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  Admire God's Creations

He Revealed the Reality of God


Confronted with the reality of God as revealed to us through the lives of the canonized saints, the atheist arguments for the non-existence of God collapse like a house of cards. The life of St. Padre Pio, one of the Church’s greatest mystics and stigmatists, stands as an extraordinarily clear sign of God’s existence. Only those of ill will “who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18) disregard or dismiss such clear signs.

September 23, 2009 marked the closing of the celebrations attending the fortieth anniversary of the death of St. Padre Pio. His incorrupt body had been exposed to public view in the San Giovanni Rotondo since April 23, 2008.

Thanks to St. Padre Pio’s intercession, miraculous healings and spectacular conversions of the most hardened atheists abound to this very day. The case of Gemma di Giorgi is just one such amazing miracle. The Italian woman was born in 1939 without pupils. Upon receiving Holy Communion from the hand of Padre Pio in 1947, she received the gift of perfect sight. To this day she has no pupils and yet in defiance of the laws of physics she can see perfectly. The detailed scientific studies of this extraordinary enduring miracle are available to the public.

Numerous documented accounts attest to Padre Pio’s gift of bilocation during his lifetime. This gift enabled the monk to travel distances of hundreds and even thousands of miles bearing spiritual help to needy souls. He could read people’s consciences and knew details of the lives of complete strangers. He also enjoyed the gift of meeting the poor souls of purgatory. In his mystical states he communed daily with Jesus, His Blessed Mother, and the saints. On a daily basis he endured the hatred and brutal attacks of evil spirits.

For fifty years, Padre Pio bore on his body the bloody wounds known as the stigmata, the marks of Christ’s passion, which medical science was unable to heal. These wounds gave off a heavenly scent, which the monk would impart to chosen souls in various parts of the world, sometimes thousands of miles away. In this article we will examine the mystery and significance of stigmatists more closely.

The mystery of the stigmatists

Church history records seventy canonized saints whose bodies bore the bloody wounds as signs of their special union with Christ in the mystery of His passion and death. These include St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Veronica Giuliani. The stigmata of St. Theresa of Avila (1515-1582) were of a peculiar kind. While she bore no outward marks on her body, she had real wounds on her heart. She wrote of them in her mystical works. An autopsy performed on her body after her death revealed five real wounds on her heart. One of them was five centimeters long. According to the medical examiners, each of these wounds would have caused instant death, and yet St. Theresa endured these wounds for twenty-three years. In a manner inexplicable to science, her heart has been preserved to this day. It reposes in a special reliquary in the chapel of the Carmelite convent in Alba de Torres in Spain. There, pilgrims may view it with its five fresh wounds.

The first priest ever to receive the stigmata was St. Padre Pio. Francesco Forgione (St. Padre Pio) was born on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, in the province of Benevento, Italy, in a poor dwelling consisting of one room and a dirt floor. In 1903, at the age of seventeen, he entered the novitiate of the Order of Capuchin Fathers.

On August 10, 1910, Francesco received Holy Orders and devoted himself entirely to God as a victim for humanity’s sins and the poor souls in purgatory. In a letter to his spiritual director, Father Benedetto, he wrote: “For some time past I have felt the need to offer myself to the Lord as a victim for poor sinners and the souls in purgatory. This desire has been steadily growing in my heart to the point of becoming a strong passion. I have in fact made this offering to the Lord several times, beseeching Him to pour out upon me the punishments prepared for sinners and for the souls in a state of purgation…but I should now like to make this offering to the Lord in obedience to you. It seems to me that Jesus really wants this” (November 29, 1910). “The vocation of suffering for others is a difficult one,” he would add, “for such a person finds himself enjoying not the delights of love but union with the suffering Jesus on Calvary.”

In a letter to Father Agostino, Padre Pio writes again of this special vocation: “[Jesus] chooses souls and, despite my unworthiness, He has also chosen mine to help Him in the tremendous task of men’s salvation. The more these souls suffer without the slightest consolation, the more they assuage the sufferings of our good Jesus. This is why I desire to suffer more and more without the slightest consolation. In this consists all my joy. Alas, I lack courage, but Jesus will refuse me nothing. I can testify to this from long experience, so long as we do not stop asking Him for what we need” (September 20, 1912). “O Jesus,” he would write three months later, “if I could only love you, if I could only suffer as much as I should like in order to make you happy and make some kind of reparation for men’s ingratitude towards you. But Jesus made His voice more clearly audible in my heart: ‘My son, love is recognized in suffering; you will feel it acutely in your soul and even more acutely in your body’” (December 29, 1912).

St. Padre Pio’s stigmata

As a sign of God’s acceptance of Padre Pio’s offer of expiation for the sins of others and the poor souls in purgatory, the monk received the stigmata: constantly bleeding wounds, as signs of his special union with Christ suffering for the salvation of mankind. The pain of the wounds had already made itself felt in 1910. On September 1 of that year, Jesus and Mary appeared to him, and it was then that he first observed Christ’s wounds upon his hands. After a while, they disappeared only to return accompanied by more intense pain in September of 1911 and then again in March of 1912. Thus Jesus gradually prepared Padre Pio to receive the marks of His redemptive passion.

On August 5, 1918, the monk received a wound in his side. In his letters, he recounts how, while hearing confession, “there appeared before the eyes of my mind a celestial guest,” who “lunged at me with a long sharp-pointed blade that seemed to emit fire….From that day forth I began to bear the cruel wound on my body. I constantly feel the open wound in the depths of my soul. It is the source of my continual torment.”

On August 20, 1918, Padre Pio received all five of Christ’s wounds. The following is his description of the event to this spiritual director: “After celebrating Mass, I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me….I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of August 5. The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood….The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet, and side, were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday. Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I fell deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will He at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring Him until in His mercy He takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible, since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outwards signs, which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation” (October 22, 1918).  

Jesus did not grant him his request, for He desired to give all doubters and unbelievers a visible sign calling them to repentance; that they might see on the body of Padre Pio the signs of His terrible torment and death, which their sins and lack of faith in His love and mercy had caused.

Padre Pio sought every means possible to hide his bleeding wounds so that no one might know about them. But this was impossible, since the wounds bled profusely and had to be dressed frequently. “They are real wounds, which pierce the hands right through,” observed the monastery custodian in a letter to the Superior General. “As for the wound in the side, it is a real gash from which blood flows constantly.” For fifty years, until the day of his death, Padre Pio bore these visible signs of Christ’s passion and death.

Medical examination of the stigmata

News of Padre Pio’s stigmata spread quickly, first throughout Italy, then throughout the world. Journalists began arriving in droves at San Giovanni Rotondo to witness sensational miracles and numerous conversions, including their own, thanks to Padre Pio’s intercession. Because of the great publicity generated by this extraordinary happening, the monastery authorities felt obliged to subject Padre Pio to a full medical examination. They first called on Dr. Luigi Romanelli to study the mysterious wounds. The examination, which took place on May 14, 1919, determined that the monk’s hands and feet were pierced right through and that the eight-centimeter-long wound in his side bled arterial blood. Concluding his report, Dr. Romanelli observed: “The etiology of Fr. Pio’s wounds is not of natural origin. The reasons underlying their existence must be sought in the domain of the supernatural. Medicine is unable to account for this fact.”

Pathologist Dr. Amico Bigniami was also called upon to study Padre Pio’s wounds. Being an agnostic, he tended to discount the action of supernatural forces. But after examining the wounds, he was forced to state that there were no chemical substances or diseases capable of causing such wounds. Confident, nevertheless, that he could cure the monk in two weeks, he went on to suggest a strict course of treatment, consisting in 1) no access to iodine and other medications; 2) bandaging and sealing the wounds in the presence of two witnesses; 3) inspecting the wounds every day for a period of eight days and resealing them. The monastery superiors saw to it that the doctor’s orders were carried out to the letter. Yet the upshot of all this was that after the prescribed eight-day treatment, Padre Pio’s wounds showed no sign of healing and continued to bleed profusely.

The next specialist to examine the stigmata was Dr. Giorgio Festa. Attesting to the perfect working order of Padre Pio’s nervous system and mental faculties, his report stated quite categorically that the wounds could not have arisen out of anything the patient had done to himself; that they were not the result of any external or internal factors; and that the appearance and etiology of these wounds could not be explained on the basis of medical knowledge.

For fifty years Padre Pio’s stigmata bled continually, resisted healing, and retained their original freshness without ever festering or becoming inflamed or causing necrosis. Moreover, upon Padre Pio’s death, the wounds vanished without a trace. For the medical community this was yet another staggering marvel, since all wounds causing damage to body tissue leave behind a permanent mark in the form of visible scars. The posthumous disappearance of Padre Pio’s wounds remains inexplicable to medical science.

Padre Pio’s stigmata stand as a strikingly eloquent sign calling all people to conversion. Through the person of this holy man, our merciful God gave mankind yet another opportunity to return to Him in this particularly difficult time of spiritual crisis.

The mystery of suffering

The stigmata of St. Padre Pio were the wounds inflicted on Jesus during His passion on the cross. Their appearance on Padre Pio’s body was made possible thanks to God’s special grace and the saint’s total mystical union with Jesus. Through them, Jesus wishes to make us aware that every sin we commit inflicts great suffering upon Him. In the person of Padre Pio, it was Jesus Himself who suffered and showed us His wounds. Being true man and true God — and in God it is always “now” — Jesus was able to take upon his shoulders the sins and sufferings of every human being ever to live or about to live. Having suffered and died for every human being and then risen from the dead, He delivered us from that ultimate evil and suffering, which is eternal damnation. Thanks to Jesus, every suffering endured in union with Him, even the most senseless and undeserved suffering, becomes a road to salvation, and thus constitutes a great grace and gift. But Jesus can bestow upon us this gift of salvation only when we freely consent to it, when with all our pains and all our sins we confide and entrust ourselves to Him in the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist, when we pray to Him and walk the way of the Gospel and the commandments.

In his apostolic letter, Salvifici doloris, John Paul II observes that everyone is “called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, 19).

Thanks to Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, “the weaknesses of all human sufferings are capable of being infused with the same power of God manifested in Christ’s Cross. In this sense, to suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ. In Him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which is man’s weakness and emptying of self, and He wishes to make His power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self. This also explains the exhortation in the First Letter of Peter: ‘Yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God’” (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, 23).

Through His wounds as seen on the body of St. Padre Pio, Jesus invites us to offer Him our sufferings. Only then will we be able to receive the redemptive love of God. Only then will our suffering not be wasted. Only then will it not destroy us and be seen not as a curse but as a great blessing, since then we will be sharers in the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death for the salvation of souls.

Man’s greatest tragedy and spiritual pain is remaining in a state of mortal sin. Jesus calls us to pick ourselves up after every sin and to entrust to Him in the sacrament of reconciliation our enslaved and wounded hearts. In this way we enable Him to work the greatest miracle, which is the forgiveness of sins. Every suffering we experience is but a part of the suffering endured by Christ on the cross. If we offer it up to Jesus, we enable Him to charge it with the redemptive power of His love. Then, like St. Padre Pio, we will be able to experience the joyful mystery of Christ’s final triumph over Satan, sin, suffering, and death.

Padre Pio’s entire life was spent in constant prayer and total self-surrender to Jesus in a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of others. Every day, in union with Jesus, he was able to take upon his shoulders the pains and hardships of all those who turned to him for help. By offering himself to God in the sacrifice of atoning for the sins of others, St. Padre Pio availed himself of the most effective weapon in overcoming every evil. In a letter to Father Agostino, he observed: “I am happier than ever when I suffer, and if I were to listen merely to the promptings of my heart, I would ask Jesus to give me all the sorrows of men. But I do not do so because I am afraid of being too selfish by desiring the better part, which is suffering. When we suffer, Jesus is closer to us. He looks on and it is He who comes to beg us for pain and tears, of which he is in need for souls” (April 2, 1912).

Father Pio often told people, “I take your pain upon myself!” He assumed the sufferings of others and endured them in full. Yet for him, suffering was bound up with the great joy that flowed from his union with Christ. When enjoying fellowship with his confreres, he was the life of the party. He cracked jokes and was full of joy. But after a while, he would have to leave because of his great suffering. “I am one great wound,” he would say. Writing to a spiritual daughter, he observed: “I do not love suffering for its own sake but for the fruits that it yields. It gives glory to God, frees souls from purgatory. Could I wish for more?” “I know that all of you suffer. Courage!” he wrote elsewhere. “Trust in our Mother is a guarantee that she will stretch forth her hand and give solace to all. In every ailing person there is Jesus, who suffers. In every poor person there is Jesus, who dies. In every poor person who ails there is Jesus, who suffers and dies twice.”

Fr. Mieczyslaw Piotrowski SChr

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The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in June 2016.




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