“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 73 – Autumn 2017

Padre Pio—Saint and Mystic — Part IV

Download Newsletter Issue 73 – Autumn 2017
“We should foster a social consciousness which will help us to meet the needs of our neighbors, and to discern and seek to remove the sources of injustice in society…No human anxiety or sorrow should leave the disciples of Jesus Christ indifferent. But the world needs more than just social reformers. It needs saints. Holiness is not the privilege of a few; it is a gift offered to all.”
– Saint John Paul II

Members of the Carabinieri (Italian State Police) get their
picture taken with Padre Pio.

Luigi Bellora was employed as a Carabinieri (police officer) for the State Police Department in Turin, Italy. When a friend gave him a biography on the life of Padre Pio, he found it to be enlightening. Reading the book caused him to pause and think about his own life and he realized that he had been neglecting his spiritual duties for a long time. The book was the wake-up call that he needed to get his priorities ordered rightly. Luigi was able to visit Padre Pio in 1953. From that time forward, he used his vacation from work to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo so that he could be near Padre Pio.

Luigi soon became a familiar face at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace. He felt blessed to make the acquaintance of many of the Capuchin priests and brothers who served in San Giovanni Rotondo. He was awed by Padre Pio and he often felt nervous as he stood in line, waiting to make his confession. On one occasion in the confessional, Padre Pio noticed that Luigi was trembling. “Why are you shaking like that? Is it because you think I am too strict?” Padre Pio asked. Padre Pio then gave him a friendly nudge as if to calm him down.

On occasion, Padre Pio could be severe with Luigi in the confessional. Luigi realized that whenever this occurred, there was never a time when he did not deserve it. But even if he knew that he deserved it, it was by no means easy to endure. It had always been hard for Luigi to accept criticism gracefully and at times he reacted in an unreasonable and immature way.

Luigi once had an upsetting encounter with Padre Pio and decided to leave San Giovanni Rotondo immediately without so much as saying goodbye. He paid his bill at the guest house and went directly to the bus stop with his suitcase in hand. Although the bus made a regular stop there each and every day, for some reason on that particular day, it passed right by Luigi without even pausing. Luigi had no choice but to walk back to the guest house and get his room back.

Luigi could not seem to shake his feelings of hurt and resentment. He reasoned that even though he was still in San Giovanni Rotondo, under no circumstances would he attend Padre Pio’s Mass.  The next morning as he was lying in bed, he suddenly felt what he described as a “hard blow” to his shoulder. He quickly got up and turned on the light even though he knew that he was alone in the room. He recalled that Padre Pio sometimes worked in mysterious ways and the thought occurred to him that the punch to his shoulder might have come from Padre Pio. “Perhaps he is trying to knock some sense into me,” Luigi said to himself. Later a priest who was staying at the same guest house spoke to Luigi and convinced him to go to Mass. That very day, Luigi spoke to Padre Pio and apologized to him. “My son, that is all in the past,” Padre Pio said. Let us bury it and never think of it again.” Luigi was able to put the matter completely behind him.

Luigi counted himself very fortunate to be able to spend all of his holidays and vacation days in San Giovanni Rotondo. He had a great desire to be of service to Padre Pio and the other Capuchins during his visits. The superior, Father Carmelo de Sessano, noticed his helpful attitude. One day he asked Luigi if he would consider having a “working vacation.” He explained that he was trying to find a volunteer to stand guard near Padre Pio’s cell door in order to prevent people from disturbing him. Since Luigi was someone that Father Carmelo and the other Capuchins knew and trusted, and since he worked on the police force, he seemed to be the perfect choice.

At the time, Padre Pio was weak and ill and his fellow Capuchins were very concerned about him. In his fragile state of health, it was important for him to get his rest. Some people, often complete strangers, had the audacity to sneak into the monks’ private quarters and walk into Padre Pio’s cell unannounced. Padre Pio needed to be protected from such people. “There is nothing that I would like better than to assist Padre Pio in this way,” Luigi said to Father Carmelo.

Every day the routine was the same. Luigi entered the monastery through a hidden door that was semi-obstructed by builders’ planks. The arrangement worked out perfectly and no one in the church ever noticed what Luigi was doing. If they had, he would have been swamped with requests, messages, letters, and gifts to give Padre Pio.

Each morning when Luigi arrived on duty, he greeted Padre Pio in his cell. Padre Pio would respond in a feeble voice as his illness had debilitated him to a great extent. Luigi would then make his way to the wicker chair that was set up for him in the corridor. People managed to enter the private area from time to time but Luigi was always there to send them back.

Luigi loved his volunteer position as Padre Pio’s “special guardian” and realized that the job had more perks and benefits than he had ever imagined. Often when Father Giustino and Padre Pio were having their morning coffee together in Padre Pio’s cell, they would invite Luigi to join them. Luigi noticed that Padre Pio would never take more than a few sips. Luigi would always make sure he used the same cup that Padre Pio drank his coffee from. The doctors also had a boiled egg prepared for Padre Pio every morning, but he couldn’t manage to eat it. When he gave it to Luigi, Luigi was happy to finish it off for him.

 Each day a doctor from the Home for the Relief of Suffering brought Padre Pio some jelly fortified with vitamins. “Luigi, would you please help me with this? I don’t feel like eating it,” Padre Pio would say and Luigi was glad to oblige. Almost every afternoon, Luigi brought Padre Pio an ice-cold bottle of beer. “But how can you do this?” Padre Pio asked. “How can you afford to get this for me?” “I do this with all my devotion to you,” Luigi replied.

Luigi also agreed to help with some of the overflow of correspondence that came into the monastery. On one occasion, Padre Pio spoke to Luigi about the particulars of a letter that had been received. “Luigi, tell the person in question that if he changes his lawyer, everything will turn out all right.” Luigi later learned that the person took Padre Pio’s advice and changed his lawyer, which resulted in a positive outcome.

From time to time throughout the day, Luigi opened the door of Padre Pio’s cell to see if he needed anything. Whenever he did so, he found that Padre Pio was praying. Sometimes Luigi saw him gazing at the beautiful painting of Our Lady of Purity that hung on his cell wall. Once when Luigi opened the door, Padre Pio was whispering to the beautiful image of the Madonna.

Luigi was able to serve for twenty-two days as Padre Pio’s special protector. They were days of grace, days of blessings, days of happiness. Luigi was very attached to Padre Pio and could hardly bear the thought of leaving him but he had used all his vacation days and had to return home. “Now that I have grown accustomed to living here in this Paradise near you, it is very hard for me to think about going back to Turin,” Luigi said to Padre Pio. Padre Pio kissed him on both cheeks according to the Italian custom and said, “Dear Luigi, may God repay you a thousand times for all the good you have done for me.”

Through the years, Luigi continued to visit Padre Pio, sometimes for longer, sometimes for shorter stays. Padre Pio called him affectionately, “Dear Luigi.” “But you are the one who is dear,” Luigi would reply. He also asked Padre Pio to assist him as well as his family at the time of death. “Yes, I will do so but you must be worthy of this,” he replied. One day Luigi spoke to Padre Pio and asked him for a spiritual thought, not only for himself, but for all the members of his family. “Always live under the watchful gaze of God,” Padre Pio said to him. Luigi handed Padre Pio a paper and asked him to write the words down and he was happy to do so. Luigi kept the written words of Padre Pio as one of his most treasured possessions.

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In the spring of 1946, Maria Silvana Benedetti and her husband Almiro moved from Rome to Miramare di Rimini to the home of Maria’s father, Agusto. Maria and her husband followed the moving van full of furniture in an open car for a distance of 200 miles. The long drive in the open air evidently had serious consequences for Maria because shortly after, she came down with double pneumonia. She developed a very high fever and her body became as she described it, “a heavy, lifeless burden.” Twenty days passed and her condition did not improve. Two nuns from the local convent came to Maria’s bedside and prayed for her. Her two-year-old son Claudio stayed close by her side.

As the days passed, Maria drifted in and out of consciousness. Every so often she opened her eyes to see people gathered around her bed. Later, she learned that they were praying the novena to Padre Pio for her recovery. One afternoon she had a glimmer of clarity and pointed to a Rosary that was hanging from the chest of drawers. Her husband Almiro, shaken but happy, put it into her hand, and trying to make her understand, continued to repeat to her, “Maria, this is the little Rosary which Uncle Peppino took to Padre Pio and had him bless!” Maria slowly opened her hand to look at the Rosary and was invaded by a strong perfume of violets and vanilla. She felt her bodily strength returning.

 The scent of vanilla persisted and everyone in the house noticed it. Maria asked her mother, Ernesta, if she was making cakes but she said she was not.  Maria did not know at the time that Padre Pio sometimes communicated his presence through a very pleasing fragrance.  She asked for something to drink and was given some broth. As the hours passed, she felt stronger and stronger. That evening she was able to sit up and speak to her visitors. In those days, Miramare was a very small town. “I can say that almost all of Miramare’s inhabitants were in my home to see the miracle that had occurred,” Maria said.  They all prayed and gave thanks together for the healing Maria had received through the intercession of Padre Pio.

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Seventy-year-old Severino Naldi who lived in Forlimpopoli, Italy had been wheelchair bound for seven years. Even though he knew he would never walk again, he still had many things to be thankful for in his life. He felt especially grateful to have a wonderful wife who loved him dearly.

Severino had heard many impressive things about Padre Pio and decided to write a letter to him. He sent the letter on December 8, 1952 on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In the letter, he asked Padre Pio, not for a healing of his paralysis, but instead, for spiritual help. Two days after mailing the letter, Severino felt something deep within that he could neither describe nor fully understand.

On January 16th, Severino paid a visit to his young nephew. Severino greeted him lovingly and as he reached to kiss his nephew’s hand, for some reason, he thought of Padre Pio’s wounded hands. He remembered that Padre Pio always wore half-gloves in order to hide his stigmata. At that moment, he was able to rise from his wheelchair and walk. He never had to use a wheelchair again.

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For a long time, Ida Giusti suffered from terrible pain which had immobilized her right arm. She could neither work nor sleep and the pain intensified whenever she tried to rest in bed. She lost her appetite and became weaker with each passing day. The remedies prescribed by her doctor were totally ineffective and she finally became desperate. She had a family to look after and was at the point where she could do almost nothing.

 A friend gave Ida a picture of Padre Pio and advised her to visit him at his monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. The year was 1948. Even though it was more than 560 miles from her home, Ida realized that the trip would be well worth it if she could somehow be helped. She invited two friends who were also burdened with many problems to go with her.

On the way to San Giovanni Rotondo, there was a mix up and because of it, the three women had to spend the night in San Marco in Lamis. That night, to Ida’s great surprise, she found that she was able to rest comfortably in bed. Her companions were also surprised at the improvement in her condition.

At the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, Ida was able to make her confession to Padre Pio. His presence had a calming effect on her and when she finished her confession he said to her, “Go, for from me you have no more need of anything.” She kissed his hand and left the confessional and the emotion of that brief encounter stayed with her for the entire day. On the trip back home, Ida found that she was able to carry her suitcase with no difficulty. When she arrived at her home, she was free of pain. Her arm was completely healed and she gained back all of her physical strength.

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A Missionary Bishop (far right) visiting Padre Pio.

Father Gian Luigi Lazzaro first learned about Padre Pio in 1972. At that time, he had been serving as a missionary in Central America for five years. Father Lazzaro had a providential encounter with a priest, Reverend Nello Castello, and a physician, Dr. Bruno Pavone who told him many interesting facts about Padre Pio’s life and urged him to visit the monastery of Our Lady of Grace. Father Lazzaro was able to make the trip in February 1973 as a guest of the Capuchins who lived there. As he described it, they were “five unforgettable days.”

When Father Lazzaro returned to Central America, he wanted to tell his friends and associates all he had learned about Padre Pio. He spoke about Padre Pio to the Franciscan seminarians who were studying in Planes de Renderos, San Salvador and it was there that many great graces came. When he was transferred to the parish of St. Francis in San Miguel, he made Padre Pio known there as well. He saw that on more than one occasion, Padre Pio’s intercession was asked for and received.  Later, he was transferred to the large parish of Momostenango in Central Guatemala. He was the only priest to serve fifty thousand Catholics in an area that encompassed two hundred and fifty square miles.

Just like he had done in the past, Father Lazzaro continued to spread the message of Padre Pio. One of the women in the area, Emilia, gave birth to her seventh child, who was to be named after his father. The baby was healthy but complications soon set in for Emilia. A nursing Sister was summoned since there were no doctors in the area. The Sister saw how grave Emilia’s condition was and called for Father Lazzaro to come quickly. Seeing that Emilia was at death’s door, Father Lazzaro gave her the Last Rites and told her to pray and to invoke Padre Pio.

Everything was in order to transport Emilia to the hospital which was a one hour’s journey by car over a very bad road. Father Lazzaro asked the nursing Sister to wait ten minutes more, the time he needed to go and get a picture of Padre Pio so that he could give it to Emilia. Realizing the importance of getting Emilia to the hospital as soon as possible, it was with great reluctance that the Sister agreed to give Father Lazzaro the extra ten minutes. He soon returned and put the picture of Padre Pio in Emilia’s hand and she held it tight. He learned that she held on to it until the doctors took it away from her when it was time for her surgery.

To the amazement of the physicians who attended her, Emilia recovered from her life-threatening illness. She returned to her family and to her regular duties, enjoying good health from that time forward. Divine Providence had been watching over Emilia from the beginning, she was certain of it. Her seventh child was not named after his father as intended, but was named Pio, in thanksgiving to Padre Pio.

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with songs of deliverance.
– Psalm 32:7

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A photo of some of the members of the Padre Pio Prayer Group in Rancho del Chamacuero, Mexico.

The following testimonies were submitted on our Padre Pio Devotions website: www.padrepiodevotions.org    Simply click on the “Testimonials” link on the website if you have a testimony to share.

Somewhere Inside his Mind, He was Still There    My daughter and I were praying for a young friend, Michael, who attempted to take his own life. After a few days in a coma, Michael had little brain function according to his doctor. We prayed for Michael in the IC Unit. He squeezed our hands when we prayed. He did things that showed us that somewhere inside his mind, he was still there. His grandfather is a Protestant pastor, and he prayed with us. Michael was then moved to a nursing care facility to die. I got the biography of Padre Pio and read it to him at each visit. We continued to pray for him. Instead of getting worse, he stayed the same for two weeks and then a terrible infection sent him to the hospital again. It was then that the doctor finally believed that Michael was truly there behind the facade of a “lost soul.” The days passed and Michael became more alert and then on to therapy and the rest is history–he drives and works today.  God is Good!
– Anne Holbrook

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Joanna, Where are You Going? While assisting the homeless, I met a woman named Joanna. She had been living on the streets for seven years. Each day I would take Joanna food and money. Joanna was a Catholic. As the winter months became brutally cold, Joanna mentioned to me that she was unsure as to whether she could handle another cold winter sleeping on the sidewalk. I ask Joanna if she knew who Padre Pio was. She said she had heard of him, but knew very little about him. I told Joanna that I was going home to light a candle near my Padre Pio statue and that I would have a long talk with Padre Pio about her situation. Which I did. The next time I went to see Joanna, she was putting all her belongings in an old car. I said,  “Joanna, where are you going?” She said, “I am not going anywhere. A nice lady donated this old car to me and now I have a warm place to sleep.” I knew right then and there that Padre Pio had answered my prayers.
– Christopher Sales

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I Had no Desire to Use Drugs Again I had a very bad drug problem and had no desire to stop using. My Aunt went to a Padre Pio Celebration and prayed to him for me. I woke up one morning and had no desire to use drugs again. That was 11 years ago. I pray to St. Pio and thank him every day for my miracle. I know I am his spiritual child.
– Name Withheld

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How does a lamp burn? Through the continuous input of small drops of oil. If the drops of oil run out, the light of the lamp will cease, and the bridegroom will say, “I do not know you” (Mt. 25:1-13). What are these drops of oil in our lamps? They are the small things of daily life: faithfulness, punctuality, small words of kindness, a thought for others, our way of being silent. . . These are the true drops of love that keep your religious life burning like a lively flame. Do not look for Jesus away from yourselves. He is not out there. He is in you. Keep your lamp burning, and you will recognize him.

-Mother Teresa of Calcutta  

Padre Pio Devotions Publications:
Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book 1
Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book II
Daily Reflection

“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 72 – Summer 2017

Padre Pio – Saint and Mystic – Part III

Download Newsletter Issue 72 – Summer 2017
Whenever things go wrong, the first casualty is always hope. It is fragile, like rare cut glass. We can lose it so easily. St. Paul tells us that, for those who follow Christ, there is someone who protects and saves our hope; the Father of Jesus. St. Paul tells us that our hope is safe with God. It is well beyond any damage that can be afflicted by human disaster or natural cataclysm. God truly holds our hope and guards it.
– Father Harry Cronin, C.S.C.

There was a man (name withheld) who grew to have a very cynical attitude toward religion. Whenever things went wrong in his life, he always blamed God. He continued to attend Mass but seldom went to confession or to Holy Communion. As time passed, his health began to fail and at the same time, the problems in his family life became almost overwhelming. One Sunday he walked into church and took his place in the very last pew. He decided on that day that he was finished with the Catholic Church forever. He prayed to God and said, “I don’t belong here. You hate me and you only help your favorite ones.” After that, he threw away all the holy pictures, religious medals and rosaries that were in his home. He would not allow any of his family members to mention the word “God.” This situation lasted for seven and a half years.

The man made the acquaintance of a woman who had a great devotion to Padre Pio. On one occasion, when he spoke to her about some of his problems, she told him that she believed that Padre Pio would be able to help him. “I am going to write a letter to Padre Pio and ask him to pray for you,” she said. She encouraged the man to write a letter to Padre Pio as well and he agreed to do so even though he was convinced that it would do no good. More than anything else, he wanted to prove to the woman that Padre Pio would not help him. He was certain that Padre Pio only helped his favorites.

In the letter, he asked Padre Pio to pray for an improvement in his financial situation and for an increase in faith for his family members who had fallen away from the Church just like he had. An answer came back in the mail which said that Padre Pio sent his blessing and was praying for him. The man threw the letter away.

The days passed one after another but nothing improved in the man’s life. He felt that his burdens were too big and too many to carry any longer. It appeared that he was headed for a complete nervous breakdown. The letter to Padre Pio was mailed out at the end of March 1968. In April, the man noticed something like the rich and pleasant scent of tobacco pervading the air. At that moment, he thought of Padre Pio and started to cry. But they were tears of joy, not sadness. The next Sunday he felt a desire to go to Mass. He called his family and told them what had happened. They thought he was finally having a breakdown. He attended Mass and shortly after, he made a sincere confession.

Wanting to learn more about Padre Pio, the man bought several biographies about his life and read them cover to cover. The information he learned from the books made such an impact on him that he returned to the practice of his Catholic faith. Padre Pio died five months later. As time passed, the man became aware of the blessings his family and extended family were receiving through the intercession of Padre Pio. One of his brothers who had struggled with alcohol addiction was finally able to stop drinking. In addition, two members of his family returned to the practice of their faith. “I am now at peace with God who was so good to me after I hurt Him so much” the man said.

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There was a woman (name withheld) who was born and raised in Hong Kong. She always felt like an outsider, like the “black sheep” in the family. She never felt like she was accepted by the other members of her family. Her seven brothers and sisters had all been baptized into the Catholic Church. She was the only one of the siblings who had never been baptized. She attended a Catholic school because her father insisted that she do so but she was unhappy at the school. She was very much opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church. She did not believe in the theology of the cross. When she was fourteen years old, she decided to join the Jehovah Witnesses.

Years later, she moved to the United States and eventually got married. She still attended the Jehovah Witness church services but it became a source of tension in her marriage. Whenever she came home from church, she and her husband would get into an argument. Finally, she stopped going to the church meetings completely and eventually lost all interest in religion.

In 1973, she and her husband moved to Scotland due to his new work assignment. While in Scotland, she became very ill. Tests revealed that she had adhesions which required surgery. The surgery went smoothly and she was discharged after spending one week in the hospital. However, it wasn’t long before she became ill once again. A strange feeling of numbness came over her and she feared that she might be having a stroke. She was hospitalized once again and had to have another operation in which three feet of her intestines were remove.

In two weeks’ time, the woman had two surgeries. After the second surgery, the doctors discovered that a leakage in her intestines had occurred. Because she was too weak to have a third operation, the doctor hoped that the problem would be corrected without any intervention. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse.

One night, while in the hospital, the woman felt the sensation of heat on her stomach. It turned out to be blood. She discovered that her wound had reopened. She tried to push the call button to summon the nurse but she was not able to do so. Fortunately, a patient noticed the crisis and rushed to get help. Even though she was extremely weak, she had to have another surgery. The doctor felt certain that the problem was finally corrected. However, even after the third surgery, the leakage in her intestines continued and the doctor was at a loss to understand why.

The woman was in intense pain day and night. Even the strong pain killers that were given to her did not ease the pain. The doctor spoke to her husband and explained the grave nature of her condition. She needed to have a fourth surgery but if she did, there was only a 40 percent chance that she would survive it. If she did not have the surgery, she would die. The woman was so ill that she no longer cared if she lived or died. She didn’t want to suffer any more. All she wanted to do was to die in peace.

One day as she was lying in bed thinking about her hopeless situation, she began to cry. At that moment, she saw a man with a brown robe enter her hospital room. He spoke to her kindly and said, “Poor child, you have suffered too much. Can we pray?” She told the stranger that she no longer prayed. She was convinced that God would not listen to her prayers because she felt that she was unworthy. The man held her hand and prayed.

When she looked at his hands she noticed that there were scars on each hand. His hands reminded her of Jesus’ hands. After he finished praying, he put his hand on her forehead and said to her, “Poor child, you have suffered enough. No more suffering. You wandered away from God but he has found you again. Pray to God, talk to God. You can tell him everything. He is your Father and your dear friend.”

After the man left her room, the woman prayed with all the sincerity of her heart, “Please God, I don’t want to suffer anymore. Let me die tonight peacefully. Either that, or give me back my life. I promise I will be a good Christian.” When she finished the prayer, she asked the nurse to call her husband. She wanted him to buy her a cross.

