By Beth Donze
Studying the lives of the saints is a great way for us to be “introduced” to Jesus himself.
That was the message Father Peter Finney delivered to students from St. Rita School in New Orleans at their Oct. 4 Mass celebrating St. Rita’s Church’s reception of relics connected with St. Padre Pio.
“If you could meet one person, who would it be?” Father Finney asked the youngsters during the homily. The priest received a range of answers, from Beyonce Knowles and Logan Paul, to the three members of the Holy Family.
“How do we normally meet a person, especially somebody who’s famous?” Father Finney asked. The priest noted that while one can always introduce himself to another person on his own, introductions can be made even easier if the two strangers have a mutual friend – a middleman.
“For example, if your uncle was good friends with Beyonce, wouldn’t it be easier (for you) to meet Beyonce?” Father Finney asked. It is the same way with Jesus. While we certainly can meet Jesus in prayer and in the sacraments, the saints are always available to give us “a little introduction” to Christ, Father Finney said.
“The relics of St. Padre Pio – these things that he has touched, parts of his very self – are not here for us to show them off or to have a lot of people in the parking lot (visiting St. Rita Church),” Father Finney said. “They’re here to help us to meet Jesus. Padre Pio is the one making the introduction; he is the one helping us to know Jesus through his life – living a faithful life, living a life amid challenges, living a life of service.”
During the Offertory, in addition to the gifts of bread and wine, students brought up a basket containing their intercessory prayers to St. Padre Pio. The petitions, listed on coloring sheets with the saint’s image, included prayers for the victims of Hurricane Irma, healing for a sibling’s injured chin and a grandfather, “who died before I was born.”
After Mass, the young congregants were invited to touch the relics and say a prayer before them.
Relics available for veneration that day included St. Padre Pio’s glove, mantle, a lock of hair, cotton gauze stained with the saint’s blood and a handkerchief used to wipe sweat from the priest as he lay on his deathbed.
Born in Italy in 1887, Padre Pio first expressed his desire to be a priest at age 10. He entered the Capuchin religious order at 15 and was ordained a priest at 23.
During his life, Padre Pio was known as a mystic who had miraculous powers of healing and who was privileged to bear the stigmata – wounds corresponding to the crucifixion marks of Christ. His stigmata first appeared during World War I, after Pope Benedict XV asked Christians to pray for an end to the conflict.
Padre Pio had a vision in which Christ pierced his side. A few weeks later – on Sept. 20, 1918 – Jesus again appeared to him, and he received the full stigmata. The miraculous condition would remain with Padre Pio until his death in 1968.
Pope John Paul II, now a saint himself, canonized Padre Pio in 2002.