Wednesday 23 September marks the feast of St Pio of Pietrelcina, also known as Padre Pio.
Padre Pio was born on 25 May 1887 and died 3 September 1968. He was an Italian friar, priest, stigmatist and mystic. He was a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.
His parents were peasant farmers and he had an older brother and three younger sisters, as well as two other siblings who died in infancy. When he was a child, Padre Pio he reportedly had made the decision to dedicate his life to God.
Padre Pio became well known for exhibiting stigmata. These wounds continued to appear throughout his life and despite the pain, only strengthened Padre Pio's resolve to care for the sick and suffering in the community.
Padre Pio was also instrumental in building the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, or “Home for the Relief of the Suffering”. He called it a place of prayer and science, where patients, doctors and priests were called to be 'reserves of love'. The hospital still operates today, and now includes a home for the elderly and accommodation for families of children undergoing cancer treatment.
He was canonised by Pope John Paul II and is the patron saint of civil defence volunteers, adolescents, the town of Pietrelcina (his birth place), stress relief and January blues.
St Pio is considered one of the most well-known saints of our time and many people pray for his intercession. On 3 March 2008 his body was exhumed from his crypt, forty years after his death. His body is permanently exposed for veneration at the Shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo in Rome.
To honor his feast day, thousands of devotees in Rome usually celebrate a week of events and activities, culminating with a procession of a statue of the saint and his relics from San Salvatore to Piazza Navona.
He was known for his piety, charity and the quality of his preaching. He famously advised, 'Pray, hope and don't worry.'
As we celebrate Padre Pio's feast day, let us include in our prayers all those who continue to suffer in our world, especially during this time of the pandemic. We pray too for all doctors, nurses, carers and priests – that through the intercession of Padre Pio, they may continue to be instruments of God's healing mercy to all those in need.