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Relics of St. Padre Pio come to St. Gregory parish

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Three crosses stand on a table set up in front of the altar at St. Gregory the Great Church in Williamsville. They contain, sealed but visible, remains of St. Padre Pio including a lock of his hair and a blood-stained piece of fabric. 

These are relics of a priest who, in the 20th century, gained followers and skeptics alike. Born Francesco Forgione in 1887, the man who would become Padre Pio was reputed for his ability to read people’s souls, and his reported ability to communicate with angels. 

He is best known by the faithful for bearing the stigmata, the wounds similar to those inflicted upon Jesus Christ at his crucifixion. The small piece of bloody fabric on display at St. Gregory the Great is, according to its caretakers, a remnant of that stigmata.

“Throughout the years Padre Pio was persecuted because of the visible wounds. He has asked the Lord to make him suffer, but not to have those wounds visible, and yet, because of those wounds, the stigmata, he originally attracted millions of people around the world, and from many different religions,” said Luciano Lamonarca, the founder, president and chief executive officer of the Saint Pio Foundation, in a written exchange with WNY Catholic. “It’s hard to tell if there are still people that doubt their authenticity, but I can reaffirm that the most mystical of all is that accordingly to the doctors that visited Padre Pio’s body upon his passing, is that the skin of Padre Pio’s hands and feet were like that of a ‘newborn’ as delicate it was, and without any scar. An impossible phenomenon to explain for a saint that bore those deep wounds for more than 50 years.”

 Bishop Michael W. Fisher reads “Designed by God” to the pre-K 4 class at St. Gregory the Great School in Williamsville. The bishop toured the school after celebrating Mass and explaining the importance of the relics of St. Padre Pio, which were visiting the parish.

Students at St. Gregory the Great School were able to enjoy the first viewing of the relics following a Mass held on the morning of Oct. 14. Bishop Michael W. Fisher presided over that Mass, and spoke further about the saint’s stigmata and his impact on Catholic faithful.

“What he also was known for was he could read, apparently, people’s hearts. So when you went to him for a confession, he almost looked laser-light into the people he was trying to help,” the bishop said. “He was a very holy man. So holy, that there were a lot of people, just like in Jesus’ day, who were angry at him. They could get angry at him. They were jealous of him. Some people were suspicious of him. But eventually, because of his life, and the way he lived a life of holiness dedicated to God, he became a saint.”

St. Padre Pio was canonized in June 2002 by Pope John Paul II, who of course became a saint many years later. Students at St. Gregory the Great noted how recent his canonization was, that it happened in the lifetimes of many of their relatives.

“I think it’s a pretty good opportunity. And I think it’s really cool to see actively how the saint’s life was, how it was so recent, and how closely I was to him because he was only canonized in 2002, which is not that far, not that long ago,” said eighth-grade student Marco DellaMea. 

During the Mass, Bishop Fisher reminded students all faithful were born to strive to become saints. DellaMea and his classmate, Isabella Glamuzzina, see the canonization of St. Padre Pio so recently as a sign the Catholic Church remains much alive and vibrant.                 

“It definitely is encouraging to see, that you can think of people in the old Church that were saints, but to see someone who pretty recently become a saint and is now a saint, it gives you this hope, that the church is still super alive, and that we can all be saints and we’re all called to live a life of sainthood,” Glamuzzina said.

Others enrolled in eight grade at St. Gregory the Great School say being able to see physical remains of St. Padre Pio’s body helps them envision the saint as a real person. 

“I mean, it’s pretty cool to see how like, they can like take a piece of cloth with the blood on it,” said student Alessandro Mancini.

James Wild, a student at St. Gregory the Great School in Williamsville, recites the prayers of the faithful at Mass. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“I feel like it’s really interesting to see, because we’ve never really seen that before. Not a lot of people who die, get a piece of them saved. And a lot of people coming up to, like, touch it and be blessed by it, I think it’s really special,” added classmate Grace Eberz.

The relics will be available for public veneration through the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 15. The relics are part of an ongoing tour. Lamonarca, in his written message to WNY Catholic, said the pastor of a parish must submit the request, as was done by St. Gregory the Great.

“I believe in spreading his most famous motto: ‘Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry!’ Worrying is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer. It is just a powerful quote that represents the very core of our existence,” said Lamonarca. “To those visiting the relics or those who are getting closer to know Padre Pio, I ask to learn how to be humble and to bear our pain. In today’s world it looks like that we might be often praying to God to ask his intercession to remove our physical pains, even the smallest pain, while Padre Pio instead offered his pain, both physical and spiritual to God, bearing them with a deep spirit of love for humanity.”

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