The next morning when the nurse came into the room, she was surprised to see the change in the woman’s condition. The woman looked strong and healthy. The nurse checked her blood pressure and her temperature and they were both normal. She checked the incision from her previous surgery and it looked as though the healing process had finally begun. “I wonder why you are scheduled for surgery today,” the nurse said. “Everything looks so normal.” The nurse then called the doctor to come and examine her. Tests revealed that the leakage in her intestines had stopped. The doctor said he had heard countless miracle stories through the years, but this was the first one he had ever seen with his own eyes. “You must be a very special person,” the doctor said.

Not long after that, the woman and her husband returned to the United States. Because she was still very weak, she stayed at her mother’s home and her mother took care of her. She called one of the parishes in her area and said that she wanted to receive instructions in the Catholic faith. Several nuns from the parish visited her regularly, teaching her the catechism and after studying for six months, she was baptized.

Four years later, the woman returned to Scotland. She wanted to look for the priest who had saved her life and to thank him for what he had done. She visited many of the local parishes looking for him but to no avail. While in Scotland, she met a nun who was visiting from Ireland. The nun had heard the story of the woman’s healing and asked for a description of the priest who had prayed for her. The woman told her that he had large eyes and a beard and wore a brown robe.

Several weeks later, the nun sent her a photograph of Padre Pio. She recognized him immediately as the priest who visited her in the hospital. She wanted to get his address so that she could write to him and thank him but when she looked at the back of the photograph, it said that he had died in 1968. She couldn’t believe it. He had visited her in 1977. She learned that Padre Pio often visited the sick and dying in order to pray with them. She knew that it was because of his prayers that she had been healed. She would always remember the touch of his hand on her forehead and his beautiful words, “Pray to God. God is your friend and your dear friend. God is alive.”

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Farley Clinton was in Rome in 1964 when he made the acquaintance of an Italian nobleman, a Marchese, who spoke to him about Padre Pio. At the time, Farley had a very limited knowledge of Padre Pio. He had heard about some of the miracles and other extraordinary phenomena associated with Padre Pio but it left his heart cold and unmoved. He did not feel that such things were of importance in the spiritual life. The Marchese agreed with him completely.

For as long as Farley could remember, he had a desire to see and speak with a saint. But he wanted to meet a saint who was steeped in holiness rather than one who worked miracles. His idea of a true saint was St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars. “Padre Pio in many ways is like St. John Vianney,” the Marchese explained. “He lives in deep union with God and prays many hours each day. He too is steeped in holiness. Why don’t you accompany me to San Giovanni Rotondo? I think you would find it an interesting experience,” the Marchese said. Farley accepted the invitation and looked forward to the trip.

Farley and the Marchese took a train from Rome and arrived in Foggia at six-thirty in the evening. They then took a taxi to San Giovanni Rotondo. As they drove up into the mountains on a road with many twists and turns, Farley observed that the silence and the isolation of the area was profound. The stark landscape looked almost surreal in the moonlight and somewhere far below them was the Adriatic Sea. As they continued on their journey, Farley asked the Marchese more questions about Padre Pio. “I cannot really explain Padre Pio to you,” the Marchese said. “Everyone finds something different in him. You will see for yourself when you meet him.”

The next day Farley and the Marchese attended Padre Pio’s Mass and Farley was able to observe Padre Pio closely. He later spoke of the experience and said, “Padre Pio’s eyes were full of suffering, of keen sensibility to everything. He was very beautiful. That might be a strange thing to say about a man who was seventy-eight years old, but it was true. His face had a radiance, a luminous quality.” That afternoon, Farley experienced what thousands of others had experienced before him – the intense fragrance of perfume that surrounded Padre Pio. Farley had been tormented for more than a year by a number of perplexing problems. He had consulted theologians, priests, and even experts in psychology, but none of them had been able to help him. During his visit to Padre Pio’s monastery, those problems simply vanished, never to return.

After he and the Marchese returned to Rome, Farley had time to think about all he had experienced in San Giovanni Rotondo. He realized that his preconceived ideas about Padre Pio had been totally wrong. The trip had been more meaningful that he had ever imagined. Farley said, “It was possible to communicate with Padre Pio very intimately without words. He gave clear signs of knowing one’s secret thoughts, sins, and prayers. If he prayed for you and assured you that all would be well, however impossible your situation might seem, you could trust that everything would work out for the best.” Farley felt convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that he had truly met a saint.

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On February 16, 1960 Dr. Frank Ceravolo was admitted to the Jersey City Medical Center. After many tests were run, a nephrologist (specialist in kidney diseases) spoke to Dr. Ceravolo and told him that the tests revealed that he had a progressive kidney disease called Glomerulonephritis. The doctor was forthright about the very serious nature of his illness. Tears filled Dr. Ceravolo’s eyes as he listened to the doctor explain the diagnosis, and he prayed silently asking God to give him strength.

Dr. Ceravolo was only twenty-eight years old with a wife and small daughter. The United States was a relatively new environment for him, having arrived not so many years before from his native Italy. He had been working long hours at the hospital and had been experiencing continual exhaustion but he did not think that was so unusual. He had made extreme sacrifices in order to be in the place where he was. His future looked bright and his whole life was in front of him, or so he thought. With everything going so well, how ironic it was for him to suddenly learn that he had contracted a life-threatening disease.

Our Lady of Grace monastery church in San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio was transferred to this monastery in 1916 and remained there until his death in 1968.

After months of illness, Dr. Ceravolo decided to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo. He wanted to speak to Padre Pio personally and to ask him for his prayers. Because he was so sick, the trip to Italy proved to be sheer agony for him. On the third day of his visit, he finally had a face-to-face encounter with Padre Pio. Padre Pio paused momentarily in front of Dr. Ceravolo in the church and pressed his hand to the doctor’s lips. The doctor was instantly enveloped by a beautiful fragrance of roses, lilies, and “flowers not from this earth,” as he described it. Afterward, Padre Pio continued walking down the hall. Oddly enough, the farther away he walked, the stronger the perfume became.

The next day, Dr. Ceravolo was standing in the confessional line, waiting for his turn to make his confession. There was no doubt about it, he felt scared to lay his soul bare before Padre Pio. The man who had been in front of him in the line was almost running as he came out of the confessional. By the look on his face, it was obvious that things had not gone well. Dr. Ceravolo became even more nervous and he began to tremble. “Look what just happened to that poor fellow. Perhaps I should not go through with this,” he said to himself. Padre Pio then spoke to him and said, “Come, my son.” He hesitated but Padre Pio was calling him and he felt that he had to respond.

Padre Pio had a beautiful smile on his face as he greeted Dr. Ceravolo. His friendliness calmed the doctor who was then able to regain his composure. When the doctor finished his confession, he noticed that Padre Pio was staring at him intently. He seemed to be looking just above his head, his eyes fixed on some unspecified point. He had a very sad expression on his face. “Poor son,” Padre Pio said to him. “He is probably seeing all the misfortunes of my life and he feels sorry for me,” Dr. Ceravolo said to himself.

Dr. Ceravolo returned to the United States and to the surprise of everyone, he recovered from what doctors told him was a fatal illness. His trip to San Giovanni Rotondo marked a turning point in his life. Many years later he spoke of his great esteem for Padre Pio and said, “During all these years, Padre Pio has been my advocate and my guide. His words have sustained me in my trials.”

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The following testimony was written by a man in England (name withheld) who learned a valuable lesson regarding the sanctity of life. When he discovered that his wife was expecting their fifth child, he reacted in a spiteful way. But he eventually came to realize that each child is a gift from God and a true blessing. It seems clear that Padre Pio helped to open his eyes and his understanding.

I am married to a wonderful and devout Catholic woman. We have four children and my wife has always made sure that our children have received a good religious education. I stopped going to Mass more than ten years ago. I was shocked when my wife told me she was expecting our fifth child. I did not want the baby and I was angry.

When my wife gave birth to a baby boy, Stephen, I shrugged it off. As far as I was concerned, it was just another mouth to feed. But it was soon apparent that something was seriously wrong. Tests revealed that our son’s kidneys were completely useless. One was not even a kidney at all but “mush” as the doctor called it.

My heart went out to our little boy. All day long, his body jerked in pain. The doctors operated and took the “mush” away and then discovered that his other kidney was badly damaged and the tissues were dead. They told us there was no hope.

Stephen’s eyes were sunken and he looked like a skeleton. The ward sister and the doctors told us it was just a matter of time. They advised us to take him home from the hospital so that he could die at home surrounded by his family. I broke down when the doctor was talking to us and I suddenly had a desire to go to church and make my confession. In the confessional, I was very repentant. Around that time, I saw a book in a Catholic book shop on Padre Pio and purchased it. I read it from cover to cover.

When Stephen came home from the hospital, he ate nothing, drank nothing and grew weaker by the day. His eyes stared listlessly. After two weeks at home, we saw that the end was imminent. We couldn’t watch our baby die. We hurried to the hospital with him. The hospital staff said that he would probably not live through the night.

I prayed and prayed to Padre Pio and to our Blessed Mother. I swore that I would never leave my faith again if my son’s life was spared. I cut out a picture of Padre Pio from the book I had read and slipped it under Stephen’s pillow in the hospital. He did not die that night. Each day he lingered and I continued to pray, day after day.

One night I woke up. It was dark outside. Our bedroom was saturated with the perfume of roses. The aroma was over powering. The next day the doctor informed us that there was an improvement in Stephen’s blood. His kidneys were working. Days turned into weeks. The doctors were amazed. They are still amazed. Stephen is now six years old.

Stephen has brought so much happiness into our lives. He is my pride and joy. I have not faltered in my faith and I attend Mass each Sunday. I still say my novena to Padre Pio every day. So really there were two miracles, a miracle for Stephen and a miracle for me. My heart was once hard but it is no longer hard.

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It’s true Lord that you are always thinking of us. From the beginning of time, before we existed, even before the world existed, you have been dreaming of me, thinking of me, loving me. And it is true that your love created me. It’s true Lord, that you have conceived for my life a unique destiny. It’s true that you have an eternal plan for me, a wonderful plan that you have always cherished in your heart, as a father thinks over the smallest detail of the life of his little one, still unborn. It’s true that, always bending over me, you guide me to bring your plan about, light on my path and strength for my soul. . .You the divine Attentive One, you, the divine Patient One, you the divine Present One, see that at no time I forget your presence. I don’t ask you to bless what I myself have decided to do, but give me the grace to discover and to live what you have dreamed for me.

– Father Michel Quoist

Padre Pio Devotions Publications:
Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book 1
Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book II
Daily Reflection

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“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 71 – Spring 2017

Padre Pio – Saint and Mystic – Part II

Download Newsletter Issue 71 – Spring 2017

 Padre Pio had a human aspect. He appears like others in the civilian registers. He is a fellow countryman and a contemporary of our own, born into a certain family, into a certain society, which gives him an identity card like any other citizen. But on the other hand, he appears as one destined to serve a divine purpose, sent as it were, to be a lightning conductor to protect us, as one who is merely lent to us here below to attend to the matter of our salvation. – Ferdinando Gambardella

Annunziata Camorani visited the church of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo for the first time in 1955. She had just been discharged after a long stay in a hospital in Bologna where the doctors suspected that she had an incurable disease. For a long time she had felt ill, exhausted and depressed. She spent only one day in San Giovanni Rotondo because she did not have the financial means to stay longer. For Annunziata, it was an “unforgettable day.” As she sat in the church, she was able to see Padre Pio as he heard confessions. His presence gave her joy and comfort. She also received communion from his hands. After that, Annunziata followed the other pilgrims to a field that was beside the monastery. Padre Pio stood at his cell window and waved to all who were gathered as they sang hymns. As Annunziata later recalled, “It was the best day of my life.”

Annunziata was able to see Padre Pio one last time before leaving San Giovanni Rotondo. At the time, he was in a deep state of prayer. After she returned to her home, she continued to think about all that had transpired on her visit to Padre Pio and the blessings she had received. She was now able to bear her burdens with greater serenity and equanimity. She returned once again to San Giovanni Rotondo many years later. She saw the beautiful church that had been built next to the monastery and was able to visit Padre Pio’s tomb and his hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering. “San Giovanni Rotondo has truly become a citadel, a miracle of Padre Pio.”

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As a child, Alberto Correggioli was blessed to be raised in a loving Christian home. He went to Mass every Sunday, attended Catechism classes and served as an altar boy. He felt an enthusiasm for everything that had to do with his Catholic faith. Then in 1943, Alberto lost his dear mother. It left a great void in his heart.  His father now had the responsibility of raising three children all by himself. He did the best he could, but it was difficult for him to try to fill the role of both father and mother. 

Without his mother’s guidance and support, Alberto soon stopped going to Mass. As the years passed, he began to feel that he was lost and beyond saving. However, everything in his life began to change for the better when, as a young man, he became acquainted with a girl named Graziella. Graziella encouraged him to attend Mass each Sunday and to cultivate a spiritual life once again. One day she spoke to him about Padre Pio. She referred to Padre Pio as “a great friar, a living saint.”

In July 1951, when Alberto was twenty years old, he made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo with Graziella and her mother. By that time, he and Graziella were engaged to be married. In San Giovanni Rotondo, Alberto felt a calmness and tranquility that was healing to his soul. As he described it, “every corner of the little town was filled with peace and serenity.” Great was his joy when he found himself standing in front of Padre Pio. He made his confession to Padre Pio and received his paternal blessing and absolution. He asked Padre Pio to accept him as his spiritual child and he agreed to do so.

 Alberto spent seven days in San Giovanni Rotondo and for seven days he was, as he described it, “enraptured.” He found his faith once again as well as a desire to go forward with his good resolutions. It reminded him of the way his life had been when he was a child, when his dear mother was there to guide him and hold him by the hand. After his confession to Padre Pio, he walked outside and stood for a while in front of the church. He was surrounded by an intense fragrance of flowers. He felt that he had been reborn.

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In July 1949, twelve-year-old Vincenzo Di Lello suffered a life-threatening illness. One very hot day, when he was near the beach, he was overcome by thirst. Even though his brother warned him not to do so, he drank from a nearby well. As it turned out, the well was contaminated, and Vincenzo became sick with typhoid fever. The disease was spreading like an epidemic and many people died that summer. The doctor prescribed penicillin and perfusion treatments but Vincenzo’s condition grew worse. He had a dangerously high fever and was literally wasting away. Seeing his rapid decline, his doctor told the family that there was very little hope of recovery. It was then that his father decided to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to ask Padre Pio for his prayers.

On August 14th while Vincenzo’s father was in San Giovanni Rotondo, his family ordered his coffin and bought the white fabric to make his burial gown. The next day, his relatives were all gathered at his bedside. He had already been unconscious for a number of days when his family heard him call out to Padre Pio in a loud voice. Suddenly, a strange perfume invaded the hospital room. On that same day, his father had been received by Padre Pio who said to him, “You may go now. Your son is going to get better.” From that day forward, Vincenzo’s health improved and at the end of August, after two months in bed, he was able to get up. Thanks to Padre Pio, he was able to resume all of his normal activities.

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In 1956, Giuseppe Del Ton’s health was deteriorating rapidly.  None of his doctors were able to help him and finally he became desperate.  He decided to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo, hoping that Padre Pio could assist him. At the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, Giuseppe was able to greet Padre Pio and was surprised that Padre Pio called him “youngster.”  “How long will you be staying in San Giovanni Rotondo?” Padre Pio asked Giuseppe. “Just overnight,” Giuseppe replied. “I am going back to Rome tomorrow.” “I would like you to stay longer. Would you be willing to?” Padre Pio asked. Giuseppe agreed to do so. “I will tell you when it is time for you to leave,” Padre Pio said. He then turned to his friend Angelo Battisti and said, “I will look out for Giuseppe.”

Padre Pio told Giuseppe that during his stay, he wanted him to attend Mass each day at the monastery church. Giuseppe was happy to do so. Finally, after twenty days, Padre Pio told him that he could return to his home. “During the twenty days that I was in San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio spoke perhaps only thirty words to me,” Giuseppe said. “His words were clear, concise and filled with wisdom. They contained a complete spiritual program for me to follow for the rest of my life. I cherish his every word in my heart like a treasure.” When Giuseppe returned to Rome, he was renewed in body, mind, and soul.

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Maria Mazziga traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo in July, 1947. Her intent was to ask Padre Pio to pray for a member of her family who was seriously ill. Maria had been told that many people who asked Padre Pio for his prayers were helped. She was skeptical about a positive outcome but she felt she had no place else to turn. 

From the time Maria left for her destination, everything seemed to go wrong. The only lodging that she was able to find proved to be a great disappointment. For one thing, there were no private rooms available. Everyone had to double up with complete strangers. It was the practice of the manager to carry pails of water to the rooms for the needs of the guests. Unfortunately, even the most ordinary comforts were unavailable.

Early the next morning, Maria waited in front of the church of Our Lady of Grace for the doors to open.  She was disheartened by the boisterous and irreverent conduct of some of the pilgrims. “Why must I endure all this misery,” Maria said to herself. Later in the day, Maria decided to get in the confessional line. As she waited, she felt so weak and exhausted that she was afraid that she might faint. All of a sudden, she was surrounded by an indefinable wave of perfume. The scent seemed to revive her. Maria had heard about the perfume that was associated with Padre Pio but considered it nonsense. Nevertheless, she could not deny the fact that her bodily strength had suddenly returned. As the perfume lingered in the air, she continued to feel stronger and stronger.

 In the confessional, Maria told Padre Pio that one of her relatives was very ill. “I will pray for that poor girl,” Padre Pio said. Before Maria received absolution, Padre Pio told her to pray the Rosary for her penance. She did not own a Rosary but was able to acquire one in town. When she took it to Padre Pio and asked him to bless it, the same wonderful fragrance wafted from it that she had experienced while waiting in line for confession. “This is a fragrance from Heaven,” Maria said to herself. “Padre Pio is a favored soul who has been sent to us by God.” From that moment forward, she felt close to him. 

Through contact with Padre Pio, Maria’s faith was reawakened along with a renewed desire to pray and to attend Mass daily. She experienced, as she described, “a whole new world.” Her life was no longer empty. Shortly after, her relative who was ill made a complete recovery.

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In 1939, Angela Morano traveled from her home in Calabria to San Giovanni Rotondo. Even though she was young, she was thinking seriously about her future and she wanted to consult with Padre Pio about several marriage proposals she had recently received. At that time, there was only one boarding house in the area that was near the Capuchin monastery and Angela was happy that a room was available for her. Angela told the landlady of the boarding house that she planned to ask Padre Pio advice regarding the difficult choice of a marriage partner. “Padre Pio is able to help people because he is in communion with God,” the landlady responded. “Trust whatever he tells you because he is enlightened,” she added.

The next day Angela was able to make her confession to Padre Pio and at the end she said, “Several men have asked me for my hand in marriage but I am afraid to make the choice.  I would like you to advise me as to which one might be the most suitable partner.” “I am not a fortune teller,” Padre Pio replied. “Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance,” he added. With that, he closed the little shutter in the confessional making any further dialogue impossible.

Angela was hurt by Padre Pio’s words and was not able to hold back her tears. She left the confessional quickly and returned to the boarding house. When she told the landlady what had happened, she heard encouraging words. “Sometimes Padre Pio is brusque. Think nothing of it. Just be persistent and you will get your answer,” the landlady said.

 The next day, Angela approached Padre Pio once again, and once again things did not go well. Angela was disappointed since she had only one more day to spend in San Giovanni Rotondo before returning to Calabria. Nevertheless, she was determined not to give up. On the following day, when Angela stood before Padre Pio, he greeted her with a smile and said, “What do you want my daughter?” She then took out a sheet of paper with the names of her suitors on it. Before she could read even one name on the list, Padre Pio said to her, “Mr. Rispoli is the best one for you but you must be sure to let me meet him.” 

Angela returned to Calabria and after a number of months passed, Padre Pio’s words began to materialize. The family of Giovanni Rispoli contacted Angela’s mother and asked permission for Giovanni to meet Angela. Giovanni was an attorney who had been working in Asmara, Africa and had recently returned to Italy. Angela and Giovanni were formally introduced and got along well from the very beginning.

 Angela told Giovanni about Padre Pio and all that had transpired on her visit to him. She wanted Giovanni to meet Padre Pio and invited him to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo with her. In order to please Angela, Giovanni was willing to make the trip, but he was not looking forward to it. He was very skeptical about Padre Pio. He had once been a practicing Catholic but after his father died, his faith diminished to a great extent. The grief he felt at the loss of his father overshadowed everything else in his life. He finally became completely indifferent to religion.

 In San Giovanni Rotondo, Giovanni attended Padre Pio’s Mass with Angela but he was unimpressed.  After the Mass, he followed Padre Pio into the sacristy.  Padre Pio greeted him and said, “Giovanni, I see that you have landed here.” Giovanni was shocked that Padre Pio knew his name. He was also shocked that Padre Pio seemed to know that he had been away from his native soil of Italy. He felt confused and remained silent, not knowing how to respond. “But, isn’t your name Giovanni?” Padre Pio asked. “Yes, that is my name,” Giovanni replied.  He told Padre Pio that he had been in Africa when he learned that his father had passed away. “I cannot resign myself to losing him. I cannot get over the grief,” Giovanni said.  “Continue on the straight road and you will find your father again,” Padre Pio replied. The words restored peace to Giovanni’s heart.

 Giovanni then told Padre Pio that his mother had introduced him to Angela and hoped that he would ask her for her hand in marriage. “You two are made for each other,” Padre Pio replied. “I think you should marry her,” he added.  “But war is about to break out and I could be called up for military duty at any moment,” Giovanni answered. “The war will not touch you,” Padre Pio said.

1940—A photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Giovanni Rispoli with Padre Pio’s father, Grazio Forgione.

Angela and Giovanni were married in 1940 and soon after, Giovanni received notification that he was to report for military service. When he presented himself at the recruiting office, he was told that another man had been substituted in his place. He would not be required to serve in any capacity. He remembered that Padre Pio had said, “The war will not touch you.” As Giovanni thought about all the accurate statements Padre Pio had made to him about his life, his attitude changed and he began to have great faith in him and in his prophetic gifts.

Several years later, Angela was able to visit Padre Pio again. She told him that she and Giovanni were very sad because their marriage had not been blessed with children. “Do not worry,” Padre Pio said. “The children will come. As a matter of fact, you can begin to prepare the baby clothing now. The first will be boys and the last will be girls.”

