Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Padre Pio Corrects a Mischievous Boy

It happened back in 1939, when Gigino was only nine years old. Everyone at San Giovanni Rotondo called him Gigino, but his name was actually Luigi Capotosto. He lived with his parents on the Viale dei Cappuccini, the road which led directly to the friary and church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. One day near the Patariello, the hill upon which the friary stood, Gigino played a nasty trick on his best friend by furtively stealing his knapsack, which contained the lunch that the boy was to bring to his father at work. Just as he was about to open the satchel to partake of its contents, he saw a friar emerge from along the top of the hill – it was Padre Pio, although Gigino did not know it at the time.

Gigino, fearful that his “crime” had been discovered, tried to flee to avoid being punished, but he tripped and fell at the edge of the road, which was rugged and unpaved at the time. He scraped his knee, and as the blood ran down his leg, he saw the friar approaching him. He was terrified, because he feared the monk had found him out and was going to report him to the police. He had heard that not long ago, when a boy of his age had broken a window, the boy and his parents were summoned to the police station.

But instead, to his surprise, the friar, showing great compassion, came over to help him, and in a gentle and kind voice asked what had happened. The intensity of his eyes, the magnetic expression of his face, and a smile that invited trust and affection, induced Gigino to make a complete confession of the entire event. “I told him of the games we boys were playing and confessed that I stole the rucksack of my best friend. Then when I added that I knew that it contained his father's lunch, the monk did not have hard words for me or threaten me with punishment. Instead, with a calm voice and in a reassuring tone, he explained to me all the consequences of my action. After a hard morning's work, the father of that boy would have nothing to eat. My seemingly innocent trick has become instead an abuse of the poor worker. It was a lesson in life that, even though I learned it while so young, has remained impressed in my mind as an indelible memory throughout the years.”
As he rose to his feet, Gigino noticed that the friar's hands appeared to be wrapped in cloth. He asked out of simple, childlike curiosity, if he too had fallen down. Why were his hands wrapped? The monk answered that no, he had not fallen. “These are my poor sacrifices for the Lord.” Astonished, Gigino asked him who was this Lord, and Padre Pio's concise reply was “One day you will see and you will understand.”

Now, as an adult, Gigino can firmly avow that those words were prophetic, because on the day of his accident, he truly understood who this Lord was. He had become a delivery truck driver, and periodically drove up the Gargano mountain from the plains below to San Giovanni Rotondo, to deliver meats and grains to various stores and other businesses. The serpentine road along the mountain-side is extremely steep, consisting of five sharp, hair-pin turns, with the edge of the road dangerously close to the cliffs with sheer drop-offs below.

One day in 1963 with Gigino driving the truck, and a co-worker sitting next to him in the cab, they began the long descent down the mountain after making their delivery run. As they were making a turn around one of the sharp bends in the road, Gigino tried to slow down the truck, when he suddenly realized that the brakes did not work. The steel control rod connecting the brake pedal to the wheel carriage had broken. He frantically tried to use the emergency brake, and to mesh the gears, but the truck just kept bounding along, swaying from left to right, going faster and faster. At any moment they could fail to round one of the hairpin turns and tumble down the escarpment. Gigino gripped the steering wheel hard, as he desperately tried to keep his vehicle on the roadway.

While his co-worker could only scream and curse, Gigino began to earnestly and fervently pray to all the saints of Paradise! They tried jumping out of the careening truck, but were afraid because of its great velocity. As they barreled down towards the next sharp turn, all at once a very intense perfume of roses penetrated the driver's cab. The aroma was so strong and instantaneous that they could only breathe with difficulty. It was the sign of Padre Pio's spiritual presence, and it seemed to suffocate them. Seconds later the speeding truck abruptly halted, amid the sound of a violent crash. It had smashed into the trunk of a giant olive tree that stood right on the edge of the curve. 

Road down the Gargano Mountain. Google satellite view.

“I have no image in my mind of the actual impact, we seemed to be enveloped by a protective cloud. I only recall that after some minutes had passed, we realized that we were uninjured.” Gigino and his companion crawled out from the twisted and smoking wreck. Neither man had a scratch on them nor any other effects or bruises from the impact. They looked out on an incredible scene – at the apex of the hairpin turn, the olive tree overlooked a steep ravine. If they had gone over that cliff in the truck, not even their bones would have been found. If the tree were located half a meter to the left or to the right of the precipice, their lives would have been over. “Right below the driver's cab, through which the branches of the tree now protruded, we could see the wide, deep valley below. In sum, it was a miracle we were alive!”
But Gigino's special connection with Padre Pio did not end there. Oddly enough, exactly one year later he was on that same road, running the same delivery route, but this time of course in a new truck. It was raining cats and dogs, and was already dark out. He had come to the curve where he had his fortunate escape, and had just passed that same olive tree, when he saw a broken down car at the edge of the road. He saw the driver working a tire iron in the pouring rain, trying to change a flat tire. Gigino, aware of the great grace he had received at this very spot, knew that it was his duty to help out this poor man and vehicle stuck here in the cloudburst. He stopped his truck, and as he came near the auto, he saw that it bore a license plate with the letters “SCV,” Stato della Citta del Vaticano, and he noticed bishop's colors on the vestments of the passenger inside. This was the car of His Excellency Karol Wojtyla, Auxiliary Bishop of Kracow, Poland, and Titular Bishop of OMBI.

