While we’re on the topic of signs, the life of today’s saint, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, was filled with them. His long life as a Capuchin friar (he died at 81) ended on this day in 1968, holding his Rosary (rarely ever out of his hands), declaring that he saw ‘two mothers’ (presumably his own, and the Virgin Mary), and, with the name ‘Maria’, breathed his last.
The life of the Friar was filled with controversy: His ill-health, requiring him to stay at home for long periods of time while still a Franciscan; his ecstasies, levitations, bilocations that defied any regular notion of space and time; the untold number of correspondents; the founding of the hospital which required a controversial (to some) use of funds by the poverty-bound friar; myriads of pilgrims and those seeking confession (including a young Father Wojtyla, whose elevation to the papacy, according to one legend, Saint Pius revealed to him); the desperate seeking spiritual and physical healing, or some glimpse of his gift of prophecy; and, not least, the stigmata which stayed with the priest for fifty years, examined by numerous physicians, who could find no natural explanation for the wounds which would not heal, but gave off a heavenly fragrance (while at times causing Pius indescribable suffering). Early in his priesthood, Padre Pio was ordered into seclusion, but this was eventually lifted and his fame spread far and wide, with over 100,000 attending the requiem Mass of his funeral.
Like Saint Therese a century before, the miraculous Friar predicted that he would do far more good after his death than before, and numerous devotees can attest to his intercession.
The charisms of Padre Pio are what the Church calls motiva credibilitatis, (CCC, #159), motives of credibility, those things that may move us into faith, or bolster what faith we have. We could use a lot more conversion in today’s world, from unbelief to belief, and from tottering belief to a faith that is unshaken and unshakeable. Lord, increase our faith, the Apostles cried. If we had faith but the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains, Christ replied. Or, less metaphorically, like Padre Pio, help convert the world, beginning with our own souls.
Saint Padre Pio, ora pro nobis!