Some time later, Angela was struck with a terrible pain. The doctor told her that an operation might be necessary. “But why is there talk of an operation?” Padre Pio said to Angela. “You are expecting a baby!” Angela and Giovanni were elated. “What shall we name our baby,” Giovanni asked. “Name the first ones whatever you want. You can name the last one after me.”  Angela and Giovanni became the proud parents of a baby boy. Two more boys followed and were welcomed with love. Six years later, Angela became sick and asked a friend who lived in San Giovanni Rotondo to tell Padre Pio that she was unwell. “I am aware of Mrs. Rispoli’s illness and I will take care of it,” Padre Pio said. It seemed as though Padre Pio was Giovanni and Angela’s good guardian angel, always watching over every aspect of their lives. In 1956, Angela and Giovanni’s first daughter was born and six years later their last child was born, a beautiful baby girl whom they named Pia.

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Father Antonio Cannavacciuolo of Latium, Italy, was ordained to the priesthood on December 20, 1919. Shortly after his ordination, he traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo for the first time. He was received affectionately by the members of the religious community who resided at Our Lady of Grace monastery and was invited to share a meal with them in the refectory. When asked if he would like to stay overnight, he readily agreed and was assigned a little cell not far from Padre Pio’s. That evening, he met with Padre Pio, made his confession to him, and felt blessed to be able to kiss his hand.

Father Antonio returned to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1946. After that, he visited Padre Pio two or three times each year. He remembered the affection with which Padre Pio always received him and he recalled with great joy, Padre Pio’s paternal embraces and kisses on his cheeks, according to the Italian custom. In 1955, Father Antonio came down with a very bad case of laryngitis and could barely speak above a whisper. He tried a variety of medicines, but nothing helped. He remained in that state for six months. To make matters worse, he had no one to assist him at his parish. He had to preside at the Mass, hear confessions, ring the bells, play the organ, sing, and preach all by himself. With his many responsibilities, he felt a growing anxiety about the loss of his voice.

Finally, Father Antonio decided to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to ask Padre Pio to pray for his recovery. At the monastery, he greeted Padre Pio, kissed his hand and then explained that he had been suffering from chronic laryngitis. Padre Pio gazed at him a few moments in silence. He then slapped Father Antonio’s throat with the palm of his hand. Father Antonio’s voice suddenly returned, as though nothing had ever been wrong. He never had trouble with laryngitis again.

In the early days, the pilgrims traveled to Padre Pio’s monastery in horse-drawn carriages and then later in automobiles.

Deeply moved by his encounters with Padre Pio, Father Antonio decided to organize a Padre Pio Prayer Group at his parish. It was one of the first to be formed in Italy. Padre Pio’s close friend, Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti appreciated the many efforts Father Antonio made to promote Padre Pio’s good works. On one of Father Antonio’s visits to the monastery, Dr. Sanguinetti gave him a large quantity of candy and jams. “These candies were gifts that were given to Padre Pio but he would like you to have them,” Dr. Sanguinetti said. “He sends them to the children in your Prayer Group.”

When Father Antonio returned home, he told his parishioners about the sweets that Padre Pio had sent. Father Antonio decided to distribute the candy on the last day of May, the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary. He expected that possibly fifty children would be present but was surprised to discover that well over one hundred children arrived on the designated day. The mothers of the children spoke to Father Antonio and said, “We too want the blessing of receiving a gift from Padre Pio. We would like to have a piece of candy too. Would that be possible?” “Of course it would!” Father Antonio replied. “There is enough for everyone.”

Through the years, Father Antonio remained a dedicated and fervent parish priest. He observed that many of his fellow priests looked much older than their years. He often wondered why so many priests seemed to age prematurely. Father Antonio felt strong and energetic and prided himself on his good health. When he traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1964, Padre Pio said to him, “Do not brag about your youthful appearance or your health. You too will feel the approach of old age.” In less than a year, Father Antonio began to feel ill. Finally, he was admitted to Padre Pio’s hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering and spent fourteen days there where he was treated for a heart condition.

For many years, Father Antonio organized and led pilgrimages to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace. He offered a Mass every week for the intentions of Padre Pio and he prayed to him continuously. When Father Antonio grew old and infirm, he said that the only reason he was able to continue to perform his priestly duties was because of Padre Pio’s prayerful intercession. Father Antonio made his last pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1978. He died suddenly, several months later, just after celebrating Mass. He was 88 years old.

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The best preparation I can make for death is to live the reality of the Paschal mystery as fully and as deeply as possible in union with Christ, because Christ will re-live that mystery in me at the hour of my death. If I am following the spirituality of the Paschal mystery, I expect to die and rise again many times in the course of my monastic life, in my daily tasks and duties, in unexpected events and circumstances, and in my life of interior prayer. . . I expect to have to let go and give up again and again, discovering a new richness of life each time. . . I will learn to trust more and more this Father into whose hands I shall one day, freely and gladly, hand over my life. On that day my final act of dying will be inserted irrevocably into the saving death and resurrection of Christ my Lord.

– Father Charles Cummings, O.C.S.O.

Padre Pio Devotions Publications:
Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book 1
Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book II
Daily Reflection

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“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 70 – Winter 2017

Padre Pio – Saint and Mystic

Download Newsletter Issue 70 – Winter 2017

Being holy means living exactly as our Father in heaven wants us to live. You will say that it is difficult. It is. The ideal is a very high one. And yet it is also easy. It is within our reach. When a person becomes ill, there may be no appropriate medicine. But in supernatural affairs, it is not like that. The medicine is always at hand. It is Jesus Christ, present in the Holy Eucharist, and he also gives us his grace in the other sacraments which he established. Let us say again, in word and in action: “Lord, I trust in you. Your ordinary providence, your help each day, is all I need.”

– St. Josemaría Escrivá

A man from Genoa, Italy had been away from the church for most of his life. On one occasion, one of his friends asked him to deliver a letter to Padre Pio. Since he was not too far from San Giovanni Rotondo at the time, he agreed to do so. The letter needed an immediate reply. When the man knocked on the monastery door, one of the Capuchins directed him to the sacristy. “Just wait here. Padre Pio will be down soon to take the letter,” the Capuchin said.

When Padre Pio came to the sacristy, he exchanged a few words with the man. Unimpressed by the encounter, the man wanted to leave the monastery as soon as possible. “I just need a reply to this letter and then I will be on my way,” the man said impatiently. “I understand,” Padre Pio replied. “And what about you? Do you want to make your confession while you are here?” “Oh no, I do not care to. I do not even go to church,” the man said. “When was the last time you made your confession?” Padre Pio asked. “It was when I was seven years old,” the man answered. Padre Pio suddenly became stern, “How long do you plan on living such a worthless life?” Suddenly a light seemed to penetrate the man’s mind. He realized that Padre Pio was right. He had been living a meaningless existence for years. All at once, he knew that he needed to change. The man made a sincere confession to Padre Pio and left the monastery completely transformed.

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Raffaele Scalzi invited an elderly friend to go with him to see Padre Pio. The year was 1958. Raffaele and his companion were able to greet Padre Pio in the corridor of the monastery. Padre Pio extended his hand to the elderly man to kiss but not to Raffaele. Padre Pio then continued walking down the hall. Raffaele felt very disappointed by the encounter. He wondered why Padre Pio had rejected him but had been so cordial to his friend.

After Padre Pio had walked a few steps down the hall, he turned around and looked back at Raffaele. He said to him, “May God enlighten you,” and then he continued on his way. Later, Raffaele saw one of the Capuchins and told him about his encounter with Padre Pio. “Padre Pio spoke to me in the corridor and said, “May God enlighten you.” Does he say that very often?” Raffaele asked. “No, he doesn’t,” the Capuchin replied. “I have never heard him say that to anyone before.”

The next day, Raffaele and his friend left San Giovanni Rotondo to return to their homes. Once home, Raffaele could not get the thought of Padre Pio out of his mind. He had been shocked when Padre Pio withheld his hand from him. It caused him to take stock of his life. “May God enlighten you,” were the words that kept resounding in Raffaele’s mind. Why had Padre Pio said that to him? Raffaele admitted to himself that he was in great need of spiritual enlightenment. He was a non-practicing Catholic. His faith life had withered and died due to long years of neglect. Even though he had been baptized a Catholic, he knew practically nothing about the teachings of the Catholic Church. He had never had the slightest interest in studying his faith.

Albino Luciani, the Bishop of Vittorio Veneto who became Pope John Paul 1.

With great anticipation, Raffaele planned his next visit to San Giovanni Rotondo. The only problem was that he did not have the money to make the trip. It was expensive to travel from his home in Vicenza, in the north of Italy, down to the southern area of San Giovanni Rotondo.

A short time later, one of Raffaele’s friends needed 500 lira and asked Raffaele for the money. Raffaele was not in a position to be giving money away. Anyway, he had decided to save any extra money that he could come by so that one day he could return to San Giovanni Rotondo. However, his friend was insistent. Raffaele finally agreed to give him the needed money. Not long after that, his friend returned and handed Raffaele 50,000 lira. He had won a large sum by choosing the correct numbers in a football betting pool. The unexpected money enabled Raffaele to travel to San Giovanni a second time.

Raffaele had to wait five days to make his confession to Padre Pio. When his turn finally came, Padre Pio greeted him and allowed him to kiss his hand. Raffaele’s heart soared. “How many years has it been since you have been to Mass?” Padre Pio asked. “It has been ten years,” Raffaele replied. Upon hearing Raphael’s reply, Padre Pio became stern. He raised his voice and said, “Do not waste my time. Go now!”

There were a number of men standing nearby, waiting in the confessional line. Raffaele was certain that they had heard Padre Pio’s strong words. But strangely, Raffaele did not feel the least bit embarrassed or ashamed. He was not offended by what Padre Pio had said to him. Quite the contrary, he felt a great happiness, a “celestial happiness” welling up in his heart. At that moment, he was exactly where he wanted to be. He was kneeling in front of Padre Pio, looking into his eyes, speaking to him. He could hardly contain his joy.

One of the other Capuchins who was in residence at Our Lady of Grace monastery offered to hear Raffaele’s confession. Afterwards, Raffaele went out and bought a Rosary and a prayer book. Eleven months later, he returned to San Giovanni Rotondo and knelt before Padre Pio in the confessional once again. “Have you been attending Mass?” Padre Pio asked. “Yes, I have gone to Mass every Sunday since I last saw you,” Raffaele replied. “Have you been attending Mass on the Holy Days of Obligation as well?” Padre Pio inquired. “Yes, I have also gone to Mass on every Holy Day of Obligation. I have not missed a single one,” Raffaele answered. Three times Padre Pio exclaimed, “Ah.” It was as though he was saying, “All is well now. All is very good.” For the next ten years, until Padre Pio’s death in 1968, Raffaele traveled twice a year to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend Padre Pio’s Mass and to make his confession.

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Frank Cavicchi had the highest esteem and respect for his spiritual father, Padre Pio. On one occasion, after Frank made his confession to Padre Pio, Padre Pio said to him, “When you go back to your home, I would like you to form a Prayer Group.” Frank agreed to do what Padre Pio asked of him. However, he really had no idea what a Prayer Group was or how to organize one. He imagined that it consisted of a group of people gathered together to pray but he was not entirely sure. As he was thinking about what Padre Pio had just asked him to do and wondering how he would be able to accomplish it, Padre Pio said to him. “Do not worry too much about it. You will manage.” To Frank, it almost seemed like Padre Pio had read his mind.

As soon as Frank left the monastery he walked over to the administration office at Padre Pio’s hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering. It was the headquarters for the worldwide Prayer Groups. He spoke to the person in charge, Miss Lucibelli, and explained all that Padre Pio had said to him. She replied that Padre Pio was in the habit of giving out such tasks. “Do not worry,” Miss Lucibelli said. “Padre Pio knows what he is doing. Since he has given you this job, he will certainly help you to do it.” She gave Frank a booklet with detailed information about the Prayer Groups. He learned that he would need to receive permission from the Bishop of his diocese and would also need to find a priest to act as the spiritual director.

When Frank returned to his home in Vittorio Veneto, he made an appointment with Bishop Albino Luciani. The Bishop listened to Frank’s request but refused the permission. He explained that there had been some unfortunate incidences with the Prayer Groups in the past. The bad conduct of some of the Prayer Group members had caused many problems in the diocese. Because of that, he could not agree to the request. Frank tried his best to persuade Bishop Luciani but he was not able to do so. He returned to his home feeling deeply disappointed. He dreaded telling Padre Pio the news.

About two months later, on August 18, Frank was back in San Giovanni Rotondo. He had an opportunity to speak to Padre Pio once again in the St. Francis room. “What shall I do, Padre?” Frank said. “I tried to organize a Prayer Group like you asked but Bishop Luciani will not give his permission.” “Don’t do anything,” Padre Pio said. “He will call you. You shall have the permission from the Patriarch.” Frank realized immediately that Padre Pio had his facts mixed up and quickly replied, “The “Patriarch” that you refer to has nothing to do with it. He is not the bishop of my diocese but the bishop of Venice. The bishop of my diocese is Bishop Albino Luciani. He is the one that must give the permission for the Prayer Group.” Padre Pio said the same mysterious words once again, “As I told you, you shall have the permission from the Patriarch.”

Padre Pio passed away on September 23, 1968. Almost one year later, Frank received a telephone call from the bishop’s office in Vittorio Veneto stating that Bishop Albino Luciani wanted to speak to him. When Frank arrived at his office, he was delighted to find that the bishop now expressed a sincere interest in the Prayer Groups. He asked Frank to send him all of the available information regarding the rules and regulations of setting up a Prayer Group. He would study the material carefully and if everything seemed to be in order, he planned to give his approval.

At the conclusion of their discussion, as Bishop Luciani was walking Frank to the door, Frank began to tell him about his conversation with Padre Pio several years before regarding the Prayer Groups. Before he could finish his story, the bishop interrupted him. Perhaps he had a number of other appointments scheduled that day and simply did not have any time to spare for lengthy conversations.

A short time later, Frank heard on the radio that Bishop Albino Luciani of Vittorio Veneto had been appointed the Patriarch of Venice. It was a title that held immense prestige and honor. Frank immediately recalled Padre Pio’s words: “You shall have the permission from the Patriarch.”

Shortly after that, Frank met with Bishop Luciani once again. “I give you permission to organize a Prayer Group,” the bishop said. “I entreat you, please do not allow any of the members to become fanatical,” he added. Bishop Luciani was evidently thinking of the unfortunate happenings from the past. Frank assured him that all would be well. Before parting, Frank said, “Your Eminence, if you had allowed me to finish my story when I last spoke to you about Padre Pio, you would have known then that you were going to be appointed the Patriarch of Venice.” Bishop Luciani smiled at Frank but said nothing.

On March 5, 1973, Pope Paul VI elevated Bishop Albino Luciani to the rank of Cardinal. Cardinal Luciani was elected pope on August 26, 1978. He chose the name John Paul I in honor of his two immediate predecessors, Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.

Frank had the good fortune to be able to greet Albino Luciani, now Pope John Paul I, on September 20th 1978 in the Vatican Hall of Audiences after a Wednesday General Audience. Frank was with 150 other pilgrims from Vittorio Veneto, passing through Rome on their way to San Giovanni Rotondo for the occasion of the ten year anniversary of Padre Pio’s death. Pope John Paul I, often called the “smiling pope” because of his kindness and friendly demeanor was declared a Servant of God by his successor, Pope John Paul II, on November 23, 2003, the first step on the road to canonization.

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Capuchin Brother Christopher, OFM, Cap., was one of Padre Pio’s spiritual sons. On one occasion, when Brother Christopher was admitted as a patient to Sydney Hospital in Australia, he had the opportunity to witness a miraculous healing through the intercession of Padre Pio.

There in Sydney Hospital, a young man about twenty years of age occupied a bed in the same ward that Brother Christopher was in. The young man had a good job as a clerical worker at the headquarters of the Peter’s Ice Cream Factory in Redfern, Sidney. Brother Christopher learned that he had been in the hospital for quite some time.

The young man’s condition mystified the medical staff. His temperature use to rise to abnormal degrees, so much so that the nurses had to pack his body in ice in order to reduce his fever. He was unable to hold down any food. The young man’s condition deteriorated rapidly after Brother Christopher’s first ten days in the hospital.

One night around midnight, the young man’s family and girlfriend were summoned to the hospital because his end was near. Since he was a Catholic, the Catholic chaplain from St. Mary’s Cathedral, Father Edmund Campion, was called. After visiting the young man, Father Campion came to Brother Christopher’s bedside and said to him, “Please pray for this young man who is in your ward. He is leaving us tonight. He is not expected to last until morning.”

Brother Christopher promised Father Campion that he would do so. After Father Campion left, Brother Christopher remembered that he had a picture of Padre Pio with him which he had received from San Giovanni Rotondo. He had read of many accounts of miracles that had occurred when Padre Pio’s picture was placed under the pillow of a sick person. He gave the picture to the young man’s family and told them about the holy life of Padre Pio. They thanked Brother Christopher and said they would place the picture under his pillow.

At seven o’clock the next morning, there were startled looks on the faces of the nurses and doctors when they saw that the young man appeared to be strong and healthy. He was able to sit up in his bed and he ate all the food on his tray. He then got out of bed and came over to Brother Christopher and spoke to him for the first time. “I want to thank you for the picture of Padre Pio,” he said. “I feel sure that it saved my life.”

The young man was released from the hospital several days later, completely cured. Before leaving, he and his girlfriend came over to Brother Christopher’s bedside to thank him once again. They promised that they would return to the hospital soon to visit him. But before they were able to do so, Brother Christopher was also released from the hospital.

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Once when Padre Pio was a young priest, he visited a man who was gravely ill. The doctor confided to Padre Pio that the man would not last through the night. Padre Pio prayed at the man’s bedside and gave him his priestly blessing. “It would be a good idea if you made your confession now,” Padre Pio said to the man. “Oh no, I am not going to do that,” the man replied. “Maybe later, when I am feeling better.” Padre Pio made a great effort to convince the man of the importance of making his confession. He tried every approach he could think of as he reasoned with him about the matter. However, the man could not be persuaded.

Padre Pio thought to himself that desperate cases needed desperate remedies. This was definitely a desperate case. He said goodbye to the man and walked toward the door to leave. “We will meet again but the next time we meet, it will be at the cemetery,” Padre Pio said. The man was shocked at his words and asked for an explanation. “Your doctor has told me that your condition is so serious that you will not last through the night,” Padre Pio explained. The man was then able to understand the importance of preparing himself for death and he immediately made his confession. Padre Pio then absolved him and gave him Holy Communion. The man died peacefully that very night.

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Padre Pio visiting some of the patients at the Home for the Relief of Suffering, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.

Aurilio Montalvo of Bolzano, Italy visited San Giovanni Rotondo in order to make his confession to Padre Pio and to attend his Mass. He returned a number of times and felt so inspired that he decided to move there permanently with his wife and four children. He bought a hotel close to the monastery and from the income of the hotel,h e was able to provide for his family and take care of all of their needs.

Aurilio had a brother who was a nonbeliever. He had never met Padre Pio. He visited San Giovanni Rotondo right after Padre Pio passed away. Shortly before Padre Pio’s funeral, he had a desire to view Padre Pio’s body when it was lying in state. However, it was so crowded in the church that the Capuchins decided it would be best to lock the doors. He was never able to see Padre Pio, not even in death.

One day Aurilio and his brother had a talk about Padre Pio. His brother told him that he really had no feeling for Padre Pio. He certainly did not believe that he was a saint. Initially, he admitted that he had felt a certain curiosity about him. But all the talk about Padre Pio left him feeling cold and completely indifferent.

Not long after their conversation, Aurilio’s brother walked over to the church of Our Lady of Grace and sat alone on one of the back benches. Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder and heard a stern voice. He turned to see who it was but there was no one there. He became frightened and immediately got up and moved to another bench the church.

A second time, he heard an authoritative voice and felt someone touch his shoulder. He looked in all directions but there was no one there. He was so frightened that he broke out in a cold sweat. He had no idea what was happening.

The next time Aurilio saw his brother, he heard every detail of the unusual story. “How does someone go about making their confession?” his brother asked. Aurilio was happy to talk to him about the sacrament in great detail. “How does one prepare himself to make his first Holy Communion?” his brother asked. Again, Aurilio was very glad to explain it to him.

That night Aurilio’s brother had a dream. Padre Pio was standing beside him with a Rosary in his hand and taught him how to pray. The dream marked the beginning of his conversion. Right after that, he asked to be received into the Catholic Church. From that time forward, he lived a very devout life.

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I have been meditating on the story of the prodigal son. It is a story about returning. I realize the importance of returning over and over again. My life drifts away from God. I have to return. My heart moves away from my first love. I have to return. My mind wanders to strange images. I have to return. Returning is a lifelong struggle. . . God’s love does not require any explanations about why we are returning. God is glad to see us home and wants to give us all we desire, just for being home. . .so why delay? God is standing there with open arms, waiting to embrace me. He won’t ask any questions about my past. Just having me back is all he desires.

– Henri Nouwen

Testimonies from Issue 70 of the “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” newsletter are taken from the book,“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio – Book II” – by Diane Allen https://www.amazon.com/Pray-Hope-Dont-Worry-Stories/dp/0983710503/

 

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“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 69 – Autumn 2016

Padre Pio and his Friend from Pietrelcina, Italy
– Brother Modestino Fucci

Download Newsletter Issue 69 – Autumn 2016

A photo of Brother Modestino Fucci (on left) and Padre Pio. The two shared a close friendship for twenty-eight years until Padre Pio's death in 1968

A photo of Brother Modestino Fucci (on left) and Padre Pio. The two shared a close friendship for twenty-eight years until Padre Pio’s death in 1968

Modestino Fucci was born in Pietrelcina, Italy on April 17, 1917. The people of Pietrelcina were proud that their town was the birthplace of its most famous citizen, Padre Pio (Francesco Forgione). Modestino’s mother, Anna Fucci, loved to share her memories of growing up in Pietrelcina and having Francesco Forgione and his family for neighbors.

Anna’s family home was very close to the Forgiones’ home. Also, in the countryside of Piana Romana, the two families owned land next to each other. Anna told and retold her stories of Francesco to Modestino and he never tired of hearing them. Modestino’s father also shared his own memories of Francesco on many occasions.

Modestino’s mother, Anna, recalled that as a child, Francesco was quiet and also very devout. Anna described young Francesco as having an “exceptional reserve and a deep spirit of prayer.” She used to observe him as he walked passed her house and she noticed that he always carried a Rosary in his hand. He also spent a lot of time in church, either with his parents or with his grandmother. Anna often visited the Forgione family in their home. From time to time, she invited Francesco to play with her and the other children in the neighborhood, but he usually declined the invitation.

