Sunday, February 08, 2009

Padre Pio: Pie Pellicane ...

Poem by Fr. William McNichols

(How St. Francis awakened in a Jesuit
a love for Padre Pio)

Once Padre Pio
repulsed me.
In childhood his
photos were too vivid,
a gruesome media victim,
and I grew to avoid him.
Later it was not
so much he
as the macabre circus
which gathered around him.
His name (along with the
poor man himself) was
pushed or trampled upon
by angry seekers
of signs and wonders
who could not
believe his wounds
were enough.


It was on retreat
where I found
myself broken
by the ghastly suffering
and wounds
of persons with
AIDS, that I went
crawling into the library
to find father Francis,
knowing he was converted
by those with
skin diseases,
and knowing that just
one little word
of him
would bring "light
to the darkness
of my heart."


My heart went
through rows of
shelves of scriptures
and saints until
Padre Pio
fell into my reluctant
and though I
ached for the father,
he sent his son.
Three times
I opened to the
story of the stigmata.
Padre Pio
branded so young!
Better to have been
taken swiftly
at the altar
like Becket or Romero
than to have been racked
for fifty years
as the saint or freak
of a ravenous


I did not receive
the scent of roses
or a visible visit...
but he was there.
He teaches me now,
amidst the violence,
and accusations
from the left
and the right wing -
that it is still
the Way of Jesus
the Mother Pelican,
to feed her young
precious blood
from her own

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