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

Padre Pio – Saint and Mystic

Download Newsletter Issue 70 – Winter 2017

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

– St. Josemaría Escrivá

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

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

– Henri Nouwen

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

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

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

Download Newsletter Issue 69 – Autumn 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

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

Download Newsletter Issue 68 July – September 2016

Padre Pio Newsletter Issue 68

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Padre Pio Newsletter 68

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

– Giorgio Berlutti

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

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

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

Download Newsletter Issue 67 April 2016

John McCaffery kneels at Padre Pio's side.

John McCaffery kneels at Padre Pio’s side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Padre Pio – A Friend Forever – Part III

Download Newsletter Issue 66 January – March 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

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

 Padre Pio – A Friend Forever – Part II

Download Newsletter Issue 65 October – December 2015

Carlo Campanini receiving a blessing from Padre Pio

Carlo Campanini receiving a blessing from Padre Pio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noreen Handley

Noreen Handley

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

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

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

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

– Noreen Handley

______________________________

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

– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

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

Padre Pio – A Friend Forever

Download Newsletter Issue 64 July – September 2015

A group of soldiers visiting Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo

A group of soldiers visiting Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

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

Lucia and Carlo Barocchi

Lucia and Carlo Barocchi

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Enrichetta Spinelli

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

– Padre Pio

“Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” – Issue 63 – April – 2015

Padre Pio: Director of Souls – Part III

Download Newsletter Issue 63 April – June 2015

In this issue of our “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry” newsletter, we have included a number of impressive testimonies regarding Padre Pio’s gifts and abilities as a spiritual director par excellence.

smilingPioThere was once a man who lived in Rome (name withheld) who had fallen upon hard times. He had searched for work for months with no success. Because he was not able to support his wife and children, he felt like a total failure. Each day, his situation became more desperate. There would be an endless search for work. He would come home to his family with empty pockets and with no hope of finding employment. When he woke up each morning, he dreaded the new day.

One morning, the man’s depression was so great that he could not think in a rational manner. He decided that it would be better to end his life. While his wife and two children were sleeping peacefully in another part of the house, he turned on the gas in the kitchen. He told himself that his problems would soon be over. Suddenly he heard his son calling his name and it caused him to come to his senses. He quickly turned off the gas and rushed to see what his little boy wanted. After he put his son back to bed, his eyes fell on the crucifix that was hanging on the wall. His wife had put it there. He felt that his wife was fortunate because she had a strong faith in God. He however, had no faith.

One day when the man was on a bus, he struck up a conversation with the person who was sitting next to him. That person happened to be the famous actor, Carlo Campanini. The man told Carlo about his many difficulties. Carlo asked him if he had ever heard of Padre Pio and the man replied that he had not. Carlo shared some facts about Padre Pio’s life. He explained that Padre Pio was a very holy Capuchin priest and a great intercessor with the Lord. Carlo felt that Padre Pio would be able to help the man. He suggested that they go together to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio and the man agreed to go.

On the way to San Giovanni Rotondo, the man wondered to himself why he had agreed to make the trip. He was not a person of faith. He had no interest in things of a religious nature. He couldn’t imagine that he would enjoy spending time at a monastery. He also thought that it was very odd that Carlo Campanini would have such a strong religious inclination. Carlo had fame, fortune, friends, and the respect and admiration of millions. What would motivate him to have so much devotion to a Catholic priest?

The next morning the man went with Carlo to Padre Pio’s Mass. It was the very first time he had ever attended Mass. He tried to follow along as best he could but he was not able to understand the formal prayers or the scripture readings. It was all new to him. He could not grasp it. When the others in the congregation knelt down, he followed suit. When they stood up, he stood up. He tried to say the name Jesus. For the duration of the Mass he kept repeating the name Jesus. It was his only prayer.

After Mass, the man went into the sacristy with a number of others in order to receive Padre Pio’s blessing. Padre Pio was walking toward the fountain in the sacristy to wash his hands when he noticed the man. Padre Pio looked at him with a penetrating gaze and then smiled at him. The man felt an instant connection. He could not explain it, but for some strange reason, it seemed as though Padre Pio had been expecting him.

Later on in the afternoon, the man saw Padre Pio again and was able to speak to him. “I do not believe in God,” the man said to Padre Pio. “That is not true,” Padre Pio replied. “There was a time when you did not believe in God. But that was in the past. As for now, you do believe.” Padre Pio then took the man to his cell and heard his confession. The man told Padre Pio that he did not know how to pray and Padre Pio gave him simple instructions in prayer. The man still felt a sense of guilt and shame over the sins of his past and he told Padre Pio so. “Do you think that St. Peter will want to know about this when you go to heaven?” Padre Pio asked. “Of course he will not!” Padre Pio added. He then gave the man a fatherly embrace. The darkness and the pain that had been in his heart for years, suddenly vanished. Unashamedly, he began to cry. When he left the monastery, he had one last coin in his pocket. He gave it to a beggar who was standing nearby. He was now completely penniless but ironically, he felt freer than he had in years.

When the man returned to Rome, he was faithful to attend Mass every Sunday with his wife and children. He asked for instruction and was taught how to use the Missal in order to follow the prayers and readings of the Mass. He still had many difficulties to face in his life, but he no longer felt hopeless. His new found faith gave him the light he needed to see each day to its completion and to give thanks to God for blessings received.

 

______________________________

 

Dr. Ezio Saltamerenda was the director of the Biotherapeutic Institute in Genoa, Italy. Ezio had been an atheist from the time he was a teenager. As the years passed, he felt an ever greater hostility toward religion and looked with disdain on people who believed in God. Ezio felt that it was his duty to convince people that religion was for the weak and feeble minded.

On one occasion, Ezio was introduced to an industrialist from Genoa, Mario Cavaliere. Mario happened to be a spiritual son of Padre Pio. In Mario’s office, Ezio noticed a photograph of Padre Pio on the desk. As he glanced at the photograph, he felt a strange tightness in his throat. Mario noticed Ezio staring at the photo and told him some brief facts about Padre Pio’s life.

Even though priests and clergymen were not people that Dr. Ezio admired or respected, the words that Mario spoke about Padre Pio made a deep impression on him. The next morning, he felt an overwhelming urge to meet Padre Pio. He could not understand where the desire was coming from but he felt powerless to resist it. He left for San Giovanni Rotondo that very evening.

When he arrived at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, he was told to wait for Padre Pio in the sacristy. When Padre Pio walked into the sacristy, Ezio felt the same tightness in his throat that he had felt when he saw Padre Pio’s picture for the first time. Suddenly, without having any idea why, Ezio felt like crying.

Ezio was informed that the only way he could speak to Padre Pio was if he made his confession to him. He decided to wait in the confessional line. When it was his turn, he explained to Padre Pio that he wanted to ask him for a blessing for a relative who was sick. He did not want to make his confession. Padre Pio had a severe expression on his face and said to him, “Do you ever think of the state of your soul?” “Yes, I do think of the state of my soul,” Ezio replied. Padre Pio then asked him what he believed the purpose of life was. “The purpose of life is the preservation of the species,” Ezio replied. Padre Pio told Ezio that his soul was in a dreadful state and then he asked him to leave the confessional. Ezio tried to stand up but for some strange reason he felt riveted to the ground. He was completely confused. Finally, he managed to leave the confessional.

