distinct pronunciation of the words, at that time in Latin, his recollection which seemed to open up an abyss between himself and his surroundings, the prolonged Offertory which appeared to do violence to Heaven, the Consecration which rendered visible the bloodied immolation of Golgotha, his Communion in which he seemed "merged with Christ", his prolonged thanksgiving during which all present were held fast in silent meditation. For many people, especially priests (and I myself was among their number more than once) this sight was sufficient to produce a profound spiritual upheaval."
------Ibid., p. 100.
Bishop Paola Carta, Archbishop of Sassari was so impressed with Padre Pio's Mass that he said:
"At the altar Padre Pio was transfigured. His face was deadly pale, radiant and sometimes bathed in tears. There was an intensity in his fervour; there were painful contractions of his body; he had a seraphic aspect. Great silent sobs shook him from time to time. Everything about him told us how intensely he was living the Passion of Christ . . ."
------Ibid., p. 101
From the Housetops tells us that "He attached great importance to the Mass for the release of Souls from Purgatory. A profound transition would occur in his countenance at the Consecration. Offering himself as a victim soul along with the Body and Blood of Christ, his face would wince with pain as he agonized the Passion and the Cross. Tears would soak his face as he wept bitterly while blood trickled from the wounds in his hands, which were ungloved for the Mass. His greatness was concealed by his humility as he attempted to hide the wounds on his hands with the sleeve of his alb. After many minutes of leaning over the altar for support, as if he had been drained of every ounce of vitality, having been inflicted more intensely with pain in the wounds on his hands, feet and side, he would emerge from his ecstasy." [p. 7.]
Father Carty, writing of Padre Pio's Mass in Who is Padre Pio? quickens our hearts thusly:
"When the hour of Mass approaches, all faces are turned toward the sacristy from which the Padre will come, seeming to walk painfully on his pierced feet. We feel that grace itself is approaching us, forcing us to bend our knees.
"It is difficult and indeed nearly impossible to describe the Mass of Padre Pio. Many have tried without too much success. Padre Pio is not an ordinary priest, but a creature in pain who renews the Passion of Christ, with the devotion and radiance of one who is inspired by God.
"After he steps to the altar and makes the Sign of the Cross, the Padre's face is transfigured, and he seems like a creature who becomes one with his Creator. Suffering shines through his features, and all can see the painful contractions of his body, especially when he leans on the altar and genuflects, as though he bore the weight of the cross; in the meantime tears roll down his cheeks and from his mouth come words of prayer, of supplication for pardon, of love for his Lord of whom he seems to become a perfect replica.
"None of those present notice the passage of time; it takes him about one hour and a half to say his Mass, but the attention of all is riveted on every gesture, movement and expression of the celebrant. At the sound of the word "Credo" pronounced with such tremendous conviction, there is a great wave of emotion through the throng, and the most recalcitrant of sinners is carried along as on a stream that is bringing him to the confessional and the renunciation of his old way of life."
I cannot think of a better place to conclude this chapter.