Padre Pio relics come to Saints Peter and Paul Church in Naperville

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Hundreds of people came to Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville to see and pray before relics of revered Saint Padre Pio.

“Today is a great blessing because the only place that people here in the Chicagoland area will be able to see the relics up close,” said Deacon Thomas Rehak. “The spirit of this gathering is highly spiritual. A great deal of the faith of our church. It’s gratifying to see all the people from all over coming here to pay their respects to Padre Pio, a well-known saint in our modern-day times.”

Saint Padre Pio

Padre Pio lived in Italy in the 1900s as a friar and priest and was canonized as a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2002, long after his death. Catholics believe he experienced stigmata, the same wounds on his hands and feet as they believe Jesus had upon dying on the cross.

“I love Padre Pio and I pray to him all the time, and he brings great peace into our lives and for my family,” said Naperville resident Carol Mason. “Since I probably won’t get to Italy. This is the next best thing. It’s special to be here and experience it.”

The relics

In the Catholic faith, relics are items associated with a saint or someone eligible for sainthood, including first-class relics that were a part of the person or second-class relics that were items belonging to that person.

The five relics displayed at Saints Peter and Paul were:

  • Crusts of his wounds
  • Cotton gauze bearing his blood stains
  • Lock of his hair
  • His handkerchief soaked with his sweat
  • A piece of his garment

“It’s not the relics themselves [that matter most],” said Deacon Rehak. “It’s the sense and still of the faith that you receive, the gift that you receive by coming and being host to this individual, that led an exemplary life. His devotion to our faith was exemplary.”

“They are really a part of him. When people see those relics, they become closer to him,” said parishioner and volunteer Ronald Frederickson. “Nobody’s here by an accident.  They didn’t get out of bed for just something to do.  They came to see Padre Pio and his relics and hopefully be blessed by him.”

Sanctity of the relics

Joe Charla of New York travels all around the country with the job of carefully handling and guarding these sacred items. No one is allowed to touch them with their bare hands.

“It’s respect and what we owe Padre Pio for what he did in his lifetime on this earth,” said Charla.

But faithful followers are encouraged to tap a religious object – such as a rosary or a cross – to the relics, making them a third-class relic.

“They are people of deep faith,” said Frederickson. “And this helps them hone their faith and renew their faith and actually see the people they’re praying to.”

“It’s all about each person’s visit and internalizing Padre Pio,” said Charla.  “Padre Pio is then with them for them to take and go out and make a better day.”

This was the second time these relics came to Saints Peter and Paul Church.  The first was just before the pandemic, drawing roughly 4,000 people.

“It’s a beautiful thing to be even closer to Padre Pio and to think about him and pray to him,” said Martin Maron of Elmhurst.

“I was so happy and blessed that we have Father Pio,” said Agnes of Naperville.  “I wanted to come, and I see many people, [for] which I am so happy.”

According to Charla, these relics are officially certified from the Saint Pio Foundation.  After Tuesday, they’ll go on to other cities across the country for more devout Catholics to see and spend time in prayer with.

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