By the time Anna got married and started raising a family, Francesco Forgione had been ordained to the priesthood and was known to everyone as Padre Pio. In Pietrelcina, Padre Pio was regarded by all as a holy priest. Sometimes when he passed by Anna’s house, she would ask him to take care of her little son Antonio and play with him while she took food out to the field workers on her land.

Padre Pio would sit on a stone by the front door of Anna’s house and hold Antonio while she went about her duties. When Antonio grew up, his relatives told him how Padre Pio used to tend to him when he was a baby. Antonio’s esteem for Padre Pio was so great that he preserved the stone that Padre Pio used to sit on, considering it to be a relic.

When Anna’s daughter, Incoronata, was born, Anna decided to postpone her baptism. She would set the baptismal date when her husband returned from military duty. Padre Pio was not happy about her decision. He would say, “Anna, we must make Incoronata a Christian! I want to baptize her.”

Whenever Padre Pio saw Anna, he would bring the subject up to her. The dialogue went on for months. “We must wait until my husband returns from his military duty,” was Anna’s reply. One day Padre Pio said to Anna, “Let’s baptize Incoronata tomorrow. Your husband will be returning tonight.” Anna was very doubtful about Padre Pio’s words, but to her great surprise, at midnight her husband returned home.

The next day Padre Pio blessed and baptized the baby, offering his heartfelt prayers on her behalf. As it turned out, Incoronata’s life was filled with many graces. Later, when Anna heard the news that Padre Pio had received the stigmata, she said that she was not surprised. She explained that she had always known that Padre Pio was a saint. She had known it from the time that she and Padre Pio were children.

The stories that Modestino heard from his mother and father through the years regarding their memories of Padre Pio, made a profound impression on him. His own vocation to religious life came about as a result. Angelo Caccavo, Modestino’s school teacher in Pietrelcina, also shared many interesting anecdotes about his “most famous” student, Padre Pio. After hearing so much about Padre Pio, Modestino had a great desire to meet him.

Modestino was twenty-two years old when he met Padre Pio for the first time. The year was 1940. He traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo to ask Padre Pio for his blessing and his prayers as he had just been called up to serve in the Italian army. His mother, Anna, accompanied him to the monastery.

Modestino and his mother were able to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. With deep emotion, Modestino watched the devout way Padre Pio celebrated Mass. It was the first time he had ever seen a priest shed tears during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Modestino and his mother were also able to make their confession to Padre Pio. Making his confession to Padre Pio, marked a turning point in Modestino’s life and his love for prayer began to intensify. As time passed, he began to have a great desire to dedicate his life totally to God.

For his military service, Modestino was assigned to the Ministry of War in Rome as a postman. His thoughts were constantly on Padre Pio. He often spoke of Padre Pio to the other enlisted men. One day, two officers told Modestino that they would like to meet Padre Pio. Modestino agreed to take both of the officers to San Giovanni Rotondo. One of the men worked at the Ministry of Agriculture and the other was a captain in the army.

Modestino and the two officers were dressed in civilian clothing when they arrived at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace. They soon saw Padre Pio. Before Modestino could introduce his two friends, Padre Pio looked at the two men and said jokingly, “Oh, the poor army. Oh, the poor agriculture department!” They were amazed that he knew their military standing since they had never met him before. Modestino and his two companions fell to their knees and asked Padre Pio for a blessing. Padre Pio blessed the men and assured them of his protection.

Afterward, the three men departed to return to Rome. Shortly before their arrival in Rome, the train that they were traveling in was bombarded. Every part of the train was destroyed except for the compartment that Modestino and the two officers occupied. They thought of Padre Pio and how he had said that he would protect them.

During the time of his military service, Modestino spent his free time praying in the church of St. Francesca Romana in Rome. After much prayer and reflection, he felt that he had a calling to the religious life and he spoke about it to a priest, Father Placido Lugano. Father Lugano assured him that the Benedictines in Rome would be very happy to welcome him into their Order. Modestino wanted to join the Benedictines but before he made his final decision, he wanted to talk about it with Padre Pio.

While on leave from military service, Modestino went to Pietrelcina to see his family. After being with his family, he made plans to visit Padre Pio. He did not have the money for transportation to San Giovanni Rotondo so he decided to walk the twenty-five mile distance. There were five other men from Pietrelcina who accompanied him on the journey. They were glad for the opportunity to visit Padre Pio. Along the way they experienced hunger, thirst, and great fatigue. They offered up all of the discomforts of their journey as a sacrifice to God.

During the days of their visit, Padre Pio often spoke to Modestino and his friends in a small sitting room adjoining the little church of Our Lady of Grace. He spoke with great love about Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the guardian angels. Modestino and his friends shared news with Padre Pio regarding their mutual acquaintances in Pietrelcina. During the visit, Modestino had intended to speak to Padre Pio about the calling he felt to join the Benedictines, but the right moment never presented itself.

After a two week stay in San Giovanni Rotondo, when it was time for Modestino and his friends to make the journey back to Pietrelcina, they found it hard to say goodbye to Padre Pio. They also felt a certain dread, thinking of the hardships of the long walk home. Padre Pio noticed their hesitancy to leave and told them not worry about the return journey. “Divine Providence will come to your assistance,” Padre Pio said. That very day, Modestino and his friends learned that a car would soon be arriving from Pietrelcina. It was bringing the belongings of Padre Pio’s brother, Michael Forgione, who was moving to San Giovanni Rotondo. Arrangements were made so that the driver could take Modestino and his companions back to Pietrelcina the next day.

That evening at the monastery, Tenino, the driver, developed a high fever. Modestino was with Padre Pio when the thought came into his mind that the return trip to Pietrelcina would be cancelled. The moment that Modestino had the thought, Padre Pio turned to him and said, “You will definitely be going back to Pietrelcina tomorrow!” Padre Pio then asked Father Bernardo to take Tonino’s temperature for a second time. Father Bernardo did so and found that he still had a high fever. A short time later, Padre Pio shook the thermometer and took Tonino’s temperature himself. His fever had gone down significantly. Those who were present were amazed at the rapid improvement in Tonino’s condition. The next day, Tonino felt well enough to drive Modestino and the others back to Pietrelcina.

In the summer of 1945, Modestino had the opportunity to spend one year living and working in San Giovanni Rotondo. He found board and room with a local family in exchange for his services to them. Every day, using a horse and carriage, he would transport the family members to their jobs and would pick them up again in the evening. During the day, he was free assist at Padre Pio’s Mass in the morning and to spend time with him each afternoon.

Brother Modestino encountered many difficulties on his new job. Some of the members of the family that he worked for, tried his patience to the limit. One day he became so upset that he told the family he was quitting. He spoke to Padre Pio about it and asked him for advice. Padre Pio said to him, “Son, you know that I care about you. What you want from me, you will have!” Then he embraced Modestino in a loving and fatherly way. For a moment, Modestino rested his head on Padre Pio’s chest. Suddenly, he was able to let go of all the bitterness and resentment that had been festering in his heart.

Brother Modestino finally found the right moment to talk to Padre Pio about his desire to join the Benedictine congregation in Rome. However, Padre Pio was not pleased with the news. The reason for his disapproval was not entirely clear to Modestino. They discussed the matter together every day. Padre Pio left Modestino free to make his own choice. “If you want to join the Benedictines in Rome, then join,” Padre Pio said. “I will not try to stop you. But I will not give you my blessing. Remember this, if you decide to go there, a great disaster awaits you.”

Modestino did not know what Padre Pio meant by the mysterious statement, but the words frightened him. He decided to reconsider his plan. He finally made the decision to become a Capuchin lay brother. When he went to the monastery and told Padre Pio the news, Padre Pio was deeply moved. In their great joy, they both wept. A few years later, Modestino learned the sad news that there was indeed a “great disaster” that occurred at the Benedictine monastery of Saint Francesca Romana in Rome. Robbers broke into the monastery and tragically, several of the friars were killed.

After completing the required studies in the Capuchin novitiate, Modestino (now Brother Modestino) was assigned to the monastery in Pietrelcina as a lay brother. There were a number of challenges to be faced at his first assignment and he shared his concerns with Padre Pio. Padre Pio embraced him and said, “My son, you must act in obedience to your superiors. I will always be with you and St. Francis will watch over you.”

Brother Modestino kept very busy with his assigned duties in Pietrelcina. One day, he visited his father who had just returned to Pietrelcina from San Giovanni Rotondo. His father, who was ill at the time, told Brother Modestino that before he left the monastery, he asked Padre Pio when he would see him again. Padre Pio told him that they would meet again in the next world.

The remark was mysterious, to be sure. Brother Modestino wondered what Padre Pio’s words meant but he did not have to wait long to find out. The very next morning, his father had a stroke and passed away.

The next time Brother Modestino traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo, he asked Padre Pio about his father. “Is my father in heaven?” he asked. “Your father did not live a blameless life. He has to expiate for his sins,” Padre Pio replied. Modestino understood then that his father was in purgatory and he began to offer many prayers and sacrifices for his father’s soul. Several months later, Padre Pio sent a message to Brother Modestino through one of the Capuchins and said, “Tell Brother Modestino that his father is saved. Brother Modestino’s prayers saved him. He is now in heaven.”

Capuchin Brothers and Priests gather at the tomb of Brother Modestino Fucci. He is buried at the Capuchins' Holy Family church in Pietreicina, Italy

Capuchin Brothers and Priests gather at the tomb of Brother Modestino Fucci. He is buried at the Capuchins’ Holy Family church in Pietreicina, Italy

In Pietrelcina, Brother Modestino was acquainted with a childhood friend of Padre Pio’s, Nicola La Banca. Nicola’s wife, Filomena once told Brother Modestino an interesting story about Padre Pio. Filomena had great faith in Padre Pio and on one occasion when Nicola was suffering from a terrible toothache, she advised him to pray to Padre Pio. Nicola was out of sorts due to the persistent pain and was in no mood to take advice from his wife. He became so irritated that he began cursing. He picked up a shoe and threw it against a picture of Padre Pio that hung on their wall.

Years later, Nicola and Filomena traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo. Nicola was able to make his confession to Padre Pio. When he finished his confession, Padre Pio indicated that there was something else he needed to confess. Nicola did not understand. Padre Pio then reminded him of the incident long past. “Nicola, you threw a shoe at me with great force! Did you think I could feel the blow as far away as San Giovanni Rotondo?” Deeply embarrassed, Nicola could only respond, “I had a toothache.” “But why did you take it out on me?” Padre Pio asked.

On one occasion, Brother Modestino accompanied a group of children from the city of Agnone to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. It was in the summer time and it happened to be a very hot day. The children were all wearing shorts. When they arrived at the monastery, Brother Modestino was told that Padre Pio was in the garden visiting with friends. Brother Modestino took the children into the garden and asked Padre Pio to give them a blessing. “But the children are not properly dressed,” Padre Pio replied. “First, let them dress themselves properly. Even though they are young, they have to learn to keep their dignity.”

Another time, Brother Modestino was present when a man came to the confessional in a short-sleeved shirt. Padre Pio would not receive him. He told him to put on a long-sleeved shirt and then return and he would hear his confession.

Brother Modestino made his confession to Padre Pio on many occasions. He always made an examination of conscience before entering theconfessional. He had a tendency to be overly scrupulous and often worried that he might have forgotten some of his sins that needed to be confessed. The thought of it caused him a great deal of torment. Brother Modestino decided to jot his sins down on a piece of paper. That way, when he was making his confession, if he forgot anything, he would simply look at his paper and it would be an instant reminder.

Padre Pio was aware of Brother Modestino’s tendency toward scrupulosity and he wanted him to overcome it. In the confessional, when Brother Modestino reached in his pocket and pulled out the paper with his list of sins on it, Padre Pio became stern. “This is not a deed executed in front of a notary,” Padre Pio said. “Put that paper away now!” Brother Modestino did as he was told.

Brother Modestino kneels in prayer in Padre Pio's cell at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace.

Brother Modestino kneels in prayer in Padre Pio’s cell at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace.

Brother Modestino visited Padre Pio in his cell on many occasions. Padre Pio’s cell was a reflection of true “Franciscan simplicity.” It contained just the bare essentials. He had an iron bed with a thin mattress. A small table in the room held his books and religious articles. A painting of Our Lady of Purity hung on the wall near his bed. Padre Pio’s cell had what Brother Modestino referred to as a “mystical silence.” Brother Modestino felt the presence of God whenever he entered Padre Pio’s cell.

Once, Brother Modestino visited Padre Pio in his cell and found him stretched out on his bed in great pain. He told Brother Modestino that he was suffering from a kidney problem. On another occasion, Padre Pio complained to Brother Modestino of a terrible pain in his stomach. “Even though I have eaten so little today, nevertheless, I have this stomach pain,” Padre Pio said

That particular evening, it happened to be snowing. It was cold inside of Padre Pio’s cell, but even so, Brother Modestino noticed that Padre Pio was perspiring. “I am burning up,” he said to Brother Modestino. “I do not wish this on anyone. If you only knew how much I suffer!” On another occasion, with tears in his eyes, Padre Pio said to Brother Modestino, “Son, my life is one continuous martyrdom.”

Not only was Padre Pio’s fragile health a source of continual suffering, there were also many other trials in his life that tested him to the limit. Once, Padre Pio confided to Brother Modestino how oppressive it was to have crowds of people pursuing him all the time. “Even someone who is in prison is given some time each day to have a few moments of privacy and freedom,” Padre Pio said. “But I am watched and followed all the time. I don’t have even a moment to myself!” Brother Modestino felt very sorry for him but there was nothing he could do.

Brother Modestino’s esteem for Padre Pio continually increased with the passing of the years. Making his confession to Padre Pio and receiving spiritual direction from him was always a grace-filled experience. But it was by attending Padre Pio’s Mass that Brother Modestino came to realize the true greatness of Padre Pio and the power of his prayers.

Padre Pio seemed to be restless when he entered the sacristy each morning. As he put on his priestly vestments in preparation for the Mass, he became completely unaware of what was going on around him. He did not want to talk. If anyone asked him a question or spoke to him for any reason, he would not respond.

Padre Pio’s face was pale and sorrowful when he left the sacristy. When he got to the top of the steps and kissed the altar, the color came back into his cheeks. At the Confiteor of the Mass, when, in unison with the congregation, he asked for forgiveness for his sins, his eyes filled with tears.

Padre Pio's shirt with stains of blood from the stigmata.

Padre Pio’s shirt with stains of blood from the stigmata.

Brother Modestino knew that Padre Pio suffered, not only from the five wounds of the stigmata, but also from the crowning of thorns, the scourging, and the shoulder wound. In January 1945, Brother Modestino was the altar server at Padre Pio’s Mass. He was standing very close to Padre Pio at the altar when he noticed that little boils had appeared on his forehead, similar to thorn pricks. He saw Padre Pio touch his fingers to his forehead as though trying to remove something that was bothering him. Brother Modestino also saw a small cross in the center of Padre Pio’s forehead.

Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968. As one devotee said, “God called Padre Pio at the end of an intense life and at the end of a hard day.” After Padre Pio’s death, the Capuchins felt that it was important to preserve his personal belongings for posterity. Brother Modestino was given the job of transferring Padre Pio’s priestly vestments, the sacred vessels he used at Mass, his clothing, and his personal possessions into special protective storage containers. Everything had to be identified, catalogued, numbered and dated. A declaration of authenticity was attached to each of the items.

As Brother Modestino carried out the task, he saw with his own eyes, the marks of Christ’s Passion on many of the articles of Padre Pio’s clothing. He saw large bloodstains on Padre Pio’s white cotton socks. Five handkerchiefs that had belonged to Padre Pio were stained with tears and blood. Three of the handkerchiefs had been used by Padre Pio to wipe the perspiration from his brow. There were also numerous pieces of bloodstained linen cloth that Padre Pio had used to cover his heart wound.

Brother Modestino discovered blood on Padre Pio’s woolen undershirt on the right shoulder area. He remembered that on one occasion when he and Padre Pio were talking, Padre Pio had confided to him how painful it was for him to change his clothes. Padre Pellegrino Funicelli once told Brother Modestino that on several occasions when he had helped Padre Pio change his woolen undershirt, he had seen a round bruise on his shoulder, sometimes on the left shoulder and sometimes on the right.

It made Brother Modestino very sad to sort and inventory Padre Pio’s personal items. He often cried as he transferred Padre Pio’s clothing into the storage containers. One shirt in particular stood out among all the others for the large amount of blood. The shirt was made of linen and had long sleeves. It had been worn by Padre Pio on Good Friday in 1921.

It was just three years earlier that Padre Pio had received the stigmata. It happened on the morning of September 20, 1918. The feast of the stigmatization of St. Francis had beencelebrated a few days before, on September 17. Padre Pio was all alone in the church of Our Lady of Grace on Friday, September 20. The superior, Padre Paolino of Casacalenda was out of town. Brother Nicola was also away that morning. All of the students of the Seraphic Boarding School were outside in the monastery courtyard for their period of recreation.

As was his habit, Padre Pio had gone up to the choir loft to make his thanksgiving after Mass. In plain sight was the crucifix that was a permanent fixture in the church. It had been carved from cypress wood by an unknown 17th century sculptor. In a profound way, the sculptor had been able to capture the agony of the dying Christ. On that Friday morning, as Padre Pio prayed in the quiet church, he received the wounds of Christ.

The next day, September 21, Padre Pio’s spiritual daughter, Nina Campanile spoke to Padre Pio in the sacristy of the church. She asked him to say a Mass for her sister, Vittoria, who was gravely ill. As she handed the Mass offering to him, she noticed what looked like a burn mark on the back of his hand. When she commented on it, he quickly hid his hand under his sleeve.

The following day, Nina went to Father Paolino, the superior of the monastery, and told him that Padre Pio had received the stigmata. She explained to him that she had seen the marks on Padre Pio’s hand. Father Paolino was certain that Nina was mistaken. But some days later, he decided to find out for himself. One day, unannounced, Father Paolino visited Padre Pio in his cell. He took a close look at his hands and saw the wounds that Nina had described to him. Father Paolino did not question Padre Pio about it. Instead, he immediatelynotified the provincial, Father Benedetto, and asked him to come at once to the monastery.

Father Benedetto instructed Father Paolino not to speak to anyone else about the marks of the stigmata that he had seen on Padre Pio’s hands. He did not want the information to be made public. Even Father Agostino Daniele, who had been close to Padre Pio for years, was not told about the matter.

Father Paolino then spoke to Nina Campanile and stressed to her the importance of keeping the matter a strict secret. But Nina felt the need to tell her mother and sisters about the extraordinary incidence. Over the next several months, more people learned about it. People also noticed the open wounds on Padre Pio’s hands when he celebrated Mass. Gradually the news spread to the surrounding towns. Eventually the news spread to the whole world.

Father Benedetto wrote a letter to Padre Pio, telling him to send back a full account of what had happened on September 20. Padre Pio was compelled to write the details in obedience to Father Benedetto. He wrote back to Father Benedetto on October 22 and explained for the first time, what had happened:

I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with great peace and abandonment which effaced everything else . . . All of this happened in a flash. Padre Pio went on to say in the letter that he suddenly saw a mysterious “Exalted Being” whose appearance was similar to the personage who had pierced his side with a lance one month before, on August 5. The difference was that on September 20, the hands, feet, and side of the “Exalted Being” were dripping with blood. Looking at the mysterious person filled Padre Pio with terror and he believed that he was going to die. He felt sure that he would have died if the Lord had not come to his aide and strengthened him. The vision vanished and Padre Pio discovered that his own hands, feet, and side were dripping with blood.

Later, Padre Pio’s longtime friend from Pietrelcina, Father Giuseppe (Peppino) Orlando, questioned him about the stigmatization. Padre Pio’s eyes filled with tears and his lips trembled when he spoke to Father Orlando about it. He said that on the morning of September 20, as he was praying in the choir loft, he saw a brilliant light. In the middle of the light appeared the wounded Christ. The wounded Christ was the same “mysterious Exalted Being” that he referred to in his letter to Father Benedetto. Christ did not speak to him.

When the vision was over, Padre Pio found himself on the floor. His hands, feet, and side were bleeding. He was in so much pain that he did not have the strength to get up. Finally, and with great effort, he made his way slowly back to his cell. Once in his cell, he cleaned the blood from his wounds, changed his habit, and then, in his weakened state, laid down on his bed.

Pope Benedict XVI gazes at the wooden crucifix in the chapel of OUr Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotindo. Padre Pio was praying in front of this crucifix when he received the wounds of Christ, the stigmata.

Pope Benedict XVI gazes at the wooden crucifix in the chapel of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio was praying in front of this crucifix when he received the wounds of Christ, the stigmata.

Years later, another one of Padre Pio’s close friends, Father Raffaele of Sant’ Elia a Pianisi, had a conversation with him about the stigmata. Padre Pio told Father Raffaele that on September 20, the wooden crucifix that was in the monastery church was suddenly transformed into the living Christ. Rays of light and flames of fire then issued forth from the wounds in Christ’s body and pierced Padre Pio’s hands and feet. Because Padre Pio rarely ever spoke about the subject, the information he shared with Father Orlando and the additional details he told Father Raffaele are very valuable.

The marks of the stigmata would remain imprinted on Padre Pio’s body for fifty years. During those years, the wounds kept their symmetry, never changing in size or depth. They never became infected. They never widened. They never healed. Dr. Giorgio Festa, who was sent from Rome to examine the wounds in 1919, stated that the blood had the fragrance of perfume. He also observed “a luminous radiation” (rays of light) along the border of the wounds. The supernatural characteristics of Padre Pio’s stigmata could not be explained. As had been stated, “Padre Pio’s wounds and their emission of blood came to be regarded as a prolonged miracle.”

Some people had almost a romanticized idea of Padre Pio’s stigmata, but the Capuchins who took care of him knew the truth about it. They said that the wounds were frightening, even terrible to look at. Father Alessio described Padre Pio’s hands as being corroded and torn. They reminded him of a leper’s hands. Father Alessio said, “I had always wished to see Padre Pio’s hands but once I saw them I prayed, “God, don’t ever let me see his hands again.” Father Eusebio Notte had a similar experience. “I assure you that the sight of Padre Pio’s stigmatized hands will never be erased from my memory,” Father Eusebio said. “Likewise, I will never be able to forget his gashed chest.”

Toward the end of Padre Pio’s life, the stigmata began to slowly disappear. On September 22, during Padre Pio’s last Mass, it was observed that the wound on his right hand had disappeared completely. However, there were still visible scabs on his left hand. Not only were his hands seen by the people who attended his Mass that morning, they were also captured on film.

Dr. Francesco Lotti, the head pediatrician at the Home for the Relief of Suffering, had received permission to film Padre Pio’s Mass on September 22. He felt especially happy to receive the permission because his sons happened to be the altar servers for that Mass. No one suspected that it was to be Padre Pio’s last Mass. In the film, which is truly a gift to posterity, Padre Pio’s hands are clearly visible. Before the Mass was over, several of the scabs had fallen from his left hand.

Dr. Giuseppe Sala, who was Padre Pio’s personal physician, was present at the time of Padre Pio’s death. There was still one scab on the palm of his left hand. Ten minutes after he died, there were no longer any signs of the stigmata. The skin on his hands, feet, and side, where the wounds had been, was now smooth and regenerated, uniform in color, and soft to the touch. There was no scarring whatsoever.

We will never be able to truly comprehend all of the profound mystical aspects of Padre Pio’s life, and even his death. Capuchin Father Aldo Broccato wrote: “The mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection is the central mystery of the Catholic faith. It is the mystery to which we always have to look so that we will not forget the meaning of our life. Padre Pio for more than fifty years was marked with the signs of the stigmata that identified him with Christ and made him an image of the Crucifix. In reality, our world needs saints who will witness with their lives, the mystery of Christ’s resurrection. If we honor St. Pio of Pietrelcina, it is because he confirms that the resurrection follows the painful moments of the Cross. This is the path toward holiness.”

Pray a great deal for me as I am living constantly on the Cross of the Lord, in the midst of those whom he has confided to me.
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

The above story, Padre Pio and his Friend from Pietrelcina, Italy:
Brother Modestino Fucci is taken from the book “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry:
True Stories of Padre Pio Book II” by Diane Allen
www.amazon.com/Pray-Hope-Dont-Worry-Stories/dp/0983710503/

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“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 68 – July 2016

Padre Pio and his Friend from Donegal, Ireland –
John McCaffery –  Part II

Download Newsletter Issue 68 July – September 2016

Padre Pio Newsletter Issue 68

Padre Pio walks arm in arm with Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti. Elena Bandini is on the right.

On John McCaffery’s many visits to San Giovanni Rotondo, he met a number of people who were very close friends of Padre Pio. One was Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti. Dr. Sanguinetti was one of the major collaborators in the building of Padre Pio’s hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering.

One day when John was at the monastery, he was  happy to run into Dr. Sanguinetti as well as one other acquaintance. Dr. Sanguinetti suggested that the three of them go to the small room adjoining the choir loft and discuss some of the upcoming plans for the Home for the Relief of Suffering. At the time, Dr. Sanguinetti was heavily burdened with many difficult decisions that he had to make regarding the hospital. He was trying to raise funds, publish an informational newspaper regarding the hospital, and oversee the construction plans.

The informal business meeting that Dr. Sanguinetti suggested would cause the men to miss the sermon that was about to begin in the church. However, they would be finished with their discussion by the time Padre Pio was ready to preside at Benediction. “You know, the sermons of the visiting Capuchin are boring,” Dr. Sanguinetti said. “I am not able to stay awake when he is preaching. We will just talk together quietly while the sermon is going on. When we hear Mary Pyle and her choir start to sing, it will be our cue to go in the church for Benediction.”

The plan sounded like a good one, but the men would soon regret it. When Padre Pio rounded the corner and saw the three men discussing business together, he became angry. John and his two companions instantly regretted their decision, but it was too late. “How could you do it?” Padre Pio said. “How could you have a discussion while the Capuchin is preaching a sermon? You must go downstairs at once to the church!” The tension in the air was mounting by the minute. To the men, it seemed like Padre Pio had overreacted. Nevertheless, they followed his advice and went into the church.  Later, John and Dr. Sanguinetti would recall the incident and see the humor in it, but at the time it happened, it was no laughing matter.

Through the years, John observed that Dr. Sanguinetti always seemed to feel totally at ease whenever he was with Padre Pio. That was rare. Because almost everyone had a certain awe of Padre Pio, it was very difficult for most people to feel completely comfortable in his presence. Not Dr. Sanguinetti. He was able to be truly natural, truly “himself.” Knowing that, Padre Pio could let his guard down and could relax in his company. It was something that he was not able to do with many people.

Once, John and Dr. Sanguinetti were saying goodbye to Padre Pio after visiting him. Padre Pio suddenly became serious. For some time, he stared intently at John and at Dr. Sanguinetti and finally said to them, “Who knows when and where we will meet again.” John wondered what Padre Pio meant by the mysterious comment. Shortly after that and quite unexpectedly, Dr. Sanguinetti died of a heart attack. His death came as a terrible blow to Padre Pio and it left a great void in his heart. It seemed that no one was able to console Padre Pio over the loss of his dear friend.

Several months later, John returned to San Giovanni Rotondo for a visit. When Padre Pio saw John, he began to cry. They went into a private room in the monastery so that they could talk together. “You probably did not think that you would ever see me in a state such as this,” Padre Pio said to John. The tears flowed freely from his eyes. “We lost our good friend,” Padre Pio added. “Unlike you or me, God saw that Dr. Sanguinetti was ready to be with Him in eternal life.” John tried to comfort Padre Pio in his sorrow but no words could console him.

Padre Pio Newsletter 68

Pope John Paul II greets staff on a visit to Padre Pio’s hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering in 1987.

In addition to Dr. Sanguinetti, another one of Padre Pio’s spiritual children that John felt fortunate to meet was a woman named Elena Bandini. Elena, a Third Order Franciscan, had dedicated herself totally to her faith and to many charitable and apostolic works. She began writing to Padre Pio and seeking his spiritual direction in 1921. In 1937, she moved from her home in Mugello to live permanently in San Giovanni Rotondo. She served Padre Pio’s apostolate in innumerable ways.

When Elena was diagnosed with stomach cancer, her strength of character and her heroic spirit became apparent to all. The suffering that Elena endured was almost unbearable. However, she did not pray for a healing. She offered all of her sufferings to God and united them to Padre Pio’s sufferings, for his intentions. John visited Elena right before she died. His heart was moved with pity to see her in so much pain. Her resignation to her illness was beautiful and her profound spirituality was evident, even on her death bed.

Finally, Elena’s sufferings became so intense that she prayed to Padre Pio that her end would come. “It will just be a little longer. Just a little more straw to burn,” Padre Pio said. Elena finally passed away on October 5, 1955. John spoke to Padre Pio about her death. “Elena was such a saintly person,” John said. “She lived a holy life and she died a holy death. I believe that she went straight to heaven.” Two large tears rolled down Padre Pio’s cheeks. “Oh yes, that is true,” Padre Pio replied. “Elena went to heaven with no stop at all!”

During one of his visits to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, John met a man named Giovanni and soon they became fast friends. Giovanni was known simply as Giovanni da Prato, since he was originally from Prato, Italy. He had a deep conversion experience through his contact with Padre Pio and was able to completely reform his life.

Giovanni da Prato drove a taxi for a living and in times past, he had a serious drinking problem. When he drank too much, he would often become violent. Once, after an evening of excessive drinking, he struck his wife and then collapsed in a drunken stupor across the bed. Suddenly, he felt the bed moving. He looked up to see a Capuchin, holding onto the bed rail and shaking the bed. The Capuchin, who had a very angry look on his face, was staring directly at Giovanni. “You have gone too far this time!” the dark-robed figure said to Giovanni. With that, the Capuchin disappeared.

Giovanni told his wife about the mysterious Capuchin who had stood beside his bed. “I have been praying to a priest named Padre Pio,” his wife said. “I have been invoking his presence so that he will protect me against your drunken rages.” Later, she admitted that she had sewn a picture of Padre Pio inside Giovanni’s pillow case. His wife’s words aroused his curiosity. He got in his taxi and made the long journey from Tuscany to San Giovanni Rotondo. He had to find out if Padre Pio was the same man that he had seen in his bedroom.

When Giovanni arrived at the little church of Our Lady of Grace, he noticed many people standing both inside and outside the church with rosaries in their hands. The sight of it was disgusting to him. He assumed that they were all religious fanatics. Giovanni had very little respect for people who claimed to have faith. He had always considered religion to be a matter of superstition. As an active member of the Communist party, Giovanni had spent years persecuting people who professed religious faith.

Giovanni was standing in the sacristy of the church when he saw Padre Pio for the first time. He immediately recognized him as the man who had stood beside his bed. “So, the mangy old sheep has arrived!” Padre Pio said when he saw Giovanni. It was definitely not a warm welcome.

Giovanni wanted to speak to Padre Pio privately. Ever since he had the strange experience of seeing Padre Pio in his home, he had begun to think about the meaning of life. If faith was important and if God really existed, Giovanni wanted to discuss the matter with Padre Pio. He was told that the only way to do so was to go to confession to him. He decided to take the plunge.

In the confessional, Giovanni was shocked to hear Padre Pio say to him, “You must leave at once. I cannot hear your confession. You must find another priest. I do not want to go to hell for you!” After hearing the harsh words, Giovanni had no peace of mind. He was angry at Padre Pio for speaking to him in such a cutting manner, but after a short time, his anger subsided. He desperately needed some answers to his questions and he felt that Padre Pio was the one person who could supply them.

Giovanni felt at a total loss as to what to do next. He could not bring himself to make his confession to another priest. He had heard that Padre Pio’s parents, Grazio and Giuseppa Forgione were buried in the local cemetery. He walked to the cemetery and was able to find their graves. He wanted to say a prayer to them but he did not know how to pray. He had never said a prayer in his life. Instead, he lit two candles, one for Grazio and one for Giuseppa. He spoke to them from his heart, “You are Padre Pio’s parents. Please tell your son to accept me as one of his spiritual children. I want to change my life and I also long to hear a kind word from him.”

One morning, after Giovanni attended Padre Pio’s Mass, Padre Pio spoke to him briefly. He tapped Giovanni on the head and said to him, “It is not true what you were thinking in the church today, ignoramus! I want you to learn how to pray the Rosary!” Obediently, Giovanni went and bought a little devotional book with instructions on how to pray the Rosary.

Not long after, Padre Pio heard Giovanni’s confession. For the sins that Giovanni had forgotten, Padre Pio named them for him. During his confession, Giovanni broke down and cried. Padre Pio cried as well. Giovanni handed his Communist party membership card to Padre Pio and asked him to throw it away. Padre Pio said, “Yes, that is good. I will indeed destroy it.” Giovanni invited many of his former Communist friends to visit the monastery. He introduced them to Padre Pio and many were converted.

Padre Pio explained to Giovanni that he had hurt a lot of people and needed to make amends for his past sins. He told Giovanni that he must go to the last Mass each Sunday until further notice. At that time, the fasting rules of the church were such that one had to fast from midnight until the time one received Holy Communion the following day. That meant that every Sunday, Giovanni would have to fast from the previous night until the end of the next day.

Everyone without exception went to Sunday Mass in the morning, in part because of the strict fasting rules. People were generally quite hungry after fasting from midnight the night before. They usually went directly home after Mass in order to have breakfast. No one received Holy Communion at midday or at the end of the day. For Giovanni, not only was the penance difficult, it was also humiliating. As he walked down the aisle to the communion rail all by himself and knelt there alone, he felt embarrassed. He had to endure the rude remarks of the people in the church who whispered together about him and stared at him curiously.

Giovanni’s penance lasted for almost one year. He never asked that the length of time be shortened and he completed it without a complaint. At the end of the year, he spoke to Padre Pio and told him how happy he was that his penance was finally over. Padre Pio said to him, “Giovanni, I too suffered during that year. I was stretched out on the cross and I shed my blood for you.”

Giovanni wanted to live his new found faith to the fullest. He knew that Padre Pio was interceding for him and helping him to turn away from sin. Most of his destructive behaviors fell away easily. He stopped using profanities in his speech and he made many other positive changes in his life. There were a few bad habits, however, that he found difficult to break. He spoke to Padre Pio about it. Padre Pio said to him, “Giovanni, you put in your good will and I will take care of the rest of it.”

Giovanni visited the monastery as often as he could. Sometimes he would reflect on his life and say to himself, “Why am I so captivated by this elderly priest? Why have I left everything for him?” Giovanni knew in his heart that he would never return to his former way of living. On several occasions, while sitting in the little church of Our Lady of Grace, he had seen Padre Pio’s face shining with an unearthly beauty. He asked one of the pilgrims if he had ever seen the radiance on Padre Pio’s face. “Indeed I have seen the same thing,” the man replied. Giovanni spoke to Padre Pio about it. “Father, your face is so very beautiful.” “Why would you say something like that to me?” was Padre Pio’s only reply.

One day at the monastery, Giovanni was present when Padre Pio and some of his fellow Capuchins were talking together. The subject of Padre Pio’s stigmata came up. “Tell us how you received the stigmata,” one of the Capuchins said to Padre Pio, but he made no reply. Several of the Capuchins gave their opinion on the matter and each one had a different idea. “It was the crucifix in the choir loft of the church that imprinted the wounds of Christ on Padre Pio’s body,” one of the Capuchins stated. “And what do you think happened, Giovanni?” Padre Pio asked. “I have a different thought about it than the others,” Giovanni replied. “I think that Jesus came down from heaven and embraced you. At his embrace, you received the stigmata.” “You are closer than all of the others in your explanation,” Padre Pio replied. But he would make no other comment.

John McCaffery had an adventure with Giovanni da Prato on one occasion that he would never forget. One day, he happened to see Giovanni at the monastery. Giovanni told John that he had a great desire to see Padre Pio that day. “Oh, but it is impossible,” John replied. “Padre Pio is sick and confined to his cell. No one is allowed to visit him today.” “I will tell you a secret if you promise not to tell anyone,” Giovanni said. “I happen to have a key that leads to the monks’ cells.” “How on earth did you manage to get a key?” John asked. But Giovanni would not answer the question. “Don’t worry about how I got the key. Let’s just try our luck!” Giovanni said.

Giovanni’s bold and daring spirit gave John the courage he needed to do something that was very much against the rules. The two men walked past the “no visitors allowed” sign in the monastery and unlocked the door that led to the cloister. They walked down the hall very quietly so as not to arouse attention and then opened the door to Padre Pio’s cell. Once inside, they saw that Padre Pio was all alone. They spent just a few moments with him. Padre Pio received them kindly and gave them each a blessing. Giovanni had received his heart’s desire.

On one occasion, John told Padre Pio about a brand-new book that had just been published in Ireland. “What is the book about?” Padre Pio asked. “It is a book about you,” John replied. At John’s words, Padre Pio became distraught. With tears in his eyes he said, “You are the ones who are good. Not me. I know that God has given me many graces. But it frightens me to think about it because I do not think that I have made good use of the gifts that I have been given. I think that anyone else would have made better use of them than I have.” John tried to convince him otherwise but he was not able to change Padre Pio’s mind.

During John’s visits to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, he came in contact with a number of people who had received miracles through the hands of Padre Pio. John witnessed some of the miraculous cures with his own eyes, including the complete healing of a man who had throat cancer. The pain of the man’s illness was intense and he was only able to speak in a hoarse whisper. As his disease progressed, his speech became completely inaudible. It even became difficult for him to breathe.

The man and his wife had moved from Milan to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to be close to Padre Pio. Every day, he stood in the sacristy, waiting for Padre Pio as he passed through the sacristy to the church. When Padre Pio came into view, the man would simply look at him and in silence, he would pray to him for healing. But the man’s faith was put to the test. He had been suffering from the disease for over a year, and his condition was growing steadily worse.

One evening, when the man was in bed and trying to sleep, the pain of his disease became intolerable. He had the sensation that he was suffocating. Try as he might, he could not seem to get enough air. He became so desperate that he got out of bed and went to the monastery. The monastery door was locked, so he rang the bell. When one of the Capuchins came to the door, the man pleaded with him and said, “I have to see Padre Pio. I am very sick and I need his help!” “But the church is closed for the night,” the Capuchin replied. “Padre Pio is in the choir praying his night Office. No one can speak to him at this late hour. You must come back tomorrow.”

The man’s pleadings finally touched the heart of the Capuchin and he led him to the choir loft where Pio was praying with the rest of his religious community. At once, Padre Pio saw the pitiful condition the man was in and got up from his prayers and walked toward him. Weeping, the man threw himself on his knees before Padre Pio. Padre Pio then placed his hand on the man’s head in a blessing. At Padre Pio’s touch, all of his pain disappeared. He felt an intense joy coursing through his body. The feeling was so overwhelming that he did not think that he could endure it. He wrenched himself away from Padre Pio and stood up. Padre Pio evidently was aware of the blessing that the man had received for he smiled at him and said, “That surely was beautiful, wasn’t it! But now you must go back to your home and go to bed because it is late.”

Padre Pio later advised the man to have surgery in the city of Bologna and gave him the name of a highly-skilled doctor who could help him. The man followed Padre Pio’s advice and had the operation. The next time he returned to the monastery, his voice was strong and he had regained all of his former vitality. He said that the doctor had given him a clean bill of health. John was amazed to see the complete transformation in the man.

John was a witness to another miracle, which concerned a man from Lecco, Italy who was blind. The man visited Padre Pio and begged him for his intercessory prayers. The man knelt down and implored Padre Pio saying, “Even if sight returns to only one eye, I would be so grateful and so satisfied.” He kept repeating the words. Padre Pio answered him and said, “Do you want healing in one eye only?” Then Padre Pio promised the man that he would pray for him. The man’s eyes had a sunken appearance and John described them as looking like two “dried and shriveled peas.”

The man received a miracle, for the next time he returned to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, both of his eyes were completely normal in appearance. With tears of gratitude, he thanked Padre Pio for his prayers. An interesting fact of the story is that the man’s vision was restored in one eye only. Padre Pio spoke to him later and said, “Remember, do not put limitations on God. Ask him for all that you need. Always ask for the big grace!”

As John witnessed the healings around him, he reflected on his own poor health. He had a heart condition which caused him to experience heart palpitations and made him so uncomfortable that at night he had to sleep sitting up in a chair. He was frequently tormented by severe and recurring headaches. One night he lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. He had suffered a partial stroke. He often feared that he would die an untimely death and he worried about his wife and children. Who would provide for them if he should pass away?

One day at Padre Pio’s Mass, John prayed silently and with great intensity, begging Padre Pio to intercede and to heal him of his heart condition. That afternoon, John saw Padre Pio in the monastery. He spoke to John very tenderly and said, “I want you to know that my prayer for you is that you go to heaven. I want you to be satisfied with that. I ask you to pray for me as well, that I might go to heaven. Do you understand what I am saying?” “Yes, I understand,” John replied. He was disappointed at Padre Pio’s words but he tried his best not to show it. Padre Pio had obviously been aware of John’s prayers at the Mass that morning. His comment indicated to John that he was praying for his salvation, not necessarily for his health. Evidently, John was not going to receive a healing for his failing heart.

After speaking to John, Padre Pio continued to converse with the others who were present. John was preoccupied with thinking about the remark that Padre Pio had made to him. He was trying to hide his feelings of sadness. Several times that afternoon, John noticed that Padre Pio was staring at him with a very penetrating gaze. When it was time to say goodbye to Padre Pio, all the men who were gathered knelt down to receive his blessing. Once again, Padre Pio scrutinized John with great intensity. He blessed all of the men and then embraced John in such a way that John’s head rested on Padre Pio’s chest, near the wound in his heart. Padre Pio held John’s head against his heart wound for some time. It was the third time that day that Padre Pio had embraced John in such a way.

After Padre Pio departed, the others who were present told John how lucky he was. He had obviously been singled out for a special blessing that day. Some time later, Padre Pio placed the palm of his right hand against John’s heart. After that, John never again had any signs or symptoms of a heart condition. The next time he went in for a checkup, the doctor informed him that his heart was in perfectly good condition.

After Padre Pio’s death on September 23, 1968, John McCaffery never went back to San Giovanni Rotondo. He had visited Padre Pio countless times over a period of many years. With Padre Pio gone, John could not bring himself to return. He knew that it would not be the same. John had made many good friends in San Giovanni Rotondo. He was not to see any of them again. He went back to his home in Donegal, Ireland where he stayed for the rest of his life. John passed away in 1981.

 

“Death and eternity are the two faces of one great destiny. Nothing is in vain; nothing dies. Our life on earth is completed, crowned, and perpetuated in heaven. Earthly life is beautiful and worthy when it is lived in the service of God. All that is beautiful and good in us and around us on earth and in the universe is a mere pallid image of the kingdom of God. The higher one rises toward heaven, the more he understands the great mystery of life which has as its aim: goodness, happiness, God.”

– Giorgio Berlutti

The above story, Padre Pio and his Friend from Donegal, Ireland -John McCaffery – Part II is taken from the book “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio – Book II – by Diane Allen
https://www.amazon.com/Pray-Hope-Dont-Worry-Stories/dp/0983710503/

 

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“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 67 – April – 2016

Padre Pio and his Friend from Donegal, Ireland –
John McCaffery

Download Newsletter Issue 67 April 2016

John McCaffery kneels at Padre Pio's side.

John McCaffery kneels at Padre Pio’s side.

John McCaffery was a man of many talents and accomplishments. In different periods of his life he had worked as a writer, a university professor, a journalist, and a business man. In Donegal, Ireland, he tried his hand at farming, which he enjoyed very much.

During World War II, John lived in Switzerland where he was the head of an underground resistance operation against the Nazis. It was in Switzerland that he first heard about Padre Pio. One day John’s confessor, Father Rizzi, gave him a book about Padre Pio. He told John that Padre Pio had the stigmata as well as many other extraordinary spiritual gifts.

John accepted the book but knew that he would not read it. For one thing, John had always been skeptical about so called mystics and from what Father Rizzi told him, Padre Pio definitely seemed to be in that category. John’s intellectual mind set made him suspicious of any kind of supernatural phenomenon. As far as he was concerned, mysticism was something to be avoided. The book on Padre Pio would remain on his shelf, but he knew he would not open it.

The next conversation that John had regarding Padre Pio happened when World War II was coming to a close. John’s confessor at that time was a Capuchin priest in Milan, Italy named Father Gian Antonio. Father Gian Antonio told John that he had visited Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo on one occasion.

During his visit, Father Gian Antonio noticed the great respect which every one of the Capuchins demonstrated toward Padre Pio. He told John that it was very impressive. He reasoned that the Capuchins who lived with Padre Pio on a daily basis knew him like no one else. Since their esteem for him was so obvious and so sincere, it was a good indication that Padre Pio was a holy priest. When Father Gian Antonio made his confession to Padre Pio, he experienced a deep and profound sense of peace.

After sharing his story, Father Gian Antonio gave John two photographs of Padre Pio. Still, John’s heart was unmoved. As time passed, other people spoke to John about Padre Pio. A friend invited him to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. John was not enthusiastic about the idea. Why should he travel such a long distance to attend Padre Pio’s Mass? There were many Catholic churches where John lived in Milan and Mass was said every day. Although he was reluctant to accept the invitation, John finally agreed to accompany his friend to San Giovanni Rotondo. He had been hearing about Padre Pio from various friends and associates for at least ten years.

All of John’s doubts about Padre Pio disappeared when he attended his Mass. Padre Pio radiated an aura of sanctity. The way in which he pronounced the sacred invocations had a powerful effect on John. Every word was spoken slowly and solemnly. The majority of those in attendance were poor people – farmers, laborers, and people of the working-class. John observed that all who were present seemed to be aware of the sacredness of the Mass.

On his first visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, John and several others were invited to visit Padre Pio in his cell. They were able to converse with him for over an hour. When it was time to say goodbye, John was reluctant to leave. Meeting Padre Pio and attending his Mass had been a far greater experience than he had ever imagined.

Three times a year, John traveled from Ireland to Milan, Italy where he had business interests. He would stay in Milan for six weeks at a time before returning to his family in Ireland. After his first visit to Padre Pio, whenever he could break free from his work, he would travel by train from Milan to San Giovanni Rotondo.

John soon became a familiar face at the monastery. Through his visits, he became acquainted with many of the Capuchins who lived with Padre Pio. Giovanni Vignolini, Padre Pio’s infirmarian, was one of them. Giovanni had access to Padre Pio’s cell at all times. He cared for Padre Pio whenever he was ill, which was often. He also assisted Padre Pio in taking care of the wounds of his stigmata. Giovanni frequently allowed John to accompany him to Padre Pio’s cell. Whenever John was with Giovanni, he was able to walk right past the monastery porter without being stopped and turned around.

As time passed, and through many visits, John and Padre Pio became very close. Often, when John’s friends learned that he was making a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo, they asked him to relay their prayer requests to Padre Pio. John knew that Padre Pio’s time was very limited. John came up with a good plan. Before he spoke to Padre Pio, he spent some time in silence in the church of Our Lady of Grace. One by one, he would recall each one of his friends to mind as well as their prayer requests. Then, when he saw Padre Pio, he would simply say, “I have these prayer intentions in my heart, not only my own, but also those of my friends, and I would like to ask for your prayers.”

On one occasion, John realized that he had made a mistake when he asked Padre Pio to pray for the intentions of his friends. As he was mentally going over the list, he had accidentally forgotten two individuals who had asked to be remembered in prayer. When John realized his error, he decided to tell Padre Pio. Before he could say a word, Padre Pio said to him, “Oh yes, don’t worry. I am going to pray for those two as well.”

John soon learned that nothing could be hidden from Padre Pio. He frequently read John’s mind by telling him exactly what he had been thinking. From time to time, Padre Pio would relate to John what John had been discussing with the other Capuchins. Even though Padre Pio had not been present during the discussions, he somehow knew all the details and could repeat the conversations almost verbatim.

Without ever seeing John’s business calendar, Padre Pio at times, would remind him of the appointments he had scheduled for the upcoming week. In addition, when John was struggling with a difficult personal problem, Padre Pio always seemed to be aware of it. John never had to explain anything to him. Sometimes Padre Pio gave John advice that did not seem quite up to the mark. But John soon learned that if he followed the advice, things would always work out to his best advantage.

On one occasion, Padre Pio said to John, “You have spent your life traveling from one country to another. Since the time of your childhood, I bet that you have never spent more than seven years in any one given place.” Later, John thought about what Padre Pio had said. When he did some calculations, he realized that Padre Pio had been right. Throughout his life, John had spent almost seven years exactly, living in one particular area before relocating to the next.

Those who were close to Padre Pio were well aware of his remarkable intuitive knowledge. Even though Padre Pio did not listen to the radio, read the newspaper, or watch television, he always seemed to have a complete grasp on world affairs. He could discuss international politics with remarkable insight.

At times, he knew the contents of letters he had received, that is, before opening them. On one occasion, when Padre Pio was sick in bed, one of the Capuchins brought a number of letters and packages to him to be blessed. He blessed all but one item, which was an envelope. “I am not going to be able to bless that,” Padre Pio said as he pointed to the envelope. It aroused the curiosity of the Capuchins who were present in his cell. They later discovered that the envelope in question contained a betting ticket for the football game. Whoever had slipped it in with the other letters, obviously did not realize that Padre Pio refused to bless gambling ventures.

When John was a professor at the Genoa University in Italy, one of his students had a brother who decided to test Padre Pio’s powers of discernment. In the confessional, he told Padre Pio that he was there, not to confess his sins, but to ask for prayers for one of his sick relatives. It was not true. The young man did not have any sick relatives. The moment the words escaped his lips, Padre Pio became angry and ordered him out of the confessional. The young man soon realized the error of his ways. Not long after, he returned to Padre Pio’s confessional and apologized. He then made a sincere confession.

At the time of John’s visits, Mass was still said in the small church of Our Lady of Grace. On seven occasions, John had the blessing to be the altar server at Padre Pio’s Mass. One time, one of John’s friends hired a professional photographer to take pictures, not only of the Mass, but also of John assisting Padre Pio as altar server. He knew that John would treasure the photos. Padre Pio noticed the photographer in the church before the Mass started and spoke to him. He gave him permission to take no more than two photos. The photographer happily agreed. But the temptation to take more than two photographs evidently won out. During the Mass, he used two rolls of film. When he went to develop them, every picture came out blank.

Even though John would have loved to have had a photograph taken while he was serving Padre Pio’s Mass, he possessed something which he cherished even more – a precious relic of Padre Pio. It was a piece of bloodstained bandage that had covered his stigmata. It had originally belonged to one of the Capuchins in San Giovanni Rotondo. How the Capuchin came to possess the relic is a story in itself.

One day, the Capuchin asked Padre Pio if he would like him to carry some water to his cell. Padre Pio was happy for him to do so. However, the Capuchin had ulterior motives. He was hoping to find a relic in Padre Pio’s cell. He took the water to his cell, and once inside, he spotted some of the bandages that Padre Pio had used to cover his stigmata. He quickly pocketed them and was relieved that Padre Pio had not seen what he had done. Obtaining a relic was much easier than he had ever imagined. He decided to try his luck for a second time. The next evening, the Capuchin spoke to Padre Pio and offered once again to carry water to his cell. “Absolutely not!” Padre Pio replied. “I have a great distaste for thieves!”

On one occasion, when John was conversing with one of his business associates, he experienced the charismatic perfume of Padre Pio. At the time, his business associate was having more than his share of personal problems. While they were talking, John was wondering to himself whether he should say something about Padre Pio. The man was not a Catholic and John was certain that he knew nothing about Padre Pio. While John was turning the idea over in his mind, he suddenly perceived a beautiful fragrance of perfume. He believed that the fragrance was Padre Pio’s way of saying, “Yes, you should say something.” The man was very receptive and seemed genuinely interested in what John shared with him about Padre Pio.

John’s wife also experienced the extraordinary perfume of Padre Pio. On one occasion, while John was in Milan, Mrs. McCaffery wrote to him from Ireland, telling him of a problem concerning one of the family members. Shortly after she sent the letter, she became aware of a beautiful perfume that pervaded her home. She immediately thought to herself, “This is Padre Pio. He must be aware of the letter that I just sent.”

Shortly after that, John and his friend Piero Pellizzari were visiting Padre Pio one day at the monastery. Piero said to Padre Pio, “John’s wife had a wonderful experience. She became aware of your presence by the sign of perfume. It happened at her home in Ireland.” Padre Pio then looked at John and said to him very gently, “John, even beyond the sea.” He was referring to the fact that there were no barriers that prevented him from being with his spiritual children, wherever they might be.

Once, John met an American priest at the monastery. He told John that his short encounter with Padre Pio had been very disappointing. He had been offended by Padre Pio’s brusque manner. He told John that he would never again return to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace. Padre Pio had been rude to him in front of a number of people and what was worse, had declined to hear his confession. The priest was angry as well as hurt.

John told the priest that in the past, he too had occasionally experienced Padre Pio’s apparent coldness. Of course it was not a pleasant experience, but John had reflected on it and had been able to draw some conclusions. John realized that when Padre Pio treated him in a cold manner, the problem was with him and not with Padre Pio. It happened when there were sins in John’s life. John was very much aware of those sins and he knew by experience that they could not be hidden from Padre Pio. John told the young priest, “In my own case, I feel that if Padre Pio wanted to walk all over me, I would lie down on the ground and invite him to start walking.”

The priest listened with attention to what John told him and seemed very satisfied with the explanation. The next day, he was able to visit Padre Pio in his cell and make his confession. It turned out to be a grace-filled experience. Padre Pio accepted the priest as his spiritual son and a strong and lasting bond of friendship developed between the two.

John met another man in San Giovanni Rotondo who, like the American priest, found his first meeting with Padre Pio to be more than a little upsetting. The man was an industrialist from northern Italy. Thirty years before, he had come across a book on Padre Pio almost by accident. He found the book in a hotel where he was staying, and having nothing better to do, he read it. After he finished the book, he never gave it a second thought.

Later, the man became involved in spiritualism and took it upon himself to share his knowledge about the subject with his family. One of his sons took great interest in spiritualism and eventually became a proficient and successful spiritual medium. But tragedy struck the family when his son had a nervous breakdown. He finally had to be committed to a mental institution. His father was distraught, and while trying to think of a way to help his son, he remembered the book on Padre Pio that he had read some thirty years before. He decided to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo and speak to Padre Pio about his son.

At the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, he was able to see Padre Pio. But before he could explain the tragic situation, Padre Pio said to him sternly, “You jeopardize the life of your son and then you have the nerve to come to this monastery! How could you do that?” The man was shocked and angered. He left San Giovanni Rotondo and vowed to himself that he would never return. But later, having no other ideas regarding how to help his son, the man decided to visit Padre Pio again.

The second visit to the monastery was no better than the first. There were no words of consolation from Padre Pio, no offer of assistance, no sign of hope. His son’s condition showed no improvement. The man returned a third time to see Padre Pio. On his third visit, Padre Pio spoke to him and told him that his son would indeed get his mental faculties back. The words proved to be prophetic for his son’s condition began to improve. He made a complete recovery and was able to live a normal life, free from any mental impairment.

The man continued to visit San Giovanni Rotondo whenever he was able to. One day he was standing in the church near the area where Padre Pio was hearing the women’s confessions. Several times, Padre Pio looked up from the confessional and stared at him. Every time he did so, the man lowered his eyes. Finally, the man reasoned to himself, “Why am I lowering my eyes each time that Padre Pio looks at me? It makes no sense. If he looks my way again, I am going to look right back at him.” Padre Pio looked at him once again, and true to his word, the man stared right back at him. As he did so, it was as though two flames shot out of Padre Pio’s eyes, as if to consume him. He lowered his eyes immediately.

Once, on the eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist, John McCaffery and several others were engaged in a conversation with Padre Pio. They were standing together in the hallway right outside Padre Pio’s cell. “Well, John,” Padre Pio said, “since you share the same name as St. John, tomorrow is your feast day too. I will be praying for you as well as for your wife and children tomorrow at the Mass.” Padre Pio bid goodbye to the other men he had been talking with and invited John to come inside his cell to visit. However, on that particular night, John noticed that Padre Pio looked very ill. He was deathly pale and seemed completely drained of strength. Just as John entered the cell, Padre Pio started to faint. Luckily, John caught him before he hit the ground and was able to help him to a chair.

Padre Pio wore specially made shoes of soft leather with the top cut out because of the pain in his feet.

Padre Pio wore specially made shoes of soft leather with the top cut out because of the pain in his feet.

As Padre Pio rested in the chair, John noticed that his ankles and feet were very swollen. One of the Capuchins once described Padre Pio’s feet as looking like “two watermelons,” because of the swelling. Padre Pio’s personal attendant said that he was in a panic whenever he had to help Padre Pio put on his shoes. The slightest touch to his instep always caused him great pain.

John told Padre Pio how sorry he was to see that he was sick. He told him that he should try to get some rest as the hot temperatures of the summer months were upon them. The recent days had been particularly hot and uncomfortable. “It is not the days so much as the nights that cause me suffering,” Padre Pio said to John. Padre Pio held up his hands covered with the woolen half-gloves and confided to John, “The pain in these hands becomes so intense at night that it is hard for me to sleep.”

The next day, John visited Padre Pio in his cell once again. He seemed to be feeling much better. “On this feast day of St. John the Baptist,” John said, “I wonder if I could ask you for a favor?” “What favor would you like to ask of me?” Padre Pio asked. “I would like you to sign a holy card for me,” John replied. Padre Pio was happy to do so. John noticed that it was very difficult for him to hold a pen. The wound in his hand made it hard for him to wrap his fingers around it. It was also difficult for him to write legibly. John noticed by the expression on Padre Pio’s face that it was painful for him to write. Although John treasured the holy card, after seeing what it cost Padre Pio to write the personal message, he regretted that he had asked him for the favor.

John, on one occasion, felt an overwhelming desire to see Padre Pio. It was on the feast of Corpus Christi. John decided to take the train to San Giovanni Rotondo, even though he knew he would have to catch a train and return to Milan that very evening. He felt that if he could see Padre Pio that day, it would be well worth the long hours of travel time.

The feast of Corpus Christi was indeed a magnificent celebration in San Giovanni Rotondo. A full band ensemble provided the music while young girls in beautiful white dresses led the large outdoor procession, strewing flowers along the processional path. The Blessed Sacrament followed behind under its traditional canopy.

John had arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo in ample time and was in the church well before the festivities began. Unfortunately, he had not been able to see Padre Pio like he had hoped to. An announcement was made in the church that instructed everyone, both clergy and laity, to exit the church and assemble outside. The Corpus Christi procession was about to begin. Directly after the procession, John would have to catch the train to return home.

John knew that Padre Pio would not be able to participate in the Corpus Christi celebration that day. It would be impossible for him to walk in the procession. John was certain that Padre Pio would remain inside the monastery. His desire to see Padre Pio was so great that, instead of following the line of people who were exiting the church, he stayed behind. Quietly, and with great care so as not to draw attention to himself, John walked up the stairs that led to the choir loft. He waited there until he was certain that everyone had gone outside. When John was convinced that he was completely alone in the church, he left the choir and made his way to the corridor near Padre Pio’s cell. By positioning himself in the corridor, John would be sure to see Padre Pio if he left his cell for any reason.

As John waited, the thought occurred to him that Padre Pio might be angry with him. He had purposely disobeyed the instructions that had come over the church’s loudspeaker. Instead of exiting the church like all the other people, he had hidden in the choir loft. John knew that Padre Pio had a great respect for rules and made it a point to observe them to the letter. John had seen Padre Pio’s anger on previous occasions. It could be a shattering experience to be the object of his anger. The more John though about it, the more nervous he became.

John decided that he better have an explanation ready, a line of defense, just in case he saw Padre Pio and found that he was upset with him. He would tell Padre Pio the truth. He would explain to Padre Pio that he came to the monastery that day because he had a great desire, a great need to see him. If it was simply a matter of attending the Gesu Sacramentato procession, he could have just as easily stayed in Milan. John turned the phrase over in his mind, “Gesu Sacramentato.” He was very pleased with himself for thinking of it. He had never heard it used before.

Suddenly John heard footsteps and then he turned to see Padre Pio coming toward him. John greeted him and said, “I was hoping that I could see you today. I hope you are not upset with me for staying behind in the church.” “No, I am not upset with you,” Padre Pio said. “Let’s go to the sitting room and have a visit.” John breathed a great sigh of relief.

John asked Padre Pio how he was feeling and he replied in his customary manner, “Let us thank God.” He did not like to speak about his health problems. By simply saying “Let us thank God,” to any inquiries about his health, he showed that he left all such concerns in God’s hands.

John and Padre Pio had a long conversation together and when it was finally time to part, Padre Pio said to him, “May the angel of the Lord accompany you always.” With a look of merriment in his eyes, he added, “Before you catch the train to go back to your home, you will have time to participate in the Benediction ceremony outside. The Gesu Sacramentato procession is just now approaching from the street.” That phrase, “Gesu Sacramentato” that John had been turning over in his mind and to which he felt a certain ownership, evidently had not been hidden from Padre Pio. ✞

I feel a great desire to abandon myself with greater trust to the Divine Mercy and to place my hope in God alone. – Padre Pio

“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 66 – Jan – 2016

Padre Pio – A Friend Forever – Part III

Download Newsletter Issue 66 January – March 2016

Padre Pio at the Home for the Relief of Suffering attends a program in the auditorium. A staff nurse greets Padre Pio and kisses his hand.

Padre Pio at the Home for the Relief of Suffering attends a program in the auditorium. A staff nurse greets Padre Pio and kisses his hand.

Prayer was the key to Padre Pio’s existence and the guarantee of his mission. Prayer was his daily activity. He also dedicated many hours of the night to prayer. It was the task which he felt was particularly his own, and which drew upon him the attention of the whole world. At the altar, in his cell, or in the monastery garden, with his hands folded in prayer or holding his Rosary, his world was God – to be contemplated, to be praised, to be entreated, to be propitiated. More than anything else, his was a life of prayer, of uninterrupted conversation with God.
– Father Fernando of Riese Pio X

Laurino Costa was once given a photograph of Padre Pio. It made a tremendous impression on him. Laurino found himself gazing at the photo often. Shortly after receiving the photo, he began to have dreams about Padre Pio. Feeling a strong connection to the holy priest, he decided to write him a letter. Laurino had been out of work for many months. Try as he might, he was unable to find a job and he became extremely worried about his financial situation. In the letter, he asked Padre Pio to pray for him so that he would be able to find work. Right away, Laurino received an answer to his letter. Padre Pio wanted Laurino to “come to San Giovanni Rotondo at once.”

Laurino wanted to accept the invitation but there were many obstacles in his path. For one thing, he had no money for the train fare from Padua to Padre Pio’s monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. Nevertheless, the desire to visit Padre Pio was growing stronger and stronger each day. One day he decided to hitchhike to the train station in Padua, even though he did not have the money to buy a ticket.

When Laurino arrived at the train station, he happened to run into a friend. “What brings you here, Laurino?” his friend asked. “I am hoping to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio,” Laurino said. “He has invited me to visit him.” Laurino then explained that he could not afford to purchase a ticket. It so happened that a man who was standing close by overheard the conversation. “If you would like to come along with me, I am driving to San Giovanni Rotondo,” the man said to Laurino.

Laurino was amazed at the wonderful way things were working out in his favor. Without his even asking for help, he had been offered free transportation to San Giovanni Rotondo. He happily accepted the man’s invitation. The man turned out to be Dr. Giuseppe Gusso, a close friend of Padre Pio’s and the medical director of Padre Pio’s hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering.

At the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, Laurino attended Padre Pio’s early morning Mass. Afterward, he followed a large group of men into the sacristy to receive Padre Pio’s blessing. Among the many men who were gathered in the sacristy, Padre Pio noticed Laurino and stared at him intently. He motioned to Laurino with his hand to step forward.
Laurino became very nervous. “Padre Pio can’t be looking at me,” he said to himself. “He must be looking at one of the others. This is the first time I have visited his monastery. He doesn’t even know me.”

Then he heard Padre Pio say, “Laurino, come here at once!” Laurino’s whole body began to tremble. How on earth did Padre Pio know his name? “Go over to the hospital and prepare the food for my sick,” Padre Pio said to Laurino. “I can’t do that,” Laurino replied. “I don’t know how to cook. I have never cooked in my life. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

Padre Pio repeated the words a second time, “Laurino, go over to the hospital and prepare food for my sick.” Just the thought of it filled Laurino with profound fear. However, Padre Pio was insistent. “If I go to the hospital kitchen and try to cook, will you help me?” Laurino asked. “Yes, I will be there with you and I will assist you,” Padre Pio replied.

Laurino walked out of the church and across the plaza to Padre Pio’s hospital. The year was 1958. As soon as he entered the hospital, he was introduced to one of the nuns who worked there. “You must be the new cook for the hospital!” the nun exclaimed. “We have been waiting for you anxiously and are so glad that you have arrived!” Laurino was dumbfounded at her words.

Laurino was even more shocked when he walked into the hospital kitchen. Standing before him were a number of the kitchen employees. They stared at him in silence, obviously waiting for his instructions for the day’s meal preparation. He looked around and noticed the massive ovens, stoves, refrigerators, and sinks. The pots and pans looked large enough to feed an army. Just looking at the huge kitchen and the variety of cooking equipment was a frightening experience.

As Laurino continued to look around the kitchen, his fears began to subside. Suddenly, everything seemed strangely familiar to him, as though he had always been a cook. He felt confident that he could do what was required of him. He then proceeded to give the instructions to the kitchen staff. That first day on the job, Laurino cooked for 450 people.

Laurino had only intended to stay a day or two in San Giovanni Rotondo before returning to his family in Padua. But suddenly he had a steady job and an income. He was the head cook of the Home for the Relief of Suffering. It was unbelievable but true. He cooked not only for the patients but also for the doctors, nurses, and all other employees.

Padre Pio encouraged Laurino to bring his wife and children to live in San Giovanni Rotondo but Laurino did not want to. He felt sure that his family would not like living in the small southern town. His own first impressions of San Giovanni Rotondo had not been favorable. It was very different from Padua. But Padre Pio was insistent that Laurino bring his family to San Giovanni Rotondo and so he did.

Laurino was very grateful that he had a job. He knew that it was because of Padre Pio’s prayers that he had been hired on as the head cook at the hospital. It was a blessing to be working so close to the monastery and to have the opportunity to see Padre Pio regularly.

For a reason that he was not quite sure of, Laurino began to have doubts about Padre Pio. He began to question Padre Pio’s sanctity and could not seem to shake the doubts. “Yes, Padre Pio is a good priest,” Laurino would say to himself, “but I don’t think he is a saint.” The uncertainty about Padre Pio plagued Laurino for a period of three years. He never told anyone about it, not even his wife.

