Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 36 – July-September 2008

Download Newsletter Issue 36, July-September 2008

I am ready for anything as long as Jesus is happy and
will save the souls of my brothers, especially
those he has entrusted to my care.

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina


The Testimony of David Doherty

David Doherty wrote to us at Padre Pio Devotions detailing his fascinating story regarding Padre Pio’s intercession. We had many questions to ask David and he answered them all. His testimony follows:

David Doherty of Derry, North Ireland had always taken good care of his health. It came as a complete surprise to him when his doctor told him in 2003 that he needed to have triple bypass heart surgery. He was sent to the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland for the operation. His doctors were pleased with the outcome of the surgery and considered it to have been a success. Soon after the bypass, a second surgery became necessary. After the second surgery, David’s condition began to deteriorate, and a week later David was moved back into the hospital’s intensive care unit where he drifted in and out of consciousness. The doctors explained the gravity of his situation to his wife, Isabel. They told her that he could pass away at any moment and advised her to notify the family immediately and summons them to the hospital.

Two days after being readmitted to the intensive care unit, David was put on a ventilator. A breathing machine now did the work of breathing for him. Antibiotics could not arrest the infection that was spreading throughout his body. His kidneys then failed and septicaemia (blood poisoning) set in. The doctor told Isabel and the family that they had done everything humanly possible to save David’s life. He had multiple organ failure and his body was shutting down. There was nothing else that could be done.

One of David’s daughters made some inquiries and arranged for Padre Pio’s glove and a piece of bandage that covered his stigmata to be brought to the hospital. In the intensive care unit, the relics were placed on David’s chest while the Rosary was recited by all who were gathered. All prayed for the intercession of Padre Pio.

That evening, as David’s son Georgie was leaving the hospital, he noticed the distinct fragrance of perfume in the elevator. His two sisters, Patricia and Paula were with him but did not notice it. However, shortly after that, they both noticed an unexplainable fragrance of incense at their father’s bedside. That was on a Friday afternoon. On Saturday, a priest came into the intensive care unit and gave David the Last Rites. On Sunday, the surgeon spoke to Isabel and told her that David showed very slight signs of improvement. On Monday, after examining David, another one of the doctors called Isabel aside and said to her, “It is amazing to see the changes in your husband’s condition. He is getting better!” David remained in the intensive care unit for another three weeks and every day he got a little stronger.

David spent a total of nine weeks in the hospital. After he was released, he spent many months at home continuing his recuperation. His family and friends were astonished at his recovery. When they explained to David how close he had been to death, he was stunned. He had no idea. When David was told that Padre Pio’s glove and bandage were brought into the hospital and laid on his chest, the spiritual experience that he had while in the hospital suddenly took on a new meaning. When he shared the experience with his family, it was their turn to be amazed.

David told his family that while laying in his hospital bed, he experienced seeing himself as already dead. He saw his body in a coffin in a small village just outside of Derry. He was watching his own wake. While not all countries have the tradition of a wake, it has long been observed in Ireland. During a wake, the body is kept at home in a coffin where friends and relatives come to pay their last respects to their loved one. Following the wake is the funeral at the church.

After witnessing his own wake, David saw that his coffin was then put in the back of a hearse and driven to Derry. Next he saw himself in a field in which he could see for miles and miles in every direction. But what he saw was horrific. Everywhere the eye could see were millions of bodies crawling over each other and under each other in mud. Everything was bleak and colorless. While he stood there in shock, he thought to himself, “Is this where I am going to spend eternity?” Then a loud voice shouted at him, “Get out! Get out and save some souls!” Next, David saw himself back in his coffin in the hearse. The hearse pulled to the side of the road and stopped. The man in the hearse turned and said to the driver, “Why have we stopped?” The driver then replied, speaking about David, “He has been given a second chance. ”

In reality, David had been given a second chance. Some of the nurses who cared for David in the hospital told him that they had been present when the relics of Padre Pio were brought into his room. Although they could not explain it, they said they felt without a doubt that something happened when Padre Pio’s glove and bandage were placed on his body.

What did David know about Padre Pio? Almost nothing. He knew that Padre Pio had the stigmata but that was the extent of his knowledge. A statue of Padre Pio had been erected at David’s parish in Derry in 1999 but he never gave it a second thought. About ten years before his heart surgery, he had to retire from work because of his arthritis. A friend brought him Padre Pio’s glove but at that time it did not have much significance to him.

David is aware that he received a healing not only for his body, but also for his soul. Was his soul in need of healing? Yes, it was. Before his heart surgery, his spiritual priorities had been on the back burner of his life. He had married Isabel and settled down to a comfortable life. He was devoted to his wife and five children but he had neglected his relationship with God. He went to Mass on Sundays but if something else came up which caused him to skip Mass, he never gave it a second thought. He never attended Mass during the weekdays. Prayer was not an important part of his life and even though he knew that he was going to undergo a very serious heart operation, it had never even occurred to him to pray before the surgery. At the time he was admitted to the hospital, he had not been to confession in more than a year.

These days David goes to confession regularly. He never neglects Sunday Mass and also attends Mass on as many week days as he can. The family Rosary is now a part of the Doherty’s daily routine. And he sees the way his children’s lives have changed as well. His daughters, Paula and Patricia have since become involved in charitable ministries in their parish.

David has seen the many blessings he and his family have received since his close brush with death. Many times he thought about the strong and insistent voice that shouted to him while he was lying in the hospital, “Get up and save some souls!” He knows now that it was Padre Pio’s voice. “What could I possibly do to save other peoples souls? I am having enough trouble saving my own soul!” David wondered. Nevertheless, in thanksgiving for his many blessings, he began to have a great desire to do something for the Lord. He just could not figure out what he should do.

The answer came for him when he was invited to attend a Padre Pio prayer group meeting. After the meeting, he began to reflect how wonderful it would be to have a Padre Pio prayer group in his own large parish in Derry. He was able to get the permission of the bishop of Derry as well as his own parish priest.

The first Padre Pio prayer group meeting was held in January, 2005 in David’s parish of the Holy Family, in Ballymagroarty, in Derry. David made a little booklet on his computer, complete with the prayers of Padre Pio. It is used at every meeting. The prayer group is well attended and the attendance has steadily increased every year.

When a nun from Dublin, Ireland, Sister Mella, heard about the Padre Pio prayer group that David had started, she contacted him and asked for information so that she could start a group in her parish. David went to Dublin and met Sister Mella and provided her with the prayer booklets he made for his prayer group. Sister Mella’s Padre Pio prayer group is going very well. A young woman from Dungiven, Ireland has invited David to come to her parish and assist her in forming a Padre Pio prayer group there. He has also been contacted by an individual in England who expressed interest in forming a Padre Pio prayer group.

In reflecting on his near death experience and all that has happened since, David said, “My life and my family’s life has taken a change in direction I wouldn’t have thought possible. I feel sure that I would not be here today if it had not been for the prayers and the intercession of Padre Pio. I am just happy to be alive!”


Thomas Carolan of Ireland grew up in poverty. His parents had a very small farm and were used to long hours and hard work. Their little thatched house was in a bad state of disrepair but they could never afford to fix it. The roof had to be propped up and was on the verge of collapse. Tom’s father was forced to seek a loan at the bank but the family’s financial difficulties grew steadily worse.

In May of 1929, Tom’s father suddenly became very ill. He had just finished saying his prayers to the Holy Family, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul,” when he died.

Tom’s mother experienced profound grief at the loss of her husband. When Tom and his mother walked to their parish to attend Mass she would cry all the way to the church and all the way home.

In the afternoon, after they had their lunch, his mother would always go outside to feed their hens. Tom and his mother were just getting ready to go out to the henhouse one day when they saw a monk approaching their house. “Tom, in the name of God, who is that who is walking up to our house?” his mother said. The monk came right up to the kitchen door. He stood there in an attitude of prayer. He had a beard and was wearing a habit. Gloves were on his hands but they were unusual in the fact that his bare fingers were exposed. He put his left hand on his chest and his right hand was raised in a blessing. He said, “There is trouble in this house. You lost your husband. I was sent to tell you that your husband is happy in Heaven but while you are crying and grieving over his death, you are only making him feel unhappy. You are in great financial trouble. To meet this trouble, help will be coming to you from a source you least expect. When your financial troubles are over that source will cease.”

Tom’s mother offered him some tea but he said, “No, I am not allowed anything.” He asked her to kneel down and he made the sign of the cross on her forehead. He also made the sign of the cross on Tom’s forehead. He then looked toward the room where Tom’s father had died. He prayed and raised his right hand in a blessing. He was praying as he left the house. Tom was sent outside by his mother to see which way the monk went. Tom looked in all directions but he was nowhere to be seen.

After the visit of the monk, Tom’s mother felt greatly strengthened in spirit. She no longer cried over the death of her husband. She was surprised when she received a letter from her sister Katie. Katie had lived in the U.S. for 50 years and had never once written to her. Katie sent money in the letter. Tom’s mother wrote back and thanked her and the next month before the bank note came due another letter arrived from Katie with money inside. This went on for a number of years. Right after the bank note was paid in full, the letters from Katie stopped altogether.

A relative from Glasgow used to come on occasion to visit Tom and his mother in Ireland. On one of his visits, he brought a magazine that had a photograph of Padre Pio saying Mass in San Giovanni Rotondo. When he showed the photo to Tom and his mother, they immediately recognized him as the kind monk who had come to their home to console them in 1929 on the Feast of the Sacred Heart.


The people of Ireland have traditionally had a great devotion to Padre Pio. Every year at the shrine of Knock in County Mayo, Ireland, a Padre Pio commemoration day is observed. Between fifteen and twenty thousand people attend the celebration.

The Knock shrine is truly a place of prayer and pilgrimage. People come from all parts of the world to pray and contemplate the beautiful event that took place there on August 21, 1879. On that date, the Virgin Mary along with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist made a heavenly visitation to the tiny and impoverished village of Knock. They appeared at the south wall of the parish church of St. John the Baptist. To the left of the figures appeared an altar with a lamb resting on it. Around the lamb were golden stars in the form of a halo and behind the lamb was a cross. The altar was surrounded by angels and the whole area was bathed in a beautiful light.

Everyone who passed by the church that evening, fifteen people in all, ranging in age from six years old to seventy-five years old, saw the apparition. For two hours, the witnesses stood in the pouring rain and beheld the heavenly scene. Although they became drenched in the downpour, no rain fell on the figures or the ground underneath their feet. The wall behind them also remained dry. This reversal of the natural order was regarded as a true miracle. A half a mile away, people reported that they saw what appeared to be a globe of light coming from the gable wall of the Knock church.

The apparition was unusual in that no words were spoken, no message was given. The only sound that was heard were the witnesses own prayers as they gazed at the heavenly scene. Those who were present observed that if they drew too close, the figures would retreat backward toward the wall of the church. St. John held a book in his hands and one of the witnesses was standing so close to him that he could see the words in the book.

Traditionally, the people of Ireland see the Virgin Mary as a queen. At Knock, she came as a queen. Mary wore a white cloak and a crown was on her head. Her eyes were raised up to heaven and her hands were uplifted in prayer.

Fr. Cavanagh, a man of great personal holiness, was the parish priest of the Knock church. He was admired and loved by his parishioners, most of whom considered him to be a saint. Fr. Cavanagh had a great devotion to the souls in purgatory and decided to offer one hundred Masses on their behalf. The one hundredth Mass was said by Fr. Cavanagh on August 21, the day of the heavenly visitation. Many of the people in Knock believed that the Blessed Virgin paid a visit to their village because of their saintly pastor. Fr. Cavanagh who had an intense love for the Virgin Mary, died on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1897.

It has also been thought that the Virgin Mary visited Ireland to give the people a sense of hope and spiritual strength. At the time of the apparition, the people of Ireland suffered from many privations including grinding poverty, deadly diseases, and widespread hunger. Despite their many sufferings, the Irish people were long known for their deep and abiding faith and trust in God.

Soon miraculous cures began to be reported. Fr. Cavanagh recorded 300 healings in the first three years after the apparition. Included in the long list of those who were healed was Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto as well as Archbishop Murphy of Tasmania.

An ecclesiastical commission conducted two official inquiries into the supernatural occurrence at Knock. The testimony of the witnesses was declared to be trustworthy and satisfactory. Pope John Paul II made his own personal pilgrimage to the shrine of Knock in 1979 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the apparition. Today, Knock is numbered with Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima as one of the chief Marian shrines in the world. Over one and a half million pilgrims visit Knock annually.


The Roman sculptor, Lorenzo Ferri was commissioned to sculpture a number of statues in commemoration of the apparition at Knock, Ireland. When finished, they would become a permanent part of the Knock shrine. A woman named Judy Coyne of Ireland was asked to oversee the project.

Lorenzo completed the clay models for the sculptures and Judy made a trip from Knock, Ireland to Rome to view his work. Judy was disappointed. The expression on the model of the face of the Virgin Mary was not what she had hoped for. It did not portray the Virgin according to the testimony of the witnesses of the Knock apparition. The sculpture model of the lamb, which had been seen in the apparition of Knock, was unsatisfactory as well. The complaint regarding the lamb was that it had an Italian flair and needed to be more in accord with the Irish tradition. Lorenzo too was dissatisfied with his work. He had put forth a great effort but was unable to achieve what he had hoped to.

Judy Coyne decided to go to San Giovanni Rotondo and entrust the entire matter to Padre Pio. She attended Padre Pio’s Mass on November 18, 1960 and during the Mass she prayed to Padre Pio for his intercession on behalf of Lorenzo. She felt a great sense of peace and well-being during the Mass.

When Judy returned to Rome she visited Lorenzo’s studio and was delighted to see a great improvement in the models of the sculptures. The face of the Virgin Mary now looked perfect. Lorenzo told her that a strange thing had happened. He had awakened in the morning and felt a great spiritual strength within. He hurried to his studio and in three hours he redid the models of the sculptures which would have ordinarily taken him three weeks to complete. He was very happy with the final results. He said that in his entire career he had never had such an experience. It happened on the morning of November 18, at the very same time that Judy was at Padre Pios Mass, praying to Padre Pio for his intercession.


Gerry Fitzgerald of Limerick, Ireland, a spiritual son of Padre Pio, once visited the shrine of Knock, Ireland in the winter time. Because the weather was so cold and harsh, Gerry found himself taking shelter under a tree. He could not help but notice that the sick and infirm who were visiting the shrine that day were exposed to the bitter cold. Gerry felt very sorry for the invalids and felt something had to be done. He spoke with one of the local priests at Knock and suggested that it would be very worthwhile to construct some buildings to provide shelter for the pilgrims who were ill. The priest was in favor of the idea. However, as time went by nothing was ever done to remedy the situation.

Gerry used to go every year to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. He also took groups of people on pilgrimage to Padre Pios monastery. His devotion to him was so great that he talked about him all the time. Once when Gerry visited Padre Pio, he told him about the idea he had of providing shelters for the invalids at the Knock shrine. He asked him for advice as to whether he should pursue the idea. Padre Pio told Gerry that the Virgin Mary was pleased and wanted him to go forward with the plans. Greatly encouraged, Gerry went back to Limerick and formed a committee of six men. The shelters were constructed at the shrine and the work turned out to be a blessing for all.


Across the sea from Ireland, in Herne Bay, England, devotion to Padre Pio is also strong. Wally and Ann Wall were led to Padre Pio in an unusual way. In Herne Bay, Wally was the caretaker and Ann did the cleaning at the local convent school. One afternoon when Wally was taking a walk, he noticed a magazine laying on the pavement. It was in excellent condition and neither the dirt nor the dampness of the street had marred it. A photograph of a statue of the Virgin Mary on the cover caught Wally’s eye. The name of the magazine was the Voice of Padre Pio.

Wally took the magazine home, read it, and didn’t think too much more about the matter. The next day his wife read the magazine from cover to cover. Afterward, her conscience began to bother her. Though Ann and Wally both worked at a Catholic school, they had not attended church in years. Neither had been to confession in at least twelve years.

After reading about Padre Pio, Ann decided to go to the rectory and ask the parish priest to hear her confession. As she rang the doorbell, she began to feel very nervous. She knew she was losing her courage. She was about to turn and leave when the priest answered the door. Ann made her confession and the next day she told her husband that she was going to be able to receive Communion at the convent school with the children who were going to be making their First Holy Communion. She told Wally she had gone to the rectory and had made her confession. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to confession? I would have gone to confession as well,” Wally said. “It was because I did not know if I would be able to go through with it,” she replied.

Wally too returned to the sacraments. He and Ann became daily communicants and Wally became a regular altar server at his parish. Soon they began sharing their interest and knowledge of Padre Pio with other people. Because of their conversations with Ann and Wally, others found themselves returning to the sacraments as well. The day Wally picked up the Voice of Padre Pio magazine from the street proved to be a very important day in his life and in the life of his wife, Ann. That day too was important for another reason. It was May 25, Padre Pio’s birthday.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 35 – April-June 2008

Download Newsletter Issue 35, April-June 2008

We recently spoke to Fr. James DeVita, SDB of Florida and he shared his story of Padre Pio with us.

Father James DeVita, SDB, was born and raised in San Giovanni Rotondo, the town where Padre Pio lived for almost 50 years. Padre Pio’s name was a household word in the DeVita family. Fr. DeVita’s mother, Agnes, was a member of the 3rd Order of St. Francis. Padre Pio often encouraged people to join the 3rd Order of St. Francis, calling it a “school of holiness.” As a young woman, Agnes used to bake pizza and take it to the monastery for the Capuchins to enjoy for dinner.

When Fr. DeVita was a teenager, he used to walk with his boyhood friends to the monastery to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. On one occasion, he was the altar server for Padre Pio’s Mass. It lasted almost two hours with long periods of silent prayer throughout. Padre Pio often lost track of time during the Mass. But as a restless teenager, James DeVita did not lose track of time and to him Padre Pio’s Mass was just too long for comfort.

Fr. DeVita also made his confession to Padre Pio on a number of occasions. At that time, the men’s confessions were held in the sacristy of the church. Confessions were face to face and neither a screen nor a curtain was provided for privacy. The line formed about four feet away from where the penitent was making his confession. The person kneeling before Padre Pio seemed so exposed. Although nobody was trying to listen, one could practically hear the words being spoken. Waiting in line to make one’s confession to Padre Pio could be a nerve-wracking experience. One could easily observe the expression on Padre Pio’s face while hearing confessions. When people confessed that they had missed Sunday Mass, Padre Pio became visibly upset. He was extremely strict in this regard. Unless one was sick, missing Mass on Sunday was a grave omission. As a teenager, James DeVita would miss Mass from time to time due to his own negligence. When this occurred, he did not have the courage to make his confession to Padre Pio. He would choose another priest.

According to the general opinion, making one’s confession to Padre Pio was of inestimable help in the spiritual life. It was true. God gave Padre Pio extraordinary gifts and graces for his priestly work as a confessor. In his lifetime, he reconciled thousands of people back to their faith. He once said that if he had the choice between losing his eyesight or his sense of hearing, he would prefer to lose his eyesight. “Why is that?” someone asked. “It is because with my hearing intact I would still be able to hear confessions,” he answered. And hear confessions he did, often more than twelve hours a day. On the last day of his life, although weak and very ill, he heard a number of confessions. Pope Pius XII called him, “The confessor of Europe.”

Padre Pio saw his priestly role as confessor as a great responsibility and he always prayed for God’s help.”Without the grace of God, we can do nothing,” he said. People often came to Padre Pio asking him for advice as to whether certain actions in their daily living experiences were right or wrong. He usually saw questions of right verses wrong in simple, black and white terms. He was able to counsel people in a way that left no doubt in the person’s mind regarding the right course to take. He was never tempted to tell people what they wanted to hear. His desire was to tell people the truth.

Padre Pio made no distinction between venial sins and mortal sins. He spoke simply of sin. For Padre Pio, sin was something serious, something terrible. There was to be no compromise with sin. It had to be avoided at all costs. “We will never know what it means to rebel against God,” he once said.

