Inside the house was a glass box. In the box, a dried-out human heart.
The heart belonged to St. Padre Pio, a mystical Capuchin friar from Southern Italy and one of the most popular figures in Roman Catholicism. He is said to have bled from stigmata — holes in his hands, feet, and sides, as if he’d been nailed to a cross like Jesus — from 1918 until his death in 1968.
His heart’s visit to Boston this week marks the first time any major relic of Pio has traveled outside Italy. Its appearance enthralled hundreds who lined up to pray, to kiss the reliquary, and to touch prayer cards, rosaries, and medallions to the glass encasement.
“It was overwhelming,” said Leslie Allain, of Farmington, N.H., who wept after her encounter with the encased heart Wednesday.
She believes her desperate prayers for Padre Pio’s intercession 26 years ago helped save her severely ill newborn, Hunter, who was expected to die in infancy but is now an adult.
“As soon as we heard about this we were like, ‘We’re taking the day and we’re coming,’ ” she said.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston and a Capuchin friar like Pio, asked to have the heart brought to Boston because of Pio’s popularity here, said the Rev. Mariano Di Vito, director of the Fondazione Voce di Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, the small town where Pio spent most of his adulthood. The town hosts a shrine to Pio visited by some 3 million people a year.
Pio is particularly beloved in two countries from which many Bostonians trace their heritage, said Michael Di Giovine, an anthropologist at West Chester University in Pennsylvania: In Italy, the saint is regarded with a familial affection, and in Ireland, his trademark bloodied fingerless gloves are seen as having healing properties. Di Giovine said Pio’s direct encounters with pilgrims from all over the world help account for his massive following.
“When you ask people why they believe in him or pray to him, they say, ‘Well, he was alive when I was around,’ ” Di Giovine said.
Pio’s remains were exhumed in 2008 and found to be remarkably well-preserved. His body, fitted with a silicone mask, is now on display at his Italian shrine. The heart was cut out of the body — it, too, was intact — and chemically treated so it could be exhibited, Di Vito said.
Pope Francis has extolled Pio as an exemplar in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which ends in November. Last winter, the pontiff had the corpses of Pio and St. Leopold Mandic, another Capuchin, brought to Rome as part of the celebration.
“I admit it’s quirky, but it’s also profound and deep and spiritual and serious, having the heart of a great saint so focused on healing the world come here to inspire us,” said the Rev. Paul Soper, secretary for evangelization and discipleship for the Archdiocese of Boston. Soper said it gives Catholics “a connection to that mercy that is palpable.”
Pio spent most of his days hearing confessions, rebuking people he deemed insincere. Devotees believed he could heal and appear in two places at once. They said they smelled roses or violets in his presence, Di Giovine said.
Detractors dismissed Pio as a charlatan during his lifetime, and many still do. An Italian historian, Sergio Luzzatto, recently wrote a book positing that Pio used carbolic acid to keep his wounds fresh. The Vatican once considered him a fraud, and even forbade him from saying Mass in public for a time, but Pope John Paul II eventually canonized him in 2002.
Thousands are expected to travel to Boston from across the country this week to venerate the relic, which the Italian Capuchins escorted to Boston on a British Airways flight. (The relic, housed in a wooden case, had its own seat, Di Vito said.)
After spending the day in Lowell, the relic traveled Wednesday evening to St. Leonard Church in the North End. It is expected to be at the Archdiocese of Boston Pastoral Center in Braintree during the day Thursday and at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End in the evening.
On Friday, the relic is scheduled to remain at the cathedral, with O’Malley saying Mass at 7 p.m., followed by veneration until midnight.
At Immaculate Conception, worshipers prayed and sang, as a long line of people waiting to venerate the relic snaked around the sanctuary. The noontime Mass drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 1,000, including several hundred school children.
“You feel a lot of love,” said Emily Dupuis, 84, of Lowell, a widow who lost her daughter several years ago. “It’s almost like a little bit of heaven.”
Pat Ponticelli of Amesbury, a nutrition counselor who is suffering from brain cancer, came in a polka dot dress, with electrodes affixed to her head, part of a treatment for her tumor.
Others came with broader concerns.
“The world’s in big trouble right now, there’s no love left,” said Randy Nicewarner, 48, of Brookline, N.H., who held the reliquary to his own heart when it was his turn to venerate it. “I could feel the power of his heart inside of mine.”
Christine Lemieux came with her seven children from Pelham, N.H. Over the summer, she rescued three children from drowning at Profile Lake in the White Mountains. She could not, however, save the children’s father in time, and he drowned.
“It’s been very hard for us,” said Lemieux, who said she has had a longtime devotion to Pio.
In the presence of the saint’s heart, she said, she was able to cry for the first time since the tragedy, and to feel a little peace.
“I just took in the moment, it was very personal,” she said. “I felt such grace.”
Wondering what kind of conversation might go on if this were happening at the local Mosque....
The healing of a blind woman broadens Saint Charbel’s fame to the United States
A miracle in Phoenix, Arizona, has been attributed to the intercession of the hermit of Annaya, Lebanon. The day after visiting a holy relic associated with the saint, Dafne Gutierrez woke up with very itchy eyes and feeling a lot of pressure on her head and eye sockets. In the glow of a nightlight, amazed, she cried out to her husband, "I can see you. I can see you".
The relic of Saint Charbel, who has toured the various parishes since early October 2015, consists of a bone sample kept in a cedar chest. This pilgrimage marks the 50th anniversary of the beatification of the great Lebanese.
Over the weekend of the 16th and 17th January, motivated by Fr Akiki’s posters, relatives encouraged Ms Gutierrez to ask for healing. One of them took her to the priest on Saturday, 16 January. "I put my hand on her head, then on both eyes, and I asked God to heal her through the intercession of St Charbel,” the clergyman said with much fuss. On Sunday, Dafne and her family attended Mass and then went home.
On the morning of the 18th, the inexplicable healing occurred.
Around 5 am, Dafne woke up with severe itching in the eyes and the feeling of pressure on her skull and eye sockets. She awoke her husband, who detected a strong burning smell in the room. He switched on the light, but then switched it off very quickly, at his wife’s request because it bothered her.
Then in the glow of a nightlight, she told him, amazed, that she could see. "I can see you. I can see you with my own eyes," she said. At the same time, she felt a strong pressure on the skull and eyes, like after an operation.
She put her hand to her head, on the right side, as if there were an injury. One can imagine the rest. "I cannot believe it. I did not want to close my eyes,” she said. “My children were shouting: ‘Mom can see! God healed mom!’”
"Three days later, an ophthalmologic examination noted the miraculous healing. By then, five doctors had already examined Dafne Gutierrez, including one ophthalmologist of Lebanese origin, Dr Jimmy Saade. The healing defies scientific explanation.
According to her doctor, he had not seen such healing in his forty years of practice. "No way! No way!” he kept repeating, as he read the report in front of him.
Dafne Gutierrez discusses the miraculous healing that she experienced.
Father McDonald said..."I wonder what our non Catholic friends think about our veneration of the body parts of saints. It must seem spooky and pagan to them. *******But it is so Catholic."*******
I thought that this story as just seconds ago, I had read the following:
Relentless Decline Of The US Episcopal Church Continues
Christian Today 23 September 2016
The US Episcopal Church has lost nearly ten per cent of its members in just five years, latest figures show. Large falls in church membership began at the start of this millennium. Statistics from 2015 show a drop-off of more than 37,000 baptised members, a fall of 2.1 per cent.
The statistics have been analysed by Jeffrey Walton of Juicy Ecumenism who writes that the latest figures are consistent with past years. "The trend lines do not bode well for the future, with 55 per cent of congregations experiencing decline of 10 per cent or greater in the past five years.
"In contrast, only 18 per cent of congregations grew their attendance by 10 per cent in the same time span. As a whole, the denomination has experienced a 26 per cent drop in attendance since 2005."
According to another recent report, one quarter of Episcopal congregations have a membership that is 50 per cent or more aged over 65, and in three-quarters of Episcopal congregations, more than half the members are aged over 50.
I thought about Father McDonald's post, as well as his comment..."But it is so Catholic." Time and again, traditional Catholic practices, such as the veneration of relics of the Saints, attracts Catholics and enhances lives spiritually.
Conversely, the liberal nonsense that destroyed the Episcopal Church, and has been imported into the Catholic Church by tradition-hating liberals, drives people from church.
Unfortunately, many Catholic Churchmen, as well as liberal laymen who wield power in various ways throughout the Church, refuse to recognize that the promotion of Tradition attracts Catholics to God and His Church.
Catholic liberals who wish to turn us into Episcopalians had best heed the latest horrific statistics related to the Episcopal Church's terrible collapse.
In turn, as the news story offered by Father McDonald demonstrated, the promotion of traditional Catholic practices attracts Catholics and enhances the spiritual lives of Catholics. In turn, that enables Catholics to leaven society.
The restoration of Holy Tradition is the way to proceed should our Churchmen wish to repair the damage that the attack against Holy Tradition has inflicted upon the Church.
Pope Francis' pending "Super Diocese" for the SSPX, as well as additional Catholics who would be free to join the "Super Diocese," will go a long way in that regard.
How do you spell "idolatry"?
Protestants claim to be Christian and, therefore, they should be aware that as early as the 4th century Mass was often celebrated on the slab of stone that contained the relics of a martyr. St John refers in the opening of the fifth seal in the Apocalypse to the martyrs:
"When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained"
In 2011 the British Museum hosted an exhibition of relics and reliquaries entitled 'Treasures of Heaven'. Ignorant philistines like 'gob' wouldn't bother to stump up the admission price, but many thousands did, most of them probably not 'religious' in the conventional sense. The accompanying notes were excellent.
Did I detect a palpable sense of reverence among the spectators when I visited? I like to think so. Renaissance humanists like Erasmus mocked the medieval 'cult' of relics, the latter famously remarking that there were enough relics of the True Cross to build a ship (this was disproved by the painstaking research of a French scholar in the 19th century). In this country Hartwell de la Garde Grissell (1839-1907), who had been a papal chamberlain, amassed a large collection of relics which were housed in a special chapel in the Jesuit church of St Aloysius, Oxford. In 1972 the Jesuits burned all the relics and sold off the containers; for good measure they also disposed of their vestments, which included mitres which once belonged to Pio Nono, by selling them to theatrical companies. The Oratorians now own the church and have restored the Relic Chapel, which now contains relics from other sources.
One of the objections to relics is that the older they are, the more doubtful their provenance. Yet people accept as genuine a relic from a 16th century martyr. If we know a relic of an apostle was venerated in 6th century Byzantium, and is still in existence, should we assume it's not genuine? It would have been, like the relic of our Elizabethan martyr, no more than 500 years old.
John's right about the sense of reverence that the 'Treasures of Heaven' exhibition stirred; I think that the excellent BBC documentary that preceded the exhibition helped encourage skeptics to suspend their disbelief (or at least their cynicism). The combination of Sister Wendy's sincerity and the dimly religious light at the exhibition must have given everyone pause for thought.
I worry a little that our celebrity-obsessed culture affects the way we treat saints from the last century; figures such as Padre Pio and St Mother Theresa seem to have crowded out figures who are no less worthy of devotion (e.g. St Gemma Galgani).
Jan, Protestants would do well to recall the following from 2 Kings, 13:20-21:
"And so Elisha died and was buried. At that time of year, bands of Moabites used to raid the land. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they saw such a raiding band.
"So they cast the man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and got to his feet."
Good one, Mark Thomas - I hope Gob reads your post and recants ...
In the past few days a video of St Inocencia has been making the news as her eyes appear to open - shows up best in slow motion about 1.33 into the following video:
VERY VERY ROMAN AND CATHOLIC!! LOVE IT!! This is what sets us apart from the heritical Protestants.
This is an outdated custom that borders on insanity.
To think that Graves are robbed and bones are carried around like something in the Circus.
What a shame. Would you want your bones carried around the world.
This is 2016 not a Horror Movie. These bones are real people who are saints.
Shame on anyone who exploits them. What must God think of People today.
Anonymous @ 533
Yes.... the Catholics want to be "set apart" . We should be one loving christian family where all are included.
If worshipping bones is what makes you "NOT heritical Protestants" you should not question why the youth
of today are leaving the church. Worship should not be a Halloween event.
Jan, You need to open your own eyes instead of staring at a statue.
Graven Images do not open their eyes. Ask Moses.
What a HORRIBLE sin. To cut out the heart of a Saint and parade it around like a circus exhibit.
God Help Us All. Who will ever join the Catholic Church today. Just Horrible. Like a nightmare.
No respect at all for Fr. Pio, his remains or for a child of God.
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