This is the feast day of Padre Pio (1887 – 1968), the Capuchin saint who received the stigmata, the marks of Christ’s wounds, on his own body. A wondrous gift this was, but Padre Pio was not overjoyed to have it bestowed on him. He wrote to Padre Benedetto, his Capuchin superior, “Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wound and the resulting embarrassment. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition.”
Although God did not remove the wounds, many stories are told about the miracles performed by Padre Pio. One of my favorites is recounted by Ron Hansen in A Stay Against Confusion:
In World War II an American Army Air Corps squadron leader disobeyed the order to bomb San Giovanni Rotondo [the town where Padre Pio’s friary was located] because he saw the gigantic form of a friar in the sky, fiercely diverting the aircraft, and was chagrined to have to write that in an official report. Worried that he had lost his faculties, the pilot found out about Padre Pio through offhand inquiries, and after the war visited Santa Maria delle Grazie, becoming one of Pio’s “children.”
My own far less dramatic (and unmiraculous) Padre Pio story took place in a hospital in Rome, where I had just had surgery. Groggy and feeling sick to my stomach, I opened my eyes to find a stranger in my room holding a picture and saying something to me in Italian. I think it was a picture of Padre Pio. I couldn’t tell whether the woman (or man—I’m not quite sure which it was) wanted to pray over me, give me the picture, or sell it to me. In any case I didn’t feel capable of coping with whatever it was. So I mumbled in my best pidgin Italian, “Sono malata” (I’m sick). When next I looked, the apparition with the picture had vanished.
Soon after leaving the hospital I recounted the incident. One of my sisters said to me, “If you had taken the picture, you might have walked home from the hospital.”
Who knows? Perhaps I missed an opportunity.