One day, when Laurino was about to make his confession to Padre Pio, he was shocked to see a deep cross on Padre Pio’s forehead. Blood was running down his face from the cross. Laurino began to tremble. He called out to Padre Pio but Padre Pio made no reply. He reached into his pocket for his handkerchief so that he could wipe the blood from Padre Pio’s face but his hand seemed to freeze in his pocket. He could not move. Padre Pio stared at Laurino in silence. All that Laurino was able to do was to stare back at him. He felt like he was going to faint.

Finally, after about ten minutes, Padre Pio made a deep and long sigh as though he was coming back to awareness of the world. He then asked Laurino how long it had been since his last confession. “It has been nine days,” Laurino replied. Padre Pio began to name, one by one, the sins that Laurino had intended to confess to him. As Padre Pio pronounced the words of absolution, the cross on his forehead began to disappear.

The experience with Padre Pio had been so intense, that Laurino let out a shriek as he was leaving the confessional. The others who were waiting in line to make their confession thought that perhaps he had been reprimanded by Padre Pio. Laurino began to cry. He cried for three days and three nights. Try as he might, he could not get control of his emotions. He prayed the Rosary constantly. He lost his appetite. It was very difficult for him to get to sleep at night. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Padre Pio bleeding from the cross in the center of his forehead. It was impossible for Laurino to get the image out of his mind.

At the Home for the Relief of Suffering, Laurino’s supervisor noticed the change in his behavior and had a heart to heart talk with him. “You must get control of yourself,” he said to Laurino. “You have a job to do here. You have a wife and children to think of. It is obvious that you need to calm down and get more rest.”

Laurino wanted with all his heart to regain his peace of mind. His world had been turned upside down by his experience in the confessional. He decided to talk to one of the Capuchins about what had happened. He told Father Clemente the full story and asked him what he thought it meant. Father Clemente did not have an answer as to why Padre Pio had revealed himself to Laurino in such a way. He advised him to speak to Padre Pio directly and to ask for an explanation.

Laurino decided to do what Father Clemente had suggested. One day he walked to the monastery, intending to ask Padre Pio for an explanation as to what had happened in the confessional. He was almost at the monastery door, when he lost his courage and turned back to walk home. A short distance from his home, he decided to make another effort. Once again, he retraced his steps to the monastery.

At the monastery, Laurino went to the area where the Capuchins had their private quarters. He saw Padre Pio standing right outside of his cell, leaning against the door. As soon as Laurino came into view, Padre Pio looked in his direction. Laurino had the feeling that Padre Pio had been expecting him. Laurino suddenly became very nervous. He wanted to talk to Padre Pio about what had happened but at the same time, he knew that he did not have the courage to do so. He turned around to walk away but he suddenly felt frozen to the spot. He was unable to move. “Laurino, what is the matter?” Padre Pio asked. Try as he might, Laurino was not able to utter a single word.

Laurino finally found his voice and said, “Padre Pio, when I made my confession to you, I saw a cross on your forehead. Blood was dripping down your face from the cross. Why did you allow me to see you suffering so much? What did it mean? Is it because of my sins that you suffer like you do?” “No, of course not,” Padre Pio replied. “It was a grace that God gave you. It is that simple.” From that moment on, peace returned to Laurino’s heart. He finally understood. God had given him that experience in order to dispel the doubts he had about Padre Pio’s sanctity. After speaking to Padre Pio, the doubts vanished and never returned.

Laurino knew that Padre Pio had a deep affection for him and he always had the strong impression that Padre Pio did not want him to venture away from San Giovanni Rotondo. After he had worked at the Home for the Relief of Suffering for several years, he told Padre Pio that he was going to take some days off in order to visit his mother and father in Padua. “That will be ok,” Padre Pio said. “But after you visit your relatives, I want you to come straight back. Please don’t be gone too long.”

Shortly before Padre Pio died, Laurino told him that he was going to take a brief vacation. “No, do not go,” Padre Pio said insistently. But Laurino explained to Padre Pio that he felt the need to take the time off. “How many days do you plan to be away?” Padre Pio asked. “I want to go for seven or eight days,” Laurino replied. “Use five days for your vacation but no more,” Padre Pio said. Laurino agreed to his request. It wasn’t long before Laurino understood why Padre Pio had insisted that he be gone for no more than five days. Laurino was back in San Giovanni Rotondo when Padre Pio passed on to his eternal reward.

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What fame he (Padre Pio) had. How many followers from around the world. Why? Was it because he was a philosopher, a scholar, or because he had means at his disposal? No, it was because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from morning until night and was a marked representative of the stigmata of our Lord. He was truly a man of prayer and suffering.  – Pope Paul VI

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Sister Pia D’Apolito, who was born and raised in San Giovanni Rotondo, had contact with Padre Pio on several occasions during her youth. She was just fifteen years old when she met Padre Pio for the first time. She described him as being “very kind and very handsome, with gentle manners, even though he could be severe on occasion.” He was thirty years old at the time.

Like all of the other citizens of San Giovanni Rotondo, Sister Pia and her family were very much aware of Padre Pio’s reputation of holiness. They were also acquainted with his parents, Grazio and Giuseppa Forgione. Sister Pia never forgot the time Grazio and Giuseppa paid a visit to their home. They were very worried about Padre Pio’s exhausting schedule at the monastery and said, “Our poor son, they are going to kill him by making him stay so long in the confessional!” They were also deeply concerned about his deteriorating health but felt at a loss to know what to do to help him.

Sister Pia’s brother, Brother Giovanni Crisostomo, was one of the Capuchin students who lived at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace. In order to assist him in meeting his financial obligations, the superior of the monastery made a special arrangement. In exchange for the monthly fee of fifteen lire, which the family could not afford to pay, Sister Pia and her mother agreed to take care of the washing and ironing of the laundry of Giovanni Crisostomo and two other Capuchin students. Every Saturday the clean laundry was delivered to the monastery and the laundry that needed to be washed was picked up.

Sometimes, when Sister Pia’s younger brother was unable to deliver the laundry, she would take his place. On one occasion when Sister Pia knocked on the monastery door, she was greeted by Padre Pio rather than the regular doorkeeper. She was both surprised and elated to see Padre Pio standing right in front of her. After she handed him the laundry, he asked her to wait a moment. He came back with a large bar of chocolate. “This is for you,” he said. “I know how much you like chocolate.”

In the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, Brother Giovanni Crisostomo had been given the job of assisting Padre Pio with many of his daily tasks. Every morning he went to Padre Pio’s cell and helped him wash his wounds. He would describe in detail, the terrible wounds on Padre Pio’s body. Although the stigmata caused great pain and suffering to Padre Pio, he never complained, and that made Brother Giovanni Crisostomo admire him all the more. Later, Brother Giovanni Crisostomo was sent as a missionary to East Africa where he contracted malaria and passed away at the young age of thirty-two years. Padre Pio was very grieved when he learned about his death.

As time passed, Sister Pia D’Apolito felt the call to a religious vocation and after much prayer and reflection, she made application to the Dominican congregation and was accepted. Later, she was sent to the monastery of St. Anthony in Gubbio, Italy, a town that was made famous by St. Francis of Assisi. From time to time she was able to return to San Giovanni Rotondo for a family visit. She spent most of the days in the church at Our Lady of Grace because she wanted to be close to Padre Pio. Throughout her life, he remained her inspiration.

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My heart is at peace when I want what God wants, when I desire only what He desires. . .My mind is at peace when I know what God knows insofar as a creature can participate in the ocean of divine wisdom. My mind is at peace when I assent because I want to do whatever God has revealed. Not because I understand what this means or can explain the mysteries of revelation, but because I trust in God’s authority and submit my intellect to His. In a word, I have peace of mind when I have the truth. When my thoughts agree with God’s thoughts, and my judgments correspond to His, I have the truth and I am at peace. Peace of mind, then, is the experience of the truth. It is the result of truth. It is the fruit of truth.    – Father John Hardon

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The following testimony was submitted to us by Mr. Raffaele Ferraioli of Eastchester, New York, through our Padre Pio website – www.saintpio.org. You too can share your story by visiting the website and clicking on the link “Submit your testimony.”

Mr. Raffaele Ferraioli with his granddaughters, Taylor, Alexa and Paige

Mr. Raffaele Ferraioli with his granddaughters, Taylor, Alexa and Paige

My daughter Nicole was pregnant with identical twin girls and had a medical crisis. Her due date was Sept. 24, 2011. On Sunday, June 19, 2011, my daughter was feeling significant pain in her side and called her doctor to advise him. The doctor told her it was probably the twins resting on a nerve but scheduled an appointment for that Wednesday, June 22.

The doctor examined Nicole and said that everything appeared to be fine but decided to do a sonogram. The sonogram indicated that one baby had too much fluid. This condition is called TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome). They rushed Nicole to the hospital and she was met by a team of doctors. The doctors said she was in a stage 4 condition of TTTS which is very serious.

The twins had slight heart beats and the doctors suggested the following options to my daughter: A) Cut the umbilical cord of baby Taylor, the twin with too much fluid. Taylor would then die but possibly baby Alexa would survive. B) Take no action and at some point both babies would die. C) Deliver the babies immediately although there was no guarantee that they would live.

My daughter had just a few minutes to make a decision and she chose option C and both babies were delivered via an emergency C-Section at Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, New York. The twins were delivered at 26 ½ weeks and a few minutes after birth were given the Apgar test which tells the general health of the newborn. The score is from one to ten, one being the lowest. Taylor received a score of one and medically had no chance of survival. Alexa was given a two to three score and had a slightly better chance of survival.

While this was happening I received a call that the twins were dying and that I should leave my hair salon business and come immediately to the hospital. While driving to the hospital, which was forty-five minutes away, I prayed and cried, asking the Lord to save the twins. I felt in my heart that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me saying that they would survive. It took seventeen minutes to stabilize Taylor who was in grave danger and then both babies were placed in two separate incubators.

I was surrounded by bad news for days so I took a picture of St. Pio’s bleeding hands and put it in the incubator with Taylor who was in critical condition. Alexa was in stable but critical condition. I had a strong desire to put a picture of Blessed John Paul II in the incubator as well. I had a 5 by 7 plaque at home of John Paul II but it was too big to put in the incubator. I asked my sister and family and friends if anyone had a smaller picture of him but I had no success in finding one. At this point I asked the Lord for His will to be done and prayed to St. Pio and Blessed John Paul II to intercede.

A week went by and one of my customers came into the hair salon. He was seventeen years old and told me he had just returned from Rome and while praying in front of the tomb of John Paul II he felt led to get a picture of him and a medal and bring it to me. The young man said he didn’t understand it but he knew he had to do it. I put the picture in Taylor’s incubator and the rest was in God’s hands.

The twins are now four years old and weight over thirty-five pounds and are both in good health. We are not sure which doctor or nurse placed this on Taylor’s crib, but the morning of discharge from the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) there was a Certificate of Excellency on Taylor’s crib that read, “Taylor Walker, 114 days in the NICU- A True Miracle.” – Mr. Raffaele Ferraioli

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God has called you into existence. He wanted to, he meant you to exist. He shaped a life for you, an environment, an education, circumstances, natural gifts, an eternal destiny. You were the subject of his loving forethought, no less deliberately than if you had been the only thing he had created. If God created you so deliberately, thought of you as an individual person, he thinks of you as an individual person still. The Almighty Power, whose word sways the whole of creation, makes you the subject of his loving regard . . . God cares about you as if he had nobody else to care for. God is to be thought of as a Person in a very practical sense – that he knows us, loves us, and does for us. And we are persons so that we may love him, serve him, and do things for him. That is what we are here for.   – Monsignor Ronald Knox

“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 65 – Oct – 2015

 Padre Pio – A Friend Forever – Part II

Download Newsletter Issue 65 October – December 2015

Carlo Campanini receiving a blessing from Padre Pio

Carlo Campanini receiving a blessing from Padre Pio

In the life of holiness, there are moments of profound obscurity when one must be buried like the seed that falls to the ground to die. . .When many years ago, a poor sick friar, Padre Pio, came to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo, he came only to make contact with God and to live in His presence. It is written in the Gospel, “You do not light a lantern to put it under a bushel.” And Jesus did not light a little lantern in Padre Pio, he kindled a bright sun, which was to give so much light, so much warmth to the whole world.          – Father Peter Tartaglia

Carlo Campanini, the famous comedian and actor, met Padre Pio for the first time in 1939. Carlo had learned a little about Padre Pio from his friend, Mario. They were both working for a theater company at the time. When Carlo and Mario knocked on the monastery door at Our Lady of Grace, they were greeted by Brother Gerardo. When they told the Brother that they were interested in speaking to Padre Pio, he told them that since it was Holy Week, it would be impossible. He explained that Padre Pio always suffered from the wounds of the stigmata, but his sufferings intensified during Holy Week. No one was allowed to visit him at that time.

Carlo tried to convince Brother Gerardo to make an exception to the rule. He said that he and Mario had been looking forward to meeting Padre Pio with great anticipation. They had used their time off from work to make the trip from Bari. However, Brother Gerardo would not change his mind.

Instead of leaving, Carlo and Mario decided to stay at the monastery for a while.They walked around the grounds and made a visit to the little church that was connected to the monastery. They hoped that if they waited long enough, they might run into Padre Pio. In order to pass the time, Carlo and Mario were cracking jokes and laughing as was their habit. It did not occur to them that it was disrespectful for them to be talking so loudly in a sacred place. Suddenly, one of the Capuchins came out of the church and complained about the noise they were making. The Capuchin happened to be Padre Pio.

At once, Carlo noticed the strong odor of carbolic acid in the air. It was so strong that it caused his throat to constrict. Many people noticed the fragrance of flowers or perfume around Padre Pio but when a strong odor of carbolic acid or sulfur or disinfectant was present when Padre Pio greeted someone, it usually indicated that the person in question needed to change his life. That happened to be true in Carlo’s case.

At the time of his first visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, he was living a life that was very far from God. Padre Pio asked Carlo and his companion to state their business. “We are two poor stage actors,” Carlo said. “We are all poor,” Padre Pio replied. “But why have you come to the monastery?” “We have come here to make our confession,” Carlo answered. Padre Pio told them both to prepare themselves and he would hear their confession after Mass the following day. As Carlo looked at Padre Pio, a certain fear gripped his heart and he began to tremble. He felt that his whole life was laid bare to Padre Pio.

A photo of Carlo Campanini visiting patients at Padre Pio's hospital, "The Home for the Relief of Suffering."

A photo of Carlo Campanini visiting patients at Padre Pio’s hospital, “The Home for the Relief of Suffering.”

The next morning, Carlo and Mario were present at Padre Pio’s Mass. It was the longest Mass that Carlo had ever attended in his life. He was out of practice, for one thing. Kneeling on the hard stone floor of the church caused him to feel severe pain in his knees. It was almost more than he could bear.

Carlo felt a great sense of relief when the Mass was finally over. At the time of his visit to Padre Pio, his greatest anxiety was that his work caused him to be separated from his children. He and his wife were always on the road, traveling from one city to another. Their children were living with one of their relatives. Carlo wanted to ask Padre Pio to pray that he could find work that would enable his family to be reunited. If it meant that he had to leave his acting career, he was prepared to do so. However, when he made his confession to Padre Pio, he could not bring himself to ask Padre Pio for anything.

At the end of the confession, Padre Pio gave Carlo absolution, but before he did so, he made him promise to change his life. Carlo gave his word that he would make the necessary changes After visiting Padre Pio, Carlo returned to Bari and then moved to Rome. He found steady work in Rome that made it possible for his family to be reunited. It was a dream come true. He knew that Padre Pio had answered the secret prayer of his heart, the prayer that he had not been able to verbalize. Working as an actor exposed Carlo to innumerable temptations, temptations that he could not always resist. He felt guilty about his immoral lifestyle but did not have the will to make the necessary changes.

Padre Pio had asked Carlo to amend his life, but he had not done so. For that reason, he did not want to return to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. When Carlo won a leading role in a very successful film, his acting careerbegan to soar. His photograph could be seen on the cover of numerous magazines and his name frequently appeared in the newspapers. People recognized him when he went out in public. He was offered starring roles in one movie after another and was making more money than he had ever dreamed of. But fame and fortune did not bring him the happiness he longed for.

Spiritually, Carlo was in a dark place. He was depressed most of the time and was haunted by a feeling of emptiness. His life had lost its meaning and its joy. He longed for peace of mind and peace of soul and prayed to God for assistance. One day, Carlo’s wife told him that the parish priest had spoken to her and suggested that their home be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They had even set the date. The priest wanted them all to receive Holy Communion on the day that their home was consecrated.

That posed a big problem for Carlo. He would have to go to confession before he could receive Holy Communion. He dreaded the thought of it because he had many serious sins on his conscience. The embarrassment regarding what he would have to reveal in the confessional was very hard to think about. He did not know if he had the courage to go through with it. Carlo had not been to Mass or confession in a long time. Carlo knew that it was important to his wife to have their home consecrated. He also knew that if he made a sincere confession, he would be obliged to change his life. He did not feel that he was ready to do that. He kept postponing the confession. Several times he went to church and stood in the confessional line but then lost his courage and left just before his turn came.

Carlo began to make one excuse after another to his wife. He finally told her that he was sorry but he would not be able to be there on the day the priest was coming to consecrate their home. One day, Carlo made a visit to the parish of St. Anthony. He looked at the confessional line and knew that he would never have the time to wait in such a long line. “Please come to the front and take my place in line,” a stranger said to him. Carlo was surprised but he took the man’s place in line. Finally, he made a sincere and heartfelt confession and felt blessed to receive the grace of absolution.

Carlo and his family were all together when their home was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on January 8, 1950. With great joy in his heart, Carlo was able to receive Holy Communion on that day with all the members of his family. He wanted to tell Padre Pio about the wonderful changes in his life and decided to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo to see him. He had nothing to fear now. He had already confessed the sins of his past and he would never have to do so again.

In San Giovanni Rotondo, Carlo waited in line to make his confession to Padre Pio. In the confessional, Padre Pio told Carlo to kneel down and to begin his confession from the year 1936 forward. Carlo’s heart sank. He explained to Padre Pio that he had been to confession just two days before and had already confessed the serious sins of past years. But for some reason, it did not seem to matter to Padre Pio. He told Carlo for a second time, “Begin your confession from 1936. I know that you feel ashamed for the things that you have done in the past. You would rather that I did not know about them. But whether I know of them or not is of no importance. What matters most is that you have offended God by your sins. For some reason, that thought does not bother you.”

Carlo began his confession as instructed, but he kept his head lowered. Padre Pio called him a coward and said, “I want you to look at me as you confess your sins.” Carlo did so. After Carlo finished his confession, Padre Pio told him that he wanted him to once again make a promise to change his life. Carlo gave him his word that he would do so. This time he truly meant it. Finally, Padre Pio pronounced the words of absolution. He gave Carlo a Rosary and told him to pray it as often as he could. He promised Carlo that he would always be near to assist him in any difficulty. Before Carlo left the confessional, Padre Pio embraced him. From that moment forward, Carlo’s life underwent a complete transformation.

There was a great peace in Carlo’s heart as well as a desire to lead a good Christian life. The next morning, he was able to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. When he received Holy Communion from Padre Pio, it felt like a hot ember had been placed on his tongue. He felt the burning sensation in his mouth for several hours.

Before Carlo left San Giovanni Rotondo, he asked Padre Pio for his continued prayers. Carlo was aware that in some sense, his spiritual life would always be an uphill climb. He told Padre Pio that he was afraid of the temptations that he knew he would encounter once he returned home. Padre Pio said that it was good to be afraid of temptations, and that one should always have a certain fear of them. He advised Carlo to stay away from all the dark forces and satanic influences of the world. Padre Pio assured him of his spiritual support.

It was very evident that Padre Pio’s spiritual support was with Carlo through the ensuing years. Carlo attended Mass and received Holy Communion every day upon Padre Pio’s recommendation. With his work schedule, it was very difficult to do, but he always found a way to do it. He also turned down many starring roles in films. He was acting upon Padre Pio’s advice to never take a part in a movie that had immoral content.

Padre Pio had explained to Carlo that the people who made such movies would have to answer to God for their actions. That included everyone from the producers to the actors to the carpenters who built the sets to the people who sold the tickets. Padre Pio also warned Carlo never to tell off-color jokes or use bad language. If a movie script had even one vulgar word in it, Carlo would not consider being a part of the project. Movie directors and producers could not understand why Carlo was passing up such lucrative job opportunities. When they asked him for an explanation, he simply told them that he was a spiritual son of Padre Pio and that Padre Pio set a very high standard.

Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have forfeited all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ. – Philippians 3:7-9

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In the summer of 1963, Antonio Ardillo became incapacitated by a stroke which paralyzed the right side of his body. When Antonio’s good friend Anna Rossi heard the news, she rushed to the hospital to visit him. Antonio showed her his arm and his leg, paralyzed and motionless. Anna felt very sorry for Antonio. She wondered what the future would hold since he supported his wife and children by working as a hairdresser and the family depended on him.

Anna told Antonio that as soon as he regained his strength, she and her husband would take him to the monastery church of Our Lady of Grace to seek Padre Pio’s intercession for his complete healing. Antonio was very happy to agree to the plan. Somewhere along the way his faith had grown cold and he had stopped attending Mass. He had not been inside the doors of a church for a long, long time. Nevertheless, he looked forward to the day when he could make the trip to see Padre Pio. After two weeks in the hospital, Antonio’s condition improved so much that he was released. The only sign left of his illness was a slight limp when he walked.

Anna and her husband along with Antonio and his son were soon able to make the trip to San Giovanni Rotondo. They attended Padre Pio’s Mass and were fortunate to be able to find seats in the front row. From time to time during the Mass, they became aware of a beautiful perfume, like a gentle breeze, that seemed to fill every corner of the church. Several times during the Mass, Padre Pio stared at Anna and Antonio. Anna had been praying, not only for a physical healing for Antonio, but also for a spiritual healing, so that his faith would be restored.

After the Mass, Antonio went to the booking office and signed up for confession. He had time to examine his conscience and to prepare himself for the encounter with Padre Pio. Finally, his turn came.

He had only been able to say a few words in the confessional before Padre Pio stopped him. “You do not go to church on Sunday,” Padre Pio said. “But my profession obliges me to work on Sundays,” Antonio replied. “I also have to work on the Holy Days and Solemn Feast Days of the Church.” “But that is not acceptable,” Padre Pio replied. “Sunday is the Lord’s day and it must be kept holy. I will not be able to absolve you.” Antonio’s confession was over before it had hardly begun.

