was also the first time I ever heard about him. We had walked home from school that afternoon--about half a mile--and had just gotten to the doorstep when Mom opened the door, sorrow written on her face. "Padre Pio died," she said with deep emotion. (Who was that? Some relative I had never heard of?)
Turns out that Mom was referring to an Italian priest who was known around the Catholic world: A Franciscan whose hands and feet bled as if he were crucified, who had been seen in two different places at the same time (documented incidents of bilocation), and who was said to be able to read the souls of those who came to him for confession, reminding people of sins they had forgotten to confess (or that they had deliberately withheld). He was also known to be quite severe at times, especially when dealing with the dishonest, while with people who were genuinely struggling to keep the Ten Commandments he was as tender as the father of the Prodigal Son. Suffering intensely from the mystical (but very real) wounds in his hands, feet, and side, he had a heart for the sick and used his growing fame to fund a "house for the relief of suffering" for the town near his Franciscan friary which had no hospital. (A state of the art hospital was inaugurated in 1956. Even the UN contributed toward its construction.)
Pio was a controversial figure during his life and still is. In 1923, the Holy Office could not confirm the supernatural origin of his stigmata, and ordered the faithful to "conform to this declaration." He was forbidden to write letters in answer to those who wrote for spiritual guidance. He was ordered to celebrate Mass in private without so much as an altar server, a restriction that stayed in place for ten years. When Pope John Paul was preparing to canonize him, I heard a venerable Franciscan comment with real outrage, "Padre Pio should not be canonized! I am not free to say why, but there are good reasons!" Here in Boston, more than one parish priest refused to inform parishioners about the upcoming three day "visit" by a major relic of Padre Pio. It's so...gauche.
|Children's "chapter book" on St Pio.|
If you are in the Boston area and hoping to join the fellowship, be sure to stop by the book table staffed by Sister Susan James and stocked with Padre Pio material for all ages--in English, Spanish and Portuguese. If you are not anywhere near, but interested in Padre Pio, you can still get a book or two: including a bio of Padre Pio for kids that's also available in e-book.
Not much of a Padre Pio fan? You'll enjoy John Allen's comments about what St Pio's canonization reveals about the Catholic not-as-top-down-as-people-think Church and the power of the people.
Post your prayer intentions in the comments, and if you don't want them actually "posted" in public, put "for your eyes only" in the first line. I will deliver them all on Thursday. (In 4 pt type.)