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September 23 Saints of the Day – Adomnán of Iona and Padre Pio

On this day in 1806, Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis after exploring the Pacific Northwest of the United States. “The coffee was good,” they said, “but it rained a lot.”

Adamnan of IonaAdamnan/Adomnán of Iona (ca. 627 – 704) was a somewhat distant cousin of St. Columba (for certain values of “somewhat” — we’re talking a few hundred years). He was born in Raphoe, County Donegal, Ulster, and became abbot of Iona over in Scotland, after being a monk somewhere either here or there; the experts are in a dither. We are told that through his son he is ancestor to the kings of Cenél Conaill, but we are not told when he managed to beget said son, and our sources are silent about anything that might have happened between his own begetting and his tonsure. Moving quickly on. . . .

He made many visits to Northumbria, befriending its quondam king Aldfrid, and after an internecine war therein he obtained release of the Gaels (Irish) captured in the conflict. Always helps to have friends in high places. Understandably he later produced and promulgated the Canon of Adamnan, also called the “Innocents Law,” which forbade making military use of non-combatants. It must be admitted it has not been strictly adhered to in subsequent years. He also wrote what is widely considered the best and most reliable biography of Columba, and was instrumental in bringing the fight over the dating of Easter to Iona, causing a temporary schism there. (They took dating seriously back then, unlike kids nowadays.) Bede, author of the ponderous Ecclesiastical History of the English People, says other things about Adamnan that our sources say nobody (sober) believes anymore. He died in peace at the abbey, and his relics were schlepped about for many years to various “peacemaking conferences,” only to be ultimately destroyed by the Vikings, who should be ashamed.

Padre PioPadre Pio (1887 – 1968), desiring to be a monk at age ten, was presented to the Capuchins near his parents’ home. The friars liked him, but demanded that he augment his education. His family was too poor to afford this, so his father went to America to work, sending money back to Italy to pay young Franceso’s tuition. At fifteen, freshly educated, he entered the novitiate, taking the name “Pio,” Italian for “Pope Saint Pius V,” the patron of his hometown.

From youth Pio was a sickly lad, and the catalog of his various ailments throughout his life could fill a paragraph we can ill afford (you’ll excuse the pun). His doctors moved him from climate to climate, but none of that worked, and he settled down at the Capuchin friary in San Giovanni Rotondo (“Rotund St. John”) for life, minus the time he spent in the medical corps of the Italian Army in the Great War. This lasted a total of 182 (non-consecutive) days, before he was sent home permanently as medically unfit to serve. Somewhere in there (age 23) he was priestified.

Pio then became a spiritual director, leading his spiritual children with five simple rules: weekly confession, daily communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience. He called Christians to recognize God in all things, seek above all else to do the will of God, and, in his own words, “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.” (Actually his own words were in Italian.) This motto led to the designation “Don’t Worry Be Happy Day” being assigned, by a Catholic agency in London, to the Monday closest to January 22 (“scientifically” determined to be the most depressing day of the year, at least in London). (In 2007. I’m not fooling about this.) But back to our story.

Old Nick appeared to Pio throughout his life, in various guises — naked dancing girls, his Guardian Angel, our Lord, our Lady, and so on. He also had visions of the real things (well not the dancing girls, obviously), but he could distinguish between them by whether they brought him joy. His Stigmata started in his twenties, as pains and red marks in his palms which confused and terrified him. He was embarrassed about them throughout his life, and wore fingerless gloves to hide them. He also suffered other wounds in various visions. He tried to downplay these all, but his fame rapidly grew as “the stigmatic friar.” (There’s a rock group name in there somewhere.)

He was denounced as a charlatan by many, both within and without the Church. In the late 20s the Vatican issued statements denying that miracles associated with the padre (stigmata, bilocation, levitation, etc.) were of divine origin. For a time he was even prohibited from serving Mass. It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that all the accusations were finally dismissed. After a particularly rigorous investigation, he was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
September 23 (Wikipedia)
Saint Rais (Wikipedia) – Main source
Virginmartyr Irais (Rhais) of Alexandria (OCA)
St. Rais (Catholic Online)
Image of Irais from OCA (copyright unknown)
Adomnán (Wikipedia)
St. Adamnan (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Saint Adamnan of Iona (SQPN)
Pio of Pietrelcina (Wikipedia) – Main source
Beatification Padre Pio da Pietrelcina – Biography (Vatican News)
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (BBC)
Drawing of Padre Pio by Roberto Dughetti (1966), photographed by Lucia Dughetti, from Wikimedia. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license. Use does not imply approval of owner of this page or this use. But I’m sure they’d like it.

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I'm a guy. I live in the Seattle-Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I'm vainly attempting to teach pre-algebra to 8th graders at a local prep school.

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