“Without obedience there is no virtue”- St. Padre Pio.
It was obedience which anchored the life of Padre Pio and led to his extraordinary legacy. Although receiving the stigmata is what he is often known for, it was certainly not the greatest legacy he left behind. His mission in life was fulfilled through obedience. His legacy was being obedient and teaching others to be obedient. His obedience was grounded in patience and a trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. He first obeyed God, but did not waiver in being obedient to Church authorities.
Padre Pio understood it was not man one served but God. He also understood that it was through obedience to the order and leadership of man which God had put in place that he obeyed God. Pio often taught those around him to be patient when they did not want to be and to obey when they wanted to fight.
The life of St. Padre Pio, particularly regarding obedience, reminds me of what another saint wrote about the same expectation. St. Faustina wrote that Jesus Christ told her “the devil can imitate humility, but he cannot imitate obedience.” Think about that for a moment. We often place high importance on the humility of a person, criticizing those who we believe may not have acted in humility when they should have, yet we do not think about the necessity of our obedience. Obedience to our priests, bishops, and the pope are not only things which Catholics should exhibit but is an expectation of Christ. It was this expectation that was fulfilled in the life of Padre Pio even in the midst of extreme investigations, lies, hatred, jealousy, and attacks.
Pio gives us a modern example of how, even when we disagree or do not believe the decisions made are for the best, we should still obey. As Padre Pio worked to build a hospital ( Casa sollievo della sofferenzo) to ease suffering and care for the poor, those jealous of his attention and following sought to steal the money and push Pio out of control of the leadership of the hospital. Pio remained silent and obeyed. He remained focused on the main thing, which was his personal obedience to God and others. The attention gained by the stigmata and miracles reported under Pio caused the Church leadership, even some of his own religious brothers, to lie on him and put him through unnecessary investigations. Pio still did not defend himself or fight back. He was obedient. As a result, he was justified in the end, even to the point where his leadership of the hospital was restored and he even received dispensation from his vow of poverty by Pope Pius XII in order to enable him to oversee expenses of the hospital. Pio, in another sign of obedience, gave the hospital to the Vatican.
False accusations by his own religious brothers led Pio to be ordered to stop celebrating Mass publicly and he was to celebrate it only privately in his room. He obeyed. He was separated from his spiritual advisor and was to never contact his advisor again. He obeyed. When he was allowed to finally say Mass publicly again, it was only to be at a 4 a.m. Mass so the leadership could reduce the size of the crowds gathering there (or at least they hoped it would, but it failed). Padre Pio obeyed without questioning.
When the world seemed to be attacking Pope Paul VI for accusations of heresy because of changes to the Mass, Padre Pio once again showed his obedience for the Pontiff and the Church by writing a letter to the Pontiff himself. The letter to Pope Paul VI was the last letter written by Padre Pio. He died 11 days later. However, ironically for our time, the letter addressed the lack of obedience the Church and the Pontiff faced. In his letter, Pio wrote to Pope Paul VI: “I well understand what profound afflictions you carry in your heart these days for the lot of the Church, for world peace, for the many necessities of the people, but above all for the lack of spirit of obedience of a certain number of Catholics as the enlightened teachings that you, assisted by the Holy Spirit, and in the name of God, have given us. Permit me, as your humble spiritual son, to offer you my daily prayer and suffering, imploring God to comfort you with His grace in order that you may go forward, in your straight and arduous path, in the defense of those eternal truths to remain unaltered with the changing times. I thank you also, in the name of my spiritual children and prayer groups for the clear and decided words you have given us in Humanae Vitae and I reaffirm my faith, my unconditional obedience to your illuminated instructions. May Our Lord concede the triumph of the truth, peace to His Church, tranquility of heart to all the people, health and prosperity to Your Holiness, in order that with the passing of these clouds the Kingdom of God may triumph in all hearts through your apostolic work as Supreme Pastor of all Christianity.”
Many have heard of St. Padre Pio’s battles with the devil, suffering of the stigmata, and perhaps even his work with the hospital. However, it is his greatest legacy of simple obedience that makes this friar more relevant for our time than ever before. This simple, poor friar who offered himself for others and loved others more than himself, forgave those who attacked him and lied on him even if they never asked, and sought only to do the will of God, left us the greatest lesson in the way to holiness. Obedience.