I’ve been watching the response which has been stirred by the placing of the body of Padre Pio on display. The protestant in me finds it all a bit difficult. But it gets better if you step sideways and ponder the power of that kind of spirituality – the stigmata which are or are not and people’s appetite for the holy. I suppose some of the power is in its directness and touchability – not bound up in inaccessible ideas and words. I used to love poking around in the recesses of North Italian village churches. They all had relics with ill-translated and ill-typed explanations of how the statue of the Virgin broke out in an aqueous sweat in 1453 – and here is the very identical handkerchief.
Ireland is probably second only to Italy for this kind of piety – if you are unaware of the Moving Statues of Ballinspittle, you should take a look.
The story reminded me of Jeremy Bentham, who sits in the cloister at University College, London. I loved the legend that he still attended meetings of the college council long after his death!
I remember once being at the Shrine at Carfin with a group of altar servers on a day out. There was a Padre Pio Healing mass being held at the large church so we stopped by for a look. The church was full of people, many in wheelchairs with carers. We stood in the narthex, watching for a moment, until a woman came out clutching her chest. She had come to pray for her son and had a heart attack there and then! An ambulance was called and she was whisked away. I guess Padre Pio didn’t work for her.
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