Saturday, August 22, 2009

St. Padre Pio

Interesting fact about St. Padre Pio (Francesco Forgione), a priest in the Capuchin Order. He is the only Catholic Priest known to be a Stigmatist.

Yes, the Stigmata. These are the wounds of the crucified Christ, the first one being St. Francis of Assisi. The wounds—in the hands, feet, side—appear without explanation. Whether or not you believe that the wounds occur due to the Grace of the Deity or some similar mystical explanation, or the phenomena may be explained by psychosomatic or some other more rational cause, there is no denying that they do occur. The Catholic Church, for all its many flaws, tends to play down seemingly supernatural phenomena and generally initiative an investigation of all these things, like weeping statues, etc., an investigation that includes objective observers, before they declare something as miraculous. The fact is, Padre Pio did have the Stigmata.

This statue is in a court yard by Holy Rosary, a pleasant, peaceful enclave that is gated off from the sidewalk. I love the simplicity of this outdoor statue. If you look closely at the hands, he is wearing gloves. Apparently, the Stigmata would occur on and off throughout his life and he would have to wear gloves because of the bleeding—and in the Stigmata tradition, the blood had a fragrant order. Believe it or don’t believe it, I’m not trying to sway you either way. He’s a fascinating figure no matter what is in your heart or mind and the fact, is millions believe and find solace in that belief world-wide. An estimated 8 million pilgrims each year visit San Giovanni Rotondo in rural Italy, where St. Padre Pio lived and is now buried.

On August 10, 1910, at the age of twenty-three, Padre Pio was ordained to the priesthood. He was known to be pious, contemplative and for saying long masses. When asked to shorten his Mass, Padre Pio replied, "God knows that I want to say Mass just like any other priest, but I cannot do it." The Stigmata first appeared on Padre Pio's body, on Friday, September 20, 1918, while he was praying before a crucifix. He was 31 years old. He bore the painful wounds for fifty years. He died on September 23, 1968 at the age of eighty-one. He died with his Rosary in his hands. He had often declared, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death."

Hence this austere statue in an obscure nook of Jersey City. The only people who care about it want to care about it and seek it out for prayer and contemplation.

In 1971, Pope Paul VI, said of Padre Pio, "What fame he had. How many followers from around the world. Why? Was it because he was a philosopher, a scholar, or because he had means at his disposal? No, it was because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from morning until night and was a marked representative of the Stigmata of Our Lord. He was truly a man of prayer and suffering."

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