Padre Pio said that he had only one fear, that of offending God. He once said, “I would rather undergo death an infinite number of times, rather than openly offend the Lord.” On one occasion a person told Padre Pio that he had lied. He explained that it was a very small lie, a white lie. It was of no consequence. “But Jesus died to defend the truth,” Padre Pio answered. “A small lie is a sin that offends God,” he said. And he went further. He did not condone exaggeration either, even to the smallest degree.

For those who were sincerely seeking to move forward on the spiritual path, confession to Padre Pio was a great blessing. But for the insincere and those who came simply out of curiosity to Padre Pio’s confessional, his spiritual direction was described as “demanding, disturbing, and uncomfortable.”

Time and space and distance did not seem to be a barrier in Padre Pio’s ministry to souls. On one occasion, one of the Capuchins was just about to knock on the door of Padre Pio’s cell when he heard Padre Pio talking to someone inside. He decided not to disturb them but he waited at the door anyway. Soon Padre Pio opened the door but there was no one else inside his cell. “I heard you talking to someone but there is no one there,” the Capuchin said. “Oh, I was hearing someone’s confession,” Padre Pio replied. Through the extraordinary gift of bilocation, Padre Pio was able to be present to people, often great distances away, who were in need of his help.

Padre Pio went to confession frequently and he encouraged others to do the same. When some protested that they did not need to go to confession since they had nothing of consequence to confess, Padre Pio used a simple analogy. “Even if a room is very clean and the door is closed so that no one can enter, the dust will nevertheless collect there and it will require dusting,” he said. Once Padre Pio made his confession to Padre Eusebio Notte and afterward he began to cry. Padre Eusebio was perplexed. He told Padre Pio that the sins that he confessed were indeed very small and insignificant. There was certainly no reason to cry. But Padre Pio did not see it that way. He had a horror of offending God, even in small matters. He was always truly sorry for his sins.

When Fr. DeVita was a teenager, he used to take part as an actor in the religious plays that were performed in San Giovanni Rotondo. The plays included the life of St. Cecilia, St. Agnes, St. Peter and more. Padre Pio and the other Capuchins frequently attended the performances and enjoyed them immensely. Rehearsals were held at Mary Pyle’s home. Fr. DeVita had a great admiration for Mary Pyle. She was often known simply as, “Padre Pio’s American secretary.” “Mary was a person of great holiness,” said Fr. DeVita. “Her love for God and her great willingness to serve Padre Pio’s work was truly amazing.”

Mary Pyle was an American heiress who had been born into a very socially prominent and wealthy Protestant family and raised in New York’s high society. She had become accustomed to every luxury from her earliest years and had traveled extensively throughout the world. When Mary was 35 years old, she accepted an invitation from a girlfriend to visit Padre Pio’s monastery and attend his Mass. During the visit, she was able to speak to Padre Pio briefly. She found her life transformed by the encounter and soon decided to move to San Giovanni Rotondo permanently. She built a house right below the monastery. It was one of the first houses in the area.

Mary joined the 3rd Order of St. Francis and began to lead a simple and austere life, totally consecrated to God. Her workload continually increased through the years but she was always ready and willing to do more to assist Padre Pio. Mary had the heart of a mother, and the charity of a saint. She lived in San Giovanni Rotondo for 45 years until her death in 1968. Her cause for canonization is presently being considered by the Church.

The Capuchins in San Giovanni Rotondo set aside time every day for a period of recreation. For Padre Pio, this time was usually spent in the garden of the monastery, enjoying fellowship with his brothers in religion. As the time drew closer to his ordination day, James DeVita was allowed to visit Padre Pio in the monastery garden anytime he wished. He recalls that Padre Pio delighted in telling funny stories and making everyone laugh. “Padre Pio had a wonderful sense of humor,” Fr. DeVita said. “He was a simple man. He was not an intellectual. He was a man of prayer, a man who loved God above all things.”

Padre Pio wore brown half gloves to cover the wounds of the stigmata. He would always remove the gloves before the celebration of Mass. On several occasions, Fr. DeVita was able to kiss the stigmata on Padre Pio’s hand when his gloves were removed. It was a grace-filled experience and yet it was not something that was easy to do. Fr. DeVita would close his eyes tightly and with trepidation, kiss the wound on Padre Pio’s hand.

Because of the inadequate health care in San Giovanni Rotondo in the early years, many of the people in the area died an untimely death. Padre Pio felt compelled to remedy this situation. He worked tirelessly to make the Home for the Relief of Suffering a reality. Fr. DeVita saw first hand, the great blessings of Padre Pio’s hospital. Not only did it save the lives of many of the sick and infirm, it was also of great benefit to the poor. San Giovanni Rotondo was an economically depressed region and many of its citizens struggled to find work. The Home for the Relief of Suffering provided much needed jobs for many of the families in the town. Fr. DeVita’s own sister Raffaella felt very fortunate to be employed at the hospital.

Fr. DeVita became a patient at the Home for the Relief of Suffering shortly after it opened its doors. He contracted typhoid fever and remained in a coma for four days. A rumor went around San Giovanni Rotondo that James had passed away, but Padre Pio set the record straight. He said, “Do not worry. James has not passed away. He is going to recover.”

In 1957, James DeVita was ordained into the Salesian Order, founded by St. John Bosco. Mary Pyle and the ladies choir that she directed, and that sang for all of Padre Pio’s Masses, came to the parish of San Onofrio in San Giovanni Rotondo to provide the music for James’ ordination Mass. When Fr. DeVita celebrated his first Mass, he had the great joy to wear one of Padre Pio’s priestly stoles.

Before he moved to the United States, Fr. DeVita went to Padre Pio to say goodbye. “But there is so much work for priests to do here in Italy,” Padre Pio said to him. “Why do you have to move so far away?” Fr. DeVita explained that he wanted to be closer to his family who had emigrated to Canada.

June 29, 2007 marked Fr. James DeVita’s golden jubilee anniversary of fifty years in the priesthood. Most of his priestly ministry has been spent serving parishes in New York and New Jersey. Today he is retired and living in Florida where he also assists at a parish. Looking back on his life, Fr. DeVita is very grateful to have grown up in San Giovanni Rotondo and to have had a saint as his role model. Fr. DeVita said that the beautiful words spoken by Pope Paul VI on the life and spirituality of Padre Pio, echo his own sentiments in a profound way. In speaking of Padre Pio, Pope Paul VI said, “What fame he had. How many followers from around the world. Why? Was it because he was a philosopher, a scholar, or because he had means at his disposal? No, it was because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from morning until night and was a marked representative of the stigmata of Our Lord. He was truly a man of prayer and suffering.”


Recently, while visiting some friends on the East Coast who had met Padre Pio, we learned about Pasquale D’Andrea. Pasquale, who currently lives in Bayside, New York had a beautiful story to share with us.

Pasquale D’Andrea grew up in Pietrelcina, Italy. His father, Cosimo owned a piece of land in Pietrelcina and earned his living by growing tobacco. One day Padre Pio approached Cosimo and said to him, “You do not go to Mass on Sunday, but you go to the town square.” Cosimo was shocked that Padre Pio knew that he did not attend Sunday Mass. He had never discussed it with anyone. He explained to Padre Pio that he had to spend his Sundays working in the fields to earn his living and support his family. But Cosimo was well-aware that his explanation was unsatisfactory to Padre Pio. From that day forward, he never again missed attending Sunday Mass.

Pasquale’s wife, Giovannina, also had the greatest respect for Padre Pio. On one occasion she had an important decision to make regarding a personal matter. She felt that she needed to seek advice from Padre Pio at once. She went to the church to speak to him, but realized that it would be impossible. On that particular day there was a continuous crowd of people around him. However, Padre Pio answered the questions in her heart in a unique way. At three different times that morning, he fixed his eyes on Giovannina. With a penetrating gaze and a serious expression on his face, he slowly moved his head from side to side, indicating “no.” Without saying a word, Padre Pio had given Giovannina the answer she needed. She felt completely satisfied.

Before leaving Italy in 1955 to make his home in New York, Pasquale went to San Giovanni Rotondo to say good bye to Padre Pio and ask for his blessing. Padre Pio was always very friendly and approachable. He simply said to Pasquale, “There will be three days of storms on your journey, and after that smooth sailing!” Once again, his words proved true.


Ellie Hunt was one of the pilgrims who we met while traveling with the Padre Pio Foundation of America to the canonization of Padre Pio in Rome. We have remained friends with Ellie ever since. This is her story.

Padre Pio has been a part of Ellie Hunt’s family ever since she can remember. Ellie’s father, James Rummo as well as her maternal and paternal grandparents lived in Pietrelcina, Padre Pio’s hometown. It was a small and close-knit farming town where everybody knew everybody else. Francesco Forgione (Padre Pio) would eventually become Pietrelcina’s most famous citizen, although no one ever imagined it at the time.

Ellie’s maternal grandmother, Anna Maria Scocco was the same age as Padre Pio and knew him as a child. Anna Maria’s family owned a farm in the countryside of Pietrelcina, an area called Piana Romana. Padre Pio’s family, the Forgione’s, also had a small landholding in Piana Romana as well as a vineyard. As a youngster, Padre Pio tended the family’s sheep.

Anna Maria recalled that Padre Pio was very pious as a young boy and always carried a devotional book with him. He was a quiet child and quite shy. Anna Maria once asked him why he was always reading books. Instead of answering, he asked Anna Maria why she didn’t attend school. She told him that it was because her father wanted her to stay home and learn how to cook, clean and sew. At the time, education was not mandatory in southern Italy.

Padre Pio’s health, which was never good, began to deteriorate during his time in the Capuchin seminary. Doctors were never able to successfully diagnose and treat the mysterious illnesses that continually wracked his body. The distressing symptoms of his ailments would come and go with no apparent reason. Padre Pio was forced to interrupt his studies for the priesthood and move back to the family home. For the better part of 7 years, from 1909 until 1916, he remained in Pietrelcina. He spent much of his time in prayer and solitude and did his best to regain his health. It was one of the few times of relative quiet and peace in his life. During this period, his prayer life grew in intensity. It is thought that the 7 years he spent in his hometown were almost like an extended retreat, arranged by Divine Providence, to prepare him spiritually for the great mission that was just up ahead.

It was during the time of his long convalescence in Pietrelcina that Ellie’s father James came in contact with Padre Pio. James’ grandmother, Saveria, would send him with fresh eggs to deliver to Padre Pio. The hope was that the eggs would build up his strength. Everyone in the community knew of his illness and hoped for his recovery. Even in his youth, the townspeople held him in the highest esteem.

It was difficult to make a living in Pietrelcina and for this reason, Ellie’s father, grandparents, and other relatives eventually moved to New York. Once in New York, the men joined the “Pietrelcina Society,” which sent regular financial help to those who had stayed behind.

Alfred, one of Ellie’s cousins, made yearly visits back to Pietrelcina all through the 1950’s. He noticed that St. Anne’s parish, where Padre Pio had celebrated Mass for a number of years, was in a great state of disrepair. “Someday people from all over the world will be coming to our town,” he said to his relatives in Pietrelcina. “They will want to see Padre Pio’s birthplace and the parish of his youth. The church must be kept clean at all times. It must be swept and dusted daily. It cannot be neglected like this!” he said emphatically.

In the 1950’s when Alfred spoke these words, Padre Pio was almost completely unknown throughout the world. The tiny, impoverished town of Pietrelcina was even more unknown. It could barely be found on a map. Many of its residents had long since moved away. But Alfred was convinced that the saintly priest from Pietrelcina would one day become world-famous and that people would be interested in seeing his hometown. His words proved to be prophetic. Gradually people from all parts of the world began to learn about Padre Pio. Today, the pilgrims who annually visit the town of Padre Pio’s birth and pray in the rustic church of St. Anne’s, number in the thousands. The increase in visitors has been so dramatic that the town is hard-pressed to accommodate the crowds.

All through Ellie’s growing up years, she heard the family reminisce about Padre Pio but she was never very interested in these stories from the “old country.” All that changed however due to an incident that happened in 1960, when Ellie was 31 years old. That was the year that her grandfather, Jack Crafa became gravely ill. Ellie and her parents lived close to his home in Flushing, New York and during his illness, the family stayed by his side. When Jack fell into a coma, everyone knew his end was near. One day while Ellie and her parents were at her grandfather’s bedside, a stranger knocked at the door. It was a Capuchin monk dressed in a dark brown habit. Ellie was surprised to see that he was wearing sandals without any socks for it was a particularly cold day and there was snow on the ground outside. He said he had come to pray for her grandfather.

Ellie was perplexed. There were not any Capuchin monks in residence at their parish in Flushing or in any other parish in the area for that matter. Ellie was also annoyed. It should have been the parish priest to come to pray for her grandfather and not a complete stranger. But she was impressed by the kindness and compassion of the young religious. He went in the bedroom and blessed Jack Crafa. He told the family to pray the Rosary while sitting at Jack’s side and to pray the Hail Mary close to his ear. He had the sense that Jack was still able to hear. After the monk said that, Ellie was surprised to find that when she took her grandfather’s hand in hers, she felt a very slight response from him, a very slight squeeze from his hand.

The young monk gave Ellie’s grandfather the Last Rites, he blessed the family and then bid them goodbye. As he walked out the front door, Ellie’s father, James, observed that there was no car waiting for him outside. James watched him as he walked up the street until he disappeared in the darkness. It was that very night that Jack Crafa passed away. He had been in a coma for nine days.

After the monk left, James became pale and appeared quite shaken. Ellie’s mother Lucy, asked him for the reason.”Don’t you know who that was?”James replied. “It was Padre Pio. He came in bilocation to give the Last Rites to your father. He looked exactly like I remember him when I used to deliver eggs to him in Pietrelcina.”

Ellie believed her father’s explanation and she was aware of Padre Pio’s gift of bilocation. Her grandfather, Jack Crafa had been one of Padre Pio’s spiritual sons from Pietrelcina. But Ellie was confused about one thing. The black and white photos she had seen of Padre Pio showed him as having very dark hair, almost black. This monk had sandy colored hair. Later when Ellie read a biography of Padre Pio, the author described Padre Pio’s hair as a dark sandy color. It confirmed her own observation.

Padre Pio had always said that the people of Pietrelcina held a very special place in his heart. Ellie’s mother had a cousin named Rose from Pietrelcina. She was very devoted to Padre Pio. Rose heard that Padre Pio enjoyed American coffee. She used to regularly send packages to her aunt who lived in San Giovanni Rotondo. The packages always included coffee with instructions to take it to the monastery and give it to Padre Pio.

Rose was finally able to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo. One afternoon, she was standing among a large crowd of people who were gathered outside the monastery waving to Padre Pio. He was standing at a window, waving a handkerchief in greeting to the crowd below. As he looked at the large gathering of people, he pointed out Rose to one of the Capuchins. The next thing she knew, one of the Capuchins approached her and told her that Padre Pio wanted to speak to her. Rose was escorted inside the monastery and asked to wait. After awhile the Capuchin returned. He apologized to Rose. He said that Padre Pio wanted to come down and personally thank her for the coffee she had been sending to him but he was unable to do so. In that large crowd of people he picked out one of his fellow citizens of Pietrelcina to give a special word of thanks to. He had never seen Rose before nor had she ever seen him. He loved Pietrelcina and he loved his spiritual children from Pietrelcina. Padre Pio once said, “In my lifetime I have made San Giovanni Rotondo known but after my death I will make Pietrelcina known.”

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 34 – January-March 2008

Download Newsletter Issue 34, January-March 2008

“Be of good cheer; abandon yourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and let Him take care of everything.”
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

A Soldier’s Story of Padre Pio

Some time ago, we received a letter from a woman who requested that the prayers of Padre Pio be sent to her. In her letter, she mentioned that one of her relatives had met Padre Pio many years before. When we asked for further information, she gave us the phone number of Gene McMahon. We were able to visit Gene and Charlotte McMahon in Stirling, New Jersey in 2007. We followed up the visit with a number of phone calls. This is Gene’s remarkable story:

Eugene (Gene) McMahon, of Plainfield, New Jersey, was very happy he could finish the baseball season and his senior year of high school before receiving his draft notice to report for military duty. It was 1943 and World War II was in full swing. When Gene completed preflight training and gunnery school, he was assigned to the 463rd Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force as a tail gunner and waist gunner on B-17 planes. He was sent overseas to the U.S. air base in Foggia, Italy.

One day at the base, the squadron chaplain, Fr. George Rice, invited Gene and his best friend, Tony Afflitto to take a trip “up in the mountains” to visit Padre Pio. Fr. Rice explained that Padre Pio was a very holy priest who had the stigmata, the wounds of Christ. He never left his monastery but spent much time in prayer and seclusion. Gene found Fr. Rice’s words about Padre Pio intriguing. He had never heard of Padre Pio but he was very anxious to meet him.

Fr. Rice explained that it was customary to bring a gift when making a visit to the monastery and since he heard that Padre Pio enjoyed American beer that was what the soldiers took with them. Fr. Rice drove the military jeep up a long and winding road to the monastery. On the way, they stopped in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo and passed out sticks of chewing gum to the children in the area. It was a poor town in a desolate country. The children were so excited to received a piece of gum that they could not contain their joy and practically mobbed the men.

Gene had no idea what to expect when they arrived at the monastery and walked into the small and rustic church of Our Lady of Grace. The chapel was beautiful and many people were already gathered there waiting for the Mass to begin. Gene was surprised when he and his two companions were escorted to the very front row of the church. Gene learned that Padre Pio had a special regard for the American soldiers that often visited him from nearby military bases.

The Mass lasted one and a half hours but the time seemed to pass too quickly. Padre Pio celebrated the Mass with such reverence, such devotion. He gave no sermon. At various times in the Mass, Padre Pio’s eyes would fill with tears. Gene did not mind at all that the Mass was so long. If it had lasted longer, he would have been happy. The Mass was different from any he had ever attended in his life. Gene felt lifted into a great sense of peace. He felt the presence of God. Fr. Rice had told Gene that the wounds of Christ were imprinted on Padre Pio’s body. It was true. During the Mass, Gene saw the wounds in Padre Pio’s hands and they were bleeding. He was so close to Padre Pio that he could have reached out and touched him.

Afterward he made his confession to Padre Pio. Confessions to Padre Pio were always short, lasting just a few minutes. Gene was able to hold Padre Pio’s hand momentarily. Tony too, made his confession to Padre Pio. He gave Tony a medal of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Treasuring this memento, when he returned to the base, Tony sent it home to his wife for safe keeping.

Gene described Padre Pio as short in stature, with profound and piercing eyes. “His eyes were fabulous,” said Gene. “They had a penetrating quality. When Padre Pio looked at me, I felt that he knew everything about me. His eyes were like a magnet. I felt myself somehow drawn in by his gaze.” One of the men who attended the Mass that morning brought his two year-old son into the sacristy afterward. Padre Pio’s face lit up with joy when he saw the child approach him and he had a little gift for him. He usually kept a supply of candy on hand to give to the children.

Gene, Fr. Rice, and Tony were invited to have dinner with the Capuchins. The meal was a joyful occasion with a lot of laughter and lively conversation. It surprised Gene. He always pictured the Capuchins eating in strict silence and with the greatest reserve. During their stay in San Giovanni Rotondo, they also met Mary Pyle who shared many interesting stories with them regarding Padre Pio. Proficient in Italian, she translated for them when they were speaking to Padre Pio. Tony, who spoke Italian, was not able to understand the Neopolitan dialect that was spoken by Padre Pio. Fr. Rice had an advantage over Gene and Tony. He was able to speak to Padre Pio in Latin. Before they returned to Foggia, Padre Pio blessed them one more time.

On February 25, 1945, just a few days after the visit to Padre Pio, Gene’s plane was shot down over Linz, Austria. It was his 14th bombing mission. Gene’s pilot instructed all the men to bail out. As Gene bailed out of the plane and parachuted down, he prayed to Padre Pio for protection. “Padre Pio, I believe in you. I am too young to die. Please help me,” he prayed. He could hear shots being fired at him from the ground and could hear dogs barking. He was hit in the arm and wrist. When he hit the ground, he landed in deep snow. Removing his parachute, he ran for his life and managed to elude his captors.

