Wednesday, 25nd Week OT A
Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, a contemporary Saint who was born Francesco Forgione, on May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, Italy, a small country town located in southern Italy. He died in Italy on September 23, 1968, the beloved Padre Pio.
St. Pio was known for his radical holiness that has inspired many and still does. Padre Pio received the “final” stigmata after some visions, and they never disappeared. At the same time, he was said to have been scented like sweet flowers, which anyone going close to him would smell. Other miraculous signs that lead to his beatification were bilocation, prophecy, and his ability to read the mind and heart of those in his presence.
I personally have had two experiences of St. Pio that strengthened my faith and called me to desire greater holiness in my life. The first was while waiting with Christine at the airport for our flight home from the Philippines. I was reading about Padre Pio and all of a sudden, as I was learning about his stigmata – the visible wounds of Christ on his body – I experienced a gushing nose bleed. Now I never get nose bleeds and I immediately knew that God was calling me to imitate the holiness of St. Pio in my own life. No, I wasn’t given the stigmata, but I did see this as a sign that at that moment Padre Pio was interceding for me in my call to deeper conversion as a disciple of Christ.
My second experience of St. Pio was about 8 years ago when I was taking a class on the Theology of the Body. A holy nun was one of the students in our class. At one point I hugged her and immediately noticed that she smelled like roses. This was not perfume, it was a heavenly fragrance that surrounded her. Her scent was a sign to me that I was in the presence of a very holy woman. Her holiness inspired me to continue my discernment to become a deacon.
Having experienced these phenomena first-hand, I can only imagine the impression God made on the hearts those who personally met St. Pio, who witnessed his faithfulness to God through his scent, his stigmata and his ability to discern the hearts of those who came to him for the sacrament of reconciliation.
St. Pio can inspire all of us as we navigate our vocation in a challenging culture and state of the world. Personal holiness is the solution to our heartaches and stresses, and it is this virtue that can ground us in our vocation.
As Jesus calls and sends his disciples on mission in today’s gospel, he gives them some practical instructions worth reflecting on today. He says to them take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money and let no one take a second tunic.
It would have taken them a while to understand why Jesus was asking them to begin their mission in this way. To be sent on mission in the name of Jesus is to grow in complete trust in God, the only thing needed. Literally the only thing needed for mission is Jesus himself. To be his disciple in mission is to trust that the Lord will provide for daily practical physical and earthly needs like food, clothing and shelter. This trust, my friends, is a sign of true holiness.
One of the conditions of being a disciple of Christ is reliance on the Lord to meet all of our needs. This requires emptying ourselves of our personal preferences, of receiving something in return for the work we do, and of relying on our talents. An apostle is an ambassador of the Lord, giving others Christ’s riches. When we detach from false securities, trusting in God as our one security and knowing that he will provide everything we need, then we become instruments of His power and authority.
So as we ponder these words of in today’s gospel, may we hear the same call to holiness, to a total trust and dependence on God’s providential care, as we strive to increase in personal holiness and faithfully live out our vocation in the world.
St. Pio, pray for us!