The Stigmata of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
St. Pio described his mystical crucifixion that took place on 20 September 1918, in a letter written about one month later to a spiritual director. After he had celebrated Mass in the friary church of San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio went to pray at the foot of the crucifix in the choir loft. He was overcome by drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep and in a flash there took place what he described in this way: “I saw before me a mysterious person… Whose hands, feet and side were dripping blood… The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood…”.
This is how St. Pio became the new willful victim of expiation, the elect creature consumed by love for God and neighbor. Christ cannot be separated from the Cross and sanctity is always in some way a crucifixion of the soul, and sometimes also of the body, as it was for St. Francis and Padre Pio.
With and through the stigmata Padre Pio fulfilled for his whole life the painful mission entrusted to him by Christ. The stigmata was an instrument of his apostolate. And at the end of his life, with his mission in the world over, they disappeared.
The psychological reactions of St. Francis and St. Pio before this mystical phenomena were different. St. Francis was extremely reserved about his spiritual experiences because he feared that if he revealed them to others, without explicit permission from God, he would risk vainglory. The stigmata in his hands and feet were visible to everyone and he could not hide them. The side wound one notice through his habit. St. Francis did not have any previous experiences like St. Pio with the transverberation. We can say that St. Francis’ stigmata was “instant,” without forewarning. While St. Pio’s experience we could say develop progressively and with painful preparations. At his death St. Francis wanted to be placed naked on the bare ground, in the presence of about 50 of his brothers who in this way were able to see his wounds.
Padre Pio became aware of this mystical phenomenon much more dramatically and he wrote candidly on what he was experiencing and had already experienced in his body. In the stigmata itself, we notice quite a significant differences. Padre Pio’s stigmata were studied by modern science.
The Padre allowed himself to be examined only out of obedience. The wounds on his hands, according to Dr. Festa, were lesions of circular form about 2 cm wide. Their color was a red/brown and were covered with blackish scab, the exterior furrowed by rayed streaks. On the back of his hands this gap was thinner and with tapered edges.
The wounds on his feet were similar to those on his hands but smaller and shallower. The side wound was on his left and in the form of a reversed cross. A thin and small film covered the central part, nevertheless it was much more painful, intense and widespread than the other parts of his body. But how difficult it is to write of such things that exceed the boundaries of nature and reason!
Admire and revere these two great Saints with the stigmata. Entrust yourself to their powerful intercession with the Lord. Seek to imitate, with the Lords assistance, their virtues in particular their patience in bearing terrible pain. And above all their boundless love for Jesus, who wanted them to share his suffering. Trying to live the Franciscan spirit that they spread in the world one of peace of spirit and serenity of soul. That peace that one finds in prayer, in the contemplation of the beautiful spread throughout the universe and comes from a sound conscious and being a friend of the Lord. That peace that comes from the loving embrace of the Savior’s wounds. We too in some form bear the stigmata in our crosses, sufferings, failures and lapses. From that peace comes the good, both spiritual and temporal. That good which is patience with oneself and trust in the Lord especially when you surrender into the arms of Christ crucified. Amen.