Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Adult Formation Series, September 11 -- The Stigmatic Saints, St Francis of Assisi and St Padre Pio -- Part 2 of 3 (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

Celebrating the visit to our Parish of the Relics of St Padre Pio, we have a three part series on the mysterious gift of the holy stigmata, by which certain saints have been so united to Christ Crucified as to receive the wounds of Christ's Passion upon their own bodies.

Objectives of Session 2:
1) Become familiar with the life of St Francis of Assisi
2) Recognize what makes the stigmata of St Francis different from all others
3) Become familiar with the life of St Padre Pio

Listen online [here]!


Adult Formation Series - The Stigmatic Saints
St Francis of Assisi and St Padre Pio
Corpus Christi Catholic Parish

I. Review of Last Week: In this series, we will consider the mysterious gift of the stigmata. 
Three sessions:
            September 4 – What are the “stigmata”? Introduction to the Course
            September 11 – The stigmata in St Francis of Assisi and St Padre Pio
            September 18 – Other stigmatic saints and what the stigmata mean for us
A. Visible and invisible stigmata: Invisible more than visible. Feeling of shame.
B. Stigmata, Transverberation, mortification, mystical union.
            C. Details and statistics:
1. Stigmatics receive other gifts (visions, levitation, inedia)
2. About 400 cases of stigmata, more than 62 beatified, over 80% women.
3. First, St Francis (1224). First priest, Padre Pio (1918).
D. Medical research: no putrefaction, no healing, bound to remove self-infliction.

II. The two most extraordinary stigmatic saints are St Francis of Assisi and St Padre Pio. Unlikely, since they are both men, and female stigmatists outnumber males 7 to 1. Likewise, both were clerics which is exceptional among stigmatics.
A. St Francis of Assisi: Franciscan founder, deacon, 1182-1226. First stigmatist.
B. St Padre Pio: Franciscan friar/priest, 1887-1968. First stigmatic priest.

III. St Francis of Assisi: Founder of the Franciscan Order, Patron of Europe
A. Brief overview of his life, 1181/2 – 1226. Feast, October 4th. Assisi, Italy. Born to a textile merchant, served as a soldier. After illness, conversion and love of the poor and of lepers. Spoke with animals, life of intense penance. Received the stigmata on or about the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross in 14 September 1224 (Feast of Stigmata, September 17th). Dies at the age of 44.
B. The reception of the stigmata: After a period of fasting and prayer (forty days) leading up to the feast of St Michael the Archangel (September 29th), on Mount Alvernia with only Brother Leo present.
From St Bonaventure: “While Francis was praying on the mountainside, he saw a Seraph, with six fiery and shining wings, descend from the height of heaven. And when in swift flight the Seraph had reached a spot in the air near the man of God, there appeared between the wings the figure of a man crucified, with his hands and feet extended in the form of a cross and fastened to a cross. Two of the wings were lifted above his head, two were extended for flight and two covered his whole body.
“When Francis saw this, he was overwhelmed and his heart was flooded with a mixture of joy and sorrow. He rejoiced because of the gracious way Christ looked upon him under the appearance of a seraph, but the fact that he was fastened to a cross pierced his soul with a sword of compassionate sorrow (Luke 2:35).”
From Thomas of Celano: “Francis wondered anxiously what this vision could mean…as his understanding sought in vain for an explanation and his heart was filled with perplexity…the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet.”
C. The wonderous appearance of the nails: “For upon his hands and feet began immediately to appear the figures of the nails, as he had seen them on the Body of Christ crucified, who had appeared to him in the likeness of a seraph. And thus the hands and feet appeared pierced through the midst by the nails, the heads whereof were seen outside the flesh in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and the points of the nails stood out at the back of the hands, and the feet in such wise that they appeared to be twisted and bent back upon themselves, and the portion thereof that was bent back upon themselves, and the portion thereof that was bent back or twisted stood out free from the flesh, so that one could put a finger through the same as through a ring; and the heads of the nails were round and black. In like manner, on the right side appeared the image of an unhealed wound, as if made by a lance, and still red and bleeding, from which drops of blood often flowed from the holy breast of St Francis, staining his tunic.”
D. St Francis strove to bring the historical reality of Christ’s life to be present to the people of today. The Nativity Creche and Christmas miracle (1223, Grecio). The Stations of the Cross. The stigmata may be understood in this light – Francis makes the Passion present in his own body.

