After the celebration of Mass, Padre Pio would sit down in the confessional for many hours. He gave preference to men whom he said were in most need of confession. Many penitents waited for three to four hours in order to make confession to Padre Pio.
Padre Pio had the special gift of reading people’s heart. This enabled him to know when someone was being deceitful or simply had forgotten a serious sin. In such cases he was able to tell the penitent exactly what they did and when, as well as any relevant circumstances. In the confessional, he was severe with the curious, the hypocrites, and the liars, but he was compassionate and loving with those who truly repented.
Mrs Rachele Ricciardi of San Giovanni Rotondo, wished to confess to Padre Pio. She had a large family to look after and she had to find a moment when she wasn’t busy to go to confession. One morning, she joined the queue in front of the confessional. However there were so many people that it seemed as if her turn would never come. She waited patiently for a while and eventually decided to go back home. As she was about to leave, Padre Pio moved the confessional curtain and said to the women in the front: “Let that woman pass”. And so it was that the busy mother had been given the grace to make her confession that morning.
Padre Pio once said, “The sight of so many souls who wish to justify their evil ways pains me, exhausts my brain, and tears at my heart.” In order to help penitents to achieve true contrition, Padre Pio would sometimes turn people away from the confessional without giving them absolution. He said, “I throw them out, but I accompany them with prayer and suffering, and they come back.” He seemed to be angry with penitents who were not truly sorry for their sins. He explained to a brother: “My son, I have taken up a different form only in the exterior. The interior has not moved at all. If I do not do it this way, they do not convert to God. It is better to be reproached by a man in this world, than to be reproached by God in the other one.”
One day Padre Pio noticed a young man crying. He approached the young man and asked him why he was crying. The young man replied that he cried because he had not received absolution. Padre Pio consoled him with tenderness and said, “Son, see, I have not denied you absolution so that I could send you to hell but rather to Paradise.” Another time he said, “Before reproaching a soul, I suffer it first. But it is not I who act, but He who is in me and above me.”
In about 1950, a young doctor went to confess to Padre Pio. He confessed his sins and then he remained silent. Padre Pio asked the young doctor if he had other things to confess but the doctor answered he had nothing else. Padre Pio then told the doctor: “Keep in mind that on holy days you cannot miss Mass, because this is a mortal sin”. Suddenly the doctor remembered that a few months before he had “skipped” Mass for a Sunday appointment.
One day Padre Pio said to a penitent: “When you gossip about a person it means that you have removed the person from your heart. But be aware, when you remove a man from your heart, Jesus also goes away from your heart with that man.”
“Among you I am your brother, on the Altar I am your victim, in the confessional I am your judge” said Padre Pio.