September 22, 2017

St. Padre Pio and the Stigmata of Our Lord’s Passion

Padre Pio

Perhaps the most distinguishing mark of Padre Pio’s holiness was bearing the stigmata, through which he shared in the suffering of Christ. Initially, our Savior’s sacred wounds, though felt by Fra. Pio, were not visible. On the morning of September 20, 1918, after celebrating Mass in the Church of Our Lady of Grace next to the friary, Padre Pio retired to the choir stalls in thanksgiving. Kneeling in loving adoration before the outspread, bloodied figure of Christ crucified, he experienced a peacefulness which invaded his whole being, a peacefulness, that he later described as "similar to a sweet sleep". What happened next is recorded in a letter Padre Pio wrote barely a month later to fellow friar Padre Benedetto:

"It all happened in a flash. While all this was taking place, I saw before me a mysterious Person, similar to the one I had seen on August 5th, differing only because His hands, feet and side were dripping blood. The sight of Him frightened me: what I felt at that moment is indescribable. 'I thought I would die, and would have died if the Lord hadn't intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. The Person disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were pierced and were dripping with blood."

The stigmata would remain with Padre Pio for the rest of his life. Unbeknownst to many, he felt the crown of thorns pressing into his scalp and the agony resulting from Jesus’ scourging. But by far, the most excruciating affliction he endured was the grievous shoulder wound from Christ carrying the cross. It bled constantly, causing him indescribable pain that could not be relieved. Padre Pio confided this torment only to his confessor and the future Saint John Paul II, Fr. Karol Wojtyla.

Upon Padre Pio’s death, all visible signs of the stigmata disappeared. Padre Pio’s detractors charged that he kept his wounds open with carbolic acid. (According to some accounts, his stigmata would ooze painfully while saying Mass and on certain holy days. As a result, Padre Pio wrapped the wounds in cloth beneath fingerless gloves.) In the face of such accusations, Pope Pius XI, Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI and St. John Paul II, all affirmed Padre Pio’s holiness and ministry.

Prayer in Honor of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Remember your mercies, O Lord, and with your eternal protection sanctify your servants for whom Christ your Son, through the shedding of his Blood, won for us salvation. The agony of his Passion was the result of our sin. Yet by his wounds we have been healed and all of your creation redeemed. In Christ's name. Amen.

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