“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 76 – Summer 2018

Padre Pio’s Love for the Blessed Virgin Mary – Part 2

May Jesus always be the pilot of the little boat of your spirit. May Mary be the star which lights the path for you and shows you the surest way to reach the Heavenly Father.

      – St. Pio of Pietrelcina

 

 

Padre Pio’s love for prayer embraced his whole life. When someone inquired how he was able to pray so many rosaries each day, he answered, “The Lord asks this of me. He does not ask the same of you.” Once when he was ill, he confided to his superior, “What made me suffer the most was not being able to say even one Hail Mary.”

At the end of each day, Padre Pio and his fellow Capuchins gathered together in the church for evening prayers. After the Rosary, they would pray St. Alphonsus de Ligouri’s prayer, the “Visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament” and the “Visit to Our Blessed Lady.” Often Padre Pio’s voice was broken by sobs as he recited the beautiful prayers to Jesus and Mary. The Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus followed and was prayed for the intentions of all who had requested prayers. After the evening prayers, the members of the Capuchin community went to dinner in the refectory. Padre Pio, who had only one meal a day, at noontime, remained in the church to pray.

When Padre Pio finally retired to his cell at night, one or two of the Capuchins would usually stop by to bid him goodnight. They would always recite a Hail Mary together before parting. Padre Pio kept a Rosary on the table by his bed and one under his pillow, always close by and ready for use.

One evening Father Carmelo stopped to visit Padre Pio in his cell. Padre Pio told Father Carmelo that he was going to say several more rosaries and then go to bed. “How many rosaries have you said today?” Father Carmelo asked. Because Father Carmelo was his superior, Padre Pio felt obliged to answer. “I have prayed thirty-four rosaries today,” Padre Pio said.

Padre Pio’s favorite month was the month of May because it is the month that is traditionally dedicated to Mary. How fitting that Padre Pio was born on May 25, during the month when Mary is honored throughout the Church. He used to say that May was the most beautiful month of all because it brings to mind, “the tenderness and beauty of Mary.” In a letter to Padre Agostino, Padre Pio wrote:For me, the month of May is a month of graces . . . Poor dear Mother, how you love me! I observed it once more at the dawn of this beautiful month. What great care she took to accompany me to the altar this morning. It seemed to me that she had nothing else to think about but myself as she filled my whole heart with sentiments of holy love. (Letters I)

 Padre Pio loved to say Mass at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Mass of the Immaculate Conception was the Mass that he celebrated most frequently. To a spiritual daughter who asked him for a thought on the Madonna, he said, “My daughter, it is enough for you to know that Mary is the Mother of Jesus . . . She loves us so much that she offered to God the Father, his only natural Son to save his adopted sons . . . She is a great and inestimable treasure who encloses in herself an infinite treasure, the Son of God.”

Padre Pio had a tender devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii and he prayed the novena to Our Lady of Pompeii throughout his life. A beautiful shrine that is dedicated to Our Lady of Pompeii is located in southern Italy, near the ancient city of Pompeii. The shrine was founded by the great friend of God, Blessed Bartolo Longo. After a dramatic conversion back to his faith, Bartolo became a Third Order Dominican and took the religious name Fratel Rosario (Brother Rosary) in honor of the Rosary. He dedicated the rest of his life to spreading devotion to the Virgin Mary.

Blessed Bartolo Longo, often called the Apostle of the Rosary, dedicated his life to spreading devotion to the Virgin Mary. Padre Pio had the highest esteem for him and corresponded with him.

On one occasion, Bartolo was given a painting of the Madonna. The painting was in very poor condition for through the years it had become stained and torn in places. Bartolo decided to have the painting refurbished. He wanted to build an altar in the parish church and place the painting of the Madonna on it. He requested permission from the bishop. The bishop told Bartolo that what was needed much more than an altar was a larger church. He asked for Bartolo’s help and he agreed to do whatever he could to assist the bishop. After much hard work, Bartolo completed the building project. He had the painting of the Madonna restored to its original beauty. Jewels were embedded into the painting as well as a crown which was placed on the Madonna. The image was put on a special altar in the new church.

Bartolo realized that there was something altogether unique about the painting, something which, as he said, “impressed the soul.” And it was true. Visitors to the new shrine, upon seeing the image of Our Lady of the Rosary, knelt down and began to pray. The painting came to be known as the Madonna of Pompeii. Soon cures and favors were reported by those who prayed before the painting. One of the first reported miracles was the complete healing of Bartolo’s own mother, who had been on her deathbed. Bartolo decided to document the favors that were being received and it was not long before he had recorded more than 900 miracles. Bartolo also composed a novena to the Virgin of Pompeii which became widely circulated. As the word spread, more and more people had the desire to visit the shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Pompeii and it became the destination of thousands.

Bartolo Longo was beatified on October 26, 1980 by Pope John Paul II, who called Bartolo  the “Apostle of the Rosary.” Pope John Paul II had made a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Pompeii one year before he declared Bartolo blessed. The Holy Father returned to the shrine in 2003 to pray for world peace. More than four million people visit the shrine each year.

Padre Pio made a number of pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Pompeii. When he was fourteen years old, he traveled there with seven of his classmates and his teacher, Angelo Caccavo. He also made several visits to the shrine after his ordination to the priesthood. He had a great admiration for Bartolo Longo and on one occasion he sent him a holy card on which he inscribed on the back, “For Bartolo Longo – May Mary always look down on you with a maternal eye and comfort you in your afflictions.” Bartolo once wrote a letter to Padre Pio asking for his advice on a personal matter and Padre Pio wrote back to him, offering his spiritual counsel.

Throughout his life, Padre Pio made countless novenas to Our Lady of Pompeii. When he needed a special grace for himself or for someone else, he would frequently ask people to pray to Our Lady of Pompeii for his intentions. He wrote to his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, “I should like to ask you, if it is not inconvenient, to do me the kindness of making three consecutive novenas to the Virgin of Pompeii for a grace to be obtained for me from her Son, a grace which will mean a great deal for a certain soul.” (Letters II)

Padre Pio also wrote to Paolo Bavassano, thanking him for his prayers to Our Lady of Pompeii. He wrote, “I thank you for the novenas you made for me to Our Lady and I would ask you, if it is not inconvenient, to continue, because I am in great need.” (Letters IV)

 It was the Virgin Mary who came to the aide of Padre Pio and assisted him in the many trials of his life, including the times when he was attacked and tormented by the devil. One night in 1964, the superior of the monastery was awakened by a terrible noise coming from Padre Pio’s cell. When he rushed to see what had happened, he found Padre Pio lying on the floor. He was bleeding from a gash on the right side of his face, above his eyebrow. His face was swollen and there were black circles under his eyes as though he had been punched. Bruises were observed on his shoulders. Underneath his head was a pillow. When the superior asked Padre Pio what had happened, he said that the devil had come in his cell and attacked him. The superior asked him who had put the pillow beneath his head and he replied, “The Madonna.” She had taken it from his armchair and placed it under his head.

Padre Pio was unable to celebrate Mass for one week while recuperating from his injuries. The superior decided not  to disclose the full facts of the story to the public. The people in San Giovanni Rotondo were told simply that Padre Pio was unable to say Mass because he had fallen out of bed and injured himself. Right before this assault, Padre Pio had been praying intently for a woman who was in great need. She was believed to have been a victim of diabolical possession.