IV. St Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio: Franciscan Friar, miracle worker
A. A brief overview of his life, 1887-1968. Feast, September 23rd. San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. Born Francesco Forgione, to a pious family: Daily Mass, the daily Rosary, abstained from meat Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Age 5, personal dedication of his life to God. From childhood, constantly afflicted with illnesses. From childhood, regularly experienced visions and ecstasies (especially, our Lord, our Lady, and his Guardian Angel with whom he regularly spoke). Entered Franciscan Capuchin Order in 1903 at age of 15 – taking the name Pio in honor of St Pius I whose relic was in Pietrelcina. Despite many health problems and delays, was ordained a priest 1910. Still many health problems, and often had to live with family outside of community life – lived in San Giovanni Rotondo from 1916 to +1968. Brief military service (WWI), but discharged due to poor health. Received the stigmata 20 September 1918, carried these wounds for 50 years. Many other miracles: reading souls (confessions as much as 16 hours a day), levitation, bilocation, inedia, healings, visions, etc. A life of much trial as well, and suspicion even from the Vatican (in particular, from 1921-1933 and again under Pope St John XXIII) – forbidden at times from hearing confessions, from offering public Mass, from preaching.
B. Spiritual points from Padre Pio: The Mass (would take as much as 3 hours), the Rosary (over 30 times a day, “Recite the Rosary, recite it always and as much as you can!”), trust in God (Pray, Hope, Don’t Worry), the poor souls in purgatory, etc.
C. The reception of the stigmata.
1. Prior to 20 September 1918: In 1911, “Then last night something happened which I can neither explain nor understand. In the middle of the palms of my hands a red mark appeared, about the size of a penny, accompanied by acute pain in the middle of the red marks. The pain was more pronounced in the middle of the left hand, so much so that I can still feel it. Also under my feet I can feel some pain.” Also stated that he felt at times the pains of the crowning and the scourging.
Transverberation: In July 1918, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim soul for the end of the War. On 5 August 1918: “While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [August] I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person who presented himself to my mind’s eye. He had in his hand a sort of weapon like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, and nothing was spared. From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony.” This left a visible wound which bled.
2. 20 September 1918: “On the morning of the 20th of last month, in the choir, after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. [...] I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of 5 August. The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday. Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation....the pain was so intense that I began to feel as if I were dying on the cross.”

V. Medical Study of the Stigmata of Padre Pio
A. The wounds of Padre Pio’s stigmata: Continuous from 1918 till just before his death in 1968, they gradually disappeared in the weeks before his death and left no scars.
1. The wounds exhibited no putrefaction, smelled like roses, did not heal when treated.
2. Padre Pio had surgery twice, which left usual scaring – but not his stigmata wounds.
3. Had blood work in the 1950s, and all was normal (except that there was a rose smell).
B. Padre Pio’s comments: Once, when asked if the wounds hurt he replied, “Do you think the Good Lord gave them to me for decoration?” And when certain people suggested that the stigmata were caused by too much concentration on Christ’s Passion, he replied, “Go out to the fields and look very closely at a bull. Concentrate on him with all your might and see if you start to grow horns.”
C. Thousands and thousands of witnesses over many years.
D. Medical examinations: Three in 1919, most particularly Dr Amico Bignami (atheist). In July, Bignami believed that the wounds were caused partly by psychological suggestion and partly by use of chemicals (iodine, though others later have proposed carbolic acid)


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