Narragansett — St. Padre Pio, famous for his miraculous powers of bilocation, was known for turning up in places he was least expected — a talent he still seems to possess half a century after his death. The saint’s relics will be visiting St. Thomas More Church in Narragansett on October 1 as part of their tour of the United States, offering local faithful a unique opportunity for veneration and prayer.
The event, which takes place just as the normal tourism season for the sleepy seaside town is drawing to a close, is expected to attract thousands of Catholics from across the Northeast.
“This is a once in a lifetime chance,” says Father Marcel Taillon, the pastor of St. Thomas More. “This is the first time anything like this has happened in our diocese, and we feel so blessed that God has chosen us to host it.”
The public veneration will celebrate three coinciding anniversaries: the 130th year since St. Pio’s birth, the 15th year since his canonization, and the hundredth anniversary of St. Thomas More Parish.
“We had originally thought about trying to bring St. Thomas’s relics to our church to celebrate the anniversary,” Father Taillon explains, “but when I heard about this tour, I knew I had to request that we be included.”
The ongoing tour, organized by the Saint Pio Foundation, attracted more than 10,000 Catholics when it opened this May at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, nearly rivalling the excitement generated by Pope Francis’s 2015 visit to the city. It is expected that by the end of the tour, nearly a quarter of a million American Catholics will have joined in the veneration of the saint.
St. Pio, born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, was known for both his mystical visions of Christ and his gift of healing. He is also famously remembered for bearing the stigmata, and for being one of the very few cases in which someone exhibiting the Wounds of Christ was examined by modern medical professionals.
Many of the relics showcased in the exhibition relate to Pio’s stigmata, including blood from the wounds, scabs collected from them, and the fingerless gloves which the saint used to conceal the nail-marks on his hands. Other relics on display include the saintly priest’s mantle, a lock of his hair and a handkerchief used to wipe his brow as he lay dying.
The relics (many of which are considered First Degree) offer a unique spiritual experience for anyone interested in making the short pilgrimage to Narragansett. It has always been the belief of the Church that the veneration of relics allows the faithful both a chance to meditate upon the lives of the saints and a special opportunity to pray for their intercession.
Although it is important to remember that the relics themselves are not considered miraculous, it is piously believed that God frequently uses the occasion of veneration to perform miracles in the physical presence of the relics (in earum praesentia, as St. Thomas Aquinas would say). In particular, the relics of Padre Pio are, much like the saint himself, frequently associated with miraculous healings.
Anyone planning to visit St. Thomas More for the veneration is advised to expect a bit of crowding. Rockland Street will be entirely shut down for the event, with parking taking place off site at Narragansett High School and a trolley regularly arriving to bring pilgrims to the church. The relics will be on display from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., though Father Taillon encourages local pilgrims to come later in the day to avoid the large out-of-state crowds. A special Mass by Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans will take place at 4 p.m., and can be viewed by live simulcast at https://livestream.com/STM/PadrePio.