A collection of relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina — known to many as Padre Pio — will be visiting the Archdiocese of St. Louis for the first time later this month.
The relics will be on display for public veneration from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Assumption Church in Mattese. Auxiliary Bishop Mark Rivituso will celebrate Mass at 7 p.m.
This is the first time the the relics will be in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The visit is part of an 11-diocese tour in September and October. The tour marks the 130th anniversary of Padre Pio's birth and the 15th anniversary of his canonization.
The relics include St. Pio's glove, the crusts of his wounds from the stigmata, a cotton gauze with his blood stains, a lock of his hair, his mantle and a handkerchief that was soaked with his sweat hours before he died.
Born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, he was baptized Francesco Forgione. He expressed a desire to become a priest at the age of 10. In order to pay for his education, his father, Grazio Forgione, emigrated to the United States in 1899, where he worked for several years.
He entered the Capuchin order at 15, taking the name Pio. He was ordained in 1910 at the age of 23. During his lifetime, he was known as a mystic with miraculous powers of healing and knowledge.
He was most famously known for bearing the stigmata — a term used by the Church to describe the wounds an individual receives that mimic the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.
St. Pio's stigmata appeared during World War I, after Pope Benedict XV asked Christians to pray for an end to the war. He had a vision in which Jesus pierced his side. A few weeks later, on Sept. 20, 1918, Jesus again appeared to him, and he received the full stigmata. It remained with him until his death on Sept. 23, 1968. Pope John Paul II canonized him in 2002.
Calling his spiritual presence "almost touchable," St. Pio is considered a contemporary saint who is among the few saints that received supernatural powers, said Luciano Lamonarca, president and CEO of the Saint Pio Foundation.
"I have never seen a devotion so big as Padre Pio," Lamonarca said. "There are cases of people healed by his intercession. The relics are giving the faithful a way of having a more direct contact with Padre Pio. I was personally moved by this when I travel around the country promoting (his) legacy and see there are people who have so deep a passion for Padre Pio ... who have never met him."
Assumption pastor Father Thomas Keller said the parish is looking forward to hosting the relics. "I remember hearing about Padre Pio as a kid and being intrigued by the whole phenomenon of the stigmata. For me, the abiding question is about each of us coming to know the reality of Christ's suffering and crucifixion."
>> St. Pio relics
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 27, from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Auxiliary Bishop Mark Rivituso will celebrate Mass at 7 p.m.
WHERE: Assumption Church, 4725 Mattis Road in Mattese.
MORE INFO: For more information, call (314) 487-7970 or email [email protected]. Or visit www.saintpiofoundation.org. Donations raised during the tour will be donated to build the Via Crucis in Pietrelcina where Padre Pio received his first signs of the stigmata.