Asked what the message of St. Padre Pio is for believers today, Ed Andolino of Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie did not pause. “That we should believe in Christ, that he is for real.”

Andolino, standing in The Grotto plaza Oct. 16, summed up the key idea as hundreds of faithful came to St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and then The Grotto to pray before a collection of relics of Padre Pio. The 20th century Capuchin friar received the wounds of Christ as a young man and bore them through a life of devotion and service. On display for veneration at the two large and packed Portland churches were scabs from the priest’s stigmata, his glove, his dark brown cloak, a bandage with his blood and a handkerchief that wiped his brow in his final earthly hours in 1968.

In a homily at The Grotto, Archbishop Alexander Sample acknowledged that Padre Pio was given the wounds to participate in the life of Christ. He then urged people to focus on the saint’s inspiring story.

“Standing here so close to these relics of Padre Pio I am overwhelmed, almost to tears,” the archbishop said. “There is a presence here. I can feel it. Padre Pio is with us.”

The archbishop said Padre Pio helped inspire his own vocation to priesthood because the saint was so devoted to the Eucharist and the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

“Something in me said, ‘I want to be like him,’” Archbishop Sample told the standing room only congregation.

Padre Pio taught us to bear this life’s suffering with trust in God, the archbishop said, explaining that the sickly friar had a deep compassion for those who are ill. The archbishop urged the faithful who were about to start an afternoon of veneration to entrust their sorrow and suffering to the saint.

“He was misunderstood, he was ridiculed, he was written off,” the archbishop said. “But in the end his life was vindicated. He was able to shine as a beacon of hope for so many.”

Georgina Cleys of Ascension Parish in Southeast Portland said she came to The Grotto to venerate Padre Pio because she admires his “very close relationship with God, with our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.”

Julie Onderko and Jenett Akles work at Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie and eagerly volunteered to help at The Grotto during the hours of veneration. They saw how many people were inspired by the saint.

“I love Padre Pio, I love him so much,” said Onderko. “He has helped my husband. He has been active in our parish, we feel his presence. He is an amazing saint who is still hard at work to bring people to Christ … . He makes Jesus present in himself. He is not going to let you down ever.”

Akles cherishes Padre Pio’s statement that he would wait at the gates of heaven until all his spiritual children arrive.

“Of all the saints I pray to, he is the one who is most in my life,” Akles said. “I can feel him and feel his presence and I can feel him answer my prayers.”