Even though Ezio’s first encounter with Padre Pio had not gone well, he wanted to see him again. He wondered what the second encounter would be like. Fighting the fear in his heart, he gathered up his courage and returned the next day. He tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as he stood in the corridor among a group of men who were waiting for Padre Pio. When Padre Pio saw Ezio, he said to him, “Man from Genoa, you live near the seaside but you do not know how to wash. You have a dirty face!” Then he added, “You are a strong boat without a captain.” Once again, he asked him to leave.

All of the men who were waiting in line had heard Padre Pio’s words. Ezio felt the embarrassment of being humiliated in public. In his heart, he felt a great anguish. He went for a walk in an open field near the monastery. He tried to clear his mind and to think about what he should do next. He was hurt by Padre Pio’s coldness, but it only made him long with a greater intensity to be near him. He told one of the other Capuchins all that had happened. The Capuchin was very kind to Ezio and tried to encourage him. He took him to Padre Pio’s cell. As they entered the cell, Ezio became aware of the beautiful fragrance of violets. When Padre Pio saw Ezio, he told him to go downstairs and wait for him. He would come down soon to hear his confession.

Ezio made a sincere confession and he cried unashamedly throughout. Later he was to say that making his confession to Padre Pio was the most beautiful moment of his life. His previous encounters with Padre Pio had been painful, no doubt, but that was all in the past. After he received absolution, he spoke to Padre Pio from his heart and said, “I hope that the sorrow that I have felt for my sins and also my conversion to the faith has been of some consolation to you.” “My son,” Padre Pio replied lovingly, “Indeed, it has been a great consolation to me. God bless you always.” Later he told Ezio that he would always be with him in spirit.

Ezio had not been mistaken. Padre Pio had called him “my son.” Ezio’s heart was bursting with joy. When Dr. Ezio Saltamerenda returned to his home in Genoa, he was a changed man. It was the beginning of a completely different life for him, and he shared his new found faith with everyone.

______________________________

 

Giuseppe Minto of Milan, Italy was a Camilian friar of the Institute of St. Camillo of Alberoni. The members of his religious congregation cared for the sick and infirm. One of the sick patients that Giuseppe was assisting, spoke to him about Padre Pio and encouraged him to visit San Giovanni Rotondo.

Giuseppe was finally able to make the trip in March 1959. When he met Padre Pio and kissed his hand, he perceived a beautiful fragrance which he described as a mixture of roses, incense, and carbolic acid. He also had the opportunity to assist as altar server at Padre Pio’s Mass on several occasions. During the Mass, just before the Eucharistic prayer, as Giuseppe poured water over Padre Pio’s wounded hands, he felt immensely blessed.

After the Mass, Padre Pio made his thanksgiving behind a curtain. Giuseppe happened to look past the curtain and he was able to see Padre Pio clearly. In his hand, he had a large stack of letters from people requesting his prayers. Padre Pio’s lips were moving and he was gesturing as though he was talking to someone, but there was no one there. Giuseppe understood then that Padre Pio was speaking to God.

Giuseppe waited in the sacristy to make his confession to Padre Pio. He sat on a bench with many other men. Near him was an engineer, who was so frightened at the prospect of making his confession to Padre Pio that he was trembling. Giuseppe felt sorry for him and tried to say a word to console him. When the engineer’s turn came, he started to walk toward the confessional but was so overcome by emotion and fear that he fell to the floor. Padre Pio was very loving. He encouraged the man to step forward and he pointed him to the kneeler.

Once, when Giuseppe was making his confession to Padre Pio, he began speaking about something that was totally unrelated to the matter at hand. Padre Pio stopped him short. “There is no time to lose, my son,” Padre Pio said. He did not want to waste a minute. Before Giuseppe left San Giovanni Rotondo to return to Milan, he asked Padre Pio to give him a word to take back to the other priests and brothers in his religious congregation. “Say this to your brothers,” Padre Pio replied. “Let us sanctify ourselves and treat the sick well. Let us live well and we will bring upon ourselves the blessings of the Lord.”

______________________________

 

Romana Bianchi had been suffering from arthritis of the spine for several years. She was in constant pain and no medicine that the doctor prescribed brought her any relief. She spent most of her time in bed, hardly able to move. Romana had a husband and three children to care for but it became increasingly difficult for her to see to the needs of her family. She decided to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo to visit Padre Pio and to ask him to pray that her health would be restored. She also had another special intention. Romana’s father-in-law lived in her household and their relationship was very strained. Romana hoped that they could resolve their problems so that peace would return to the home. It was a situation that needed prayer.

Romana traveled from her home in Gemona del Friuli in northeastern Italy to San Giovanni Rotondo. The year was 1963. In the confessional, Padre Pio asked Romana if she went to Mass on Sundays. She told him that she did not. Next, he asked her if she had gone to Mass on Easter Sunday. Again, she said no. Padre Pio became upset and raised his voice in disapproval.

Romana was not put off by Padre Pio’s strong words, nor was she intimidated by his sternness. She did what very few people had the courage to do. She spoke up to him. “Listen, I am desperate,” Romana said to Padre Pio. “If I was not desperate, I would never have traveled such a long distance from one end of Italy to the other in order to see you. I am here because I need help. My heart feels like ice. For a long time, I have been on the point of giving up completely. I have been so sick that I cannot even pray.”

Romana’s words caused Padre Pio’s attitude to soften. She continued with her confession. When she was finished, Padre Pio gave her absolution. When he said, “Go in peace,” a great peace filled Romana’s heart. She went back to Gemona del Friuli, healed in body and also in spirit. The chronic pain left her and never returned. She felt like her old self again. Not only that, her relationship with her father-in-law improved dramatically. Peace was restored to their relationship and she grew to have a deep affection for him. In the last years of his life, when he became bedridden, Romana cared for him lovingly and considered it a privilege.

______________________________

 

Probo Vaccarini traveled from his home in Rimini to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to make his confession to Padre Pio. Eight of Probo’s friends asked him to speak to Padre Pio on their behalf. Probo decided that the best way to present his friends’ prayer petitions to Padre Pio was to write them out on a single piece of paper.

While making his confession to Padre Pio, Probo kept thinking about the note in his pocket with the petitions on it. He wondered when would be the appropriate time for him to talk to Padre Pio about his friends’ needs. Padre Pio noticed Probo’s restlessness. After Padre Pio gave him absolution, he said to him, “I want you to leave now!” “But wait,” Probo said. “Eight of my friends would like you to pray for their intentions. I have their names and their petitions which they have asked me to relay to you.” “You should not be thinking about your friends while you are in the confessional,” Padre Pio replied. “If you do not leave at once, I will.”

Padre Pio stood up and made a motion to leave. A strange feeling suddenly came over Probo. He felt rooted to his place. He could not move. He could not have left the confessional if he had wanted to. Padre Pio seemed to be aware of how uncomfortable Probo felt. He once again took his seat. “Go ahead and ask me what you want to regarding your friends,” Padre Pio said. Probo took the paper with the petitions on it out of his pocket. It was completely blank. “You must hurry,” Padre Pio said. “There are many other people who are waiting in line to make their confession. We do not have any time to lose.” “I don’t understand what happened,” Probo replied. “The paper that I wrote the petitions on is now blank!” He noticed that Padre Pio had a broad grin on his face.

