During the weekend of Sunday, September 17th, relics of Padre Pio were displayed at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Cardinal Dolan was present. The journey for the relics was sponsored by The Saint Pio Foundation and will proceed to other cities such as Bridgeport, Connecticut, Milwaukee and Los Angeles. The relics included a cloak and one of Padre Pio's fingerless gloves, such as he always wore for over fifty years to cover the wounds of his hands. The great cathedral was filled with thick lines of people streaming in from around the city block, patiently waiting to see and venerate the relics of one of the most popular saints in Christendom. The New York Times, The Daily News, CBS and others covered the exhibition; New York Times details are here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/17/nyregion/padre-pio-st-patricks-cathedral.html?emc=edit_ur_20170917&nl=new-york-today&nlid=56839620&te=1.
Poor Padre Pio's great popularity is always referred to as that of a rock star. I suppose he would faintly laugh it away, or maybe not; I don't think he would appreciate the eardrum- shattering music. He liked the great Italian opera star Beniamino Gigli singing Mamma, and that gives you an idea of where his musical heart was, as well as with the classical compositions . Gigli, as famous a tenor as there was in those days, visited him often and would sing Mamma to him, which always brought emotion to Pio. At any rate, when Padre Pio comes to New York town on his mission, he brings out the faithful hidden force that passionately supports and upholds his "real mission." He needs them, for they represent the prayers he needs for that mission. He must have shocked a lot of people who never heard of him, including Catholics, when they saw the outpouring. And those who showed up were only the tip of the iceberg in this eastern corner. This hidden force, some of them visibly chemotherapy patients with bald heads, waited to touch the encased relics. Here is the reason why, quoting from a New York Times article:
Jo’el Adifon, 25, a student at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said he was born at Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, a hospital founded by the saint about two and a half hours east of Naples. The glove and the cloak were, to him, a channel to God.
“When you live a certain way and you embody a certain amount of God, everything you touch, you leave that essence behind,” Mr. Adifon said. “The relic is almost like a portal, like a door.”
I found this profound, yet simple enough for anyone to understand. We're not just a bunch of superstitious, naive people touching a piece of cloth. The relics of St. Pio of Pietrelcina have the essence of God within them, as Pio had God within him. Pio had 50 years of continuously bleeding crucifixion wounds that could not be explained by a parade of examining doctors, who even sealed the bandages with wax so that Padre Pio could not affect them, were it all a hoax. They could NOT stop the bleeding, and the wounds did not heal or become infected, ever. Padre Pio had a chest wound, in his case an inverted cross (such as made by a spear, from which water and blood spilled out of Jesus). Anything Padre Pio wore near his wounds, including shirts and the fingerless gloves, was drenched with blood. We touch these relics, or in faith put our hands on the encasement protecting them, and now the essence has permeated us . . .
I was not at St. Patrick's, but I have been to San Giovanni Rotondo many times, once with my family while Padre Pio was alive, and we had the astounding moment of kissing his gloved hand http://www.first.padrepiosworld.net/page7.php. It is a tradition in Italy to kiss a priest's hand in greeting him, and so, many who lived in San Giovanni Rotondo kissed Padre Pio's gloved hand hundreds of times, I only once; but that "once" crystallized the moment as the greatest of my life. I can still smell the aromatic scent of what seemed clean incense, and feel the softness of his fingertips, which were not covered by the fingerless glove.
I also have numerous relics of Padre Pio. It is my belief that the essence has carried me through the last years of my life, especially the intensity of the very last year plus, in which I lost my only sibling, my beloved sister Joan, aka my Mother Hen, who always looked after me, and my health cascaded into one illness after another -- all of which kept me in a nursing home and rehab for 8 months, while bearing the loss of Joan.
But I had, and have now, the essence of that one-time wound-kiss, and of the relics that have come to me ever since. . .