It was 1964 and the Vatican Council was going full tilt. Mary Pyle, who lived practically adjacent to Padre Pio's friary, has remarked that “So many bishops from the ecumenical council came up to see Padre Pio that sometimes it seems that the Council is at San Giovanni Rotondo!” So such a private visit would not be unusual, and in the case of Bishop Wojtyla, there was a special reason for him to want to see Padre Pio and thank him in person. Two years previously the bishop had written him asking for prayers for his good friend Dr. Wanda Poltawska, who was scheduled to be operated on for late stage cancer. When it was time for the operation, the doctors were astonished to find that the tumor had disappeared.

Gigino helped change the tire, and saw to it that the car and its passenger were safely on its journey. Little could he have known, or even remotely imagined at the time, that he had helped the future Vicar of Christ, John Paul II, who would be the very pope to canonize Padre Pio.

This post is based on an account in I Miracoli che Hanno Fatto Santo Padre Pio, by Enrico Malatesta, pp. 176-179. Additional information from Padre Pio the True Story by C. Bernard Ruffin, pp. 360-361. 

See my Catholic Books on Padre Pio and others Here.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Wishes from Padre Pio's Letters.

Stay very close to the crib of this gentle Child, especially during these holy days of his birth. If you love wealth, here you will find the gold the Magi left him; if you love the smoke of honor, you will find that of the incense; and if you love the delicacy of the senses, you will smell the perfumed myrrh which perfumes the entire holy stable. Have a great love of this heavenly infant. [P. 350, V. 3]

Ah! My dear daughter who cannot see the dear little Infant of Bethlehem in the event for which we are preparing? Who does not see his incomparable love for souls? He comes to die in order to save, and he is so humble, sweet and lovable. Live joyfully and courageously, at least in the upper part of the soul, amidst the trials in which the Lord places you. Live joyfully and courageously I repeat, because the Angel who foretells the birth of our little Saviour and Lord, announces singing, and sings announcing that he brings tidings of joy, peace, and happiness to men of good will. So that there is nobody who does not know that in order to receive this child, it is sufficient to be of good will. [P. 470, V. 3]
Tell me, my dear daughters, you know well that at the birth of our Lord, the shepherds heard the divine and angelic singing of the heavenly spirits. Scripture tells us this, but it does not say that the Virgin his mother, and St. Joseph, who were closest to the infant, heard the voices of the angels or saw those miraculous splendors. On the contrary, instead of hearing the angels singing, they heard the Child crying, and saw by the light of a poor lamp, the eyes of this divine infant all wet with tears and trembling with cold. Now, I ask you, wouldn't you have chosen to be in that dark stable filled with the cries of the little Child, rather than be beside yourself with joy with the shepherds at this sweet heavenly melody, and the beauty of this admirable splendor? [P. 569, V. 3]

May the infant Jesus always reign in your heart, and may he establish and consolidate his reign within you more and more. This and other prayers were my presents to the Child of Bethlehem during these days, for you. Our Lord loves you my daughter, and he loves you tenderly. And if he doesn't let you feel the sweetness of this love, he does this in order to render you more humble and abject in your own eyes. Do not neglect to turn to his holy goodness with every confidence - particularly at a time during which we represent him as a small Babe in Bethlehem. Because, my daughter, why does he assume this sweet and lovable condition, If not in order to provoke our loving him with confidence, and to confide lovingly in him? [P. 766. V 3]
At the opening of the sacred novena in honor of the holy Child Jesus I felt my soul being born, as it were, to a new life. My heart felt too small to contain the heavenly favors and my soul seemed to disintegrate in the presence of this God who took human flesh for our sake. How can we help loving Him more and more ardently? Oh, let us draw near to the Child Jesus with hearts free from sin, that we may discover how sweet and delightful it is to love him. I will never fail to pray to this divine Child for all men, and much more will I pray during these holy days. I will pray especially for you and for all those whom you have so much at heart. I will ask him to give you a share of those charisms he has poured out and continues to pour all the time into my own soul. [P. 288, V. 2]

