“Padre Pio would have had a deep compassion for people who were suffering, and the people who were suffering would see in him Jesus crucified,” said Father John Paul. “They knew that they could open up to him because he would understand their pain, whether physical pain or mental pain or spiritual pain. They were drawn to him.”
Some of the people Father John Paul prayed with have experienced healing. One woman who had a heart condition actually got worse after praying with the relic, but the worsened condition allowed doctors to identify and treat the problem. In another instance, a young girl who was suffering from a debilitating ear infection no longer had the infection after being prayed over with the relic.
Many people come to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, about an hour north of where EWTN is headquartered, Father John Paul said, with the intention of praying with him because he has the relic.
“I am certainly no miracle worker, I’m a priest,” said Father John Paul. “But I’ve seen how, not just with the Padre Pio relic, but with using relics of the saints, and praying with people, seeking intercession on their behalf, that favors have been granted.”
The favors might not come in the form of physical healings, Father John Paul said, but he has seen people grow in faith, understanding and love of God after praying with the relic.
“It's beautiful to see people’s faith in God and trust in God, in seeking the intercession of the saints,” he said. “When we seek the intercession of a saint, we are really glorifying God. There’s a direct connection to God on earth through the person’s remains, whether that be through the person’s bones or in this case Padre Pio’s blood or a cloth that touched his stigmata.”
“The gift of having this relic of Padre Pio—it is not necessarily to impart miracles, but that people will be drawn closer to God, and that people grow in faith, hope and charity,” he said. “And for myself too, to open my own heart more and more to God in my own ministry of priesthood.”
Father John Paul said having the relic has made him more sensitive to the sufferings of other people. He often prays with the relic in the confessional when he senses that someone is having a hard time confessing their sins.
“’I’ll get the relic out of my pocket, and—they don’t know that I’m doing this—but I will bless them, I will just sit there making the sign of the cross until they get it out,” he said. “They don’t know it, but Padre Pio is interceding for them.”
Commissioned by Pope Francis in 2015 as a Missionary of Mercy, Father John Paul has a special mandate to be the face of mercy and bring people to Christ through the sacrament of reconciliation. Numbering a little over a thousand, the Missionaries of Mercy were commissioned to facilitate a human encounter with Christ, as living expressions of the Father’s love for us and the Father’s embrace in the sacrament of penance.
“I sense that Padre Pio is helping me and interceding for me as I sit and hear confessions,” he said. “The saints are meant to be our friends. That irrational fear that I had is not there anymore.”
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