THE JOYFUL SUFFERING OF TWO GREAT FRIENDS OF ST. MICHAEL
By Sean Breeden
Two stigmatists walk into bar, and they evangelize everyone because they are super holy, and could probably read everyone's souls. If you couldn't tell, the two saints I'm referring to are none other than St. Francis (happy feast day, October 4th!) and St. Padre Pio. It's a bit jarring to see images of joyful saints because most saint images are quite somber unfortunately. What?!? Saints can't laugh! There's got to be a subsection in canon law somewhere that confirms that, right? But, actually, joy is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Bible also tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Furthermore, joy is a sign of childlike trust and surrender because someone who is anxious and controlling cannot simultaneously experience lasting joy. Since we can say with confidence that these two men had great trust in the Lord, we can also be assured that they experienced profound supernatural joy. Let's listen to them in their own words on the topic:
Quotes from St. Francis on Joy
... If we bear [all] injuries with patience without complaining; and if we think upon the sufferings of our Blessed Crucified Lord, then ... this, finally, is perfect joy! ... Above all gifts of the Holy Spirit, that Christ Jesus gives to his friends is the grace to overcome oneself, to accept willingly, out of love for Him, all contempt, all discomfort, all injury, and all suffering. In this and all other gifts, we ourselves should not boast because all things are gifts from God. Remember the words of Saint Paul: ‘What do you have that you did not receive from God? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift (1 Corinthians 4:7)?’ But in the cross of afflictions and suffering, we truly can glory because as Saint Paul says again: ‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).’ Amen.” 
"Study always to have joy, for it befits not the servant of God to show before his brother or another sadness or a troubled face."
Quotes from St. Padre Pio on Joy
“Joy, with peace, is the sister of charity. Serve the Lord with laughter.”
"Suffering, no matter how difficult it may be, when compared to the good that is accomplished, makes every pain a joy for the soul."
“Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
It's amazing how similar Francis and Pio's thoughts are to the New Testament quotes on having joy in ALL circumstances, including suffering.
Quotes from the New Testament on Joy
Luke 6:22-23 - 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
Romans 14:17 - “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 - “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Joyful Stigmatists
These two men who had such a high regard for the joy of the Lord also experienced intense suffering in their lives. Above and beyond their many internal and external trials, these men also received the mysterious gift of stigmata, in which a person bears some or all of the wounds of the crucified Christ in their own body, which arise spontaneously from no external cause. St. Francis and Padre Pio are two of the best known and most well-verified stigmatists in Church history. 
The Devotion of St. Francis and Padre Pio to St. Michael
Padre Pio with a mosaic of St. Michael which he commissioned & designed - featuring St. Michael's sword going into the devil's mouth, from which come his lies, and two depictions from the book of Daniel
One interesting fact is that St. Francis received the stigmata around September 17, 1224. Padre Pio received the stigmata on September 20, 1918. So, they very well could have both received it on the exact same day of the year. This date lies between the feast of the triumph of the cross on September 14th, and the feast of St. Michael on September 29th - and the 20th would be the first day of the novena to St. Michael leading up to his feast. In fact, St. Francis AND Padre Pio both received the stigmata while observing 'St. Michael's Lent', a 40-day period of prayer and penance between the Solemnity of the Assumption on August 15th and the feast of St. Michael on September 29th.
Padre Pio once said, "You will need the help of St. Michael living in this world." He would often send penitents to the Sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel at Monte Sant'Angelo (apparition site of St. Michael on Monte Gargano and the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to St. Michael). This is the same shrine which St. Francis himself visited in his lifetime. "Just before entering the grotto, on the right is a nondescript altar with an image of a friar kneeling. Underneath is a small glass panel covering a Tau cross. It was carved into the rock by St. Francis. When the saint from Assisi visited Monte Sant’Angelo, this is as far as he went, as he did not feel worthy enough to enter the grotto." 
St. Francis and Padre Pio were so conformed to Christ that they were even permitted to share in the physical suffering of his wounds from Calvary, and they carried that cross with the joy and serenity of spirit that only the Lord can provide. I don't believe it's a coincidence that they both also had an intense devotion to St. Michael the Archangel, who did his part to lead them closer to Jesus. May we too be fully conformed to Christ as we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis who provided such an amazing example of joyfully following the Lord no matter the cost.
ST. MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, PRAY FOR US!
ST. FRANCIS, PRAY FOR US!
ST. PADRE PIO, PRAY FOR US!