Presently it doesn’t seem very likely that I’ll ever be able to go visit San Giovanni Rotondo, the resting place of St. Padre Pio. My sister and close family members have been there to the Shrine of St. Padre Pio and shared stories about being there. So, when I heard that the relics of St. Padre Pio were brought to the National Shrine of the immaculate Conception, I was extremely excited. I couldn’t go see him, but he was coming to see me. I don’t remember, but I think his relics were brought for veneration for weekend only here in DC, towards the end of May. I especially wanted to go to ask for his intercession on behalf of friends with a suffering child.
That day there was a huge bronze sculpture of the Saint standing right beyond the main entrance of the great upper church. Padre Pio was depicted as kneeling before the crucified Lord on the cross, with streams of blood and water coming from the Lord’s open side. The cross was mounted on a globe of the world onto which the streams fell; these streams were shown to be the source of the Saint’s stigmata. Padre Pio was embracing the foot of the cross, in a visible expression of love and intercession for the world. Quite fittingly the piece is entitled “I Embrace You.” One of the organizers was standing by the statue giving details about the creation of it. He told us that it was sculpted by an American, Timothy Smaltz, as a replica of a much larger sculpture that can be seen in San Giovianni Rotondo.
Next thing to notice was a crowd of people forming a line extending from the back entrance all the way to the front of the main sanctuary where the relics were! We were probably in line for about half an hour to see Padre Pio! It occurred to me that this was what it must have been like for people to see him for confession, the difference being that they stood for hours in his confessional line! Eventually we were there right before his relics asking him for prayer for a brief moment before having to move on and let others take our place.
What was it about Padre Pio that drew so many to him? I think it was his exceptional holiness – – holiness is attractive. He had a great spiritual outlook born of frequent prayer which gave him the ability to transcend the mundane monotony of everyday life. In the light of Christ, everything is brighter, and even suffering, while remaining difficult, becomes a joy, an assurance of heaven. The constancy of his prayer united him to Jesus to the point where he began to resemble him in the flesh, bleeding from hands, feet and side. I think this is what drew people to St. Pio and continues to draw people to him. They knew his spiritual advice was trustworthy and of the Holy Spirit. How many people still draw strength by his words on suffering – – me being one of them.
Thank you, St. Pio; please pray for us and keep us out of trouble!