Why I Needed to See the Heart of Padre Pio
An obsession with a Catholic saint and his relics made me think about the pieces of myself I had offered up to others.
I waited in line for an hour to see his heart, eating sausage in a semolina bun with roasted hot and sweet peppers, watching children chase each other around headstones in the church graveyard as live Polka music blared from the bandstand. A line snaked around a gazebo, then under an oak tree, where a statue of Padre Pio stood crooked on the emerald lawn. The woman next to me, an Asian woman with a tidy black bob and bangs, had driven an hour and a half from a rich, horsey suburb of Philadelphia to see Padre Pio’s heart. “You Catholic?” she asked.
We had the kind of passion that entered and expanded me into an entire universe; everything else was collateral damage. Until, eventually, the fire and the chaos settled, and it became clear that even though I loved him madly, in the grown-up world, we wanted different things.
I tried to talk to Ramon about this. He sat blank-faced and unresponsive. Weepy nights pouring out my doubts to him left me with conversational blue balls. There was no catharsis—none of the fission it takes to shift a partnership. His silence was so disorienting that, over time, I started to question if I’d said anything at all.
Jesus one last thing
Let me kiss You
What sweetness in these wounds!
They are bleeding
But this blood is sweet, it’s sweet
Love, Love who sustains me
Love, I will see You again soon!
He was twenty-three and had just become a friar when he first received the stigmata—pain and bloody wounds that mirror the crucifixion marks of Christ. He prayed to Jesus to keep his wounds hidden. He carried the pain of stigmata, but there were no physical manifestations of it for another eight years. For eight years, he was the only witness to this private, invisible communion.
Padre Pio: Miracles and Politics in a Secular Age,
Padre Pio: The True Story
Nina St. Pierre is a culture writer and essayist with a focus on art and feminism. Her work has been published in Catapult, InStyle, Narratively, NYLON, Brooklyn Magazine, and Electric Literature. She’s at work on a memoir about mysticism and madness set in rural northern California.
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I wasn’t alone in this experience that had made me feel so isolated, so removed from everyone.