Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 23 – April-June 2005

Download Newsletter Issue 23, April-June 2005

“Around Padre Pio, the supernatural became fused with the natural.
One could not distinguish where one ended and the other began.”
– Padre Eusebio Notte

The Extraordinary Perfume of Padre Pio

Padre Clemente da Postiglione, Capuchin, lived in the same friary with Padre Pio for many years. He wrote:

On October 3, 1923, the vigil of the feast of St. Francis and the day I was to leave San Giovanni Rotondo for Montefusco, I went to see Padre Pio, to take leave of him after my short stay at the friary.

I found him in the sacristy of the old church, where he received me with a smile and full of kindness. When I went towards him to embrace him and to say goodbye to him, I was surrounded by an intense odor of violets, so intense that I was almost overcome. At the same time this perfume bound me so tightly to the Padre that I could not succeed in moving away from him.

When, after many efforts, I sought to take leave, this perfume became so strong and drew me nearer to the beloved Padre, who did not tire of smiling at me and embracing me. So it was for about ten minutes. For me it was an experience as welcome, pleasant and unforgettable as could be.

As to the question of perfume, this is what happened to me on another day. I was in residence at San Giovanni Rotondo and I was bringing Holy Communion to the sick. One winter morning it was snowing. As God willed, I arrived at the home of Dr. Sanguinetti, the doctor who was instrumental in building Padre Pio’s hospital, “The Home for the Relief of Suffering.”

When I rang the bell I found myself surrounded by a strong perfume. To tell you the truth I thought it came from the ladies of the house, and I said to myself, “Those blessed ladies! They are always thinking of putting perfume on themselves!”

Returning to the friary [after realizing that the fragrance did not come from the ladies], I told the story to Padre Pio and asked him, “Padre, why did you make me smell your perfume?” Padre Pio replied, “Because I love you.”

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In October, 1919, Dr. Georgio Festa, a skilled and highly esteemed surgeon from Rome, was commissioned by the Capuchin General to conduct a medical examination of Padre Pio’s wounds. Dr. Festa first visited the provincial of the Capuchins in Foggia and examined the documents that were available on Padre Pio. Afterward, he and the provincial traveled together to San Giovanni Rotondo.

As a guest in the monastery, Dr. Festa was able to closely observe Padre Pio’s behavior in the religious community. As he watched Padre Pio go about his daily duties he noted his cheerfulness, his good sense of humor and his participation in the conversations during recreation. Dr. Festa remarked that Padre Pio seemed transformed whenever the conversation turned to spiritual matters. He noticed his total consecration to prayer and his desire to be of help to those who sought his counsel. Dr. Festa observed Padre Pio’s very small daily intake of food and his ability, despite his meager diet, to spend long hours every day hearing confessions and greeting the many visitors who came to the monastery. Dr. Festa said, “On the whole, the person of Padre Pio above all, as regards his face and his glance, reveal something so simple, so good, sometimes so childlike, that it inspires liking, and gives the impression of great sincerity. The life he leads in the friary is austere and simple. Humility and modesty characterize his spirit, and they constitute one of the greatest attractions to those who approach him.”

Dr. Festa told Padre Pio that he wanted to take a sample of his blood to examine under the microscope. He took from Padre Pio’s side wound a small piece of cloth soaked with blood. The side wound, as Dr. Festa described it, was in the form of an oblique cross. He put the blood-soaked cloth in a small case. When he left the monastery he shared a taxi with several other people. Although the people in the taxi knew nothing about the cloth enclosed in the case, and despite the strong ventilation in the moving vehicle, they noticed a beautiful fragrance and commented on it.

In Rome, Dr. Festa put the blood-soaked cloth in one of the drawers in his office. During the following days and for a long time afterward it filled the whole area with perfume to the extent that many patients who came to consult him, noticed it and asked for an explanation. The fragrance was described as a combination of violets, lilies, and roses.

The extraordinary charism of perfume in the life of Padre Pio is well documented. On certain occasions when Padre Pio celebrated Mass, the entire church would be pervaded with his characteristic fragrance and all of the people in attendance became aware of it. When his blood-stained garments were laundered, the water often gave forth a wonderful perfume.

Hundreds of thousands of people have testified that, on occasion, they experienced suddenly and without explanation the strong and penetrating perfume associated with Padre Pio. Padre Pietro da Ischitella, provincial of the Capuchin monastery during the first years of the stigmata, stated that the origin of the fragrance came from the blood from Padre Pio’s stigmata. Padre Pietro described the blood as “very pure and perfumed.” Dr. Festa reported that he saw luminous rays coming from the blood of the stigmata. He described it as “brief, but evident radiations of light that emerged from its contours.”

The perfume, at times, would be perceived directly from Padre Pio’s person, his clothing, his belongings, on the things which he touched and in places which he passed through. It would sometimes be perceived from a distance, even hundreds of miles away. Most of the people who were close to Padre Pio sooner or later experienced the characteristic fragrance.

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Brother Modestino, who had the privilege of serving Padre Pio’s Mass, recalled, “I accompanied Padre Pio to the altar of St. Francis and, the little gate being closed, he began to say Mass completely recollected. At the “Sanctus” I had an unexpected desire to smell again that indescribable scent that I had already experienced many times when kissing Padre Pio’s hand. The wish was immediately granted. A cloud of scent enveloped me. It kept on increasing until I could hardly breathe. I gripped the balustrade so as not to fall. I was about to faint and mentally I asked the Padre to prevent me from making a fool of myself in front of the people. At that precise moment the scent disappeared. That evening as I accompanied Padre Pio to his cell, I asked him for an explanation of the phenomenon. He said to me, “My son, it is not I. It is the Lord who acts. He allows it to be smelled when and by whom He wishes. It all happens as and how He wishes.”

The perfume signified to the faithful that Padre Pio was present to them in spirit. It often served to communicate a message of a grace or blessing and could also act as a warning of impending danger or as a signal of his protection. It often was simply a sign of his love. Sometimes called “the aroma of paradise” it frequently acted as an irresistible call for certain people to visit him in his monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio once described it as “sweets for the children.” Many people have experienced it since his death.

Padre Rosario of Aliminusa, who was the Superior of the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo from September,1960 to January,1964 noticed the fragrance associated with Padre Pio every day during Vespers for almost three months. He said that the aroma was strong and pleasant but difficult to describe. Once when he was in the old sacristy he noticed it issuing from the chair used by Padre Pio for the men’s confessions. At other times he found that it was emanating from Padre Pio’s hands.

The bishop of Monopoli, Msgr. Antonio D’Enchia wrote, “In many cases I was told of the phenomenon of the perfume emanating merely from a picture of Padre Pio. One of Padre Pio’s spiritual sons once said to him that he had not experienced the perfume for a long time. “You are here with me and so you don’t need it,” Padre Pio replied.

The aromas included the scent of roses, carnations, pine, violets, lilies, perfume, incense, camphor, lavender, carbolic acid, fine oriental tobacco, and more. It was often experienced as coming in waves, bursts or wafts and it could linger for a long time. Some described the fragrance as similar to a peaceful and gentle breeze which uplifted the spirit. It was a phenomenon which was contrary to every law of nature and science and was inexplicable by human logic. It was “of the Lord.” Dr. Giuseppe Gusso was one of five people who stood at the door of Padre Pio’s cell one evening when all present experienced the aroma. However, it was not the same fragrance for everyone. The individuals standing with Dr. Gusso perceived different fragrances. When Padre Pio opened his door to greet them, it instantly disappeared.

Padre Pio was extremely reluctant to speak about the mystical phenomena which marked his entire life. Even when his spiritual director questioned him regarding these matters, he answered with the greatest reserve and discretion. His attitude was always one of humility. He acknowledged that the exceptional gifts he received were exactly that: gifts. He never felt worthy of them. When a friend once asked him about the many favors the Lord had given him, Padre Pio said, “You know, they are a mystery to me too.”

Padre Pio once told his spiritual director, Padre Benedetto, “I attach no importance to my extraordinary state. For this reason I never stop asking Jesus to lead me by the ordinary way followed by everyone else for I am well aware that the way by which Divine Mercy is leading me is not suitable for my soul, accustomed as it is to very material food. On another occasion he said, “God made all things. His creation includes the stars and the humblest domestic utensils. I belong to the second category.”

John McCaffrey, the Irish journalist, business man and teacher wrote the book, “Blessed Padre Pio: The Friar of San Giovanni.” He made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo as a skeptic but came home as a believer. He became one of Padre Pio’s closest English-speaking friends. He experienced the strong and exquisite perfume on many occasions, while alone or in company, at the monastery or far away. He also noticed the deep humility of Padre Pio. Once he told Padre Pio about a new publication that was coming out about him and Padre Pio’s eyes filled with tears. “You are all so mistaken,” he said. He added, “I realize to the full the greatness of the gifts that God has bestowed upon me. But that terrifies me because I know only too well what miserable use I have made of them. I dread the thought of death and having to answer for them.”

The Capuchin priests and brothers who lived with Padre Pio were well aware of the many graces and favors he had received from God. They said that it was not his supernatural gifts that attracted them to him but his naturalness, his spirit of prayer, his simplicity, and his love for people. One who knew him said, “His life as a Capuchin friar was so humble and hidden, that if it was not for all the extraordinary phenomena about him, we would hardly have noticed him.” Dr. Festa reiterated this sentiment when he said, “The very marks he bears in his body, far from being a motive of pride, are for him a real source of mortification, to which it appears he submits himself out of a spirit of humility.”

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Testimony of Kevin Hale

Kevin Hale, who currently lives in Chicago, IL., is the co-moderator of a 200 member internet prayer and discussion group centered on the life and spirituality of Padre Pio. The address is: sanpadrepio@yahoogroups.com .

I spent a week in San Giovanni Rotondo in 1965 and had the honor to attend Padre Pio’s Mass on my 21st birthday, January 8th, 1965. There were not many visitors to the monastery at that time of year. I got up every morning while it was still dark and was able to enter the church about 4:30 am. The Mass began at 5:00 am. Padre Pio’s Mass was unforgettable, with long silent pauses in which Padre Pio appeared to be in ecstasy. He took off his half gloves during the Mass and from my vantage point where I was sitting in the trancept of the church, I was able to clearly see the stigmatization of his hands.

One morning I went into the church to make a visit to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. As I was leaving, I looked up and saw Padre Pio at his place in the choir. He looked down at me and smiled. He held up his Rosary for me to see and pointed at it. I took my Rosary out and held it for him to see. I knew that he was encouraging me to pray the Rosary.

One night before going to sleep at my hotel, I prayed and asked my guardian angel to go to Padre Pio and tell him of all my spiritual needs. The following night I joined the villagers outside in the square below Padre Pio’s cell. They gathered there every evening to bid goodnight to Padre Pio. He came to the window and gave everyone his blessing and spoke to the group in Italian. I asked the woman next to me who spoke English to tell me what Padre Pio said. She told me that Padre Pio said that he had been kept awake the previous night by a guardian angel from America.

I would describe Padre Pio as serious yet approachable. My impression of him was that he was a man totally immersed in God and God in him. The experience of meeting Padre Pio deepened my faith in a very real way. It gave a new meaning to the words of the creed that we say every Sunday at Mass, “We believe in one God the Father the Almighty.”

 
“Have great devotion to this good angel. How consoling it is to know that near us is a spirit who, from the cradle to the tomb, does not leave us even for an instant, not even when we dare to sin. And this heavenly spirit guides and protects us like a friend, like a brother.”
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

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From our Spiritual Director

Padre Pio was a mystic and as all the mystics, he experienced a great light, the light of God. Light shown around Padre Pio and also from within and indicated a high degree of sanctity and great intimacy with God. As we know that the purpose of our life is unity with the divinity, we know that Padre Pio became one with God. God became a consuming fire in Padre Pio’s life. When God enters a soul with such intensity what sometimes follows is a heat that raises the bodily temperature so that the ardor of love becomes almost unbearable. This fire of love began for Padre Pio in 1917 when his temperature reached 108.5 degrees. Another time his temperature reached 125.6 degrees. A doctor was summoned and found no specific illness to explain the high fever.

Dr. Giorgio Festa said that these extraordinarily high fevers broke all natural and scientific laws. In one instance Padre Pio’s temperature was so high that it actually broke the thermometer. Dr. G. Avenia wrote a note in a small package that he sent to Padre Mariano: “. . .I include also the thermometer that broke when I visited Padre Pio when he suddenly fell ill. The Father Guardian Padre Damaso and Padre Ezechia of Pietrelcina were both present. Many years have since gone by and I have always jealously preserved this as a relic. I am sorry to have to part with it, but I realize the necessity of its being collected together and kept in the friary.”

This thermometer is now preserved in the Padre Pio archives of the Friary at San Giovanni Rotondo along with other thermometers which show the mercury at its extreme.

– Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 22 – January-March 2005

“I think people remember this great man, Padre Pio
because he was a great saint. He lived the life of a saint.
What he did during his life touches all nations.
I think the world needs Padre Pio.”

– Padre Clemente da Santa Maria in Punta

 

During World War II, I was a member of the American 15th Air Force stationed in Foggia. While in Italy, I visited Padre Pio and Mary Pyle in San Giovanni Rotondo. I had the honor of serving Mass for Padre Pio and being in the vestry when he put on his vestments for Mass. While there, I asked to be kept safe through the war if it was God’s will. The next day I was to fly on a very dangerous mission. That night, I developed a severe ear infection. The air force doctor refused to let me fly the next day. I pleaded with him to let me fly with my friends but he said absolutely not. I tried in every way to fly but was stopped. How sad to say that the flyer that took my place on this mission was killed by a direct hit by an anti-aircraft shell. If I had been permitted to fly that day, I would have died.
– Dr. Patrick Dignam

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Padre Pio and his Friends from New Jersey

Joe Revelas who currently lives in Clarksboro, New Jersey, met Padre Pio in 1944 when Joe was in the U.S. 15th Air Force division, stationed near Cerignola, Italy during World War II. One day Joe’s chaplain told him that there was a priest named Padre Pio living in a monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo, who had the wounds of Christ. Joe decided that he had to visit him. Public transportation was not readily available during war times so Joe hitchhiked to the monastery. When he arrived, the first person he met was Mary Pyle. Joe told Mary that he intended to go to Padre Pio’s Mass the following day, Sunday, but she insisted that he go at once to the monastery to meet Padre Pio. Joe did not feel prepared and the idea intimidated him. “I am sure Padre Pio has more important things to do than to meet me,” Joe said to himself. Nevertheless, he did what Mary suggested. In the monastery, a priest greeted Joe and asked him the reason for his visit. Joe said he was planning on attending Padre Pio’s Mass the following day. The priest left for a moment and returned with Padre Pio. Joe was feeling very nervous by now but Padre Pio smiled at him and put him at ease. He was friendly and asked Joe about his life and his work in the military. When they said good bye to each other and as Joe was leaving, he looked back and saw that Padre Pio had knelt down to pray, facing the altar of the church.

At the Mass the next day, Joe and the other soldiers who were present were allowed to be in the sanctuary of the church, very close to Padre Pio. Joe noticed his deep recollection during the Mass. At the consecration, Padre Pio stared intently at the host and tears fell from his eyes. There was complete silence in the little 16th century church of Our Lady of Grace. Joe saw clearly the wounds in his hands. “I could feel the presence of Jesus on the altar,” Joe said. “It was awesome. It was like being present at Calvary at the crucifixion. It was the most beautiful Mass I ever attended in my life. I will never forget it.” Although the Mass lasted for two hours, it did not seem long. Afterward, Padre Pio blessed Joe’s crucifix, kissing it reverently before giving it back to him.

Joe, who is now 84 years old, sleeps with the crucifix that Padre Pio blessed, under his pillow every night. Although it was more than 60 years ago when he met Padre Pio, the experience remains very vivid in his memory. “Padre Pio has helped me all these years to stay close to God. I thank God for allowing me to encounter Padre Pio,” Joe said.

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Mary Pyle wrote the following letter to Joe Revelas on Oct. 20, 1949:

Dear Joe,

This is just a short little note to tell you that I have sent you 100 little Sacred Heart cards with a novena which Padre Pio says every day with the whole community for all of those who ask for his prayers. I thought that it would be nice for all of his far away spiritual children to join their prayers to his. Let us pray with him and according to his intentions.

Padre Pio is becoming more wonderful every day. Consequently the crowds who come to him for help increase and it is a real problem to be able to approach him. Two weeks ago, he healed a paralyzed woman, who had been carried into the church and went away walking without help. You can imagine the excitement, but still more wonderful are the conversions and there are many of them. Do let us try to do our little bit in helping him with our poor little prayers.

As ever, in Jesus Christ, St. Francis, and Padre Pio,
Mary Pyle

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Memories of Padre Pio

Living close to Padre Pio for so many years, Mary Pyle heard many beautiful testimonies from the visitors who came to San Giovanni Rotondo. The following testimony is one that was told to Mary by a woman who lived in Foggia, Italy:

:During the war the woman went to confession several times to Padre Pio. When her brother came back from the war he could not decide whether to continue on in the military or to go into business. She wrote a letter to Padre Pio asking for advice for her brother but gave no information regarding his name, address, or military rank.

Almost immediately, her brother got a response back from Padre Pio which included his name, address, officer’s rank, and regiment. Padre Pio told him that it didn’t matter what work he chose to do because our Lord would treat him in the very same way he had treated his soldiers during the war.

The woman was amazed at the words of Padre Pio. She made enquiries and learned that her brother had been more of a father than a superior to the men he was in charge of. He personally looked after his soldiers with paternal affection when they were sick. All of the soldiers adored him. The woman added that after the war, her brother met with success in all of his undertakings, just as Padre Pio had predicted.

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Padre Pio received many gifts of the Holy Spirit including the gift of prophecy, as the following story reveals:

In 1916, while in Foggia, Padre Pio and his little nephew one day visited the home of Serafina Pipoli. He asked Serafina to call her nephew and allow the two boys to play together. She has a great veneration for Padre Pio and immediately agreed and so Michelino came to play with Padre Pio’s nephew. When Padre Pio came back to collect his nephew, Michelino’s mother, Rosa, was there also. She asked Padre Pio to pray for her husband as he has been called up to military service once again and was a soldier in the war. Padre Pio said, “I will pray a great deal. But let us all pray to Our Lady because when Michelino grows up there will be another war, and he, too, will go.” Padre Pio’s prophecy came true for in 1940 Italy went to war and Michelino was called up and took part in it.

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I was honored to meet Padre Pio when I was in the military as a pilot stationed in Foggia, Italy. I had one engine blow up as I was flying a twin engine fighter known as a P38. The black smoke was pouring out but after a time the smoke died down and I returned to the base on one engine. The next day I was checking with the head mechanic and he said, “I have been here a long time and I have seen many things, but that was an act of God if ever I saw one.” When I met Padre Pio he had put his hand on my head and he did the same to the others who were with me. He gave us his blessing that we would all return home safe.
– Ray Neameyer 

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Padre Pio’s Words of Faith

“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. Let us live, then, . . . with a lively faith, a firm hope and an ardent love, with eyes fixed on heaven and the keenest desire, as long as we are travelers, to dwell one day in heaven whenever this is pleasing to God. Let us keep our thoughts, I say, continually fixed on heaven, our true homeland of which this earth is merely an image.”

– St.Pio of Pietrelcina – Letters II

 

A Message from Our Spiritual Director

From the homily of Archbishop Domenico D’Ambrosio given at the Immaculata in San Diego, CA on October 5, 2004. Archbishop D’Ambrosio is the delegate to the Holy See for the shrine and works of Padre Pio, the director general of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups throughout the world, and the president of Padre Pio’s hospital, the “Home for the Relief of Suffering” in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.

“I bring you all the blessing of Pope John Paul II. The Pope told me that it is a great joy for him to know that the Catholic churches in the United States are making an effort through their service, to imitate and to follow the teachings of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. Padre Pio’s life was made up of two important parts – God, and his brothers and sisters. His ministry has been an epiphany of the merciful face of the Father; and before the Father, Padre Pio’s prayers were a constant intercession on behalf of all. His holiness, Pope Paul VI, said that Padre Pio was like an imprint of the Crucified Christ. Padre Pio reminds the world of the strength of the Cross. He participated in the sufferings of Christ for the world’s salvation. In Padre Pio’s heart, there was a place for everyone. For all he prayed for deeper conversion, new life, fidelity and witness.

In this, my first visit to the San Diego Padre Pio Prayer Group as the papal delegate of Padre Pio’s work, I ask all of you for your prayers of intercession and I ask you to give yourselves to generous and free service for the kingdom of God. I ask also for your solid obedience and deep communion with your bishops. In the church, the bishops are the real image of Jesus Christ who said, “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me.” – Luke 10:16

Today we are invited, according to the words of Pope John Paul II, to pray for peace in the world, in Iraq, in Israel, in Sudan, and everywhere that war brings violence, hatred, and death.

In our Eucharistic celebration today let us ask for peace, love, and unity, and we offer our prayers for all of the American soldiers who have died in Iraq.

Please do not forget Padre Pio’s hospital, the “Home for the Relief of Suffering,” a “temple of faith and science where the human race finds itself in Christ Crucified as a single flock under one shepherd,” as Padre Pio said. He also said, “May God bless those who have worked for this hospital and those who will work for it. May the Lord reward them a thousand times in their life and with eternal joy in the life beyond.” The Home for the Relief of Suffering needs your help and your prayers very badly in order to continue the work and the mission of its holy founder.

Padre Pio has entrusted this monument of charity to prayer groups like yours. It is important for me as delegate of His Holiness and “keeper of Padre Pio’s inheritance” to know that I have your confidence and your help.”

† Domenico D’Ambrosio, Archbishop
Manfredonia, Vieste, San Giovanni Rotondo

 

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 21 – July-September 2004

Download Newsletter Issue 21, July-September 2004

Padre Pio imitated Jesus as the Crucified One out of love of what Our Divine Savior underwent for the sins of men. But Padre Pio also loved the mother of Jesus. He loved her as a son and honored her by always holding the Rosary and using it. For him the Rosary was an encounter with God through Mary.

Fr. Augustine McGregor OCSO

Padre Pio’s Love for the Blessed Mother

One of the outstanding characteristics of Padre Pio’s(Francesco Forgione’s) spirituality was his deep devotion to Mary. His love for the Blessed Mother was one which was present from his earliest years and which lasted through his whole life. In the small town of Pietrelcina where he was born, devotion to the Madonna has been a characteristic of the people’s spirituality for many centuries. Our Lady Liberatrix (Our Lady of Liberty) was the special patroness of the area and was venerated in the main church. Every year there was a festival in her honor with a procession through the streets.

The Forgiones were an extremely devout family. When the church bells rang every morning the family gathered for morning prayers. They went to church every day and prayed the Rosary together as a family every evening. Prayer came before all other activities in the household. Maria Giuseppa, Padre Pio’s mother, also had a great devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Padre Pio was 14 years old when he visited the shrine in Pompeii dedicated to Our Lady. Our Lady of Pompeii was especially dear to his heart and often when he needed a special grace for himself or for someone else, he would ask his friends to pray to Our Lady of Pompeii for his intentions. He wrote, “I should like to ask you, if it is not inconvenient, to do me the kindness of making three consecutive novenas to the Virgin of Pompeii for a grace to be obtained for me from her Son, a grace which will mean a great deal for a certain soul.” On another occasion he wrote, “I thank you for the novenas you made for me to Our Lady of Pompeii and I would ask you if it is not inconvenient, to continue because I am in great need.”

In his letters to his spiritual directors, Padre Pio called the Blessed Mother, “beautiful Virgin Mary,” “most tender mother of priests,” “Mediatrix of all graces.” In Our Lady, he saw the advocate of sinners, the most beloved, the consoler. He frequently referred to Mary simply as “Mother.” Reciting the Angelus he rarely managed to restrain his emotions and when he spoke about her it was not unusual for him to shed tears.

The Sorrowful Virgin was another attribute of Mary that was close to his heart. He loved to contemplate her at the foot of the cross. To his spiritual children he would say, “Go and keep company with Jesus in His Passion, and with His Sorrowful Mother.”

From the day on which he became a priest he always preferred to say Mass at Our Lady’s altar. The Mass he celebrated most frequently was the Mass of the Immaculate Conception. “The Immaculate Conception,” he said, “is the first step on the path of salvation.”

To a spiritual daughter who asked him for a thought on the Madonna, he said, “My daughter, it is enough for you to know that Mary is the Mother of Jesus. . .She loves us so much that she offered to God the Father His only natural Son to save His adopted sons. . .She is a great and inestimable treasure who encloses in herself an infinite treasure, the Son of God.”

Padre Pio used to speak of being inundated with graces by her. “She treats me as if I were her only child on the face of the earth,” he wrote. He spoke of the tenderness of Our Lady who accompanied him to the altar. “What care she took to accompany me to the altar this morning. It seemed to me that she has nothing else to think about except myself as she filled my whole heart with sentiments of holy love.”

Padre Eusebio Notte, personal assistant to Padre Pio, once said to him, “You see Our Lady, don’t you?” He answered, “She comes to me whenever I need her.” He also said that she remained beside him when he heard confessions. “Her loving care toward me cannot be described in words,” he said.

Padre Pio’s love for Mary was evident as he prayed the Rosary whenever there was a free moment in his busy day and when there were no free moments, he found a way to pray even then. He preferred the Rosary above all other prayers and asked his spiritual children to carry a Rosary with them at all times and to pray it every day. For him the Rosary represented the continual meditation on the profound mysteries of God’s designs for salvation.

Padre Pio said so many rosaries in one day that the number was unbelievable, although he had a special grace for doing this. His spirit of prayer made what seemed impossible, within his reach. “The Lord asks this of me; He does not ask the same of you,” he said. Once someone asked him how he was able to pray so many rosaries. “You can do one thing at a time,” he replied, but I can do three or four.”

Padre Pio said to one of the friars, “My son, if we do what we have always done, what our fathers did before us, we cannot go wrong. Satan wants to destroy this prayer, but in this he will never succeed. The Rosary is the prayer of those who triumph over everything and everyone. It was Our Lady who taught us this prayer, just as it was Jesus who taught us the Our Father.” Padre Pio defined the Rosary as “The synthesis of our faith, the expression of our charity, and the foundation of our hope.”

Daniel Hickey, from St. Albans, New York, was an American G.I. stationed in Italy during World War II when he met Padre Pio. When he returned to the U.S., Danny entered the seminary and became a Capuchin priest. Recalling his visits with Padre Pio he wrote, “Padre Pio was usually seen standing with his right hand in the front fold pocket of his Capuchin habit. A few times when he withdrew his hand, he was seen to be fingering a small chaplet of beads. It seems it was Padre Pio’s habit not to waste a second but to fill each one with a prayer. Any lull in the conversation, no matter how short, his lips would be seen to move slightly as he prayed. But there was nothing ostentatious in all this; it was a long time before I was aware of what he was doing, though I had noticed his hand constantly in the breast pocket of his habit.”

Father Alessio Parente said, “I was at his side for six years, and in all that time I never saw him without the Rosary in his hands night and day. Our Lady never refused him anything through the Rosary. The Rosary was his constant link with Our Lady.

Not only did Padre Pio have a profound devotion to the Mother of God, but he also seemed to know the dispositions of her heart. An image of the Madonna was found to be weeping in one of the parish churches in Italy. The bishop of the diocese asked for an investigation into the matter, and after much study the bishop declared it to be authentic. When Padre Pio was told about this he said, “When Our Lady is weeping, things are not going well.”

Bill Martin(who later became Father Joseph Pius Martin) from Brooklyn, New York, first met Padre Pio in 1959. It was during his second visit in 1964 that he found it very hard to leave. As he was waiting for the bus to take him to Foggia, to his great relief a friar came running to tell him that Padre Pio had sent him to say that he wanted Bill to stay. He entered the friary as a 3rd order Franciscan and was known to everyone as Brother Bill. He became Padre Pio’s personal assistant. One afternoon as he was sitting next to Padre Pio on the balcony near Padre Pio’s cell, he was thinking to himself how very fortunate he was that he had been able to be so close to Padre Pio through the years. He wondered to himself who had obtained this marvelous grace for him. No words passed between the two but at the moment that Brother Bill was thinking those thoughts Padre Pio turned to him and said, “It was Our Lady.”

The Virgin Mary, ever close to Padre Pio, assisted him in a special way regarding the state of his health. Although Padre Pio suffered from poor health his entire life he did not become discouraged. He offered all of his sufferings to the Lord for the conversion of sinners and for the souls in purgatory. He said that God had “put the problem of my health and a victorious outcome into the hands of our heavenly Mother.” Once when he was ill, he confided to his Superior, “What made me suffer more than anything was not being able to say even one Ave Maria.”

Not only was the Virgin present to Padre Pio in times of physical infirmity but in times of interior trials and spiritual suffering as well. On August 15, 1929 on the Feast of the Assumption, Padre Pio described an experience of Our Lady while he was celebrating Mass. “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.”

Pio testifies to the Virgin Mary’s help in a number of letters to his spiritual directors. On May 26, 1910 he wrote to Father Benedetto, “My only regret, dear Father, is that I have no adequate means with which to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary, through whose intercession I have undoubtedly received so much strength from the Lord, to bear with sincere resignation the many humiliations to which I am subjected day after day…and I do not believe this strength comes to me from the world.”

There were always crowds of people around Padre Pio, especially the sick, trying to get close to him and to touch him. To the sick and the suffering who implored his help, the Padre would say, “Entrust yourself to Our Lady.” He would often say, “Let us pray to Our Lady that she snatch this grace for you from the Heart of Jesus.”And for those who came to him with especially difficult personal problems, family problems, etc. he would often say, “Here we need the Madonna.”

Cleonice Morcaldi, one of Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters, spoke to Padre Pio on September 20th, just three days before he died. “Father, give me at least one word,” she said to him. “Love the Madonna and make her loved. Always recite her Rosary. That is an armor against the evils of the world today.” Cleonice asked him, “Is the Madonna close to you?” “A Mother…” he replied. “All of paradise is near her.”

Padre Pio died on September 23, 1968. Padre Pelegrino Funicelli, his brother in religion, assisted him in his last moments on earth. He said that a short time before Padre Pio’s death and with great tenderness, Padre Pio gazed at a picture of Our Lady Liberatrix that was hanging in his cell. He passed into eternal life peacefully, gently. He died with his Rosary. His last words were Gésu, Maria, – Jesus, Mary which he repeated over and over until he breathed his last.

Padre Pio’s Words of Faith

“Reflect upon and keep before your mental gaze the great humility of the Mother of God, our Mother.”

“In my greatest sufferings it seems to me that I no longer have a mother on this earth, but a very compassionate one in Heaven.”

“Recommend me to the Lord and to the Virgin Mother because I am in extreme need of their help.”

“I feel myself held fast and bound to the Son by means of this Mother.”

“The greatest sign of love you can show me will be precisely this, that you too thank our Blessed Lady.”

Memories of Padre Pio

One day Padre Pio and Padre Pellegrino Funicelli were sitting in the monastery garden. Not far away was Brother Costantino who was enjoying the fresh air and praying his Rosary. Padre Pio said, “Do you see Brother Costantino? Old and sick as he is, he seems now to be worth nothing; and yet, as an obedient son of Holy Mother Church, who knows how to hold a Rosary in his hand and knows how to pray to the Madonna, he is worth more than you or me. Do you know why he has so much peace of soul? Because he has placed all his trust in the Most Holy Virgin, and because he interests himself as little as possible in the problems of the world. His spirit of prayer and his devotion to the Most Holy Virgin are virtues that wash away all defects and all human weaknesses. He draws on himself the gaze of the Madonna and his prayers have saved many souls.

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

Testimonial

I was diagnosed with cancer and the night before my scheduled surgery I dreamed of being with Our Lady. She told me there is a great healer named Padre Pio but that he had already passed on. She said he had a hospital and showed me a huge building but then my dream ended without entering it. Having no knowledge of who Padre Pio was, except for a short note written on my prayer book, I forgot about my dream. Before my chemotherapy started, my mother and I joined a pilgrimage and in the bus they were showing videos. To my amazement, one was about Padre Pio. What touched me most was when it mentioned his hospital that he had built. It was what I had seen in my dream. I have finished my chemotherapy and I am fine.
– Marita Leonor

The Saints Love Our Blessed Mother

“Every time I enter a place consecrated to the Queen of heaven, I feel that I am in my Mother’s home.”
– St. Francis de Sales

“We know very well that the Blessed Virgin is Queen of heaven and earth, but she is more Mother than Queen.”
– St. Thérèse of Lisieux

“The Virgin was so beautiful that one would be willing to die to see her again.”
– St. Bernadette Soubirous

“The Blessed Virgin’s eyes were turned toward heaven; she stood erect upon a large white sphere…She held a little golden ball surmounted by a cross, and this she was offering to God.”
– St. Catherine Labouré

“Some people are so foolish that they think they can go through life without the help of the Blessed Mother.”
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

From our Spiritual Director

I like very much the true story regarding Mr. Joachim Bouflet and his encounter with Padre Pio that took place in August 1968. Joachim was a student at the University of Paris and for a long time had been considering becoming a Carmelite priest.

A friend of Joachim’s, Janine, who was handicapped, wanted to visit Padre Pio but was not able to. She was hoping that someone would go in her name and ask Padre Pio to pray for her. Joachim decided to go to San Giovanni Rotondo with her request.

When he arrived at the monastery, Joachim became disillusioned. Padre Pio was elderly and in very poor health and was not easily accessible to the many who wanted to speak to him. There was also a long waiting list for the small number of confessions that he still heard.

One afternoon when Joachim was in the monastery church, a Capuchin priest approached him and asked him to help him carry a statue into the new church. They carried it through a side door into the cloister. There Joachim saw Padre Pio sitting a short distance away, in an easy chair.

They carried the statue into the new church and to its proper place. Joachim asked how to get back to the little chapel of Our Lady of Grace. The priest indicated the door they had just come through and Joachim returned to the cloister. He walked to where Padre Pio was sitting and knelt at his feet. He was very excited to be so close to this saintly priest whom he had traveled so far to see. Padre Pio put his hand on Joachim’s head. As Joachim made his confession, Padre Pio’s gift of reading hearts was evident.

Joachim felt both a profound peace and a great anguish. He did not know how long the exchange lasted. Padre Pio then said to him, “Pray to the Madonna. Consecrate yourself to the Virgin of Carmel.” As Joachim was getting up to leave, Padre Pio said to him, “And tell Janine that it’s all right and that I am praying for her.” Joachim had completely forgotten about Janine and the fact that her request was the reason he had come to this remote monastery. Joachim then received his blessing. Padre Pio looked at him with a very serious expression and then closed his eyes.

Once back in the chapel, Joachim began to cry. He was overcome with a great joy. One month later Padre Pio passed into eternal life.

Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP

O my Mother, Mary most holy, treasure of all graces, refuge of sinners, consolation of the afflicted, hope of those who despair and most powerful help of Christians, I place all my confidence in you.

https://padrepiodevotions.org/pdf/october-december2004.pdf

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 20 – July-September 2004

Download Newsletter Issue 20, July-September 2004

I love my spiritual children as much as my own soul and even more.
I have regenerated them through prayer and suffering.

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Padre Pio and His Friends from Southern California

A note from the editors: We interviewed each of the three individuals whose testimonials appear in this issue of “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry.” They hold in common, a great esteem for their spiritual father, Padre Pio,and a generosity in sharing his message with others. They all currently reside in Southern California.

When Charles Mandina reflects on his life, he feels that it was the Rosary that was initially instrumental in leading him to Padre Pio. After his mother passed away, Charles often found comfort in holding her Rosary. He did not know the prayers of the Rosary but having it with him seemed like a connection to his mother. It was at this time that someone gave him a book on Padre Pio, telling him it was a book he needed to read. He read the book with great interest and not long after he made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. The year was 1961.

Charles attended Padre Pio’s Mass and was profoundly impressed. When he made another trip to San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio asked him to stay on and assist him with the work. He became Padre Pio’s Italian/English translator, interpreting for the many English speaking pilgrims who came to see Padre Pio. Living inside the monastery he worked at Padre Pio’s side each day. He also assisted as one of his correspondence secretaries.

Charles remembers with a smile that his very first job in San Giovanni Rotondo was cracking almonds in the kitchen of Mary Pyle, Padre Pio’s American secretary. Once Charles told Mary, “I don’t feel like I know Padre Pio. You must know him very well, Mary, since you have been living close to him and assisting him for so many years.” “No, Charles,” Mary said. “I don’t know Padre Pio. Nobody does. Only God knows him.”

One time Mary mentioned to Charles that Padre Pio walked at an angle, as if under the weight of a heavy cross. Charles had noticed it as well. He walked as if supporting a great weight. It was the walk of the Cyrenean, carrying the cross of Christ.

Charles assisted at Padre Pio’s Mass and at the conclusion of the Mass he would take Padre Pio’s arm and help him down from the altar. Holding his arm, Charles could feel the suffering that was present in his body. It was always after the Mass that Charles noticed that Padre Pio walked at an angle.

Once after hearing Charles’ confession, Padre Pio told him to make a pilgrimage to Monte Sant’Angelo and visit the shrine of St. Michael the Archangel. Padre Pio had experienced St. Michael’s protection on many occasions and had gone on pilgrimage to the shrine in 1917. Each year Padre Pio made a preparation of forty days for St. Michael’s feast. “Consecrate yourself to St. Michael and to the angels,” Padre Pio told Charles. “You will need the help of St. Michael, living in this world.”

Charles noticed that when Padre Pio greeted visitors, or while conversing with the friars, or when engaged in other activities, he always kept his left hand hidden inside of his habit. Charles often wondered about this and one day discovered the reason. Padre Pio had a hook sewn inside of his habit and his left hand was holding on to his Rosary that was concealed from view. He was able to meet the many visitors, converse with friends and carry on a busy apostolate while at the same time praying the Rosary.

Charles used to see the doctors from Padre Pio’s hospital, “The Home for the Relief of Suffering,” at the 5:00 am Mass every morning. After the Mass they would often seek advice from Padre Pio on especially difficult medical cases, asking whether it was advisable for certain patients to have surgery or not. Padre Pio never had to spend a long time pondering the questions but responded quickly. He advised the doctors according to the light given to him by God. Those who worked closely with Padre Pio all agreed that when his advice was followed, the outcome always proved to be the most beneficial for all concerned.

Charles remembers Enrico Zeni, a chimney sweep by trade, who came to Mary Pyle asking for a job. Enrico’s face, hands, and clothing were generally always covered with a thick layer of soot and ashes. Mary asked Padre Pio if she should hire Enrico. “Yes, give him a job,” Padre Pio said. “His face may be dirty, but his soul is as white as snow.” Enrico became a very close friend of Padre Pio. It was Enrico who would open the little window in the monastery every evening so that Padre Pio could look out and wave to the large crowd assembled outside waiting to bid him goodnight.

Padre Pio often told jokes, and if he liked a particular joke, he would repeat it on many occasions. “That’s corny,” the friars would say to tease him. “It isn’t corny,” Padre Pio would reply. “It is very funny!”

Charles remembers the time a doctor and an engineer, both from the Philippines, came to the monastery in hopes of meeting Padre Pio. Padre Pio saw the men from a distance and told Charles to tell them to go and put on long sleeve shirts or he would not see them. The two men objected. “It is the middle of summer and very hot,” they said. “We have just come from Rome and have been to the Vatican where everyone is wearing short sleeved shirts.” Although they were indignant, they did as they were told and came back wearing long sleeved shirts.

Charles was present when Padre Pio walked in the room to greet the two men. They immediately fell to their knees and the room became permeated with an intense scent of perfume. The fragrance was so strong that their eyes began to water and their noses began to run. In a blessing, Padre Pio tapped the doctor on his head three times. The doctor was so overcome by the experience and by the great sense of spiritual power that was radiating from Padre Pio that Charles had to take his arm and help him up and to a nearby bench.

Charles describes Padre Pio as a simple man, a humble man whose life revolved around the Blessed Sacrament and the Rosary. Padre Pio would say, “If God had given the gifts he has given me, to another man, he would have made much better use of them.”

Of the many graces Charles received while living and working in San Giovanni Rotondo that which he treasures the most is being present at Padre Pio’s Mass. The impact of his Mass cannot really be explained; it could only be experienced. People who had the good fortune to be present at his Mass were aware that something exceptional was taking place. It is impossible for any one who saw Padre Pio celebrate Mass even once to forget it. The experience was sufficient to produce a profound spiritual change in many people. Charles described Padre Pio’s face at the altar as “shining like the sun.” “He lived the Mass, he lived the crucifixion and the long hours in the confessional these were even more important than the miracles,” Charles said.

Counting the time he lived in the monastery, as well as many subsequent trips to see his spiritual father, Charles spent approximately one year in San Giovanni Rotondo. When he was returning to the United States to live, he asked Padre Pio for direction on the course his life was to take. “I will guide you,” he simply said. Charles helped begin one of the first American Padre Pio Prayer Groups in Los Angeles in 1966. He has also spread devotion to Padre Pio in the Philippines, the Hawaiian Islands, including the leper colony of Molokai, and Mexico. Charles said, “Curiosity might initially bring people to him, but once you had seen Padre Pio, you couldn’t explain it, but you were changed.”

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Rocco Falatico has received many blessings in his life but the one that will always be uppermost in his mind is the visit he made to San Giovanni Rotondo in 1964 when he was 24 years old and the healing his son received through the intercession of Padre Pio.

Rocco first noticed something amiss with two year-old Rocky when he began having difficulty walking. Tests from the doctor revealed that Rocky had a malignant brain tumor. Surgery was performed but the doctors were not able to remove all of the tumor. When Rocky was brought home from the hospital he was unable to walk and the doctors said there was a possibility that he would never walk again. Even though Rocky received thirty radiation treatments, the doctors could not offer any hope to the family. They estimated that little Rocky’s chance of recovery was one in one hundred thousand.

Charles Mandina worked at the same company with Rocco, and having just come back from San Giovanni Rotondo, his enthusiasm for Padre Pio was contagious. He shared with Rocco many stories about Padre Pio, and Rocco was so impressed that he decided to take his son to San Giovanni Rotondo and make his request to Padre Pio in person. He would ask Padre Pio to pray for his son’s healing. For the first time in many months, Rocco began to have hope.

When Rocco arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo, he entered the monastery church of “Our Lady of Grace” and saw Padre Pio at the altar, leading the afternoon Benediction service. Rocco noticed that Padre Pio’s face had a very noticeable spiritual radiance. He had never witnessed anything like that before.

The next day Rocco was able to greet Padre Pio. Padre Pio put his hand on Rocco’s head in a blessing and Rocco immediately fell to his knees. “It was like being in the presence of Christ,” Rocco said. Face to face with Padre Pio, Rocco was unable to find the words to ask for prayers for his son.

The following day Rocco was allowed to go into the sacristy to see Padre Pio. So great was the sense of God’s presence in Padre Pio, that Rocco felt overwhelmed; he could not speak. It was a replay of the previous day. He had made the long journey from California to San Giovanni Rotondo to ask Padre Pio to pray for his son, but once in his presence, he found himself unable to utter a word.

