“Let us always keep before our eyes the fact that here on earth we are on a battlefield and that in paradise we shall receive the crown of victory; that this is a testing-ground and the prize will be awarded up above; that we are now in a land of exile while our true homeland is Heaven to which we must continually aspire.”
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Memories of Padre Pio
Joe Peluso was an American soldier who was stationed in Italy during World War II. One day he received a letter from his mother and she told him that there was a holy priest named Padre Pio living in Italy. She did not know what part of Italy he lived in but she wanted Joe to find out and to visit him. Joe asked the military chaplain on the base if he knew anything about Padre Pio. The military chaplain started laughing and pointed to the mountain that was directly in front of them. “Padre Pio lives right on that mountain,” he said to Joe. Curiosity got the better of him and Joe decided to make the short trip to see him. It was October 6, 1944.
Padre Pio loved the visits of the American soldiers and always greeted them cordially. His counsel to the soldiers was unique. He used simple and childlike words when talking to them and giving them advice. Sometimes he would pat them on the head in a paternal way and simply say, “Be a good boy.”
Over the next ten months, Joe was able to visit Padre Pio many times and they became very close. Often he was invited to eat with the Capuchins at the monastery. While everyone else enjoyed their food, Joe noticed that Padre Pio simply pushed his food around on the plate. His daily intake of food would only fill the cup of his hand. He once said, “I need very little of this world’s goods. I need just a little bit of food, a little sleep and few possessions.”
It was Padre Pio’s habit to give each visitor a religious medal when they came to the monastery. Because of the war, religious medals and rosaries became scarce and almost impossible to acquire. Padre Pio felt very bad that his supply of medals was exhausted and he had none to give his visitors. Mary Pyle and Joe talked about it and Joe wanted to help. He decided to take the 220-mile trip from his military base to Rome to try to obtain the medals. Padre Pio and Padre Pio’s brother Michael both gave him letters to deliver to their sister, Sister Pia. She was a nun of the Order of St. Bridget and lived in the Brigittine Convent in Rome.
When he arrived in Rome, something prompted him to follow a road leading up a hill. As he drove up the hill, he saw a large sign, Cloistered Motherhouse of the Benedictine Nuns. Joe remembered that the St. Benedict medals were a favorite of Padre Pio. Joe knocked on the door and the nuns were extremely happy to give him a large supply of medals for Padre Pio.
Once Padre Pio asked Joe to select a name for his guardian angel. “Pick a name for your guardian angel and call him by that name always,” Padre Pio said to Joe. “When you send him to me, he will come instantly.”
One day Joe asked Padre Pio if he would accept him as his spiritual child. Padre Pio readily agreed. Then he asked him if he would accept his wife as his spiritual child and he agreed as well. Realizing the wonderful opportunity, he then asked Padre Pio if he would accept his daughter. Joe’s aunts and uncles then came into his mind. Somehow, the way the conversation was going struck both of them as funny. Joe and Padre Pio began to laugh. They laughed so hard that tears were rolling down their faces. Suddenly Padre Pio became very serious and said to Joe, “Joe, when the war is over and you return to the United States, tell the American people, that for those who would like me to be their spiritual father, my answer is yes. I accept all Americans as my spiritual children. I only have two requirements — that they lead very good Catholic lives and that they regularly receive the sacraments. And please, tell them never to embarrass me in front of Jesus and Mary. You must tell them, Joe.”
Joe felt that it was an impossible request. He lived in a very small town in Pennsylvania. He was not an important person. He did not know many people. How could he tell all of America what Padre Pio had asked him to? Nevertheless, when he returned to the U.S. he tried to do what was asked of him. He made a slide show presentation of Padre Pio’s life and over the years he showed it to thousands of people. Joe died in 1996, after having spent 50 years sharing the message of Padre Pio with more people than he could have ever imagined.
