Padre Pio was sent as a visible sign of the Sacrificial nature of the Mass. In 1968, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was undergoing changes in the wake of Vatican II to transform it from the unbloody God-centered re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary into a man-centered memorial meal. The stigmatized Padre Pio is a sign of contradiction to this Protestantized Modernistic thinking.
Like Saint Padre Pio, all priests are ordained, in a special way, to offer Sacrifice to Almighty God, in the Person of Christ (in Persona Christi). At the Altar of the Cross, the priest stands in Persona Christi, to re-present the Sacrifice of Calvary to the faithful through time and space for all generations from the time of Christ until the end of time. Padre Pio, who was a stamped representative of Our Lord, a living Crucifix, was sent to remind us of the unique character of the priest who is ordained to offer Sacrifice, and not to ‘preside’ at a community meal. There were no banquet tables set up at Calvary on that first Good Friday.
Anyone can ‘preside.’ Only a Priest can offer Sacrifice and effect Transubstantiation, thereby changing bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. The Divine Victim, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is then offered to God the Father by the priest as a propitiatory Sacrifice for our sins at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Saint Padre Pio, a priest forever, offered Sacrifice. He was not a ‘presider.’
When it was announced that experimental changes to the Traditional Latin Mass, so loved by Saint Padre Pio, would take place in the mid-1960’s, Pio did not hesitate to request permission from Rome to continue offering the Immemorial Tridentine Mass. It is said that permission was granted in consideration of his advanced age, fragile health, and poor eyesight.
By the time the Novus Ordo Liturgy was promulgated by Paul VI on April 3, 1969, Padre Pio had been dead for six months. The full Novus Ordo ‘Sacramentary,’ with all its revised prayers, would be published in 1970 – over one year after the dead body of Padre Pio was placed in his tomb. Therefore, it can be said with certainty that Saint Padre Pio never said the Novus Ordo Mass. Hence, it is false and misleading for anyone to suggest otherwise.
Words written by two Capuchin priests, who actually knew and lived with Padre Pio, have become the genesis of fallacious theories proposing that Padre Pio said the Novus Ordo Mass. One of those priests, Father Pellegrino Funicelli, who was with Padre Pio when he died, wrote in his 1991 book, Padre Pio’s Jack of All Trades (pp. 401-402):
“In 1966-67 Padre Pio received permission from the Holy See to celebrate Mass in Latin, and seated. However, the Holy See allowed this under two conditions: That he celebrate facing the people, and that he use the new rite of the Eucharistic Prayer.”
The statements from this book, which are just now making their rounds on the internet, are deceptive. The Holy See gave permission to Padre Pio to offer the Traditional Latin Mass. This was not merely permission for a “Mass in Latin,” such as, saying the Novus Ordo in Latin. To use the “new rite of the Eucharistic Prayer” cannot mean to replace the Canon of the Traditional Latin Mass. It would be absurd to expect that an elderly, weak, frail, vision-impaired Padre Pio would be able to read the words and learn the rubrics of a new ‘Eucharistic Prayer.’ Besides, the permission from Rome for Pio and other elderly Priests was to use the entire Missal, including the Canon of the Mass – which they had presumably memorized over many decades of recitation. Father Pellegrino continues:
“… knowing the conditions, he (Padre Pio) begged the Superior to teach him the new form of the doxology. After he had seen how he should raise the paten, with the Host and the chalice, he thanked the Superior and appeared to be satisfied … During the night he called to me and said: ‘Do me a favor. Go get the chalice and the paten in the little church and let me see the new rite once again … I must perform the rite precisely as the Church desires.’”
Given what was said, one would expect to find pictures or videos of Padre Pio holding the Chalice in one hand and the Paten in the other, chanting: ‘Through Him, with Him, in Him,’ etc. Such photos and/or videos do NOT exist. There are NONE. How can this be explained?
A former aide to Padre Pio, who answered his English-speaking correspondence, Padre Ermelindo di Capua, is quoted online as saying:
“He (Padre Pio) used to say Mass according to the new order. By 1968 (when Padre Pio died) the new order was not yet complete, but had changed some things from Latin into the Italian language. He attempted to say Mass according to the new disposition of the Church. He tried to learn and adapt himself to the new rules of the Mass. There was still some Latin. It wasn’t completely changed. The Canon I don’t remember exactly.”