Padre Pietro Tartaglia, who served as the Father Guardian of the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, left a beautiful reminiscence of Padre Pio. He wrote:

I can see him today as he appeared to me when I was a youngster. It was beautiful to see him there in the silence of his cell when we Capuchin aspirants went to him for confession. The dim light gave a mystical touch to his emaciated but radiant countenance. Near him was a photograph of his mother who had died a short time before, and a little statue of Our Lady. He spoke about her to us and taught us to love her. At a certain hour he used to walk in the friary garden, absorbed in his sufferings and his love while the beads slipped through the fingers of his wounded hands. And how full and ardent was his voice when he recited the Angelus with the others, in the garden, in the choir or at the window. Who could fail to be moved by the sight of him as he walked with painful steps toward the altar for evening devotions and in a voice breaking with emotion recited the Visit to Our Blessed Lady.

The Bishop of Foggia, Most  Reverend Msgr. Paolo Carta shared a close friendship with Padre Pio and visited him on a number of occasions. One day he invited the Auxiliary Bishop of Pisa, Italy, Most Reverend Msgr. Antonio Angioni, to accompany him to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. He assured Msgr. Angioni that if he accepted the invitation, it would be an experience he would cherish for the rest of his life. Msgr. Angioni agreed to go.

When the two bishops arrived at the monastery, the evening devotions had already begun. The church was filled to capacity but they managed to find seats on the last bench, in the gallery of the church. Because they were sitting in the back, they were not able to see the Capuchin who was leading the evening prayers. However, they were able to hear him clearly. Bishop Paolo Carta said:

At the moment of our arrival, the priest was reciting the prayer to Our Blessed Lady. As I have said, we didn’t see him, but in the mystical silence of the little church, his voice reached us clearly and distinctly . . . That voice was so striking as he recited the prayer in vibrant and moving tones that it caused Msgr. Angioni to marvel. He turned to me and asked, “Who is reciting the prayer?” to which I replied, “Padre Pio.” How well Padre Pio prayed. One felt that he put his whole heart into it, his whole soul, his whole self . . . Msgr. Angioni, who is blessed with a delicate spiritual sensitivity, was at once aware of something exceptional, something extraordinary. It was the intense vibration of a soul filled with faith, the sweet outpouring of a heart full of love for Our Lady. Padre Pio pronounced each word very distinctly and in such tones as to touch the hearts of all present, even to the point of tears.

On another occasion, Bishop Carta visited Padre Pio’s monastery and brought a friend with him, an officer from the province of Cagliari, in Sardinia. Bishop Carta told Padre Pio that his friend wanted to “be assured of a ticket to Paradise.” He asked him for his thoughts on the matter. Padre Pio said simply, “Here we need Our Lady, we need Our Lady.”

 In April 1959, the Pilgrim Virgin statue of the Madonna was taken from the shrine in Fatima, Portugal to visit a number of the provincial capitals in Italy. Foggia, not a great distance from San Giovanni Rotondo, was one of the cities where the statue of the Madonna was going to stop. Bishop Carta, was very happy that the Pilgrim Virgin would be making a visit to his diocese and was preparing the citizens of Foggia for the time of her arrival.

Padre Pio had become ill with a serious case of pleurisy about the same time that the Pilgrim Virgin statue left Fatima. Because he had a great desire to see the image of the Madonna, a change was made in the schedule and San Giovanni Rotondo was added to the itinerary. Due to his illness, Padre Pio was unable to say Mass or hear confessions and was growing weaker by the day. He had to endure a number of painful procedures whereby the fluid was drained from his lungs. The superior of the monastery, alarmed at his condition, called in a number of specialists to examine him. Four doctors diagnosed Padre Pio as having a cancerous tumor on his lung but Padre Pio was not convinced of it. More than once he was admitted to the hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering, but he was always anxious to return to his religious community. He said that he did not want to die in the hospital. He wanted to die in the monastery.

Although incapacitated by his illness, Padre Pio was looking forward to the arrival of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima with great anticipation. Every evening from his sick bed, he spoke through a microphone to the faithful who were gathered outside. His brief but inspirational messages were received joyfully by his spiritual children. On July 12, during his evening address, he spoke of Mary and said, “Let us love always more this Mother and let us be confident that she shall not deny us anything because to her nothing is lacking and she has the heart of a Mother and a Queen.”

Padre Pio waited with great longing for the day of the Pilgrim Virgin’s visit. He said:

Our hearts are trembling for the arrival of this Mother. Why is she coming? Because she wants to visit her children. Therefore, it is an act of love. Therefore, let us prepare to empty our hearts of all that is neither of God, nor connects with God, nor leads to God. And this is the best welcome we can give to this celestial Mother. To keep something back is not worthy of a child in front of a Mother that is offering all of herself. This visit should not be limited to simple enthusiasm, but must remain permanent, as our Mother’s eye is permanently on us. Let us renew often the resolutions which we have made on this day of our celestial Mother’s visit.

On July 27, Padre Pio announced that the novena was beginning in preparation for the visit that the “Heavenly Mother wants to make.” Each evening of the novena, Padre Pio spoke to the people of the “very special grace” that would be coming to all with the arrival of the Pilgrim Virgin statue. He encouraged everyone to give thanks to God and to increase their prayers and devotions. On August 5, he announced, “In a few minutes our Mother will be in our house . . . Open your hearts.”

When the Pilgrim Virgin statue arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio was in bed. He had been bedridden for more than three months. The statue was taken to the church of Our Lady of Grace. For this occasion, the church remained opened day and night. Padre Pio was brought to the sacristy in a wheelchair. He kissed the image and placed a gold Rosary in her hands. Because of his extreme weakness, he had to be taken immediately back to his bed.

Afterward, the Pilgrim Virgin image was taken through all of the wards of the Home for the Relief of Suffering. When the statue was leaving San Giovanni Rotondo, a huge crowd assembled in the square outside the church to bit her farewell. Padre Pio, too, wanted to view her departure so he was taken to the balcony of the church. As a farewell gesture to Padre Pio, the helicopter that was to carry the statue to Sicily, circled three times around the church before leaving.

As Padre Pio watched from the window, he was overcome with sadness and he began to cry. He prayed, “Dear Mother, when you came to Italy, I became sick. You have visited me here and I am in the same condition. Now you are leaving. Will you not give me your blessing and heal me?” At that moment a sensation of warmth and a kind of shudder ran through his entire body. All at once he felt completely well and  had the desire to walk and to exercise a bit. The next day he wanted to celebrate Mass but his superior did not think it was advisable. That evening a doctor examined him and declared that he was well and could celebrate Mass the following day and resume all of his normal activities.

After the Pilgrim Virgin statue left Italy, an article appeared in the newspaper voicing a complaint. Someone wrote that it would have been preferable if the Pilgrim Virgin had traveled to Monte Sant Angelo, to the well-known shrine dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, rather than to San Giovanni Rotondo. When the article was brought to Padre Pio’s attention, he said simply, “Our Lady came here because she wanted to cure Padre Pio.” He told many people about his miraculous healing through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima. His eyes always filled with tears whenever he talked about it.

The pilgrims who came to Our Lady of Grace monastery, continually sought Padre Pio out, asking for his prayers. He encouraged the sick to pray and to have faith. He would often say, “Let us pray to Our Lady that she snatch this grace for you from the Heart of Jesus.” Never strong physically, Padre Pio entrusted his own health concerns to the care of the Mother of God. He wrote that God had, “put the problem of my health and a victorious outcome into the hands of our heavenly Mother.” When people came to Padre Pio, thanking him for his prayers and in many cases for the healings that were a direct result of his prayers, he would respond, “Do not thank me. I did nothing. Thank our Blessed Lady. It was she who healed you.”

On the one year anniversary of the Home for the Relief of Suffering, Padre Pio made a rare public speech. On that occasion, before a gathering of several thousand people, he prayed in thanksgiving for the hospital. He also invoked Mary’s intercession and prayed:

May Our Lady of Grace who is the Queen to whom every day and many times in the day we manifest our love, and of whom we ask her maternal assistance, reign always in the city that will rise here and may she assist all of you. May the Madonna intensify the love of her children for the Vicar of Christ on earth, and one day may she show us Jesus in the splendor of his glory.

 William (Bill) Martin from Brooklyn, New York first met Padre Pio when he made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1959. Bill visited Padre Pio again in 1964 and when it was time to say goodbye, Bill found it very difficult to leave. As he was waiting for the bus to take him to Foggia, one of the members of the Capuchin community came running toward him and told him that Padre Pio wanted him to stay on at the monastery. Bill was overjoyed at the news. He became a Third Order Franciscan and was thereafter known to everyone as Brother Bill. After Padre Pio’s death, he was ordained to the priesthood and took the name Father Joseph Pius Martin.

Brother Bill Martin (Father Joseph Pius Martin) sitting on the veranda with Padre Pio sharing a quiet moment.

Brother Bill became Padre Pio’s personal assistant and worked close beside him on a daily basis. One afternoon, he and Padre Pio were sitting together on the veranda near Padre Pio’s cell. Enjoying the time of silence, each was occupied with his own thoughts. Brother Bill was thinking to himself what a great blessing it had been for him to have been able to have spent so much time close to Padre Pio. He knew how fortunate he was and he wondered who had obtained this wonderful grace for him. Was it Padre Pio or was it Our Lady who was responsible? Although Brother Bill had not shared his thoughts with Padre Pio, at the exact moment that he was thinking about it, Padre Pio turned to him and said, “It was Our Lady.”

On August 10, 1960, Padre Pio celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Between six and seven thousand people gathered in San Giovanni Rotondo to be present at his priestly Golden Jubilee. Included in that number were many of the doctors and administrators who served at the Home for the Relief of Suffering. Three bishops as well as the provincial superior of the Capuchin order assisted at the Mass. On that occasion, Padre Pio expressed his deep gratitude for his vocation to the priesthood. He also paid honor to his heavenly Mother. He prayed, “O Mary, most sweet Mother of priests, Mediatrix of all graces, from the depth of my heart I pray to you. I beg you, I implore you, to thank Jesus today, tomorrow and always for the inestimable gift of my fiftieth anniversary to the priesthood.”

Toward the end of Padre Pio’s life, the burdens of old age and ill health weighed on him. He suffered not only from the pain of the stigmata but also from exhaustion, weakness, severe headaches and many other physical ailments. Subject to asthma attacks, it was often difficult for him to breathe. In the last three years of his life, his fellow Capuchins noticed that he became more and more silent. When he had company, if the conversation of his visitors turned to small talk or idle chatter, he would quickly put a halt to it. When people approached him seeking his counsel, often, rather than speaking, he would simply hold up his Rosary, encouraging prayer as a solution to the trials and difficulties of life. In his last years, his greatest consolation was the Rosary, which he prayed night and day.

Just four days before his death, Padre Pio expressed his devotion to Mary in one of his final gestures of love. A man brought Padre Pio a beautiful bouquet of red roses for the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his stigmata. Padre Pio took one of the roses out of the bouquet and asked one of his spiritual sons who was going to Pompeii if he would take it to the shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. The man promised that he would take it there the very next day.

When the man arrived in Pompeii, he told a nun who served at the shrine that the rose had been sent by Padre Pio, who asked that it be placed before the image of Our Lady of the Rosary. Very pleased to receive the rose, the nun placed it in a vase with other roses. On September 23, the day that Padre Pio passed away, the nun noticed that all the other roses in the vase had withered but the one that Padre Pio had sent was still fresh and beautiful. The news of Padre Pio’s unfading rose reached the local bishop who decided to put it on display in a special glass container.

Padre Alberto D’Apolito, who had been very close to Padre Pio through the years, heard about the rose and wanted to see it. He took a number of Third Order Franciscans from San Giovanni Rotondo on pilgrimage to the shrine in Pompeii. They saw the rose that Padre Pio had sent to Our Lady of Pompeii and although the stem was slightly yellow in color, the rose remained fresh and intact. Their visit to see the rose occurred one year after Padre Pio’s death.

Cleonice Morcaldi, one of Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters, spoke to Padre Pio just a few days before his death. “Father, please give me at least one word,” Cleonice said to him. He answered, “Love the Madonna and make her loved. Always recite her Rosary. That is the armor against the evils of the world today.” “Is the Madonna close to you?” Cleonice asked. “A Mother,” Padre Pio replied. “All of Paradise is near her.”

Padre Pio’s love for Our Lady and for her Rosary supported and sustained him throughout his earthly pilgrimage. Father Domenico Mondrone spoke of Padre Pio’s love for Mary and said:

The Rosary was the most beautiful and longest sermon in honor of her, because it lasted the whole of his life. He spoke with the Rosary which he was seen to clutch always in his fingers, the Rosary he clutched in those last instants, almost as though it were the supreme link between the earth he was about to leave and the heavens which opened before him.

Padre Pio passed into eternal life very peacefully, very well prepared. He died with his Rosary in his hand. His last words were – Jesus, Mary.

 

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 75 – Spring -2018

Download Newsletter Issue 75 – Spring 2018

Padre Pio’s Love for the Blessed Virgin Mary

Padre Pio prays before an image of Our Lady of Grace in
San Giovanni Rotondo

One of the outstanding characteristics of Padre Pio’s profound spirituality was his deep and abiding devotion to the Virgin Mary. His love for Mary was one which was present from the early years of his childhood. It was a love that grew steadily in fidelity and devotion, lasting throughout his entire life.

Francesco Forgione (Padre Pio) was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, in southern Italy. He was baptized the following day in the parish church of St. Anne. The church of St. Anne was dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels and from his young years, Francesco had a great love for Mary, Queen of the Angels. Throughout his life, he was assisted and protected by the continual presence of Jesus and the Virgin Mary and his guardian angel as well. When he was only five years old, Francesco consecrated his life to God. Padre Agostino Daniele of San Marco in Lamis wrote in his diary about young Francesco and said, “The ecstasies and the apparitions began at the age of five, when he first had the desire to consecrate himself to the Lord, and they were continuous.”

Pietrelcina, the small town where Francesco grew up, has a long history of devotion to the Virgin Mary. Our Lady Liberatrix (Our Lady of Liberty) was the special patroness of the area and was venerated in the parish church. Every year there was a festival in her honor with a procession through the streets.

Francesco’s parents, Grazio and Giuseppa Forgione, both deeply religious, raised their children to love God above all things and to be firmly rooted in their Catholic faith and in the teachings of the Church. As a family, the Forgiones went to church every day and prayer came before all other activities. Padre Pio’s mother, Giuseppa, by word and by example, taught her children to love the Virgin Mary and to pray the Rosary daily. Firm in her faith and in the love of God, Giuseppa had a special devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The Virgin Mary, who was close to Francesco all through his childhood, assisted him in a special way when he was fifteen years old, on the eve of his departure for the Capuchin novitiate in Morcone. Francesco felt a strong attachment to his family and friends and the thought of leaving them and all that was familiar to him was extremely painful. As the day of his departure grew near, so too the sadness in his heart increased at the thought of saying goodbye. It caused him to feel as if his “very bones were being crushed.” The day before he left for Morcone, he had a vision of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Resplendent and beautiful in glory, they appeared to him and assured him that they were with him and would remain with him as he embarked on a new life. Jesus laid his hand on young Francesco’s head in a blessing. The experience strengthened him to such a degree that he was able to bid farewell to his family without shedding a single tear.

Francesco entered the Capuchin novitiate on January 6, 1903. On January 22, he was vested in the habit and given the name Brother Pio. Brother Pio excelled in the novitiate in Morcone. He embraced the rigorous monastic life, the austerity, the penance and self-sacrifice. He loved the study of Sacred Scripture, the silence of the cloister, the communal prayers, the solitude. The Capuchin monastery in Morcone was considered by many to be extreme in its strictness. A number of the novices did not fare well and left of their own accord. Brother Pio was deeply committed to his vocation from the very beginning. He persevered and did not complain or criticize his superiors like many of the others did.

 At the top of the stairs in the novitiate, there was a painting of Our Lady of Sorrows with  words inscribed in Latin, “Remember to say a Hail Mary as you go by.” Brother Pio would always genuflect and say a prayer to the Virgin each time he passed. One of the novices, Brother Guglielmo said, “He (Brother Pio) was extremely pious in the fulfilment of his practices of devotion. He would be the first, with great fervor and faith, to make acts of adoration, to pay reverence and to make genuflections before the Blessed Sacrament and the image of Our Lady.”

 As a young Capuchin preparing for the priesthood, Brother Pio’s great piety was observed by both his teachers and his fellow students alike. Padre Leone, who had been a classmate of his, recalled, “He (Brother Pio) was a person of ordinary talent, but he always knew the lesson, although we had the impression that he did not study a great deal. Using one excuse or another, I would go to his cell and almost always I would find him on his knees in prayer, his eyes red from weeping. I could say that he was a student in constant prayer.” Padre Ilario, another one of his classmates wrote, “As a student at Montefusco, I would be with Brother Pio in choir as he recited the Office of the Blessed Virgin and sometimes I saw him with tears in his eyes. He was sickly, of delicate health, frequently with a fever and suffering severe pains.”

Brother Pio was ordained to the priesthood on August 10, 1910 and thereafter became known to everyone as Padre Pio. He was sent to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916. Padre Pio loved the simplicity and solitude of the monastery and was very happy to be a part of the religious community there. Our Lady of Grace was the patroness, not only of the monastery, but also of the town of San Giovanni Rotondo.

A beautiful painting of Our Lady of Grace which dates back to the thirteenth century was venerated in the sanctuary of the church. Padre Pio spent countless hours in prayer, gazing at the beautiful image of Our Lady of Grace. For many years he lived in cell number five and the words of St. Bernard were inscribed on the door, “Mary is the foundation of my hope.” Mary was indeed, the foundation of Padre Pio’s hope. Due to the many years he lived at the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo, from 1916 until his death in 1968, Our Lady of Grace is the Marian image, which more than any other, is most closely associated with him.

Pope John Paul II spoke of Padre Pio’s love for Our Lady of Grace to a large gathering of pilgrims in Rome on June 17, 2002, the day following Padre Pio’s canonization. The Holy Father said, “May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Padre Pio called by the beautiful name of Our Lady of Grace, help us to follow in the footsteps of this Religious who is so beloved by the people.”

Like a natural son would feel toward his own mother, Padre Pio wanted to protect and shield his Heavenly Mother from any hint of disrespect. He could not bear to hear her name dishonored. Once, a young man went to Padre Pio to make his confession and accused himself of cursing. When Padre Pio asked him whom he had cursed, he told him that he had cursed Jesus and Mary. The young man said that upon hearing this, Padre Pio looked “as though he had been stabbed in the heart.” “You really cursed Jesus and Our Lady?” Padre Pio asked him incredulously. Then Padre Pio seemed to collapse against the kneeler. He said to the young man, “What more could Jesus and Mary do for us than what they have already done.”

On one occasion, at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, some men were having a discussion regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary. Different viewpoints were shared and a number of the ideas that were expressed were in opposition to the teachings of the Church. Padre Pio found the conversation very difficult to endure. He asked his superior for permission to leave the room. “This talk upsets me very much,” he said, “and I must leave at once.” His superior granted his request.

The Image of Our Lady of Grace which is venerated at the shrine at Sardhana, India. This picture was blessed by Padre Pio on Sept 28, 1955.

In 1955, the Archbishop of Agra, India, His Excellency, Most Reverend Msgr. Giuseppe Evangelisti visited Padre Pio. He brought a beautiful painting of Our Lady of Grace with him and asked Padre Pio to bless it. He explained that he intended to build a shrine in Sardhana, in northern India, where the painting of the Virgin would be venerated. Padre Pio was very happy about the Archbishop’s plan. He kissed the painting and blessed it and told the Archbishop that he would pray to Our Lady of Grace for her children in India.

In 1957, the shrine at Sardhana was completed and during the solemn inauguration, the painting was taken in procession and placed in the chapel of the shrine. On that day, a boy who was so ill that the doctors could offer no hope for his recovery, was instantly healed when he touched the painting. The healing of the young boy was the first in a long list of healings and special favors that many were to receive who visited the shrine.

Padre Pio venerated Mary according to her many titles. He was devoted to Our Lady of Loreto, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady Liberatrix, Our Lady of Grace, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Pompeii, Our Lady of the Assumption and more.

 Several days prior to the feasts of Our Lady, Padre Pio prepared himself by giving up certain foods that he enjoyed. He asked his superior for permission to give up fruit every Wednesday in honor of the Blessed Virgin and he found many other ways to make sacrifices in her honor. He fasted completely on the feast of the Immaculate Conception and on all of the other feasts of the Virgin Mary. He also fasted on the feast days of Our Lord, Saint Francis of Assisi, and St. Michael the Archangel.

 Dr. Mario De Giacomo had a great admiration for Padre Pio. On one occasion when he was visiting Padre Pio at the monastery, he asked him if he liked a certain Italian dish called spaghetti ala napoletana. Padre Pio said that he enjoyed it very much and that it had been a long time since he had eaten it. The doctor wanted to bring the dish to him for dinner and Padre Pio agreed to it. The next evening the doctor brought the specially prepared meal to Padre Pio’s cell. Padre Pio said the blessing over the food and then became quiet. He said to the doctor, “Mario, why don’t we offer this to Our Lady. Please take it to the poor. They will enjoy it so much and the Virgin Mary will bless you for your kindness.” The doctor did what Padre Pio requested.

 On August 15, 1929, on the Feast of the Assumption, Mary made a visitation from Heaven to Padre Pio in order to console him. It was a time in his life when he was beset by a multitude of trials, both physical and spiritual. On that day, while Padre Pio was celebrating Mass, Mary appeared to him holding the Infant Jesus in her arms. Padre Pio wrote:

This morning, I went up to the holy altar, I know not how. Physical pain and interior grief competed as to which could most afflict all my poor being . . . A mortal sadness pervaded me through and through and I thought that all was finished for me . . . At the moment of consuming the Sacred Species of the Eucharist, a sudden light flooded through me and I clearly saw the Heavenly Mother with the Christ Child in her arms, who together, said to me, “Be at peace. We are with you. You belong to us and we are yours.”. . .I felt the whole day as if I was engulfed in a sea of  indescribable sweetness and love.(Letters IV)

Padre Pio felt at a loss to express in full, his gratitude to the Virgin for the many graces she had showered on him throughout his life. He used to say, “She treats me as if I were her only child on the face of the earth. Her loving care toward me cannot be described in words.” In a letter to Padre Benedetto, he wrote:

 My only regret, dear Father, is that I have no adequate means with which to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary, through whose intercession I have undoubtedly received so much strength from the Lord, to bear with sincere resignation the many humiliations to which I am subjected day after day . . . and I do not believe this strength comes to me from the world. (Letters I)

Our Lady of Sorrows was one of the titles of the Virgin that Padre Pio frequently contemplated. Padre Pio meditated on the Passion of Jesus and on Mary’s devotion to her Son as she stood at the foot of the Cross. He would say to his spiritual children, “Go and keep company with Jesus in his Passion, and with his Sorrowful Mother.”

 Padre Pio recommended devotion to the Sorrowful Virgin to one of his spiritual daughters, Madame Katharina Tangari. Katharina first visited the Capuchin monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo in 1950. The beauty of the Mass celebrated by Padre Pio made a profound impression on her and she was deeply edified. She returned to the monastery more than seventy times.

 One Easter, Katharina received a beautiful Dominican edition missal as a gift. Her great desire was to have Padre Pio write an inscription in the front of her missal. She asked the superior of the monastery to give her missal to Padre Pio to sign. The superior told Katharina that he could not make any promises. There were too many people with too many requests. Katherina waited patiently for two months and when her missal was finally returned to her, Padre Pio had written on the first page, “If you want to assist at Holy Mass with devotion and fruitfully, keep company with the Sorrowful Virgin at the foot of the Cross on Calvary.”

 Padre Pio encouraged people to approach the Virgin Mary with faith in her maternal and loving heart. On July 18, 1916, he wrote to his spiritual daughter, Giuseppina Morgera,

You must remember that you have in Heaven not only a Father, but also a Mother . . . And if our wretchedness saddens us, if our ingratitude to God terrorizes us, if the memory of our faults hinders us from presenting ourselves to God our Father, let us then have recourse to Mary, our Mother. She is all sweetness, mercy, goodness, and love for us, because she is our Mother.

When speaking about the Virgin Mary, Padre Pio used many endearing terms. He called her Queen of martyrs, Comforter, heavenly Mother, Mediatrix of all graces, most tender Mother of priests, Mother most pure, Morning Star, merciful Mother in Heaven. He saw the Virgin as the consoler of the afflicted, the advocate of sinners, the refuge of sinners, the most beloved. He frequently referred to her simply as “Mother.” An image of the Madonna was found to be weeping in one of the parish churches in Italy. The bishop of the diocese asked for an investigation into the matter and after much study the bishop declared that the phenomenon was of supernatural origin. When Padre Pio was told about the image of the Madonna he said, “When Our Lady is weeping, things are not going well.”

 Father Mariano, one of the Capuchins at Our Lady of Grace monastery, went to Padre Pio’s cell one evening to visit him. When he greeted Padre Pio, he saw that several other Capuchins were visiting him as well. One had brought a statue of the Virgin for Padre Pio to bless. Padre Pio was asked if he liked the statue and he replied that it was indeed beautiful. Father Mariano exclaimed, “But Padre Pio sees more. He can see the Madonna in flesh and blood.” Padre Pio then said, “From the time her Son crucified me, she has never left this cell of mine.” And to Padre Tarcisio da Cervinara who once asked Padre Pio if it was true that he was assisted in the confessional by Saint Francis and the Virgin Mary, he replied, “My son, if it were not for those two with me, what would I be able to accomplish?”

 When Padre Pio’s eyesight grew weak and it became difficult for him to read, his superiors allowed him to replace the Mass of the day with the Mass of Our Lady and also to replace the reading of the Divine Office with the prayers of the Rosary. He preferred the Rosary above all other prayers and insisted that his spiritual children carry a Rosary with them at all times and pray it every day. For Padre Pio, the Rosary was a profound meditation on the mysteries of the Christian faith.

 Padre Pio defined the Rosary as, “The synthesis of our faith, the expression of our charity, and the foundation of our hope.” He referred to the Rosary as a “crown of graces.” On one occasion when Padre Pio had forgotten his Rosary, he said to Padre Onorato, “Please, go to my cell and get my weapon.” Padre Onorato did not understand and so he asked Padre Pio what he meant. “Please go and get my Rosary,” he answered. He called the Rosary a weapon against the evil in the world.

 Padre Pio was aware that many people had abandoned the practice of the Rosary, considering it outdated and too repetitious. Nevertheless, he never stopped encouraging people to pray the Rosary daily. He said to one of the friars:

My son, if we do what we have always done, what our fathers did before us, we cannot go wrong. Satan wants to destroy this prayer, but in this he will never succeed. The Rosary is the prayer of those who triumph over everything and everyone. It was Our Lady who taught us this prayer, just as it was Jesus who taught us the Our Father.

Padre Pio once said, “Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother.” By word and deed, Padre Pio taught those who were close to him to pray continually for Mary’s intercessory help. Padre Pellegrino Funicelli, who spent many years at Padre Pio’s side, knew how fortunate he was to be guided spiritually by Padre Pio. In an effort to encourage Padre Pellegrino in the daily recitation of the Rosary, Padre Pio once said to him, “If you will recite the Rosary daily, you will become an angel.”

One day when Padre Pellegrino and Padre Pio were sitting together in the monastery garden enjoying a moment of relaxation, Padre Pio noticed one of his fellow Capuchins, Brother Costantino, who was sitting a short distance away. The elderly Brother was praying his Rosary in the open air. Padre Pio recognized that Brother Costantino, in his great devotion to the Mother of God, was a great spiritual role model for all of the other Capuchins. Padre Pio said to Padre Pellegrino:

Do you see Brother Costantino? Old and sick as he is, he seems now to be worth nothing. And yet, as an obedient son of Holy Mother Church, who knows how to hold a Rosary in his hand and knows how to pray to the Madonna, he is worth more than you or me. Do you know why he has so much peace of soul? Because he has placed all his trust in the Most Holy Virgin, and because he interests himself as little as possible in the problems of the world. His spirit of prayer and his devotion to the Most Holy Virgin are virtues that wash away all defects and all human weaknesses. He draws on himself the gaze of the Madonna and his prayers have saved many souls.

You think that the penitents are attracted by the confessor, but instead they are spurred on to penance by these hidden prayers. The Madonna listens to these devout sons of the Holy Church. I would almost say that she gets her strength from the prayers of these men whom you consider useless. For me, these brothers in the faith always say something on behalf of the Most Holy Virgin, on behalf of the Church, and on behalf of God.

 Padre Pio’s love for Mary was evident as he prayed the Rosary whenever there was a free moment in his busy day. He carried a Rosary with him at all times and was either holding it in his hand or had it close by. One of the Capuchins who assisted Padre Pio in the morning when he washed his hands said that he would wash first one hand and then the other because he wanted to keep one hand free to hold his Rosary.

Danny Hickey, of St. Albans, New York, as an American G.I. stationed in Italy during World War II, visited Padre Pio’s monastery on a number of occasions. After he returned to the U.S. he felt a call to the priesthood, entered the seminary, and upon completion was ordained as a Capuchin priest. During his visits to the monastery, Danny had a chance to observe Padre Pio closely and he gradually became aware of his great fidelity to prayer. Danny said:

Padre Pio was usually seen standing with his right hand in the front fold pocket of his Capuchin habit. A few times when he withdrew his hand, he was seen to be fingering a small chaplet of beads. It seems it was Padre Pio’s habit not to waste a second but to fill each one with a prayer. Any lull in the conversation, no matter how short, his lips would be seen to move slightly as he prayed. But there was nothing ostentatious in all this; it was a long time before I was aware of what he was doing, though I had noticed his hand constantly in the breast pocket of his habit.

Padre Pio had the ability to impart his own love and enthusiasm for the Rosary to others. One of the members of the Capuchin community in San Giovanni Rotondo once saw a number of men standing together in a group near the church. They all had rosaries in their hands. Happily, and with a sense of pride, the men said to the Capuchin, “It is Padre Pio who taught us how to pray the Rosary.” Toward the end of his life, someone asked Padre Pio, “What inheritance do you wish to leave your spiritual children?” He answered simply, “The Rosary.”

 Father Alessio Parente served as the personal assistant to Padre Pio from 1958 to 1961 and again from 1965 to1968. He wrote, “I was at Padre Pio’s side for six years, and in all that time I never saw him without the Rosary in his hands, night and day. Our Lady never refused him anything through the Rosary . . . The Rosary was Padre Pio’s constant link with Our Lady.”

 Knowing Padre Pio’s great devotion to the Virgin Mary, Father Alessio once said to him, “You have such a great love for the Blessed Mother. Would you like to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes?” He answered, “I do not have to go to Lourdes. I go there every night. I see Our Lady of Lourdes every night.” On the wall of his cell, he had a picture of Our Lady of Lourdes as well as Our Lady Liberatrix, Our Lady of Purity and others.

Once a man traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. After the Mass, he was able to speak to Padre Pio briefly. He had brought a number of rosaries with him and he asked Padre Pio to bless them. When he returned to his home, he was going to give the blessed rosaries to a number of his friends who were sick. The man was impressed to observe that Padre Pio took the request seriously. Before blessing the rosaries, he prayed for a long time over them.

Padre Pio blessed thousands of rosaries in his lifetime and he also gave religious medals and holy cards to his visitors as a token of his affection. Often on the back of the holy cards, he would inscribe a short message. On one holy card he wrote, “May Mary always look upon you with maternal love, lighten the weight of your exile and one day reveal to you Jesus in the fullness of his glory, without the fear of ever losing him again.”

Padre Pio’s day began very early. He would rise every morning between 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Three hours of sleep proved to be sufficient for him. He always wanted to offer to God the “first fruits” of the day and so he devoted the early morning hours to prayer and meditation as a preparation for his 5:00 a.m. Mass. When he left his cell in the morning, he would stop on the stairs before a picture of Mary Immaculate and pray. Then he would make his way to the sacristy, praying the Rosary all the while.

Once Father Carmelo questioned Padre Pio about his habit of rising so early in the morning. “What time do you get up in the morning?” Father Carmelo asked him. He answered that he rose at 3:30 a.m. or earlier. “But why do you get up at such an hour? Don’t you think that is a bit too early to rise?” Father Carmelo asked. Padre Pio answered, “But Father, we cannot prepare ourselves too much for Holy Communion.”    – To Be Continued

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 74 – Winter

Download Newsletter Issue 74 – Winter 2018

Padre Pio – True Friend and Guide

Padre Pio and some of his fellow Capuchins and friends enjoying
a visit in the monastery garden. In this photo, they appear
to be looking upward at something of interest.

I consider what writers say about the kingfishers, little birds who build their nests on the beach near the sea. They build it in a circular form and so tightly compressed that the sea water cannot penetrate it . . . Here these graceful little birds place their young ones, so that when the sea comes upon them by surprise, they can swim with confidence and float on the waves . . . I want your heart to be like this: well compact and closed on all sides, so that if the worries and storms of the world, the evil spirit, and the flesh come upon it, it will not be penetrated. Leave but one opening to your heart that is toward heaven . . . How I love and am enraptured by those little birds.

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Some of the Capuchins who lived close to Padre Pio at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo remarked that his magnetism exerted a powerful influence, not only on people, but even at times on animals. It was observed that the monastery dog seemed to be particularly drawn to Padre Pio. If the door to the monks’ private quarters was left open, the dog would sometimes go to Padre Pio’s cell and wait at his door. It was also observed that when Padre Pio said Mass in the early days, the stray dogs from surrounding areas would come and sit in the square just in front of the church. When Mass was over, they would leave the area. We see by the following story that Padre Pio had a certain mysterious rapport not only with animals, but also with birds:

The monastery garden at Our Lady of Grace was a quiet and secluded place that was surrounded with fruit trees, a long row of cypress trees and one pine tree. Padre Pio and the other members of his religious community would usu­ally gather there each day. Sometimes, members of the laity were invited to join them. In the summer time, when the weather was hot, Padre Pio would often go to the garden in the early evening. It was a time of fellowship and conversa­tion, a welcome respite from the intensely busy days at the monastery.

Dr. Nicola Centra recalled an extraordinary event that happened on one occasion in the monastery garden. One day when Padre Pio was there with several companions, without warning, a flock of birds flew down and settled on the nearby trees. Sparrows, larks, warblers and more were there in great numbers. Suddenly, one of the birds began to sing loudly, followed by a great flapping of wings from the other birds. Then all of the feathered friends began to sing in unison. It was like a marvelous symphony of chirping, whistling, high-pitched rills and trills. It was indeed beautiful to listen to. However, on that particular day, the birds were so loud that Padre Pio was unable to carry on a conversation with his friends. He could not be heard above the chatter.

Suddenly, Padre Pio looked upward at all the birds in the trees and said with authority, “Quiet, that’s enough!” Immediately, the sound of the birds ceased altogether. A great silence descended on the monastery garden. Padre Pio then resumed his conversation as though nothing had happened. But something amazing indeed had happened. Those who were in the garden at the time and witnessed it, considered it to be miraculous.

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For many years Padre Pio was assigned as spiritual director to the members of the Third Order of St. Francis in San Giovanni Rotondo. The meetings were usually held in the monastery but in the early days the meetings occasionally took place in the homes of the members.

On one occasion, Padre Pio presided at a meeting which was held at the home of his spiritual daughter, Vittoria Ventrella. When the meeting was called to order, Padre Pio began to speak. Before he could say more than a few words, Vittoria’s pet bird started to flutter about in its cage and to sing loudly. It soon became a distraction to the business at hand. Finally, Padre Pio looked over at the lively little bird and said in a commanding voice, “Be quiet now. Stop singing and listen!”

Much to the amazement of all who were present, at Padre Pio’s words, the bird immediately stopped singing. He still moved his head from side to side but he made not a sound. The members of the Third Order who were present could only conclude that in some mysterious way, and on some level, the little creature had understood Padre Pio’s wishes. At the conclusion of the meeting, when Padre Pio left Vittoria Ventrella’s home, the bird began its high volume singing once again, just as it had before being silenced.

The news spread quickly and it wasn’t long before everyone in San Giovanni Rotondo learned of the miraculous incident. Stories abounded, more than could be counted, which attested to Padre Pio’s unique charisms. Many had a desire to ask Padre Pio about his remarkable spiritual gifts, but few had the courage to bring up the subject. Even the Capuchins who were with him on a daily basis rarely spoke to him about such matters. Padre Pio was reserved and private by nature and did not welcome such inquiries.

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Anna Romanazzi’s husband passed away on November 18, 1954 at the relatively young age of fifty-four years. Anna’s grief was so great that it immobilized her.  She did not know how she would be able to carry on. In addition to the emotional pain of losing her husband, Anna also had many physical problems to contend with. She suffered from sacro-lumbar arthrosis as well as a herniated disk in her spine. She lived with chronic and severe pain. The doctor prescribed a plaster cast for her to wear and told her that an operation would probably be necessary sometime in the future. After her husband passed away, Anna no longer wore the plaster cast, the “instrument of torture,” as she called it.  She lost all interest in life. Her four adult children became very concerned about her.

Anna knew that she had some very important decisions to make. Before her husband’s death, he had expanded his business interests from Bari to Rome. Anna did not feel that she had either the ability or the strength to take on the responsibility of managing the business.

Seeing how depressed Anna was, her sister decided to take her to see Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo.  She also made arrangements for Anna to make her confession to Padre Pio.  Anna was told that Padre Pio would hear her confession at a designated corridor in the church. When Anna saw Padre Pio sitting in a chair at the appointed place and realized that he was waiting for her, she was overcome with emotion. She walked to where he was sitting, fell to her knees and said to him, “Padre Pio, help me find resignation!” At that moment, the Rosary she held in her hand fell to the floor. Padre Pio bent down to pick up her Rosary and when he handed it back to her, he placed his wounded hand on her shoulder. “His eyes were beautiful and full of compassion,” Anna said. With great gentleness he said to her, “You are so devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Recommend yourself to Him. I absolve you. Go in peace, my daughter.” He then made an extensive sign of blessing over her.  There was no need for words. Anna knew that Padre Pio understood her soul. 

 Later, when a friend of Anna’s was making a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo, Anna made a request of her. She wanted her to ask Padre Pio if she should have the back surgery that her physician had been discussing with her. Padre Pio said to Anna’s friend, “Tell Anna that it is her duty to take care of herself, because our life does not belong to us; we must give it back to God.”

After Anna heard Padre Pio’s message, she left her home in Bari and traveled to Rome for an appointment with the specialist.  The x-rays showed that there was no longer anything wrong with her spine. Anna never had any trouble with her back again.  She remembered that Padre Pio had placed his hand on her shoulder and prayed for her for an extended period of time. “Padre Pio obtained for me from the Lord, peace of mind, resignation, and bodily health to sustain me and to sustain my children,” Anna said. It was the beginning of a whole new life for her.

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In 1955, Bishop Orestes Marengo, S.D.B. served as head of the Catholic diocese of Dibrugarh in northeastern India. When he first arrived in Dibrugarh, the residents of the town were still coping with the devastating effects of a terrible earthquake that had occurred some time before. The earthquake had caused dangerous landslides as well as flooding. A dyke was built to protect the area but it was eventually demolished by flood waters. As a result, some of the finest houses in Dibrugarh had been destroyed.

At the time, the Sisters who belonged to the religious congregation, Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix, were building their first school in Dibrugarh. Bishop Marengo agreed to fund the project even though his financial resources were very limited. One day, the Sisters spoke to Bishop Marengo about their concerns regarding the precarious future of Dibrugarh.  Due to the problems that resulted from the earthquake, the authorities were speaking of the possibility of an evacuation of all the residents of the city in favor of a permanent relocation to a safer region. If the city was going to be relocated, the Sisters felt that the construction on the school should stop at once. An enormous sum of money had already been spent in the building of the school. To continue to build would simply be throwing good money away.

 Because everything was so uncertain, the Sisters urged Bishop Marengo to write a letter to Padre Pio and seek his advice in the matter. They explained that some of their Sisters in Thailand once sought out Padre Pio in a difficult situation. Through him, they received the help and guidance they needed and in turn, they were led to a successful resolution of their problem.

Bishop Marengo decided to act upon the Sisters’ advice. He wrote a letter to Padre Pio, giving him a detailed account of the entire situation in Dibrugarh. He explained that the authorities thought it might be best to build a new city forty-five kilometers to the north. Padre Pio’s reply came a little more than two months later. It was a short note written in English by his secretary, Father Dominic Meyer. Padre Pio’s message was this: “Your Excellency, tell the good Sisters to go on working zealously for the Lord and not to be afraid. The government will build a second defense against the river, and the city will be saved.”  Soon after the bishop received Padre Pio’s letter, engineers from Bombay arrived and were able to make steady progress in securing the city.

It was a joyous day when the Little Flower Catholic School in Dibrugarh was finally completed. It functioned in an excellent way from the first day that it opened its doors to the public. It was truly a blessing to the people of the community. The bishop treasured the letter that Padre Pio sent to him and decided to keep it on permanent display in the school for the benefit of all.

Bishop Marengo made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1960. He was able to greet Padre Pio in the sacristy both before and after Mass. Not only did he have the privilege of attending Padre Pio’s Mass, he was also invited to visit Padre Pio in his cell so that they could speak together privately. He was able to thank Padre Pio personally for his prophetic words, words which gave him courage during that fearful time when the future of the young Catholic diocese of Dibrugarh was so uncertain.

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On one occasion, shortly before the Mass was about to begin, Padre Pio asked everyone in the church to kneel. Teresita DeVecci and her son happened to be present at the Mass that day. Teresita knelt down along with the other members of the congregation but her son, who was sitting in the very back row of the church, did not feel it was necessary to kneel and remained seated. Suddenly, he heard Padre Pio say, “Even those in the very back of the church. I want you to kneel too. There are no favorites here.”

After Mass, Teresita’s son put his name down to go to confession to Padre Pio and was told that he could make his confession at four o’clock that afternoon. Shortly before the designated time, he went to the sacristy where he was greeted by three other men who were also waiting to make their confession. “Where are you from?” one of the men asked him. “From Switzerland,” he replied.  “I believe that Padre Pio was looking for you,” the man said. “Earlier today I heard him asking, “Where is the young man from Switzerland who is going to make his confession?”  “But that is impossible,” Teresita’s son said to the man. “Padre Pio does not know me. He has never met me. I arrived here just last night.” “But Padre Pio knows everything,” the man replied.

Padre Pio officiates at a ceremony for members of the Third Order of St. Francis in San Giovanni Rotondo.

As Teresita’s son waited to make his confession, he prepared his heart and mind for the encounter. He knew that many people kissed Padre Pio’s hand upon leaving the confessional. It was a practice that was especially popular with women, but he did not approve of it. He referred to it as a custom from the “middle ages.” He had expressed his feelings to his mother and told her that under no circumstances would he ever kiss Padre Pio’s hand. “Besides, it isn’t sanitary,” he added. “Just imagine the germs that are on Padre Pio’s glove from all the kisses.”

That afternoon, Teresita waited in the church for her son to come out of the confessional. When he finally came out, he passed by her without even noticing that she was there. She followed him outside and observed that he was very pale. He told her that in the confessional, without realizing why, he suddenly had a great desire to kiss Padre Pio’s hand. When he did so, there was a tremendous heat coming from his hand. He felt a burning sensation, as if he had kissed “a red-hot iron.”

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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.

I have a friend named Glenda who is a Protestant and belongs to the Presbyterian denomination. I shared the prayers of Padre Pio with her and told her about his life and his familiar saying, “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.” I gave her a Padre Pio Rosary. I also gave her a pamphlet on how to pray the Rosary and suggested that she pray it each day. Glenda thought it was a good idea and began to pray the Rosary every morn­ing. She told me that whenever she had entered a Catholic Church in the past, she always had a special feeling. I told her that she was feeling the real pres­ence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Glenda had to go to the hospital for quadruple bypass heart surgery. Her sister called me to let me know that she came through the surgery just fine. However, her sister said that the doctor had come to her room the next day and he was perplexed. He told Glenda that she was repeating some initials during the operation, and he, as well as all of the doctors and nurses who were attending her, were curious as to what she was saying. He said that none of his patients had ever murmured even one word during open heart surgery. The anesthetic they are given is so strong, that they are not able to utter a sound in their unconscious state. But Glenda, for some reason, was different. “What was I saying?” Glenda asked him. “You were constantly repeating the initials, P. H. D. W.” the doctor answered. “We would like to know what it stands for.” Then Glenda understood and told him, “It stands for “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.” The doctor has since shared the phrase with his patients who are preparing for surgery.

– Tom Thurston 

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About three years ago my niece, Patricia Gail, was diagnosed with thymus cancer. She was told to get her affairs in order and to make provisions to have someone take care of her two children, for she did not have much time left. Gail is not a practicing Christian, but she does believe in Jesus as her Savior. I worked at a Catholic Book and Gift Shop and bought her a St. Padre Pio Rosary, had it blessed, and took it to her in the hospital. I told her about St. Pio and the many healings that occurred through him. She informed me that she was not Catholic and did not know how to pray the Rosary.

Her surgery was the next day and time was a factor so I told her just to touch each bead of the Rosary and say, “Jesus, I love You.” After the surgery, the doctor came to the waiting room and said that he removed all of the tumor. He said that it looked to be cancer and the blood work showed it to be cancer and that she would most likely need to have chemotherapy. At least ten days went by and Gail was so surprised when she learned the results of the lab work. The tumor was not cancerous and she was healed. Gail was told that she was a miracle. I even heard her state that she was a miracle. I thank God for the gift of believing and seeing with my soul His marvelous miracles and feeling His comforting love.

– Kathy Bee

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Two years ago, I was offered a job which required a complete physical examination, including a hearing test. I passed the physical but I failed the hearing test twice. I was told to get another hearing test at my own expense. If I failed that test, I would lose my chance for the new job.

I felt very anxious about the situation. Three years before I had been diag­nosed with a form of degenerative hearing loss. It also produced symptoms such as vertigo and nausea. I was certain that I would fail the next hearing test.

On the day of my appointment with the specialist for my last attempt to pass the hearing test, I had taken my daughter to a Catholic bookstore in Hampton, New Hampshire. While there, I noticed a dvd about Padre Pio. I did not know very much about him. As I read the words on the cover of the dvd, I felt an itching sensation deep inside both of my ears. I also felt as though my ears were being tickled. I did not pay too much attention to it because I had become absorbed in reading the information about Padre Pio on the dvd cover.

Later that afternoon, I had my hearing test. I was tested twice. They also looked at the paperwork I gave them with the results of my two previous tests. “Mr. Warner,” the doctor said. “Your hearing is perfect. There is noth­ing wrong.” I was so happy that I shouted for joy and I was very surprised as I noticed that for the first time in years I could hear everything. Also, the pain in my ears was gone.

I told my parish priest the whole story and he told me that I had received a healing through Padre Pio’s intercession. I was hired for the job and my hear­ing has continued to be perfect.

– Bruce Warner

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My Son’s Life was Out of Control My son Ken is an alcoholic. When I shared my worries about Ken with a friend, he said that he would write to Padre Pio’s monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo and ask for prayers on my son’s behalf. Ken would drink every single day and he drank throughout the day, consuming large quantities of beer and tequila. He had no appetite for food. His memory was short and he could not hold down a job. He was a chain smoker and was also addicted to TV. He had stopped going to church. His life was out of control.

About two weeks before Easter, Ken and I started praying together and we have continued to do so ever since. Each day we have been praying three Hail Mary’s. After each Hail Mary we pray, “By thy holy and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, make my body pure and my soul holy,” and “O my Mother, preserve me this day from mortal sin.” We then pray the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, the Act of Contrition and finally the prayer for Padre Pio’s intercession.

Ken went to Mass with me on Holy Thursday. During the service, Ken was kneeling next to me. At that time, I prayed and asked Padre Pio to heal my son of his addictions. As I prayed, I felt a great sense of peace come over me. That night when Ken returned home, he happened to find ten patches to help him stop smoking.

Since Easter Sunday, all of Ken’s addictions have been lifted. He has not had a drink and has not smoked a cigarette. He has had only minor withdrawal symptoms. He has a good appetite now and is working most every day. He is making an effort to pay off his debts. He has decided that he does not want to indulge in frivolous things or buy anything until he can afford to do so. He has also canceled certain TV programs. He tries to keep busy so that he will not waste his time watching TV. He has decided to go back to church and is pre­paring to make a good confession. He calls me every day so that we can pray together over the telephone. He is trying to regain his health with exercise and healthy eating. I feel confident that Padre Pio was instrumental in lifting the chains of vice that Ken was bound to.
– Name withheld

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“In the course of this our earthly pilgrimage, the Lord leads us in his ways; either he gives us his hand to have us walk with him or he carries us in the arms of his Divine Providence. He holds us by the hand when he enables us to walk by the exercise of virtue; if he did not, we would not be able to walk at all on this blessed way. There is plenty of evidence that those who let go of his fatherly hand cannot take one step without falling and hitting the ground. Without a doubt, the good God wants to lead us, wants to help us on our way, but he also wants us to do our part by taking small steps in cooperation with his grace.”

– St. Francis de Sales

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 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