St. Pius of Pietreicina, better known as Padre Pio is quite popular in Catholic circles, particularly in Italy. Monk, doctor of souls, and compassionate lover of the poor he died in modern times, 1968. That no doubt has added to his popularity; so have the visible wounds of Christ on his body that are immortalized in photographs.
We must always remember that Saints aren’t Saints because of outward signs. Even St. Padre Pio would agree. Saints are Saints, a word that simply means people in heaven, by the grace of God and the soul’s response to that grace in love.
Many Saints carried the wounds of Christ in other forms. They accepted those wounds and lived with them in union with our Lord for the good of themselves in terms of pruning and others in terms of holy compassion. They did this even as they sought human as well as divine remedies for their conditions.
The Church says we are to follow Saints’ examples about how to suffer, not make them different, separate, or higher than us because of outward manifestations of God’s love for each of us.
Those with mental or emotional illnesses, indeed any illness also bear the wounds of Christ. We can choose to respond in love that allows for pruning and a developing sense of compassion or we can become bitter. Acceptance of course includes humble submission to medical, psychological, and spiritual examination and treatment. It also includes addressing with serene confidence others’ judgments, persecution, and being treated as different from the rest of humans when symptoms are more pronounced. For those of us who remember, St. Pio was banned from celebrating mass for those kinds of reasons. He dealt with it face on, offered no hostility in return, didn’t back down, and was vindicated in God’s time.
So following the example of St. Padre Pio let us, “Carry in our bodies the death of our Lord in hopes that, in a small way, the life of Christ might be revealed in us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9 adapted)
St. Padre Pio, pray for us.
Picture by Aldiaz, Wikimedia Commons, uploaded free domain, 2012