Padre Ermelindo’s comments, as quoted, cannot be taken to mean that Padre Pio abandoned the Traditional Latin Mass in favor of the “new order” (Novus Ordo). After his remarks came out in 2013, I corresponded with Father Ermelindo and asked him whether he had any photos or videos of Padre Pio proving conclusively that he said the “new order” of the Mass. He said that he had no such evidence.
So, how does one resolve this issue? It is often said: ‘Seeing is believing.’ In this case, ‘seeing’ for myself was veryhelpful in understanding what to make of the words spoken by Padre Pio’s fellow friars. I looked at hundreds of photos and dozens of videos capturing Padre Pio’s various Masses. Most importantly, I closely studied available video of Padre Pio’s Last Mass from September 22, 1968. If there were any novelties added to Padre Pio’s Mass, they would surely be on display in that final Mass. I found that the words of Padre Pio’s brother Capuchin friars were being incorrectly interpreted in favor of a Novus Ordo apologia.
Seeing is Believing
Seeing is believing. Here is what one can see with their own eyes concerning that Last Mass of Saint Padre Pio:
As Padre Pio was led from the sacristy, he passed between the Traditional High Altar to his left and the Novus Ordo altar/table to his right on his way to his seat (sedilia), from which he would lead the Confiteor and Gloria, and say the Opening Prayer. He would be helped out of his chair and led to the Novus Ordo altar/table, where he would offer his Last Mass facing the people. Padre Pio was obviously too weak to have climbed the three steps to the High Altar. In addition, the ‘Liturgical experiment’ of Mass facing the people from a free-standing altar/table was obviously in full swing at San Giovanni Rotondo, as it was in other parts of the world at that time.
Padre Pio was accompanied by a deacon and subdeacon indicating that this was a Solemn High Mass. Padre Pio’s Superior ordered him to offer a High Mass on this day and the weakened Pio obeyed. Note that the Novus Ordo Liturgy does not distinguish between a High and Low Mass; nor does it have subdeacons. This was a Traditional Latin Mass.
Padre Pio was wearing a white Fiddle-back vestment with a Maniple on his left arm. Such traditional liturgical garb is not worn in a Novus Ordo Liturgy.
Throughout the video evidence, Padre Pio only said the prayers of the Traditional Latin Mass, including the Canon, and spoke them in Latin. This is during the time when Priests were ordered to say the Mass in the vernacular. In my library, I have a 1966 “Sacramentary” where all of the prayers are to be said in English. Padre Pio had permission, however, to continue offering the Traditional Latin Mass from a pre-Vatican II Missale Romanum.
At the Suscipe, Sancte Pater, Padre Pio makes the Sign of the Cross with the Paten, and then allows the Host to slip off the Paten onto the Corporal. At the Sanctus, bells can be heard ringing three times at Padre Pio’s Last Mass. Both of these Traditional Latin Mass rubrics were eliminated from the Novus Ordo Liturgy.
In the Canon of the Mass there are numerous evidences that Padre Pio is NOT saying any new ‘Eucharistic Prayer,’ but is continuing to pray the Roman Canon, as he had always done. At the Quam oblationem, Padre Pio can be observed making multiple Signs of the Cross over the offerings. Just prior to the Consecration, Padre Pio made the Sign of the Cross over the Host at the benedixit in the Qui pridie prayer. Padre Pio also made the Sign of the Cross over the Chalice at the benedixit in the Simili modo prayer. Three separate bells were rung at each Consecration. Signs of the Cross were made by Padre Pio at the Unde et memores prayer. Padre Pio would not separate his thumbs and forefingers after the Consecration until after the ablutions. These rubrics, from the Canon of the Traditional Latin Mass, are NOT found anywhere in the Novus Ordo Liturgy.
As for the claim that Padre Pio practiced the “new form of the doxology … raising the paten, with the Host and the chalice,” there is NO evidence of this happening at Padre Pio’s Last Mass or at any other of his Masses. This “new form of the doxology” in the Novus Ordo replaced the “Minor Elevation” of the Traditional Latin Mass. However, in Padre Pio’s Last Mass, at the Minor Elevation, Padre Pio can be seen taking the Consecrated Host in his right hand and making Signs of the Cross over the Chalice and the Altar as is traditionally done at the Per Ip+sum, et cum Ip+so, et in Ip+so prayer. Padre Pio followed the Traditional Latin Mass Roman Canon here, and throughout the Mass, and did not succumb to the innovation of a “new form of the doxology.”
