The extraordinary details of Padre Pio’s life go on and on but perhaps none had more comments or more witnesses than his daily Mass. At Padre Pio’s Mass, Calvary came to San Giovanni Rotondo. His Mass began at five o’clock in the morning. But he did not rise from sleep and go straight to the church to begin the Mass. There was much prayerful preparation before Mass as he would rise from his bed sometimes as early as 12:30 but seldom later than 3:30; and he would spend that time in his cell running his fingers through his Rosary beads, which it would be rare to see him not do throughout his long, edifying day.
Introibo ad altare Dei – I will go unto the altar of God (Psalm 42 :4). These words are part of the preparatory prayers of what we now call the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Padre Pio climbing the steps to approach the altar was indeed in Persona Christi climbing the hill of Calvary. The great mystery of the Mass would unfold which would last up to three hours.
Tears would run from his eyes sometimes through the entirety of the Mass. At times those tears would be best described as sobbing.
Maria Winowska, author of Le Vrae Visage du Padre Pio, and a witness to Padre Pio’s Mass wrote in her book that the "Capuchin’s face which a few moments before had seemed to me jovial and affable was literally transfigured" and "after the Sanctus great drops of sweat poured from his forehead, bathing his face which was distorted with sobs. Here was truly the man of sorrow at grips with the agony."
During the Consecration the Wounds of the stigmata would bleed and remarkably Padre Pio would, during the elevation, hold our Eucharistic Lord for as long as ten minutes – and at times longer than that. Speaking about the Mass, Padre Alberto D'Apolito, who knew Padre Pio, said: "It produced such an impression that time and space between the altar and Calvary disappeared. The Mass of Padre Pio visibly reproduced the Passion of Christ, not only in a mystical form, but also physically, in his body. Waves of emotion made Padre Pio tremble at the altar as if the struggle with invisible persons filled him, time after time, with fear, joy, sadness, anguish, and pain. From the expression on his face, one could follow the mysterious dialogue. Whoever doubted the Real Presence had only to assist at Saint Pio’s Mass."
After the Consecration, this great saint would sometimes need to lean on the altar, appearing extremely exhausted. But during these periods of rest on the altar he appeared to be engaged in a mysterious conversation.
He had very penetrating eyes which could easily be detected during the Consecration; but throughout the entire Mass he seemed to be looking at a world that no one else present could see. By Padre Pio’s own exhortation he said that the Blessed Mother and the entire celestial court are present at Mass which consumed him with the fire of divine love causing his face to feel like it was burning.
Fittingly, Padre Pio the mystic was canonized by another mystic: Saint John Paul II. Here is part of the Holy Father’s homily:
Throughout his life, he always sought greater conformity with the Crucified, since he was 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.
Padre Pio was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making himself available to all by welcoming them, by spiritual direction and, especially, by the administration of the Sacrament of Penance. I also had the privilege, during my young years, of benefiting from his availability for penitents. The ministry of the Confessional, which is one of the distinctive traits of his apostolate, attracted great crowds of the faithful to the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo. Even when that unusual Confessor treated pilgrims with apparent severity, the latter, becoming conscious of the gravity of sins and sincerely repentant, almost always came back for the peaceful embrace of sacramental forgiveness. May his example encourage priests to carry out with joy and zeal this ministry which is so important today.
Teach us, we ask you, humility of heart so we may be counted among the little ones of the Gospel, to whom the Father promised to reveal the mysteries of His Kingdom.
Help us to pray without ceasing, certain that God knows what we need even before we ask Him. Obtain for us the eyes of faith that will be able to recognize right away in the poor and suffering the Face of Jesus.
Sustain us in the hour of the combat and of the trial and, if we fall, make us experience the joy of the sacrament of forgiveness. Grant us your tender devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. Accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage toward the blessed homeland, where we hope to arrive in order to contemplate forever the glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Concerning the Mass, Padre Pio said: "It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."
And Padre Pio the spiritual director advises us in this way: "The field of battle between God and Satan is the human soul. This is where it takes place every moment of our lives. The soul must give free access to our Lord and be completely fortified by Him with every kind of weapon. His light must illuminate it to fight the darkness of error. We must put on Jesus Christ, His truth and justice, the shield of faith, the word of God to overcome such powerful enemies. To put on Jesus Christ we must die to ourselves. Let us humble ourselves and confess that if God were not our armor and shield, we would be pierced by all kinds of sins. That is why we must live in God by persevering in our practices, and learn to serve Him at our own expense."