 When the most pure shell put forth the divine pearl, when the powerful Mediatrix of men gave us our Redeemer during the holy Christmas feasts, I meditated on the straw on which the Infant God was laid, the straw from which I saw burst forth the golden ears which matured and were then transubstantiated in the bread of heaven, the heavenly bread of which I have been deprived for so many days. [P 331, V. 2]

Dear God! I cannot describe to you, my dear Father [Fr. Agostino, his spiritual director ], all that I felt in my heart on that most happy night. My heart seemed to overflow with a holy love for our God become man. The night of the soul continued even at that moment, but I can tell you that in the midst of such pitch darkness, I was surfeited with spiritual joy. Many, many times my thoughts traveled from the Child to you and from you to him. I am unable to tell you all that happened to me during this night, the whole of which I spent on my feet without closing an eye. May God be pleased to hear the prayers I sent up for you and which I go on repeating before the grotto of Bethlehem. [P. 1095, V. 1]

[To his mother] Dearest mother, Christmas is nigh and I do not want it to go by without expressing to you my thoughts and gratitude, that I cherish for you, who has been and is now every hour the person dearest to me, and who took such care and diligence for my good education. In this day so beautiful I do not want to neglect on my part to raise fervent vows to the divine Infant, so that he will cause to descend on you and the entire family the most elect of his benedictions in this life and holy paradise in the next life. [P. 944, V. 4, my translation from the Italian.]

From the four volumes of the Letters of Padre Pio; Vols. 1, 2 and 3 available in English from booksellers; Vol. 4 is only in Italian.

View my Catholic books on Padre Pio and others Here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

She received two miraculous cures from Padre Pio

Maria Pennisi of Pietrelcina was attending the college of the Ursulines in Benevento. It was 1922, and from the start of that school year she had not been feeling well. She was tormented by constant coughing and difficulty in breathing, and had no appetite. She was also suffering from intense pains in her right shoulder. When her parents came to the school to visit her and realized the condition she was in, they pulled her out of the college and sent her to live with her aunt in the hills of Avellino, hoping that breathing the fresh mountain air would help her.

But this change of venue failed to restore her health. Consequently her father, Carmine, took Maria to Naples to be examined by one of the more renowned physicians of that time, Dr. Castronuovo. He diagnosed that Maria was in the advanced stages of tuberculosis, with little hope of a recovery. She might die before the end of the year. Terrorized by this appalling news, Carmine took Maria to see the esteemed Dr. Giuseppe Moscati, now a canonized saint of the Church. Moscati confirmed the prior diagnosis, stating that the medical knowledge of the time could do nothing to save her.
St. Giuseppi Moscati
Carmine and Maria returned to Pietrelcina, and in the weeks that followed, her condition continued to worsen. In his desperation, Carmine began to think of Padre Pio. Although now a monk in San Giovanni Rotondo, he had been born in Pietrelcina. “He is our countryman,” Carmine thought to himself. “He has cured so many people, why should he not be able to cure my daughter?” Thus, along with some family members, Carmine and Maria traveled to San Giovanni to ask Padre Pio for the grace of a healing.

Although from Pietrelcina, Padre Pio did not know Maria and had never met her father, since Carmine had emigrated to America during much of the time the Padre was residing in that city. Yet, even though he had not seen her before, when Padre Pio first encountered her he said: “You are Maria Pennisi. You are feeling sick? You are mistaken, you are are healthier than I am. Your lungs are of steel!” Carmine, when he heard this, objected. “Padre, my daughter is very ill. The doctors say her case is hopeless. You are a saint, you alone can save her!” Padre Pio became more serious. He looked at Maria and then told Carmine, “Don't worry about this, I will take care of it.”

The very next day Maria began to feel better. She wanted to go up the hill to the monastery on foot. Carmine accompanied her, and marveled in seeing that she did not tire from the climb. Every morning thereafter, Maria arose early and walked to the church to attend Padre Pio's Mass. In about a week's time, her coughing had almost come to a halt, she was no longer bringing up any blood, and the pain in her right shoulder was completely gone.

Her dad Carmine was overjoyed. He decided that they could return home to Pietrelcina. He had some outstanding business affairs that required his attention, and he wanted Maria to resume her studies with the Ursulines. He went to the friary to thank Padre Pio, and to inform him that they were leaving. But the Padre replied, “Your daughter should not go back to school until after the holidays. If you must return to Pietrelcina, do so, but Maria needs to stay here a little longer.” Carmine objected: “But Padre, you are a saint, you can protect Maria even from afar.” Padre Pio answered, “No, your daughter will be fine if she remains here. Remember that the eye of the master fattens the horse.” [Italian proverb meaning that a business thrives when the owner himself – in this case Padre Pio - personally oversees it.]

