On June 13, 2002, 500,000 pilgrims gathered in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to join Pope John Paul II proclaim Padre Pio of Pietrelcina a saint! I was privileged with the honor to organize a pilgrimage from San Antonio for Padre Pio Parish. There were around 30 from San Antonio that journeyed to Rome for this historical event. As we stood for several hours in St. Peter’s Square waiting for John Paul II to begin Mass, I began to think about my experience with Padre Pio.
Tom, my husband, and I had visited San Giovanni Rotondo several years before. This is a small town along the east coast of Italy. It is where Padre Pio lived most of his life as a Capuchin Friar in a monastery, praying, offering daily Mass and hearing Confessions daily for several hours. He died in 1968, so he is considered a modern day Saint!
When visiting his monastery, we were able to see his ‘cell’ (room), personal belongings such as his habit, shoes, prayer book, Bible and rosary. His cell was simple, but it gave witness to Padre Pio’ simple and humble life!
We met one of the Friars, someone who knew Padre Pio and lived with him in the monastery. As we heard him speak about his friend, his love for Padre Pio was very evident. He blessed us using one of Padre Pio’s gloves. You see, Padre Pio was the only and first priest in the history of the Church that was blessed with the Stigmata (the wounds of Christ in his body). Gloves were used to cover the bleeding wounds in Padre Pio’s hands, thus making the gloves a sacramental. It was truly a blessing for us, who knew about Padre Pio’s love for Christ, to have received this ‘holy opportunity.’
I will never forget that pilgrimage to Rome in June 2002. It was well worth standing for hours in the summer heat of June, in the midst of the crowd of thousands. Hearing John Paul II’s words about Padre Pio, united in prayer and with much joy with a ‘spiritual friend’ in Heaven and with so many persons from all over the world who knew this “humble, prayerful servant of God”!
Padre Pio said
“Let us do good while we still have time, and we will render glory to our heavenly Father, sanctify ourselves, and give good example to others.”
Take a look at this website of the Shrine of St. Padre Pio in San Antonio, the only Catholic Church in the United States named after the Saint:
P.S. Interested in going on pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo, Rome, and Assisi? The pastor of the Shrine of Padre Pio, Msgr. Pat Ragsdale, has asked us to organize a special pilgrimage in Fall of 2012. Contact us if you’re interested, and we’ll stay in touch: (210) 521-3377