The day began with an announcement from Fr. Walter Grabowski: “Not many of us can go to San Giovanni Rotondo, but St. Pio comes to us!”
Born May 25, 1887, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, affectionately known as Padre Pio, first expressed a desire for the priesthood at age 10. He was ordained when he was only 23. He was known for his laughter, ability to touch souls in a dramatic way through the sacrament of Penance, and his love for the Mass and the Eucharist. He was a mystic who bore the stigmata (wounds of Christ).
St. Pio died in 1968, and on this, the 50th anniversary of his death, the saint is being remembered through a national tour of his relics (made available for public veneration). The tour resumes this fall with stops planned from Sept. 8 to Nov. 11.
One stop on the tour, sponsored by the Saint Pio Foundation, was St. Gabriel Church, in the Diocese of Buffalo (New York) on April 21. The day included Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard J. Malone, an opportunity for confession, and veneration of the relics. The relics included St. Pio’s glove, a lock of his hair, crusts of his wounds, cotton gauze with his blood, his mantle, and a handkerchief soaked with sweat hours before he died.
Bishop Malone reminded those at Mass that Catholics are an “incarnational people” and all creation mediates the grace and presence of God.
People were drawn to the saint in his lifetime, and that devotion has spread since his death and subsequent canonization in 2002. Many people who attended the event (6,000 to 7,000 according to event coordinator, Michael Pratt) expressed special devotions to this saint; many times they had been led to him through another person who shared with them.
He truly is a friend of a friend to Sandy L. and Marie W. who came to venerate the relics. Another woman, Ellen S., explained that her mother-in-law had a great devotion to the saint and kept a picture of him on her wall as she was dying. Ellen took on that devotion as part of her own spiritual life following her mother-in-law’s death.
Jeff K. came to venerate the relics as a way of thanking St. Pio for answered prayers. Jeff transferred to a job in another state, and it was not bringing him the peace he desired. He found a book on Padre Pio and began praying to him for help. He then discovered a website, PadrePioDevotions.org, and found prayers that moved him deeply. Following a novena to the saint, he secured employment back home in Buffalo, which led him to his beautiful fiancée, who attended the event with him.
Ben R., 17, learned about Padre Pio in his high school. He loved the stories of miracles, especially one about a blind girl with no pupils who regained her sight after she met the saint. He called St. Pio “super holy!”
Maria M., 12, loved the “interesting life” and “miracles, especially the stigmata” that were part of the saint’s history.
Some came for the opportunity to venerate the relics close to home, echoing the earlier sentiments of Fr. Grabowski. One couple didn’t know that much about the saint, but they were excited that they had the chance to see first-class relics in their home parish.
Fr. Grabowski, the pastor of St. Gabriel’s, shared that about 800 people attended the special Mass, and they came for two reasons: the relics and the Eucharist! He reported that miracles had occurred — miracles in the confessional — especially people returning to the sacrament after 20 years away from it. “As St. Faustina was a channel of God’s mercy, St. Padre Pio is a channel of God’s grace in the confessional.”
Joseph T., 7, and his sister, Brianna, 5, summed it up. When asked why they came, they replied, “We want to be blessed.”
HOW TO UNDERSTAND RELICS
Relics are holy objects that are venerated by the Church. This is not to be confused with worship. We worship God alone, but we recognize certain objects in a way that inspires us. In sacred Scripture, we read that miracles often were performed using physical objects.
So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
Catholicism is an “incarnational” religion, meaning that the physical and spiritual are connected.
Relics are classified in three ways:
First class: A part of a saint’s body such as a bone (or a bone fragment), hair, nails. Also, the instruments of Christ’s passion.
Second class: An object directly belonging to a saint or the object of torture used against a martyr.
Third class: Anything touched to a first-, second-, or third-class relic. The Code of Canon Law, paragraph 1190, speaks to the specific treatment of relics. It forbids the buying and selling of relics; however, in some cases donations to cover costs are allowed.
ASHES AND RELICS
If the Church doesn’t allow the scattering of a dead person’s ashes, how does it allow a saint’s body parts to be separated?
The sensus fidelium through the centuries has clearly seen a distinction to be made between the respect to be shown the remains of the deceased for the repose of whose souls we still pray, and the honor that is given to God by the use of the remains of saints to effect miracles and find grace (see 2 Kings 13:21).
(Fr. Peter B. Mottola, JCL)
The saints, as members of the body of Christ, have a right to have their remains venerated. And this right, flowing from their dignity as members of the body of Christ, supersedes their right to have their remains remain in burial.
(Fr. Carlos Martins, CC, “Is it weird that Catholics venerate relics? Here’s why we do,” Mary Rezac, Catholic News Agency, Nov. 1, 2017)
FIVE WAYS TO LEARN FROM ST. PIO
You don’t have to be “worthy,” just willing.
God will never allow anything that is not for our greater good.
God will always give us more than we deserve.
Serve the Lord with laughter.
Pray, hope, and don’t worry.
Source: Bishop Richard J. Malone, Diocese of Buffalo (New York), homily at St. Gabriel’s Parish, April 21, 2018
THE TOUR CONTINUES
Visit SaintPioFoundation.org/American-Tour-2018 for tour dates and locations.