In the Gospel of John, we see the power to forgive sins conferred by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles. The power to forgive sins conferred upon priests validly ordained by a bishop would play a prominent role in the life and miracles of Padre Pio. From 1918 to 1923, Padre Pio heard confessions fifteen to nineteen hours every day. In the 1940s and 1950s, he generally heard confessions somewhat less than that, but still five to eight hours every day.
So many people wanted Padre Pio to hear their confessions that they generally had to wait two or three weeks before their turn came. A numbering system began to be implemented in January, 1950. There was also a rule instituted that you couldn’t go to confession to Padre Pio more than once every eight days.
One man from Padua, who had gone to confession to Padre Pio, tried to go to confession again before the eight-day waiting period had elapsed. In order to circumvent the waiting-period, he lied about the amount of days that had passed since his last confession to Padre Pio. When he entered the confessional, Padre Pio sent him out and forcefully accused him of his lie. After being kicked out, the man said with tears, “I’ve told many lies during my lifetime, and I thought I could deceive Padre Pio too.” But Padre Pio had a supernatural knowledge of his action.
Padre Pio demanded that each confession be a true conversion. He didn’t tolerate a lack of honesty in the explanation of sins. He was very hard on those who made excuses, spoke insincerely, or lacked a firm resolution to change. He demanded frankness and total honesty from the penitent. He also required a true and sincere sorrow of heart, and an absolute firmness in a person’s resolutions for the future.
If the penitent wasn’t honest, or just read through the list of his or her sins without the firm resolution to change, Padre Pio would often growl “get out.”
One man who was thrown out of the confessional by Padre Pio stated: “What kind of blackguardly monk is that? He did not give me time to say a word, but straightway called me an old pig and told me to get out!” Another person said to this man that Padre Pio probably had good reasons for calling him an old pig and treating him in this way. “I can’t think why,” said the man who had been thrown out of the confessional; and then, after a pause, the man said: “unless it is because I happen to be living with a woman who is not my wife.”
There are too many such stories to recount them all but I’ll share with you one more extraordinary anecdote and refer you to go do your own internet search or simply go to http://www.mostholyfamilymonastery.com/padre_pio.php
Frederick Abresch was one of those penitents who had been converted after going to Padre Pio for confession. Here are some of the things he described about the story of his incredible conversion:
“In November of 1928, when I went to see Padre Pio for the first time, it had been a few years since I had passed from Protestantism to Catholicism, which I did out of social convenience. I did not have the faith; at least now I understand that I was merely under the illusion of having it. Having been raised in a highly anti-Catholic family and imbued with prejudices against dogmas to such a degree that a hasty instruction was unable to wipe out, I was always avid for secret and mysterious things.
“I found a friend who introduced me into the mysteries of spiritism. Quite quickly, however, I got tired of these inconclusive messages from beyond the grave; I went fervently into the field of the occult, magic of all sorts, etc. Then I met a man who declared, with a mysterious air, that he was in possession of the only truth: ‘theosophy’. I quickly became his disciple, and on our nightstands we began accumulating books with the most enticing and attractive titles. With self-assurance and self-importance, I used words like Reincarnation, Logos, Brahma, Maja, anxiously awaiting some great and new reality that was supposed to happen.
"I do not know why, although I believe it was above all to please my wife, but from time to time I still continued to approach the holy Sacraments. This was my state of soul when, for the first time, I heard of that Capuchin Father who had been described to me as a living crucifix, working continual miracles.
“Growing curious… I decided to go and see with my own eyes… I knelt down at the confessional [and told Padre Pio that]… I considered confession to be a good social and educational institution, but that I did not believe in the divinity of the Sacrament at all… The Padre, however, said with expressions of great sorrow, ‘Heresy! Then all your Communions were sacrilegious… you must make a general confession. Examine your conscience and remember when you last made a good confession. Jesus has been more merciful with you than with Judas.’
“Then, looking over my head with a stern eye, he said in a strong voice, ‘Praised be Jesus and Mary!’ and went over to the church to hear the women’s confessions, while I stayed in the sacristy, deeply moved and impressed. My head was spinning and I could not concentrate. I still heard in my ears:‘Remember when you last made a good confession!’ With difficulty I managed to reach the following decision: I would tell Padre Pio that I had been a Protestant, and that although after the abjuration I was rebaptized (conditionally), and all the sins of my past life were wiped out by virtue of holy Baptism, nevertheless, for my tranquility I wanted to begin the confession from my childhood.
“When the Padre returned to the confessional, he repeated the question to me: ‘So when was the last time you made a good confession?’ I answered, ‘Father, as I was…’ but at that point the Padre interrupted me, saying, ‘…you last made a good confession when you were coming back from your honeymoon, let’s leave everything else aside and begin from there!’
“I remained speechless, shaken with a stupor, and I understood that I had touched the supernatural. The Padre, however, did not leave me time to reflect. Concealing his knowledge of my entire past, and in the form of questions, he listed all my faults with precision and clarity… After the Padre had brought all my mortal sins to light, with impressive words he made me understand the gravity of these faults, adding in an unforgettable tone of voice, ‘You have sung a hymn to Satan, while Jesus in His ardent love has broken His neck for you.’ Then he gave me my penance and absolved me… I believe not only in the dogmas of the Catholic Church, but also in the least of its ceremonies… to take away this faith, one would have to take away my life as well.’’
Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81 and carrying the stigmata for 50 years. His legacy included 726 prayer groups with 68,000 members. There are also twenty-two Padre Pio centers for handicapped children and one center for the blind. As an example of the profound influence of his life, in 1997 six and a half million people visited Padre Pio’s tomb.
Let us take advantage of such a gift of God by going to confession, to avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as possible.
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Prepared by a St.Denis parishioner