Honoring the Saints

By Elizabeth Lev

As one gets back into the swing of Rome and the metropolitan chaos of traffic, tourists and general disorganization seems overwhelming, an occasional flash reminds visitors and denizens alike that this is no run-of-the-mill capital city.

The feast of St. Padre Pio was celebrated with remarkable energy last Sunday. The lovely but little-known Church of San Salvatore in Lauro, by the banks of the Tiber, hosted hundreds of faithful all day long in the basilica.

St. Padre Pio was a Capuchin monk who died in 1968 at San Giovanni Rotondo and was canonized in 2002. His tireless devotion to his ministry included long hours in the confessional and longer hours in prayer. He was rewarded with the sign of the stigmata, the same wounds of the crucified Christ.

At 11 a.m. Cardinal Giovanni Canestri, retired archbishop of Genoa, celebrated the principal Mass of the morning. Choirs, relics and crowds testified to the greatness of this saint. At 6 p.m. Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presided over the closing Mass of the day.

In the afternoon hours, a large crowd assembled in front of San Salvatore and began a procession through the city streets ending in Piazza Navona, one of the most famous tourist stops in the city.

Romans and visitors alike, sipping their afternoon aperitifs, were astonished to see the parade enter with candles and hymns of praise.

Who would ever expect to see a procession from Lincoln Center to Trump Tower in honor of a saint? Or through the Washington Mall for that matter? In Rome’s special brand of chaos, a unique equality shines. Communists can march one day and Padre Pio the following.

What I found most moving was how Rome, with 2,000 years of Christian history embedded in our soil, and our thousands of saints and their relics, joyfully made room for her newest addition to the communion of saints.

The Eternal City welcomed Padre Pio with the same love and warmth it has held for St. Lawrence, St. Cecilia or St. Phillip Neri. “Evviva Roma” — cheers for Rome!


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