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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

St. Padre Pio's Love for Christmas

It was a well-known fact that every year, Padre Pio looked forward to the holy feast of Christmas with great anticipation. As a child, he loved to sculpture little clay figures of Joseph, Mary, and the Infant Jesus in the manger. Throughout his life he had a tender devotion to the Nativity of the Lord.

Long before Christmas, if anyone asked Padre Pio how many days there were until the feast, he could always answer immediately and with accuracy. He counted the days until Christmas with a childlike expectancy. He loved the Christmas Carols, the special devotions, the beautiful gold priestly vestments, the Nativity scenes, and all of the festive preparations. He once wrote, “Christmas has a gentleness, a childlike tenderness that captures my heart.”

Traditionally, during the Christmas Mass, Padre Pio would carry a statue of the Baby Jesus in procession from the choir loft of the church through the cloister of the monastery and then down the corridors and halls. In the darkened church, the friars held candles and sang hymns of praise. Padre Pio finally made his way to the altar and from the altar to the Christmas crib where he placed the little statue of Jesus. Softly glowing candles illuminated the rustic 16the century church of Our Lady of Grace and added to the solemnity of the holy celebration.

At Our Lady of Grace monastery, the statue of the Baby Jesus would remain in the crib throughout the octave of Christmas. Padre Pio had the crib placed where he could see it from the confessional and would often look at it throughout the day. Padre Pio used to say, “Stay very close to the crib of this most beautiful Child.”

On December 24, 1922, Lucia Iandanza, one of the residents of San Giovanni Rotondo, was to witness a Christmas Eve like none before. She arrived at the church early in order to attend Padre Pio’s midnight Mass and on that particular night, the church was so cold that the Capuchins brought a stove into the sacristy hoping to take the chill off. Lucia along with three other women, sat beside the stove to warm themselves.

Lucia’s three companions soon fell asleep but Lucia remained awake and was praying the Rosary. When Padre Pio came down the stairs that led to the sacristy, Lucia saw that he was holding a baby in his arms. It was not the little statue that was used each year at the Christmas Mass. It was a real baby, very much alive. It was the real Infant Jesus. A halo of light encircled the Infant and Padre Pio’s face was shining with a beautiful radiance.

Lucia stared wide eyed in astonishment. It was then that Padre Pio noticed that she was staring at him. As he walked toward her, the halo of golden light and the Infant Jesus suddenly disappeared. So too did the radiance on Padre Pio’s face.

Padre Pio asked Lucia what she had seen. “I saw you holding the Baby Jesus surrounded by a halo of light,” she replied. “Lucia, you must never tell anyone what you saw. Do you understand? Never!” It was always Padre Pio’s desire to keep the many graces that God had given him hidden from others.

From: Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio

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