Padre Pio said the Per omnia saecula saeculorum before the Pater noster. Also, after fragmenting the Consecrated Host at the Qui tecum, Padre Pio is seen chanting Per omnia saecula saeculorum. Pio clearly said the Pax+Domini sit+simper vobis+cum while making the Sign of the Cross over the Chalice with the Sacred Particle. Both of thesePer omnia saecula saeculorum prayers, as well as the Signs of the Cross with the Fragment, all done in the Traditional Latin Mass, were excised from the Novus Ordo Liturgy.
At the Agnus Dei, Padre Pio struck his chest. He can later be seen making the Sign of the Cross with the Consecrated Host over the Paten before consuming It. These are hallmarks of the Traditional Latin Mass. Padre Pio performs the ablutions of the Chalice and his fingers with wine and water after Communion. In the Novus Ordo Liturgy, only water is used.
In the permission that Padre Pio received to continue offering the Traditional Latin Mass, it is generally agreed that he was given specific permission to use the Mass of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the year. In Padre Pio’s Last Mass, the Proper Postcommunio prayer for the Immaculate Conception at the end of the Traditional Latin Mass can clearly be discerned:“Sacramenta quae sumpsimus, Domine Deus noster, illius in nobis culpae vulnera reparent; a qua immaculatem beate Mariae Conceptionem singulariter praeservasti. Per Dominum…”
Having provided evidence that Padre Pio’s Last Mass was indeed the Traditional Latin Mass, there were however, at least two innovations that occurred: Mass on an altar/table facing the people; and the subdeacon read the Epistle in Italian from a pulpit facing the people. In addition, although they may have been edited out of the videos that I viewed, there was no evidence of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar or the Last Gospel, noting that these were typical omissions during the post-Vatican II time of ‘experimentation.’
The Mass was changing throughout the world and before Padre Pio’s own eyes. As a weakened, nearly-blind Religious Order Priest, subject to obedience to his Superior, and not strong enough to offer effective resistance, Padre Pio was led by the will of others and was physically directed throughout his Last Mass. Weakened as his vision was, Padre Pio could see enough to know that it was time for him to leave this world. In fact, that very day of his Last Mass, his tomb was blessed and he would die at 2:30am the following morning, September 23, 1968.
For nearly all of Padre Pio’s life on earth he offered the Traditional Latin Mass exactly according to the Roman Missal of the Great Pope Saint Pius V, which priests had used for centuries without change, prior to the time of Vatican Council II. When he fell victim to the ‘Liturgical experiments’ prior to the introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass, his stigmata began to, and eventually, disappear – just as the Sacrificial nature of the Mass began to disappear.
As a dying old weakened man with failing eyesight, Padre Pio was like a lamb being led to slaughter at his Last Mass. Padre Pio would be the perfect imitation of Christ, ‘in Persona Christi’ to the extreme, to the very end. As a weakened Padre Pio was led by a group of men to the altar/table to ‘face the people,’ he was exposed to the crowd and put on public display, much like Our Divine Lord Jesus was as He hung dying on the Cross at Calvary. As the Son of God’s side was pierced by a lance and the last drops of His Precious Blood drained from His Body, so too was it claimed that after that Last Mass, Padre Pio’s body was practically devoid of blood.
Padre Pio collapsed at the conclusion of his Last Mass and had to be carried off into the sacristy, to his cell, where he was soon to pass from this world with his last words, “Jesu et Maria”(Jesus and Mary) on his lips. As the Traditional Latin Mass faded from this world, replaced almost everywhere by the Novus Ordo Mass, so too did Saint Padre Pio make his painful exit from the sanctuary. The priest acting ‘in Persona Christi’ at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would be replaced by a ‘presider’ at a ‘community meal.’
However, just as Jesus rose from the dead, the Traditional Latin Mass, the Mass that would not die, is making a comeback. God would not permit the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted by Him and offered to Him, to disappear from this world. Padre Pio, the Saint of the Traditional Latin Mass, continues to be an inspiration and an intercessor for all priests and seminarians who are called by God to dedicate their lives to the Mass of the Ages.
There always was, and still is, a remnant of the faithful who stayed with the Traditional Latin Mass. Always remember, and let no one ever discourage you: “…At the present time there is a remnant left, selected out of grace” (Romans 11:5). We are that remnant. Saint Padre Pio is our saint.