By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Hundreds of faithful from throughout the state flocked to the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in the Diocese of Metuchen April 17 to venerate the relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, the first priest who bore the stigmata of Christ in the history of the Catholic Church.
The daylong event marked the 50th anniversary of the Italian Capuchin friar’s passing and was a stop on the tour of the saint’s relics throughout the United States from March to November.
A stream of adorers queued to the back of the Cathedral waited patiently to visit the display of relics flanked by members of the Knights of Columbus at attention. Upon the table lay reliquaries containing St. Pio’s glove, crusts of his wounds, blood-stained cotton gauze, a lock of hair and a handkerchief soaked with his sweat. The saint’s mantle hung nearby. Many knelt and reached out to touch the relics in prayer.
During an afternoon prayer service where the faithful were joined by the student body of the Cathedral parish school, Metuchen Diocese Bishop James F. Checchio shared a youngster’s definition of sainthood: the people who the light shines through in the windows.
“Padre Pio joined the Capuchin order, the Franciscans, so he could bring the light of God to all of us,” Bishop Checchio said. "Each of us is called to bring the light of the father more fully into the world. Our goal is nothing less than to be a saint.”
Padre Pio was born May 25, 1887, in Pietrelcina, southern Italy, and entered into the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars at age 15. Though of feeble health, he was ordained a priest in 1910. Known as a mystic with miraculous powers of healing, the stigmata of Christ appeared on his body in 1918 and remained until his death.
In 1940, Padre Pio announced plans to develop a Home for the Relief of Suffering (the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza). It opened its doors in 1956 as a 300-bed facility and today thrives as a 1,000 bed haven for the sick.
Padre Pio died in 1968 and was declared a saint by Pope St. John Paul II in Rome in 2002.[[In-content Ad]]