Almost two weeks later, Gene was captured in Hungary. He was interrogated regarding future U.S. bombing missions but refused to talk. Behind him were a number of the dead laying in an open grave. Holding him down, the soldiers used boards to beat his feet but he gave only his name, rank and serial number. He believed that he would be killed but he was not. Instead, Gene was forced to march to Vienna and then on to Nuremberg and Frankfurt. With inadequate clothing in the sub-zero temperatures and practically no food, through freezing rain, sleet and snow, he marched. The winter of 1945 was Germany’s coldest in 100 years.

Later, he was crowded into a cattle box car with other prisoners. Without food or water they were transported to the Mooseberg POW camp, just north of Munich. The brutality of the guards and the overcrowded and subhuman conditions of the camp, caused many to refer to it as “hell camp.” Gene pleaded with God many times and prayed. In his mind, he clung to his blessed experience of meeting Padre Pio, holding his hand, attending his beautiful Mass, receiving his blessing. The memory gave him strength.

On April 29, in the Mooseberg camp, the Germans were alerted that U.S. army tanks under General Patton were approaching. The prisoners were informed that they were all going to be shot before their liberators arrived. However, it did not work out that way. The tanks came crashing through the gates of the prison. Gene and the others ran for cover in a grassy ditch while bullets whizzed over their heads. General George Patton himself was there and after the conflict had ended, he gathered the POW’s together and made a heartfelt speech. The day of freedom had arrived.

Gene was placed on a hospital ship and taken back to the U.S. Aboard the ship, he had a lot of time to think. “What had gone wrong?” he asked himself. “I am only 19 years old and look at the condition I am in. Did God abandon me? Did Padre Pio hear even one of my pleas for help? It would have been better for me if I had died. There is nothing left for me now. There is nothing.”

Gene was taken to a hospital in Atlantic City, New Jersey where he spent the next three months. His feet were in a terrible condition. Prolonged frostbite had caused them to turn black and they had been badly injured by the beating he had received after his capture. He remained in a wheelchair for many days and the doctor told him that both of his feet might have to be amputated.

It was in the hospital that Gene’s perspective began to change. Soldiers were being admitted to the hospital who had lost arms and legs in combat. Gene had not. Some were double amputees. Gene’s bodily strength was slowly returning. He weighed 96 lbs. when he was admitted to the hospital. He had lost 90 lbs. in his ordeal. But he was steadily gaining weight. His feet healed with no residual damage. Unlike many who were there, he was going to be able to walk out of the hospital on two good legs.

But it was Gene’s memories of the incredible sufferings of the war that he could not erase from his mind. The worst memory by far was his time in the Nuremberg camp where people all around him were starving to death. The dreadful and nightmarish images haunted him. He would wake up in the middle of the night terrified, and in a cold sweat. Professional counselors, skilled in dealing with the post-traumatic stress condition of veterans returning from the war, were there to help and support him.

After Gene was discharged from the hospital, he was able to move forward with his life. He was signed onto a semi-professional baseball team and was able to pursue the sport he had always loved. He also enjoyed a career at New Jersey Bell, working in management. Gene received the Purple Heart badge of military merit and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the state of New Jersey. It is the highest honor that a state can give one of its citizens.

Against incredible odds, Gene had survived his war experience. Miraculously, the other nine crew members that were with him when their plane was shot down, also survived. Of the 10 crew members, three had visited Padre Pio and had received his blessing. One was Gene’s best friend, Tony Afflitto. When Tony and Gene had visited San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio told Tony that he would be home by Easter. His words proved to be true.

Everything Gene thought he had lost, he was able to regain – his life, his health, his peace, his happiness, his family. God had not abandoned him like he once believed. He was there all the time, helping him through every difficulty. Padre Pio had not abandoned him either. He is sure of it.

In 2008, Gene will turn 83 years old. Through the years he has kept in touch with many of the men who served in the war with him, including his military chaplain, Fr. Rice. When the war was over and Fr. Rice returned to the U.S. he made it his personal mission to visit the families of every U.S. soldier in his division who were missing in action or had died in the war. He prayed with the families and offered his love and support. Gene and his wife Charlotte have shared many happy years together. “I want to tell the whole world about Padre Pio and what a great saint he is,” Gene told us when we visited him. That is what he and Charlotte have been doing for a long time.

Brothers and sisters, let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

– Colossians 1:12,13




Fedora DePamphilis who lives in Massachusetts, visited our Padre Pio Prayer Group in San Diego in 2006. This is her story:

Fedora Circello DePamphilis grew up in the small town of Torremaggiore in the province of Foggia, Italy. Known for its production of wine and olives, Torremaggiore is located just 30 miles from Padre Pio’s monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. Everyone in Fedora’s town knew of Padre Pio and all had devotion to him. The townspeople would make a day pilgrimage to Padre Pio’s monastery and always stop at Monte Sant Angelo, the shrine dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, before returning home. Padre Pio loved this sanctuary dedicated to St. Michael and often encouraged people to visit it.

Fedora’s first cousin, Vincenzo Leone had a memorable experience on one occasion while making his confession to Padre Pio. When he entered the confessional, Padre Pio asked him, “How long has it been since your last confession?” “It has been six months,” Vincenzo replied. “But you are lying to me,” said Padre Pio. “You have not been to confession in over three years.” Vincenzo was so shocked that Padre Pio knew the truth about the matter that he went back to Torremaggiore and told everyone about it. “Can you believe it?” said Vincenzo. “I could not conceal anything from him. He knew everything. I know he is a saint!” But Vincenzo was not telling the townspeople anything that they did not already know. They all venerated Padre Pio as a saint.

Fedora’s mother, Angela, once traveled with several of her cousins to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. They waited in the confessional line for two days with no success. At the end of the second day, Angela was very discouraged. She said to her cousins, “We have to return home tomorrow no matter what. Let’s get up before sunrise and be the first ones inside the church when the door opens. Perhaps we will then be able to make our confession to Padre Pio.” Angela’s idea proved to be a good one. But all were surprised when Angela’s cousin came running out of the confessional in tears. When pressed for an explanation, she told her cousins that while she was confessing her sins, Padre Pio said to her, “You are forgetting to tell me something.” “No,” she replied. “I do not think I am forgetting anything.” “But don’t you remember the promise you made to me? You promised that you were going to help the poor and you did not do it. You must go back to your town immediately and do what you said you would do. Then come back and I will hear your confession.”

She explained to Angela and the others that when her husband was critically ill, she said a heartfelt prayer to Padre Pio, begging for his intercession. In her prayer, she promised that if her husband got well, she would give a generous portion of the grain that they produced on their farmland to the poor people in the town. Her husband recovered from his illness but she had completely forgotten about her promise.

Nicola, Fedora’s father went to San Giovanni Rotondo on one occasion, hoping to discuss a personal matter with Padre Pio. But there were too many people at the monastery and it was impossible to approach him. The Capuchins acted almost like bodyguards, making every effort to shield him from the crowds. Padre Pio was often sick and this made his fellow-Capuchins desire even more to protect him from the people. When Nicola expressed his dilemma, one of the visitors at the monastery told him that if he stood in a particular corridor, Padre Pio would probably be passing that way shortly. Nicola waited in the corridor and was able to speak to Padre Pio for a moment. “Padre Pio,” he said. “My wife and I are very concerned about our son, Michael. He has met a girl up in the northern part of Italy and wants to marry her. But my wife and I have our hearts set on him marrying a very nice girl from our town in Torremaggiore.” “Let your son marry the girl up north,” Padre Pio told him. “She is very nice. It is going to work out well.” Nicola returned home and said to his wife, “Listen, we are not going to worry about this any more. Padre Pio told me it would be ok.” As it turned out, Michael married the girl from the north. She proved to be a wonderful wife and they were very happily married.

Fedora and her friends and family would travel from Foggia to San Giovanni Rotondo in a very large transportation vehicle with a canvas that covered the top. It was similar to the military vehicles used by the U.S. soldiers who were stationed at that time at the air base in Foggia. The road was so bad that it was extremely difficult to get up the mountain but they always managed to do it. On one occasion her brother Michael went with her and a large group of family and friends who were going to the monastery to make their confession to Padre Pio. When he walked into the confessional, Padre Pio said to him, “Why have you come here? You have no faith in God and you certainly do not believe in me. Isn’t this true?” “Yes, you are right,” said Michael. “Well, why did you come?” “I came because my other family members and friends were coming. I just came along for the ride.” Then you must leave at once,” Padre Pio said. Michael left the confessional deeply embarrassed and ashamed. But it was after that very short encounter with Padre Pio that his faith in God began to grow. Through the many years since, his faith has continued to deepen and he has remained very close to the Church.

Padre Pio had a reputation for being stern, even at times severe. He would never mince words. Fedora remembers that her parents, from time to time, used to talk about this aspect of his personality. But they understood that his sternness was always tempered with love and with a desire to help people grow closer to God. Many people entered Padre Pio’s confessional with hearts that were not properly disposed and with no desire to change their lives. These people usually received a wake-up call. Although it was difficult to be confronted by Padre Pio, the fruits that resulted from the encounter were frequently life changing. Padre Pio used to say that God directed him in how to deal with each individual soul. Fedora and her family trusted his counsel completely and they had many proofs of his sanctity. Fedora described him as “very strict, very fair and very holy.”

Fedora recalled that during the years her family visited San Giovanni Rotondo, active and militant members of the Communist party would occasionally go to the monastery to see Padre Pio. “What is that in your pocket?” Padre Pio would sometimes ask them. Surprised by his knowledge, they would answer, “It is a membership card for the Communist party.” ” Go and burn it immediately and then come back and I will speak to you,” was Padre Pio’s standard reply.

When Fedora was twenty years old, she decided to move to the United States. She wanted to continue her education and train for a career and this was not possible in her small town. There was only one thing for the women in Torremaggiore to do and that was to marry and raise a family. Her mother Angela was distraught about her decision. She told Padre Pio, “My only daughter has decided to move to America. We do not want her to leave us. What can we do?” Padre Pio answered, “Let her go. The move will be good for her and it will also be good for you and your husband. You will see.”

Fedora settled in Massachusetts and in a short time sent for her parents to come and join her. The arrangement worked out wonderfully. Angela and Nicola enjoyed living in the U.S. Fedora met a wonderful man and married and when she had children, her parents took care of them while she worked. When Angela and Nicola became elderly, Fedora took excellent care of both of them.

When Fedora’s son Gino was just two years old, he was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor. A cancerous tumor was discovered between his kidney and his intestines. He received radiation treatments and lost a great deal of weight. His doctor told the family that it would be a miracle if he survived, as few children survive this type of cancer. During the difficult surgery to remove the tumor, there were complications and one of Gino’s kidneys was destroyed.

The family prayed constantly to their spiritual father, Padre Pio, that Gino would recover. One night Angela had a dream. Padre Pio was standing in front of her. The brown hood of his Capuchin habit was pulled up on his head. In the dream, Padre Pio said to her simply, “Your grandson will be ok.” The dream gave the family a tremendous sense of hope.

Gino recovered from his life-threatening illness and has enjoyed good health ever since. In gratitude for Gino’s recovery, Fedora and her husband traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1968 to say thank you to Padre Pio. Padre Pio had passed away on September 23, 1968, shortly before their trip. When Fedora and her husband walked into the church of Our Lady of Grace, where Padre Pio had spent so many years of his life, they were overcome with emotion. All they could do was cry.

As Fedora looks back through the years, she is aware of the many blessings she has received from God. Her faith has sustained her through it all, the good times and the bad. And Padre Pio has always been nearby to help.
To Our Spiritual Director
Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP
on the 50th Anniversary
of his Ordination Dec 8, 1957- Dec 8, 2007
Thank-you for your witness,
your generosity and kindness,
and for the many lives you have
touched in your 50 years in the
priesthood. May our Blessed Mother,
and Saint Pio of Pietrelcina,
continue to watch over you and bless
you in all of your holy endeavors.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 33 – October-December 2007

Download Newsletter Issue 33, October-December 2007

Padre Pio and His Friends from Long Island, New York

We recently visited the Reali family at their home in Long Island, New York. Their story of Padre Pio and his intercession in their lives was truly inspiring.

Antoinette (Toni) Masone Reali was born in the small farming town of Pietrelcina in Southern Italy, the same town where Padre Pio was born and raised. All of Toni’s relatives and friends in Pietrelcina either knew Padre Pio or knew of him. They loved to share stories about him and never tired of retelling them.

Toni’s family, especially her mother Maddalena Masone and her Aunt Lucia (Lucia Iadanza) were very devoted to Padre Pio. Toni had the grace to receive her first Holy Communion from the hands of Padre Pio. Toni’s Aunt Lucia, a highly-favored soul, was the sister of Toni’s mother, Maddalena. A devout spiritual daughter of Padre Pio, Lucia’s reputation of holiness was well known in Pietrelcina. She was held in great esteem among the townspeople.

Lucia Iadanza never married. As a young woman she had consecrated her life completely to the service of God. Her home in Pietrelcina was very close to the home of Padre Pio’s family, the Forgiones. Near her home was the well that Padre Pio used to drink from as a youth. Lucia lived just a few doors down from Our Lady of the Angels parish and Padre Pio passed by Lucia’s home every day on his way to Mass. The Iadanza’s had a farmhouse in Piana Romana that was next to the farmhouse of Padre Pio’s family. It was in Piana Romana that Padre Pio received the invisible stigmata in 1910. Eight years later, while praying before a crucifix in the monastery church of Our Lady of Grace, the wounds of the stigmata on Padre Pio’s body became visible and permanent.

Fr. Salvatore Pannullo was the pastor of Our Lady of the Angels, the parish church of Pietrelcina. Fr. Pannullo was the uncle of Toni’s school teacher, Graziella Pannullo. He used to unlock the church for Padre Pio so that he could go inside and pray in solitude. After his ordination to the priesthood, Padre Pio stayed in Pietrelcina for a number of years due to his very fragile health. In Pietrelcina, he assisted Don Salvatore Pannullo at the parish and the two became very close friends.

Padre Pio was transferred to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916. He lived on in the memory of the local people of Pietrelcina. They shared a deep sense of gratitude and pride that their town had been the birthplace and residence of the saintly priest. Many of the residents of Pietrelcina saved their money in order to make the trip to see Padre Pio and attend his Mass. At that time, the road from Pietrelcina to San Giovanni Rotondo was very poor, but the people did not mind the inconveniences or the hardships. Toni made the trip to visit Padre Pio every month, either with her mother or with her Aunt Lucia.

Aunt Lucia would often stay for long periods of time in San Giovanni Rotondo in order to be close to Padre Pio. She used to cook his favorite vegetable, broccoli rabe, and take it to him at the monastery. In San Giovanni Rotondo, she continued to live a life of prayer, service and sacrifice, happy to be close to her spiritual father.

It was a well-known fact that every year Padre Pio looked forward to the holy feast of Christmas with great joy and anticipation. As a child, he loved to sculpture little clay figures of the Infant Jesus in the manger and Joseph and Mary. Throughout his life, he had a tender devotion to the Nativity of the Lord. Long before Christmas, if anyone asked Padre Pio if he knew how many days there were until the feast, he could always answer immediately and with accuracy. He counted the days until Christmas with a childlike simplicity. He loved the Christmas Carols, the special devotions, the beautiful gold vestments, the Nativity scenes, and all of the preparations. He once wrote, “All the feasts of the Church are beautiful. Easter, yes, is glorification, but Christmas has a gentleness, a childlike tenderness, that captures my heart.” Being with Padre Pio at Christmas time captured the hearts of many of his spiritual children as well.

No one who had the good fortune to attend the Christmas Midnight Mass that Padre Pio celebrated could ever forget it. As the Mass began, Padre Pio became profoundly recollected in prayer. Some noticed a kind of spiritual light that seemed to surround him. His face was beautiful, marked by an expression of wonder and deep joy.

Traditionally, during the Christmas Mass, Padre Pio would carry a statue of the Baby Jesus, in procession, from the choir loft of the church through the cloister of the monastery, and down the corridors and halls. In the darkened church, the friars held candles and sang hymns of praise. Padre Pio finally made his way to the altar and from the altar to the Christmas crib where he placed the little image of Jesus. Softly glowing candles illuminated the rustic 16th century church of Our Lady of Grace and added to the beauty and solemnity of the occasion.

The Baby Jesus would remain in the crib throughout the holy days of Christmas. Padre Pio had the crib placed where he could see it from the confessional and he would often gaze lovingly at the Infant. He once wrote to one of his spiritual children, “Stay very close to the crib of this most beautiful Child.”

On December 24, 1922, Aunt Lucia Iadanza was to witness a Christmas Eve in San Giovanni Rotondo like none before. She arrived early to attend Padre Pio’s midnight Mass and on that particular night, the church was so cold that the Capuchins brought a stove into the sacristy hoping to take the chill off. Lucia along with three other women, sat beside the stove to warm themselves. Lucia’s three companions soon fell asleep but Lucia remained awake and was praying the Rosary. When Padre Pio came down the stairs that led to the sacristy, Lucia saw that he was holding the Baby Jesus in his arms. It was not the little statue that was used each year at the Christmas Mass. It was the real Infant Jesus, a baby very much alive. A halo of light encircled the Infant and Padre Pio’s face was shining with a beautiful radiance. Lucia stared wide-eyed in astonishment. It was then that Padre Pio noticed that she was staring at him. As he walked toward her, the halo of golden light and the Infant Jesus suddenly disappeared. So too did the radiance on his face.

Padre Pio asked Lucia what she had seen. “I saw you holding the Baby Jesus surrounded by a halo of light,” she said. “Lucia, you must never tell anyone what you saw. Do you understand? Never!” Padre Pio said to her. It was always his desire to keep the many graces that God had given him hidden from others. He rarely ever spoke about his spiritual experiences and if he did it was usually with great reluctance.

Lucia Iadanza was not the only person to have the blessed experience of seeing Padre Pio with the Christ Child. Father Raffaele of Sant’ Elia a Pianisi was also privileged to be a witness to the same. Father Raffaele had been the Superior of the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo from 1928 to 1941. Altogether, he had lived with Padre Pio for forty years.

In September 1919, while Raffaele was preparing for ordination to the priesthood, he had obtained permission to spend four days in San Giovanni Rotondo. He was able to make his confession to Padre Pio, who welcomed him with great love and told him that he would always assist him in his spiritual life. Raffaele was given a cell in the monastery right next to the cell that belonged to Padre Pio. One night Raffaele found that he could not get to sleep. At midnight, he finally decided to get up. He opened the door of his cell when he saw Padre Pio walking down the hall very slowly, immersed in prayer. His face was radiant, suffused with a beautiful light. In his arms was the Child Jesus. As was the experience of Lucia Iadanza, Raffaele saw that he was not holding a statue or an image, but a real baby. Padre Pio did not notice that Raffaele was standing in the doorway staring at him. This occurred on September 20, 1919. Raffaele later learned that September 20 was the one year anniversary of Padre Pio’s stigmata.

When Toni Masone moved to the United States with her family and settled in New York, she took her precious memories of Padre Pio, her Aunt Lucia, and the good people of Pietrelcina with her. It was in New York that she met Mario Reali and married. Soon they had two beautiful children. Both of the births were very difficult. After her second child was born, because of complications, it took Toni more than seven months under a doctor’s care to recuperate. The doctor talked to Toni and Mario and explained to them that they should never have any more children. Toni would not be able to survive it. When Toni found she was pregnant for a third time, her doctor explained to her the harsh reality of her situation and the danger she was in. Toni was filled with fear. Uppermost in her mind were her two little ones. She wanted to live at all costs and could not bear the idea of leaving her children without a mother. However, when she felt the first movements of the new life within her, she knew she would go forward with the pregnancy. She would have to completely trust in God and let His will be done.

All of Toni and Mario’s relatives and friends in Pietrelcina were notified about the gravity of her situation and were praying for a safe delivery for Toni. When the doctor set the date for the Caesarian delivery, Toni’s mother, Maddalena wrote to Aunt Lucia, asking for special prayers on that day. The family trusted in the efficacy of Aunt Lucia’s prayers. There had been many proofs through the years.