Padre Pio then proceeded to make seven statements. Each statement was an accurate reference to the petitions of Probo’s seven friends. Probo wondered why Padre Pio had only addressed the needs of seven of his friends when it was actually eight who made the request. As it turned out, the person that Padre Pio omitted, had the opportunity to go to San Giovanni Rotondo and speak for himself.

______________________________

 

On one occasion, Padre Pio was in the choir loft of the church, making his thanksgiving after Mass. Brother Costantino approached him and told him that there was a man downstairs in the church who wanted to make his confession. He asked Padre Pio if it would be all right if he brought the man up to the choir loft so that he could make his confession. Padre Pio made no reply. Brother Costantino waited for a time and finally went back downstairs.

A few moments later Brother Costantino returned to the choir loft. “Padre Pio,” Brother Costantino said, “The man who wants to make his confession to you is still downstairs. He cannot wait any longer. He is a chauffeur and there are people calling for him to drive them to their destinations.” “That man has made the Lord wait for twenty-five years,” Padre Pio said. “He can wait five minutes for me to finish my prayers!”

Brother Costantino was not sure what Padre Pio was talking about. He went downstairs for the second time. The man was still standing in the corridor. “I have to leave now,” the man said impatiently. “I cannot wait a minute longer. Besides that, I am afraid to make my confession to Padre Pio.” “Why are you afraid?” Brother Costantino asked. “I am afraid because it has been twenty-five years since my last confession.”

______________________________

 

Umberto Iorio once traveled from Morcone to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to make his confession to Padre Pio. He was twenty-five years old. “Do you go to Mass?” Padre Pio asked. “I attend Mass once in awhile,” Umberto replied. “Why do you live in the desert?” Padre Pio asked him, referring to the way he was neglecting his spiritual life. “You must start going to Mass and then you can come back and I will hear your confession,” Padre Pio said.

Umberto got up casually from the kneeler. With a nonchalant attitude, he walked out of the confessional. From all appearances, he seemed to be completely indifferent to what Padre Pio had said to him. As soon as he left the church and walked out into the open air, he began to sob. As though a light had been turned on inside his mind, he suddenly understood the error of his ways. He felt a deep remorse. After that brief encounter with Padre Pio, Umberto never missed Mass again.

______________________________

 

Cornelia Zolezzi of Chiavari, Italy had a pressing problem in her life and took a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo in hopes of speaking to Padre Pio about it. Cornelia owned an apartment in Chiavari and when she made a temporary move to Florence, she sublet her apartment to a woman whom she thought would be an ideal tenant. Later, when Cornelia was returning to Chiavari to take up residence, she gave the woman advanced notice to vacate the apartment. However, the woman refused to leave. Cornelia had no choice but to move back into her apartment while her tenant was still occupying it. It soon became an intolerable situation. Cornelia had no privacy and as time passed, she grew more and more unhappy about the situation.

At the time of Cornelia’s visit, people were not allowed to make their confession to Padre Pio if it had been less than a week since their last confession. There was sound logic behind the rule. Considering the ever-growing number of people who flocked to Padre Pio’s confessional, the long lines and the long wait became unmanageable.

Cornelia knew that she was breaking the rules when she stood in the women’s line for Padre Pio’s confessional. She had been to confession just a few days previously. However, she was so distraught about her living situation that she was willing to take her chances in order to speak to Padre Pio.

Cornelia walked into Padre Pio’s confessional and knelt down. “You are in the grace of God,” he said to her, indicating that she had recently made her confession and that all was well. He would not hear her confession. Cornelia was disappointed but there was nothing she could do.

When Cornelia returned to Chiavari, she was very surprised to find that her tenant had moved out of the apartment. One of the neighbors told Cornelia that a moving van had arrived in front of the apartment in the morning. After all of the woman’s furniture and personal belongings were loaded into the moving van, the driver and the woman left together. When Cornelia inquired as to the time that the woman left, her neighbor told her that she left at about 8:30 a.m. That was the same time that Cornelia had knelt before Padre Pio in the confessional.

______________________________

 

There was a man once who entered Padre Pio’s confessional and found it to be a very disheartening experience. The year was 1963. Padre Pio did not even permit the man to kneel down, but instead asked him to leave at once. The man felt insulted. He went to one of the other Capuchins and told him what had happened and how upset he was. “Padre Pio treated you that way because he cares about you,” the Capuchin told him. “He wants you to change your life and to save your soul.” The Capuchin then heard the man’s confession and gave him absolution. He counseled the man and told him that it was very important for him to get his life back on the spiritual track. He noticed that in many ways, the man’s ideas about religion were very shallow. He knew very little about his Catholic faith.

Unfortunately, the man did not heed the Capuchin’s advice and continued to live a sinful life. He betrayed his family’s trust and on many occasions was dishonest in his business practices. However, after meeting Padre Pio, something slowly started to change within him. He visited San Giovanni Rotondo on seven more occasions but always made sure that he kept a good distance from Padre Pio’s confessional. Once had been enough.

Through his visits to the monastery, the man learned of Padre Pio’s daily schedule. He knew that Padre Pio passed through the St. Francis hall each day after hearing the women’s confessions. One day, he had a great desire to see Padre Pio. He did not want to speak to him. He simply wanted to see him.

The man went to the St. Francis hall and stood in a corner so that he would not be noticed. He did not want to attract any attention to himself. Padre Pio soon came out of the elevator and entered the St. Francis hall. Although many people surrounded him, he kept his arms folded across his chest so that no one could kiss his hands.

The man was surprised to see that Padre Pio had spotted him standing in the corner and was staring at him. Padre Pio then walked directly over to him and stretched out his hand. The man was very happy for the opportunity to kiss Padre Pio’s hand. Padre Pio then blessed him. The man could not believe his good fortune.

One day, the man gathered enough courage to return to Padre Pio’s confessional. He spoke to Padre Pio from his heart. He told Padre Pio that he had been trying to overcome the sins in his life but had not been able to completely free himself from them. “But is that not repentance?” Padre Pio said to him lovingly. Padre Pio’s encouraging words filled the man with hope. He made a good confession and felt truly blessed to receive absolution from Padre Pio.

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

– Father Harry Cronin, C.S.C.

 

Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry – Issue 62 – January – March 2015

In Padre Pio’s presence, one felt that nothing on this earth was of any importance except one thing, to be in the grace of God.

 – Kathleen Thornton

 Padre Pio – Director of Souls – Part II

Download Newsletter Issue 62 January – March 2015

#62-1-LowRes 001smPadre Pio’s fame as a confessor drew immense crowds to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo. As the crowds grew larger, Padre Pio, by necessity, became more inaccessible to the pilgrims. Outside of the confessional, it was almost impossible for a person to be able to have a conversation with him. Once, one of his spiritual daughters complained to him about the lack of time he had to give her in the confessional. He said to her, “I have spoken to you for many years. Now I ask you to put into practice those things that I have told you to do.”