Antonio returned to his home full of sadness and disappointment. He had wanted Padre Pio’s absolution but had not received it. He decided to follow the advice of the holy priest. When he stopped working on Sundays, he felt the financial loss. Nevertheless, he was still able to provide for all of his family’s needs. He returned to the practice of his faith and felt a great peace in his heart. He never again missed Sunday Mass.

The next time Antonio visited San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio greeted him affectionately and appeared to be genuinely happy to see him. He comforted Antonio and spoke to him lovingly and at the end of the confession, gave him the absolution he had longed for. Antonio’s heart was filled with great and indescribable joy.

Antonio was a changed man. His wife, his children, and all who knew him could see the difference. He told Anna that he was happy that he still had the slight limp when he walked, the only sign of the stroke. It was a reminder to him of how Padre Pio had come into his life when he needed him the most, and set him on the right path.

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The following testimony by Noreen Handley was submitted to us through our Padre Pio website – www.padrepiodevotions.org You too can share your story by visiting the website and clicking on the link “Submit your testimony.”

In the beginning of the year 2000, I had a very strong desire to travel to Padre Pio’s shrine in San Giovanni Rotondo. The desire to make the trip was in my thoughts constantly so I finally made plans to go at the end of October of that year. I still did not understand why I was feeling such a strong pull to go there.

In early September of the same year, my grandson was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma stage four cancer. It was a very aggressive form of cancer with no known cure. He was three and a half years old at the time. We were totally devastated with this news. My grandson was living in England. I live in Dublin, Ireland. I flew to England to help look after his older sister and to be with the family.

I contacted Cathy Kelly, who runs the Padre Pio Information Centre, in Victoria, London, and she very kindly allowed me to take the mitten of Padre Pio to my grandson in the hospital. I gave Cathy my passport as good faith with the understanding that she would return it to me when I returned the mitten. We had the mitten resting on my grandson’s head all night, and I was begging Padre Pio to save this child.

My grandson had surgery at the Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital in London. A cancerous tumor which was the size of a golf ball was removed from his brain and he was given only four months to live. He was also given chemotherapy and radiation to his brain and spine. The doctor said that if he was to survive, he would have stunted growth as a side effect of this therapy. But the doctor did not believe that he could survive.

The following day, when I returned the mitten to Cathy Kelly’s office, I was totally overcome with a very strong fragrance of beautiful roses, which seemed to last for ages. I was emotional and crying and wondering what was it was all about. Cathy said that it was a sign that Padre Pio had heard my prayer. I understood then that Padre Pio would look after this child.

Now I had a reason to get to San Giovanni Rotondo, and while there I was up at the chapel door at 5 am when it opened and stayed at the tomb of Padre Pio until 8 am, talking to him and praying and begging him to heal our grandchild. I told Padre Pio that if our grandson recovered, I would do something for him. I really did not know at that time how I would help Pade Pio but I would find a way.

Noreen Handley

Noreen Handley

When I returned from San Giovanni Rotondo, I started the Padre Pio Devotions in Malahide, Dublin, as I had promised Padre Pio that I would do something for him. At first we held the devotions in the Carmelite Monastery in Seapark, Malahide but after six years we had to move to a bigger church because of the large crowds who attended. We are now at the Sacred Heart Church, Seabury, Malahide, Dublin. We meet on the first Friday of every month.

We have an organist and choir, and we start with Eucharistic Adoration, followed by Mass celebrated by Fr. Angelus, a Capuchian Priest, who blesses the people after Mass with a mitten of Padre Pio. We always have a packed Church, with 300 to 400 people in attendance, and Fr. Angelus tells us lovely stories of Padre Pio during his homily. Last September, the members of our Prayer Group bought a beautiful statue of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo. It was shipped to Dublin for our Padre Pio Devotions which have been going now for fourteen years.

Every year in September, I organize a pilgrimage to Italy. I have been doing this yearly for the past fourteen years. During our trips, we have visited Rome, Assisi, Cascia, the Holy House of Loreto, Lanciano, to see the first Eucharistic Miracle, Mount St. Angelo, where St. Michael the Archangel appeared, San Giovanni Rotondo, and more. We usually have a group of around 50 people each year. In San Giovanni Rotondo, we visit all places associated with Padre Pio, his cell, his old tomb, the beautiful new tomb where his body can be seen, the friary, the hospital, and the English office, where we see a video of Padre Pio and get a blessing with some of his relics. We also visit Manopello, the shrine of the Holy Face.

Our grandson is nineteen years old now and is 5ft. 11 inches tall and is in very good health. We are forever grateful to Padre Pio for this favor and for so many other favors given to our Prayer Group members over the years. It is amazing how Padre Pio gets hold of you in so many ways and gets you working for him. He got hold of me at first when I had the strong desire to visit San Giovanni Rotondo, even before I knew that my grandson was ill. I never dreamed I would organize the Padre Pio Devotions in Dublin or the pilgrimages to Italy but I really love to do this. Padre Pio makes you work hard for him. He is our great friend!

– Noreen Handley

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We must relearn our devotion to the Cross. It seems too passive to us, too pessimistic, too sentimental – but if we have not been devoted to the Cross of Jesus in our lifetime, how will we endure our own Cross when the time comes for it to be laid upon us? A friend of mine, who depended for years on kidney dialysis and who realized that his life was slipping away from him moment by moment, once told me that as a child, and later as an adult, he had a special devotion to the Way of the Cross and had often prayed it. When he heard the frightening diagnosis of his illness, he was at first stunned; then suddenly the thought came to him: What you have prayed so often has now become a reality in your life; now you can really accompany Jesus; you have been joined to him by his Way of the Cross. In this way, my friend recovered his serenity, which thereafter illuminated his countenance to the end of his days.

– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 64 – July – 2015

Padre Pio – A Friend Forever

Download Newsletter Issue 64 July – September 2015

A group of soldiers visiting Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo

A group of soldiers visiting Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo

We are hard pressed on every side yet not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.    – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

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Canadian-born Desmond Montague served the Allied cause during World War II as an airman and navigator. He was assigned to the Royal Air Force Squadron Number 142 which specialized in long range bombing missions. Along with the others in his squadron, Desmond was stationed in Foggia, Italy. They all lived in tents on the military base. Desmond had heard many positive statements about the mild climate in southern Italy but during the time that he was in Foggia, he found it ironic that it rained incessantly.

One day, Edward Wiseman, the pilot of the aircraft that Desmond was assigned to, asked him if he knew the meaning of the word, “stigmata.” Desmond told Edward that he was familiar with the term. Desmond was a devout Catholic. He kept a Rosary in his pocket at all times and had always been a person of faith. His own brother was a Catholic priest. Edward Wiseman told Desmond that he had heard that there was a priest living at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in the nearby town of San Giovanni Rotondo who had the stigmata. Desmond was interested in what Edward shared about the priest but he was also very skeptical. He was almost sure that it was not true.

The next day, Desmond and his good friend Lyell Bachelder, a fellow air force officer, decided to find out for themselves if Edward’s information about the priest who reportedly had the stigmata was correct. The two men walked from the airfield where they were stationed to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo. Due to the heavy wartime bombing that had taken place in and around Foggia, there were no longer any roads to travel on. They walked over hills and embankments through the dry and desolate terrain.

When Desmond and Lyell finally arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo, the first person they met was a friendly American woman named Mary Pyle. Mary confirmed that what Edward Wiseman had told them about the priest was true. Mary told them that the priest’s name was Padre Pio and that he had the five wounds of Christ, the stigmata. “Would you like me to take you over to the church so that you could meet him?” Mary asked. Desmond and Lyell said that they would be very happy to be introduced to him.

Mary took the two army officers over to the church and gave them specific instructions. She said that it was important that all visits with Padre Pio be conducted in a dignified and respectful manner. She added that they should let Padre Pio handle the visit his way.

Desmond and Lyell followed Mary upstairs to the choir loft of the church. Mary directed them to a pew where she told them to kneel. It was in that very choir loft that Padre Pio had received the stigmata on September 20, 1918. “Padre Pio will soon come into the church and kneel in the pew right behind you,” Mary told the two men. “When he comes in, do not turn around and stare at him.” She explained that Padre Pio was a very humble person and did not want to be the object of anyone’s curiosity. He did not like to feel that he was “on display.”

Desmond Montague - An officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II

Desmond Montague – An officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II

Soon Desmond and Lyell heard Padre Pio come into the church. Just like Mary Pyle had told them, Padre Pio knelt down in the pew behind them. They could hear his soft voice and the sound of his beads as he prayed the Rosary quietly. After a time, Padre Pio touched them on the shoulder and they stood up to greet him. Padre Pio seemed happy to meet the two officers. He had magnificent dark eyes and a beautiful smile. Trying to be discreet, the two men could not help but glance at Padre Pio’s hands. Mary Pyle had already confirmed to them that Padre Pio had the stigmata. They noticed that Padre Pio wore brown woolen half gloves which covered the wounds completely.

Padre Pio was very friendly to the officers. He gave both of them a small crucifix as a gift. He also gave them his priestly blessing. Before he said goodbye, he patted both of the men on their heads. The simple and loving gesture reminded them of the way a father might affectionately pat the heads of his own sons. Padre Pio made Desmond and Lyell understand that he would watch over both of them.

A short time later, the two men made a second trip to Padre Pio’s monastery. They were able to attend Padre Pio’s Mass but were not able to speak with him. They brought jam, sugar and tea for Mary Pyle and for the Capuchins. On their previous visit, they had noticed that those items were in short supply due to wartime food rationing.

The next day, Lyell woke up feeling very ill. A visit to the doctor revealed that he had contracted malaria. His condition was so serious that he had to be hospitalized. Desmond and the other members of the crew were departing on a bombing mission to Budapest, Hungary that very evening. Lyell’s position as bombardier had to be filled by another airman.

The crew left on the evening of April 16, 1944 with the railway yards of Budapest as their central target. They all considered it to be a routine bombing raid, no different from many others they had already participated in. The aircraft used for the bombing mission was a Wellington Mark II – a twin-engine night bomber. At that time, flights were accomplished by celestial navigation. Noting the position of the stars as well as consulting air almanacs and tables, and using instruments that measured horizon and altitude, the navigator could plot a very accurate course to the designated target area.

After successfully completing their bombing mission in Budapest, Desmond and the other crew members set course to return to their military base in Foggia. They kept on a constant lookout for dangerous German night fighter planes. That particular night, the stars were magnificent, shining like jewels against a dark canopy of endless sky.

They were not far from Belgrade, Yugoslavia when suddenly and without any warning, their aircraft was fired upon. In seconds, the plane went violently out of control. The pilot quickly gave his order over the intercom, “Emergency! All jump!”

The men always wore their parachute harnesses during flight, with the parachute pack right beside them for immediate access. Hearing the pilot’s order, Desmond quickly tried to clip his pack to the parachute harness so that he could jump out of the plane. However, the simple task proved to be impossible. The sudden change in altitude and the strong gravitational forces that were present prevented Desmond from moving his arms. Completely immobilized, he was pressed against the wall of the plane. As the plane made a nose dive to the ground, Desmond was certain that he was going to die. He said a very quick prayer, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, help me!” and then he lost consciousness.

When Desmond regained consciousness, he was shocked to find that he was wrapped up in his parachute. How could it be? He had not been able to clip his parachute pack on after the plane had been hit. The plane had gone down in a mountainous region of Yugoslavia. He estimated that it had been approximately two hours since the plane had crashed. Desmond had received only minor injuries. There was a deep cut on his leg and on his face. Also, some of his teeth had been broken off. Other than that, he was in good condition. It seemed like a miracle to him that he had survived. All of the other members of the crew had died in the crash.

Desmond quickly buried his parachute. He did not want the Germans to suspect that there were any survivors in the plane crash. He then walked toward an isolated farmhouse which he saw in the distance. As he drew closer, he noticed that there was debris from his fallen plane in the yard of the farmhouse. Desmond knocked on the door. The farmer and his wife who greeted Desmond were very kind. The wife cleaned and dressed the wounds on his leg and face. The man handed him a glass of an unidentifiable liquid which he was very happy to accept. As he drank it, he felt an intense burning sensation in his throat and stomach. It turned out to be straight vodka.

Desmond could sense the fear of the farmer and his wife and under the circumstances, their fear was understandable. In German-occupied Yugoslavia, it was very dangerous for anyone to assist a member of the Allied troops. By allowing Desmond to come inside their house and by helping him, the couple was putting their own lives in danger.

Desmond was hoping that the farmer would help him to escape by directing him to the Yugoslavian partisans who, at that time, were resisting the German occupation. The farmer put Desmond in his wife’s care and left the house momentarily. He soon returned with several well-armed German soldiers. They arrested Desmond on the spot. He would spend the next thirteen months in Prisoner of War camps in different parts of Germany.

As the war drew to a close, the Prisoner of War camp south of Lubeck, Germany where Desmond was held captive was liberated by General Montgomery’s troops. World War II, which caused more casualties than any other war in history, finally ended on May 8, 1945. Desmond was flown back to England on the eve of V-E Day and a short time after that, returned to his home in St. John, New Brunswick. When he saw his mother, she said to him, “Desmond, I am certain that it was the priest in Italy who saved your life!” After his first trip to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, Desmond had written to his parents and told them all of the details of his visit. He also sent them a photograph of Padre Pio. Desmond had a wonderful reunion with his entire family. He felt strong, both physically and mentally, and was profoundly grateful to be alive.

Desmond then traveled to Montreal, Quebec to be reunited with his good friend, Lyell Bachelder. Desmond learned that Lyell had made a complete recovery from the malaria that had prevented him from participating in the doomed bombing mission to Budapest. After Lyell recovered, he was assigned to a Canadian Bomber Squadron. He flew on sixty bombing raids in enemy territory. At that time, the mortality rate for airmen sent on bombing missions was as high as 50 percent. Lyle safely and successfully completed all of his assigned missions.

When Lyell greeted Desmond, he had the crucifix that Padre Pio had given him in his hand. Lyell repeated the words of Desmond’s mother and said, “Des, it is because of Padre Pio’s protection that we are both alive!”

Desmond’s brother, Father Robert Montague, was deeply grateful that Desmond had survived the grave dangers of the war. He hoped that someday he would be able to go to San Giovanni Rotondo so that he could thank Padre Pio personally for saving his brother’s life. In 1963, he was finally able to make the trip.

Father Robert did not speak Italian and he knew that Padre Pio did not speak English. He was concerned about the language barrier and wanted to make sure that he would be able to communicate with Padre Pio. At the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, he met a man who was fluent in both Italian and English. He asked the man if he would relay his message to Padre Pio and he happily agreed. One day, when Father Robert and his new found friend were at the monastery, the unexpected happened. Padre Pio approached the man and before the man could utter a single word, Padre Pio said to him, “Tell the young priest from Canada that I am aware that he has come here to offer thanks on behalf of his entire family for my intercession in saving his brother’s life during the war.”

You reached down from on high and took hold of me. You drew me out of deep waters. You delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me. – 2 Samuel 22:17-18

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As a married couple, Lucia and Carlo Barocchi were blessed to have enjoyed many happy years together. They seemed to be of like mind and like heart in almost every way but one – that of religion. Lucia was a devout Catholic while Carlo had no religious affiliation whatsoever. Lucia accepted the fact that her husband was not a person of faith and it proved to be no obstacle to their deep love and commitment to each other.

Lucia had a great devotion to Padre Pio. She had met him for the first time in 1950 and in 1951 he accepted her as his spiritual daughter. Every year she made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo and looked forward to it with great anticipation. She used to repeat, “In San Giovanni Rotondo, even the air one breathes is holy.” Sometimes her father accompanied her, but Carlo would not go with her, feeling no attraction or interest in making the trip.

Lucia and Carlo Barocchi

Lucia and Carlo Barocchi

In 1959, Lucia was in San Giovanni Rotondo waiting to make her confession to Padre Pio. The number of people who had signed up for confession turned out to be much larger than usual and Lucia realized that she probably would not be able to get home in time to spend Easter with her family. She wrote to Carlo and to her father, explaining that they would need to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo if they wanted to spend Easter with her. They wrote back to her and said that they would be arriving soon.

Shortly after they arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo, Carlo’s father-in-law went to the booking office to get a ticket for Padre Pio’s confessional. When he returned, he said to Carlo, “I took the liberty of getting two tickets for the confessional. I signed your name to one of the tickets even though I know that, strictly speaking, I am not supposed to sign any one’s name but my own. I am hoping that you will want to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.” “I am not going to make my confession,” Carlo said. “I do not believe in it. Besides, I would be afraid to have a face-to-face encounter with Padre Pio.”

The next morning Carlo’s father-in-law insisted that they go to the monastery to greet Padre Pio but Carlo was resistant to the idea. He had come to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to spend Easter with his wife, and nothing more. Carlo’s father-in-law did not want to take “no” for an answer and finally persuaded Carlo to accompany him. “I will go with you but I would like to remain at a distance from Padre Pio. I do not want to get too close to him,” Carlo said.

Along with many other men, Carlo and his father-in-law waited for Padre Pio in the St. Francis room. Carlo stood as close to the wall as he could, trying in his own way to remain hidden. In the tightly packed crowd, he was very glad to be inconspicuous. Carlo’s father-in-law had been able to position himself in the very front of the group of men. When Padre Pio walked into the room, his father-in-law was so close to Padre Pio that he was able to take his hand and kiss it. Padre Pio then turned and looked directly at Carlo. “Son, you cannot be without God,” he said to Carlo. Carlo couldn’t believe it. He was stunned. Even though they had never met, Padre Pio obviously knew the disposition of his heart. It was a tremendous moment for Carlo.

When Carlo walked back into the church where Lucia was waiting for him, his eyes were filled with tears. He felt that he had been, “conquered for life.” Suddenly he knew what he had to do. He presented the ticket his father-in-law had given him and waited in the confessional line to make his confession to Padre Pio. The following year, Padre Pio accepted Carlo as his spiritual son. From that time forward, Carlo was at Lucia’s side every Sunday at Mass.

Later, when Carlo became ill and confined to a wheelchair, attending daily Mass was his greatest consolation. As Carlo’s health continued to decline, Lucia cared for him with great devotion, seeing to his every need. They had been married for sixty-four years. At the end of his life, Carlo had the blessing of receiving the Last Rites of the Church and he died a peaceful and holy death.

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The following testimonies were submitted to us through our Padre Pio website –  www.padrepiodevotions.org  You too can share your story by visiting the website and clicking on the link “Submit your testimony.”

 From Seoul, South Korea – Amazing Grace   Some time ago, one of my American friends gave me a photo of Padre Pio. I was grateful for his gesture but I didn’t really believe what he said to me about Padre Pio. But I kept the photo in my Bible anyway. Also, another friend sent me a Christmas gift which included a book on Padre Pio. Even though I flipped through the pages, I still found it hard to believe, so I just put this book on the shelf and I forgot about Padre Pio.

Last year (2013) in the summer, while I was sitting in the Mapo Library in Seoul, I was reading one of the testimonies on the Padre Pio website (www.padrepiodevotions.org) just out of curiosity. And while I was reading, there was one story which really struck me because the story seemed so much like my sister’s situation. It was the story of a thirty-four year old man who had a nervous breakdown and had stopped going out of the house and was living the life of a recluse.

My sister was in a terrible situation because she had been unable to find work for many years and was often ill and depressed. She frequently refused to go out of the house, was not meeting or seeing people, and she cried a lot. We were very worried about her and also exhausted after trying in many different ways to help her, and nothing had worked. So, after I read the testimony, I decided to pray to Padre Pio.

There in the library, I prayed sincerely and with my whole my heart to Padre Pio, asking for his help. And then I started to smell a really clear and fresh flower scent of violets! The windows were all closed in the library and the air conditioner was running, so I was really perplexed. It was very, very strange. There was no place that the beautiful, fresh scent of flowers could possibly come from. I realized then that Padre Pio was going to help my sister. And then I prayed and waited.

Within two months, my sister found that she was eligible to enroll in a good education program which teaches Information Technology skills to those who are unemployed. She is no longer depressed and devastated as she was before. She has been meeting people from her class and she no longer cries. She doesn’t refuse to go outside anymore. I was really surprised to see all the changes that happened so fast. The dramatic change in her life style in general was simply remarkable to me. And I want to say many thanks to Our Father in Heaven who listened to our agony and of course to Padre Pio for his generous help even though I didn’t trust him for years.       – Name Withheld

Padre Pio Knew my Brother’s Name    In the early 1950’s, my brother, Francis Briguori, made a trip from Naples to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. He was able to make his confession to him. While making his confession, he told Padre Pio that he wanted to join the Navy but did not think he would be accepted because he had a heart defect. Padre Pio looked at him with a very piercing gaze and said, “Tu Vai, Kapish!” which means, “You go! Do you understand?” At the end of the confession Padre Pio told my brother to pray to St. Michael the Archangel. He said to my brother, “Michael is your name, too.” My brother’s name is Francis Mario Michael Briguori. He was so completely taken aback that Padre Pio knew his name that when he left the confessional, he told all the people waiting in the sacristy, “I can’t believe it. He knew my name!”

Right after that, my brother applied for enlistment into the Navy. On the day that he went for his medical examination, there were many other young men there who were also having their physicals. When my brother’s name was called, he was told, “Tu Vai,” the very same words that Padre Pio had said to him. Evidently he looked so healthy that he was waved on ahead of the others and was accepted without a physical exam. My brother had a wonderful career in the Navy, working in the field of shortwave communication. He traveled to many different parts of the world and was never sick nor troubled by any problems with his heart. My brother told me that as long as he lives, he will never be able to forget the way Padre Pio looked at him with those beautiful, piercing eyes.

– Enrichetta Spinelli

Jesus says to us in the Gospel that the promised reward will not be for he who begins well, nor for he who continues for a certain time, but for he who perseveres unto the end; therefore those who have begun must try to persevere. Those who have continued, must try to reach the end, and those who have unfortunately not begun, must set themselves on the right road. Let us make the effort to persevere. I know that it is a difficult task, but the example of the saints, the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the grace of God which is always waiting for those who call for it, will not fail us. Therefore let us garb ourselves in constancy, patience, and perseverance, and then that which Jesus said to us in the Gospel will come about: “He that shall persevere unto the end shall be saved.”

– Padre Pio