On February 12, 1953, the day that the doctor set for the birth, Toni’s family and friends in Pietrelcina, including her grammar school teacher, Graziella Pannullo, and her Aunt Lucia, traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo to pray and to ask for Padre Pio’s intercession. It was wintertime and transportation from Pietrelcina to San Giovanni Rotondo was difficult. It took three hours to make the journey.

Padre Pio happened to be in the balcony of the church praying when he saw the family and friends of Toni Reali gathered together in the church below. “What are you doing?” Padre Pio asked. “We are praying for Toni Reali,” they answered. “You must go home now. It is late and it is getting dark outside. The Rosary beads are working.” Padre Pio replied. “But we can’t go home,” they answered. “Toni’s life is in danger. The new baby is supposed to arrive today. The doctors do not think Toni will survive it.” Padre Pio answered them, “Go home now because everything is all right. Toni has already had her baby. It is a boy. His name is Michael.” Aunt Lucia was so surprised by his words that she said to him, “Are you sure?” He answered her, “Yes, I am sure. I am telling you the truth. I was there.” Realizing that he had said too much, Padre Pio seemed to regret his words. But the words had slipped out and it was too late to retract them. He would not say any more about it.

It was not long before Toni and Mario’s family and friends learned that what Padre Pio had told them was true. There at Kew Gardens hospital in Forest Hills, New York, Toni had a beautiful and healthy son and had named him Michael. It was a name especially dear to Padre Pio as he had a great devotion to St. Michael, the Archangel. Toni knew that the prayers of her loved ones and Padre Pio, had saved her. But it was only when she learned what had transpired in the operating room that she realized to what extent she had been helped.

The surgeon who was attending told Toni’s doctor that he had an experience in the delivery room unlike any other in all his years of medical practice. As he was about to make the incision in Toni’s abdomen to take the baby by Caesarian section, he felt what seemed like “invisible hands” guiding his own. These “invisible hands” seemed to move and direct his hands. He had no choice but to follow. It almost seemed as though someone else was performing the surgery. The area where he was guided to make the incision, turned out to be perfect. The whole procedure had been flawless. It could not have gone smoother. The baby was healthy and Toni’s recuperation too was very fast.

When little Michael Reali was just a toddler, he contracted tuberculosis. Under his doctor’s care, his condition did not improve but grew steadily worse. Toni was so worried about little Michael’s declining health that she decided to take him to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. At the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, the Reali’s waited near the sacristy of the church, hoping to speak to Padre Pio about their son. Aunt Lucia was holding little Michael in her arms and just as she passed him to one of the Capuchins to hold, Padre Pio walked into the hallway. He looked at Michael and said, “So this is the famous little Michael that everyone in talking about!” Saying that, he put his hand momentarily on Michael’s chest. When the family returned to the United States, X-ray tests revealed that the tuberculosis had vanished as well as the hole that had been in Michael’s lung. He was never troubled again by the disease. Mario, Toni’s husband, who had not been convinced of Padre Pio’s authenticity, became a believer after his son was healed.

After the cure of little Michael, the family visited San Giovanni Rotondo almost every year until Padre Pio’s death in 1968. In thanksgiving for the many blessings they have received, they were instrumental in the construction of the Way of the Rosary which was built on the road that leads from Pietrelcina to Piana Romana. It was the road that Padre Pio used to walk when he went to his family’s farmhouse. The Reali’s also helped in the restoration of two churches in Pietrelcina, both of which Padre Pio attended in his youth – the church of Our Lady of the Angels and the church of St. Anne where Padre Pio was baptized and received his first Holy Communion. Mario, Toni, Michael and his wife Lisa have also been active members of the Padre Pio prayer group in New York as well as Florida. In 2007, Toni and Mario celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. They treasure their faith, their beautiful family, and their abundant blessings. They are well aware that many of those blessings have come to them through the hands of Padre Pio. His presence and his love have remained with the Reali family through these many years.

“For the feast of the Infant Jesus, my wish for you is that your heart may be His cradle adorned with flowers, where He can rest without the slightest discomfort.”

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina


Fr. Lino Barbati, who was one of two Delegate Postulators of Padre Pio’s Cause for Beatification, traveled to the U.S. to collect testimonies from people who had known Padre Pio personally. The following is a declaration signed by 36 people and submitted to Fr. Lino:

“We, the undersigned, all of us adults born in Pietrelcina and having lived there up to 1918-1925, during which period we emigrated to the United States, testify that we knew Padre Pio when we were children, through contact with the Forgione family and with Padre Pio himself whose name was Francesco, and through our having received private lessons from him at primary school level.

A number of us knew him before he was ordained to the priesthood and later as a priest during the years he spent in Pietrelcina for health reasons.

At that time Padre Pio was very young, very handsome and led a most holy life. He was known to the people of our town as “our little saint.”

Padre Pio was a young friar devoted to prayer in church, at home and beneath a fig tree near his family’s farmhouse at Piana Romana, where he loved to withdraw to meditate in solitude…..

He helped the parish priest, Don Salvatore Pannullo, in the priestly ministry, visiting and administering the sacraments to the sick and imparting religious instruction to the children. He said Mass with quite particular recollection and fervor, which distinguished him from the other priests.

When he passed through the streets of the town he was dignified, modest and mortified, walking with lowered eyes. In dealing with women of any age, even with young girls, he never looked them full in the face. If they approached him to kiss his hand, to greet him or to ask for advice or a blessing, he kept his gaze fixed on the ground.

His purity was indescribable so that he seemed like an angel. He did not tolerate ambiguous, vulgar, improper or immoral conversations or behavior. He reminded all that they must not offend God by suggestive remarks, obscene expressions or by swearing. He was loved and respected by all.

Every day, after he had said Mass, he walked to Piana Romana. On his way he recited the breviary or the Rosary. He greeted and answered courteously all those he met. One day, on the little bridge he had to cross, he beheld the devil in horrible form waiting there in a threatening attitude to attack him and throw him into the ravine. Padre Pio hesitated fearfully for a moment, but soon pulled himself together, made the sign of the cross and put the devil to flight. Piana Romana was Padre Pio’s favorite spot where he gave himself up to prayer and meditation and where he began to suffer the pain of the invisible stigmata…..

He suffered in silence and gladly and he never revealed to others his physical and moral sufferings or his mysterious ailments. All of the people of Pietrelcina loved him, for they caught a glimpse of his holiness when they observed his great virtue, especially his modesty and purity, his gentleness and humility, his charity, his submission to his superiors and to the parish priest.

When he was obliged by obedience to leave Pietrelcina and return to community life, the people were filled with grief and mourned the loss of their “little saint.”

We natives of Pietrelcina, resident in America for many years and who had the good fortune to know Padre Pio personally and at close quarters, consider it our duty to offer this sincere testimony.”


From our Spiritual Director

We are all aware that many people have received great graces, even miracles, through the intercession of the saints. But I have noticed something interesting in this regard. Many times the graces that have been received, do not bring about a change or a true conversion in the person’s life. Often the person continues to coast through life or worse, falls right back into his old, destructive habits of behavior.

Many of us are guilty of ingratitude. We are not grateful for the blessings we have receive from God. We take it all for granted. If we are guilty of the sin of ingratitude, it is something that we need to mention when we go to confession. The best way to thank God for the many blessings that we have received is to constantly praise Him, to surrender to His will, and to pray with fervor.

Padre Pio used to say to those who thanked him for his prayerful intercession, “Do not thank me. I did nothing. Thank God and the Blessed Mother.” Let us remember that Padre Pio said, “I will be able to do much more for you when I am in Heaven than what I could do for you on earth.” We must never take the blessings and miracles we have received for granted. Even when the graces are slow in coming, we must always have hearts full of gratitude and thanksgiving.

Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 32 – July-September 2007

Download Newsletter Issue 32, July-September 2007

The Clergy Remembers Padre Pio – Part III

A note from the editors: We recently visited Msgr. John Esseff where he resides in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He shared with us his story of meeting Padre Pio in 1959.

Fr. John Esseff, while on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1959, decided to make a detour to San Giovanni Rotondo and visit Padre Pio. His friend on the pilgrimage, Fr. Robert was going to accompany him. As far as Fr. John knew, at that time, there were only two individuals living, who had the stigmata –  Padre Pio who lived in Italy and Therese Neumann who lived in Germany. In 1959, Padre Pio was a controversial figure. Some people said that he had been banished from the priesthood, that his stigmata was self-inflicted, that he could no longer hear confessions. Others believed him to be a living saint, a man in touch with God. Fr. John was of the second opinion.

Fr. John had a small grasp of the Italian language and while in Rome, he was able to understand it to a limited degree. But when he left Rome for Padre Pio’s monastery, all of that changed. He was not able to understand even one word of the Italian language that was being spoken. Someone was able to foresee the problem of the language barrier because he was given some helpful advice. When he and Fr. Robert arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo they were told simply to say the words, “Maria Pyla” to the first person they saw and they would be sure to be directed to the home of Mary Pyle. Mary Pyle was Padre Pio’s American secretary and she greeted the pilgrims and offered hospitality to the many visitors who came  to see Padre Pio. She often helped people find lodging who were staying for a time in San Giovanni Rotondo.

When Fr. John and Fr. Robert stepped off the bus in San Giovanni Rotondo, the words “Maria Pyla” drew an instant response. They were directed to Mary’s home, which was very close to Padre Pio’s monastery. They received a warm welcome from Mary and she invited them to dinner. Padre Pio’s nephew joined them for the meal.

As they were eating dinner, the front door opened and Padre Pio walked in. Needless to say, Fr. John was very surprised. Padre Pio looked directly at Fr. John and said, “Why are you here? Are you one of the curiosity seekers?” “No, not at all,” said Fr. John. “I am a believer.” Padre Pio walked over to the left side of the table where Fr. John was sitting and spoke to him for a few minutes. Then he turned and left. Fr. John was so surprised by the visit that he asked Mary about it. “Does Padre Pio come to your house often?” he asked.  Mary understood that Fr. John had received a special blessing and that the experience was meant for him and for no one else. Mary said to Fr. John, “Padre Pio had something special for you. He sometimes does that. None of the rest of us saw him.”

Fr. John tried to take it all in. For those minutes when Padre Pio was talking to him, Fr. John was somehow not present to the others at the table. Mary Pyle understood and Padre Pio’s nephew understood but Fr. Robert did not. He was completely mystified. “I find the whole experience that happened at dinner spooky,” Fr. Robert said. “I don’t know what to make of it.”

The next morning, in order to get to Padre Pio’s 5:00 a.m. Mass, the two priests got up in the middle of the night. They got to the church at 2:30 a.m. where a huge crowd was already gathered. When the doors opened, the two priests went into the sacristy. About 200 men were already assembled there. When Padre Pio walked through the sacristy, all of the men knelt down. Padre Pio stood right in front of Fr. John and in silence, stared at him. His expression was solemn, almost angry. Everyone looked at Padre Pio as he looked at Fr. John. This went on for what seemed like an hour but Fr. Robert told Fr. John that Padre Pio stared at him for about 15 minutes.

Padre Pio made his way with difficulty through the crowd, to a kneeler where he paused to pray before vesting for Mass. When he finished his prayers and passed through the sacristy again, he once more stopped in front of Fr. John. This time, however, he had a beautiful smile on his face. He had removed his gloves and Fr. John could see the stigmata. There was light passing through the wounds on his hands. The stigmata appeared transparent. Fr. John bent down and kissed his hand and then Padre Pio put his hand on Fr. John’s head in a blessing.

The Mass of Padre Pio was an unforgettable experience. The church was filled to capacity and although his Mass was long, the time passed quickly. Fr. John noticed that after the Mass, the local Italian people took dabs of cotton and touched it to the floor by the altar. There were bloodstains around the altar and it was gathered on the cotton as relics.

Fr. John wanted to make his confession to Padre Pio, but Padre Pio’s assistant, Fr. Dominic Meyer told him it would not be possible. The confessions were booked solid for two weeks in advance. However, Fr. Dominic told Fr. John that he would speak to Padre Pio about him. A short time later, Fr. John received a letter from Fr. Dominic. Padre Pio had sent a message saying that if Fr. John ever needed his help while hearing confessions, to send his guardian angel to Padre Pio and he would help him immediately. Padre Pio added that if he needed help for any other reason, just to send his angel, and he would respond at once.

In the years since his visit to Padre Pio, Fr. John Esseff (now Msgr. Esseff) has kept very busy in his priestly ministry. He has traveled worldwide and has given retreats to the Missionaries of Charity in Lebanon, Haiti, Italy, the U.S., India, and more. He was very close to Mother Teresa and while in India, he served as a confessor and retreat director to her and her religious community. He was appointed director of formation at the seminary in Fargo, North Dakota and at Creighton University he has served as spiritual director for formation of priests and seminarians. He is the creator of Telespond, a program which addresses the needs of the elderly and he has been an advocate for the handicapped, the retarded, the poor, the homeless, and the migrant farm workers. For 12 years he served at the Lackawanna County Prison as a counselor and chaplain to prisoners and their extended families. For his many contributions to humanity, he has received the Pope John Paul II award, “Prelate of Honor.”

In June of 2007, Msgr. Esseff celebrated his 79th birthday. He has been a priest for 54 years. He continues to serve as a retreat master and spiritual director for bishops, priests, and seminarians. He has never forgotten Padre Pio’s words, “Just send me your guardian angel if you ever need my help,” words spoken almost 50 years ago. As a confessor and spiritual director, Msgr. John has needed Padre Pio’s help and guidance on many, many occasions. Frequently, when faced with a difficult case, not knowing the right words to say or the best advice to give, he has sent his angel to Padre Pio. The answer has always come. He continues to send his guardian angel to Padre Pio and has felt Padre Pio’s ever-present help through these many years.


Memories of Padre Pio

Fr. Joseph Anthony shared a close friendship with Padre Pio. Five years older than Padre Pio, Fr. Joseph Anthony lived side by side with Padre Pio at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace for four years. When Fr. Joseph Anthony was transferred to the monastery of St. Anne in Foggia, his health began to decline. On December 30, 1936, Padre Pio received the news that Fr. Joseph Anthony was gravely ill. His condition had grown steadily worse and he was close to death.

Padre Pio’s prayers were requested. He lifted up his prayers to Heaven, begging God to come to the aide of his friend. What Padre Pio did not know was that Fr. Joseph Anthony had passed away on that very night. While Padre Pio was praying, he heard a knock at his door. When he opened the door, to his great surprise, there stood Fr. Joseph Anthony. “What are you doing here?” Padre Pio asked him. “I was told that you were in a great deal of pain and were gravely ill. I have been praying for you.” “I am well,” said Fr. Joseph Anthony. “All my pains have gone away and I have come to thank you for your prayers.” Saying that, he vanished. It was then that Padre Pio understood that his friend had already passed away. When Padre Pio told the Capuchins about his experience, Fr. Raffaele suggested to him that he was probably dreaming. Padre Pio explained that it was not a dream. He was wide-awake and Fr. Joseph Anthony appeared at his door in flesh and blood. The friary records stated that Fr. Joseph Anthony had passed away at 2:00 a.m. That was the same time that he had visited Padre Pio.


Fr. Bernardo d’Alpicella had contracted malaria one summer, and even though he was receiving very good medical care, there was no improvement in his condition. Every two days, his fever would return. His doctor told him that it would be a good idea for him to have a change of climate. Perhaps his health would benefit from the change. Acting upon his doctor’s advice, Fr. Bernardo decided to make a visit to San Giovanni Rotondo. However, his condition showed no improvement and the fever remained. One evening Father Bernardo was in the dining room with the friars and Padre Pio. He said, “Padre Pio, will you give me a blessing? I mean one of those strong ones!” The moment that Padre Pio blessed him, the fever disappeared.


Egidio Vagnozzi (1906-1980), a Catholic priest for 52 years, served as a Bishop for 31 years, the last 13 of those years, as a Cardinal. At one time he was designated Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, and it was at this assignment that Bishop Vagnozzi encountered many serious problems within the church. The responsibilities of his office and the complex issues he faced each day weighed on his mind. While in Rome, he spoke to the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII and asked for advice. Pope Pius XII encouraged Bishop Vagnozzi to visit Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo and speak to him about the matter. The bishop found the advice hard to understand. Padre Pio never left his monastery and although not technically a cloistered monk, for all intents and purposes, he was. He did not have any training in diplomatic matters. Living in the remote and isolated town of San Giovanni Rotondo, he was not in touch with the real world. How could he possible offer Bishop Vagnozzi any advice?

After thinking it over, the bishop decided to make the trip. He did not tell anyone of his plan to visit Padre Pio as it was his desire to maintain a low profile. When he arrived in the small town of San Giovanni Rotondo, no one recognized him as a bishop. No one in this remote area in southern Italy had ever seen him before. At the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, upon meeting Padre Pio, Bishop Vagnozzi was very surprised to hear Padre Pio greet him with the words, “Hello, Your Excellency.” He was shocked. How did Padre Pio know that he was a bishop?

The bishop confided to Padre Pio the many problems he faced as Apostolic Nuncio. With great kindness, Padre Pio said to him, “Your Excellency, you are the Apostolic Nuncio for the Philippines. Is that correct?” He answered, “Yes.” “Who was it that sent you to the Philippines?” “It was the Holy Father who sent me,” the bishop answered. “Well, who is the Holy Father?” The bishop replied, “The Holy Father is the Pope, the Vicar of Christ.” Padre Pio said, “So then it was Our Lord Jesus Christ who sent you to serve the church in the Philippines. You are a representative of the Pope but you are also a representative of Jesus Christ. If Christ were to go to the Philippines and see all the problems and abuses that you have shared with me, what would He do? Whatever Christ would do, that is what you must do.” The bishop returned to Rome and told Pope Pius XII what Padre Pio had said. The Holy Father told the bishop to take to heart the wise counsel that had been given to him. When he went back to the Philippines, he thought about Padre Pio’s advice and acted upon it. Everything turned out very well.


Padre Pio’s methods in the confessional sometimes seemed drastic, but they were effective. On occasion, Padre Pio applied a bit of “shock treatment,” by sending the person out of the confessional without absolution. This acted as a wake up call for many. The young man in the following story received one such wake up call and it changed his life.

Father Mariano Paladino, one of the Capuchins in San Giovanni Rotondo, was approached on one occasion by a young man from the northern part of Italy. The young man confided to Father Mariano the many burdens that were in his heart. He was going through a particularly difficult religious crisis and many other problems were weighing on him. After listening, Padre Mariano suggested to the young man that he speak to Padre Pio.

Acting upon the advice, one day the young man went to confession to Padre Pio. But before he could utter even one word, Padre Pio said to him, “I want you to answer either yes or no to the questions that I ask you. Only that and no more.” Padre Pio then began an examination of conscience. One by one, he named a list of serious sins, inquiring as to whether the young man had committed them or not. Much to his embarrassment, the young man had to answer yes to every sin that Padre Pio had named. After this humiliating experience, Padre Pio then told the young man that he should leave the confessional, that is, without absolution. The young man was devastated and began to cry. He cried for three days.

But something impelled him to return to the monastery and so he did. He managed to position himself at a place where Padre Pio was passing by. As he was standing there, he perceived a wonderful fragrance of perfume. The young man assumed that Padre Pio was wearing after-shave cologne.

When he went back to his hotel, he saw a photograph of Padre Pio on the wall. The penetrating gaze of Padre Pio’s eyes was so striking that the young man had to tightly close his own eyes. When he opened them, the photo had disappeared. He asked one of the employees at the hotel about the picture. He was informed that there had never been a picture of Padre Pio hanging on the wall. The young man then realized that Padre Pio’s presence was with him and he began to deeply ponder the encounter he had with Padre Pio. After regaining his peace, he decided to go back to the monastery and visit Padre Pio once again. Again, he made his confession to Padre Pio and he spoke to him about his life’s direction. The young man was able then to act on his desire. He became a Catholic priest.


