It happened this weekend, as the saint’s relics came to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and he took The Big Apple by storm. Even The New York Times took note:
There were concert style T-shirts, commemorative merchandise and a line that stretched down 51st Street in Manhattan on Sunday, buzzing with all the anticipation of a rock show. In place of a stadium was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and at the center of it all was St. Padre Pio — or, more specifically, his cloak and his bloodstained glove.
The relics are on a tour of the United States, with half a dozen stops from Milwaukee to Bridgeport, Conn., and their two-day appearance in New York City began on Sunday. Legions of the faithful were drawn by the story of Padre Pio, an Italian man who bore painful, never-healing wounds on his hands that are said to be a representation of the stigmata, the injuries Jesus received when he was nailed to the cross. Padre Pio died in 1968 and was canonized in 2002.
Inside the cathedral, visitors stuffed dollars into machines that churned out golden coins stamped with the saint’s image. Out on the pavement after Sunday Mass, Wendy Burris, 48, from Delaware, wore a T-shirt with a Padre Pio mantra, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry,” across the chest. Down from her, Jackie Rodriguez, 28, who flew in from Texas to view the relics, lugged her suitcase through the line.
Out of her purse, Jackie Brown, 71, from Somerset County, New Jersey, fished a postcard from the time her grandmother had traveled to Italy and met Padre Pio in person. “She touched him and he jumped away like it was fire,” Ms. Brown said. “He was that holy.”
Under the cathedral’s vaulted roof, the brown fingerless glove was set deep in an ornate silver cross studded with jewels in the nave. The saint, who was known to heal the sick, had covered his wounds with the glove. All morning, people arrived to touch and behold the relics — pregnant women, people in wheelchairs, and many with the telltale bald heads of chemotherapy. There were children carried by mothers and fathers who poured in from across the country and around the world. Each sought to get close to the memory of a man they saw as a vessel to God.