Certain saints have extra special meaning for Catholics, especially ones that were alive during our lifetimes or close to it. We even have affectionate nicknames for them. Mother Teresa will always be Mother Teresa to many of us instead of the more formal St. Teresa of Kolkata, for example. St. John Paul II? He’s simply JP II.
Another such saint is formally known as St. Pio of Pietrelcina. But we all call him Padre Pio. His relics are on a nationwide tour as Mary Lou Rosien wrote about in the September 2018 cover story in Catholic Digest.
“By requesting Padre Pio’s intercession, they’re requesting God’s blessing,” said Luciano Lamonarca, the president and CEO of the Saint Pio Foundation that organized the tour.
On Wednesday, the tour stopped at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in Cincinnati, a mighty piece of architecture that I only visit on special occasions. This was one of those special times that I hope I never forget.
When I arrived mid-morning, the line to venerate the relics in front of the cathedral’s main altar was just inside the sanctuary. By the time I left, it stretched outside into the late morning humid air. Young, old, babies, parents, youth, were all there patiently waiting. Organizers even created a separate line for Catholic school children to venerate one of the relics. It was comforting to see Catholic educators recognize the importance of the opportunity. This was not your ordinary field trip.
At a time of scandal in the Church, events and crowds like the one I saw today remind me that the Church is going to be OK. It might sound trite, but yes, the Church is alive!
The Church is still comprised of people with strong faith who are willing take time out of their busy lives to see something that they may never see again. Today, myself and hundreds of others came face-to-face with the actual relics of a saint who is face-to-face with God now, leaving our prayers before the saint and Our Lord.
Let us pray that we may follow the example of Padre Pio and that the Church may always give birth to new saints like him.
“The holiness, the spiritual, the goodness, the greatness of his person,” said Ann of Milford, Ohio, who was waiting outside the cathedral. “We all want to live a good life and be faithful and get to heaven. He’s there. I’m hoping he’ll help us on our path.”
For tour dates, visit SaintPioFoundation.org/American-Tour-2018.