Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

Archive for 2006/09/23


Posting After The Trip To Padre Pios Shrine Last Night

Just arrived back from San Giovanni Rotondo to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the apartments inside the Vatican where we are staying while in Rome. Before I leave for dinner I want to share with you the events since I last spoke to you.

Well, it was a very long trip. It was a trip in three parts: first, Boston to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Rome, Rome to San Giovanni Rotondo. When we arrived in Rome we went to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, celebrated Mass and then the Friars sent a driver from San Giovanni to pick us up at 6pm. Antonio, our driver, is a young man who gave us a wonderful witness about his own faith and love for the Church and Padre Pio. He said that his wife, before they were married, was dying and then became well again he attributes her recovery to the intercession of Padre Pio.

Friday night is not a good night to be leaving Rome at rush hour. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic. What we expected to be a 3 and half hour trip was about a five-hour trip!

LOL.we hadnt had anything to eat so at about 9:30pm we stopped at what I call an Italian Howard Johnsons which is sort a combination of Wal-Mart and Papa Ginos all wrapped up in onelolwe had some very good pizza and sort of tepid coca cola, because ice is not a big feature of life in Europe.

Then we continued our journey, arriving at about 11:30pm to San Giovanni. The Friars most of them were involved in a penance service for thousands of people in the piazza at 12:15, and then a Midnight Mass was scheduled to be celebrated by our new Father General of the Capuchin Order, who is from Switzerland and was just recently elected General a couple of weeks ago. So, this was one of his first public acts. At midnight he was talking and visiting with meit was the first chance had to speak with him since his election. The Mass started at about 12.30 and ended about 3 this morning. When Father General left to celebrate Mass I went to my room to go to bed. I could hear and see them all from my window overlooking the piazza at the Shrine of Padre Pio. I got up at about 7:30 and at about 8 oclock there were booming fireworks going off outside of my windowlol.

I had breakfast with the Friars and then they took us on a tour of the monastery and the places where Padre Pio lived, to his tomb, the chapel where he celebrated mass each day and heard confessions. I saw his room, both of his rooms actually. One of the rooms that people dont get to see when one takes the public tour is the one in the cloister. The other room was directly across the hall, which served as a small chapel for Padre Pio to celebrate mass for two years while the Vatican investigated Padre Pios authenticity. There was fear that maybe this was all a fraud..or something else. The Church is always very cautious about these mystical kinds of things and so many reports of miracles always make them very cautious.

To me Padre Pio represents Gods mercy. In todays world there is such a hunger to have that contact with the sacred, in particularly, with Gods mercy that forgives and heals. Much of his ministry was healing peoples souls in the confessionals. He heard over a million confessions. Also, he realized a great desire to build a hospital to take care of the poor people in this region of Italy where they did not have any medical attention. He built one of the largest hospitals in Italy right there in San Giovanni Rotondo.

I think in todays world, there is this hunger for God, for in particularly Gods mercy and Padre Pio represents that. The fact that he was marked with the stigmata, too, makes people see, in a very tangible way, the sufferings of Christ for love of us. Thats why thousands and thousands of pilgrims travel to his shrine.

Ive been asked about Padre Pios stigmata..Padre Pio was praying before a crucifix at the Monastery when he had this mystical experience.the wounds of Christ opened on his body. He had them for over 50 years. Then right before he died the wounds disappeared not even leaving any scars.

It was Pope John Paul II who canonized Padre Pio. Pope John Paul II canonized more Saints than any other Pope in the Church. He did that in order to underscore the teaching of the Vatican Council that speaks of the universal call to holiness. Everyone is called to be a saint. No matter what your walk of life, what your experience is, your particular vocation, we are all called to holiness. So, the Pope tried to canonize people from all different countries and different backgrounds.

Obviously, the Church is always interested in holding up Saints whose lives have made an impact on the larger community and certainly like Mother Teresa, Padre Pio is the other modern Saint who is known all over the world and very beloved. Padre Pios canonization was significant for the Universal Church. Many of the other people who the Holy Father canonized may have had a special appeal in an individual region, nation, or continent but Padre Pio is known all over the world. There is great devotion to him.

I came to his Beatification in 1999. It was the year before the Holy Year 2000. The Italian government was using Padre Pios Beatification to gauge how to deal with the crowds for 2000. His Beatification was the largest event in the history of Rome. All the streets around the Vatican were filled with people and there were also an additional quarter of a million people on the other side of Rome in front of St. John Lateran. The Pope went by helicopter from St. Peters to St. John Lateran to personally address the whole crowd. At the same time there was another group at San Giovanni Rotondoabout 50,000 people! In Italy, it was a national holiday.and this was just for his Beatification.

The Saints are our heroes. They are the ones who lived their vocation with such generosity and fidelity. Many did not start off that way. Some experienced conversions and changes. Some lived sinful lives and suddenly the grace of God invades their heart and they begin to really love God above all else. The Saints are a sign to us that its possible to live a virtuous life – a good life. It is not easy. They are also a sign to us how beautiful holiness is.

I saw many brother Capuchins at San Giovanni Rotondo. The Capuchin Order is the largest order in Italy. The Capuchins here are very beloved as a branch of the Franciscans. St. Francis is of course the patron of Italy and as they say, He is the holiest of the Italians and the most Italian of the Saints..he was very Italian.

The Friars in Italy have had a wonderful history here and in particularly in the rural areas where it is the custom for the Friars to beg door to door for food for the Monastery. When they would go house to house they would teach the people how to pray, visit the sick, do marriage counseling.

The Capuchin presence in Boston was for many years Italian Capuchins from the Province of Torino. Cardinal Mederios invited the Capuchins to come work with the Cape Verdean population. Later the New York Capuchins sent men to Boston. You may be familiar with Br. Tino, OFM, Cap., who worked with the Cape Verdean youth in Dorchester for many years and is now going to be a missionary in Africa. We have two houses in Boston, a house of formation in Jamaica Plain and a house in Roxbury where the Friars are working in Hispanic and Portuguese ministry.

I do want to tell you all about the Mass today at Padre Pios ShrineIll make separate post for the event.

But, first Id like to say hello to my sister, Mary, and my entire family. Ive heard that my sister plans on reading my blog.

Ive been thinking of you all since I arrived in Rome, with wonderful memories from having you all here with me during the Consistory in March. So, hello to everyone!