Catholics to host venerated relics of Saint Padre Pio
Last summer, the Right Reverend Wieslaw Spiewak learnt of important relics on their way to North America and had the grand idea of bringing them here.
They were the remains of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, a Roman Catholic priest said to have carried the stigmata of Jesus.
The relics, which have been kept under watchful eye since his death in 1968, are said to have positively impacted great numbers of people; many decided to renew their dedication to God because of them.
That was enough for Bishop Spiewak.
The leader of the island’s Catholic church and Nicola Girasoli, Bermuda’s Archbishop at the time, reached out to the Saint Pio Foundation in hopes of getting the remains here.
Several of the saint’s relics will be on display at St Theresa’s Cathedral next week; his glove, a lock of his hair and his handkerchief among them.
“Saint Padre Pio is one of the most well-known stigmatics of recent times,” Bishop Spiewak said. “This means that his body was signed by the five visible wounds of Jesus Christ: hands, feet and side.
“I hope that our meeting with his life through these relics would not focus just on admiring the extraordinary, I hope that we will be able to attain some of his wisdom of faith.
“We had many martyrs then. People spontaneously began to make pilgrimages to their graves to pray at the site of their buried remains.
“However, not everyone had this opportunity hence the idea that the fragments [relics] of the body themselves could travel the world and, in a sense, make pilgrimages to us.”
Born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy as Francesco Forgione, Saint Pio expressed a desire for priesthood at age ten.
By the time he was 23, he was ordained a priest and became known for his gifts of healing and knowledge.
“As a spiritual guide Saint Pio pointed out five principles of spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily reception of Holy Communion, spiritual reading, meditation and examination of conscience,” Bishop Spiewak said. “He compared a weekly confession to the weekly cleaning up of one’s room.
“He recommended that a person meditate twice a day and check one’s conscience once in the morning, as a preparation to face the hardships of the day, and once in the evening, as a look in the light of grace after a long day.
“When asked how to practically apply theological knowledge, Saint Pio often responded with his well-known saying: ‘Pray, believe and do not worry’.
“He taught believers to recognise God in everything and to do God’s will above all else.
“This is why during the entire visit of the Tour of Relics in St Theresa’s Cathedral there will be a priest available for confessions and spiritual conversations.”
In the Catholic Church, relics are physical objects associated with a saint or candidate for sainthood.
They can include a part of the person’s body or something that was in contact with him or her.
The items are not worshipped, but rather treated with religious respect.
It is believed that touching or praying in the presence of such objects helps believers focus on the saint’s life and virtues, and draws an individual closer to God.
“Our Diocese recently hosted [Metropolitan Archbishop of Port of Spain, Jason Gordon],” Bishop Spiewak said. “Upon visiting our St Theresa’s Cathedral and seeing the posters and flyers advertising the Tour of the Relics, he asked me: ‘How did you manage to get the Padre Pio relics to come to Bermuda?
“I would be delighted to have them in Trinidad and Tobago! There are so many people devoted to this saint in our Archdiocese.’
“His comment made me even more aware of just how significant this tour will be. The cult of relics is a form of piety that was born of the faithful.
“It has been present in the church from the very beginning, from the early centuries of Christianity.”
His hope is that viewing the relics of a saint with such radical faith will create the desire in others to live out a passionate faith.
Back in his homeland in Poland, he saw first-hand the positive impact such relics could have.
He was delivering a sermon when he noticed a girl listening intently to the story he was telling.
She was calm and appeared focused.
Then, led by her father, the girl approached the container holding the relics.
“She staggered slightly as she approached and brought her lips to kiss the relic in a completely different place from where I held it,” Bishop Spiewak said. “Her father approached me and said, ‘Father, she is almost blind’.
“I handed her the reliquary and she devotedly, and with great care, kissed it. From then on her father came every month to attend to ask for health for his daughter.
“He once told me: ‘My daughter is still losing her sight, but it is different. I feel calm and she is extremely brave and reconciled with everything.
“I believe that this is due to the blessed martyrs. They intercede for us with God and we now know how to live this experience’.”
The public is invited to view Saint Pio of Pietrelcina’s relics at St Theresa’s Cathedral on Cedar Avenue on Friday between 3pm and 7pm and Saturday, between 8am and 6pm. Bishop Wes Spiewak will lead a special mass in the saint’s honour on Saturday, at 6.30pm.