Relics of Padre Pio at Cathedral venerated by thousands

Faithful Catholics touch rosaries, medals, holy cards, missals and other religious articles to the relics in intercessory prayer to Padre Pio. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Relics of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, familiar to most of us as Padre Pio, visited the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception May 15. The relics were displayed for veneration from mid-morning until 6:30 p.m., followed by a Mass in St. Pio’s honor celebrated by Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.

The relics, which have been touring the Americas for the past two years under the auspices of the St. Pio Foundation, have been venerated by more than 500,000 faithful.

People from all over the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph — laymen, women, children of all ages, priests, deacons, seminarians and religious sisters — arrived consistently during the day, especially during the noon-time prayer and Mass and after the workday ended. The number of prayer intentions and donation envelopes collected in baskets and the numbers of people in the filled pews showed that the relics attracted about 4,500 faithful to the Cathedral that day.

Five of the relics — a lock of the saint’s hair, crusts of his stigmata wounds, a sweat-soaked handkerchief, a glove and a blood-stained piece of cotton gauze — were arranged on a table at the foot of the sanctuary steps. Padre Pio’s mantle (cape) was hung in the sanctuary near the altar.

The Knights of Columbus of the Fr. Bernard J. Donnelly 4th Degree Assembly 566 in full regalia directed the lines of people toward the table to venerate the relics. They also served to protect the relics from possible harm.

Many rosaries, holy cards, medals, missals and books about the saint were carried to the relics and reverently touched to them.

Padre Pio was born Francisco Forgione May 25, 1887. His parents were devout peasant farmers and their children helped on the farm. For several years Francisco cared for the family’s small flock of sheep. He expressed the desire to become a priest when he was 10 years old, but his years as a shepherd combined with chronic ill health, had left him far behind his peers academically. His father emigrated to the United States to work and sent money home to pay for his son’s private tutor. In 1902, at age 15, Francisco entered the Capuchin Order, a branch of the Franciscans, at Morcone, Italy. He took the name Pius in honor of Pope Pius V. He was ordained a priest in 1910, when he was 23.

Plagued by ill health his entire life, Padre Pio as he was known, spent much of his time at home in bed. He was renowned for his mysticism, and later for his miraculous powers of healing and knowledge.

In 1918, Pope Benedict XV requested that Christians world-wide pray for an end to the war. While at prayer, Padre Pio had a vision of Christ piercing his side. Several weeks later, Pio again had a vision of Christ, this time conferring the whole stigmata — wounds corresponding to those Christ suffered during his Passion and Crucifixion. The stigmata would remain with Pio until his death.

His piety, charity and preaching quality were known the world over. “Pray, hope and don’t worry,” is an oft-quoted admonition of his.

Padre Pio died Sept. 23, 1968. He was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002.

In his homily honoring Padre Pio, Bishop Johnston reminded the congregation that, “As we move, as One Family, day by day through this Holy Year of Renewal …, our purpose is to seek God’s grace in a special way together, that we can be renewed in our baptismal call to be holy and to take up the mission of a disciple with renewed energy and joy.

“One of the beautiful features of this Year of Grace … is that we are becoming intentionally aware of the saints and their presence … as our friends in Christ, as well as our collaborators in love and intercessory prayer. Our concerns are their concerns.”

He recounted “drawing near” the relic of St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph on March 19, St. Joseph’s Day. “It was a time for us to lift up our priests and seminarians to God with St. John’s intercession and closeness.”

He noted that St. Pius of Pietralcina is “still endearingly known to us as, Padre Pio. It’s very much like, St. Teresa of Calcutta; she will always be ‘Mother Teresa.’”

Bishop Johnston said there are so many facets of Saint Padre Pio’s life that our lives can be illuminated by. “The readings for today’s Mass, as well as the times we live in, suggest one facet of particular importance.

“For lack of a better word, I will simply call it ‘spiritual prudence.’ Spiritual prudence means approaching the spiritual life with the right balance.”

He said there are two extremes — one: “Christians can become neurotic at times … Hung up on the wrong things, full of anxieties and fears and worries. This betrays a lack of faith and hope in God. … The other extreme, … an attitude of spiritual nonchalance: neglecting prayer and spiritual dangers to the detriment of our soul and the souls of others. … can eventually lead to the loss of faith, or a shipwreck of our vocation, a type of slow and gradual dying away.”

Padre Pio gives us an example and an attitude of spiritual prudence to combat both extremes, Bishop Johnston said.

“The … advice, … ‘Pray, hope, and don’t worry’ addresses the fear and anxiety extreme. ‘We must have great confidence in God’s great love!” he said.

Padre Pio’s letters and advice in the confessional caution Christians to take sin and the devil, our spiritual enemy, seriously. “The Christian life is spiritual warfare. We must be ‘as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves’ to use Christ’s own words.”

The bishop continued, saying through his priestly ministry, Padre Pio revealed that “every person lives out an important drama before the entire audience of the cosmos, but more than this, that God is intimately concerned for each person, their illnesses, their temptations, their struggles, their fears. No one is insignificant.

“At the same time, we each have a place in the Father’s heart and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We must have trust in God, but also act on that trust with a sense of urgency, hope and persistence. … Part of Saint Pius’s wisdom lay in the fact that he was deeply aware that we need one another, and that we cannot go it alone.”

At the close of Mass, members of the Cathedral parish reverently carried the relics through the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard to the narthex from where they would be loaded in the vehicle carrying them to their next stop. They were followed by the priests and deacons who stood on the Cathedral’s front porch shaking hands and sharing comments with the hundreds of people leaving the Cathedral.

From the number of people who took the time to come to the Cathedral, venerate the relics and remain for the Mass, it could be seen that, in the words of Bishop Johnston, “Padre Pio revealed Christ in his love and in his own flesh; he so identified his life with the Lord that he bore the wounds of the crucifixion for most of his life in the stigmata … a living sign that Christ lived in him. The love of Christ was revealed in the saint’s unique and amazing life.”

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  1. June 2, 2019 at 10:29 am #

    How Macabre.

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August 18, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph