In the Company of Saints

Before the monastery and church where Padre Pio lived and worked

We’re back! The pilgrimage came to an end on Wednesday, October 24th, when we flew unwillingly back to the United States. But we are going to spend the next week on the Missive continuing our narrative of our adventures – there is still so much to tell.

On Saturday, October 20th, we spent the day at San Giovanni Rotondo, having arrived the evening prior. We visited the Capuchin monastery and church where Padre Pio lived most of his life and carried out his priestly ministry, and were blessed to venerate his body that rests at the Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church nearby and to see many relics from his life.

The pilgrims make their way into the cave of St. Michael

In the afternoon we took a short bus trip to the nearby Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo, a cave wherein St. Michael appeared several times. It is the only basilica in the world never to be consecrated by human hands, as the angelic saint chose and consecrated it himself when he appeared there in the 5th century.

After receiving such blessings at San Giovanni and Monte Sant’Angelo, we certainly were not looking for more (at least not until we left for Vico Equense the next day), but as we were soon to discover, the generosity of God is without limits. On Sunday, we were originally scheduled to celebrate Mass at the hotel chapel at 7:30, but we found ourselves in quite a different chapel at our new Mass time of 8:45. We were granted the immense privilege of celebrating Mass in the chapel of the town’s hospital, the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, or the House for Relief of the Suffering. A hospital chapel may not sound like an ideal setting for a sung Sunday Mass, but this is no ordinary hospital: set high upon the summit of the town alongside the monastery, it was founded by Padre Pio himself, who walked its halls and visited the sick that came there. He celebrated Mass in that very chapel, on that very altar. And the chalice that held the Blood of Our Lord during Mass that day was the very one that Padre Pio himself used.

Fr. Stinson preaches in the chapel where Padre Pio celebrated Mass

Though it was a Mass to remember for all the pilgrims, it had a particular meaning for the celebrant, North American Superior Fr. Michael Stinson. When his parents, both serving in the Navy, were stationed in Italy, they wrote to Padre Pio asking to be his spiritual children. Receiving a positive response, they asked this favor for their children also, and again received a positive answer. And so, Fr. Stinson, a spiritual child of Padre Pio, was able to follow in his footsteps in a uniquely profound way.

San Giovanni Rotondo, looking outward from the hospital

Before Mass we received a small tour of the hospital, which includes a room dedicated to the relics of Padre Pio. The guide explained to us that the Casa is an international center of research and is the best hospital in Southern Europe. In the spirit of its founder, it welcomes all who come to its doors, regardless of their ability to pay.

It was a weekend spent in the company of an angel and a saint, a time of great and sometimes unexpected blessings, and we had much to be thankful for as we left San Giovanni Rotondo later that day and headed southwest towards the Mediterranean Sea.

October 26, 2018