Today is the feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, aka Padre Pio. Since his canonization was recent, you won't find his proper in a hard copy breviary. But happily, we have DivineOffice.org and Ibreviary.com (to the left of this page-the app is free--get it!) to keep us up to date on all the latest saints.
Even if you don't regularly do all the psalms and prayers for the Office of Readings, it's worth turning (clicking) to this hour on any saint's feast and scrolling down to the second reading, which often as not is something written by the saint himself, or written about him by someone who knew him. (or her, etc. please don't make me bother with the inclusive stuff, we all know what "him" means in these contexts.) Today's second OOR reading is Padre Pio's own account, given to his superior, of receiving the stigmata. If you are reading this after 6:00 PM, the ibreviary widget will already have turned to Saturday's prayers, so for your benefit I've pasted the reading at the end of this post.
I think the lesson we can take away from this somewhat disturbing account is that: 1. God's love for those in close union with him is beyond our ability to fathom, which is why we find this account sort of scary, and 2. St. Pio's profound embarrassment over the outward manifestation of the stigmata is the best proof there is against critics who suggest he caused these wounds either deliberately or thorough some weird psychic self-suggestion.
Out of obedience I am obliged to manifest to you what happened to me on the evening of the 5th of this month of August 1918 and all day on the 6th.
I am quite unable to convey to you what occurred during this period of utter torment. While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th, I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person who presented himself to my mind’s eye. He had in his hand a sort of weapon like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, and nothing was spared.
From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony. What can I tell you in answer to your questions regarding my crucifixion? My God!! What embarrassment and humiliation I suffer by being obliged to explain what you have done to this wretched creature!
On the morning of the 20th of last month, in the choir, after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with great peace and abandonment which effaced everything else and caused a lull in the turmoil. All this happened in a flash. While this was taking place I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of 5 August. The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should die and really should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday.
Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation. The person of whom I spoke in a previous letter is none other than the one I mentioned having seen on 5 August. He continues his work incessantly, causing me extreme spiritual agony. There is a continual rumbling within me like the gushing of blood. My God! Your punishment is just and your judgment right, but grant me your mercy. Lord, with your Prophet I shall continue to repeat: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me in your rage! Dear Father, now that my whole interior state is known to you, do not refuse to send me a word of comfort in the midst of such severe and harsh suffereing.
In my next post--a story about my own experience with Padre Pio.