St. Pius of Pietrecina (1887-1968) is generally better known by his more popular name: Padre Pio. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
Padre Pio was a man of deep humility, spirituality and compassion. Through his faith, he was gifted with the stigmata, the physical manifestations of the wounds of Christ on his body. For many, this miracle is the defining characteristic of his saintliness. I offer that there were other miracles that reflected the Paschal Mystery in its totality – the transformation of suffering in faith to the compassionate relieving of suffering in the world. Through his work and commitment Padre Pio was able to show us that the suffering of crucifixion is not the end of the story of Christ. He modeled that it is through suffering that we can reach out to alleviate suffering and bring the hope of the Resurrection to those who need it most.
Any story I have ever encountered regarding the miracle of the stigmata reports the intense nature of the physical suffering the bearer of the marks of Christ endured. This is no less true of Padre Pio. In his spiritual life he embraced suffering as part of his daily life, but he did not stay in that suffering. He pushed through this suffering to work tirelessly to alleviate suffering in the people and communities he served. He founded “The House of Relief from Suffering” hospital to assist families who were in dire need of hope and comfort. In this way, he demonstrated our Catholic belief in the redemptive nature of suffering. Much of our suffering is beyond our control and uninvited. Yet, the miracle of the Resurrection calls us to accept this suffering, not to allow it to conquer us, and to rise to actions that can transform the suffering of others with hope and care. I venture to offer, for example, that many of the most compassionate and empathetic people we have encountered in life are those who have suffered much. They are not just wounded but are wounded healers.
This is our call. To live lives of action rooted in prayerful dedication. It is our lot to encounter, as Christ did, the sufferings that come from living, and our vocation to convert them into faith-filled actions alive with Resurrection hope.
That is where I believe we witness the ongoing miracle of Padre Pio’s life. The gift of the stigmata was the beginning, not the completion, of the miracle. His active work to bring hope and faith into the lives of those suffering around him was the continuation of the miracle. In this, I find an eternal truth. Our sufferings are not the end of the story, but the beginning of something profoundly miraculous.
Michael Way Skinner is a retired Coordinator of Religion, Family Life, and Equity with the York Catholic District School Board. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (1st Class Honours) degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. He also completed the Program in Religion and Secondary Education (P.R.S.E.) with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Michael was a contributing author to World Religions: A Canadian Catholic Perspective, and co-authored There Must be a Pony in Here Somewhere with his wife, Christine Way Skinner. Michael is a public speaker and award-winning educator who is deeply committed to faith as a source for inclusion and justice.