Here is a translation of the homily John Paul II delivered today during the canonization ceremony
of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968) on Sunday, June 16, 2002.
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Matthew 11:30)
Jesus' words to his disciples, which we have just heard, help us to understand the most important message of this solemn celebration. Indeed, in a certain sense, we can consider them as a magnificent summary of the whole life of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, today proclaimed a saint.
The evangelical image of the "yoke" recalls the many trials that the humble Capuchin of San Giovanni Rotondo had to face. Today we contemplate in him how gentle the "yoke" of Christ is, and how truly light is his burden when it is borne with faithful love. The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens to prospects of a greater good, known only to the Lord.
"But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14)
Is it not, precisely, the "glory of the Cross" that shines above all in Padre Pio? How timely is the spirituality of the Cross lived by the humble Capuchin of Pietrelcina! Our times have need of rediscovering its value in order to open the heart to hope.
Throughout his life, he always sought greater conformity with the Crucified, being very conscious of having been called to collaborate in a special way in the work of redemption. His holiness cannot be understood without this constant reference to the Cross.
In God's plan, the Cross constitutes the true instrument of salvation for the whole of humanity and the way explicitly proposed by the Lord to all those who wish to follow him (see Mark 16:24). The Holy Brother of Gargano understood this well who, on the feast of the Assumption in 1914, wrote: "In order to succeed in reaching our ultimate end we must follow the divine Head, who does not wish to lead the chosen soul on any way other than the one he followed; by that, I say, of abnegation and the Cross" (Epistolario II, p. 155).
"I, the Lord, bring about kindness" (Jeremiah 9:23)
Padre Pio was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making himself available to all through hospitality, spiritual direction and especially the administration of the sacrament of penance. The ministry of the confessional, which is one of the distinctive traits of his apostolate, attracted numerous crowds of faithful to the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo. Even when that singular confessor treated pilgrims with apparent severity, the latter, becoming conscious of the gravity of sin and sincerely repentant, almost always came back for the peaceful embrace of sacramental forgiveness.
May his example encourage priests to carry out this ministry with joy and assiduousness, so important today, as I wished to confirm in the Letter to Priests on the occasion of last Holy Thursday.
"Lord, you are my only good"
This is what we sang in the Responsorial Psalm. Through these words, the new saint invites us to place God above all, and to consider him our sole and highest good.
In fact, the ultimate reason for Padre Pio's apostolic efficacy, the profound root of so much spiritual fruitfulness, is found in that intimate and constant union with God, of which his long hours spent in prayer were eloquent testimonies. He loved to repeat: "I am a poor Brother who prays," convinced that "prayer is the best weapon we have, a key that opens the heart of God." This fundamental characteristic of his spirituality continues in the Prayer Groups that he founded, which offer to the Church and society the wonderful contribution of incessant and confident prayer. To prayer, Padre Pio joined an intense charitable activity, of which the House for the Relief of Suffering is an extraordinary expression. Prayer and charity, this is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching, which is proposed again today to everyone.
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike" (Matthew 11:25)
How appropriate these words of Jesus seem, when applied to you, humble and beloved, Padre Pio.
Teach us also, we pray, humility of heart, in order to be numbered among the little ones of the Gospel, to whom the Father has promised to reveal the mysteries of his Kingdom.
Help us to pray tirelessly, certain that God knows what we need, even before we ask him.
Obtain for us eyes of faith capable of recognizing immediately in the poor and suffering the very face of Jesus.
Sustain us in the hour of battle and trial and, if we fall, make us experience the joy of the sacrament of forgiveness.
Transmit to us your tender devotion to Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother.
Accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage toward the blessed homeland, which we also hope to reach, to contemplate forever the Glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!