Padre Pio is one of the most beloved saints in Catholic history. Many know him for having the stigmata or for his ability to bilocate and read hearts in the confessional. The stories of his miracles are inspiring and remind people of the power of God and His Church. But even more important than the miracles was the way he lived his daily life in a spirit of peace, joy, and unfailing trust in God’s will—even in the face of terrible trials.
Padre Pio Accused Of Being A Fraud
Considering how widely beloved St. Padre Pio is today, it’s hard to believe that during his life he was frequently persecuted by Church authorities. His story—and that of so many other saints—is what inspired me to explore more deeply the lives of the saints in my book Persecuted from Within: How the Saints Endured Crisis in the Church.
In Padre Pio’s time, priests, bishops, and even at time the pope worried the poor friar was a fraud. Many in the hierarchy thought the crowds of people coming to visit him were unruly, chaotic, and superstitious. Some even believed poor Padre Pio was using his stigmata and purported miracles to gain fame and make money.
As a result of these fears, Padre Pio experienced extensive restrictions on his priestly ministry. He was banned from celebrating mass publicly, forbidden from showing his stigmata, and cut off from communicating with his spiritual director, who was one of his dearest friends. Later, he was restricted from seeing visitors and barred completely from hearing confessions.
Many of these restrictions lasted for a full decade, meaning Padre Pio was essentially treated like a prisoner in his own friary.
Padre Pio’s Response
Padre Pio was tempted to respond in the ways of the world. On one occasion, an associate of Padre Pio, Emmanuele Brunatto, said he would publish a book exposing financial and sexual scandals in the Church in order to blackmail the hierarchy into giving Padre Pio back his faculties.
Sometimes it’s proper to openly discuss scandals in the Church for the sake of reform. But it must be done with a spirit of charity, not vengeance. Padre Pio saw that Brunatto wasn’t acting with the love of Christ but with the malice of Lucifer. He rejected Brunatto categorically, telling him “I absolutely cannot allow you to defend me or try to free me by throwing mud, and such mud in the face of people that I, you, and everyone have a sacred duty to respect.”
After all, Padre Pio’s superiors had the authority to restrict his ministry, and the only person they were really hurting was him. So rather than defend himself, he chose to leave it to God and silently suffer, like Christ in His passion. And because he trusted Providence and refused to sin in anger, he could go on with life at peace, knowing he was doing the Lord’s will.
The Miraculous End
Eventually, Providence came to Padre Pio’s aid. Pope Pius XI reversed the restrictions, and in a matter of months Padre Pio was back celebrating public masses and hearing countless confessions of the faithful. Padre Pio got all he was hoping for without ever lashing out at those who persecuted him.
The end of Padre Pio’s trial can seem somewhat miraculous. But isn’t it often the same for us? Have we ever reconciled with a family member by sending an angry text? Or found a new job because we were bitter about losing the old one? Or been healed of a sickness as a result of despairing over our plight?
Or isn’t it much more likely that God works His will to bring us healing, sustenance, and hope in due time, and often unexpectedly?
The real miracle of Padre Pio’s life wasn’t his stigmata or bilocation or anything like that. It was the example he gave of his absolute trust in God and unwavering commitment to do good even to those who wished him ill. In the face of trials, he answered with love, and Love Himself brought his trials to an end.
Continue Learning About The Saints Who Faced Crisis
In Persecuted from Within: How the Saints Endured Crisis in the Church. you will find thorough and orthodox explanations of doctrine concerning Church authority, fraternal correction, and the virtue of obedience, as well as a practical plan to redeem our current shameful chapter in Church history. This book stands as a valuable and heartening resource for pastors, catechists, and those who seek to “counsel the doubtful” and “comfort the afflicted.”