St. Padre Pio

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Padre Pio.
Many pilgrims go to San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy to venerate the tomb of Padre Pio. But there is another place to visit, it is his tiny hometown, Pietrelcina. Some years back I went there, and as we walked through that village in the winter air, I began to feel a sort of wistful longing in my heart, a longing and memory of childhood. Pietrelcina was small, like the town I was born in, but – that did to explain the feelings I felt. As I inhaled the crisp air, I suddenly identified the cause: Coal! The air had a strong smell of burning coal. The homes were heated by coal furnaces; growing up I had smelled the same in our neighborhood, and that smell brought flooding back happy memories of childhood.
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My own feelings aside, I pondered the spirit of Padre Pio that was certainly there. One got a living sense of the enormity of God’s plan for each person. As a child, what could little Francesco have known of God’s plans for him. Plans of great graces, and sufferings.
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As a little child the future Padre Pio enjoyed playing and joking, but he had a reserved character, and a studious spirit. His friends would watch in amazement through the window to see him doing his homework, nobody did it! He was a sensitive child, always wanting God’s will to be done.
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At age 15 he entered the novitiate of the Capuchins, taking the name Pio. He was ordained a priest in 1910. Eight years later, while praying, he received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ on his hands, feet. He is the first priest to receive them. The doctor who examined Padre Pio could not find any natural cause for the wounds. The blood had an odor described by many as similar to that of flowers.
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He had the gift of bilocation, and the ability to read the hearts of the penitents who came to confession. In 1956 he founded the House for the Relief of Suffering, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. Though he went through many trials of accusations and skeptics at high levels of the Church – though he was restricted from public view for some ten years, he was obedient to his superiors. Vindicated, the miracles and cures continued, and he has become loved by millions.
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A blind man was taken to Padre Pio once. His eyes were like shriveled peas in his head. On his knees, he begged that he would heal at least one of his eyes. ‘Only one eye’ said the Padre. I’ll pray for you, take courage. The grateful man returned later, and with tears of happiness – for he had been cured in his eye. ‘Only one eye cured? Said the Padre. Let that be a lesson to you, never put limitations on God, and he was suddenly healed in both eyes. He said: Always ask for the big grace.
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We always underestimate the plans God has for us, the gifts he wants to give us. Let us follow the advice of Padre Pio, and often ask God for the big grace.

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