Big Bash Honoring St. Pio

News: US News
by Martina Moyski  •  •  September 22, 2023   

San Francisco event includes veneration of first-class Padre Pio relics

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SAN FRANCISCO ( - Catholics in the Golden Gate City are getting ready for a grand celebration of the life of one of the most popular saints of modern times.

On Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, a Padre Pio festival will be celebrated at the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi and its famous Porziuncola Nuova in San Francisco. The celebration occurs the day after Padre Pio's feast day and the 55th anniversary of his entry into eternal life in 1968.

La Porziuncola Nuova is a scaled replica of St. Francis's Porziuncola in Assisi, Italy. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI named the National Shrine and the adjoining Porziuncola a "holy site," one of only five so named in the world.

Peter Marlow, the executive director of communications for the San Francisco archdiocese, shared his enthusiasm for the upcoming event and devotion to Padre Pio. He told Church Militant, "What a special opportunity it is for our faith community to participate in this unique event honoring the life and grace-filled work of a modern-day saint who is often quoted as saying 'After my death, I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death.'"

Angela Alioto, a prominent Catholic in the area and one of the sponsors of the event, sees the festivities as an opportunity for San Franciscans to find "hope and love" amid the city's current challenges. Alioto, who is the International Director of the Knights of St. Francis of Assisi, told Church Militant that the event

is so very important to our "City of Saint Francis," especially at this time. Saint Pio has had a huge influence on so many issues that are now plaguing our city — from homelessness, to mental health, to dozens of fentanyl deaths a month. He spoke right to the worries of our city. We just need to listen to what he said. The Padre Pio festival will bring the hope and love to San Francisco that we so desperately need in these sad times.

One big highlight of the festival is the veneration of relics of St. Pio that will be on display at the Shrine of St. Francis and Porziuncola Nuova throughout the day. The relics were sent by one of the event sponsors, the St. Pio Foundation, based in New York.

Crust from St. Pio's wounds and gauze with his blood stains
St. Pio's handkerchief soaked with his sweat and a piece of his mantle
A lock of St. Pio's hair

The holy relics of the saint, which will be available for public veneration, include:

  • The crusts of his stigmata wounds
  • Cotton gauze bearing his blood stains
  • A lock of his hair
  • His handkerchief soaked with his sweat only hours before he died
  • A piece of his mantle

Christoph Sandoval, deacon at the Shrine of St. Francis and one of the knights charged with protecting the Porziuncola Nuova, sees the spiritual value the saint's relics bring to his city: 

The holy relics that are coming to "Assisi by the Bay" are an opportunity to venerate the sanctity and the abundant blessings of Padre Pio's sufferings for Christ and all of mankind. May Padre Pio's holy presence among us bring us healing and deliverance from the world, the flesh and the devil.

Alioto said, "We are so fortunate to have [St. Pio's] relics visit the City of Saint Francis, his patron saint as well as ours! He is a miracle hero, and we shall be the recipients of his spirituality."

Relics are a way to keep us in touch with the center of our Faith.

According to the Shrine, "Relics are a way to keep us in touch with the center of our Faith, that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus really walked on this earth, and the saints' lives, and even their remains, are testimony to the God of all creation."

The festival includes a wide variety of activities, sacred and secular, scheduled throughout the day:

  • 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Veneration of the holy relics of St. Pio at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi & La Porziuncola Nuova 
  • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Photo gallery and video documentary at La Porziuncola Nuova
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – "Meet Padre Pio." A conversation in the shrine reception hall about Padre Pio, given by Fr. Robert Barbato, OFM Cap. and the Franciscan Capuchin Friars of the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi 
  • 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Procession to Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and return to the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi
  • 3:30 p.m. – Mass in honor of St. Pio at the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi
  • 5 p.m. – Benefit concert performed by award-winning singer and songwriter Giada Valenti and acclaimed Italian tenor Luciano Lamonarca, with the participation of comedian Mike Marino 
  • 7 p.m. – Three-course dinner at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club 

A full schedule can be found here.

St. Pio offering Holy Mass

Padre Pio was born in the small Italian town of Pietrelcina in 1887. He entered the Capuchin novitiate at the age of 15 and was ordained a priest in 1910. At age 31, he became the first priest to receive the five wounds of Our Lord's Passion, in the form of the stigmata, as St. Francis did centuries before.

Offering Holy Mass was said to be the center of his life. Due to long pauses of contemplative silence into which he entered during various parts of the Holy Sacrifice, his Masses could last several hours. His every move and gesture spoke of how intensely he was reliving the Passion of Christ. The parish priest in Pietrelcina described Padre Pio's Mass as "an incomprehensible mystery."

In 1940, he announced a plan to build a hospital, what he called a "Casa Sollievo Della Sofferenza" (Home for the Relief of Suffering), in the backwater Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo. Most people deemed the plan impossible. But what many consider a miracle happened 16 years later when the hospital opened with 300 beds for the suffering in the remote area. Today, it houses 1,000 beds and provides services comparable to premier medical centers around the world.

Worn out by a priestly life of intense spiritual and physical suffering, Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81. His funeral attracted over 100,000 mourners, and his body was entombed in the crypt of Our Lady of Grace Church in San Giovanni Rotondo, where it remains. In 2002, Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed him "St. Pio Pietrelcina."

Many miracles have been attributed to Padre Pio. He endured the stigmata for over 50 years and is known to have bilocated, being seen in two places at once. He healed many people who came to him with physical ailments and abnormalities. He also converted many people's hearts and minds by his sermons, hours in the confessional and his prayers. "Pray, hope and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer," he often said. His words inspire people to this day. 

Throughout his ministry, pilgrims came to him by the thousands from all over the world, to the consternation of some Church officials jealous of his appeal. To those looking for spiritual healing, he was known to have said, "It seems to me as if Jesus has no other concern but the sanctification of your soul."

Throughout his ministry, pilgrims came to him by the thousands from all over the world.

On Sunday, during the San Francisco festival in his honor, people will come to Padre Pio once again. There, they will no doubt come to understand the multifaceted saint: Capuchin priest, stigmatist, mystic, bilocator, devotee of St. Francis of Assisi, healer, builder, man of prayer.

For more information about the festival, click here. For more information about the Knights of St. Francis, click here. For those not able to attend but want information about the ongoing tour of Padre Pio's relics, visit this site.

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