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St Padre Pio : Mother Pelican (25 May 1887-23 September 1968)
“I will ask the Lord to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered...Once I take a soul on, I also take their entire family as my spiritual children.”
St Pio of Pietrelcina
“O loving Pelican! O Jesus Lord! Unclean am I but cleanse me in your blood.”
St Thomas Aquinas
“Surely he has borne our infirmities, and carried our sorrows. And we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins. The chastisement of peace was upon him: and by his wounds we are healed.”
“This wounding is for healing, now the hand raises only to cherish, to bless, to praise.”
Fr James Janda from the play “Julian of Norwich”
“The name Pietrelcina is of ancient, uncertain origin...One of the more colorful stories is that an old foundation stone (pietra) was found in the ancient castle of the town, and on it were carved a hen (pucina) and a brood of chicks, hence Pretapucina.”
From “The Holy Man on the Mountain” later changed to “Padre Pio and America” by Frank Rega
I have read so so many books on Padre Pio, and I never tire of reading about him, and am always lifted and filled with spiritual joy and hope, when I read anything about his life. When I was a little boy he was still alive, and I remember looking into a book at Daleidens Catholic Church Goods Store, in downtown Denver, with pictures of his wounds which actually frightened me, but I never forgot those pictures of him. The wounds, or stigmata, have been a theme in my life and art ever since childhood. Later I would be drawn to the healing power of the wounds and the healing that has come from my (our) wounds if you accept them and fend off the bitterness and tragedy of injustice and rejection. Much later in my thirties, when I became a Third Order Franciscan in the Bronx, New York, I read and was deeply instructed, and deeply moved by the story that during the last two years of his life (1224-1226) the flabbergasted and astonished friars who changed St Francis’ bloody bandages, would dip the blood-soaked cloths in buckets of water and feed the water to sick people and animals, and all were healed by this “Mother’s Blood,” ( when he died the Poor Clare’s cried out, “What will we do without our father, without our mother, Francis?!”) I don’t think, to my limited knowledge, that any male saint has been referred to as father and mother. But Our Lord Jesus has these most tender qualities, and in his final grieving, referred to himself as a Mother Hen. (Matthew 23:37)
Let me suggest just two wonderful books:
“The Holy Souls : Viva Padre Pio!” and
“Send Me Your Guardian Angel”
Both by Padre Alessio Parente, OFM, CAP.
Padre Pio received the visible wounds of Jesus on 20 September 1916. He bore these wounds for 50 years and when he died, they disappeared and his flesh became soft as a child. Truly, just about any of the many, many books on Padre Pio will feed you. And you can never stop learning from and leaning on him for vital strength and support. He’s one of those “911 Saints” like Therese of Lisieux , who respond immediately. Because of the story of St Francis and the healing water from his wounds, I decided to portray Padre Pio holding a medallion of the ancient, pure legend, of the Mother Pelican who, when her chicks were starving, would open her side and feed them her own blood. We are actually all nourished in the womb by our Mother’s blood. But I wondered would Padre Pio approve ? Then right after I finished the Icon (early 90’s) I saw a VHS cassette of his last Mass at San Giovanni Rotondo , 22 September 1968. As the Friars helped him down from the altar, he turned his back to be led away, and on the back of his chasuble (vestment) was embroidered an image of the Mother Pelican. I felt okay then.
A most blessed feast of Padre Pio ! and why not ask him to become one of his spiritual children, all you have to do is ask. “🎶 Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the doors shall be opened. Ask and it shall be given, and the love come a’ tricklin’ down!🎶” ( “Love Come A’tricklin’ Down”) recorded by the Womenfolk 1964)
Fr William Hart McNichols 💮 20 September 2021