Catholics all over the world celebrated the feast day of St. Pio last September 24, who was more commonly known as “Padre Pio”. How could this simple priest, who hardly knew a word of Pilipino and never came to the Philippines, could be so endeared by many of us Filipinos?
My earliest knowledge of St. Pio was during my elementary years, when I used to tag along with my mother during prayer meetings of the Our Lady of the Roses (the Philippine chapter) in Quezon City. All I knew about him then was that he was an Italian Capuchin priest who bore the marks of Christ – the stigmata – for 50 years. My mother become an ardent devotee of this holy man who was known to read hearts, bilocate (appearing at 2 different places at the same time), and prophesize. Any problem or affliction my mother had she would call on St. Pio for intercession.
Actually, there was something about this Padre that frightened me. His penetrating eyes, even in pictures, seemed to give me goose bumps. Probably because of my wild child days during my younger days that he seemed to remind me “what you’re doing is wrong”. I knew in stories that he could read hearts. Did he read mine, even as we’ve never really met?
Only through my mother’s prayers (and I suspect, St. Pio’s intercession), that I reverted back to Catholicism. Not that I left the faith, but rather I strayed away from it for awhile, thinking that I could not find God in my life. It was during this period that I was “re-oriented” again with the good Padre, through a book on his life that my mother left to my disposal.
Leafing through the pages, I realized that he wasn’t so frightening at all. He was quiet and serious for most of his earthly existence, but he was funny as well. He could make a mean jab at confreres and penitents in an amusing way. He had a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which I and a million of other Filipinos have affinity to. Secondly, he had a close relationship with guardian angels which I’ve always been fascinated with (more on this topic next time). Suddenly, he wasn’t so scary anymore. Why was this saint so favored that even angels came to him to present the prayers of their wards?
The answer is just right on the tip of my nose: St. Pio BORE the marks of Christ. For somebody to be so bestowed with this favor have to be so closely united with Christ.
On a personal note, my mother and I often have squabbles like any mother-daughters do, and when we do, I often ask the intercession of St. Pio to help sort things. We often manage to patch things up.
Even today, St. Pio has performed countless miracles to his spiritual children. Non-Catholics will never understand this. Even some Catholics don’t believe. But those who do, graces are in store for those who ask for it.