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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Relic of popular Italian mystic tours Boston region

By DAMIEN FISHER
Staff Writer

LOWELL, Mass. - Catholics throughout New England are making a pilgrimage this week to see the heart of an Italian saint.

St. Padre Pio was a Capuchin Monk venerated by Catholics. He was born in 1887 and died in 1968. He is said to have had stigmata, or spontaneous wounds, on his hands and feet similar to those Jesus received during the Crucifixion. Padre Pio is also said to have had the ability to bilocate, an alleged psychic or miraculous ability wherein an individual or object is located (or appears to be located) in two distinct places at the same time ...

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LOWELL, Mass. - Catholics throughout New England are making a pilgrimage this week to see the heart of an Italian saint.

St. Padre Pio was a Capuchin Monk venerated by Catholics. He was born in 1887 and died in 1968. He is said to have had stigmata, or spontaneous wounds, on his hands and feet similar to those Jesus received during the Crucifixion. Padre Pio is also said to have had the ability to bilocate, an alleged psychic or miraculous ability wherein an individual or object is located (or appears to be located) in two distinct places at the same time

This is the first time that the Capuchin Friars who run the Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Italy have brought any relic connected to the saint to the United States, according to Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley.

"We know that many people throughout our country have a great devotion to Padre Pio, so the friars have made this possible especially for those who are not able to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy to venerate his relics and pray for his intercession," O'Malley wrote on his blog.

O'Malley is a Capuchin Franciscan, the same order as Padre Pio, and has a relationship with the order in Italy where the saint's relics are kept.

The saint's heart is kept in a silver and glass case, or reliquary, for the faithful to observe and to which they can pray. It was on display Wednesday at the Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell, and then at St. Leonard's Parish in the North End of Boston on Wednesday night.

The relic will be on display during the day Thursday at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Boston in Braintree before being moved to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston for a Mass on Thursday night. The relic will stay at the cathedral for Friday, St. Padre Pio's feast day. Cardinal O'Malley will celebrate a Mass, and the relic will be displayed until midnight.

Matthias Kroger, a 21-year-old sophomore at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, was leading a school trip to Boston on Wednesday night to see the relic. He said close to 30 students from the Catholic college are going. Kroger is not Catholic but is interested in the saint.

"He seem to be a holy man, and a relic is an amazing thing," Kroger said.

Padre Pio was a well-known spiritual director during his lifetime, with numerous followers from around the world seeking him out for guidance. Pope John Paul II, also considered a saint in the Catholic Church, is known to have sought out guidance from Padre Pio.

Chuck Thompson, 57, of Andover, stopped at the Lowell Church on Wednesday to see the relic, touch the case and pray for guidance.

"I'm trying to be a better husband and father," Thompson said. "It's not every day that a relic like this comes along."

The Rev. Paul Soper said more than 3,000 people saw the relic In Lowell on Wednesday. The Boston area is the relic's only stop in the United States, he said.

Padre Pio's popularity in the United States is a Catholic phenomenon. While he's always been popular with Italian Americans, Padre Pio attracts followers from all demographics, Soper said.

"He's a saint people can relate to," Soper said.

Christine Bryan, 30, of New Ipswich, recently started to read about the saint and felt an attraction to his philosophy of "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry." When she found out about the relic tour, she made sure to get to Lowell.

"I feel really drawn to him," Bryan said.

Bryan hopes to bring her experience back to her home parish and find a Padre Pio reading group.

Soper is not sure why Padre Pio's heart was removed from his body after death and made into a relic for veneration. The veneration of relics has a long history in the church, Soper said, dating back to the days of Christian martyrs, when the faithful would touch the remains - either a piece of bone or clothing - and pray to the person believed to be a saint.

"It's not an uncommon thing for saints, to have parts of their body venerated at different times," Soper said.

Thompson thinks the relic is fitting in keeping with the life of the saint.

"He led an incredible life. His heart was so large, it is something to aspire to," Thompson said.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-6531 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com.