It was September of 1918. And in the Capuchin Friary of Our Lady of Grace, in San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy, the celebration of the feast commemorating the imprinting of the Stigmata on St. Francis already had taken place. On Friday 20, little before noon, a strong cry called the attention of the convent’s friars. It was Padre Pio of Pietrelcina who had fallen on the floor, pierced by invisible arrows that had passed through his hands, his feet and his side. The friars went to aid him, and while they held Pio’s aching head, they glanced at the great Crucifix that presided over the event. They understood that from that moment onwards Padre Pio would carry in his body the Stigmata. He was called to give testimony of the Holy Wounds received by Our Savior in His Passion. Transmitted by the faithful of Mount Gargano, the news of such wonder spread swiftly. Quite soon the roads were filled with pilgrims, while in the rest of the world people began to speak with admiration of what had happened.
At first Father Pio’s daily activities, however, didn’t change much. With kindness and humility as always, he continued fulfilling his daily obligations. Among them he spared a great number of hours to be in the confessional, adding extra hours on holidays. Although he only ate once a day, and in not very appropriate quantities, Father weighed a hundred and fifty five pounds and enjoyed his usual health. It was evident that the scarce food he took would be insufficient if he were not being strengthened by the Holy Eucharist. So it was said to have also happened in the lives of Teresa Neuman, Saint Lidwina and Saint Catherine of Siena.
A great deal has been spoken about Padre Pio. He has increasingly attracted the attention and devotion of the faithful, not only for the number of marvels that were attributed to him, but also for the abundance of extraordinary blessings that were said to surround him, such as unexplained healings, prophecies, bilocation and the gift of tongues. All of which is astonishing and encouraging in a time of acute skepticism and lack of faith.
Padre Pio attracts people not only for the wonders carried out through his intercession, but also for his deep knowledge of souls and hearts. It is said that appearing before a rationalistic Sicilian professor, that was suffering an existential crisis, he told him: “I see that you are sincerely seeking for happiness and truth; in other words you are searching for God. For happiness it is necessary for you to wait a little, Earth is a valley of tears in which we all should carry our cross. In fact, happiness is not of this world. But you surely can find God. Purify your heart from passions, be humble, pray, and I assure you that you will find peace in this world and the eternal blessing”. This seems to be an example of the asceticism of his teachings. Once he spoke to an American pilgrim saying: “Humility and purity are the wings that take us to God and almost deify us”. On another occasion, with deep Christian feeling, he wrote on the back of an image of the Cross: “The timber won’t squash you; if at some time you hesitate under its weight, its power will straighten you up.”
After having suffered for 50 years as representative of the Wounds of Our Lord, and having marked his pilgrimage in the world with a large number of special manifestations, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina died for ever to pain and perpetual effort against himself. He has left hosts of followers from different parts of the world. By thousands they approach the Cathedral of San Giovanni Rotondo, with the desire to honor him and request of him different intercessions.
* “The Stigmatized” is a translation of an article published in a Lima’s daily newspaper on September 26, 1968. That same day the mortal remains of Padre Pio were being buried in Mount Gargano, Italy. During Padre Pio’s lifetime very little was really known about how things had happened. Just recently facts have been known when documentation for the Cause of Canonization was made public.
Notice: This article has been translated from Spanish. The author has not looked over the translation.
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