In September 1955, Padre Alberto D’Apolito along with 45 others, made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Tears in Syracuse, Sicily. Padre Alberto invited Padre Pio to accompany them but he declined the invitation. He almost never left the monastery. “Go on ahead. I will stay in San Giovanni Rotondo but I will follow you,” Padre Pio said. He meant that he would be praying for Padre Alberto and his companions while they were away.

On the way to the shrine, they drove through a large area of watermelon farms. In the warm September sunshine, the watermelons looked delicious and so the pilgrims asked the bus driver to stop. Unable to resist the temptation, the pilgrims ate too many of the watermelons. They began to suffer terribly from indigestion and nausea. Fortunately, they were all feeling better by the next day. They visited the beautiful shrine of Our Lady of Tears and then went on toward Palermo. Just as it was getting dark, on a lonely and desolate stretch of countryside, they came to an obstruction in the road. The bus driver stopped and told everyone to get out of the bus. The people became frightened and began to pray to Padre Pio. All at once, a wave of perfume filled the bus. When another wave of perfume passed through the bus, everyone understood that it was Padre Pio and that his presence was with them. They got out of the bus and began clearing away the fallen trees and rocks that were blocking the road. Just then, the Italian State police officers (the Carabenieri) arrived. They told the police officers that they had been praying for Padre Pio’s protection. At the mention of Padre Pio’s name, the police officers all removed their hats as a gesture of respect. “When you see Padre Pio again, please ask him to pray for us,” they said. “As police officers, our lives are exposed to constant danger.”

Padre Alberto received confirmation that Padre Pio had indeed been watching over them on their journey. As he entered the monastery, Padre Pio greeted him and said, “You all made fools out of yourselves with those watermelons!” And then he added, “And that night on the road to Palermo, you were all so frightened. What a scare!”


Padre Pietro Tartaglia left this very beautiful reminiscence of Padre Pio:

“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 towards the altar for evening devotions and in a voice breaking with emotion recited the Visit to Our Blessed Lady.”


Padre Pio had a great love for the religious habit. He lived in the time when the Capuchins had a habit they wore in the daytime and a night habit which they wore to bed. When Padre Pio became ill, the Superior of the monastery did not want him to wear his habit at night. However, Padre Pio was not in favor of any change in this regard. Only an order could convince him of it. So the Superior gave Padre Pio a dispensation from wearing the habit to bed, in favor of pajamas. Padre Pio started crying upon receiving the news. On the night that he died, September 23, 1968, knowing that his end was at hand, he went and put on his habit. He wanted to give his soul back to God, wearing his religious habit. The following story shows Padre Pio’s deep respect for the habit:

One time when Padre Pio was hearing confessions in the sacristy of the church, he kept looking intently toward one particular man who was in the confessional line. The man noticed it and began to feel very uncomfortable. He moved to another place and tried to remain inconspicuous, but Padre Pio’s penetrating eyes still followed him wherever he went. All of the people nearby noticed it as well and were quite curious as to why Padre Pio was staring at the man. Finally, Padre Pio motioned for the man to come over to him. The man thought there was some mistake and so he did not move. One of the men who was standing nearby told him, “Padre Pio is calling you. You must go to him.” Although nervous, the man approached Padre Pio’s confessional. In a soft voice, just above a whisper, Padre Pio said to him, “Father, go and put on your habit then come back and I will hear your confession.” The man was a Dominican priest. He had come to San Giovanni Rotondo because he had heard much talk about Padre Pio. It seems the opinion was evenly divided. Some people believed that Padre Pio was a living saint and others did not. The man wore civilian clothing because he wanted to find out for himself the truth about Padre Pio. His experience convinced him that Padre Pio was truly authentic.



Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 31 – April-June 2007

Download Newsletter Issue 31, April-June 2007

“I felt that Padre Pio had a direct line to heaven.”
Father Leo Fanning

The Clergy Remembers Padre Pio – Part II

A note from the editors: We met Father Leo Fanning almost accidentally. We were in Northern New Jersey and had stopped for morning Mass on our way to New York. As we were leaving, we gave a Padre Pio newsletter to one of the parishioners. She told us that there was a priest just 40 miles away who had met Padre Pio during World War II and that we should take a detour and visit him. We did just that. Father Leo was happy to speak to us and to recall his memories of Padre Pio. We were deeply inspired by the story he shared with us.

Leo Fanning, from Cornwall on the Hudson, New York, was drafted into military service during World War II and was assigned to the 304th Bomb Wing of the Fifteenth Air Force and stationed in Cerignola, Italy. He worked in the Battle Casualties Department where records were kept of soldiers who were wounded, missing in action, or killed in the line of duty. His work was a ministry of consolation.

In Cerignola, Leo observed how friendly the townspeople were to the allied soldiers. They were poor farming people for the most part, who had been reduced to destitution because of the war. One evening at the base, when Leo went outside to put the leftovers from supper in the garbage can, a number of little children, dressed in very poor clothing, begged him for the scraps of food that he was about to throw away. From that moment on, no unwanted food was ever thrown into the garbage. Leo did what he could to secure clothing for the children and food as well. He noticed that it was the children and the elderly who suffered the most from the terrible consequences of the war.

When Leo had free time from his work, it was his practice to gather the children of Cerignola together and teach them their catechism. Even though he spoke very little Italian, he somehow managed to communicate with them. He prepared them for their first Holy Communion and also visited the homes of many of the residents in Cerignola, encouraging parents to permit their children to receive the sacrament of Confirmation.

One evening, at the Cathedral of Ripalta, in Cerignola, the Bishop came to preside at the Mass and Benediction. Leo noticed the very disrespectful way that people were conversing with each other during the service. Leo could not contain himself. In a voice full of authority, he stood up and told all the people to be silent while the Bishop was celebrating Mass. One day a messenger came, summoning Corporal Leo Fanning to the Bishop’s office. The Bishop told Leo how much he appreciated what he was doing with the children in town and how grateful he was that Leo had spoken to the people in church, advising them to be more respectful.

Frequently in the evening, Leo would go to the Capuchin monastery in Cerignola to receive Holy Communion and to attend Benediction. The regulation was that the American soldiers were permitted to receive Holy Communion at any time when stationed in a combat zone. Padre Paolino of Casacalenda was the Provincial of the monastery and he often invited Leo and his two army buddies, Joe Asterita and Mario Avignone to come inside the monastery after Benediction to visit. Because the monastery had no heating, during the winter months the men would gather around a large container of burning charcoal to warm themselves while they talked together. Padre Paolino would often share stories of Padre Pio, who lived 80 miles away in the Capuchin monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo. Hearing about Padre Pio, Leo, Joe and Mario decided they must take the first opportunity they could and visit him.

One day Leo had the opportunity to go with Joe to San Giovanni Rotondo. The first person they met at the monastery was Brother Gerardo. They told Brother Gerardo they had come from the military base at Cerignola and they wanted to meet Padre Pio. Brother Gerardo told them that it would be impossible. He pointed to the huge crowd of people who were assembled inside the church. “Are they waiting to go to Mass?” Leo asked. “No,” said Brother Gerardo. “They have already been to Mass. They are all waiting to go to confession to Padre Pio.”

Leo and Joe decided to stay and they hoped that they might be able to see Padre Pio later in the day. Finally, when the confessions were over, Leo and Joe had a chance to greet Padre Pio. Joe, who had already met Padre Pio on a previous occasion, spoke to him in his best Italian. “Padre Pio,” he said, “I want to introduce you to my friend, Corporal Leo Fanning.” “But that is not correct,” Padre Pio said. “It is Father Leo Fanning.” These words of Padre Pio’s were a great encouragement and affirmation to Leo who had been considering a vocation to the priesthood.

On another visit to the monastery, Leo was able to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. His Mass lasted more than two hours, with long periods of silence throughout. “Padre Pio was not here with us for the whole Mass,” Leo said. “His body was here but his soul was somewhere else. The Mass was beautiful. I felt that Padre Pio had a direct line to Heaven.”

On his subsequent visits to San Giovanni Rotondo, Leo became acquainted with the Superior of the monastery, Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis. Padre Agostino had been Padre Pio’s confessor and spiritual director for many years. Knowing that Padre Pio was a spiritually gifted soul who had received many special graces and privileges from the Lord, Padre Agostino held him in genuine veneration and their relationship of mutual esteem and deep friendship lasted more than fifty years. Padre Agostino kept a diary in which he recorded their conversations and experiences together.

Padre Agostino was barely five feet tall. Leo still remembers his twinkling blue eyes and his long flowing beard. His leadership in the monastery was marked by firmness, and a broad fatherly spirit. Padre Agostino ran a tight ship, yet was known for his kindness to all. Everyone held him in the highest respect.

Visitors often brought gifts of food and beverages to the monastery for the friars to enjoy, and Padre Agostino always made it a point to check the contents of every package and gift. Most items were allowed, but he would not permit the cigarettes that well-meaning visitors sometimes brought for the Capuchins. One time Leo and Joe brought a bag of candy to Padre Pio. After they had lunch with the friars, someone noticed that most of the candy was missing. Padre Pio said, “So the candy has been taken. Well, I know who took it.” The people who were standing nearby and heard these words of Padre Pio quickly left the area. Nothing could be hidden from Padre Pio and none of those who were guilty wanted to be “found out.”

Angelina, who was a schoolteacher in Cerignola, was a friend of Leo’s. From time to time, she was able to go to Our Lady of Grace monastery to visit Padre Pio. One day she told Leo that she sometimes perceived a beautiful fragrance, like perfume, not only when she was at Padre Pio’s monastery, but also when she was home in Cerignola. The fragrance, Angelina explained, was a sign of Padre Pio’s presence. Leo felt that Angelina was far out of reality to make such a statement. What she had said about the perfume was impossible. Leo concluded that Angelina was a nice person but nevertheless, a religious fanatic with an overactive imagination.

Shortly after that, Leo was working in his office on the military base and was hit with a wave of sweet-smelling perfume. He was alone. There were no flowers in the room or anything else that might have caused the fragrance. He was so shook up by the experience that he went to see the Army chaplain, Father Duggan. He needed to talk about what had just happened. As he was waiting to speak to Father Duggan, Joe Asterita walked in. “Why are you here, Joe?” Leo asked him. “It is because I have been experiencing the perfume of Padre Pio near me, and I am going to talk to Father Duggan about it,” Joe replied.

One day when Leo was getting ready to visit Padre Pio, Angelina asked him to bring back a relic, something of Padre Pio’s, for her to keep. When Leo was with Padre Pio in the dining room, he told him of Angelina’s request. Padre Pio, who had a wonderful sense of humor, looked at the box of cereal that was in front of them. He took out one rice crispy. “Give this to Angelina,” he said. Far from being disappointed, Angelina was very happy with the gift.

Once, on the spur of the moment, Leo and Joe decided to pay a surprise visit to Padre Pio. They asked Padre Paolino if he would like to go with them and he agreed. When they arrived at the monastery, Padre Paolino told them to wait in the jeep for a moment while he went inside. He came out and told them to park in the barn behind the friary and next to the donkeys. Padre Paolino said to them that when he walked into the monastery, Padre Pio said, “Oh good, you have finally arrived. I have been expecting you and the two American soldiers all morning.” They were learning that it was not so easy to surprise Padre Pio.

Leo began to have a strong desire to have a photograph taken of himself with Padre Pio. However, seeing how pressing Padre Pio’s work schedule was and how people were constantly making requests of him, he did not have the heart to add to his burden. One day, without Leo being aware of it, someone took his picture sitting next to Padre Pio in the monastery. To Leo’s great happiness, he was given the picture to keep.

Padre Pio invited Joe, Leo and Mario to come and see him on May 25, his 58th birthday. The year was 1945. Joe said, “We would love to come and see you on your birthday and we will be there with bells on.” Padre Pio wanted to know the meaning of the phrase, “with bells on.” Joe said, “It means that we will be on time.” Padre Pio understood then, and laughed at the expression.

For Padre Pio’s birthday, Leo, Joe and Mario brought a beautiful sheet cake to the monastery with the words, “Happy Birthday, Padre Pio.” That day, Padre Pio walked into the dining room, slightly limping. He had presided at the wedding ceremony for his niece earlier that day, and was exhausted. Leo noticed that Padre Pio enjoyed the conversation during lunch but did not eat one bite of food. Afterward, Leo, Joe and Mario sang “Happy Birthday” to Padre Pio, and at the end of the song, all of the Capuchins, including Padre Pio, broke into applause. Padre Pio had agreed to let Leo and his friends take photographs that day but he changed his mind. He explained to them that he was sorry, but he was too tired from the day’s activities.

This was not the first time that Padre Pio had declined being photographed, and it would not be the last. Dr. Sanguinetti, one of the collaborators in the building of Padre Pio’s hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering, told of an incidence when Padre Pio asked that his photograph not be taken. Padre Pio and Dr. Sanguinetti were standing outside the Home for the Relief of Suffering, when Dr. Sanguinetti took a photo of Padre Pio. Just at that moment a gust of wind blew the scarf that Padre Pio was wearing, across his face. When Padre Pio saw the camera, he said, “No, Doctor, no photographs please.” Dr. Sanguinetti apologized to Padre Pio but could not resist the temptation. He stepped into the background and continued to take one picture after another until he had used two rolls of film. All of the photos came out blank except the first one with the scarf blowing across Padre Pio’s face, the one he had taken before being forbidden.

After Padre Pio’s birthday party, Leo, Joe and Mario stopped to talk to Father Ignatius in the monastery. They told him that when they returned to the U.S., they wanted to have something to remember Padre Pio by, a relic. They wanted Father Ignatius to obtain it for them. “What kind of a relic?” Father Ignatius asked. “A bandage that covered his stigmata,” they replied. Father Ignatius turned as white as a sheet at the words. “What you are asking me to do is strictly forbidden,” he said. “I could get into a lot of trouble. It is impossible.” “No one will ever know,” Leo responded. “We promise to keep the secret. It would mean so much to us.” They finally convinced Father Ignatius and he returned a short time later with three bandages neatly tucked in his pocket. He looked frightened. “Now remember,” said Father Ignatius, “do not say a word about this to anyone.”

Not long afterward, Father Ignatius heard Padre Pio’s booming voice summoning him. “Father Ignatius, come here at once,” Padre Pio said. “You did something very wrong. You committed a theft. You know that you are not allowed to give the bandages to anyone, and you did it anyway.” And then he paused a moment and seemed to soften. “I forgive you, Father Ignatius,” he said. “And I forgive the boys, too. Tell them that I wore those bandages over my heart. Go in peace.”

Many people who visited Padre Pio during the war years, asked him for information regarding their loved ones who were on the field of battle. Brother Ludovico, whose family was from San Giovanni Rotondo, was worried about his nephew, who was in the army but had not been heard from for a long time. Brother Ludovico’s sister (the boy’s mother) asked Padre Pio about her son. “He is all right but he cannot write to you. Don’t worry, though, he will return home safely,” Padre Pio told her. As it turned out, he had been taken prisoner by the Germans, but managed to escape and was hiding in the home of a kindly Italian family.

Capuchin Father, Padre Alberto D’Apolito, once asked Padre Pio his impressions about the war. “The war will last a long time,” Padre Pio said. “We are still at the beginning. You will see it pass from town to town like an overflowing river, spreading its destruction, blood and death. May God help us.” He was asked if San Giovanni Rotondo would be spared and he answered, “The Lord, in His infinite bounty, will spare this blessed place and all of the Gargano area.” In fact, time proved the truth of his words. No bombs ever fell on San Giovanni Rotondo.

When the war was finally coming to an end, Joe, Mario and Leo got word of their new assignments. Leo learned that he would probably be stationed in Japan. Mario was going to be transferred to another part of Europe. Joe would be going back home to New York. A new military point system (Accumulated Service Record) had been put into place and Joe had enough points to be discharged.

They went to the monastery together one last time to tell Padre Pio the news and to say goodbye. “Points or no points,” Padre Pio said, “I tell you that you will all be going home together.” Mario told Padre Pio that he would come back again sometime to visit. “Do not do it,” said Padre Pio. “Save your money instead. As your spiritual father, I will be with you always. Just call on me and I will be there.” Mario, who had been greatly edified by his association with Padre Pio, and who, prior to meeting Padre Pio, did not have a deep faith life, became a daily communicant.

Joe asked Padre Pio if he thought he might have a vocation to the priesthood, perhaps the Trappist order. “Joe, you talk all the time,” Padre Pio said. “You cannot keep silent even for a minute. You could never be a Trappist. Your vocation is to the married life.” “But I do not know any girls,” Joe said. “Well, if I have to, I will find a wife for you myself,” Padre Pio answered. ” How could you do that when you live in San Giovanni Rotondo and I will be in New York?” Joe asked. “Leave it to me,” Pio said. Joe soon met a very nice Italian girl and married her. To Leo, Padre Pio said, “You feel that you are to go to the altar of God. I do not want you to go anywhere else.” He kissed the three men on each cheek following the Italian custom and gave each a handful of religious medals. When the men returned to the base, their transfer orders had been changed. They were all to go back to the United States.

Leo entered the seminary and was ordained at St. John’s Cathedral in Paterson, New Jersey on May 30, 1954. Ten minutes before ordination, while waiting in the sacristy, a Western Union worker delivered a telegram to Leo. It said, “Congratulations on the day of your ordination.” It was signed, “Padre Pio.” Leo couldn’t believe it. How did Padre Pio know the exact time and day of his ordination? And yet, that had been his experience with Padre Pio time and time again.

Father Leo has heard that many hotels, motels, restaurants, and souvenir shops have sprung up in the once small and isolated mountain village where Padre Pio lived for more than fifty years. A new and larger church had to be built to accommodate the pilgrims who now come by the thousands to pray at the tomb of Padre Pio. Indeed, there is now an entire “city of Padre Pio.” Father Leo has not had the desire to return to San Giovanni Rotondo. He wants to remember it the way it was when he visited Padre Pio there – the simple and austere monastery, the quiet hills, the small rustic church, the silence, the rocky, expansive landscape, the peace. It is still vivid in his memory.

Father Leo’s devotion to Padre Pio has continued through his priesthood. He organized a Padre Pio prayer group which he led for many years, and has given numerous talks on Padre Pio in various locations. Father Leo knows the great blessing he was given, that day more than 60 years ago when he drove his military jeep up the steep and winding road leading to Our Lady of Grace monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. Many graces came to him that day and many graces have come to him since. Father Leo is now 84 years old. On May 30, 2007, he will have celebrated 53 years as a priest.

When we walked into the Catholic assisted living facility where Father Leo now resides, we found Father Leo in the chapel, celebrating Mass from his wheelchair, for the many residents that were gathered there. “You believe that you are to go to the altar of God,” Padre Pio once told Leo. “I do not want you to go anywhere else.” Father Leo did not go “anywhere else.” He has dedicated his life to the service of God and to the Church. How proud Padre Pio must be of Father Leo Fanning.


Padre Pio’s Words of Faith

“Have great compassion for all pastors, preachers and guides of souls, and see how they are dispersed all over the world……pray to God for them, so that saving themselves they may obtain a fruitful salvation of souls. And I beg you not to ever forget me in this because God gives me a great will to never forget you before Him.”

“Let us pray that peace may be restored to all the countries that are at war. But let us also pray for the souls that are involved in spiritual warfare that they may fight like strong ones.”

“May the Lord confirm with His blessings, these wishes of mine, for your happiness is very close to my heart and I work and pray continuously for this end.”

From our Spiritual Director

I learned about one of Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters, Maria, through two friends of mine who have become close to Maria through the years.

Maria was having a great many difficulties in her personal life. Things seemed to be getting worse. One day she picked up a holy card and looked intently at the picture. It was a prayer card of Padre Pio, whom she was not familiar with. “I do not know who you are,” Maria prayed, “but if you are a saint, please help me.” Shortly after that prayer, many of the difficult situations in her life improved, and a peace came into her heart. She learned that the saint on the prayer card was Padre Pio of San Giovanni Rotondo.

Maria decided to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to visit Padre Pio. She stayed at the home of Mary Pyle, Padre Pio’s American secretary. It was a household full of activity and many visitors. One day Padre Pio said to one of his spiritual sons, “I want you to add another story to your home.” “Why should I do that?” the man replied. “I do not need any more living space.” “It will be for one of my spiritual daughters,” Padre Pio replied. The man did as Padre Pio requested and Maria lived happily in the upper story of his home for many years.

Maria worked in the monastery of Our Lady of Grace as a housekeeper for many years. She cleaned the cells of the priests and brothers, did the laundry, and other household chores. One of the other housekeepers told Maria that sometimes when she washed Padre Pio’s linens, the water had a beautiful fragrance of perfume. She did not want to throw the water away.

Once Maria was cleaning Padre Pio’s cell and was dusting the crucifix in his room. She looked at her dust cloth and it was stained with blood. She showed it to one of the Capuchins who lived in the monastery. “You must give that to me, Maria,” he said, and in obedience she gave it to him. Such relics were carefully protected. Maria who is still living, treasures her wonderful memories of being so close to her spiritual father for many years.

– Fr. Louis Solcia, C.R.S.P.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 30 – January-March 2007

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Blessed Padre Pio, who on the altar elevated a never-ending
prayer to Our Lord and gathered much spiritual fruit
for himself and others, must be an example of holiness to everyone,
because all men are called to sanctity.
Cardinal Francis Arinze

The Clergy Remembers Padre Pio – Part I

We recently visited Fr.Flavian Willathgamuwa CMF, PhD where he resides in Duarte, California and he shared his testimony with us regarding the three months he spent with Padre Pio in 1967.

Born in a village in Sri Lanka in 1919, Don Maximus Willathgamuwa entered the De La Salle Congregation of Christian Brothers when he was 17 years old, and thereafter became known to everyone as Brother Flavian. The mission of the Christian Brothers, which is a teaching Order, is to give a Christian education to youth, especially to youth who are poor. Brother Flavian served as the rector of St. Benedict’s College in Sri Lanka and later was elected by his congregation to be the Provincial Superior of the Christian Brothers for the province of Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. He was appointed as Minister of Education by the President of Sri Lanka and served in that capacity for a time.

In 1967, Brother Flavian was sent to Rome to complete a year of studies. While in Rome, he read a newspaper article about Padre Pio, whom he had not heard of before. The article said that Padre Pio had a reputation for holiness and went on to mention some of the miracles and extraordinary spiritual gifts that were manifested in his life.

Brother Flavian had always been greatly attracted to individuals who had a reputation for sanctity and as a Brother of the De La Salle Religious Congregation, he had met a number of very holy people in his life. Living in Sri Lanka, very close to India, he had the privilege to meet and work with Mother Teresa. She invited him to come to India and be the Chaplain for her Missionaries of Charity sisters. He accepted her invitation and served at her convent in Calcutta.

He also met Sister Lucia Dos Santos, the Carmelite nun of Coimbra, Portugal, who, along with Jacinta and Francisco Marto, (both have since been beatified) received the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. He felt fortunate to visit the stigmatist and suffering soul, Sister Agnes Sasagawa of Akita, Japan. For years, the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary that were received by Sister Agnes in the convent chapel in Akita were scrutinized and studied by the Church. In 1988, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at that time, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, gave definitive judgement on the Akita apparitions as supernatural in origin, reliable and worthy of belief. In New York, Brother Flavian worked with the famous Catholic advocate for human rights, Dorothy Day, and at the Trappist monastery in Gethsemane, Kentucky, he met the famous Christian writer and Trappist monk, Father Thomas Merton.

Brother Flavian found the newspaper article about Padre Pio so interesting that he decided to make the four-hour train trip from Rome to San Giovanni Rotondo to visit him. He arrived at his destination in the middle of the night and was told that if he wanted to attend Padre Pio’s 5:00 a.m. Mass, he should go at once to the church and wait for the doors to open. Brother Flavian did just that. He couldn’t believe the large crowd that was already assembled in front of the church, waiting in the darkness. When the church doors finally opened, the crowd of people rushed forward and ran to the seats in the front of the church. The local Italian people jealously guarded the best seats, close to the altar where Padre Pio would be saying Mass. Brother Flavian had to sit in the very back of the church.

Brother Flavian went to the monastery afterward and introduced himself. The Capuchins welcomed him and asked him to stay in the monastery for the duration of his visit. The next day, he was invited to be up on the altar when Padre Pio celebrated his Mass. He knew what a privilege it was to be so close to Padre Pio at the Mass. During the Consecration, Brother Flavian happened to glance down at Padre Pio’s feet. He saw that they were not touching the ground. He looked again very closely to make sure he was seeing correctly, but there was no doubt. There was the carpeted floor. Padre Pio’s feet were elevated above it. His half gloves were removed during the Mass and Brother Flavian could see the wounds of the stigmata in his hands. He was awestruck by what he had witnessed.

Brother Flavian called the Father Provincial of his Order in Rome and told him that he had been planning to stay in San Giovanni Rotondo for five days but he wanted to stay longer. He told his Superior that he was in a holy place, the very air he breathed was holy. And Padre Pio was a saint. He could not bear to leave so soon. The Provincial gave Brother Flavian permission to stay for three months.

Every day, for the next three months, Brother Flavian attended Padre Pio’s Mass and every week he made his confession to him. He did not speak Italian and Padre Pio did not speak English, but oddly enough there was no language barrier. He spoke to Padre Pio in English and Padre Pio understood him. Padre Pio used to say that one of the special duties of his guardian angel was to translate foreign languages for him.

During Brother Flavian’s three month stay in the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, he was able to observe closely the life of the Capuchins, and in particular, Padre Pio. Padre Pio got up every morning at 3:00 a.m. to pray and begin his preparation for Mass which he celebrated at 5:00 a.m. Afterward, he would have a glass of orange juice and then hear the women’s confessions. Brother Flavian noticed that Padre Pio had a slow and dragging walk and he limped as he made his way to the confessional each day. It was extremely painful for Padre Pio to walk on his pierced feet. He once said that he was always in pain when he carried out his priestly ministry.

Brother Falvian observed that people from all over the world were at Padre Pio’s monastery to attend his Mass and make their confession to him. The confession lines were very long. Everyone had to take a ticket and wait for their number to be called in order to make their confession to Padre Pio. People sometimes waited eight days or longer.

He heard the women’s confessions until 1:00 p.m., had a very light lunch, and then heard the men’s confessions until 4:00 p.m. It was not unusual for him to hear confessions much longer and at times he would spend sixteen hours a day in the confessional. In his lifetime, Padre Pio reconciled thousands of people back to their faith through the sacrament of confession.

Padre Pio had a great capacity for work and a great capacity for suffering. It was extraordinary that he was able to spend such long hours in the confessional, especially considering his chronic health problems. His doctors were never able to successfully diagnose and treat the mysterious illnesses that plagued him throughout his life. He once said, “Confession is a work, but when one is ill, it becomes a sacrifice.” Pope Paul VI said of Padre Pio, “He was a man of prayer and suffering.”

After Padre Pio finished hearing confessions for the day, he walked on the veranda of the monastery for a short time of relaxation. Even then, people were trying to get near him, to speak to him a moment, to ask for his help and his prayers.

There were letters too, hundreds of them, that Padre Pio received every day from all over the world. One of the rooms in the monastery was converted into a small post office and a team of Capuchins, who spoke a variety of languages, were assigned to help. For many years, Mary Pyle, who lived nearby, answered the mail almost singlehandedly. Although Padre Pio prayed almost continuously throughout the day, he felt the need to pray even more, considering the tremendous number of prayer requests that were coming in through the mail.

At 4:30 p.m. Padre Pio blessed religious articles. At 5:30 p.m., he had a glass of beer and afterward gathered with the other Capuchins for a brief time of fellowship and conversation. After the evening prayers with his religious community, he went to his cell. The Superior of the monastery told Brother Flavian that when Padre Pio retired to his cell, it was not to sleep but to continue his prayers. He slept very little, not more than three hours every night.

Brother Flavian was curious about the daily glass of beer that Padre Pio drank. Being from Sri Lanka, this was not a part of the culture that Brother Falvian was accustomed to. In Sri Lanka, the clergy did not drink beer, wine or any other alcoholic beverages. He asked the Superior of the monastery about it. The Superior explained to him that there was a problem with the quality of the drinking water in San Giovanni Rotondo. Practically everyone drank beer instead, enjoyed it, and considered it much safer to drink. Brother Flavian also noticed Padre Pio’s extremely small intake of food. Every afternoon in the refectory, while he and the other Capuchins enjoyed their meal, Padre Pio would take only a few bites of food. He skipped breakfast and dinner altogether.

Several times Brother Flavian walked passed Padre Pio’s cell at the monastery, and saw that he was kneeling, deeply absorbed in prayer. His whole life was prayer, suffering the wounds of Christ’s Passion, carrying out his priestly ministry, serving the people, more prayer, more work, more suffering, more service.

For Padre Pio, every day was exactly the same as the previous. The schedule never changed. The article that Brother Flavian had read in the newspaper in Rome had been right. Padre Pio was indeed, a man of miracles, but perhaps the greatest miracle of all was his ability to endure the exhausting schedule, day in and day out, with very little rest or leisure. He kept up the enormous burden of work for more than fifty years without taking even one day’s vacation.

The three months passed very quickly and when it was time for Brother Flavian to return to Rome, he knelt down and asked Padre Pio to give him a word of advice for his religious vocation as a De La Salle Christian Brother. Padre Pio said to him, “Have a great love for the Mass and for the Holy Eucharist and have a great devotion to the Virgin Mary and to her Rosary. If you do this, you will enter Heaven and I will meet you there.”

Brother Flavian took the advice of Padre Pio to heart and consecrated his religious vocation to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He has also made great efforts to promote the Holy Rosary, the prayer that Padre Pio loved above all others.

While studying for an advanced degree in Chicago, Illinois, one of Brother Flavian’s classmates, a priest who was Chinese, told him that he was going to his father’s funeral in Beijing, China. He asked Brother Flavian if he would like to accompany him and he agreed to go. When they were at the cemetery, as the priest was saying the funeral Mass, soldiers came and arrested him. He was never seen nor heard from again. There are severe restrictions regarding religious services in China and it is illegal to celebrate Mass in public.

The people who were at the funeral begged Brother Flavian to continue the Mass. He tried to explain to them that he could not do so since he was not a priest but a brother. The people did not understand. To comfort the people, Brother Flavian then led a prayer and the sentiments he expressed were more for their sake than for his own. He prayed that if it was God’s will, he would become a priest and would some day return to China and say Mass for the people. Strange to say, shortly after saying the prayer, he began to feel for the first time in his life, a burning desire to enter the priesthood. He searched for a religious congregation that had a strong devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. He found that congregation in the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Hear of Mary, also known asthe Claretians, founded by St. Anthony Mary Claret. At age sixty, he began his studies for the priesthood.

After ordination, Fr. Flavian was able to return to China and celebrate the Eucharist. However, he was arrested by Chinese police officers and put in jail and later ordered to leave the country.

Later, while in England, Fr. Flavian became gravely ill and spent many weeks the hospital. His condition was so serious that he was given the Last Rites. The Mother Superior of the Carmelite nuns in California learned of his illness. Fr. Flavian had regularly celebrated First Saturday Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Carmelite chapel when he resided in California. The Mother Superior asked him to come to the skilled nursing facility that the Carmelite Sisters own and operate in Duarte, California. The Sisters wanted to provide him with the best medical care possible.

Fr. Flavian accepted the invitation and has lived at the Santa Teresita skilled nursing home for three years. Although confined to a wheelchair and almost blind, and weakened by many serious health problems, he has been able to carry on a busy and fruitful apostolate. He offers two masses daily to the people who visit him at Santa Teresita. Seven days a week he invites everyone to pray the Divine Office with him, followed by the Rosary. The Divine Mercy chaplet is recited at 3:00 p.m. daily. He organized the Pro Life Prayer Warriors prayer group who pray the Rosary together in his hospital room every Saturday for the sanctity of life. He also leads the First Saturday Devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Devotions are held every Wednesday. In between, Fr. Flavian manages to pray fifty decades of the Rosary daily. “I plan to serve the Lord and use my time for God’s purposes, until I draw my last breath. I consider everything else a waste of time,” Father Flavian said.

At 88 years old, Fr. Flavian is not too many years away from the gate of Heaven. “Stay very close to the Holy Mass and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you do, you will enter Heaven and I will meet you there.” These words that St. Pio spoke to Fr. Flavian so many years ago have been a great consolation to him and he has stayed very close to the Holy Mass and the Blessed Virgin Mary.


A Testimonial

I met Padre Pio only once in my life, when from Rimini, I went to see him in 1938, in order to make my confession. At that time I was 17 years old. I had just left the Capuchin noviciate of Cesena and I had no special program for my future life. During our talk, Padre Pio told me that I would be a missionary and would work in many countries. At that time I had no intention to join the friary again. So I didn’t know if his words were a prophecy.

But the fact is that on November 13, 1938, I was received into the Capuchin noviciate of Cesena and ordained a priest on May 25, 1945. In 1947, I was sent to India where I worked in the diocese of Lucknow up to 1964. After that, I was transferred to Tanzania, then sent to Ethiopia and for the last 12 years have been working in Dar es Salaam.

Now, remembering the words that Padre Pio told me in 1938, I realize that they have come true. So I am convinced that Padre Pio was a saint, who had the gift of prophecy. He has followed me silently in my missionary activities, though for a long time I did not remember him. Now, more than ever, I feel that he has protected me in all the critical moments of my life and so I feel very grateful to him.

Fr. Costanzo Perazzini 


Memories of Padre Pio

Padre Pio had a great, lifelong esteem for the missionary vocation. Even before he was ordained, Padre Pio had thought about becoming a missionary. After he became a priest, he approached his Superiors and requested that he be sent to serve in the Capuchin missions in India, but his Superiors did not grant him permission.

On February 17, 1921, Padre Pio wrote a letter to the Capuchin missionary, Angelo Poli, O.F.M. Capuchin, Bishop of Allahabad, India. He asked Bishop Poli to pray regarding his fervent desire to become a missionary. Padre Pio wrote, “May you also recommend this affair to Jesus and tell Him that if He wishes me to be among His missionaries, let Him dispose my Superior’s will accordingly. And meanwhile, since it is not yet conceded to me to be in reality, one of His missionaries, I will do my best to be a missionary in spirit.” In another letter to Bishop Poli, Padre Pio wrote, “How much I desire and how content I would be if I also could find myself there so as to offer my poor work for the spreading of the faith.”

However, Divine Providence had other designs for Padre Pio and serving in the foreign missions was not a part of God’s plan for his life. One is reminded of the French Carmelite nun, St. Therese of Lisieux. Padre Pio had a devotion to St. Therese and had read her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul.” She, too, expressed a desire to be sent to the foreign missions but it was not meant to be. As a cloistered Carmelite nun, Therese’s vocation was to prayer within the convent walls.

Padre Pio wanted above all things, to live and act according to God’s will. Without ever leaving the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo, he carried out an immensely fruitful apostolate and helped countless souls by his wise counsel, by his continual prayers and by his fidelity to God. Instead of going out to the world, as in the ordinary missionary sense, the world came to him. The poor and obscure monastery of Our Lady of Grace became the destination of thousands who were seeking a deeper spiritual meaning in their lives. For more than fifty years, Padre Pio exercised his priestly ministry in a true missionary spirit.



From Our Spiritual Director

Every week, I hear many beautiful testimonies of blessings and miracles that people are receiving through the intercession of St. Pio. One incident that happened recently regarded three non-Catholics who came to our Padre Pio Devotions. When they were returning home, they noticed the fragrance of roses which permeated their car to the extent that they had to stop the car and roll all of the windows down. The fragrance was so strong that it was overpowering.

A lady told me recently that an intense fragrance of perfume filled her home and she could find no explanation for it. She said it was a definite fragrance of perfume, although it was not her favorite perfume. She asked me the meaning of it. I told her that it was Padre Pio and that he often made his spiritual presence know by such a fragrance. He was giving her a blessing in this way.

A woman recently told me that she had a very vivid dream of Padre Pio. In her dream, Padre Pio was staring at her and the expression on his face was one of great seriousness. As he looked at her, he seemed very sad. The lady asked me what this dream might mean. I told her that Padre Pio was not happy with her double life. “You must go to confession and amend your life,” I said.

Padre Pio used to say that he would be able to do more for us when he was in Heaven than he could do for us while on earth. St. Pio is keeping his promise. The graces people are receiving from his intercession are truly amazing. But I believe that we do not thank him enough for what he has done for us in the past, what he is doing for us now, and what he will do for us in the future. We must remember to thank Padre Pio every day for his intercession and help in our lives.

Fr. Louis Solcia C.R.S.P.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 29 – October-December 2006

Download Newsletter Issue 29, October-December 2006

“Always be happily at peace with your conscience, reflecting that
you are in the service of an infinitely good Father,
who comes down to His creatures out of sheer goodness, to raise and
transform them in Him, their Creator.”
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Clara and Dan Steele
Two Lives Blessed by Padre Pio

Clara met Dan Steele in 1947 in her hometown of Trieste, Italy. Dan, a military police oficer in the U.S. Army was stationed in Trieste at the time.Clara and Dan became good friends and when she introduced Dan to her mother, her mother seemed to like him at once. Because she was always looking out for the best interest of her daughter, she soon suggested to Clara that Dan would make a wonderful husband. But Clara was not looking for a husband. She was only fifteen years old and marriage was the farthest thing from her mind.

One day when Clara was in church, a woman whom she did not know came up to her and said, “Do you need a grace?” Clara asked the woman what she meant. “There is a saint living in San Giovanni Rotondo named Padre Pio,” the woman answered. “If you need a grace or if you have a special intention, you should go and see him.”

Clara thought about the conversation she and her mother had just had about Dan Steele and decided it would be a good idea to go to San Giovanni Rotondo and talk to Padre Pio about him. Clara and her mother arrived at the little church of “Our Lady of Grace,” at 4:30 a.m., and already there was a large crowd assembled outside. When the doors opened, people ran as fast as they could to get a seat near the front of the church. After Mass, Clara made her confession to Padre Pio and then said to him, “I would like to know if Dan Steele would be a good marriage partner?” Padre Pio said, “Is he a good Catholic?” “He is a devout Protestant,” Clara replied. “You don’t know what you are doing,” Padre Pio retorted in a loud voice. “You are trying to buy a cat in a bag.” Obviously angry, Pio closed the shutter of the confessional. Clara had been dismissed. Angry and embarrassed, she left the confessional. “Let’s leave at once,” Clara said to her mother.

But on the way back to Trieste, Clara began to ponder Padre Pio’s words. What did he mean by a “cat in a bag?” she wondered. “Perhaps I do not know what I am doing. Maybe Padre Pio is right,” she said to herself. As she thought more about the encounter with Padre Pio, her anger began to subside. Padre Pio often made remarks in the confessional which were hard to understand and he did it for a reason. It caused people to stop and think, and to reflect on their lives. Clara came to realize that Padre Pio had done her a great favor. She needed to be shaken up and to think seriously about her life. It was true, as a young girl of fifteen, she really didn’t know what she was doing. Padre Pio’s abruptness was just the kind of “shock treatment” she needed to move forward and to consider important life decisions. The short encounter with Padre Pio, which seemed so unpleasant at first, actually marked a great and positive change in Clara’s spiritual life. It had been a blessing.

Dan did not know that Clara and her mother had gone to see Padre Pio. When he saw Clara again, he told her that he had an unusual experience. He was taking a walk and enjoying the fresh air and suddenly there came over him a very strong desire to become a Catholic. He told Clara that it really had nothing to do with the fact that she was a Catholic. It was something he had to do for himself and he felt convinced that this was what God wanted for him. His desire to become Catholic occurred at about the same time that Clara and her mother were in San Giovanni Rotondo talking to Padre Pio.

Dan was baptized into the Catholic Church by Padre Pio in 1948. He was 19 years old. Mary Pyle, Padre Pio’s American secretary, acted as his godmother. Although very nervous, and with very limited Italian, he made his first confession to Padre Pio. Due to the fasting rules, Padre Pio said that he must wait till the following day to receive his first Holy Communion. Without realizing it, Dan had absent mindedly put a little twig, like a toothpick, in his mouth and Padre Pio had noticed it.

Dan and Clara wanted to get married in San Giovanni Rotondo but because of Army regulations, they were married in Trieste instead. Shortly after, Dan spoke to Padre Pio and asked him if he could bring Clara to San Giovanni Rotondo to have their marriage blessed. Padre Pio smiled at him and agreed. Dan would recall later, after many visits to the monastery, that was the one and only time that Padre Pio had ever smiled at him. By nature, Padre Pio was serious and reserved. His smile was indeed, a blessing in itself. On one of these visits, Dan asked Padre Pio if he would accept him as his spiritual son. Padre Pio thought for a moment and then said to him in Italian, “As long as you stay good.”

In the beautiful 16th century church of Our Lady of Grace, Clara and Dan knelt before Padre Pio as he blessed their marriage. Clara prayed silently to him for his intercession regarding her future. She was only sixteen years old and was somewhat apprehensive about her newly married status. During the blessing, Padre Pio smiled at Clara, and said, “To you I offer my hand.”

Whenever they could, Clara and Dan would travel to the monastery to see Padre Pio. One time Clara made the journey because her mother was very ill, and she wanted to ask Padre Pio for his prayers. Clara arrived at the church at 4:00 a.m. and waited in a corridor, because she knew he passed by there each morning on his way to the sacristy. A large number of people had also assembled there with the same intention, to say a word to him or to ask for his prayers. As he came into view, a man pointed to Clara and said to Padre Pio, “Pray for that girl’s mother. She is ill.” Another person called out to Padre Pio and pointed to Clara, “Pray for the soul of that girl’s mother.” Clara could not understand it. Both of the individuals were strangers to her and she had not told anyone that her mother was sick. When the two men asked him to pray for her mother, Padre Pio lifted his eyes upward as though to Heaven and remained completely motionless. Soon, one of the friars closed the door to the hall where Padre Pio was standing, and never lowering his eyes, or moving, he disappeared from view. What she did not know at the time was that her mother had already passed away. When she arrived home, she learned that her mother had already been buried.

Dan was transferred to a military base in Germany and as time went by, he and Clara were blessed to have a family of seven beautiful children. In 1964, the Steeles were able to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo once again. They were always very grateful whenever they could attend Padre Pio’s Mass. The beauty and spirituality of his Mass was impossible to explain to someone who had not experienced it. Padre Pio did not simply recite the prayers of the Mass and voice the responses. He saw Jesus during the Holy Sacrifice and talked to Him. In doing so, he lost track of time. That was why his Mass lasted so long.

At the time of their visit to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1964, Clara was having many difficulties in her life. All through the Mass, she prayed silently to Padre Pio, asking for his help. Her great desire was to speak to him. She felt that if she could just say a few words to him, even for a moment, her many burdens would be lightened.

As soon as the Mass was over, Padre Pio left the sanctuary of the church and went to a window of the monastery where he customarily blessed the people who were standing outside. Dan rushed out of the church with all the others to stand outside beneath the monastery window and receive Padre Pio’s blessing. Clara and her six children were left behind in the church. She knew that she would not be able to speak to Padre Pio on that day. There were just too many people there. It would be impossible. She was so disappointed that she started to cry. Suddenly she looked up in the balcony and saw Padre Pio. All of her children saw him as well. Her 12 year-old son Bobby, said to her, “Mother, look how Padre Pio is staring at you!” Rays of light were coming from Padre Pio’s eyes. As she gazed at him, the church interior and everything else seemed to disappear. She felt such a sense of joy that it was like Heaven, Heaven on earth. Padre Pio was in the balcony of the church looking at Clara and her children and at the same time he was greeting the pilgrims from the monastery window. She could still hear the clamor of the people outside, calling to him and greeting him. When he turned and left the balcony, Clara noticed, by the way that he was walking, that he was suffering intensely from the wounds of the stigmata.

All during her visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, Clara had prayed to Padre Pio to lift the many burdens she was carrying. When she returned to Germany, her outward circumstances did not improve. However, she felt a great sense of peace and a renewed strength. Her burdens had been lifted, not exteriorly but interiorly. She knew that she had received a spiritual healing.

Clara’s extended family also benefitted in many ways from Padre Pio’s ministry to souls. Clara’s aunt, who was a Communist, decided one day to go to confession to Padre Pio. He said to her, “You came here with no sorrow for your sins and no faith. I cannot give you absolution and you cannot receive Holy Communion.” The characteristic “shock treatment,” often typical of Padre Pio, worked is magic in her heart and it wasn’t long before she returned to her Catholic faith.

Through the ensuing years, Clara had several vivid dreams which confirmed to her that Padre Pio, even though separated by distance, was guiding her spiritually. When the Steeles were stationed in Nigeria, at least 15 or more stray cats were always at Clara’s door. She tried to feed them and to find homes for them but it was a “no win” situation and it caused her a great deal of anxiety. During that time, she had a dream in which she was walking with Padre Pio in a beautiful, heavenly place. The sky was a brilliant blue. Padre Pio said to her, “You are worried about many things that are not so important. This is what is important.” Then he knelt down in prayer and Clara perceived the fragrance of incense. His arms were cradled as though he were holding the Baby Jesus.

In another vivid dream, Clara repeated the beautiful words of a prayer of St. Francis of Paola to Padre Pio. “May the good Lord accompany you all the days of your life because that is the greatest gift.” “Yes, I know that prayer,” Padre Pio said to Clara in her dream. “That is what I have come to tell you.”

During the last years of Clara’s life, she offered many prayers and sacrifices for her family members who had strayed away from their faith. She would pray in her little chapel in her home from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. each morning and then attend the Morning Mass. Even during the winter months in Long Beach, New York, where she and Dan lived, she offered the discomfort of attending Mass in the cold weather and many other sacrifices for the conversion of her family. It seems that Padre Pio was walking with her and listening to her prayers.

Clara passed away after a short illness, on June 16, 2006, the same day as the day of Padre Pio’s canonization. (Padre Pio was declared a saint on June 16, 2002.) She was 73 years old. Clara’s dying wish was that two of her children who had not spoken to each other for ten years would be reconciled. Shortly before her funeral, her two children made peace with each other. Five of her relatives went to confession on the eve of her funeral, all of whom had not received the sacrament in over five years. Clara’s family was reaping the benefits of her prayers. One of her children, who had not been to confession in more than ten years, returned to the sacrament a few days after Clara’s death.

A note from the editors:We visited Clara and Dan Steele in 2005 in their home in Long Beach, New York where they shared their memories of Padre Pio with us. We decided to visit again in 2006, before the printing of this story, and were very sad to learn that Clara, after a short illness, had passed away. Dan shared with us that although Clara’s death has been a time of sadness for all, the extended family has received bountiful spiritual graces since her passing.

Eternal rest grant unto Clara, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


Recalling Clara Steele’s dream of Padre Pio, as he knelt in prayer with the Baby Jesus, we are reminded of Padre Pio’s great lifelong devotion to the Madonna and Child. He once said that the Blessed Mother always stood beside him in the confessional in his ministry of reconciling souls back to God. Throughout his life, she gave him strength in times of interior trials and physical sufferings. On August 15, 1929, on the Feast of the Assumption, Padre Pio described an experience he had during the celebration of the Mass, when the Virgin Mary came to him, holding the Baby Jesus in her arms:

“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 Host, 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, ‘Stop worrying! We are with you. You belong to us and we are yours.’ This said, I saw no more . . . and I felt myself the whole day submerged in a sea of sweetness and indescribable love.” — Padre Pio Letters IV


A Testimony

We recently spoke to Father John Hampsch, CMF, a Catholic missionary priest of the Claretian congregation. Father Hampsch has ministered in all 50 states in the U.S. and in 57 countries. His Claretian tape ministry is one of the largest Catholic tape outreaches in the world. He currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

In 1958, while on a pilgrimage to a number of Catholic shrines in Europe, Father Hampsch spent three days in San Giovanni Rotondo and he was blessed to be the altar server at Padre Pio’s Mass. Being right beside Padre Pio on the altar, Fr. Hampsch was able to observe the great reverence and solemnity with which he celebrated Mass. The wounds in his hands were visible and bleeding during the Holy Sacrifice. At the time of the consecration, Padre Pio became completely still, lost in God. It was his long pauses of silent prayer during the Mass that caused it to be so lengthy.

On the day that Fr. Hampsch served his Mass, Padre Pio received a little girl who was making her first Holy Communion, and he also gave Holy Communion to a man who was blind. The other priests who were present distributed Holy Communion to the rest of the people in the congregation.

The people who lived in San Giovanni Rotondo knew that Padre Pio only distributed Holy Communion to a small number of people each day. Some of the local people had a very possessive attitude toward Padre Pio. They believed that they should have the privilege of receiving Holy Communion from his hands rather than those who were visiting from far away places, and they would use whatever means necessary, including pushing, pulling, elbowing, and the like, to secure their own place at the Communion rail. The noise, the rudeness, and the irreverent behavior in the church surprised and disappointed Fr. Hampsch. He noticed that it was also upsetting and disheartening to Padre Pio, who always desired silence and reverence in the house of God.

The Capuchin priests and brothers were always close beside Padre Pio, acting as bodyguards and trying to protect him and shield him from the crowds. The people were forever trying to touch him, squeeze his hand, cut off a piece of his habit, obtain a relic. During the three days that Fr. Hampsch was there, he noticed that Padre Pio was always trying to disengage himself from the crowds and the noise. He could not seem to relax or to fully accept the situation.

While Fr. Hampsch was in San Giovanni Rotondo, he met Mary Pyle, Padre Pio’s American secretary, and she took him on a tour of Padre Pio’s hospital, The Home for the Relief of Suffering. Mary explained many detailed and interesting facts of Padre Pio’s life and apostolate. She told him that the most painful wounds of the stigmata, that Padre Pio experienced, were the wounds in his feet. Mary said that it was almost impossible for him to stand for any length of time on his pierced feet. That explained why he only gave out Communion to a few people each day at Mass. He literally could not stand up any longer.

Fr. Hampsch had brought a number of letters with him to the monastery. When he handed them to Padre Pio, he was very surprised that Padre Pio seemed to know the contents of each one, even though he did not open them. Padre Pio handed the letters individually to his secretary, saying, “This is a Mass stipend, this is a donation for the Hospital, this is a prayer request.” His powers of discernment and knowledge were a gift that the Lord had given him and it was with amazement that people observed his gifts.

Although his visit to Padre Pio occurred almost 50 years ago, the memories are still deeply impressed on his mind. It was a blessing and a privilege. Fr. Hampsch has always known that. You can learn more about the apostolate of Fr. Hampsch at


From our Spiritual Director

During Padre Pio’s lifetime, many people received graces and miracles from him. So many in fact, that it would be impossible to calculate. However, they often did not realize that there was a price to be paid for the graces they received. The price was often pain and suffering that Padre Pio experienced in his own body. Once when someone came to thank him for a grace, he said to the individual, “You do not realize how much you have cost me.” He was not complaining. He was expressing a reality.

Even now, after Padre Pio’s death, the number of miracles and cures that people have received through his intercession is truly amazing. Some of the stories involving healings that occurred a number of years ago, through the intercession of Padre Pio, have only recently come to light. One impressive story that has come to attention lately, involved the great Italian author, Giovanni Papini. When Giovanni lost his sight, a friend of his told him to invoke the intercession of Padre Pio. Giovanni’s friend suggested to him that he give him his photograph and he would take it to Padre Pio to pray over. The friend begged Padre Pio to help Giovanni. Padre Pio took the photograph and prayed and Giovanni’s sight was restored.

People often criticized Padre Pio for his sometimes abrupt way of speaking to the pilgrims who came to San Giovanni Rotondo to see him. When he was confronted about it, he would respond, “I treat people as I am directed to by God.” His motivation was always to do the will of God rather than to tell people what they wanted to hear.

Fr. Louis Solcia C.R.S.P.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 28 – July-September 2006

Download Newsletter Issue 28, July-September 2006

“Father Pio is a giant of sanctity. We wish to thank our Father who is in
Heaven for having given rise in the Holy Church of God to a man of
great faith, of that unshakable faith that moves mountains and creates
gigantic good works in this century of struggles, fratricidal wars and egoism.
God has given rise in the Italian Church, in this noble region of Puglia,
to a giant of sanctity whose heroic virtues recall men of today to their vocation
as God’s created beings and sons of the Father who is in Heaven.”

– Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State

Padre Pio and His Friends from East and West

Father Pio Francesco Mandato, F.M.H.J., of Eastern, PA, Danny D’Agosto of Brooklyn, NY, and James Hurlburt of San Diego, CA, each shared their memories of Padre Pio with us for this issue of “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.”

Father Pio Francesco Mandato, F.M.H.J., was born in Italy in 1956 to Graziella and Andre Mandato. His family lived in Pietrelcina, the town where Padre Pio was born and raised. Fr. Mandato’s family and extended family, including his great-grandfather, received many graces through the years from their spiritual father, Padre Pio. Their stories of Padre Pio were told and retold with the greatest pleasure.

Fr. Mandato’s grandmother, Maria DeNunzio once asked a friend who was going to San Giovanni Rotondo to deliver a letter to Padre Pio for her. She fixed her friend a cup of espresso and they had an enjoyable visit. Then he left for the monastery. He was able to talk with Padre Pio and when it was time to say good-bye, Padre Pio surprised him by saying, “Aren’t you forgetting something?” “Not that I can think of,” Maria’s friend replied. “Not only did you enjoy a cup of coffee and a visit with Maria, but you promised her that you would give me the letter that is in your back pocket!” At once he remembered and quickly placed the letter in Padre Pio’s hands.

In Pietrelcina, everyone called Padre Pio, Il Monaco Santo, “the holy friar.” Everyone felt very proud that the “holy friar” was a fellow citizen of Pietrelcina. The people from Pietrelcina were characteristically simple, devout, hard-working, and strong in their Catholic faith. Many people in the area were related or distantly related to each other. Pio Francesco’s mother was related to Padre Pio through her paternal grandmother.

Padre Pio never forgot the town from which he had come. He loved Pietrelcina and he loved the people who lived there. He said that he remembered Pietrelcina, “stone by stone.” Padre Pio wrote a letter to his brother Michael Forgione, who still resided in their hometown and said, “Pietrelcina is totally in my heart.” Regarding his spiritual life, Padre Pio once said, “Everything happened in Pietrelcina. Jesus was there.” It was in Pietrelcina that the Lord began to pour out his graces on the young Capuchin. Padre Pio once made the prophetic statement, “During my life I have cherished San Giovanni Rotondo. After my death I will cherish and favor Pietrelcina.” How fitting that today he is known as St. Pio of Pietrelcina.

During World War II, the people of Pietrelcina were worried about their safety. “Do not worry,” Padre Pio said. “Pietrelcina will be protected.” History bears out the truth of his statement. Padre Pio was transferred to the Capuchin monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916 and remained there until his death in 1968. A number of the residents of Pietrelcina moved to San Giovanni Rotondo to be closer to their spiritual father.

Once Paris DeNunzio, Pio Francesco’s grandfather, made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo from Pietrelcina to see Padre Pio. The road that led up to the monastery was steep and dangerous. Paris’ companion, who was driving, fell asleep at the wheel and the car swerved and veered off the road. Paris, who was very frightened, began praying, “Padre Pio, helps us!” At the last moment, the driver was able to gain control of the car. When they arrived at the monastery and went to Padre Pio’s cell, Paris told his spiritual father about the near accident. “And were you frightened, Paris?” Padre Pio asked. “Yes, I was frightened,” Paris replied. “Well, don’t you know who was driving?” Padre Pio asked. Paris asked him what he meant. “I was driving the car,” said Padre Pio, “and you all arrived safely!”

Paris used to pray daily to Padre Pio, recommending to him his wife, his daughter, his son and other family members. Once when he was talking to Padre Pio, he asked him to pray for his family and began to name them. Padre Pio said to him, “You do not need to tell me their names. I hear their names every day in your prayers.” Another time, Paris was experiencing pain in his chest and was worried that perhaps he had heart trouble. He told Padre Pio about it and Padre Pio replied that there was nothing wrong with his heart. “Of course there is something wrong,” Paris said. “If there wasn’t something wrong, I would not be in so much pain.” Padre Pio told him to stop talking about it. “If you don’t stop, I will give you a punch,” Padre Pio said. He then gave Paris a light punch on his chest. From that moment on, he never experienced another pain in his chest.

Pio Francesco’s mother, Graziella, met Padre Pio for the first time when she traveled to the monastery with her father, Paris DeNunzio. Graziella was ten years-old. When they arrived, they found Padre Pio inside the 16th century friary church of Our Lady of Grace, surrounded by a large group of people. Being small, Graziella was unable to get close to him. She could only see the top of his head. When Padre Pio saw Graziella, he extended his arm over the people, and allowed her to kiss his hand. His eyes made a profound impression on her, an impression that she would never forget.

In 1946, a few days before Christmas, Graziella and her brother made a visit to see Padre Pio. He blessed Graziella by placing his hands on her head. Then in his paternal way, he gave her a fatherly embrace. At once, she became aware of the beautiful scent of roses. She believed that the fragrance was coming from the wound in his side.

One time Graziella told Padre Pio that she had met a man she was thinking of marrying. “Don’t do it. He is not for you. You don’t know what kind of coat he wears,” Padre Pio said to her. She and her father did a little research and found out that the man was a communist. When she inquired about a second suitor, the answer was again a firm “no.” When she finally named a third man, Andre Mandato, Padre Pio said, “The angel of God has passed. Do it with the blessing of God.” She married Andre in 1955.

Because of the popularity of Padre Pio’s confessional, a booking system had to be put in place at the monastery. People would take a ticket and wait for their number to be called. It sometimes required a wait of eight days or more. Once Graziella had a tremendous desire to speak to Padre Pio. The way to speak to him was through the vehicle of the confessional but Graziella did not want to wait that long. She somehow had the courage to approach the confessional without a ticket. The woman at the front of the line told her she could go ahead of her.

Just as she stepped into the confessional, Padre Pellegrino, Padre Pio’s assistant, whose job it was to check tickets, told Padre Pio that Graziella had just entered without a reservation. Padre Pio said to him, “And when she did, who were you watching?”

Graziella was permitted to make her confession regardless and she told her spiritual father that she and her husband were expecting their first child. “You will have a son,” he said. “Name him Pio Francesco.” When her baby boy arrived on July 6, 1956, she was delighted that he shared not only Padre Pio’s baptismal name, Francesco, but also his name in religion, Pio. Padre Pio sent his blessing as well as a medal with the Blessed Virgin on one side and St. Michael the Archangel on the other.

Pio Francesco Mandato was four years old when his grandfather, Paris, took him for the first time to see Padre Pio in his cell. Padre Pio blessed little Pio Francesco and embraced him. Little Pio came just up to the middle of Padre Pio’s waist. Afterward, he told his mother, “Padre Pio has perfume on his tummy.” Graziella told her son that he did not wear perfume. The fragrance was a spiritual gift that the Lord had given him, one among many gifts. It was a sign of grace for those who perceived it.

Paris took little Pio Francesco with him a number of times to the monastery to visit Padre Pio. The men were allowed to go into a gathering area and converse with Padre Pio. Women were not allowed. Pio Francesco remembers what joyful occasions they were for all concerned. In the presence of a number of Capuchins and laymen, Padre Pio enjoyed the fellowship and he loved to tell jokes and to make his friends laugh.

Seven year-old Pio Francesco and his younger brother Vincent received their first Holy Communion from Padre Pio on October 3, 1964, on the feast of the Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi (the celebration of the death of St. Francis of Assisi). Afterward Padre Pio said to the young boys, “I pray that your last Holy Communion will be even more beautiful than your first.” Pio Francesco remembers the solemnity and the great devotion with which Padre Pio celebrated Mass. Although his Mass was long, the time seemed to pass very quickly. Another remarkable aspect of Padre Pio’s Mass was that although it was always very crowded, a profound silence pervaded the church.

The Mandato family emigrated to the United States in 1964 and settled in New Jersey. Naturally, they missed Padre Pio immensely. Father Alessio Parente, Padre Pio’s secretary, relayed a message to Graziella from Padre Pio. He said, “Tell Graziella that I always have her present in my prayers and I am united to her whole family.”

On September 22, 1968, Graziella had a vivid dream of Padre Pio. “I come to say goodbye to you,” he said. She said to him, “Don’t leave,” and he replied, “The Lord is calling me.” The next day Graziella learned that he had passed away in the early morning hours.

Pio Francesco Mandato was ordained to the priesthood in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1985. He and his family made a trip to Italy so that he could celebrate his first Mass in Pietrelcina at the Madonna Della Libera altar (Our Lady of Liberty), at Our Lady of the Angels parish. It was the very same church and altar where Padre Pio had celebrated his first Mass on August 14, 1910.

Today, fifty year old Father Pio Francesco Mandato, F.M.H.J., belongs to the Franciscan Missionary Hermits of St. Joseph and lives in Eastern Pennsylvania. He continues to live out his priestly vocation in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. He feels that Padre Pio is still guiding him and helping him on his spiritual journey. “More than anything else, I remember Padre Pio as a very loving man, like a loving father,” Father Pio Francesco said. The words that Padre Pio said to his mother so many years before remain a consolation to him, “Tell Graziella that I always have her present in my prayers and I am united to her whole family.” Father Pio Francesco Mandato continues to carry on the work of the Lord.
“Don’t doubt my prayers, which are certainly poor, but still solicitous for you. I have never ceased, nor will I cease to pray to the most sweet God that He may be pleased to accomplish His holy work in you; that is, that you may have a strong desire and intention to reach perfection in the Christian life; a desire which you must love and nurture tenderly in your heart, as the work of the Holy Spirit, and a spark of His Divine fire.”
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina


James Hurlburt shared his testimony at the Padre Pio Devotions in San Diego. When he talked about seeing Padre Pio for the first time, James was visibly moved, and it was hard for him to continue speaking. James said, “The experience of seeing Padre Pio in prayer was so powerful that I still cannot talk about it without crying.”

James Hurlburt “I spent 24 years in the U.S. navy, and as a chief petty officer, I had become accustomed to many deployments in a number of different countries around the world. However, there is one trip that stands out among all the rest. It was my visit to the monastery of Padre Pio in 1960. It has remained one of the greatest experiences of my life.

At that time, the ship I was assigned to was stationed in Naples, Italy where we serviced navy ships of the 6th Fleet. My shipmate, Stan had met an Italian man who had told him about Padre Pio. They had decided to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio and invited me and one other shipmate to go with them. I had never heard of Padre Pio but the idea of taking a few vacation days appealed to me. I thought it would be enjoyable to see the southern part of Italy and so I accepted the invitation.

When we arrived at the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo, I noticed many women dressed in black with rosaries in their hands, climbing solemnly up the stone steps to the entrance of the church. The next day we visited the church in the afternoon and saw many of the same devout ladies, rosaries in hand, praying. I noticed a young priest who was sitting in the church and he acted strangely. He seemed ill-at-ease as he shifted around in his seat. He somehow didn’t seem to belong there among so many devout people.

On Sunday morning we got up early to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. We were there well before the Mass began and found seats on the left side of the church, near the altar. I looked up in the balcony and saw Padre Pio. It almost took my breath away. He was kneeling and had his hands folded in prayer. He seemed to be totally wrapped in God. Motionless, he was looking up at a fixed point. He remained completely still for what seemed like a long time. I felt like I was looking at Jesus. I will never forget it as long as I live.

His Mass too, was unforgettable. From our seats near the altar, we could see him well. His movements were slow and reverent. It was very impressive to see him as he opened the tabernacle and then prayed. He seemed somehow to be out of his earthly existence, talking to Jesus. He seemed to be in Heaven.

After the Mass, we went to a small reception room near the church. We could hear Padre Pio’s booming voice, full of authority, speaking to someone nearby. He was speaking to the priest who had seemed so troubled the previous day. Our Italian companion told us that Padre Pio had said to the priest, “You must go to confession if you want to save your soul!” Then the young priest left the church.

The next morning we left for Naples to return to our ship. What began as just a sightseeing trip across Italy turned out to be a glimpse into the world of the supernatural. The visit to San Giovanni Rotondo was a profound experience and it had a great impact my life. I am now 89 years old. Seeing Padre Pio and attending his Mass is a memory that I will cherish forever.”

“We belong eternally to God to love and bless Him always, and I live wholly in Him and His Divine Son.”
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina


Donato (Danny) D’Agosto, growing up in Controne, Italy, had always heard talk about Padre Pio, and had a desire to visit him. However, San Giovanni Rotondo was a long distance away and Danny could not afford to make the trip.

In 1954, when Danny was eighteen years old, he emigrated with his family to the United States. He took a bus to the boat that would take him to his new home and as the bus passed through the city of Pompeii, Danny noticed the beautiful church of Our Lady of Pompeii (Padre Pio had always had a great devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii). Passing the church, Danny made a promise to God that he would someday return to Italy and fulfill his dream of meeting Padre Pio, and he prayed, asking for God’s help and blessing in the matter.

Danny and his family settled in Brooklyn, New York. Four years later, when he was 23 years old, Danny had saved enough money to return to Italy and realize the desire of his heart. He managed to get a personal meeting with Padre Pio. “It was 5:00 a.m. when I arrived at the church,” Danny said. “Padre Pio was there greeting visitors in the sacristy before Mass. I knelt down to kiss his hand and my heart was full of emotion. Padre Pio looked at me and said, ‘You kept your promise. You came to see me!’ Padre Pio had never seen me before and had no way of knowing about the prayer and the promise I had made to God four years earlier. It still gives me the chills when I think about it.”

Danny had a desire to honor Padre Pio in a special way in New York, where he has lived for the last fifty-two years. With the permission of the parish priest of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Brooklyn, Danny purchased the property across the street from the church and built a shrine to Padre Pio. A large statue of Padre Pio sits behind a glass partition in an attractive alcove where many visitors come to pray. Pilgrims to the shrine have included two Bishops and one Cardinal.

The shrine remains a work in progress. Danny was able to have the name of the street facing the shrine changed to “Padre Pio Way.” Mass is celebrated at the shrine on Padre Pio’s birthday, May 25 and on September 23, the day that he died. “Padre Pio was like a light, like a bright and shining star,” Danny said.” “His holiness was tangible.”

“Where did Padre Pio get that light which he so successfully communicated to all those who met him? Undoubtedly from prayer, in listening to God, in prolonged penances, but above all through the celebration of the Mass which was the center of his existence.”
– Pope John Paul II

What Makes Up True Holiness

As a Capuchin priest, Padre Pio led a life of profound holiness. He wrote a beautiful reflection on holiness:

“Let us keep before our minds that which makes up real holiness. Holiness means getting above ourselves; it means perfect mastery of all our passions. It means having real and continual contempt for ourselves and for the things of the world to the point of preferring poverty rather than wealth, humiliation rather than glory, suffering rather than pleasure. Holiness means loving our neighbor as our self for love of God. In this connection holiness means loving those who curse us, who hate and persecute us and even doing good to them. Holiness means living humbly, being disinterested, prudent, just, patient, kind, chaste, meek, diligent, carrying out one’s duties for no other reason than that of pleasing God and receiving from Him alone the reward one deserves.”

Padre Pio (Letters III)


From Our Spiritual Director

I like very much the true story about Donald Fitzgerald of Dublin, Ireland and the grace he received from Padre Pio. Donald had been ill and a friend gave him a relic badge of Padre Pio. Donald always wore it around his neck.

Donald found a job in County Galway on a fishing boat and on one occasion, he and a crew of five others set out on a ten day fishing trip. On the fourth day, 200 miles off the Irish coast, winds built up to gale force. The Captain gave orders to head for shore. The waves were reaching 20 feet in height. One strong wave after another bashed against the boat. A double wave hit the boat and Donald lost his balance. A large bag of prawns swung against him and knocked him into the sea.

Donald, who cannot swim, was carried about 500 feet from the boat. He realized he was going to drown. He grabbed the relic of Padre Pio that was around his neck, and prayed to Padre Pio for his intercession. He perceived a beautiful perfume.

Donald suddenly saw Padre Pio in front of him. Padre Pio told him not to worry, he would not die. He felt someone lift him out of the water and put him back on the boat. The next day the crew was able to return to port with their catch.

Donald Fitzgerald’s testimony has been recorded and is kept in the Cause archives. We are to remember that God is always with us and often sends his saints and his angels to protect us. We have nothing to fear. And Padre Pio has reminded us that he will be able to help us more from Heaven, than he was able to when he was on earth.

Fr. Louis Solcia, C.R.S.P.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 27 – April-June 2006

“Let us always keep before our eyes the fact that here on earth we are on a battlefield and that in paradise we shall receive the crown of victory; that this is a testing-ground and the prize will be awarded up above; that we are now in a land of exile while our true homeland is Heaven to which we must continually aspire.”

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Memories of Padre Pio

Joe Peluso was an American soldier who was stationed in Italy during World War II. One day he received a letter from his mother and she told him that there was a holy priest named Padre Pio living in Italy. She did not know what part of Italy he lived in but she wanted Joe to find out and to visit him. Joe asked the military chaplain on the base if he knew anything about Padre Pio. The military chaplain started laughing and pointed to the mountain that was directly in front of them. “Padre Pio lives right on that mountain,” he said to Joe. Curiosity got the better of him and Joe decided to make the short trip to see him. It was October 6, 1944.

Padre Pio loved the visits of the American soldiers and always greeted them cordially. His counsel to the soldiers was unique. He used simple and childlike words when talking to them and giving them advice. Sometimes he would pat them on the head in a paternal way and simply say, “Be a good boy.”

Over the next ten months, Joe was able to visit Padre Pio many times and they became very close. Often he was invited to eat with the Capuchins at the monastery. While everyone else enjoyed their food, Joe noticed that Padre Pio simply pushed his food around on the plate. His daily intake of food would only fill the cup of his hand. He once said, “I need very little of this world’s goods. I need just a little bit of food, a little sleep and few possessions.”

It was Padre Pio’s habit to give each visitor a religious medal when they came to the monastery. Because of the war, religious medals and rosaries became scarce and almost impossible to acquire. Padre Pio felt very bad that his supply of medals was exhausted and he had none to give his visitors. Mary Pyle and Joe talked about it and Joe wanted to help. He decided to take the 220-mile trip from his military base to Rome to try to obtain the medals. Padre Pio and Padre Pio’s brother Michael both gave him letters to deliver to their sister, Sister Pia. She was a nun of the Order of St. Bridget and lived in the Brigittine Convent in Rome.

When he arrived in Rome, something prompted him to follow a road leading up a hill. As he drove up the hill, he saw a large sign, Cloistered Motherhouse of the Benedictine Nuns. Joe remembered that the St. Benedict medals were a favorite of Padre Pio. Joe knocked on the door and the nuns were extremely happy to give him a large supply of medals for Padre Pio.

Once Padre Pio asked Joe to select a name for his guardian angel. “Pick a name for your guardian angel and call him by that name always,” Padre Pio said to Joe. “When you send him to me, he will come instantly.”

One day Joe asked Padre Pio if he would accept him as his spiritual child. Padre Pio readily agreed. Then he asked him if he would accept his wife as his spiritual child and he agreed as well. Realizing the wonderful opportunity, he then asked Padre Pio if he would accept his daughter. Joe’s aunts and uncles then came into his mind. Somehow, the way the conversation was going struck both of them as funny. Joe and Padre Pio began to laugh. They laughed so hard that tears were rolling down their faces.

Suddenly Padre Pio became very serious and said to Joe, “Joe, when the war is over and you return to the United States, tell the American people, that for those who would like me to be their spiritual father, my answer is yes. I accept all Americans as my spiritual children. I only have two requirements — that they lead very good Catholic lives and that they regularly receive the sacraments. And please, tell them never to embarrass me in front of Jesus and Mary. You must tell them, Joe.”

Joe felt that it was an impossible request. He lived in a very small town in Pennsylvania. He was not an important person. He did not know many people. How could he tell all of America what Padre Pio had asked him to? Nevertheless, when he returned to the U.S. he tried to do what was asked of him. He made a slide show presentation of Padre Pio’s life and over the years he showed it to thousands of people. Joe died in 1996, after having spent 50 years sharing the message of Padre Pio with more people than he could have ever imagined.

“Remember, I accompany you always and everywhere.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina


A Letter from Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto

Padre Pio wrote the following letter to his spiritual director, Padre Benedetto Nardella, concerning a vision he had regarding World War I. This divine visitation seemed to signal the approach of peace.

“In one of the visits I had from Jesus recently, I asked Him more insistently to have pity on the unfortunate nations so sorely tried by the misfortune of war and to let His justice give place at last to His mercy. Strange to say, He made no reply except a sign with His hand which meant, ‘Slowly, slowly’ . . . What on earth does this mean, dear Father? I myself cannot tell you. However, I can tell you this, that whenever I had spoken to the Lord previously about the war, He gave me no sign that I can recall, but always kept complete silence . . . Does it mean that He himself means to intervene to calm this worldwide upheaval? May He be pleased to do so without delay.”

Letters I, December 19, 1917


Maria Pompilio who was one of Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters, left this testimony.

“At the end of Padre Pio’s Mass one morning toward the end of 1919, a number of people gathered around Padre Pio. By my side was a man who looked fixedly at Padre Pio. He said breathlessly, “Oh God, it is him, truly him. I am not mistaken.” The man began crying and fell to his knees. He said, “Padre Pio, thank you for saving me from death! Thank you!” Padre Pio put his hands on the man’s head and said, “You must not thank me, my son. Thank our Lord and the Virgin of Graces.” They spoke together in an undertone for a few minutes. Padre Pio then went to the choir to pray.

Several men who were nearby questioned the man about the words that Padre Pio had spoken to him. I was also present and the man told us the following story: “I was a Captain in the infantry, and one day on the battlefield, during a terrible hour of fighting, a little distance away from me, I saw a delicate, pale friar with beautiful, expressive eyes. He was not dressed as a chaplain but as a simple friar and he hurriedly and gently called to me saying, “Captain, move away from that place. Come to me quickly.” I ran toward him and had not even reached him when, in the place where I had previously stood, a grenade exploded, opening up a pit. If I had been there, my body would have been blown into the air in shreds. I wanted to thank the little friar who had called me, but he was no longer there. He had disappeared without my realizing it and even though I looked around for him I never saw him again.

On the same day that my life was saved, another person told me that a beautiful monk had saved him from death as well. Other soldiers at the Italian base said they had seen a friar among them who looked toward Heaven and prayed. One of these soldiers said that the priest who had been on the battlefield was Padre Pio who lived in San Giovanni Rotondo. I wanted to come here and see if he was the friar who had saved me as his face remained imprinted in my mind. Now I know that it was him. You can imagine what gratitude I feel toward this holy priest. I am happy to have been able to thank him personally and to kiss his hand.”    – Maria Pompilio


A note from the editors: Jim Cunningham of Coral Springs, Florida, recently shared his inspiring story with us.

My name is Jim Cunningham. I was born in 1924 and was in the military during World War II, stationed in Foggia, Italy. I was assigned to a photo reconnaissance squadron and I heard about Padre Pio from the townspeople in Foggia. One day I decided to visit him so I took two other G I’s with me and drove a military jeep up the mountain to the monastery. It was in 1945 and I was twenty-one years old. I attended his Mass and felt very fortunate as all of the soldiers that were present were invited to sit right up on the altar, very close to Padre Pio. I was able to clearly see the wounds on his hands. Seeing his devotion at Mass was a very moving experience. He celebrated Mass in such a way that I was able to comprehend the sacredness of the Mass. His whole being inspired me.

Padre Pio was a very humble man and at the same time he was open and friendly. I had learned that Padre Pio liked grapefruit juice, so on my second visit to San Giovanni Rotondo I brought some juice. I was able to go to San Giovanni three times to see Padre Pio.

Mary Pyle, Padre Pio’s secretary, invited me to lunch at her home. She told me that she had come to Italy from the U.S. just for a visit. Shortly after she met Padre Pio, she decided to stay permanently. Her esteem for him was such that she had a great desire to be near him. She stayed in San Giovanni Rotondo for the rest of her life. Mary’s life was one of complete dedication to Padre Pio. She helped him in so many ways.

Meeting Padre Pio and attending his Mass truly changed my life. It was a great blessing. I have never met anyone in my life who had such a great devotion to God. On a number of occasions I have been invited to church groups to speak about Padre Pio. Today I am 82 years old. Many years have gone by, but my wife and I still feel his presence with us. It is overwhelming.


Father Joseph Pius Martin – who assisted Padre Pio for a number of years, received the following testimony from Kevin Patrick Fitzpatrick.

Kevin Patrick Fitzpatrick who worked in Manchester, England in 1947 became acquainted with a man who had been a soldier in the British Army during World War II. During their advance against the German Army, this soldier and the others in his company came to the area of San Giovanni Rotondo. For some days British artillery had been firing into the areas surrounding the friary, but to their amazement none of the shells were exploding. When British Intelligence officers questioned the local Italian people, they were told that this was not to be wondered at since a very holy priest, Padre Pio lived at the friary.

One of the British Army officers was staying at the friary. One night he heard a voice constantly calling out. He went to investigate to see where the sound was coming from. When he came to the door of Padre Pio’s cell, he heard Padre Pio praying the Glory Be to the Father. He repeated the prayer slowly, over and over again. The soldier was deeply edified.


A Grace in Time of War

My brother was serving in the army and had been sent to Viet Nam. Every night our family prayed for his safe return. I carried Padre Pio’s photo with me and prayed to him often for my brother. I felt Padre Pio’s presence with me and shortly after that, my brother wrote to say he would be coming home. When he did come home, he was a different person. After that terrible war he became more quiet and serious. We never asked questions about his experiences and he never spoke much about it. He did mention one experience which seemed very peculiar to him. He said that one day his company was sent ahead of the others to check for the Viet Cong. They were looking through the bush with their guns, when suddenly all of the soldiers smelled the fragrance of roses. They kept saying “Where are the rose bushes? It sure smells good out here.” They never did find the rosebushes and were sent back to camp. Another company was sent out to inspect the same territory. How tragic to say that the company was ambushed and not one survived the attack. According to the calculations, the Viet Cong had been there lurking in the bush all along, when my brother and the others in his company were in that area. But for some strange reason, they were not attacked and they very easily could have been. I know it was Padre Pio who saved my brother’s life.    – I. Ahmadzai


A Letter from Padre Pio to Padre Agostino

“We are passing through a solemn hour. Up to the present we have not been involved in this grievous war which has now gone on for a year . . . We must all cooperate for the common good and make God’s mercy propitious to us in this difficult time, by humble and fervent prayer and by the amendment of our lives.

We must not be down-hearted, dear Father, or lack the filial confidence we owe to our God just because He appears to be angry with us. If it is to come to pass again today that he looked around at them with anger ( Mark 3:5) let us fully understand this. God still loves us, He is still merciful toward us. His looking around with anger, Father, is the language of His sorrowful love; this is the expression which comes from His sorrowing heart at the sight of our wickedness. These are the artifices to which His mercy resorts in order to stop us on our way to perdition. . . .”

– Letters I, May 31, 1915


From our Spiritual Director

During Padre Pio’s lifetime many people asked for his help through his prayers. He would often say to individuals who requested his intercession, “You have cost me a lot.” We know that he suffered for others in order to help them. He made sacrifices and denied himself and offered all of his sufferings to God.

He often sent his Guardian Angel to people to assist them. Many times he advised people to send their own Guardian Angels to him. “When you send your Guardian Angel to me, the angel comes instantly,” he said. He was familiar and comfortable with the realm of angels.

Padre Pio communicated with his spiritual children in many ways. A delicate perfume often announced his invisible presence. It suggested that he was with the person in spirit, listening to their prayers. It expressed his compassion, his presence and his help. What a grace it has been for so many who have become aware at some time of the beautiful fragrance of perfume or roses, so often a sign that Padre Pio was near.

 – Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP