Friday was the feast day of St. Pio of Pietrelcina (25 May 1887 – 23 September 1968). St. Pio (also known as Padre Pio) was canonized by Bl. John Paul II in 2002. St. Pio is the patron saint of civil defense and emergency workers.
The Italians have a strong devotion to Saint Pio. Here in Rome there is a parish which houses some of the relics of Saint Pio. I decided to make a trip over to that church and pray. Since it was his feast day there was quite a few people there. The people were gathered there to celebrate Mass. I just kind of hung around in the back and took it all in. First, there was a procession with a marching band through the streets with a statue of St. Pio. Then everyone gathered outside in the piazza where a temporary altar was set up. The church bells started ringing while a cardinal made his way into the church to vest for Mass. I went into the church and prayed and listened as the clergy gathered and sang vespers as the cardinal vested at the main altar in the church for Mass. I couldn't stay for Mass since I had to get back to the seminary for our own vespers service. On my way out, an Italian women asked me why Mass was 20 minutes late. I laughed and told her the cardinal was still in the church vesting for Mass.
It was pretty amazing to witness and be part of the devotional life of the people of Rome. They have so many traditions. This of course be a relatively new one since St. Pio is such a new saint. It was especially meaningful for me to take part in the prayerful celebration because St. Pio is a patron of mine. He was born into eternal life exactly 20 years before I was born. For me he is a powerful example of priestly holiness and a life of sacrifice.
San Pio di Pietrelcina, prega per noi.