On 20 September 1918, while Padre Pio was hearing confessions, the saint had his first experience of the stigmata. This powerful identification with Christ occurred for the next fifty years. Witnesses testified that the blood flowing from Padre Pio’s wounds smelled of perfume or flowers.
Padre Pio’s wounds were examined by many physicians. In addition to the stigmata he exhibited the gifts of healing, bilocation, levitation, prophecy and other miracles He also had the ability to read souls, had the gift of tongues and could convert people on the spot.
Science had no explanation for his wounds. They continued to be open and cause him great pain, but they never became infected. They did heal once but reappeared.
They were examined by Luigi Romanelli, chief physician of the City Hospital of Barletta, for about one year. Dr. Giorgio Festa, a private practitioner, also examined them in 1920 and 1925. ProfessorGiuseppe Bastianelli, physician to Pope Benedict XV, agreed that the wounds existed but made no other comment. Pathologist Dr. Amico Bignami of theUniversity of Rome also observed the wounds but could make no diagnosis. Both Bignami and Dr. Giuseppe Sala commented on the unusually smooth edges of the wounds and lack ofedema. Dr. Alberto Caserta took X-rays of Padre Pio’s hands in 1954 and found no abnormality in the bone structure. At the time of Padre Pio’s death, his body appeared unwounded, with no sign of scarring. There was a report that doctors who examined his body found it empty of all blood.
Padre Pio was embarrassed by the stigmata and he tried to cover the wounds with mittens or fingerless gloves.However, this condition is said to have caused him great embarrassment, and most photographs show him with red mittens or black coverings on his hands and feet where the bleeding occurred.
Some doubters accused Padre Pio of faking his wounds. saying he used carbolic acid to create the injuries. “The only evidence for this is a single document found in the Vatican’s archive — the report of pharmacist Maria De Vito, from whom he requested 4 grams of the acid.” At the time of his beatification the document was examined and this evidence was dismissed.
One commentator expressed the belief that the Church dismissed the claims based on the accounts of witnesses who stated the acid was in fact used for sterilization. “The boys had needed injections to fight the Spanish Flu which was raging at that time. Due to a shortage of doctors, Padres Paolino and Pio administered the shots, using carbolic acid as a sterilizing agent.” Furthermore, carbolic acid is a caustic substance that causes rotting of the flesh and eats away at biological tissue, which was not consistent with Pio’s wounds which were localized for over sixty years.
Transverberation is the experience of the soul being filled with the burring love of God. Padre Pio experienced this astounding manifestation in a physical experience that caused him great agony.
Learn more about Padre Pio here.