As a confessor, Padre Pio wanted people to understand the seriousness of sin. “We have a greater fear of mortal sin than of fire,” Padre Pio once said. On another occasion he said, “Beware of sin as of a poisonous viper.” When penitents put questions to him regarding moral issues, his answers left no doubt as to the difference between right and wrong and the proper course to follow. One man said, “Padre Pio’s words were firm, candid and pure.” A man once confessed to him that he had thoughts against chastity. “How many times have you had those thoughts?” Padre Pio asked. “Six or seven times,” the man replied. “But seven is not the same as six because it means one more deadly sin,” Padre Pio answered.

Padre Pio had a great fear of offending God and was ready to go to any length to avoid doing so. He had no illusions about human nature. He said, “As long as there remains a drop of blood in our bodies, there will always be a struggle between right and wrong.” Looking back on his life, he once said, “Temptations that concern my secular life are those that most upset me . . . They bring on a cold sweat and make me tremble . . . In those moments, all I can do is cry.”

In 1915, Padre Pio wrote to Father Agostino:

The thought of going astray and . . . offending God fills me with terror. It paralyzes my limbs, and both body and soul feel as if they are being squeezed in a powerful vise. My bones feel as if they are being dislocated . . . crushed and ground up.

The general opinion was that making one’s confession to Padre Pio was of profound spiritual benefit. Nevertheless, to confess to Padre Pio was not an easy task for most. As one person described it, “To go to confession to Padre Pio was to allow him to look right inside your soul.” As a confessor, he was strict and demanding. He had great moral strength in directing souls and he did not hesitate to tell the penitents what they needed to do in order to change their lives. He often told people what they did not want to hear. He had a strong character and was afraid of no one. Many people wanted to make their confession to him but were held back by their fear. One man stated, “It is less frightening to take a difficult examination at the university than to make one’s confession to Padre Pio.”

In the confessional, Padre Pio did not want people to make excuses for their sins and omissions. A woman from Gioia del Colle, Italy visited Padre Pio on one occasion. During her confession, she said that she missed Mass the previous Sunday because of the rain. “Yes, but when you left to come to San Giovanni Rotondo, it was raining too,” Padre Pio replied. “You must never miss Mass again on Sunday unless illness prevents you from attending,” he added.

A photo of the confessional used by Padre Pio in the early days.

A photo of the confessional used by Padre Pio in the early days.

An atheist was once introduced to Padre Pio and the visit resulted in the man’s conversion. He said, “I went to see Padre Pio when I had a thousand reasons for not believing in God. With great delicacy, little by little, he led me back to the faith and gave me the moral stability I lacked.”

Padre Pio attached enormous importance to the frequent reception of the sacrament of confession. He used to say, “Even if a room is sealed off completely, dust will still accumulate in it.” Padre Pio practiced what he advocated to others. He went to confession frequently. Before making his confession, he prayed deeply and sought the intercession of the Virgin Mary. He always felt a great remorse for his sins and often cried when making his confession. To Father Benedetto, who was his spiritual director for twelve years, Padre Pio wrote, “I am seeking the amendment of my life, my spiritual resurrection, true and substantial love, the sincere conversion of my whole self to Him.”

Mr. Livio Dimatteo met Padre Pio in 1959. On one occasion, Livio had been undergoing a strong temptation which he was convinced was, “from the devil.” Because of it, he was afraid to make his confession to Padre Pio. When he finally gathered up the courage and entered Padre Pio’s confessional, Padre Pio placed his hand, much harder than usual, on Livio’s head. Livio was certain that Padre Pio knew all about the temptation and would assist him through his prayers.

One man who had initially been denied absolution by Padre Pio stated that Padre Pio was the only person who had been able to help him break away from his destructive lifestyle. “Thanks to Padre Pio, I was able to understand the gravity of my sins,” the man said. Previously, the man had always justified his immoral conduct and had no desire to change. People tried to show him the error of his ways but nothing that anyone said made a difference to him. The shock of being denied absolution by Padre Pio caused the him to reflect on his life. He made a good examination of conscience and later made a sincere confession and received absolution.

When twelve-year-old Mariella Lotti of Cosenza approached Padre Pio’s confessional, his words startled her. “If I heard your confession right now, we would get nowhere. You are not prepared to make your confession at this time,” Padre Pio said. Mariella, as well as her parents, felt offended, but when Padre Pio gave a further explanation for his actions, they not only understood, they agreed with him. It proved to be a turning point in young Mariella’s life. Another young woman wanted to make her confession to Padre Pio but she was not willing to make the needed changes in her life. Padre Pio spoke of her and said, “She is just like coal. When exposed, it stains. When lit, it burns.”

Padre Pio prayed continually for the salvation of all people. To a woman who was in great need he said, “Rest assured that I will pray for you. Even after my death I will remember you in my prayers.” To another he said, “You must understand the responsibility I have assumed before Jesus for you. If something bad should happen to you which is to your spiritual detriment, Jesus will ask me to account for it directly.” To a woman who asked him how often she could write to him, he responded, “Write to me whenever you have the desire or the need. In me, you will always find a father.”

Antonio Monari had a remarkable experience the first time he entered Padre Pio’s confessional. Antonio stated:

I was expecting to see a saint but I never imagined I would experience what I did. I told Padre Pio the many troubles of my family and myself and he listened paternally. I asked him for a grace for which I had waited many years for in vain. “Men can do nothing my son,” Padre Pio said and he pointed upward. “Only God who is above can help us. I will pray for you,” he added. He then gave me his blessing. I cannot describe to you the feeling of profound emotion I felt, so much so that when I got up, I lost my balance. He touched me affectionately on the right side of my head. My right ear, in which I was completely deaf, suddenly opened and I have been able to hear perfectly ever since.

In the confessional, people frequently asked Padre Pio for his counsel regarding family situations, vocational choices, business concerns, health issues, and even advice on farming matters. He was glad if he could help people on any level, but above all else, his desire was to help people on a spiritual level. He wanted people to realize their need for God. Professor Michael Melillo, one of Padre Pio’s spiritual sons, once said to Padre Pio, “Father, please give me some spiritual advice that I can use for my whole life.” Padre Pio answered him and said, “You have been born to know, to love and to serve God, and to be happy with him eternally in heaven.”

Capuchin Father Ruggero observed that many of the pilgrims who greeted Padre Pio handed him personal letters which contained their prayer requests. It seemed impossible for Padre Pio to read all the letters that he received. Father Ruggero wondered how he could find the time to pray for so many people. He asked Padre Pio how he could keep up with the task. Padre Pio touched his hand to his heart and said, “This is where they all pass. They are all here in my heart.”

Padre Pio insisted that people dress modestly whenever entering the church to attend Mass or to make their confession. To many, his standards of modesty were considered to be extreme. As time passed, Padre Pio became even stricter regarding church attire. One priest, who knew of Padre Pio’s rigid standards, told him that he could not insist on such a strict dress code in his parish because he feared that the members of his congregation would become angry and quit. “An empty church is better than a profaned one,” Padre Pio replied.

