God's Special Confessor

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina

Feast Day: 23rd September

Padre Pio’s name is known throughout the world as a holy Capuchin friar who received in his own body the marks of Christ's wounds. Much has been written about his love of prayer, his reverence for the Mass, his devotion to Our Lady, but today I would like to emphasise his ministry as a confessor.

The centre of Pio's life was the Mass because that was when he felt most closely united with Christ. He was very aware of the connection between Mass and the Sacrament of Penance. “It is in Confession that the redeeming blood of Jesus pours out over the souls of sinners." In other words, the grace which Christ won for us on the Cross is available to us in the confessional.

Pio loved to hear Confessions because of the peace and healing he could bring to troubled people. He regarded it as a privilege and a responsibility which he never took lightly. And he could be very impatient with anyone who approached Confession with the wrong attitude. He had the gift of clairvoyance and such a keen awareness of sin that he could discern the true condition of souls. Those penitents who were careless, ill-prepared or insincere were sent away. He would tell them sharply to come back when they were ready to take the Sacrament seriously. To those who were anxious he would often give gentle reassurance and encouragement. Those whose lives needed reform would be admonished and helped to face up to the truth. He would even remind penitents of sins they had forgotten! He was a tough confessor but many people left his confession with tears of joy and relief because with Pio's help they had experienced God's loving mercy.

His reputation quickly spread and crowds began to arrive in San Giovanni seeking Pio’s help. They had to make an appointment for Confession and it was not at all unusual for Padre Pio to spend 15 hours a day in the confessional. The pain he suffered from his wounds was often hard to bear, but he offered it as an extra penance on behalf of all sinners. It is estimated that in his lifetime he heard two million confessions. A person could make their Confession in a language Padre Pio did not speak but he understood them and when he spoke the penitent understood him!

Pio once said that when he left this life he would go on working to save sinners. We all fall into sin, again and again. We know that many of us find Confession difficult and need lots of encouragement. There is no one better qualified to help us than Padre Pio. During his 50 years hearing Confessions he came to understand every spiritual problem, every human weakness. If you feel nervous about going to Confession, or if you have not been for a long time, ask Padre Pio to guide you: it would make him very happy if you went as soon as possible.

Remember his motto, "Pray, hope and don't worry." May those words help us all to prepare for a good Confession. I am sure that is how Padre Pio would like us to mark his feast day.

Saint Padre Pio, pray for us.