For the first time, the heart relic of Padre Pio, one of the most famous Catholic saints, visited the Philippines for 21 days, from Oct 5 to 21, 2018. With more than 86% of the population Catholic, it was no surprised that thousands of devotees flocked to the churches in Manila, Batangas and Cebu where the relic was displayed, just to have a chance to see and touch the relic of the incorrupt heart of Padre Pio.
I was one of those who visited the heart relic. I am not a devotee. I just went there out of curiosity. And besides, everyone else was going so FOMO took over. I did not want to be the only one with no story to tell.
It was not my first time seeing a relic. As a Catholic; visiting churches, shrines, relics, pilgrimage sites and Marian sites had always been part of our travel itinerary anywhere in the world. I got used to it to the point that it has become ordinary for me. So, nothing prepared me for the experience of seeing the incorrupt heart of Padre Pio. As soon as I saw the relic, a powerful energy engulfed my whole being. I could not explain it but it was so powerful that all I could do was cry continuously.
That whole experience for me was so sublime and mystical that I cannot help but wonder who exactly is Padre Pio? What kind of life did he live to have an incorrupt body or body part that has a very powerful positive energy?
I found out that Padre Pio or Francesco Forgione was born from a poor family in a small town in Pietrelcina, Italy on May 25, 1887. As early as 5 years old, he had already dedicated his life with God. He loved praying and going to church. It was said that as a young boy, he was able to see and communicate with his guardian angel, the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
At 15 years of age, he entered the Capuchin Order of the Friars Minor in Morcone, Italy. Brother Pio,as his peers called him, was humble and silent. On one occasion, he was seen levitating while praying. He was ordained at 23. His parishioners began seeking him for counsel because spending a few moments with him proved to be a very peaceful yet life-changing experience.
He offered his life for sinners and the souls in purgatory. On September 20, 1918, the marks on the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ, appeared on his hands, feet and side while praying. As his popularity grew, people from all over the world would see him to seek spiritual guidance. Although he suffered from poor health all his life, he bore the stigmata for 50 years.
He lived his life in poverty. He just worked all his life and rarely left the monastery. He freed himself from worldly possessions. He used the gifts given to him by God to help others. He had superhuman strength for he could work for hours day after day without enough food and sleep. He also had the gift of healing, miracles, prophecy, ability to read hearts and to see angels. His gift of tongue enabled him to speak and understand many languages even without studying them.
Padre Pio spent about 15 to 19 hours a day hearing confessions. People from all over the world would see him just to have an audience with him. It was said that a person needs to wait an average of ten days for his turn. He cured people who were sick, blind and the disabled. He could see a person’s hearts and thoughts. On several instances, when people could not utter a single word in the confessional booth, he would be the one to enumerate all their sins for them in accurate details.
He died on September 23, 1968 at the age of 81. He repeated the words ‘Gesú, Maria’ over and over while clasping the rosary in his hands until he gave his last breath. He said that his real mission will begin after his death.
Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God’s heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart. In fact on certain occasions you should only speak to Him with your heart. – Padre Pio
St. Pio of Petrelcina, pray for us.