There was once a lady from Germany who made her confession to Padre Pio. She was fluent in Italian and was planning to make her confession in Italian. Before she could say even one word, Padre Pio began speaking to her in German. She noticed that his accent was perfect. Sometime later, she saw Padre Pio again. She spoke to him in German but he made no reply. She spoke to him a second time in German. He said nothing. Finally, she spoke to him in Italian and said, “Padre Pio, you spoke so well with me in German in the confessional. Why is it that you will not do so now?” “Oh,” he replied. “Confession is a completely different matter.”

Padre Pio’s fidelity to his priestly ministry as a confessor was revealed to Dr. Filippo Pancaro on one occasion. Dr. Pancaro, who was on staff at the Home for the Relief of Suffering, once gave Padre Pio a thorough physical examination. Besides having a high fever, Padre Pio also complained of dizziness, weakness, and a disturbing ringing in his ears. His exhaustion at the time was so great that he could hardly stand on his feet. Dr. Pancaro told Padre Pio that he needed to rest more in order to regain his strength. He advised him to discontinue hearing the evening confessions for a while.

Padre Pio was very disappointed at the doctor’s words. “If that is an order, I will do it,” Padre Pio said. “But only if it is an order. I do not want to cut back on hearing confessions.” Padre Pio then asked the doctor for his prayers. “I ask you to pray for me to the Virgin Mary,” Padre Pio said. “Pray that my health will be restored.” Dr. Pancaro assured him that he would do so. Padre Pio told the doctor that if he had a choice between losing his sight or his hearing, he would prefer to lose his sight. “As long as I have my hearing, I will always be able to continue to hear confessions,” he said. He once told Father Agostino that he would prefer to be taken to the confessional in a wheelchair rather than to stop hearing confessions.

Several hours before he died, Padre Pio asked the priest who was assisting him, Father Pellegrino Funicelli, to hear his confession. After making his confession, he said to Father Pellegrino, “Ask all my brothers to forgive me for all of the trouble I have caused them. If the Lord should call me tonight, please ask all of my spiritual children to say a prayer for my soul.”

______________________________

Gina Deiana was engaged to be married and was looking forward to the day of her wedding with great anticipation. Two months before the wedding, her fiancé broke up with her. He did not have the courtesy to speak to Gina in person about his decision or even to call her on the telephone. He simply left her a short note indicating that their relationship was over. Gina was devastated by his actions and sunk into a deep depression. Her sadness became so overwhelming that she lost all joy in living.

Soon after the break up, Gina happened to read an article about Padre Pio in a magazine. She had a strong desire to visit Padre Pio and so she invited her aunt to make the trip with her to San Giovanni Rotondo. They left from their home in Genova, and arrived at Padre Pio’s monastery two days later. The year was 1952. They felt fortunate to book a room in the one and only hotel in the town.

The following morning, Gina and her aunt attended Padre Pio’s early Mass. Later that day, a woman whom Gina had never seen before, approached her and said, “You are the girl whose fiancé broke up with her. Am I right about that?” “But how did you know?” Gina asked. “Padre Pio told me about you,” the woman answered. “He wants you to stay here in San Giovanni Rotondo longer than you had intended to. Also, he would like to speak to you.” “But our funds are very limited. We cannot afford to stay any longer than planned,” Gina said. “Don’t give it another thought. I will be happy to lend you the money,” the woman replied. The woman’s name was Angelina Serritelli. She was one of Padre Pio’s spiritual daughters and she went to great lengths to assist him in any way that she could.

Gina was amazed by her conversation with Angelina Serritelli. She and her aunt were strangers in the little town of San Giovanni Rotondo. No one but Gina’s mother knew about their trip. But Padre Pio obviously knew that Gina was there. He had sent Angelina to greet her. Gina called her mother in Genova and told her that she and her aunt would be staying longer than they had anticipated.

While in San Giovanni Rotondo, Gina was able to make her confession to Padre Pio. During the confession, she told Padre Pio that her fiancé had abandoned her and that she was very depressed. Although she had made an effort to get over the traumatic incident, she had not succeeded. She told Padre Pio that she had stopped receiving Holy Communion because she had been so upset.

In a fatherly way, Padre Pio counseled Gina. “Be calm,” he said. “You must try to stop thinking about your fiancé and how he betrayed you. He was not worthy of you.” Gina felt at peace for the first time in a very long time. Padre Pio spoke to her with great tenderness, almost making light of the sins that she confessed. He then gave her a picture of Jesus. On the back of the picture, he had written the words, “Let Jesus be the center of all your aspirations.” After making her confession to Padre Pio, Gina was able to put the past behind her and move forward in life.

______________________________

Guido Biondi visited San Giovanni Rotondo and made his confession to Padre Pio for the first time in 1956. In the confessional, Padre Pio asked Guido if he attended Mass on Sundays. Guido replied that he went to Mass once in awhile. “Then you must leave,” Padre Pio told him. “Come back in one month and I will hear your confession at that time,” Padre Pio added. Guido was angry when he rose from his kneeling position. He could hardly wait to get out of the confessional. He felt indignant and humiliated that Padre Pio had dismissed him in such a rough way. When he walked out of the church, he immediately went to the bus stop in order to catch the first bus that was leaving for Foggia.

On the bus trip to Foggia, Guido’s anger began to subside. As he thought about what had transpired in the confessional, he became more objective. He was able to understand why Padre Pio had spoken to him the way he had. Guido took stock of his life, and for the first time, he felt guilty about many of the actions of his past. He had turned his back on God and in doing so, he had lost his way. He suddenly felt the crushing burden of his many sins.

After Guido returned to his home, he went over every detail of his brief encounter with Padre Pio. He wanted with his whole heart to speak to Padre Pio again but he felt too embarrassed to do so. Padre Pio had rejected him and he did not feel that he could ever face him again.

Guido had a very good job in the automobile industry where he was supervisor to more than one hundred employees. Back at work, he found it difficult to concentrate. He began to lose weight and his health deteriorated. He neglected his responsibilities at work. One day, he had great difficulty breathing. His body was wracked with pain. He prayed to Padre Pio and at once his painful symptoms disappeared. The answered prayer from Padre Pio gave him the courage to make a return trip to San Giovanni Rotondo.

At the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, Guido noticed a Capuchin who greeted five men that were standing nearby. The Capuchin motioned for the men to follow him. What seemed to be a force outside himself impelled Guido to join the group of five men. They followed the Capuchin up some stairs and then down a long and narrow corridor. Suddenly, they were standing in front of Padre Pio’s cell. They knocked on the door and heard a loud voice inviting them to come in. Guido was the last one to enter Padre Pio’s cell.

Padre Pio greeted the men and asked them for an update regarding someone who was ill. Guido understood then that the five men he had followed into Padre Pio’s cell were all doctors. They worked at the Home for the Relief of Suffering. One of the doctors spoke to Padre Pio at length about the individual who was ill. After the doctors conversed with Padre Pio for a while, one by one, they kissed his hand and then left. Guido was suddenly standing all alone with Padre Pio. Fear gripped his heart. Padre Pio smiled at him and offered him his hand. Very moved, Guido kissed Padre Pio’s hand and then left.

Those few moments with Padre Pio had made a remarkable impression on Guido. He knew that it was no accident that he had followed the five doctors to Padre Pio’s cell. He was certain that it had been arranged by Divine Providence. That very evening, Guido had an opportunity to make his confession to Padre Pio. He no longer felt afraid. He was able to make a sincere confession. Padre Pio was very kind to him. He blessed him and gave him absolution. When Guido rose to his feet, he felt purified and immensely happy.

Guido’s friend had been waiting for him in the little square just outside. When Guido left the confessional, he could hardly contain himself. He ran out of the church and with great joy, he began to shout to his friend, “He has absolved me, he has absolved me!”

______________________________

Italian-born Dino Segre was a well-known and highly esteemed author. He took the name Pitigrilli as his signature name for all of his published works. Dino was talented and successful and had more money than he could spend. Although he was not religious, as time passed, Dino began to think more and more about the deeper meaning of life. In the process, his interest in spirituality gradually began to grow.

At the advice of a friend, Dino decided to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to see Padre Pio. Dino was famous throughout Italy but while he was visiting the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, he wanted to remain completely anonymous. He hoped that no one would recognize him. On the morning that he attended Padre Pio’s Mass, he sat in the very back of the church and tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

During the Mass, when Padre Pio prayed for the living and the deceased, he spoke to the congregation and said, “Pray, brethren. Pray with your whole hearts for someone who is here with us today, someone who is in great need of our prayers. One day he will receive Holy Communion at the Lord’s table. He will be instrumental in bringing others with him back to the Church, others who have lived without God, just like he has.”

Dino was thunderstruck by Padre Pio’s words. He was certain that Padre Pio was speaking about him. There was not a doubt in his mind. Dino felt as though his heart was breaking. He began to cry. Try as he might, it was impossible for him to stop the flood of tears.

After the Mass, Dino had an opportunity to make his confession to Padre Pio. The moment he knelt down in the confessional, Padre Pio quoted from scripture and said to him, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” Of course, Dino knew the answer to the question. It profited a man nothing. Padre Pio was obviously speaking about the worldly life that Dino had been leading for many years. Padre Pio then said to him, “The Lord has been very good to you.”

The encounter with Padre Pio marked a turning point in the life of Dino Segre. After he left San Giovanni Rotondo, he went to his publisher and insisted that certain books he had written be permanently taken off the market. He was aware that his decision would cause him to incur a great financial loss, but he didn’t care. He knew that Padre Pio set a very high moral and spiritual standard. With all his heart, he wanted his literary works to reflect that standard. For the rest of his life, he wrote only books that had a Christian theme, books that would help encourage others in the practice of their faith.

 

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

– Henri Nouwen

Padre Pio Devotions – Books
Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book I
Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book II

by Diane Allen and available from amazon.com

Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry – Issue 61 – October-December 2014

Padre Pio – Director of Souls

Download Newsletter Issue 61 October – December 2014

Pio Abresch

Twelve-year-old Pio Abresch (right) assists Padre Pio at Mass. Padre Pio predicted that young Pio would one day become a priest.

Padre Pio, in his lifetime, reconciled innumerable souls back to God through the sacrament of confession. He was always in great demand as a confessor. People were willing to wait many days and brave any inconvenience in order to make their confession to him. In the early days, before there were accommodations for the pilgrims, the men who waited to make their confession to Padre Pio would sometimes sleep at night in the fields near the monastery. Some would even pitch tents in the open areas. When the sun rose, they would resume their place in the confessional line.

For years, Padre Pio spent the greater part of each day in the confessional. It was for this reason that he was often spoken of as a “martyr of the confessional.” Pope Pius XII referred to Padre Pio as the “confessor of Europe.” Once, Archbishop Andrea Cesarano of Manfredonia and Pope Pius XII were talking together about Padre Pio. “What does Padre Pio do?” the pope asked. “Your Holiness,” Archbishop Cesarano replied, “He takes away the sins of the world.”

Padre Pio had a true understanding of human weakness and was willing to go to great lengths to help a person. However, if a person was not sorry for his sins, Padre Pio did not feel that he could do much for that individual. He recommended to some individuals that they go to one of the other Capuchins to make their confession, rather than to him, without explaining the reason why. When he sent people out of the confessional because they were not adequately prepared to make their confession, it weighed on him. “If you could only understand how I suffer when I have to refuse absolution,” Padre Pio said. “But it is better to be criticized by a man in this life than by God in the next life.” He never advocated that other priests adopt his unconventional methods. “What I do, you cannot do,” he once said to a fellow priest.

Angelo Battisti, an administrator at the Home for the Relief of Suffering, knew that Padre Pio spent long hours praying for the intentions of his spiritual children. Angelo once offered a suggestion to Padre Pio. “It is far too time-consuming for you to pray for people on an individual basis,” Angelo said. “There are just too many people who are requesting your prayers. Why don’t you pray for the people in general rather than individually? It would save you a lot of time.” “I cannot do that,” Padre Pio replied. “I must present their needs to God, one at a time.”

The Lord endowed Padre Pio with extraordinary spiritual charisms for his ministry in the confessional. He was given the gift of reading hearts and of infused knowledge. These gifts were present even in the early days of his priesthood. In 1921, Padre Pio wrote a letter to Father Agostino and explained that the knowledge he possessed “came down from above,” indicating that it was given to him by God. To Cleonice Morcaldi, the daughter of the mayor of San Giovanni Rotondo, Padre Pio said, “I see you inside and out, just like you see yourself in a mirror.”

During World War II, an American soldier had the opportunity to make a visit to San Giovanni Rotondo. At the monastery, he was not able to make his confession to Padre Pio because he did not speak Italian. Instead, he was directed to the confessional of a priest who was hearing confessions in English. As the soldier passed through the sacristy, he saw Padre Pio for the first time. Padre Pio stared at the young American with deep concentration. During those moments, the soldier became aware that his mind was being healed. He could feel a definite change in his thought patterns, a complete shift in his usual way of thinking.

Father Nello Castello of Padua, Italy, went to confession to Padre Pio on numerous occasions. Father Castello described confession to Padre Pio as both “jolting and enlightening.” He said, “Padre Pio gave me counsel that reflected the whole range of my existence, past and future. At times he would surprise me with suggestions unconnected with the sins I confessed. But later, events made it clear that his counsels had been prophetic. Padre Pio knew my problems better than I did.”

One woman who made her confession to Padre Pio was plagued with personal problems that were almost overwhelming. Padre Pio said to her, “You must not be anxious or worried about anything because I am here with you.” To another who was undergoing severe trials he said, “Unite yourself to my prayers.” To the penitents, Padre Pio was a confidant, a friend, a counselor and above all a father. People could feel his concern and his loving care. He said to Monsignor Giancarlo Setti, whom he asked to oversee the Padre Pio prayer groups worldwide, “Monsignor, you look after the prayer groups and I will look after your soul.”

Many people testified that their encounter with Padre Pio in the confessional brought them back to a state of inward peace. To a woman who felt intense sorrow because of the death of her child, Padre Pio said, “I want you to know that your child has gone to a place where there is no more pain, no more suffering. That should be a great consolation to you.” And indeed, his words were truly a great consolation to the woman.

Father Vincenzo of Casacalenda wrote:

Padre Pio was always at our disposal. Even when we could not get near him because of the crowds, it was enough for us to turn our thoughts to him. We felt him standing by us, not only protectively but so many times also tangibly, through the prodigious perfume of sanctity which we were conscious of.

He always stood by us both materially and spiritually. He accepted all our requests, met all our anxieties, listened to all our sins. He took upon himself all our miseries as if they were his own, to such an extent that he sometimes lamented, “I can’t go on any more.” This humble confession of the heaviness of his cross, moves and comforts us at the same time. His was an endless love.

Father Vincenzo also made mention of Padre Pio’s gift of reading hearts. He said, “I was afraid of Padre Pio’s gaze – a gaze which searched you. And yet, it was not a hard gaze; no, it was a sweet one. When he looked at you, he stripped you. If Padre Pio looked at you and smiled, you felt you had received a blessing. If he did not look at you, you were afraid.”

Padre Pio knew that being a minister of the sacrament of reconciliation was a great responsibility. The responsibility often weighed heavily on him. He once said to Capuchin Father Domenico Laballarte, “In the confessional we dispense the blood of Christ. Be careful not to pour out such precious blood too easily or too lightly.”

______________________________

German-born Friedrich Abresch lived in Bologna, Italy where he worked as a professional photographer. He converted to Catholicism in order to please his fiancé, Amalia, who was a Catholic. Friedrich was a Catholic in name only. He did not have faith in the teachings of the Church. He rarely went to Mass and as time passed he began to feel a great antipathy for anything that had to do with Catholicism. Later, he took up the study of spiritualism, occultism, and magic.

When Friedrich learned about Padre Pio, his curiosity was aroused. He was fascinated by the stories of the miracles and healings associated with Padre Pio and wanted to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to meet him. In Friedrich’s mind, the only negative factor was that Padre Pio was a Catholic. Could these obvious manifestations of God’s power really be coming from a Catholic priest? Friedrich wondered how it could be possible.

Mr. Abresch

Mr. Friedrich Abresch

Friedrich was finally able to make the trip to see Padre Pio in 1925. He was twenty-eight years old. When he arrived at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, Padre Pio greeted him, but was by no means cordial. He only made a few rather cold remarks. Friedrich had traveled a long distance from Bologna to the little town of San Giovanni Rotondo and was somehow expecting a friendlier reception.

Later, when Friedrich made his confession to Padre Pio, Padre Pio told him that in his previous confessions, he had withheld serious sins from his confessor. His words, which were true, shocked Friedrich. He wondered how Padre Pio could have known. Padre Pio then asked Friedrich if his previous confessions had been made in good faith. He answered that they had not. Friedrich told Padre Pio that he did not believe in the sacrament of confession. Although he felt that it was a useful psychological and social tool, he did not believe that it could impart grace. However, Friedrich had been deeply moved by his few moments with Padre Pio and by the fact that Padre Pio could see into the secret depth of his soul. “I did not believe in the sacrament of confession before,” Friedrich said to Padre Pio. “But now suddenly, by talking with you, I believe in it,” he added.

As though in great pain, Padre Pio told Friedrich that his beliefs were all heresies. He added that all of his past communions had been sacrilegious. “Make a good examination of conscience,” Padre Pio said. “Try to remember when you last made a sincere confession. You must make a general confession.” He told Friedrich that he would hear his confession later in the day. “Jesus has been more merciful to you than he was to Judas!” Padre Pio said. He then left Friedrich in the sacristy and went to hear the women’s confessions.

Friedrich felt shaken to his roots by his contact with Padre Pio. He also felt dazed and confused. He tried to gather his thoughts together but he could not seem to concentrate. He made a supreme effort to recall the last time he made a sincere confession. Try as he might, he could not remember. He tried to focus his mind and make an examination of conscience so that he would be prepared to make a general confession.

Friedrich decided that he would tell Padre Pio that he had been a Lutheran before converting to Catholicism. He would explain that he had been conditionally baptized into the Catholic Church. At that time, all of his sins were forgiven. He would begin his confession by talking about his childhood.

When Friedrich knelt before Padre Pio once again in the confessional, before he could finish his first sentence, Padre Pio interrupted him. “When did you make your last good confession?” Padre Pio asked. Friedrich was not sure if he had ever made a good confession. He told Padre Pio that he could not remember. Padre Pio then reminded him of the time, adding some of the particulars of that confession. It took place shortly after Friedrich was married. That confession had long slipped from his memory but he realized that Padre Pio was right. “Begin your confession from the time I have just mentioned,” Padre Pio said. Friedrich was astonished that Padre Pio had such detailed knowledge of the events of his past life. He realized that he had come in contact with the supernatural.

Padre Pio then enumerated all of Friedrich’s mortal sins by asking him questions about those very sins. He was even able to state the number of times he had neglected to go to Mass. Everything was laid bare before Friedrich’s eyes. He made Friedrich understand the gravity of the state of his soul. “You have launched a hymn to Satan, whereas Jesus, in his tremendous love, has broken himself for you,” Padre Pio said. He then gave Friedrich a penance. When Padre Pio pronounced the words of absolution, Friedrich found it hard to breathe. He felt like he was suffocating. But after he left the confessional, his joy was so great that he could hardly contain himself.

From that day forward, Friedrich attended Mass every day. Friedrich later prepared a written testimony stating that he believed, not only in all of the dogmas and precepts of the Catholic Church, but also in all of the Church’s traditions and ceremonies, even down to the smallest detail. He stated that his faith was so strong that no one would ever be able to shake it. He would prefer to lose his life rather than his faith.

Friedrich had a great desire to be near Padre Pio. He and Amalia decided to move from their home in Bologna to San Giovanni Rotondo. There, they became active members of the Third Order of St. Francis. They were very happy living close to Padre Pio and participating in the spiritual life of the church of Our Lady of Grace.

One day, while in the church of Our Lady of Grace, Friedrich took some photographs of Padre Pio during the celebration of the Mass. He had not asked permission to do so. Much to Friedrich’s surprise, the photos all turned out blank. The next time he wanted to take a photograph of Padre Pio, he asked for his permission. Padre Pio was strongly opposed to the idea and would not agree to it. But Friedrich was persistent. He asked the Capuchin superior for permission and he gave his consent. Padre Pio submitted out of obedience to his superior but he still resisted the idea. When Padre Pio was told that the photos were a consolation to many people, he finally became more accepting. Friedrich became Padre Pio’s official photographer and left a number of exceptional photographs of him to posterity.

In honor of their spiritual father, when Amalia and Friedrich welcomed their newborn son into the world, they named him Pio. Both Friedrich and his son Pio, served Padre Pio’s Mass on many occasions. Padre Pio predicted that Pio Abresch would one day become a priest and would have a high position in the Church. His prophecy came true. Pio Abresch was ordained to the priesthood in 1956. Monsignor Pio Abresch was sent to Rome and was assigned to work at the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican. Friedrich Abresch died in August 1969, almost one year after the death of Padre Pio.

______________________________

Biagio Fusco saw Padre Pio for the first time in 1919. Some of his relatives had urged him to make the trip to San Giovanni Rotondo and he also felt motivated by a certain sense of curiosity regarding Padre Pio. He happened to arrive at the monastery just as Padre Pio had begun to say Mass. During the Mass, Biagio began to think about how far he had drifted from his faith. His moral and spiritual life had been on the downhill slide for a long time. He was so moved by Padre Pio’s Mass that he felt suddenly inspired to change his life and to return to the sacraments. Biagio was also able to make his confession to Padre Pio. The church and the confessional were very crowded that day. The Italian state police (the Carabenieri) were present to maintain order in the church.

After Biagio returned to his home, he continued to think about Padre Pio. Before his visit to Padre Pio, nothing could motivate him to change his life. He was attached to his sins and did not have the will or the desire to change. But the short visit to Padre Pio produced a radical transformation in his life. Sometimes Biagio noticed the unexplainable scent of violets, roses, and incense in the air. He felt it was a sign that Padre Pio was trying to encourage him to sustain his faith in its first steps.

Several years later, Biagio returned to the monastery of Our Lady of Grace and was able once again to make his confession to Padre Pio. When Biagio confessed a particular sin, Padre Pio interrupted him and said, “You confessed that sin two years ago. You are a backslider.” Biagio knew that Padre Pio heard confessions day in and day out, for many hours a day. He was astonished that Padre Pio was able to remember what he had confessed to him in the past.

The next time Biagio visited San Giovanni Rotondo, he had a very important matter to discuss with Padre Pio. In the confessional, he explained to Padre Pio that he would soon be taking an examination for a teaching position. He had been trying for four years to obtain a job as a teacher, to no avail. Biagio asked Padre Pio to pray that he would pass the test and also to pray that he would secure a job. Biagio had a wife and six children to support and he constantly worried about his precarious financial situation. As Biagio was telling Padre Pio about the upcoming test, Padre Pio raised his eyes upward. His face became serene and beautiful. As Biagio gazed at him, he was convinced that all would be well.

Shortly after that, Biagio received a letter in the mail which offered him a teaching position in a nearby town. The letter was dated July 27, 1923, the same date that he had made his confession to Padre Pio and had requested his prayers. With great joy and thanksgiving in his heart, Biagio accepted the teaching position.

Biagio went to the school board in order to negotiate for the school that he wanted to work at. The board member who met with him told him how fortunate he was. “Jobs these days are extremely scarce,” he said. “You are indeed very lucky to have been hired. It is almost like a miracle!” At his words, the air became filled with a strong perfume. Biagio knew at that moment that Padre Pio was present and was interceding for him. Biagio was assigned to work at the school of his choice and after a short time the job became permanent.

______________________________

Eighteen-year-old Andre Mandato attended Mass every Sunday without fail. Even so, he only went to confession once in a great while. To Andre, it did not seem necessary. He never had any serious sins to confess or any pressing problems that he needed to discuss with a priest. But more important, he lacked faith in the value of confession. He knew very well that the Church taught that the sacrament of reconciliation imparted sanctifying grace to the penitent. However, in his heart, Andre was not convinced that it was true. Andre’s attitude underwent a complete change when he made his confession to Padre Pio for the first time.

Andre was very surprised in the confessional when Padre Pio began to name his sins. “You use bad language; you swear,” Padre Pio said to Andre. “It is true,” Andre replied. There was no denying the fact. “You know in your heart that it is wrong,” Padre Pio said. “You swear and then you ask God for forgiveness. But simply asking God for forgiveness is not enough.”

Padre Pio’s words shocked Andre. He had always believed that asking God for forgiveness was enough. But as he reflected on it, he was able to grasp what Padre Pio was trying to convey to him. If a person asked forgiveness of God for a sin that was committed, that person should make a supreme effort never to commit the sin again. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. In Andre’s life, it was not the case. Andre was suddenly able to understand the true malice of sin, and the seriousness of offending God.

When Andre left the confessional, he felt crushed. He began to cry and was unable to stop. The confession to Padre Pio marked a true turning point in his life and brought about a great spiritual change within him.

______________________________

When Dr. Remo Vincenti and his son visited San Giovanni Rotondo, his son obtained a ticket from the booking office so that he could make his confession to Padre Pio. When his son’s ticket number was close to being called, Remo suddenly realized that there was a problem. Padre Pio did not hear confessions if it was less than ten days since a person’s last confession and just a few days before, Remo’s son had gone to confession. Remo advised his son to stay in the line anyway and to take his chances. Perhaps Padre Pio would make an exception to the rule. In the meantime, Remo prayed with great intensity, “Padre Pio, please hear my son’s confession. Do it out of love for the Blessed Virgin. Don’t send him away. Please!”

In the end, everything worked out perfectly and Remo was very happy that his son was able to make his confession to Padre Pio. Before Remo and his son left the monastery to return to their home in Terni, Italy, they went to say goodbye to Padre Pio. When Padre Pio caught sight of Remo, his face brightened. Before Remo had a chance to utter a single word, Padre Pio said to him, “I would have done it out of love for you.” Words to treasure! He had prayed that Padre Pio hear his son’s confession out of his love for the Virgin Mary. But Padre Pio assured Remo that his love for him was very great, and because of that love, he had answered Remo’s heartfelt prayer.

______________________________

Monsignor John Gannon had a great devotion to Padre Pio and visited him in San Giovanni Rotondo on a number of occasions. Padre Pio always referred to him as the “American Monsignor.” Monsignor Gannon spoke to Padre Pio’s assistant, Father Eusebio Notte and said, “There must be many American priests whom Padre Pio refers to as the “American Monsignor.” “No, you are the only one he refers to in that way,” Father Eusebio replied.

Once, Monsignor Gannon was speaking with some friends at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace. Suddenly, a man approached the group with a ticket for Padre Pio’s confessional in his hand. “I am not going to be able to use this ticket,” the man said. “Would any of you like to have it?” “You should give it to Monsignor Gannon,” a man in the group replied. Monsignor Gannon now had a ticket for Padre Pio’s confessional, but he had a problem. He could not speak Italian and Padre Pio did not hear confessions in English. One of Monsignor’s friends who spoke Italian offered to help him. He told him to write out his confession and he would translate it into the Italian dialect that Padre Pio spoke. Monsignor Gannon was very grateful for the help.

Monsignor Gannon practiced making his confession in Italian until he felt confident that Padre Pio would be able to understand him. In the confessional, Monsignor began to read from the paper that his friend had transcribed for him. When he got half way through his confession, Padre Pio suddenly interrupted him. He repeated what was on the rest of the paper, word for word. Monsignor Gannon knew that it was impossible for Padre Pio to see what was written on the paper that he had in his hand. He could hardly believe what had happened.

Monsignor Gannon remained close to Padre Pio through the years. In 1962, he received a letter from Father Eusebio Notte. In the letter, Father Eusebio told Monsignor Gannon that Padre Pio faithfully remembered him before the Lord, especially during Mass. “Padre Pio said that you are his spiritual child,” Father Eusebio wrote. “You belong to him and he has some rights on you. He does not forget you in his prayers and he does not want you to forget him.”

 

When disturbed by passions and misfortunes, may the sweet hope of His inexhaustible mercy sustain us. Let us hasten confidently to the tribunal of penance where He awaits us at every instant with the anxiety of a father, and even though we are aware of our inability to repay Him, let us have no doubts about the solemn pardon pronounced over our errors. Let us place a tombstone over them, just as the Lord has done.

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina