In another instance, Fr. Zeller recalled how shortly after he received the relic he was talking with some friends and found out that their 12-year-old daughter had been suffering from an ear infection that "wouldn't seem to go away."
He asked the girl if he could pray over her with his relic, and when she said yes, "I showed her mom and I showed her and I said 'which ear is it?'"
Fr. Zeller said that as soon as he put the relic to the girl's ear and began to pray "she dropped to the ground. She totally slipped out of my hands."
"I should have caught her, but I didn't know what was happening, I was kind of scared that something happened to her, but she totally slipped out of my hands and fell on the ground," he said, noting that while he was anxious over the situation, the girl's mother was calm, saying "that would be 'Slain in the Spirit.'"
"The ear infection was completely knocked out of her," he said, noting that from that point on, "from what I know she didn't have the ear infection."
In yet another case "there was a lady that had some kind of heart disease for 40 years that she'd suffered from in her life," he said, adding that while he didn't have time to get into the specifics, "she's totally healed" after having been prayed over with the relic of Padre Pio.
"It's a longer story than that, but she's totally free from that," Fr. Zeller said, recalling how another women recently came to him, saying she "had experienced some kind of physical healing" after being prayed over with the relic.
Referring to the healings, Fr. Zeller stressed that "that's not me, that's the intercession of St. Padre Pio."
Although he initially had no devotion to Padre Pio until just a few years ago, the priest said he feels like the sudden connection that came is because the saint chose him, rather than the other way around.
"One of my professors at seminary used to say that we don't choose saints, saints choose us," he said, noting that while we may have "a particular liking of a saint, we may look at a saint's personality and be drawn to them…I think there is a truth to saints choosing us rather than us choosing them."
Padre Pio "was really a joyful friar," he said, explaining that he had always envisioned the saint as being "really stern" and was afraid to ask for his intercession, lest Padre Pio "be stern with me."
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However, it was during his trip to San Giovanni Rotondo that he learned who Padre Pio really was, Fr. Zeller said, explaining that in his view, the reason for the saint's seemingly serious disposition is that "he knew when people were not repentant."
"It was said that he could even smell sin, and I don't even imagine what eternal separation from God smells like," the priest said.
"So that was his concern for the salvation of people's souls. He was concerned about people's souls and bringing them God's mercy and God's forgiveness."
To honor his upcoming Sept. 23 feast, devotees in Rome will celebrate with an entire week of events and activities.
Thousands of devotees with 600 groups will gather in the Roman parish of San Salvatore in Lauro, adjacent to Rome's famous Piazza Navona, which will serve as a hub for the people attending the various activities linked to Padre Pio's feast.
Inside San Salvatore numerous relics of Padre Pio, including his cloak, gloves, stole and blood from the wounds of the stigmata that marked his body for 50 years.