The priest on the altar is Jesus Christ.
Jesus forever relives His Passion in the priest.
Following Saint Pio of Pietrelcina’s teachings, I’d like to make a comparison between Jesus’ Passion and the Holy Mass, focusing our gaze on the way in which Padre Pio celebrated, or, rather, “lived” His Mass. (1)
– Does the Lord love the sacrifice of the Mass?
– Yes, because with that sacrifice He has renewed the world.
– How much glory does the Holy Mass give God?
– Infinite glory.
– What should we do during the Mass?
– Share His sorrows and sufferings, and love Him.
– What benefits do we receive from hearing the Mass?
– They can’t be counted; they’ll only be seen in Paradise.
– Father, what is your Mass?
– It’s a “sacred mashing” with Jesus’ Passion. My responsibility is completely unique, one-of-a-kind in the world.
– What should I “read” in your Mass?
– The entirety of Calvary.
– Father, tell me everything that you suffer in the Mass.
– Everything that Jesus suffered in His passion, I also suffer, albeit in an inadequate way, in the measure that is possible for a human creature; and all of this in spite of my lack of merit. It’s only by God’s sheer goodness.
– Father, how can we know your passion, your suffering?
– By knowing Jesus’ Passion: in His Passion you will find mine as well.
1. From the first sign of the cross until the offertory, we find ourselves in Gethsemane, where Jesus is in agony.
– Father, I have seen you tremble as you climb the stairs to the altar: why? Is it because of what you were to suffer?
– No, not because of what I was to suffer, but rather because of what I was to offer.
– Father, are you in agony, like Jesus was in the Garden?
– Does an angel come to comfort you, just like one came to comfort Jesus?
– What do you give your fiat to?
– To suffer, to always suffer for my exiled brothers and sisters and for His Divine Kingdom.
– Are you weighed down with our sins during the Divine Sacrifice?
– It couldn’t be any other way, since that is part of the Divine Sacrifice.
– When reading the Gospel, why did you cry when you reached the words, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood . . . ?”
– Because He cries with me, out of affection.
– Why do you almost always cry, Father, when you read the Gospel at Mass?
– What, do you think it’s no big deal that God would converse with His creatures? And that those creatures resist Him? And that He is continually hurt by their ingratitude and unbelief?
2. The offertory corresponds to the moment of Jesus’ arrest.
The offertory was the second point in the Mass when Padre Pio remained still for a long period of time. It was one of the most noticeable aspects of his Mass. Restrained by some mysterious force, with tearful eyes lovingly fixed on the altar’s Crucifix, Padre Pio stood quiet, unmoving, and rigid as stone for several minutes, with the bread and the wine in his hands.
– Why do you cry during the offertory?
– You want to pry the secret out of me? Well then, here it is. It is in that moment that the soul is separated from the worldly, from all that is profane.
– Father, during your Mass the people make a little bit of commotion. . . .
– And suppose you had been standing on Calvary, where shouts, blasphemies, clamor, and threats were heard? There was a huge racket there!
– Does the noise made by the people in the Church distract you?
– Not at all!
– Father, are all of the souls who attend your Mass present in your soul?
– On the altar, I see all of my little ones as though in a mirror.
3. The Preface is the song of praise and thanksgiving that Jesus directs to His Father because His hour has come.
4. From the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer (the canon) to the consecration, we remember Jesus in prison, scourged, crowned with thorns . . . that is, the entire Via Crucis.
The tremendous mystery of the consecration ‘contains’ the last hours that Jesus hung on the cross: on the altar, the crucified of Gargano therefore relives the last moments of the Crucified of Golgotha, one moment after another.
– Who shouts, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”?
– The sons of men, and mostly those who have been the most favored.
– During the Mass, are the pricks from the crown of thorns and the wounds from the scourging real?
– What do you mean by that? The effects are certainly the same.
– How was Jesus after the scourging?
– The prophet tells us: “He was one big wound; he seemed like a leper.”
– Then you too are just one big wound from your head to your feet?
– And isn’t that our glory? And if there were no more space to make further wounds in my body, we would have to make wounds on top of wounds.
– Good Lord, that’s too much! My dear father, you truly are your own butcher!
– Don’t be afraid, but rather rejoice. I don’t desire suffering for its own sake, no, but rather for the fruits that it gives me. It gives glory to God and saves my brothers and sisters. What more could I want?
– Father, at night when you are scourged, are you alone, or does someone come to your aid?
– The Blessed Virgin Mary helps me; all of Paradise is there too.
All of this we also know from the bandage used by Padre Pio to clean the blood that poured from his head; the cloth was completely saturated with blood. The crown of thorns, that sublime diadem, Jesus’ gift to Padre Pio, is a second precious document, as it were, that we should examine at length.
– Jesus has made it known to me that you suffer the Crown of Thorns.
– In any other way, the immolation wouldn’t be complete.
– You suffer it during the Mass?
– And also before it and after it. The diadem is never cast aside.
– What sins did Jesus expiate through the crowning with thorns?
– All of them, but in particular those sins of thought, including vain and useless thoughts.
– Father, do you have those spines just on your forehead or all around your head?
– All around my head.
– Father, how many spines are there in your crown . . . thirty?
– Well, yes!
– But Father, I thought that His crown had 300, not thirty, spines?
– You’re impressed by a zero! Isn’t 30 part of 300?
– Do you also suffer what Jesus suffered on the Via dolorosa?
– I suffer it, yes, but it’s necessary in order to reach the point of suffering what the Divine Master suffered!
– Who takes the place of the Cyrenian and of Veronica?
– Jesus Himself.
– Father, do you suffer the bitterness of the gall?
– Yes . . . and very often.
– Father, how do you stay standing at the altar?
– Just as Jesus did upon the cross.
– On the altar, are you suspended, are you hung upon the cross as Jesus was on Calvary?
– After all that, you still asked the question?
– How do you stay there?
– Just as Jesus did on Calvary.
– Did the soldiers flip the cross over to hammer down the nails?
– Of course!
– Did they also hammer down your nails?
– And how they did it!
– Did they also flip over your cross?
– Yes, but don’t be afraid.
– Father, during the Mass, do you also pray the seven last words that Jesus uttered on the Cross?
– Yes, unworthily, but I say them as well.
– And to whom do you say, “Woman, behold your son”?
– I say it to her. I tell her: Behold, the children of your Son.
5. The Consecration mystically represents the Lord’s Crucifixion. It is there that we offer the redeeming sacrifice.
During the consecration, the Stigmatic of Gargano vividly represented the divine tragedy of Calvary amid sobs and tears, in the midst of an indescribable pain, a tragedy that transfigured his pierced flesh: the great martyrdom of Jesus Crucified.
– At what point in the Mass do you suffer the scourging?
– From the very beginning of the Mass to its end, but more intensely after the Consecration.
– Do you suffer Jesus’ thirst and abandonment?
– When do you suffer them?
– After the consecration.
– Upon until what point do you suffer that thirst and that abandonment?
– Usually up until communion.
– When crucified, were Jesus’ insides consumed?
– Consumed? No; rather, they were burned up!
– What did Jesus Crucified thirst for?
– For God’s Kingdom.
That same thirst ignited Padre Pio’s soul. There were hours, these hours, which were extremely arid, spiritually speaking. Not even the smallest splinter of consolation fell on Padre Pio’s burnt heart.
– You’ve told me that you’re embarrassed to say: “I looked for comforters, but found none.” Why?
– Because our sufferings, we who are truly the guilty ones, pale in comparison to what Jesus suffered.
– In front of whom are you embarrassed?
– In front of God and my conscience.
– The Lord’s angels don’t comfort you on the altar upon which He is immolated?
– I don’t feel it. . . .
– If there’s no consolation in your soul during the Holy Sacrifice, and you, like Jesus, suffer total abandonment, then our presence is useless.
– The usefulness is on your part. Otherwise, we’d have to call our Sorrowful Mother’s presence useless, and the presence of John and the pious women at the feet of Jesus in agony would be useless too!
– Father, why don’t you give us a little share of your passion?
– The Spouse’s jewels aren’t given away to anyone.
– Tell me, what can I do to lighten your Calvary even a little?
– Lighten it?! . . . You should’ve said: to make it all the harder. Suffering is necessary!
– It’s painful to be present at your martyrdom and not be able to help you!
– Even the Sorrowful Mother had to be present. Truly, for Jesus, it was more comforting to have a sorrowful mother than an indifferent one.
– What did our Lady do at the feet of Jesus crucified?
– She suffered by watching her Son suffer. She offered her pains and those of Jesus to our Heavenly Father for our salvation.
– I’m not asking this next question just out of curiosity: which wound makes you suffer the most?
– Those on the head and in the heart.
What Padre Pio offered in the celebration of the Mass was in proportion to what he suffered.
– Why do you suffer so much at the consecration?
– Because it is right then that a new and splendid destruction and creation takes place.
– Really, tell me, why do you suffer so much at the consecration?
– The Great King’s secrets cannot be revealed without becoming profaned. You ask me why I suffer? I don’t want to shed just a couple of little tears, no, I want to pour forth torrents of tears! Have you never reflected on this tremendous mystery? God as victim of our sin! And we are His butchers!
6. The Doxology corresponds to Jesus’ cry: “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” At that moment, the sacrifice is consummated and accepted by the Father. We men and women are reunited with Him, and that is why we pray : “Our Father . . . ”
7. The fraction of the bread shows Jesus’ death, and the commingling, His Resurrection.
– Do you also die in the Mass? – Mystically I do, in Holy Communion. – Do you die because of the intensity of your love or because of your sufferings? – Both, but more because of love. – So you suffer death in communion: do you stop standing at the altar? – Why? Jesus also died on Calvary. – Father, you’ve said that in communion the victim dies. Are you laid in Mary’s arms? – No, in Saint Francis’s. The Seraphim of Gargano also had eschatological visions of the Eucharist. In fact, he said, “If the Apostles, with the eyes of the flesh, saw so much glory, what will be the glory that we’ll see in the Son of God, in Jesus, when He is revealed in Paradise?” – What sort of union will we have with Jesus in heaven? – Ah! . . . The Eucharist gives us an idea. 8. Communion is the greatest moment of Jesus’ Passion. Bent over the altar, with his hands holding the chalice, having the Lord in his heart, the Seraphim of Pietrelcina, paying no attention to the time, remained still with Jesus for a great while. – What is Holy Communion? – It is pure mercy, both interior and exterior. The whole of Communion is an embrace; pray to Jesus that He might also show Himself sensibly. – What does Jesus do in Communion? – He delights in His creature. – Is communion an incorporation? – It’s a fusion, like two candles that melt and merge together and can no longer be distinguished one from the other. – When we’re united to Jesus in Holy Communion, what should we ask from Him? – That I might be another Jesus, completely Jesus, always Jesus. – Father, why do you cry when you receive Communion? – If the Church shouts: “You did not spurn the Virgin’s womb,” referring to the Incarnation, what should be said of us miserable creatures?! – Do you suffer even in Communion? – It’s the culmination of the suffering. – After Communion, do your sufferings continue? – Yes, but they are sufferings of love. – Doesn’t Jesus console you in this union? – Yes, but He doesn’t stop being on the cross! – How much do you love Jesus? – My desire to love Him is infinite, but, woe is me! I would say not at all, and I’m ashamed of that. 9. The final blessing marks the faithful with the cross which is a distinctive sign and a protective shield against the evil one. The Mass ends, but the Stimagtic of Gargano’s desire to remain crucified on the altar had not been extinguished in his heart. – Would you like to celebrate more than one Mass a day? – If it were in my power, I’d never come down from the altar. Not being able to remain forever on the altar, the Great Liturgist transformed Padre Pio’s very person into an altar so that he could make the Passion visible at all times. – You’ve told me that you carry the altar with you. – Yes, and so the words that the Apostle said come true: “Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,” “I have been crucified with Christ,” and “I drive my body and train it.” – Then I can rightly say that Jesus Crucified walks in our midst. You suffer Jesus’ entire Passion! – Yes . . . by His kindness and mercy, in the measure that it is possible for a human to do so. – How can you work with so much pain? – I find my rest in the cross. 10. The Virgin Mary is present at every Mass. – Father, how should we listen to the Mass? – In the same way that the Blessed Virgin Mary and the pious women were present at it. In the same way that Saint John was present at the Eucharistic sacrifice and at the bloody sacrifice of the Cross. – Does the Blessed Virgin Mary come to your Mass? – Do you think that a mom isn’t interested in her Son? Great, great indeed, infinitely great is the mystery of the Holy Mass!
(1) We freely follow G. Conversano, Padre Pio e il mistero della sua Messa, Roma 2010, 22-50. In a footnote on page 22, the author writes, “Padre Pio’s statements about his Mass have been transcribed by Father Tarcisio de Cervinara, who ordered them according to the order of the Mass in his book, La Messa di Padre Pio, San Giovanni Rotondo 1987, pp. 16-42. These statements can be found in an even more complete form in Cleonice Morcaldi’s [a mystic and one of Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters] series of questions; over a period of two years, she often asked Padre Pio questions about the mystery of ‘his’ Mass,” La mia vita vicino a Padre Pio. Diario intimo spirituale, San Giovanni Rotondo 1997.”