Padre Pio had a profound humility; he was blessed with extraordinary spiritual gifts, but he always, always considered himself the least of his fellow priests. Padre Pio never asked anything for himself, but he treasured and loved the privilege of offering Midnight Mass. This was a solemn Mass, and the right to offer it usually belonged to the guardian of San Giovanni. But successive guardians, knowing how much offering this Mass meant to Fr. Pio, gave Padre Pio the honour of celebrating it.
It was a long Mass – Padre Pio sometimes finished at five in the morning. But many of the faithful went to great pains to attend it. It was an arduous journey to the friary in the 1920s and 1930s, when the road was a rocky mule path, and in winter it was coated in snow and ice. Before Midnight Mass, Padre Pio waited and greeted those who had come; his face would be transfigured with joy.
Lucia Ladanza recalls a miraculous event that took place, the night of December 24, 1922. The friars had brought a huge brazier (which is a type of fire box) to keep the gathering warm. The people were reciting the Rosary and Padre Pio stood with them, praying too. In the blink of an eye, Lucia saw, through an aura of light, Baby Jesus appear in Padre Pio’s arms. Baby Jesus was glowing and Padre Pio’s face changed into a beaming smile.
An eyewitness to another such miracle, was Fr. Raffaele da Sant’Elia, who had the room next to Padre Pio for 35 years. This is his account:
“I had got up to go to the church for the Midnight Mass of 1924. The corridor was huge and dark, and the only illumination was the flame of a small oil lamp. Through the shadows I could see that Padre Pio, too, was making his way to the church. He had left his room and was making his way slowly along the corridor. I realised he was swathed in a band of light. I took a better look and saw that he had the Baby Jesus in his arms. I just stood there, transfixed, in the doorway of my room, and fell to my knees. Padre Pio passed by, all aglow. He didn’t even notice I was there.”