“Remember, I accompany you always and everywhere.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina
A Letter from Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto
Padre Pio wrote the following letter to his spiritual director, Padre Benedetto Nardella, concerning a vision he had regarding World War I. This divine visitation seemed to signal the approach of peace.
“In one of the visits I had from Jesus recently, I asked Him more insistently to have pity on the unfortunate nations so sorely tried by the misfortune of war and to let His justice give place at last to His mercy. Strange to say, He made no reply except a sign with His hand which meant, ‘Slowly, slowly’ . . . What on earth does this mean, dear Father? I myself cannot tell you. However, I can tell you this, that whenever I had spoken to the Lord previously about the war, He gave me no sign that I can recall, but always kept complete silence . . . Does it mean that He himself means to intervene to calm this worldwide upheaval? May He be pleased to do so without delay.”
– Letters I, December 19, 1917
Maria Pompilio who was one of Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters, left this testimony.
“At the end of Padre Pio’s Mass one morning toward the end of 1919, a number of people gathered around Padre Pio. By my side was a man who looked fixedly at Padre Pio. He said breathlessly, “Oh God, it is him, truly him. I am not mistaken.” The man began crying and fell to his knees. He said, “Padre Pio, thank you for saving me from death! Thank you!” Padre Pio put his hands on the man’s head and said, “You must not thank me, my son. Thank our Lord and the Virgin of Graces.” They spoke together in an undertone for a few minutes. Padre Pio then went to the choir to pray.
Several men who were nearby questioned the man about the words that Padre Pio had spoken to him. I was also present and the man told us the following story: “I was a Captain in the infantry, and one day on the battlefield, during a terrible hour of fighting, a little distance away from me, I saw a delicate, pale friar with beautiful, expressive eyes. He was not dressed as a chaplain but as a simple friar and he hurriedly and gently called to me saying, “Captain, move away from that place. Come to me quickly.” I ran toward him and had not even reached him when, in the place where I had previously stood, a grenade exploded, opening up a pit. If I had been there, my body would have been blown into the air in shreds. I wanted to thank the little friar who had called me, but he was no longer there. He had disappeared without my realizing it and even though I looked around for him I never saw him again.
On the same day that my life was saved, another person told me that a beautiful monk had saved him from death as well. Other soldiers at the Italian base said they had seen a friar among them who looked toward Heaven and prayed. One of these soldiers said that the priest who had been on the battlefield was Padre Pio who lived in San Giovanni Rotondo. I wanted to come here and see if he was the friar who had saved me as his face remained imprinted in my mind. Now I know that it was him. You can imagine what gratitude I feel toward this holy priest. I am happy to have been able to thank him personally and to kiss his hand.”
A note from the editors: Jim Cunningham of Coral Springs, Florida, recently shared his inspiring story with us.
My name is Jim Cunningham. I was born in 1924 and was in the military during World War II, stationed in Foggia, Italy. I was assigned to a photo reconnaissance squadron and I heard about Padre Pio from the townspeople in Foggia. One day I decided to visit him so I took two other G I’s with me and drove a military jeep up the mountain to the monastery. It was in 1945 and I was twenty-one years old. I attended his Mass and felt very fortunate as all of the soldiers that were present were invited to sit right up on the altar, very close to Padre Pio. I was able to clearly see the wounds on his hands. Seeing his devotion at Mass was a very moving experience. He celebrated Mass in such a way that I was able to comprehend the sacredness of the Mass. His whole being inspired me.
Padre Pio was a very humble man and at the same time he was open and friendly. I had learned that Padre Pio liked grapefruit juice, so on my second visit to San Giovanni Rotondo I brought some juice. I was able to go to San Giovanni three times to see Padre Pio.
Mary Pyle, Padre Pio’s secretary, invited me to lunch at her home. She told me that she had come to Italy from the U.S. just for a visit. Shortly after she met Padre Pio, she decided to stay permanently. Her esteem for him was such that she had a great desire to be near him. She stayed in San Giovanni Rotondo for the rest of her life. Mary’s life was one of complete dedication to Padre Pio. She helped him in so many ways.
Meeting Padre Pio and attending his Mass truly changed my life. It was a great blessing. I have never met anyone in my life who had such a great devotion to God. On a number of occasions I have been invited to church groups to speak about Padre Pio. Today I am 82 years old. Many years have gone by, but my wife and I still feel his presence with us. It is overwhelming.
Father Joseph Pius Martin – who assisted Padre Pio for a number of years, received the following testimony from Kevin Patrick Fitzpatrick.
Kevin Patrick Fitzpatrick who worked in Manchester, England in 1947 became acquainted with a man who had been a soldier in the British Army during World War II. During their advance against the German Army, this soldier and the others in his company came to the area of San Giovanni Rotondo. For some days British artillery had been firing into the areas surrounding the friary, but to their amazement none of the shells were exploding. When British Intelligence officers questioned the local Italian people, they were told that this was not to be wondered at since a very holy priest, Padre Pio lived at the friary.
One of the British Army officers was staying at the friary. One night he heard a voice constantly calling out. He went to investigate to see where the sound was coming from. When he came to the door of Padre Pio’s cell, he heard Padre Pio praying the Glory Be to the Father. He repeated the prayer slowly, over and over again. The soldier was deeply edified.
A Grace in Time of War
My brother was serving in the army and had been sent to Viet Nam. Every night our family prayed for his safe return. I carried Padre Pio’s photo with me and prayed to him often for my brother. I felt Padre Pio’s presence with me and shortly after that, my brother wrote to say he would be coming home. When he did come home, he was a different person. After that terrible war he became more quiet and serious. We never asked questions about his experiences and he never spoke much about it. He did mention one experience which seemed very peculiar to him. He said that one day his company was sent ahead of the others to check for the Viet Cong. They were looking through the bush with their guns, when suddenly all of the soldiers smelled the fragrance of roses. They kept saying “Where are the rose bushes? It sure smells good out here.” They never did find the rosebushes and were sent back to camp. Another company was sent out to inspect the same territory. How tragic to say that the company was ambushed and not one survived the attack. According to the calculations, the Viet Cong had been there lurking in the bush all along, when my brother and the others in his company were in that area. But for some strange reason, they were not attacked and they very easily could have been. I know it was Padre Pio who saved my brother’s life.
– I. Ahmadzai
A Letter from Padre Pio to Padre Agostino
“We are passing through a solemn hour. Up to the present we have not been involved in this grievous war which has now gone on for a year . . . We must all cooperate for the common good and make God’s mercy propitious to us in this difficult time, by humble and fervent prayer and by the amendment of our lives.
We must not be down-hearted, dear Father, or lack the filial confidence we owe to our God just because He appears to be angry with us. If it is to come to pass again today that he looked around at them with anger ( Mark 3:5) let us fully understand this. God still loves us, He is still merciful toward us. His looking around with anger, Father, is the language of His sorrowful love; this is the expression which comes from His sorrowing heart at the sight of our wickedness. These are the artifices to which His mercy resorts in order to stop us on our way to perdition. . . .”
– Letters I, May 31, 1915
From our Spiritual Director
During Padre Pio’s lifetime many people asked for his help through his prayers. He would often say to individuals who requested his intercession, “You have cost me a lot.” We know that he suffered for others in order to help them. He made sacrifices and denied himself and offered all of his sufferings to God.
He often sent his Guardian Angel to people to assist them. Many times he advised people to send their own Guardian Angels to him. “When you send your Guardian Angel to me, the angel comes instantly,” he said. He was familiar and comfortable with the realm of angels.
Padre Pio communicated with his spiritual children in many ways. A delicate perfume often announced his invisible presence. It suggested that he was with the person in spirit, listening to their prayers. It expressed his compassion, his presence and his help. What a grace it has been for so many who have become aware at some time of the beautiful fragrance of perfume or roses, so often a sign that Padre Pio was near. – Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP