Throughout the day on Saturday, thousands of people lined up at St. Gabriel's Church in Elma for the chance to venerate several relics of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. One by one, they took turns walking up to a table and were allowed to briefly touch some of the relics which included Saint Pio's crusts of the wounds, cotton-gauze with his blood stains, a lock of Saint Pio's hair, his mantle, and a handkerchief soaked with his sweat hours before he died. Touching or praying in the presence of such an object helps a faithful individual focus on the saint's life and virtues, so that through the saint's prayer or intercession before God, the individual will be drawn closer to God.
"Many of us
treasure relics of our own," said Bishop Richard J. Malone to nearly a thousand
people who gathered for a morning Mass. The bishop pointed out that some relics
can be unusual, like the worn out purse he keeps from his late aunt. "She was
clearly one of the holiest women I've ever known in my life. When I hold this
worn out purse in my hand, I feel like I'm holding something holy because it
belonged to a holy person. Of course when we come to venerate the relics of a
Canonized saint, we know it's raised to an even higher level. We pray to saints
because we know they are close to the Holy Trinity."
St. Pio was born on May 25, 1887
in Pietrelcina, Italy, and baptized Francesco Forgione. The future saint
entered the Capuchin order at age 15, taking the name Pio. He was ordained a
priest in 1910 at the age of 23. During his lifetime, Padre Pio was known as a
mystic with miraculous powers of healing and knowledge, who bore the stigmata. Stigmata
is the term the Catholic Church uses to speak about the wounds an individual
receives that correspond to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. They can appear on the forehead, hands,
wrists, and feet.
His stigmata emerged 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 September 20, 1918, Jesus again appeared to him, and he received the
full stigmata. It remained with him until his death on September 23, 1968. Pope
John Paul II canonized him in 2002.
Although some came from southern
Ontario or central New York for the one day chance to venerate the relics,
Clara Jablonski came from nearby West Seneca but walked in with the help of a
cane. "We're having a lot of health issues in the family and I'd just like
everybody to be better. We took a rosary cross and rubbed it against the blood
and the relics and it's very wonderful to do that," said Jablonski, who brought
along her son, Paul and daughter Catherine Brauen. "It's very touching and very
moving and I was compelled to come here. That's why we're all here because it
was very important to come," said Brauen.
The relics came as part of a
visit from the Saint Pio Foundation, a national charitable organization that promotes
awareness of Saint Pio and his mission by working with institutions and
individuals who share the same vision to serve "those in need of relief of
suffering." Funds raised by the Saint Pio Foundation are used to provide grants
to American Catholic healthcare, educational, social, religious, and cultural
partner organizations. More information about Saint Pio Foundation can be found
Although these relics were on
display for just one day in the Diocese of Buffalo, many people may not be
aware that a first class relic of Saint Padre Pio is permanently hosted at St.
John Gualbert Parish in Cheektowaga, where more than a thousand other relics of
saints are housed.
On this crisp sunny spring day,
Bishop Malone summed up his closing remarks at Mass with some words that Saint
Padre Pio himself would advise; "Pray, hope and don't worry."