Last Sunday, more than a hundred faithful gathered at in Tiverton for Padre Pio Night, which honored Blessed Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, an Italian friar who received the stigmata, the five wounds of the crucified Jesus Christ.
Entering the dimly-lit sanctuary for the Holy Hour, the worshippers were greeted by flickering red candles and the music of crickets who chirped outside the open stained-glass windows. A statue of the beloved Capuchin friar, wearing the traditional brown robe of his order, stood on the altar. Spotlights illuminated statues of Mary
and Joseph, who held the baby Jesus, as well as high above the altar an icon of the Holy Spirit and hovering angels.
Kneeling or sitting in silent prayer, the congregation meditated on the life of Padre Pio. Born in Pietrelcina, a village in southern Italy, on May 25, 1887, the future saint entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at 15 and was ordained a priest in 1910. On Sept. 20, 1918, the five wounds appeared on his body. People flocked to him for counsel and spiritual guidance, and his whole life was marked by long hours of prayer, austerity and constant apostolic activity. His letters reveal his intense physical suffering, as well as his deep union with God and burning love for the Eucharist and Mary. He died on Sept. 23, 1968 in San Giovanni Rotondo and was declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul II on May 2, 1999.
The choir led the assembly in singing the hymn “Beautiful Savior,” and then Father Pio Mandato, who was also born in Pietrelcina and received his First Holy Communion from the hand of Padre Pio, approached the lectern to talk about the future saint.
Mandato said that Padre Pio spent his life in “deep, deep love,” solely influenced by Jesus Christ, and that his great love worked many miracles.
He told the story of Brother Daniel, a member of Padre Pio’s order who left the friary and was on his way to the hospital to have surgery for a hernia. Brother Daniel prayed for the intercession of Padre Pio. At the hospital, he was examined by the doctor who told him the hernia was gone.
Mandato said that Padre Pio accomplished great things because he was influenced by Jesus Christ.
“When you look at our days, many of them are spent unconsciously,” said Mandato. “My dad with a fifth-grade education would say to me Communism had nothing over us in western pagan society. They forcefully influenced people, forced them to think in a certain way. We don’t live in a totalitarian government, but in our society we have the media that tells us what to do, what to eat, how to dress, how to think, what to believe in or not to believe in – and they are getting more and more forceful. Those influences are all around us. They lead and guide us.”
But he said that believers seek God’s influence and regard others more than themselves.
“Jesus emptied himself taking the form of a slave, and we self-empty and give ourselves to others,” he said. “If we live this way, we will be filled with joy. We want to be influenced by His life, and what a great gift that is! I believe in Him, and I reach for Him rather than everything else around me.”
At the conclusion of the talk, the choir sang, and the people came forward kneeling at the altar. Father Jay A. Finelli, pastor of the Church of the Holy Ghost, touched their forehead with holy oil and prayed. Mandato laid hands on them while holding a relic of Padre Pio and offered healing prayers as well.
“Pray, hope, and don't worry,” said Blessed Padre Pio. “Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer."