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

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

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Memories of Padre Pio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Letter from Padre Pio to Padre Benedetto

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

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

Letters I, December 19, 1917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Grace in Time of War

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

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A Letter from Padre Pio to Padre Agostino

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

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

– Letters I, May 31, 1915

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From our Spiritual Director

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

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

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

 – Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 26 – January-March 2006

“With all my heart I bless the children, who are the specially chosen flowers of Jesus.”

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

 

Testimony of Anna Maria D’Orazi

Ten-year-old Anna Maria D’Orazi and her mother made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo in order to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. They planned to stay for several days. During the time of their visit, a number of children were getting ready to makepio nonoCropped2 their first Holy Communion. Anna had not made her first Communion yet. It was delayed because her mother had many preparations to make for a party in honor of Anna’s first Holy Communion.
The church of Our Lady of Grace looked particularly beautiful on the day that the children were to receive their First Communion. It was decorated with lovely flower bouquets and illuminated with soft candlelight. The girls had on pretty white dresses and the boys were all dressed in suits. Anna had a great desire to join the other children and to receive her first Holy Communion that day from Padre Pio.

Anna’s mother did not want her to do so. Being a dress designer, she had been planning to make Anna a beautiful dress for that very important day. She discouraged Anna by saying that there would be no gifts for her, no party, and no beautiful dress. Her mother felt that it would be a great shame for Anna to make her first Holy Communion in her plain green dress, while all of the other girls were dressed up.

Anna explained to her mother that she did not care about the party, the gifts, or a beautiful dress. Finally, her mother told her to speak to Padre Pio about it. If he gave his permission, she would go along with it. However, she did not think he would agree to it.

Anna rushed to the confessional and after making her confession to Padre Pio, she asked him for permission to make her first Holy Communion that day. Padre Pio had a slight smile on his face as Anna spoke to him. She explained to him that she had been preparing for her Communion at her parish and had studied the catechism at her school. She told Padre Pio that there was only one problem. She was wearing a simple green dress. Padre Pio said to her, “It is more pleasing for Jesus to come to you. You may certainly make your First Communion today.”

With a great joy in her heart, Anna ran back to her mother and told her she had received Padre Pio’s permission. Her mother had no choice then but to relent. She reasoned that she could make up for it at Anna’s confirmation and have the desired party then.

Anna told the ladies who were directing the group of children that she had been given permission to make her Communion that day. She moved forward to join the other girls but the ladies rudely pushed her back. The most humiliating incident occurred when Anna was made to stand to the side and then forced to wait until all the boys went ahead of her. She took her place at the end of the line, the very last of all the communicants.

Anna’s mother became furious when she saw the way her daughter was being treated. She jumped up and was about to rush up to the sanctuary to get Anna when her friend held her back. She did not want her to make a scene and ruin the day that was so special for Anna.

All of the children were then instructed to kneel down at the altar rail. Anna looked up and saw Padre Pio coming toward her. He smiled at her and told her to follow him. He walked up the altar steps to the very top and she followed behind him. He then gave her Holy Communion in front of the tabernacle. She was the only child to receive such a privilege that day. Everyone in the church watched in silence and awe. Some had tears in their eyes. Anna was overwhelmed by his loving gesture and her mother was also deeply moved. Anna and her mother would never forget the graces they received on that very special day.

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When Gabby Silsby was a child, her family made frequent trips from their home in England to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. Her parents’ devotion to Padre Pio was such that they visited the monastery whenever they could. Once, when Gabby was six years old, she was standing along with many other pilgrims at the altar rail in the monastery church. As Padre Pio passed by, the people at the altar rail kissed his hand. When he passed in front of Gabby, he stretched out his hand to her. Not knowing any better, she took his hand in hers and shook it. When Padre Pio winced with pain, she immediately realized her mistake and felt terrible about what she had done. Padre Pio spoke to her with great kindness and said, “Yes, these are the wounds of Christ.” He then put his hand on her head in a blessing. The moment he touched her, she had the sensation of an enormous weight pressing on her head. It was of such force that it felt like it was pushing her into the ground.

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A little boy of five years old, Nunzio Fugaccio, from Naples, had found a way to dodge the doorkeeper at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace. Nunzio would then run directly up to Padre Pio who was usually surrounded by visitors. He enjoyed greeting Padre Pio and receiving his blessing. When it was time for everyone to leave, Nunzio would leave too.

A priest from Bari, had often noticed the little Nunzio among the group of pilgrims. One evening after everybody had left, and Padre Pio was about to go to his cell, the priest said to the boy, “Nunzio, Padre Pio has candy with him. If you ask him for a piece, he will give it to you.” He thought he was making a good suggestion but Nunzio did not see it that way. He answered very indignantly, “You ask the saints for graces, not for sweets!” Visibly upset, little Nunzio then turned around and left. Amazed, the priest went to Padre Pio and told him what Nunzio had said. Padre Pio enjoyed the story so much that he could not stop laughing.

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Padre Pio and his Friends from the East Coast

A Note from the editors: Eublio Cardone and Giacomo Piraino recently shared their testimonies with us regarding their experiences with Padre Pio.

Giacomo Piraino was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. In 1958 the Piraino family made a trip to Calabria, Italy to visit relatives. While there, Giacomo, eight years old at the time, became critically ill with typhoid fever. He entered what doctors believed to be an irreversible coma. It was thought that he contracted the illness by eating the cherries from his aunt’s orchard.

Giacomo’s family and friends knew about Padre Pio, the priest who bore the wounds of Christ and at this time of crisis, they turned to him for help. Giacomo’s mother, Ida, had written letters to Padre Pio on previous occasions and she had great faith in his prayers. Giacomo remembers from his childhood that Padre Pio’s photographs had always graced their family home.

Ida contacted her brother, Romano Esposito who was an attorney and worked for the Ministero dell’ Interno in Rome. When he learned of his nephew’s serious condition, he made an effort to contact Padre Pio. He was able to speak to Padre Pio on the telephone and Padre Pio told him, “Do not worry. Giacomo will recover.” Ida also was able to speak to Padre Pio on the telephone and she said to him, “Padre, this is my only son. He has a temperature of 105 degrees. The doctors cannot offer us any hope.” Padre Pio responded, “Tomorrow his fever will be normal and he will recover. But his future is dubious. He has four years of darkness ahead. But after that, all will be well.”

Giacomo recovered from his illness. When he finally awakened after being in a comatose state for two months, he found jubilant family members and friends surrounding his bed, thanking God for the miracle.

As Giacomo grew to adulthood, he took a path that lead him further and further away from his faith in God and in the Church. It was a painful period in his life. It was a time of unhappiness. One day as he was reflecting on the many experiences of his life, the words Padre Pio had spoken to his mother so many years before came to his mind, “Your son’s future is dubious. He has four years of darkness ahead.” He did some quick calculations and realized that it had been exactly four years since his life had taken the wrong turn. The reflection proved to be a turning point for him and he began to renew his relationship with God. A vivid dream in which Padre Pio said to him, “Go forward, my son,” gave him great encouragement.

These days, Giacomo is keeping very busy with a number of spiritual endeavors. In devotion to Padre Pio, he regularly leads pilgrimages to Padre Pio”s monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo as well as to other Catholic shrines in Europe. His musical talents too, he has dedicated to Padre Pio. His love for his Catholic faith is an increasing love and he has felt Padre Pio’s presence in the many challenges life can bring. “Go forward, my son,” are the words that remain with him today. And that is the direction his life continues to take, thanks to Padre Pio.

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Eublio Cardone was born in 1921 in Pietrelcina, Italy, Padre Pio”s hometown. Eublio’s parents were close friends with Padre Pio’s parents, Giuseppa and Grazio Forgione, who lived just down the road from the Cardones. Everyone in Pietrelcina either knew Padre Pio or knew of him and everyone held him in the highest esteem.

When Eublio’s parents were getting married, Padre Pio’s mother, Giuseppa, gave them as a wedding present, the bed and pillow that had belonged to Padre Pio. By that time, he had moved from the family home and was living at the Capuchin monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo. Because of their great respect for Padre Pio, the Cardones treasured their very special wedding gift.

When Eublio was just a boy, he became gravely ill with pneumonia. The doctor could offer no hope to the family. He told Eublio’s mother, Angelina, to buy a coffin and burial clothes, which she did. Noting Eublio’s very high fever, the doctor did not expect him to last through the night.

In desperation, Angelina knelt down in front of a picture of Padre Pio that was in her home and prayed, asking Padre Pio to intercede and save the life of her son. Eublio’s condition began to improve dramatically and in a short time he was well. Everyone in Pietrelcina heard about his miraculous recovery. The whole town was overjoyed.

Michael Forgione, Padre Pio”s brother, heard about Eublio’s healing and brought him a puppy to keep him company. Eublio, to this day, remembers Michael as well as Padre Pio’s two sisters.

Angelina made a promise that someday she would travel to San Giovanni Rotondo and thank Padre Pio in person for the miracle. Some time later she and her son were able to make the trip. When Eublio entered the monastery and walked into the sacristy, he saw Padre Pio for the first time. He realized at once that he was in the presence of a saint. Eublio was seven years old. Padre Pio greeted him warmly and called him by his name. “You are Eublio,” he said. “How are you feeling now?” Eublio was surprised at his words for this was the first time they had met.

Angelina and Eublio had a wonderful visit with Padre Pio. They shared memories of Pietrelcina and stories about Padre Pio’s parents and many of their mutual friends. It was an experience that they would never forget.

Eublio moved to the United States in his youth and was not able to take Padre Pio’s bed with him. But he was able to take Padre Pio’s pillow. Today Eublio is 84 years old. He has been sleeping on the pillow for more than seventy-five years.

Eublio has been keeping very busy lately with a project close to his heart, the Padre Pio shrine, chapel, and monument that are being built in Landisville, New Jersey. Already, many graces have been received by people who have come to the shrine to pray. Eublio has felt Padre Pio’s guidance and protection many times through the years. He will be forever grateful to his spiritual father.

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Let us empty our hearts and keep far away from us all human prudence. We must try to keep our thoughts pure, our ideas upright and honest, and our intentions holy. We should also endeavor to have a will that seeks nothing but God and his glory. If we make every effort to advance in this beautiful virtue, he who teaches it will enrich us continually with new light and new heavenly favors.

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina 

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 25 – October-December 2005

Download Newsletter Issue 25, October-December 2005

“Padre Pio’s whole life can best be described as a Way of the Cross.
He was fully aware that he had been chosen by God to be a collaborator in
Christ’s redempive work and that this collaboration would not be achieved unless he
shouldered the cross with Jesus.”

– Mary Ingoldsby

 

Padre Pio’s Way of the Cross

“Jesus knows that my entire life has been consecrated to Him and to His sufferings.”
– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Padre Pio shared and lived the whole Passion of Jesus. The first indication of the stigmata appeared in 1910, shortly after his ordination to the priesthood. Although the visible signs disappeared for a time, the extreme pain of the wounds remained. In addition, he suffered the crowning of thorns, the scourging, the shoulder wound, the transverberation of his heart, and the Passion wounds in his hands and feet. Added to this was a chain of illnesses which began in his youth and ended only with his death. Doctors were never able to successfully diagnose the many mysterious illnesses that plagued his body. He experienced many moral and spiritual sufferings as well.

Valuable information as to the complete state of victimhood which Padre Pio experienced is contained in his correspondence with Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis (Padre Agostino Daniele). Padre Agostino, one of two spiritual directors that Padre Pio was to have, had been his former theology professor and he exercised a deep influence on Padre Pio’s life. He comforted him in his spiritual trials and was always near him in the many vicissitudes which characterized his life. Padre Pio loved him like a father and the relationship of mutual esteem continued for over fifty years.

In a letter to Padre Agostino dated January 1912, six years before the permanent stigmatization, Padre Pio wrote, “From Thursday evening until Saturday is a time of suffering, of great suffering. The whole scene of the Passion is presented to me and imagine if any consolation can exist in the midst of all this.”

On October 10, 1915, in a long and touching letter, Padre Pio wrote a reply to a number of questions that had been asked of him by Padre Agostino regarding the invisible stigmata and the crowning with thorns. Padre Pio wrote:

“You ask if the Lord granted this soul the ineffable gift of the holy stigmata. To this the reply must be in the affirmative and the first time Jesus deigned to grant this favor the signs were visible. This soul was greatly terrified by the phenomenon and asked the Lord to withdraw the visible signs. Since then, the signs have no longer been seen. However, though the wounds have disappeared, the intense pain has not ceased on this account and it continues especially in certain circumstances and on certain days. By your last question you want to know if the Lord made this soul experience his crowning with thorns and his scourging and how many times. The reply to this question must also be affirmative. As regards the number of times, I am unable to specify this. All I can say is that this soul has suffered these things for several years, almost every week.”

Capuchin Brother Modestino of Pietrelcina was close to Padre Pio for many years and was an eyewitness to his many sufferings. He left this testimony:

“In January of 1945, when still not many people came to San Giovanni Rotondo, I used to serve Padre Pio’s Mass at dawn, with about twenty people present. In those times, Padre Pio’s Mass would last one hour to one hour and a half. Tired from remaining on my knees, I would move to the side of the altar to continue assisting at the Holy Sacrifice while standing. From that position I was able to follow carefully the gestures, movements, tears, sighs and profound recollection of Padre Pio.

When my eyes fell on his forehead and the nape of his neck, I noticed that his skin would seem blistered and on his forehead were marks similar to pricks made by thorns.

With the middle finger of his right hand, Padre Pio frequently seemed to want to remove something bothering him around his temples. In the end, I noticed imprinted on his forehead a small cross of about three centimeters. I was assisting at the crowning of thorns of Padre Pio.”

A precious relic that has been preserved is a cloth that was used by Padre Pio to wipe his forehead. It is stained with blood. To one of his spiritual children who asked him if he suffered the crowning with thorns, Padre Pio responded affirmatively and said, “Otherwise the immolation would be incomplete.” The thorns, he assured, were “all around his head,” and during Mass there were many as well as before and after Mass.

Padre Pio also relived in his body and soul the painful scourging that Jesus suffered in His Passion. When someone inquired whether he was alone or in company during the experience of the scourging, Padre Pio replied, “The Holy Virgin assists me and all paradise is present.”

Another insight into Padre Pio’s participation in the Passion is related by Padre Alberto D’Apolito:

“In 1950, a young university student, Bruno G. Di Lucera, who had a low regard for religion and who did not believe Padre Pio to be a saint but an impostor and a charlatan, was persuaded by his fiancée to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to see for himself.

The first morning, out of curiosity he went to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. All of a sudden, at the moment of Consecration, he became pale. He had witnessed something extraordinary. On Padre Pio’s head he saw a triple crown of thorns and his face was covered in blood like the Ecce Homo (Jesus crowned with thorns). Believing it to be a hallucination or a trick of the eyes, he said nothing to his fiancée nor to anyone else.

The second morning, the same thing happened. And again for fear of being thought a fanatic he told no one. However, he began to reflect and change his opinion about Padre Pio.

The third morning, the final blow came. At the moment of Consecration, he saw Padre Pio suspended from a cross. His face was like the face of Jesus and on his head was a triple crown of thorns. Seeing this, he burst into tears.”

Cleonice Morcaldi, one of Padre Pio’s spiritual children, heard about Bruno’s experience of seeing Padre Pio crowned with thorns. She heard that on seeing the serene and beautiful expression on Padre Pio’s face, Bruno was moved to tears. She also heard that Padre Pio told him not to say a word to anyone about the experience but to go home and thank God.

Cleonice wanted to know if the story was true and so she asked Padre Pio directly. He answered her, “Do you have any doubt? You are like St. Thomas. You don’t believe.” His reply seemed so evasive that she wanted to ask him a second time but was reluctant. She prayed to the Virgin Mary, “Madonna, please let Padre Pio tell me if it is true that he wears the crown of thorns.” Time passed and one day while she was making her confession to Padre Pio, she asked him again and said, “Father, do you wear the crown of thorns in all your Masses?” Padre Pio answered, “How many things you want to know! Yes, I wear it before and even after the Mass because I can never take off that diadem which is the crown of thorns that God has put on me. I wear it before Mass, during Mass, day and night.”

Another spiritual child of Padre Pio, Professor Gerardo De Caro, in a conference held in Pavia, Italy on May 25, 1983, shed further light on Padre Pio’s painful way of the cross. Professor De Caro said:

“One evening as I was standing by his cell, I saw Padre Pio return from the choir, walking with his shoulders bent over and with his chest almost touching his knees. His sandals shuffled across the ground as he dragged himself along like one carrying the cross.

He must have been in great pain walking. He rested his weight on the edges of his feet and his heels so as not to press on the wounds of his feet. I looked at him and he looked at me. Immediately, and with great effort he straightened himself.

For an instant I saw him like Jesus under the cross. After confession I said to him, ‘Padre, you are like Jesus.’ And Padre Pio tried to reprove me.”

These were the sufferings which constituted Padre Pio’s calvary and which caused him to be in a state of great pain his entire life.
 
 

Padre Pio prays and suffers; he suffers and prays.
– Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis

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Padre Pio and his California Friends:
Emelio Noriega and Gloria Plank

A note from the editor: We spoke to Emelio and Evelyn Noriega at their home in Los Angeles, California regarding their visit to San Giovanni Rotondo and their meeting with Padre Pio in 1966.

Emelio Noriega, although raised a Catholic, had become indifferent to his faith and to the spiritual dimension of his life. His attitude changed completely when he read a book on Padre Pio. He found the book so interesting that he read it four times. Emelio had assumed Padre Pio had passed away. When he found out that he was still living in San Giovanni Rotondo, although elderly and in very poor health, he decided that he needed to go immediately to Italy and meet him.

When Emelio’s employer told him that he could not allow him to take the time off from work, he arranged for his brother to substitute at his job until his return. Securing a loan from the bank proved to be a greater obstacle. “So you want a loan to take a vacation,” the loan officer said. “No, not at all,” Emelio answered him. “This is not for a vacation. It is a necessity. I have got to get to Italy as fast as I can. I am going to see a priest.” Unfortunately he did not qualify for any type of loan. He had not worked for his current employer long enough and he had no letter of recommendation and reference. The loan officer reviewed with him, each paper in his file. He was sorry but nothing could be done. Something told Emelio not to leave the bank but to try one more time. “Surely there must be something that can be done,” Emelio said. “No, there is nothing,” the bank employee replied. To prove it, he picked up Emelio’s file to show him again and there in the papers was the letter that was needed, a letter that Emelio had never requested and knew nothing about. It was from the Social Security Department and although unsigned, it was accepted.

Emelio was full of anticipation when he and his wife Evelyn and their two little children touched down in Italy in June, 1966. When they arrived at the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo, the first person they met was Padre Pio Maria, Padre Pio’s assistant. With a big smile on his face he greeted Emelio and said, “Oh, I see you have arrived. We have been expecting you.” The words seemed very mysterious to Emelio for he had told no one he was coming to this remote monastery in Southern Italy.

The next day, Padre Pio Maria asked Emelio if he would like to serve at the altar at Padre Pio’s Mass. Emelio had been away from the sacraments for a long time and could not remember the duties of the altar server. He told the priest that if he would let him carefully observe the altar server that morning, he would be able to remember and could assist the following day. Padre Pio Maria agreed.

The morning that Emelio served Padre Pio’s Mass, he felt confident. At the appointed time, he took the Book of the Gospels to Padre Pio for the scripture reading. When the time came to take the chalice to Padre Pio, Emelio looked at it but could not pick it up. There on Padre Pio’s chalice he saw the face of Christ, bleeding and crowned with thorns. He looked up to see if it might be a reflection on the wall but it was not. Another person had to step forward and take the chalice to Padre Pio.

After the Mass, Padre Pio went to the sacristy to make his thanksgiving in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Padre Pio Maria directed Emelio to kneel behind him. With his eyes lifted up to Heaven and with his face bathed in tears, Padre Pio whispered, “Tata, Perché?”(Father, why?) over and over. Emelio said to him, “Let me help you.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Padre Pio replied.

Later Padre Pio blessed Emelio’s family. He told them to pray the Rosary every day. Emelio was holding his four-year-old son in his arms when Padre Pio said, “Your son is going to meet with much suffering in his life. I ask you to never, never abandon your child.” The words frightened Emelio and Evelyn who loved their little son so much. The words also proved to be prophetic. As their son grew to adulthood, he experienced many sufferings – physical, mental and spiritual. He has been supported through his many trials by his parents’ love and prayers.

The visit to San Giovanni Rotondo proved to be a turning point in Emelio’s life. His faith in God and his love for the Catholic Church, which had laid dormant for many years, began to grow and to be rekindled in his heart. When he returned to his home in California, he shared the message of Padre Pio with friends and neighbors and was instrumental in starting many Padre Pio prayer groups in the Los Angeles area. He is still spreading the message today.

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A note from the editor: We visited Gloria Plank in her home in San Diego, California, in order to learn about her visit to Padre Pio in November, 1965. Gloria’s gentleness and kindness recalled to our minds the extremely apt word Padre Pio used when he called her “Bellisima” (beautiful one).

In 1965, Gloria Plank and her father, Dulio Piazzai made a trip to Rome to visit relatives. While there Gloria asked her father if he would take her to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. Dulio had no interest in Padre Pio. He had heard the stories about his stigmata but did not believe any of them. He declined his daughter’s request. However, Gloria persisted and her father finally relented and agreed to go.

They arrived at the monastery at 4:30 a.m. and already a huge crowd had gathered, waiting for the doors to open for Padre Pio’s 5:00 a.m. Mass. While waiting, she and her father became acquainted with two seminarians from England. When the doors of the church finally opened, Gloria, Dulio and the two seminarians locked arms so that they would not be separated. The unruly crowd began pushing and shoving and Gloria lost her shoes in the process. The seminarians lifted Gloria up over the step as the press of the people rushed forward, everyone hoping to get a seat close to the altar.

When Padre Pio entered the church, a momentus silence fell upon the crowd. He was aided to the altar by two friars, one on either side. He seemed extremely weak and the suffering Gloria observed on his face filled her heart with pity. She began to cry. The Mass was beautiful, reverent, and holy. At the consecration, Padre Pio lifted his eyes toward Heaven and became completely still, wrapped in ecstasy. Everywhere, Gloria felt the presence of Jesus.

After the Mass, the men in the congregation were allowed to go into the sacristy to greet Padre Pio. Gloria asked her father to take her religious articles there and have them blessed. A few moments later, she saw the two seminarians, one on either side, carrying her father out of the sacristy. They told Gloria that as Padre Pio was leaving the sacristy he stopped in front of her father. In a gesture of respect, Dulio kissed Padre Pio’s hand. When Padre Pio raised his stigmatized hand to bless him, he fainted.

Gloria asked if she could go to confession to Padre Pio but was told by one of the Capuchins that it would not be possible; there was not time. Instead she was directed to a small chapel and told to wait. A few moments later Padre Pio came in. He walked over to her and touching her cheek very gently, he said to her, “Bellisima” (beautiful one). “I saw the gentleness of his penetrating eyes and my heart was filled with joy,” Gloria said. Describing Padre Pio later she said, “He was a father. That was the predominant quality I saw in him. More than anything else, that is how I think of him, as a father. I have had almost forty years since to think about my trip to San Giovanni Rotondo. Meeting Padre Pio is an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

Several years later, while staying in Rome, Dulio was assaulted. He was robbed and beaten so severely that he suffered brain damage. As a result, his memory was impaired. He no longer recognized his family. The only person he spoke of and remembered was Padre Pio.

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Padre Pio’s Words of Faith

Remember, our suffering is brief, but our reward eternal. You must remain calm, or at least resigned, but always convinced of the voice of authority. You must confide in it, without fearing the rages of the storm, because the vessel of your soul will never be submerged. Heaven and earth may pass away, but the Word of God, that assures the one who obeys it will find victory, will never pass away and will always remain fixed in indelible script in the Book of Life: ‘I will exist forever.’
St. Pio of Pietrelcina
 

Jesus, who is infinitely merciful, will not fail to give you now and then a respite from the trial He has sent you. He is so good that He will never allow you to give in. The trial is a very hard one, but the Lord who is so very, very good will not fail to lighten the Cross from time to time.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina
 

From Our Spiritual Director

The word “transverberation” means a wounding of love. We know that Padre Pio experienced this wound. He had a great devotion to St. Teresa of Avila and also to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (St. Thérèse of Lisieux). We know that St. Teresa of Avila also received the transverberation of her heart. One of the most beautiful of the sculptures of Bernini shows St. Teresa of Avila in ecstasy. Beside her is an angel with a most beautiful smile, ready to pierce her heart with an arrow.

In a deposition made in February 1967, a part of the document said that a visible, physical wound in Padre Pio’s side resulted from the experience of the transverberation of the heart. Padre Benedetto, Padre Pio’s spiritual director, (Padre Pio had two spiritual directors in his life) once said to him, “Everything that is happening to you is the effect of Love. It is a trial, a calling to co-redeem, and it is a fountain of glory.”

At each Mass we hear these beautiful words, “Make us grow in love.” Love grows only through prayer, adoration and offering ourselves to God each moment of our lives. Let us make progress in love as Padre Pio did.
Fr. Louis Solcia C.R.S.P.

Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry – Issue 24 – July-September 2005

Download Newsletter Issue 24, July-September 2005

“I believe that Padre Pio received the grace and the burden
not merely of renewing in a mystical manner the Sacrifice of the Cross
but of living over again, in his heart and in his body, the tragedy
of the Passion.”

Most Rev. Mgr. Giuseppe Petralia, Bishop of Agriegento (Sicily) August 10, 1975

The Transverberation of Padre Pio’s Heart

Padre Pio was ordained to the priesthood on August 10,1910, in Benevento, Italy. He was twenty-three years old. He wrote the following sentiment which was inscribed on his ordination card, “Jesus, my breath and my life, today, trembling, I elevate You in a mystery of love. With You let me be for the world, the way, the truth and the life and for You a holy priest, a perfect victim.”

The reference to “victim” would appear again and again in his thoughts and writings. In a letter to his spiritual director, Padre Benedetto Nardella, Padre Pio asked permission to renew the offering of himself as a victim, “For some time past I have felt the need to offer myself to the Lord as a victim for poor sinners and for the souls in Purgatory. This desire has been growing continually in my heart so that it has now become what I would call a strong passion. I have in fact made this offering to the Lord several times, beseeching him to pour out upon me the punishments prepared for sinners and for the souls in a state of purgation, even increasing them a hundredfold for me. . . but I should now like to make this offering to the Lord in obedience to you. It seems to me that Jesus really wants this.”

Padre Benedetto understood the desire of Padre Pio’s heart and gave the permission that he requested to offer his life to the Lord. It seemed that heaven too heard Padre Pio’s prayers and was watching, waiting, and preparing him day by day for the great mission that was a part of God’s plan for his life.

On Aug 5, 1918, Padre Pio received the mystical wound of love known as the transverberation or transfixion of the heart. The transverberation is a rare mystical gift of sanctifying grace, experienced by a small number of chosen souls in the history of Christianity. It is described in mystical theology as the extraordinary phenomenon in which a celestial being such as an angel or seraph is seen and pierces the heart or side with a lance.

Although the pain is extreme, it is also accompanied by a joy that words cannot describe. St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, experienced the phenomenon and wrote about it in her autobiography. St. John of the Cross, the Spanish reformer of the Carmelite order, Doctor of the Church and mystical theologian, further explained this phenomenon in his treatise “Living Flame of Love.” St. John said, “It can happen, that the soul inflamed with love of God . . .will feel overpowered by a Seraphim with a dart or arrow of fiery love. . . If God sometimes allows it to appear to the external senses, there will appear a mark that corresponds to the internal wound.”

On August 21, 1918, sixteen days after receiving the extraordinary grace of the transverberation, Padre Pio wrote to Padre Benedetto and described the experience:

“By virtue of obedience, I have made up my mind to reveal to you what happened to me on the evening of the 5th and for the entire day of the 6th of this month. I am quite unable to convey to you what occurred during the period of utter torment. While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th, (Padre Pio was spiritual director of the minor seminary from 1916 to 1932) I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person who presented himself to my mind’s eye. He had in his hand a sort of weapon like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade, which seemed to emit fire. At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw the person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boy to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my internal organs were torn and ruptured by the weapon, and nothing was spared. From that day on I have been mortally wounded. I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony.”

In his letter to Padre Benedetto, Padre Pio was not speaking metaphorically. He had been physically wounded with an opening in his side into his heart that would bleed for the rest of his life. After the transverberation, due to extreme pain and weakness, he remained in bed for three days.

In reply to the letter, Padre Benedetto, a master of the spiritual life and a gifted director of souls, wrote back and said, “All that is happening to you is the effect of love. It is a trial, a call to co-redemption and hence a source of glory. . .The Lord is with you. He Himself, patient, suffering Love, filled with eager longing, His heart and His inmost being crushed and trampled upon, heartbroken, in the shadows of night and even more so in the desolation of Gethsemane. He is associated with your suffering and associates you with His. This is all. . .Your trial is not a purgation but a painful union. The fact of the wound completes your passion just as it completed that of the Beloved on the Cross. Will the light and joy of the Resurrection follow? I hope so, if this is according to His will. Kiss the hand which has pierced you through and cherish tenderly this wound which is the seal of love.”

It is significant the Padre Pio received the transverberation on the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration. It is also significant that he received the grace when he was hearing confessions, the sacrament that was to play such an important part in his mission and ministry to souls.

Padre Pio lived his entire life in loving conformity with Christ. The culmination of this life with Christ was for Padre Pio, to be crucified with Christ. The prodigy of the stigmata occurred on September 20,1918, a little over a month after the transverberation. The marks would be a confirmation of Padre Pio’s interior likeness to the Savior. Padre Pio, 31 years old, was the first priest in the history of the Church to receive the stigmata.
 

 

Memories of Padre Pio

Padre Carmelo of Sessano was the Father Guardian at San Giovanni Rotondo between 1953 and 1959. He said:

At the end of 1954, I was the Superior of the religious community that included Padre Pio. With the aim of gathering information on the Padre’s first years in San Giovanni Rotondo, I decided to question the Padre’s first spiritual children and I organized some meetings.

I plucked up my courage and decided to question the padre himself. Perhaps some of you might wonder why I said, “plucked up my courage,” as if I was afraid. If so, you certainly have not had the grace or the difficulty of living with an authentic saint.

Saints (and I have reflected on this so often) are like the sensitive mimosa flower which as soon as it is touched, closes in on itself. More than once in fact, I noticed when I questioned the dear Padre on personal matters that it was a great effort for him to answer. In fact, once when we were alone in his cell, I asked him outright, “Padre Pio, I would like to see the wounds on your feet and side.” And completely taken aback and mortified, he looked at me with two imploring tearful eyes, like those of a child and said, “But you don’t really mean that?” I immediately felt sorry and said, “No, Padre, don’t worry. I didn’t mean it.” And everything ended there. But how often after that did I regret what I had done.”

One of the friars who for a long time had the desire to embrace Padre Pio, finally did so. He felt at that moment what he described as a “great warmth” coming from the wound in Padre Pio’s chest. Another one of the friars always kissed Padre Pio’s hand after confession. He experienced a heat that he described as being like a flame which came from Padre Pio’s hand and engulfed him from head to foot.

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Padre Eusebio Notte lived with Padre Pio for five years and was his personal assistant. He said:

I was one of those privileged people, who, because of the office I performed, was close to the person of Padre Pio. I assure you that it will never be erased from my memory, that hand covered with blood, the wound. Neither will I ever forget his gashed chest.

The wounds Padre Pio had were real, deep and resistant to every therapy. In the hands, the wounds went right through the entire thickness from the back to the palm. For fifty years they were present- fresh, beautiful and emanating a perfume.

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Luigina Sinapi, a woman of great personal holiness, was a spiritual daughter of Padre Pio. Once when Luigina was in the church in San Giovanni Rotondo, she saw a beam of fire coming out of Padre Pio’s heart and then projected onto the tabernacle. Padre Pio was in the gallery of the church at the time. Luigina wondered about the meaning and the Lord spoke to her heart and said,”It is Padre Pio’s love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”

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Padre Paolino of Casacalenda who saw the side wound on a number of occasions and was a witness during the medical examinations, wrote:

I must say that what has impressed me the most in seeing the wounds was the form of the side wound which is revealed to be over the heart and not on the other sided of the chest, as I have heard many people say. It is almost the shape of an X. . .The other thing that impressed me was that this wound has the appearance of a severe burn and that it is not superficial but goes deep into the chest.

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Brother Modestino on a number of occasions was privileged to serve Padre Pio’s Mass. He was very fortunate in that it was Padre Pio himself who taught him the correct way to serve at the altar. Brother Modestino said:

I always tried to observe Padre Pio closely, following him with my eyes from the moment he left his cell at dawn to celebrate Mass. . .As soon as he arrived at the sacristy to put on the sacred vestments, I had the impression that already he was no longer aware of what went on around him. He was absorbed and deeply aware of what he was about to live. If anyone asked him anything, he shook himself and replied in monosyllables. His face which was of normal color became frighteningly pale at the moment he put on the amice (priestly vestment). From that moment he paid no more attention to anyone. . . Having put on the vestments, he set off for the altar. Even though I preceded him for that short distance, I noticed that his gait became more dragging, his face sorrowful. He was more bent down nearly every time. I had the impression he was crushed by the weight of an enormous invisible cross.

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Padre Costantino Capobianco said: I was very close to Padre Pio and one day I saw Padre Pio genuflect. It was a genuflection I have never seen before and have never seen again. I thought of how Jesus fell under the cross. Forty years have passed and I have not forgotten.

The Medical Viewpoints

Padre Pio was very reluctant to speak about himself or the mystical favors he had received from God. He always made the greatest effort to conceal his wounds as they were a source of embarrassment to him. Many of the friars who lived side by side with him, were never privileged to see them. But whenever his Superiors requested that he receive a medical examination of the wounds, Padre Pio cooperated.

On July 15 and 16, 1920, Dr. Giorgio Festa and Dr. Luigi Romanelli made a trip together to San Giovanni Rotondo to examine Padre Pio’s wounds. Dr Romanelli was head physician of the civilian hospital of Barletta and Dr. Festa was doctor to the Capuchins of the Curia in Rome. Padre Pio, who was known for his good sense of humor remarked on one occasion, “It is better to be a mouse between two cats than Padre Pio between two doctors.

Dr. Festa and Dr. Romanelli described the side wound as being in the shape of an oblique cross (a cross on its side), one crossbar wider, the other narrower. The doctors removed a cloth that Padre Pio had placed over the wound on the previous day. It was soaked with blood. Dr. Romanelli described the appearance of the wound as a gash and noted that it looked like it had been caused by a stab wound.

The fact that the wounds never healed, that they never became infected, that they never widened or changed in depth and never changed into scars but kept their symmetry, led the two doctors to conclude that an explanation for the phenomenon was beyond the realms of medical science and that the cause was supernatural.

Six years later, on October 5, l925, Dr. Festa visited Padre Pio again and verified that the wounds had the same characteristics as previously. On October 5, he noticed what he described as evident signs of a “luminous radiation”(rays of light) were emanating from the borders of the wound on the left side under the heart.
 

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Padre Pio’s Words of Faith

I should like to bare my chest for a moment to show you the wound which our tender Jesus has lovingly opened in this heart of mine. My heart has found at last a Lover so attached to me that I am incapable of hurting Him anymore. You already know this Lover. He is one who is never angry with those who offend Him. My heart keeps within itself an infinite number of His mercies. It knows that it doesn’t have anything of value with which to glorify itself before Him. He has loved me and preferred me to many others. He is so much in love with my heart that He makes me burn with His divine fire, with the fire of His love. What is this fire that pervades my whole being? Dear Father, if Jesus makes us so happy on earth, what will heaven be like?. . .I cannot help abandoning myself to this tenderness, this happiness. . .I realize that all this has really been the work of His infinite love. He has never refused me anything and indeed I must say that he has given me more than I asked.

St. Pio of Pietrelcina, Letters-Volume 1

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The Healing of a Child’s Heart

My daughter Margaret, who was born in 1950, had always been ill and taking weak turns. I had her with several doctors, but all said it was weakness and she would grow out of it. A doctor came to her school and sent me a letter, stating that I should take her to a heart specialist at the Royal Belfast. She was about eleven years old at the time. When she was examined and x-rayed, I was told that she had a hole in her heart and that the valves that were going into and out of her heart were small. She would have to have an operation but as she was so weak she was sent home and given medicine to help build her up. Margaret said she would write to Padre Pio. A short time later a nice letter came back to Margaret from him. He told her not to worry but to go to the hospital and she would be all right. When we went to Belfast again the doctor took another x-ray and came and asked me what I had done to her. Nothing, I told him. He showed me both of the x-rays. One had a large hole and the other showed the hole as almost completely closed. She did not have to go for the heart operation.

Mary Cunningham

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Padre Pio and his Friends from California
Father Richard Hopkins

A note from the editors: Father Richard Hopkins who recently celebrated sixty-one years in the priesthood, serves six months of each year in San Diego at Our Mother of Confidence parish and the other six months at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Billings, Montana. We recently spoke to Fr. Hopkins about his meeting with Padre Pio:

“In 1954, I was in Rome attending the canonization of St. Pius X. A priest in Rome invited me to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. Although I knew little about Padre Pio, I agreed to go.

We arrived at the friary for the weekday morning Mass which was held in the old church of Our Lady of Grace. There were only about fifteen people present and Padre Pio celebrated his Mass at the side altar of St. Francis of Assisi. We gathered at the side altar and stood for the entire Mass. I stood right beside Padre Pio.

The Mass of Padre Pio, and his profound participation in Christ’s Passion as I observed, was very impressive. Padre Pio’s bearing was serious and solemn. Four or five times during the Holy Sacrifice he stopped abruptly and remained completely still and silent with his eyes closed. During those long pauses, I observed that he was in ecstasy.

I noticed that when he genuflected during the Mass, it was very, very difficult for him to get back up to a standing position. It reminded me of Jesus bowed down under the cross.

Even though there was no homily and no singing, the Mass was long. Afterward, I was able to greet Padre Pio. We spoke together in Latin. His manner was cordial yet serious and reserved. He seemed spiritually centered in Christ even as we conversed.

Being present at Padre Pio’s Mass gave me a renewed appreciation for the Holy Sacrifice and for my own vocation as a priest. I have never forgotten it.”

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From our Spiritual Director

(continued from last issue)

The high temperatures of Padre Pio are equated with the phenomenon known in mystical life as “The Fire of Love.” It passes through different stages from a simple burning heat of the heart to the physical burning of very high fevers. Padre Paolino explains, “In considering the illness that struck Padre Pio during my stay with him in San Giovanni Rotondo, I must accept what a number of serious-minded people who knew Padre Pio well, told me. The crisis of health that Padre Pio experienced was more often caused for moral reasons, for example the conversion of a sinner, the cure of someone seriously ill, etc., which would then be taken out on him so that he would be physically tormented, sometimes in unimaginable ways.”

Padre Pio himself confirmed that his fevers were those of the “fire of love” when he wrote to Padre Benedetto, “I confess in the first place that for me it is a great misfortune to be unable to express and pour out this ever-active volcano which burns me up and which Jesus has placed in this very small heart. It can all be summed up as follows, I am consumed by love for God and love for my neighbor.”

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

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

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

The Extraordinary Perfume of Padre Pio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Testimony of Kevin Hale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From our Spiritual Director

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

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

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

– Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP

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

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

– Padre Clemente da Santa Maria in Punta

 

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

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Padre Pio and his Friends from New Jersey

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

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

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

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

Dear Joe,

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

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

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

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Memories of Padre Pio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Padre Pio’s Words of Faith

“Let us always keep before our eyes the fact that here on earth we are on a battlefield, and that in paradise we shall receive the crown of victory; that this is a testing ground and the prize will be awarded up above; that we are now in a land of exile while our true homeland is heaven to which we must continually aspire. Let us live, then, . . . with a lively faith, a firm hope and an ardent love, with eyes fixed on heaven and the keenest desire, as long as we are travelers, to dwell one day in heaven whenever this is pleasing to God. Let us keep our thoughts, I say, continually fixed on heaven, our true homeland of which this earth is merely an image.”

– St.Pio of Pietrelcina – Letters II

 

A Message from Our Spiritual Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Download Newsletter Issue 21, July-September 2004

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

Fr. Augustine McGregor OCSO

Padre Pio’s Love for the Blessed Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not only was the Virgin present to Padre Pio in times of physical infirmity but in times of interior trials and spiritual suffering as well. On August 15, 1929 on the Feast of the Assumption, Padre Pio described an experience of Our Lady while he was celebrating Mass. “This morning I went up to the holy altar I know not how. Physical pain and interior grief competed as to which could most afflict all my poor being… A mortal sadness pervaded me through and through and I thought that all was finished for me…. At the moment of consuming the Sacred Species of the Host, a sudden light flooded through me and I clearly saw the Heavenly Mother with the Christ Child in her arms who together said to me, “Stop worrying! We are with you, you belong to Us and We are yours.”

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

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

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

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

Padre Pio’s Words of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Memories of Padre Pio

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

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

Testimonial

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

The Saints Love Our Blessed Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

From our Spiritual Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fr. Louis Solcia, CRSP

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

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

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

Download Newsletter Issue 20, July-September 2004

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

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Padre Pio and His Friends from Southern California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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The Padre Pio Prayer Groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________________________

From Our Spiritual Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea Maria Erba, CRSP
Bishop of Velletri Sengi

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

Download Newsletter Issue 19, April-June 2004

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

 

The Conversion of Carlo Campanini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Father, we’re two poor actors.”

“We’re all poor,” he replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Testimonial

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

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

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Padre Pio’s Words of Counsel

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

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

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

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

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

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Memories of Padre Pio

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

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

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

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

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From our Spiritual Director

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

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

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

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

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

Andrea Maria Erba, CRSP
Bishop of Velletri Segni

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

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

Download Newsletter Issue 18, January-March 2004

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

 

PADRE PIO AND HIS FRIENDS

Pope John Paul II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Padre Pio, The Saint of Our Time

by Wanda Poltawska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Padre Pio’s Love for the Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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