Rocco wrote his prayer request on a piece of paper and gave it to one of the Capuchins, asking him to deliver it to Padre Pio. The next day Rocco was told that Padre Pio had offered his life at the Mass that morning for the healing of his son. Later, Padre Pio spoke to Rocco through an interpreter and said, “If you want your son to be healed, you must live in the perfect grace of God. You must live your life in complete conformity to God’s will. Your son’s healing depends on this.”

Rocco and his son spent four days in San Giovanni Rotondo. When they returned to California, little Rocky’s health began to improve. He made a complete recovery from the cancer that was diagnosed as terminal and he has enjoyed good health in all the years since.

________________________________

In 1967, Carmelina Maruca and her two children made a trip to Italy to visit relatives. Before returning home to California, Carmelina and her children along with her sister, Antoinetta, and her brother-in-law, Mario, decided to visit San Giovanni Rotondo to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. Antoinetta and Mario lived in Salerno, Italy where Mario had a medical practice. They were all happy to be together as a family and visit Padre Pio’s monastery.

While in San Giovanni Rotondo, Carmelina noticed the great devotion of the pilgrims to Padre Pio, but somehow she felt differently. “Padre Pio is not a saint,” Carmelina said to herself. “He is a priest, yes, but nothing more than that.” She could not believe otherwise. Padre Pio had been ill and so she and her family waited five days before he was able to celebrate Mass. They attended his Mass and afterward were told that he would be giving a blessing when he came out of the sacristy. About fifty people knelt down and waited outside the sacristy. Carmelina knelt down too but after a short time her knees began to hurt. “Why am I kneeling like this,” Carmelina said to herself. “This is not a holy person we are waiting to see. There are many Capuchins at this monastery and he is one among many. He should not be receiving so much notice. These pilgrims have a misguided devotion.” Carmelina rose to a standing position to be more comfortable.

A few moments later, Padre Pio came out of the sacristy. Carmelina remained standing. He placed his hand on each person’s shoulder, in a blessing but when he came to Carmelina, there was no blessing, only a very severe look which made her feel very uneasy. She realized that he knew what she had been thinking about him and she was deeply embarrassed. Her daughter had noticed the frown on Padre Pio’s face as he looked at her mother. “Mother,” she said. “I saw the look on Padre Pio’s face. He is not happy with you. I am going to pray for you.”

That very brief encounter with Padre Pio made a deep impression on Carmelina. Her attitude changed completely. The knowledge that he had read her heart confirmed to her mind his authenticity. Her devotion to him has increased through the years.

Living in Salerno, Mario and Antoinetta were able to travel to San Giovanni occasionally, where Mario received spiritual direction from Padre Pio. Conversations with Padre Pio were always a source of great consolation to him. During one visit, Padre Pio said to Mario, “I see that there is suffering ahead for you, but with prayer, you will be all right. God will assist you.” Not long after, cancer was discovered in Mario’s shoulder. Very extensive surgery was performed which included the amputation of Mario’s arm. He was no longer able to practice as a surgeon and Antoinetta had to seek employment to support the family. Antoinetta passed away at the relatively early age of 55 years, leaving Mario a widower for many years. Remembering Padre Pio’s words, Mario turned to prayer and he received the strength he needed to fully surrender to God and to accept His will in his life.

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The Padre Pio Prayer Groups

“Prayer is the key that opens the heart of God.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina

One of the most significant of the many spiritual legacies that Padre Pio left to the world was his establishment of the Prayer Groups. They came about as an answer to Pope Pius XII’s call to the faithful around the world to gather together and pray. Padre Pio realized the great good that would be accomplished through the Prayer Groups and said, “Children, let’s do something. Let’s roll up our sleeves and be among the first to answer this appeal of the Holy Father.”

In the 1950’s Padre Pio gave instructions for the formal establishment of Prayer Groups around the world. Under the direction of a priest, and with the permission of the local bishop, the groups meet regularly for prayer. Most of the groups meet once a month for Mass, Benediction, and the Rosary. In addition, the members pray for the needs of the Church, for the intentions of the Holy Father, and for the clergy. Padre Pio insisted, “You must have a priest who assists you, because only a priest can guarantee union with the Church.” He further said, “In the Prayer Groups, when my children unite together in prayer, Jesus will be in the midst of them; there will also be the Blessed Virgin. I will also be present in spirit and united in prayer.”

Pope Paul VI officially gave Papal approval for the Prayer Groups in 1968, shortly before Padre Pio’s death. It was Padre Pio’s desire that the Prayer Groups have their official registration and headquarters in San Giovanni Rotondo at the hospital which he founded, the Home for the Relief of Suffering. On March 5, 1966, Padre Pio met with his Prayer Groups at the hospital and said:

“The Prayer Groups, now scattered throughout the world and affiliated with the Home for the Relief of Suffering, are the advance guard of this city of charity… Christ himself is present every time the groups gather together for prayer…under the guidance of their pastors and spiritual directors.

It is prayer that unites all good souls, that renews the conscience, sustains the Home for the Relief of Suffering, comforts the suffering, heals the sick, sanctifies the work, inspires the medical assistants, gives moral strength and Christian resignation in human suffering…Pray alot, my children, pray always, without ever tiring, because it is exactly to prayer that I entrust this work, which God has willed and which will remain and prosper, thanks to the help of Divine Providence and the spiritual and charitable contributions of all souls who pray.”

The spiritual significance of the Prayer Groups was further clarified by a grace that was given to one of Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters, Vittoria Ventrella. Vittoria, an elementary school teacher in San Giovanni Rotondo, had a vision in which she saw Heaven, filled with splendor. In the midst was a priest dressed in the richest of sacred vestments with pearls and precious gems. She saw that it was Padre Pio and his face became as dazzling as the sun, from which emanated innumerable rays of light, moving out into infinity. The rays were made up of myriads of small white and red roses.

The next morning Vittoria went to the friary to tell Padre Pio what she had seen. Padre Pio was already in the confessional when she arrived in the church. “Padre, I did not come for confession,” Victoria said. “I know,” Padre Pio replied. “You came to tell me what you saw last night.” “Padre, should I believe it or was it a dream?” Padre Pio answered, “Do you doubt it?” Vittoria asked him,”What did all those luminous rays mean, formed by thousands of white and red roses that radiated out from you and spread in every direction?” Padre Pio said, “The rays symbolize the Prayer Groups which will be founded throughout the entire world. The white roses represent the souls who attempt to live in grace, in love of God and in fraternal charity. The red roses represent the souls who carry the cross of suffering with joy, and united with Jesus and me, collaborate in the conversion of sinners and in the salvation of souls.”

When Padre Pio died in 1968, there were approximately 700 Prayer Groups. Today there are more than 3,000 worldwide.

________________________________

From Our Spiritual Director

Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP, our spiritual director, asked Bishop Erba, a fellow classmate, to write about his work in the cause of Canonization of Padre Pio. This is a continuation from the last issue.

“. . .To me, the reading of the four volumes of Padre Pio’s letters was a revelation. The letters disclose not only the ascetic heights Padre Pio attained in the spiritual life but also reveal his firmness as a spiritual director, and the depth of his thought, always abundantly nurtured by the word of God.

Padre Pio’s sanctity shone forth when he encountered “the dark night of the soul” in his words, “when all is darkness around me and within me.” His life was an uninterrupted martyrdom, a miracle, a unique example. His witness gives hope to people and helps those who have lost their faith to reclaim it.

There were three factors that convinced me of the authenticity of this man of God:

1. His endurance for half a century in the stifling rhythm of work and sacrifice, all borne with an outstanding faith.

2. His Christian fortitude and deep humility in bearing trials and persecutions without complaint.

3. The evangelistic fruits of his ministry, in particular the founding of the hospital “Home for the Relief of Suffering” and the establishment of the “Prayer Groups” now spread throughout the world.

I wish that all may follow the teaching and example of generous service that our Saint has left us as his legacy.”

Andrea Maria Erba, CRSP
Bishop of Velletri Sengi

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 19 – April-June 2004

Download Newsletter Issue 19, April-June 2004

Brothers and sisters, we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were pleading through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God. . .For he says, ‘In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is a very
acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
– 2 Corinthians 5:20,6:2

 

The Conversion of Carlo Campanini

Carlo Campanini took several detours on his journey back to God. When he met his spiritual father, Padre Pio, he began to see the right direction for his life. Padre Pio lead him with wisdom, love and sometimes humor. The following is his story.

My conversion experience took place in 1950, but Padre Pio had patiently kept his eye on me for eleven years. When I visited him for the first time in 1939, I did so for selfish reasons. I thought he was some kind of magician or fortune teller, and I hoped to make some money by visiting him. As an actor, I toured the world. It was a hard life. I traveled all year long and lived like a gypsy. I was married and had three children. Since the work I was doing didn’t allow me to have a permanent residence, no one wanted to rent me a house. My wife worked with me, and we had to leave our children with a sister-in-law.

This kind of lifestyle was hard on me. I really wanted to find a job that would allow me to be with my children. I came from a very poor family and only went to school until the sixth grade. All that time I was in a school run by the Christian Brothers, and we were forced to go to Mass every morning before classes. This bothered me so much that I never set foot in a church again after I left school.

One day in 1939, when I was talking to a colleague, Mario Amendola, I told him, “Once it was easy to believe in God. There were great saints like St. Francis, St. Anthony, and St. John Bosco, who performed miracles. Saints no longer exist, and there aren’t miracles anymore.” Amendola told me that it wasn’t true. “There’s a holy monk in Puglia who does extraordinary things,” he said. Amendola told me about an incident that had happened to his cousin a few years before.

“He was poor and out of work. Just to do something, he volunteered to fight in the civil war in Spain. When he returned, his wife told him, “If you’ve made it back alive, it’s because Padre Pio prayed for you. I made a vow to him that you would go and thank him.’ My cousin went to San Giovanni Rotondo and told Padre Pio about his difficult situation. Padre Pio gave him some very precise direction, “Go to Falconara.”

“I can’t,” my cousin answered. “At least I have friends in Rome who’ll help me. I’d die of hunger in Falconara.” “Go to Falconara,” Padre Pio repeated. My cousin moved there with his wife and children. He found his mother there. A few months before, she had left Rome so that she wouldn’t be a burden on him. Now she was trying to survive by begging outside the door of the church. Together, they went through two months of incredibly hard times.

One morning a man came from Ancona looking for my cousin. He said to him, “I’m here on an assignment for the head of a union. He would like to see you tomorrow morning at his office.” My cousin went to his office, and was offered a contract on the spot for three thousand lire a month. At that time people felt they were living well when they made one thousand lire a month.

Amendola’s cousin’s experience made a deep impression on me. It also made me think.

During Holy Week, I was in Bari with a theater company. They gave us two days off. “San Giovanni Rotondo is somewhere around here,” I told Amendola. “Why don’t we visit that holy monk?”

We left on Thursday morning. San Giovanni Rotondo was poor and almost deserted. We looked for Padre Pio’s church. “He can’t see you,” we were told. “His wounds are very painful. Even though they usually bleed all year long, during Holy Week they leave him in a pitiful state. For this reason he is unable to see anyone.” Nonetheless, we protested, “But we’re actors. We’ve come from far away. We only have these two days free. We have to see him.”

We decided to stay and walk around the monastery, hoping to run into Padre Pio. Since I was rather frivolous and could only think about making people laugh, I was even cracking jokes in the monastery. That Thursday afternoon, while Amendola and I were making a lot of noise, a friar who looked like a giant walked out of the church and complained, “So, you won’t even let me pray these days. What do you want?” (It was Padre Pio.)

“Father, we’re two poor actors.”

“We’re all poor,” he replied.

“We want to go to confession to you,” I added, trying to justify our presence. “Go prepare yourselves,” Padre Pio replied. “I’ll hear your confession tomorrow morning after Mass.”

I remember that Mass as being a nightmare. It never ended. I had to stay on my knees the whole time. Otherwise those behind me couldn’t see. The pain from kneeling was unbearable. When Mass was over, I went to confession. Padre Pio wouldn’t let me speak. Yet he knew everything about me. He made me promise that I would change my life, and then gave me absolution. I didn’t have the courage to ask him for anything. But inside me I kept repeating to myself, “Father, help me to find a job near home, even as a shopkeeper, so that I might live together with my children.”

I went back to Bari and then I went to Rome. They were beginning to make a new film, Addio Giovinezza. There were four famous actors who were candidates for the role of Leone in that film. I was totally unknown in those circles, but for some reason that I’ll never figure out, the part was given to me. But that wasn’t the end of it. Since that time I’ve made 106 films, one after another. Now I’m rich and famous. I was able to buy a house and live with my children, just as I had wanted.

I was leading a dissolute life. I was involved in illicit relationships. I wasn’t going to Mass, and I didn’t want to hear anything about prayer. Yet, I felt guilty. Padre Pio had answered my prayer, but I had deceived him. For this reason, I didn’t want to go back to see him.

This was the situation I was in at the end of 1949. I was at the height of my fame. I had a custom-made American car. Newspapers wrote extensively about me because I was appearing in every film. I didn’t lack anything. But morally I was destroyed, empty, tired, demoralized, and tremendously unhappy. I even envied those people who were brave enough to commit suicide.

One evening I returned home and my wife said to me, “The assistant priest at the parish dropped by and asked us to consecrate our house to the Sacred Heart. The ceremony is set for January 8. He suggested that we prepare ourselves spiritually because he would like us all to receive Communion.” This made me uneasy. I couldn’t receive Communion given the life I was living. My wife and even my little daughter were insistent that we do this and I couldn’t think of an excuse to make up. While I was walking around Rome restless and unhappy, I happened to go into St. Anthony’s Church. The church was crowded and some people were standing in line to go to confession. A lot of people recognized me and were watching me out of curiosity. A man at the front of the line turned to me and said, “Go ahead, sir.” I found myself kneeling in the confessional.

I left a half-hour later with tears streaming down my face. I felt like a new man. We celebrated as a family. Joyfully I participated in the consecration of our home to the Sacred Heart and went to Communion. I decided to visit Padre Pio and let him know that my life had changed. Since I had already confessed my past sins, I didn’t need to tell him what they were. But when I entered his confessional he said to me, “Begin in 1936.” “I just went to confession a few days ago,” I protested. “I told you to begin in 1936,” Padre Pio said in a thundering voice. He told me that I was a coward if I was ashamed to confess my sins when I wasn’t ashamed to offend Jesus.

That confession changed my life completely. When I finished, Padre Pio hugged me and kissed me. He gave me a rosary, urging me to pray the rosary often. Then he added, “I’ll always be at your side.” It wasn’t easy to keep my promise, but I worked hard at it. I haven’t missed daily Mass since then. I consider Padre Pio to be my protector. I feel him by me every moment of the day, in every situation, especially in the midst of difficulties.

Padre Pio liked to tell jokes. He had a knack for being concise and for knowing the right thing to say at the right time. One of my friends from the theater was being treated by a famous doctor in Florence. One day my friend told his doctor, “Tomorrow I won’t be here for my usual treatment because I’m going to see Padre Pio.” The doctor asked him, “Why are you going to see that hysterical old man? That’s what science would call him. Why, he caused the stigmata to appear simply by thinking so much about Jesus on the cross.” When my friend visited Padre Pio and finished his confession, he told Padre Pio what his doctor had said. “When you see him,” Padre Pio replied, “tell him to think intensely about being an ox. Let’s see if he grows horns.”

A lot of people complained that Padre Pio was rough on sinners and often sent them away. One day I said to him, “Did you know that Fr. Leopoldo of Padova spent sixteen hours a day in the confessional and never turned anyone away?” “I know,” Padre Pio answered. “In fact, he sends the worst ones to me.” Then I added, “But you’re taking a big responsibility on your shoulders by sending people away without absolution. What happens if they die after they leave the church?” Padre Pio said, “If I’ve made a mistake, do you think God would make a mistake? God will take care of things.”

Condensed from Padre Pio, Man of Hope by R. Allegri

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Testimonial

Don Nello Castello, a diocesan priest from Padua, Italy left this testimony:

“I went to confession to Padre Pio at least a hundred times. I recall the first time, his words both jolted and enlightened me. The counsels he gave me reflected exact knowledge of my whole life both past and future. At times he would surprise me with suggestions unconnected with the sins confessed. But later events made it clear that his counsels had been prophetic. In one confession during 1957, he spoke five times with insistence on the same question, using different words, and reminded me of an ugly fault of impatience. Furthermore, he enlightened me on the underlying causes that provoked the impatience. He described to me the behavior I should follow to avoid impatience in the future. This happened without my having said a word about the problem. Thus, he knew my problems better than I did and advised me how to correct them.”

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Padre Pio’s Words of Counsel

“Take heart because the Lord is with you; He suffers with you, groans with you, and is pleased with you. . .Don’t you yearn to love Him forever? Therefore, have no fear.”

“Even if you were to have committed all the sins of this world, Jesus tells you, “Your sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence you have shown great love.” But then you will say to me, what is the reason for this trial of abandonment of my poor soul? It is the trial of heavenly love. “I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.”

“This is the trial of souls who are particularly loved by that Jesus who was pleased to experience all the fear of that moral tempest in the desert, the garden, and Calvary. Every soul that wants to be saved must undergo something of that mysterious storm because every predestined soul must resemble Jesus. Well then, haven’t you chosen Jesus as your portion? Therefore, let him treat you as he pleases.”

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they shall not overflow…”
– Isaiah 43:2

“I have come into the deep waters; and the flood sweeps over me. But I pray to you, Lord, for the time of your favor. God in your great kindness answer me with your constant help… Do not let the floodwaters overwhelm me…”
– Psalm 69:2,14,16

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Memories of Padre Pio

Overwhelmed with sorrow at the impending death of a loved one, a man once approached Padre Pio. He asked Padre Pio why the Lord would be so cruel as to take his dear one from the family. Weeping, he aid, “Padre, he is an angel. He is so good, so honest. Our Lord could give him the grace of a longer life. Why does he want to snatch him away from his loved ones?”

With immense gentleness, Padre Pio said to the man, “But certainly you, my son, if you had the possibility, you would buy at the market the products of the highest quality so that your table would be spread with the very best. In the same way, our Lord collects on earth, all the most beautiful flowers so that they bud better in the gardens of Heaven.”

Padre Pio embraced the man, encouraging him to resign himself to the will of God. The man felt great consolation at the words given to him and was much more resigned that a child, dear to Jesus, was in Heaven.

“Our compassionate Lord comes lovingly to my aide when the trial is greatest and like the Loving Father that He is, consoles me and encourages me to walk always more and more along the Way of the Cross.” St. Pio of Pietrelcina

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From our Spiritual Director

Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP, our spiritual director, asked Bishop Erba, a fellow classmate, to write about his work in the cause of Canonization of Padre Pio. This is a continuation from the last issue.

“…In my reports I had to respond to the criticisms and the charges made against Padre Pio, even by certain clerics, and to the jealousies and rumors of false devotees’s fanaticism. I had to refute those negative judgements with convincing reasons, since Padre Pio would not defend himself and would accept humiliations in silence, offering up to the Lord his moral sufferings and physical pains.

His sanctity lies above all in this—an abundant amount of patience, humility, forgiveness, faith, piety, charity, fortitude, and even good humor.

For some years, his ascetic reflections and his memorable sayings have kept me in good company. Here are some examples: To his faithful who would seize him, and touch him in order to have some relic of him, he would say, “What are you looking for? I am just a poor friar who prays.” “After my death I will be able to do more for you than when I was alive.” “In books we look for God, in prayer we find him.”

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his taking the religious habit, Padre Pio wrote, “Fifty years of religious life; fifty years of being crucified with my Savior; fifty years of devouring fire on behalf of the Lord and of those redeemed by Him. What else does my soul desire but to lead every-body to You, O Lord, and patiently bear this devouring fire that burns all of my being, and then to die.” (To be continued)

Andrea Maria Erba, CRSP
Bishop of Velletri Segni

https://padrepiodevotions.org/wp-content/uploads/2004/04/april-june2004.pdf

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 18 – January-March 2004

Download Newsletter Issue 18, January-March 2004

By his life given wholly to prayer and to listening to his brothers and sisters, Padre Pio, this humble Capuchin friar, astonished the world.”
– Pope John Paul II

 

PADRE PIO AND HIS FRIENDS

Pope John Paul II

Among Padre Pio’s spiritual children were people from all places and from all walks of life. Gerardo De Caro, an Italian legislator said of Padre Pio to his fellow legislators in the Italian Parliament in 1947, “I tell you that the light of the world is hidden today in the cell of an old friary on the Gargano. . . where there lives a gentle being, who bears in his body the stigmata of St. Francis; he teaches us to listen in the depth of our being to the language of God.” By 1947 the fame of Padre Pio was spreading rapidly and the shrine of Our Lady of Grace was quickly becoming an international place of pilgrimage.

It was in the spring of 1947 that Pope John Paul II (Fr. Karol Wojtyla) made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo to visit Padre Pio. At that time, Padre Pio had already had the stigmata for thirty years.

As a newly ordained priest, Fr. Karol Wojtyla was sent from Cracow, Poland to Rome and enrolled at the Angelicum University where he was to complete his post- ordination studies in theology. During his Easter vacation in 1947, twenty-seven year old Fr. Wojtyla went to San Giovanni Rotondo. He attended Padre Pio’s early morning Mass, recited the Angelus with him at noon, made his confession to Padre Pio, and attended the benediction service in the evening.

In 1962, as a newly ordained bishop, Karol Wojtyla, attended the Vatican Council II in Rome. He received word that a friend, Wanda Poltawska M.D., was dying of cancer. Dr. Poltawska used to collaborate in the pastoral work of the bishop and had been a great help to the diocese in Cracow. For many years Bishop Wojtyla had been a friend of the family. He wrote a letter to Padre Pio asking for his prayers. He asked Angelo Battisti, a Vatican worker who often went to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio, to deliver the letter. In the letter which he wrote in Latin, he said, “Venerable Father, I ask that you pray for a 40 year old mother of four little girls, in Cracow, Poland, who during the last war spent five years in a concentration camp in Germany and who is now in very grave danger related to her health and possibly may die because of cancer–that God may extend His mercy to this woman and her family in the presence of the Most Blessed Virgin. Most obligated in Christ, Karol Wojtyla.” When Angelo Battisti gave Padre Pio the letter, he read it and remarked, “We cannot refuse him.”

Dr. Wanda Poltawska was hospitalized in November, 1962 with an intestinal tumor. She was informed that there was a five percent chance that the tumor was not malignant. However, the doctors were convinced that the growth was cancerous and that surgery would give her at the most eighteen months to live. The surgery was scheduled on a Friday, and on Saturday, Bishop Wojtyla telephoned Wanda’s husband to inquire about the outcome. Mr. Poltawska told the bishop that Wanda did not have the surgery but instead was sent home. “My wife should have been operated on yesterday, but the doctors found that there was nothing more to operate on. The doctors are confronted with a mystery. The physicians determined that Wanda’s tumor, whether benign or malignant, had completely disappeared.”

Ten days after the first letter, the future pope wrote a second letter to Padre Pio to say that the tumor had inexplicably disappeared. He wrote, “Venerable Father, the woman living in Cracow, Poland, mother of four young girls, on November 21, just before a surgical operation, suddenly recovered her health. Thanks be to God. Also to you, venerable Father, I give the greatest thanks in the name of the husband and all the family. In Christ, Karol Wojtyla.”

After Padre Pio had received the second letter he said to Angelo Battisti, “Angelo, save these letters because one day they will become important.” This is an indication that Padre Pio was aware of what lay in the future for Bishop Wojtyla. Today the two letters are safely kept in the archives at San Giovanni Rotondo.

In 1974, as Cardinal Archbishop of Cracow, Karol Wojtyla’s personal devotion to Padre Pio led him to return to San Giovanni Rotondo once again. He celebrated Mass near the tomb of Padre Pio and during the Mass, Cardinal Wojtyla said, “This ancient church is the place where I first met the Servant of God, Padre Pio. And after almost twenty seven years I have before my eyes his person, his presence, his words, the Mass celebrated by him at a side altar, and then this confessional” . . . Keeping with the theme of that day’s liturgy which was, “The living man is the glory of God,” Cardinal Wojtyla added, “After almost twenty seven years I see this truth which is proclaimed in the liturgy, made incarnate in Padre Pio — Padre Pio is the glory of the living God.”

On May 23, 1987, he returned a third time to San Giovanni Rotondo, now as Pope John Paul II, to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of Padre Pio’s birthday. He was the first pope to visit the area in seven centuries. In the huge crowd that attended Mass that day was Wanda Poltawska — grateful to God, grateful to Pope John Paul II, grateful to Padre Pio.

On June 16, 2002 in one of the largest liturgies in the Vatican’s history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio before a crowd of 300,000 people. During his homily he recalled how, in 1947, as a young priest he made a pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo to make his confession to Padre Pio. “I, too,” said the Pope, “had the privilege in my younger days, of taking advantage of his availability in penance.”

Pope John Paul II concluded his homily at the canonization of Padre Pio, with this beautiful prayer:

Teach us also, we pray, humility of heart, so that we may be among the humble to whom the Father in the Gospel promised to reveal the mysteries of His Kingdom. Obtain for us the eyes of faith that will help us to recognize in the poor and suffering, the very face of Jesus. Support us in our hours of trouble and trial and should we fall, let us experience the joy of the sacrament of forgiveness. Teach us tender devotion to Mary, mother of Jesus and our Mother. Accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage toward the blessed Homeland, where we too, hope to arrive to contemplate forever the glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen”

 

Padre Pio, The Saint of Our Time

by Wanda Poltawska

“It is my personal conviction that Padre Pio is an extraordinary and holy man. I use the word ‘is’ purposely because it is part of his uniqueness that he is still present in the world. People feel his presence. Many are aware of his intervention in an extraordinary way. To some this may seem impossible, but the lives of the saints are full of unusual events.

In 1962, I was to undergo surgery for what was presumed to be a tumorous growth. However, I was told just before surgery that I was healthy and could go home. I was ready to think that what the surgeons had stated, namely that there was a five percent chance that the growth was merely an inflamation, turned out to be the case.

I had no idea that two letters in Latin had been written on my behalf to Padre Pio by the Archbishop of Cracow, Karol Wojtyla, the first with a request and the second with thanks. I did not know then of the existence of Padre Pio since information about him already well known elsewhere in the world, had not yet penetrated into Poland, as far as I knew.

But even when I learned about the letters, I did not want to reflect on what had happened. It seemed too difficult to comprehend a supernatural intervention. A doctor tends to see natural explanations. Therefore, in some sense I laid this question aside without trying to understand it. However, information concerning Padre Pio and his intervention in people’s lives began to reach me from many sources. And then when Archbishop Karol Wojtyla returned to Cracow, I learned of the exchange of letters and who this Padre Pio is.

In 1967, I went to San Giovanni Rotondo. I arrived toward evening, hoping to participate at Holy Mass the next morning. However I was told that there were always huge crowds and that it would be almost impossible to enter and be close to the altar.

I was standing in the little square in front of the church when I saw a Capuchin priest coming from a side gate. I approached him and told him that I would love to participate in Padre Pio’s Mass, but I was afraid it would be impossible, that I came from far away Poland and that I might not be able to get another passport to make the trip in the future. He said, “Come to this gate tomorrow at 5 a.m. and I will let you in” and that’s what happened. The next morning he led me through the sacristy and I was able to sit near the altar. I could observe Padre Pio from a short distance. He was an old man at the time and walked very slowly. He celebrated Holy Mass with incredible intensity and with an expression of suffering on his face. It is impossible to find adequate words to describe this Mass. This sacrifice was truly the representation of the Passion of Christ. Even people of deep faith hardly ever can perceive this reality on the altar as a representation of Calvary. Here the reality of His Passion, which is beyond our understanding, seemed to be reflected in the Holy Mass celebrated by this old man. Perspiration from Padre Pio’s forehead ran down his face. The agony of the man was visible.

The church, full of people, was silent, unusually silent for Italy, only interrupted now and then by a sob. The Mass lasted a long time, and when it was over, Padre Pio slowly made his way back to the sacristy with short steps. As he was passing by, I happened to be near him. He stopped for a minute, looking around at the people, then looked directly at me. I shall never forget his glance. Smiling, he came even closer to me, patting me on the head, and said, “Adesso, va bene?” (Now, are you all right?) I did not answer. I had no time.

But precisely in this moment, I knew he recognized me. I also knew that it wasn’t because of a wrong diagnosis that I had found myself suddenly well several years earlier, but because this monk had come into my life in such an extraordinary way because the Archbishop of Cracow had asked for it.

Many years later, when the Archbishop of Cracow had become Pope, I learned from the man who had handed the Archbishop’s first letter to Padre Pio, that Padre Pio had said, “I cannot say no to this request.”

From then on I put many difficult problems into Padre Pio’s hands. I feel I am one of his spiritual children, even though I have only seen him once. He died a year later. I know for certain that he has helped me. Besides, our Catholic faith gives us the certainty of the communion of saints. We can ask the saints to intercede for us. I have Padre Pio, a Capuchin monk whom I have met only once in my life, to help me.”

Condensed from Padre Pio, The Saint of Our Time by Wanda Poltawska

 

Padre Pio’s Love for the Church

It can be said that Padre Pio had three great loves; Christ, the Church and Our Lady. These three loves were so closely joined that they could be considered as different aspects of one devotion. His love for the Church was best expressed in his love and loyalty to the pope. For Padre Pio, the pope was the visible representative of Jesus Christ on earth. Once when the Bishop of Manfredonia was going to visit the pope, Padre Pio said to him, “Tell the Pope that for me, after Jesus, there is no one but him.”

Although Padre Pio visited Rome only once, in 1917, when his sister was about to become a Brigittine nun, his thoughts went frequently to the home of Christ’s Vicar on earth. It was to Pope St. Pius X that his thoughts of reverence and devotion were often directed. He loved this pope with a great love. He described Pope Pius X as “a truly noble and holy soul whose equal has never been seen by Rome.” He was deeply saddened by the death of Pope Pius X and said, “I believe that his holy soul has no need of our intercessory prayers, but let us pray for his eternal rest just the same, since our prayers will never go to waste.”

Pope Pius XII, who called Padre Pio “the confessor of Europe” frequently asked Padre Pio for his prayers. In February 1949, the pope asked him to say Mass “for a special intention of mine.” Pope Pius XII also sent a niece and nephew of his to receive their first communion from Padre Pio’s hands rather than his own.

Once when Padre Pio learned that Pope Pius XII was ill, he sent a message to him through Professor Enrico Amedi, “Enrico, tell the pope that I am ready to offer my life for him with immense joy.” On another occasion when Professor Amedi asked Padre Pio if he had a message for the pope (this time Pope Paul VI) on his return to Rome, Padre Pio replied, “Tell him that I offer myself as a sacrifice for him and pray continually that the Lord may preserve him for a long time for his Church.” He asked people to pray for the pope “whom I love in my love for Jesus.” Padre Pio would not listen to even the most innocent joke about the pope’s authority or the authority of any superior.

Padre Pio’s first prayer in the morning was for the reigning pope. Padre Pellegrino Funicelli, assistant to Padre Pio for many years, recalled how Padre Pio’s alarm would sound at 2 o’clock in the morning as he rose to prepare for Mass by several hours of prayer and meditation. By the side of his bed he kept three pictures St. Michael the Archangel, the Virgin Mary, and the pope. The lamp in his room had to be draped because the light would bother his eyes. Nevertheless, the drape had to be parted so that the first light of day would fall on the pope’s picture. That was how he would begin his day praying for the Holy Father.

Once during a religious discussion when some were upholding certain ideas not sanctioned by the Church, Padre Pio abruptly interrupted the conversation and remarked, “You can say what you want but I stand with the Church and that is enough.”

There was a young friar who from time to time would argue with Padre Pio regarding the severity of the Church in certain situations. Padre Pio said, “The severity of the Church is always necessary in order to clarify our ideas, otherwise there would be chaos. There are many reasons for loving the Church, but in my opinion the mere fact that her severity down through the centuries has kept intact for us, at least in substance, the word of God and the Eucharist, ought to be sufficient to make us love her more than a mother.” On another occasion Padre Pio said, “For me the severity of the Church has been a refuge.”

He used to call the Church “our tender Mother” and he gave proof of his devotion by making out his last will and testament in which he left his hospital “Home for the Relief of Suffering” to the Holy See. Padre Pio said, “Notice that I made a will leaving everything to the Church for I am a son of the Church. And when I no longer manage anything, my Mother will have to answer for all the offerings, even the coins, that souls from all over the world donate to the “Home for the Relief of Suffering.”

One of the last acts of Padre Pio’s life was to write a letter to Pope Paul VI in which he said, “I offer you my prayers and my daily sufferings as a small but sincere contribution on the part of the least of your sons, in order that God may comfort you with His grace to follow the straight and painful way in defense of eternal truth, which does not change with the passing of the years.” Eleven days later Padre Pio passed away.

 

“May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Padre Pio called by the beautiful name of “Our Lady of Grace” help us to follow in the footsteps of this religious who is so beloved by the people.”
– Pope John Paul II

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 17 – October-December 2003

“The war is a solemn moment for us all, but if we know how to live this moment with the pain and suffering that it necessarily brings, it will give life to great virtues and to new, healthy strength. The grain of wheat does not bear fruit if it does not suffer and decompose. Similarly, souls and nations need trials and suffering in order to emerge purified and renewed. So let us not fall short of the designs of providence which mingle joy with sorrow in the life of the individual and nations, enabling us to attain our last end.”
St. Pio of Pietrelcina

St. Padre Pio and World War II

 

Padre Pio’s gift of prophecy reached to individuals, nations and the world. Carmelo Durante experienced it first hand as the following story shows:

During the last world war, I attended the Gregorian Pontifical University of Rome. I used to spend my summer holidays in San Giovanni Rotondo, close to my spiritual director, Padre Pio.

It was the summer of 1942. Naturally we spoke about the war everyday, particularly of the military victories of Germany on all the battlefronts.

I remember that one morning at the friary, I read in the newspaper that the German troops were approaching Moscow. I saw in that news flash, the end of the war, with Germany’s final victory.

I met Padre Pio in the hallway and said to him, Padre, the war is over, Germany has won! Who said so? Padre Pio asked. Padre, the newspaper! I answered. Padre Pio said, Listen to me, Germany, this time, will lose the war and worse than last time! Just remember that!

But Padre, I said, The Germans are already approaching Moscow! Just remember what I told you, he repeated. I insisted, But if Germany loses the war, it means that Italy will lose too!

He answered firmly, Well, we will have to see if we finish the war together! These words of his were totally obscure to me at the time, given that Italy and Germany were allies. The following year, Padre Pio’s words became clear after the armistice with England and America on September 8, 1943 and with Italy declaring war on Germany.

Another day, in the friary hallway, Padre Pio said to me, Italy will lose the war out of the mercy of God, not because of His justice.

But Padre, how can one lose a war out of mercy and not out of justice? He responded, It is as I say because if Italy won the war with Germany, when the war was over, Germany would crush Italy under its feet! Later it became clear to me how losing the war for Italy was really a victory and not a disgrace at all, but a grace.”
Carmelo Durante

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During World War II, hundreds of American soldiers who were stationed at military bases in Italy discovered Padre Pio, and San Giovanni Rotondo became a popular place of pilgrimage.

Padre Pio was always delighted to greet the American soldiers. His presence had a profound impact on the military personnel and many rediscovered their faith through their contact with him.

It seemed that Padre Pio knew only one English word, Okay. One visitor observed that although Padre Pio did not speak English, he nonetheless seemed to understand the Americans when they spoke to him.

In 1945, when World War II was finally over and American and British soldiers returned to their homes, they told their friends and family about Padre Pio and a growing flood of pilgrims from all over the world poured into San Giovanni Rotondo.

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U.S. Lieutenant Doyle Stickel wrote the following letter to his mother describing his visit to San Giovanni Rotondo during World War II.

Dear Mother,

I really had a privilege last Sunday. I saw a miracle! Really, I did. I had heard of Padre Pio and so I took a group with me. It was a very rough and dusty trip, but well worth it.

We went to Father Pio’s Mass and I was directly on the altar steps, as close as though serving Mass. Father Pio is the most devout priest I have ever seen at the altar. It took one hour and 45 minutes for the low Mass. You could see that he was close to God, talking to God. His eyes were half closed, his face twitched in agony, sweat gathered on his brow and tears flowed from his eyes at the consecration. I noticed then that the wounds of his hands were moist, that fresh blood was staining his fingers and the sides of his hands.

Believe me, Mom, it was all there! The saintly Father Pio, in his agonized face and his torn hands, brought you to that original sacrifice at Calvary. Everyone’s eyes were on him and the Sacred Host as it was elevated.

After the Mass was over, I, and several other soldiers, went into the sacristy. I knelt and kissed Father Pio’s wounded hand. Father Pio rested his hand on my head and blessed me. I was overcome with emotion.

I went out of the church a much shaken young officer, but very much stronger in my faith. I later returned and spoke to Father Pio. He had taken off his vestments and was clothed in the brown robe of a Capuchin monk. On his feet he wore soft slippers instead of the sandals of the Order. He limps from the pain of the wounds in his feet. I asked him if he would say a Mass for my family. He said he would be very glad to do so. He patted me on the shoulder and told me I was a good boy and would be home with my family soon. I have never met a more holy, devout man.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18

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Bob Coble was stationed with the 15th Air Corps in Foggia, Italy in 1944. A number of the service men from his company went up almost every Sunday to see Padre Pio and some assisted at his Mass. They encouraged Bob to go with them and he finally decided to join them. Bob said, I went and saw Padre Pio and I knew that I had seen something real but with my upbringing, I saw no reason to change. Only one thing remained in my memory and remains in my memory today. I remember his hands, the wounds on them and the lacy cuffs that partially covered them. That image, as I said, remains today.

After Bob came back to the U.S. he became caught up in the activities of his busy life. The years sped quickly by. One year he received a Christmas card from a friend who told him about a book on Padre Pio and encouraged him to read it. The thoughts of his own encounter with Padre Pio came rushing back as he read the book. The experience had never really left him, it had only been pushed aside. As a result of reading the book, Bob started to attend Mass. He became a Catholic in 1988, 44 years after meeting Padre Pio.

This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.
– I John: 5:4

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Father John D. St. John, a Jesuit priest and army air force chaplain made nine trips to San Giovanni Rotondo during World War II to see Padre Pio. He often invited the soldiers to go with him and he usually brought with him between fifty and one hundred military personnel.

On one visit, Fr. St. John took two soldiers and one army nurse. Fr. St. John said, I made no appointment with Padre Pio. I met the little brother at the door who looked like one of Snow White’s Dwarfs (Father Gerardo) and asked for Padre Pio, who came down in a few minutes and gave me the Roman embrace, kissing both my cheeks. When he was introduced to the people I brought, he became very cold. He had nothing to say to them. I told them to wait outside. I said, Che passa, Padre? He replied, Those people are sinful. He knew nothing about their background, but I knew that what he said was true, as I knew some of the sinful events in their lives.

On the way back home, Fr. St. John asked his companions what they thought about Padre Pio. One said Father, that man has done something to me. I can’t explain it. There was silence all the way back to the base. Because of this incident as well as others of a similar nature, Fr. St. John became convinced that God had given Padre Pio many special gifts for his ministry to souls and in this particular case, the gift of reading hearts.

The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that the darkness may not overtake you.
John 12:35

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Mario Avignone, a member of the 304th Bomb Wing of the 15th Air Corps visited Padre Pio and wrote:

“One time we left early in the morning for San Giovanni Rotondo where we were to visit with Padre Pio. As always we drove the jeep to the rear of the Friary. We had to drive the jeep into the barn and park it next to several donkeys. We attended Mass in the very crowded church. Never did I figure out how all of the people came to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. They came from everywhere even though a war was on and there was no transportation. Many people, I think, had to walk and hitchhike.

Regarding the Mass, Mario said, It was a Mass that I could not describe. It was so beautiful. The room was filled with a perfume that came from Padre Pio’s wounds. The only words that came forth from my mouth as I knelt watching a living saint celebrate the Holy Mass were, My Lord and my God.

After Mass, a friar took us to the dining room where we had breakfast. Padre Pio did not come to breakfast. He went straight to the confessional where hundreds of people were already standing in line.

When we went with the friars into the dining room for lunch we observed that Padre Pio ate nothing. He just pushed food around on his plate as he talked to us and to the others present.

Later we went to the gardens where Padre Pio took his evening walks. It was beautiful and quiet there. This was the only piece of heaven on earth that I have ever known.”
– Mario Avignone

And this is how we know that He remains in us; from the Spirit that He gave us.
– I John 3:24

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A Grace through the Intercession of St. Pio

The following is a letter written by Berta Forti regarding a grace she and her family received through Padre Pio’s intercession in a time of great danger:

We are fervent Catholics, and our family has been very devoted to Padre Pio since the first time we heard of him. The following event happened on November 6, 1943 when World War II was in full swing. We lived in Florence and our surname, Forti in Tuscany and also in Florence, is a Jewish name. Even so, our ancestors have never been Jewish.

The morning of November 6, 1943, four armed SS Germans rang our doorbell and accused us of being Jewish (my mother, my sister and I). They would have dragged us to who knows what terrible end, because the truck was already at our front door.

I must go back to the beginning of the war. We should have left our house because the zone we lived in was dangerous. I had taken a picture of Padre Pio and attached it to the door. I said, Padre Pio, we are staying here. I entrust our lives, our house, our belongings to you. We stayed there peacefully, even during bombardments.

That morning on November 6, 1943, the four SS Germans who wanted to remove us, not convinced that we were not Jewish, tried to penetrate into the house. No sooner had the first soldier, armed with a machine gun, put his foot inside the house, than the photograph of Padre Pio flew to our feet. Padre Pio’s face was upward and it brushed my foot lightly, like a butterfly.

The soldier looked down at the photo of Padre Pio. He touched his forehead in the military salute and said, Excuse us and left with the others.

Downstairs on the street, the poor Jewish people who were already gathered in the truck were crying with fright. What a danger we had escaped! My family and I attribute our safety to the miraculous intervention of Padre Pio.

Berta Forti

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will preserve me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies and Your right hand will save me.
Psalm 138:7

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A note from the editors: We met Ray Ewen enroute to Rome to attend the canonization of Padre Pio. He was one of the pilgrims who traveled with our group. Ray had the good fortune to meet Padre Pio in 1944 and he was gracious enough to share his story with us.

Ray Ewen, a veteran of the Army Air Force, was stationed in Cerignola, Italy during World War II. He and some of the other soldiers had heard about Padre Pio, so when curiosity got the better of them, they decided to make a trip to the monastery. The first person they met when they arrived was Mary Pyle, the American woman who was Pio’s assistant for over forty years. She acted as translator between the soldiers and Padre Pio and became a very close friend to Ray. The first time Ray saw Padre Pio, he could tell by the expression on his face and by his painful gait that he was suffering greatly from the wounds in his feet.

Ray was able to attend Padre Pio’s 5 a.m. Mass twelve times. He and the other service men were allowed to sit right up in the sanctuary. During the Mass, Ray could see Padre Pio crying and wiping tears from his eyes. At times they seemed to be tears of joy and at other times, tears of sorrow. Six or seven times during the Mass, Padre Pio’s expression would change. During the consecration, Padre Pio became completely still for about ten minutes, as if he were in another world. His thanksgiving after the Mass was never less than forty-five minutes.

On occasion, Ray was able to visit with Padre Pio in the friary garden while he was having his lunch. Ray used to bring Padre Pio American beer, which he enjoyed very much. He would laugh and tell Ray that the beer was much better than the vegetable soup that was often his mid-day meal at the monastery.

As a confessor, Padre Pio, sometimes used his own form of shock treatment when the situation demanded it. This was often just the kind of wake up call that an individual needed for conversion. Once Ray was standing inside the church and heard Padre Pio order a man out of the confessional. All of those who were waiting in line to go to confession also witnessed this and lost their courage and left.

Padre Pio felt a great sense of responsibility as a confessor and he insisted that a confession also be a conversion. The conditions that he required of every penitent were contrition and a firm purpose of amendment.

Padre Pio received permission from the Archbishop to have a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve for the American G.I.’s. Ray said that Mass was a never to be forgotten experience. The small friary chapel of Our Lady of Grace was beautifully lit with candles. Padre Pio held a small statue of the Infant Jesus in his arms and processed through the old 16th century church during the solemn Mass.

In the course of his visits to San Giovanni Rotondo, Ray became very good friends with Padre Pio’s father, Grazio Forgione, even sharing Thanksgiving dinner with him on one occasion. Grazio, filled with fatherly pride, loved to share many precious stories about his famous son.

Ray had a brother who was also in the military and he heard that his brother had been wounded and was in a hospital somewhere in France. Ray decided to go in search of him but Padre Pio told him not to. He told Ray that his brother was, in fact, safe and was already on his way home. These words proved to be true.

Ray described Padre Pio as a humble man, friendly and congenial who liked to laugh and tell funny stories. And while his holiness was so apparent, so obvious to everyone, Padre Pio was, in his own way, a simple man, an ordinary man. To Ray, Padre Pio’s dark and penetrating eyes were his most striking characteristic. He said, Looking into the exceeding depth of his eyes was an indescribable experience. It was like entering heaven.

Today, Ray Ewen, who lives in New York, is 86 years old. Ray said that in his lifetime he has come in contact with many priests as well as military chaplains but Padre Pio was unique. Ray said, Padre Pio was the holiest man I have ever met in my life. He is my living saint. I always hoped and prayed I would live long enough to see him canonized. That dream came true for Ray Ewen on June 16, 2002.

You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints.
Ephesians 2:19

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 16 – July-September 2003

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every encumbrance. . .and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us; let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith.

Hebrews: 12:1

PADRE PIO AND MARY PYLE
Padre Pio’s American Friend

Mary Pyle was born in 1888 in New Jersey, into a very wealthy and socially prominent Protestant family. She was educated in the best of American private schools and was accustomed from childhood to every luxury. Later, Mary worked as assistant to the celebrated Italian educator, Dr. Maria Montessori and traveled for ten years throughout the world acting as interpreter for her.

As an adult, Mary converted to Catholicism and desired to grow in the ways of the Spirit. She had a great longing to find a spiritual director, and made a novena to the Blessed Mother with that intention.

Shortly after completing the novena, a friend, Rina d’Ergin told her about Padre Pio and asked Mary to join her on a visit to his monastery. In 1923 at the age of 35, Mary and her friend went to San Giovanni Rotondo. Their visit and meeting with Padre Pio had a tremendous effect on both Rina and Mary. Mary said that when she first met Padre Pio, she was overcome with emotion. His eyes appeared to penetrate her soul. Mary said, “We just looked at each other at first, then I fell to my knees and said, “Father” and he placed his wounded hand on my head.” Mary knew at once that in Padre Pio, she had found her spiritual director. Mary was unable to sleep that first night in San Giovanni Rotondo, thinking to herself, “There is a saint living here and I am going to have to be leaving soon.”

Mary described the deeply moving experience of seeing Padre Pio celebrate Mass. She said:   “His hands during Mass were without mittens and even though he kept the sleeves pulled down as much as possible I could see the holy stigmata. His hands during Mass seemed to be made of ivory–white and transparent, of a supernatural beauty–with dark pink nails, almost red, as if the tips of those white fingers had been put in the chalice–as if they had touched the divine blood. During the prayer for the living, which lasts a long time, there is a profound silence. His body moves a little, he prays, he is with Christ. Then he continues with a voice which seems to come from afar almost as if his spirit had been outside the body.

During Mass, his face matches his voice. Padre Pio is not with us during that time–he is with God. He is no longer the one who gives but the one who receives. His heart must have two doors, one for God and the other for men. When the door to God is open, the door to the world is closed and when the door to the world is opened the one to Heaven is closed momentarily. During Mass, Padre Pio has the door to Heaven opened and one can almost feel the grace of God coming down over him.

Afterward in the sacristy where everyone goes to greet him, one feels a river of love and warmth coming from his heart to heal physical and moral ills, to console the suffering, to bless objects, animals, medals, crucifixes, rosaries, people, and with a special love, children. Then he returns to the confessional where he stays for hours at a time with those hands touched by God, resting on the little window of the confessional.”

When it was time to say goodbye to Padre Pio and return home, Mary asked Padre Pio for a blessing. He surprised her by saying, “My daughter, this is your home. Stop traveling around; remain here.” Mary told Padre Pio that she had to go back to her work with Professor Montessori. Padre Pio said, “Who is this woman that she should keep you tied up in this manner. You must stay here.” But Mary left to continue her work.

After Mary had rejoined Professor Montessori, she said to her one day, “There is a saint living in this world and it saddens me not to be near him. I wish to see him again.” Mary took Dr. Montessori with her for the second visit. Again Padre Pio asked Mary to remain in San Giovanni Rotondo and so she made the decision to stay.

Dr. Montessori assumed Mary would travel with her back to Rome to get her belongings. The bus pulled up and as they were about to board it, Mary said, “I can’t get into the bus. I feel paralyzed, as though someone has nailed my feet to the ground.” Mary, literally, could not move. Only after the bus was gone, was Mary able to move about again.

Shortly after Mary moved to San Giovanni Rotondo, she wrote a letter to her parents. She said, “My dear parents, I am really happy. I have found that living in this deserted place, that there is another life… There lives here in a cold and small monastery, a competitor of St. Francis of Assisi, who is named Padre Pio. His hands and feet are pierced by the stigmata. Every morning he celebrates Mass before sunrise. All his daily life is an example of humility and dedication to his Lord. He scorns worldly goods and considers supreme, only the love of Christ.”

Mary had a home built close to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo and dedicated the rest of her life to the cause of Padre Pio. She became the secretary to a saint. In the beginning, Padre Pio used to tease Mary a little bit, saying, “Oh, how elegant we are today,” with a playful smile on his face. She began to discard all the outward signs of her wealth, including her fancy clothes and jewels. She lead a life of great austerity and became a great asset to Padre Pio and his religious community because of her great willingness to serve in any capacity.

Padre Pio’s parents, Maria Giuseppa and Orazio Forgione both lived with Mary during the last years of their life and it was in her home that they both passed away. They told Mary many beautiful and precious stories concerning Padre Pio’s childhood which she recorded so that they would not be lost to future generations.

Many times Padre Pio would come to visit his parents at Mary’s house mounted on a mule, because the narrow, rocky path leading from the friary to her home was too rough for his wounded feet to walk on. Padre Pio’s father, Orazio lived with Mary the last eight years of his life. He wanted to be close to his son. People would often come to Mary’s house to meet Padre Pio’s father and say to him, “Orazio, what a beautiful son you have” and tears would well up in Orazio’s eyes. When his mother was dying, Padre Pio came to her bedside to prepare her for her great journey into eternity. Those present could see the blood flowing from the wounds in his hands.

Mary opened her home to pilgrims who came to see Padre Pio as well as to orphans and destitutes. Fifteen of the destitute children that Mary took in to her home went on to the Capuchin seminary, all with her financial help, where they became Capuchin priests and brothers. Frequently Mary’s guests included Padre Pio’s brother and his two sisters.

Because Mary spoke five languages fluently, she acted as interpreter between Padre Pio and his foreign visitors. She began to record Padre Pio’s spoken words and his counsel. She also copied the messages and prayers that he wrote on the back of holy cards so as to pass on these priceless gems to posterity.

One time a twelve year old girl from Chicago came to receive her first holy communion from Padre Pio. Mary was going to act as translator but Padre Pio decided to speak with the young girl privately. The girl told Mary that although she spoke only English, when Padre Pio began speaking to her and giving her counsel in Italian, she understood him perfectly. Mary was so edified by this that she exclaimed, “What a marvelous thing, what a marvelous thing!”

Once a woman who made her confession to Padre Pio shared her experience with Mary. During the confession she mentioned that she was worried about a friend. She asked Padre Pio if perhaps he had some words of counsel for her friend that she could take back to her. Padre Pio gave the woman a message to relay to her friend, but his words seemed very harsh. She determined at once that she would never share the message. Mary said to the woman, “If Padre Pio told you to do something, I recommend that you do it. Otherwise, why would you seek his advice?” The woman took Mary’s counsel, relayed the message, and the result was that her friend’s life was completely changed as she experienced a deep conversion of heart.

Mary was asked to answer the foreign mail that was arriving in huge volumes from all parts of the world. From her home she prepared the hosts for holy communion which were needed in great quantities at the friary church. She kept the accounting records for the donations that were coming in for Padre Pio’s hospital and at Padre Pio’s request, Mary became the official organist at Our Lady of Grace church. She played the organ every afternoon when Padre Pio gave benediction after Vespers service. Often in the late afternoon when Mary returned to the church to pray, she could hear Padre Pio sobbing as he prayed alone in the balcony.

Mary said, “Everything is extraordinary in this mystical corner of the world, in this school for souls, where the great healer, teacher and father, Padre Pio, is preparing a net of souls in order to encircle the entire world, fishing for souls for Jesus. He calls them forth with his vibrant voice and with his suffering. He calls them with the waves of his perfume. How lucky for me to have met with the greatest saint since St. Francis.”

Through the years, Mary was the witness to many miracles brought about through the intercession of Padre Pio. One miracle that she personally witnessed involved a letter that had traveled from San Giovanni Rotondo to Turin, a distance of over 600 miles, in thirty minutes. A man from Turin came to San Giovanni Rotondo to seek counsel from Padre Pio regarding a personal matter. The answer had to be received in Turin before a certain day and hour. Although the man made a great effort to speak to Padre Pio regarding the matter, he was never able to see him and obtain his advice until the day and almost the hour that the information needed to be received in Turin.

When he finally got a chance to speak to Padre Pio about the matter, he sadly said that the counsel had come too late for there was not even time for a telegram to be sent to Turin. Padre Pio told him to write a letter and mail it anyway and to do it immediately. The man obeyed him and in half an hour the letter was received in time for its purpose. Mary saw the envelope and clearly visible was the post mark of San Giovanni Rotondo and the post mark of Turin with the times of posting only one half hour apart. This letter and envelope are kept carefully preserved in the archives at San Giovanni Rotondo.

Another miracle that Mary recorded concerned the healing of a young wheat farmer. Shortly after the end of World War II, the farmer had a serious accident from which he suffered a double embolism, one on each lung. The young farmer was taken to the hospital but his condition worsened and he realized that he was dying. Being young and strong he did not want to die just yet. He prayed to God, asking Him to let someone intercede on his behalf.

That night while he slept, a bearded monk appeared at his bedside. The monk laid his hand on the farmer’s chest and then smiled and disappeared. The farmer felt better immediately. To the amazement of his physician, he seemed cured. The farmer told no one except his mother of the apparition and he let his doctor come to his own conclusion. The farmer and his mother believed that the monk must have been a great saint.

Several months later the farmer was in Padua to sell his wheat. He went to a customer’s home and there on the wall was a photograph of the monk who had appeared to him the night he was at death’s door. He was told that the monk’s name was Padre Pio. That evening the farmer took a train to San Giovanni Rotondo and arrived at about four o’clock in the morning, just in time for Padre Pio’s dawn Mass. He went to confession to Padre Pio and Padre Pio said to him, “Tell me, how are your lungs now?” “They are just fine” the farmer replied. “Thanks be to God,” Padre Pio said, “Thanks be to God.”

Mary was also the witness to countless conversions through the years. She said, “When Padre Pio interests himself in a soul, it is for good; there in no turning back.” Once Padre Pio said to Mary, “When I have saved a soul, I never let it fall again.” To those who sought his spiritual guidance he would say, “I can see all of your life passing like a motion picture film.” He did not need long explanations from his spiritual children regarding their needs or their situation. He used to say, “I know you inside and out, just like you know yourself in a mirror,” and he promised them, “I’ll take care of everything.” He said to one of his spiritual children, “You think you know my love for you but you don’t know that it is much greater than you can imagine. I follow you with my prayers, with my suffering and with my tears.”

Mary had such esteem for Padre Pio that she used to say,”I should be happy to be the nail of Padre Pio’s little finger.” She often said, “Neither in Heaven nor on earth do I wish to remain without Padre Pio.” Sometimes she became a little frustrated with the operations of Padre Pio’s hospital, “Home for the Relief of Suffering.” Padre Pio said to her, “Do not criticize the hospital, Mary, because it will be the place where you will spend your last days on earth.” He also told Mary that she would enter eternal life before he would. He proved to be right in both cases.

After living in San Giovanni Rotondo and serving Padre Pio for 45 years, Mary passed away in 1968. Padre Pio was too ill to visit Mary in the hospital during her last illness. He said, “I am going to pray to the Lord that He take her home to Heaven to be with the Angels.” And with a touch of humor he added, “Mary will be able to hear the celestial music without having to play the organ anymore.” She was buried in the Capuchin chapel in the cemetery at San Giovanni Rotondo where Padre Pio’s parents and other family members had their final resting place.
 
 
Give rest to the souls of your servants, O Christ, in the gathering of the saints – where there is no pain, no sorrow, and no anxiety, but only endless life.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 15 – April-June 2003

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“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.”

– Pope Paul VI
 

The following story of the healing of Giovanni Savino is well-documented and backed up by factual information and analysis. Father Dominic Meyer, Padre Pio’s secretary for twelve years, wrote a detailed account of Giovanni’s cure in July, 1949. When the story were first publicized, it attracted great numbers of pilgrims to San Giovanni Rotondo.

THE HEALING OF GIOVANNI SAVINO

Giovanni Savino, a construction worker and a member of the Third Order of St. Francis, was a devoted spiritual son of Padre Pio. In February, 1949, Giovanni was working at Padre Pio’s friary, completing the construction of an annex to the monastery. The workers were leveling the ground and were getting ready to blast a huge boulder.

It was Giovanni’s custom to attend Padre Pio’s Mass every morning before going to work. After the Mass, he would wait in the sacristy to receive a blessing from Padre Pio. Every day Padre Pio would place his hands on Giovanni’s head and pray for him.

One morning, Padre Pio deviated from the regular routine. When Giovanni asked for a blessing, Padre Pio gave him a big hug and said, “Courage! I am praying to the Lord that you will not die.” Giovanni was terribly upset by this statement. He began to cry. “Padre Pio, what is going to happen to me?” Giovanni asked. But Padre Pio was silent.

The next three mornings as Giovanni asked for a blessing, Padre Pio embraced him and repeated the same disturbing words. When he repeated the same remarks on the fourth day, Giovanni told some of the construction workers, “I’m afraid something is going to go wrong. Maybe we should not work today.” But the crew decided to proceed with the job of blasting and leveling the ground.

That afternoon, Giovanni and another worker placed a charge of dynamite under a huge boulder. Giovanni lit the fuse but it failed to detonate. After a few minutes, he went over to check the charge. Just as he bent over, the dynamite exploded in his face. A shower of rocks hit Giovanni. The rock that he had been standing on fell on top of him and he lost consciousness. His face was badly burned and much of the skin was torn off. His left eye was filled with rocks and gravel. His right eye was completely gone. There was only a bit of raw flesh left in the empty socket.

Giovanni was rushed to the hospital. His left eye was operated on but nothing could be done for his right eye. The doctor told Giovanni’s wife that both of her husband’s eyes had been destroyed. Padre Pio was informed about the accident and told that Giovanni had been blinded. “That is not for certain yet,” Padre Pio replied.

It was three days before Giovanni regained consciousness. His entire head and face were bandaged. He was told that there was a possibility that his left eye might be saved. But as for his right eye, there was no hope. Meanwhile, Padre Pio was asking everyone to pray for Giovanni. He exposed the Blessed Sacrament and was heard to say, “Lord, I offer You one of my eyes for Giovanni, because he’s the father of a family.”

One evening, after being in the hospital for ten days, while Giovanni was praying the Rosary, he smelled “the aroma of paradise.” It was a beautiful, heavenly smell. It was the sign that announced Padre Pio’s invisible presence.

Giovanni felt a gentle slap on his right eye, the one that had been blown out of it’s socket. “Who touched me?” Giovanni said. But no one was there. He felt a tightness of the bedclothes caused by someone standing against the bed. He then realized that Padre Pio was with him. “Give me back my sight, Padre Pio, or let me die,” Giovanni said. “I cannot live like this.”

In the morning, when the doctor took the bandages off, he discovered that Giovanni’s face was healed and covered with new skin. He then examined his eyes. “I can see you!” exclaimed the injured man. “I can see you with my right eye.” The doctor insisted that he was seeing out of the left eye, as the right was totally destroyed. After further examination, it was clear that Giovanni was speaking the truth. He was not able to see with the eye in which the shrapnel had been removed, but he was seeing perfectly from the eye that had been shattered to a bloody jelly.

The doctor was astonished and said, “Well, now, who is the saint behind this? Who is your protector?” Giovanni replied, “I have been praying to Padre Pio and he has been taking care of me.” The doctor, who had been an atheist said, “Now I believe, too. I believe because this has happened right in front of me.”

When Giovanni was released from the hospital, he went to the friary to thank Padre Pio for the prayers said on his behalf. Padre Pio said to him, “Let us thank God that you did not get killed.” And later he said to Giovanni, “If only you knew what this cost me!”

Pietro Cugino, who used to visit Padre Pio’s monastery, said that one day, in the garden, while talking to some of the friars, Padre Pio suddenly said, “I’m blind. I cannot see anything.” After a time, Padre Pio’s eyesight returned. While we may not fully understand the meaning of this incident, we do know that Padre Pio was offering many prayers and sacrifices on Giovanni’s behalf and encouraging others to do the same.

In thanksgiving for the miracle, Giovanni and his wife offered to the Lord the child she was then carrying. Padre Pio named him Francesco, and he grew up to become a Capuchin priest.

Padre Raffaele, one of the friars at San Giovanni Rotondo, suggested that Giovanni go to Rome to see another eye doctor for treatment of his left eye. Giovanni asked Padre Pio his thoughts on the matter. “No,” Padre Pio said, “we have already obtained the grace which we have asked for. Even if you go to Rome you will not get any better than you are right now.”

Giovanni was not the only family member to be the beneficiary of graces through Padre Pio’s prayers. His children also received help in times of crisis. Giovanni’s young daughter, Lina, was on her way to a birthday party when she was struck down by a moped. This was before Padre Pio’s hospital had been built, so Lina was taken unconscious to a first aid station. She was in a coma and found to be suffering from a trauma to her head and severe internal bleeding.

Giovanni and his wife rushed to the friary and told Padre Pio. As they described it, “He looked up to heaven as if he saw another reality,” and said, “Let’s pray and we’ll leave everything in Our Lord’s hands.” Afterward, Lina made a rapid and complete recovery.

Even when people were cured through the intercessory prayers of Padre Pio, as in the healing of Giovanni Savino, Padre Pio always gave God the credit. He would say, “Nothing is due to me. I am not a miracle worker. Left to my own devices, I can do nothing but sin.” When people came to thank Padre Pio for his prayers he would reply, “Do not thank me, thank Our Lord and Our Lady. They are responsible for your healing.”
 
God is for us a refuge and strength . . . So we shall not fear though the earth should rock, though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea.
– Psalm 46:1,2

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A Letter from Padre Pio to Pope Paul VI

Padre Pio had a great devotion to the Pope. Every day Padre Pio would rise at two o’clock in the morning and begin his prayers. His lamp had to be draped because the light would bother his eyes. But the drape had to be open so that a ray of light could hit the Pope’s picture which was always on his desk. Until the ray of light hit the Pope’s picture, he was never satisfied. That is how Padre Pio would begin his day – praying for the Holy Father. A short time before his death, Padre Pio wrote the following letter to Pope Paul VI. His words remain especially relevant today.

Your Holiness,

. . . In a spirit of faith, love, and obedience to the greatness of Him whom you represent on earth, I offer my respectful homage to your August Person. . .

I know that your heart suffers much these days on account of the happenings in the Church; for peace in the world, for the great needs of its peoples; but above all, for the lack of obedience of some. . . . to the lofty teachings which you, assisted by the Holy Spirit and in the name of God, have given us. I offer Your Holiness my daily prayers and sufferings. . . asking the Lord to comfort you with His grace to continue along the direct yet often burdensome way–in defense of those eternal truths which can never change with the times.

May God grant the triumph to the truth, peace to His Church . . . so that when these disturbing clouds pass over, the Reign of God may triumph in all hearts, through the apostolic works of the Supreme Shepherd of all Christians.

Prostrate at your feet, I beg you to bless me, my Brothers in religion, my spiritual children, the “Prayer Groups”, all the sick–that we may faithfully fulfill the good works done in the name of Jesus and under your protection.

Your Holiness’ most humble servant,

Padre Pio, Capuchin

San Giovanni Rotondo, September 12, 1968

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Padre Pio and His Friends

Pauline Bongiovanni of San Diego shared her testimony at one of our Padre Pio devotions, regarding the grace her family received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Her story was so powerful and inspiring that we wanted to include it here.

In 1972, Pauline and Joseph Bongiovanni’s ten year old son, Ignazio (Zino) Bongiovanni, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, one of the deadliest and most aggressive forms of bone cancer. It was already in a very advanced state and Zino was given three months to live. The doctor said that nothing could be done for Zino.

The Bongiovanni’s took Zino to another doctor in order to obtain a second opinion. The second doctor came to the very same conclusion. Pauline asked the second doctor if there wasn’t something that could be done for her son. The doctor said that he could amputate Zino’s leg but he did not recommend it because even if this measure was taken, his chance of survival would be only five percent. The doctor said that perhaps it would be better to let Zino live according to the time that was left to him without having to undergo the trauma of an amputation.

Pauline and her husband had a big decision to make regarding their son’s medical treatment. One day, in a great state of anxiety, Pauline went into the hospital chapel and knelt to pray, asking for guidance.

A few moments later a man entered the chapel. He touched Pauline gently on the shoulder and asked if there was something he might do to help her. Pauline was embarrassed by her tears so she did not turn around to look at the stranger. She shook her head to indicate that she did not care to talk. A few moments later, the man tapped her on the shoulder again and said: “Please let me help you. Maybe I can give you some advice.” Pauline was startled by these words because at that very moment she had been praying to the Blessed Mother, asking for advice. She once again declined to talk to the man.

A few moments later, the man touched her shoulder for the third time and Pauline finally turned around to look at this man who was so persistent. Pauline was very, very surprised. “I can’t believe it,” she said to herself. “it’s St. Joseph.” Of course she realized that the stranger was not actually St. Joseph but he reminded her of him. His eyes were large and beautiful. He had a beard. He manifested a great love and concern. She told him about her son and the decision that had to be made soon. The man said to her: “I want to give you some advice. Go ahead with the operation. A 5 percent chance is better that no chance at all. When I was younger, the doctors gave up on me too, but look, I am still here today.”

As the kindly man spoke, Pauline felt that his words were filling her with renewed hope and courage to face whatever lay ahead. She left the chapel to tell the doctors she had decided in favor of the operation and when she went back to the chapel to thank the man, he was gone. She asked many people in the hospital but no one had seen him.

Pauline thought about the man many times through the years. For a reason she did not quite understand, he had made a tremendous impression on her. She would never forget him. How she wished she could have thanked him for what he had done for her. She wished she could tell him that her son did indeed beat the odds, and was alive and healthy.

Twelve years later, Pauline and her husband Joseph were driving back to California from New York. Their sister in law was making the trip with them and had been experiencing serious symptoms related to a heart condition. Pauline and Joseph were beside themselves with anxiety. They were afraid she might have a heart attack on the long trip back home. Pauline related her fears to a close friend and the friend told her, “Pauline, don’t worry. I am going to give you a photo of a very powerful saint. You can put it right on your dashboard. He will protect your sister in law and get you all home safely.”

When Pauline looked at the photo, she couldn’t believe it. It was the kindly man she had thought about so many times through the years, the man who had reminded her of St. Joseph. It was the man who came into the chapel at the hospital during the darkest time of her life, whose words had filled her with hope and courage. It was Padre Pio.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 14 – January-March 2003

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Your decrees are my delight, they are my counselors. You are near, O Lord, and all your commandments are true. – Psalm 119:19,24,151

 

Romeo Gutierres– traveled from Mexico to California to be treated for bone cancer. He was twenty two years old. He decided to join some friends who were making a pilgrimage to Lourdes and also to Padre Pio’s friary in San Giovanni Rotondo. Romeo’s friends agreed to help him on this journey. He had an open wound that needed to be cared for. Sometimes he was able to walk with the aid of crutches but other times he had to be carried on a stretcher.

The day after the group’s arrival in San Giovanni Rotondo, Romeo waited in the sacristy to meet Padre Pio. Padre Pio had a look of sadness on his face when he saw Romeo. He gave him a blessing. One of the members of the group asked Padre Pio if Romeo could hope for a miracle. Padre Pio answered this question in one word, “Paradiso!” (Paradise) In other words, Padre Pio was telling them that Romeo would soon be leaving his earthly life to begin his eternal life in Paradise. Romeo said that when Padre Pio, frail and suffering, stood in front of him and blessed him, he lost all fear of dying. This meeting with Padre Pio occurred on September 22, 1968, just one day before Padre Pio’s death.

Romeo returned to Mexico and realized that he had received a great spiritual healing. He was given an amazing deepening of faith and renewed strength and courage. He asked his friends not to feel sorry for him for in his own words he said, “Don’t be sad. Soon I will be with Padre Pio.” Romeo died peacefully three months later.

 
“Remember the words the divine Master spoke one day to the Apostles and which he says to you today – “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Yes, let not your heart be troubled in the hour of trial because Jesus promised his real assistance to those who follow him.”
– Padre Pio

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A note from the editors: We visited Padre Pio’s friary in Italy in the summer of 2002. An American priest was the celebrant at one of the weekday Masses we attended. In his homily, he shared his experience of visiting San Giovanni Rotondo with his grandfather. They both met Padre Pio, whose words proved to be prophetic. We have included his story below:

It was in 1964 when the priest, then a young man in his 20’s, accompanied his grandfather on a trip to Italy to visit relatives. The grandfather insisted that they make a stop in San Giovanni Rotondo so that they could visit Padre Pio but his grandson did not want to. The young man had heard that Padre Pio had the stigmata and the idea in simple terms was repulsive to him. It conjured up all sorts of dark and frightening images in his mind. He didn’t want any part of it. Although he had stopped going to Mass, he was enjoying what he considered to be the “good life” which involved many worldly pursuits. Things were going smoothly. He did not need God and he certainly did not need Padre Pio. But he could not convince his grandfather to cancel the trip.

They arrived at Padre Pio’s monastery and were told to stand in the sacristy and soon Padre Pio would come in to greet them. Grandfather and grandson stood together in the appointed place and when Padre Pio walked through the doorway the young man was shocked to see the extent to which Padre Pio was suffering. He couldn’t believe it. His heart was profoundly moved and filled with pity. Padre Pio walked up to him and said, “It’s true, your life is going very smoothly right now. Everything seems to be fine.” “I can’t believe it,” the young man said to himself, “He’s reading my mind.” Then Padre Pio continued, “All that is going to change about the time you are ordained to the priesthood. Then God will send many trials into your life.” “Ordained to the Priesthood?” the young man said to himself, “Is he crazy? I’m not interested in the priesthood. I’m not even sure I believe in God!” As he was saying these things to himself Padre Pio blessed him and he kissed Padre Pio’s gloved hand. At once he became aware of a heavenly fragrance.

Shortly after this encounter, the disposition of the young man’s heart changed completely and he began to return to the practice of his faith. It was not long before he entered the priesthood and it was shortly afterward that many trials came to him, just like Padre Pio predicted. His esteem for Padre Pio has steadily increased through the years and although he has had many crosses to bear, he feels blessed by God for his vocation.

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Padre Pio’s Words of Hope

“God enriches the soul which empties itself of everything.”

“Charity is the measure by which Our Lord judges all things.”

“The sacred gift of prayer is in the right hand of Our Savior and He will begin to give this gift to you in the same measure in which you become free and empty of self, namely of the love of your senses and your own will, and in the measure that you become well grounded in humility.”

“Let us climb Calvary without getting tired, carrying our Cross and know for certain that the climb will lead us to the beatific vision of our dear Savior.”