One day a little boy accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to the shrine to San Pellegrino in Italy. As they entered the church, he heard a woman crying in desperate supplication to God that her deformed child be healed. Instinctively, the little boy prayed with the mother, watching as she placed her child on the altar.
“Why don’t you want to heal him for me?” she pleaded.
Suddenly, the child stood up, completely healed.
The little boy who prayed was Francesco Forgione, later to become a Capuchin friar known to the world as Saint Padre Pio. One biographer wrote these words about the miraculous healing at San Pellegrino.
The combination of the mother’s prayers and the dramatic restoration of the boy’s body to wholeness impressed on Francesco the power of prayer and the possibility of God’s healing in response to faith.
On the day of his ordination to the priesthood in 1910, another prayer was dramatically answered. Padre Pio formally offered himself up as a victim soul for the conversion of sinners. One month later, he experienced the wounds of Christ, stabbing pains that bled visibly through cloth he used to conceal the stigmata: supernatural wounds that caused him embarrassment and humiliation.
He prayed, “Jesus, take them away. I want to suffer, to die for suffering, but in secret.”
Once again, his prayers were answered. For eight years, Padre Pio quietly lived in pain, concealing his agony from other friars. In the year 1918, he sat in prayer in a chapel after Mass. A mysterious figure visited him. Here is a description of the event in the saint’s words.
When the mysterious creature left, I found that my hands, feet, and side had been pierced and were bleeding.
Imagine the anguish I experienced at that moment and that I have been experiencing continually ever since.
Padre Pio’s stigmata was studied by doctors and scientists. One professor described them as “lacerations that cause hemorrhaging and acute pain…not subject to infection or decomposition, have no foul odor, do not change, do not form scar tissue, and remain unchanged for years and years, against all biological laws of nature.”
Padre Pio lived with the stigmata for 50 years.
In the next installment, you will read of another secret wound known to only one other person in the five decades Padre Pio suffered, physically uniting himself to the crucified Christ.
On September 23, the Catholic Church celebrates this remarkable saint.