Carmine Pennisi paid no attention to the advice of Padre Pio. He returned to Pietrelcina with Maria, and had her resume her studies. But after only a few days back at school, she fell ill again. This time the doctors diagnosed it as a case of pleurisy. When Padre Pio was later informed, he said, “I told them. If she had stayed in San Giovanni she would not have fallen sick.” Her case became very serious, with a fever of 104, and she began to grow weaker with each passing day.
Blood-stained relic cloth. Padre Pio Foundation
Then one evening in early January of 1923, Maria received a visitor. It was a woman who had just returned from San Giovanni Rotondo. She was a spiritual child of of Padre Pio, and brought several items associated with him to keep as relics. She offered to rub the chest of Maria with a piece of cloth that was stained with blood from the Padre's stigmata. Maria's parents gave their consent. Almost as soon as the relic touched her, she began to feel better, and then she dozed off for about an hour. When she awoke her temperature was taken – it was now 98.6 degrees! Maria confidently concluded, “It was Padre Pio.”

The next day Doctor Andrea Cardone came to check on Maria, and when he saw that the temperature was completely normal, he was convinced that the thermometer was broken. He used another one, and it too read 98.6 degrees. “Impossible!” said Cardone, who had been Padre Pio's doctor in Pietrelcina for many years. He then subjected Maria to a meticulous battery of respiratory tests, but could find nothing amiss. There was no longer any trace of the pleurisy; Maria was completely cured.

Her father Carmine went to see Padre Pio to tell him the good news, and to ask if Maria could now return to school. “You must wait another twelve days,” said the Padre. And this time, Carmine knew enough to follow Padre Pio's advice. Maria did return to school after that short wait, and was able to finish out the school year. All told, she had missed 53 school days because of her two illnesses, and yet she finished first in her class! When she returned to San Giovanni to personally thank Padre Pio, he replied, “Give thanks to the Lord, who has stopped your coughing and cured you again this time. You must give thanks to Him and to no one else.”

Postscript: Letters exist which Padre Pio personally wrote to Carmine Pennisi and to Maria. There is one to Carmine and there are three to Maria. They date from May 1922 to February 1923, just prior to the time Padre Pio was ordered by the Holy Office in Rome to no longer write any letters. The letter to Maria dated February 7, 1923 was written to her while she was recovering from her attack of pleurisy. It reads, in my own unofficial translation:

“Dearest Marietta, May Jesus and Mary watch over you with benevolent eyes to render you always dearer to their hearts! I am very sorry to hear about your illness, but I thank Jesus who has quickly dealt with the malady. Strive to rest for a few more days before resuming your studies. I never cease to recommend you always to Jesus, together with all of your family. Be of good spirits and don't worry about anything. Study and always be a lover of Christian piety, living tranquilly. Best wishes to your parents, and if you happen to see any of my family [in Pietrelcina] say hello to them for me.”

Ironically, Maria herself became part of Padre Pio's extended family, by marrying into the DeNunzio's, the family of Padre Pio's mother.  Her recently deceased daughter, Graziella DeNunzio Mandato, wrote a book about Padre Pio, and her grandson Fr. Pio Mandato is a priest living in the USA.

This post is based primarily on the account in Renzo Allegri's Padre Pio Il Santo Dei Miracoli, pp. 164-167; additional information from Padre Pio Storia D'una Vittima, Vol. 1, pp. 288-290, by Francobaldo Chiocci and Luciano Cirri.

View my Catholic books on Padre Pio and others Here.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Padre Pio and the Doubting Thomas

It was January of 1931 when Ubaldo Giovanni from Bologna read about Padre Pio for the first time. The wonders of the saint were related in a booklet written by Alberto Del Fante, who was one of the very first authors to write about the stigmatist and mystic from San Giovanni Rotondo. Ubaldo was a practicing Catholic, but was rather skeptical about some of the stories of the cures, conversions and miracles he had just read about. He placed the booklet where his father could find and read it when he returned from work. Later, when his father, Gattamorta, had finished reading it, Ubaldo asked him, “Doesn't it seem to you, dad, that these stories about Padre Pio are rather exaggerated? Personally, I am like St. Thomas, there are some things that if I do not experience them first hand, I just don't believe them. For that reason I would love to make a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo.”

And so Gattamorta, Ubaldo, his cousin Narda, and a few friends and relatives, decided to make the trip to see Padre Pio for themselves. Then with their own eyes they could see if these many tales and stories were true. Thus on the 12th of February, they departed Bologna and headed for San Giovanni Rotondo in the south of Italy. They arrived there about noon, and at about 4:00 pm went into the monastery for Confession. Afterwards, Ubaldo's father later wrote that, to be truthful, when he made his confession, Padre Pio did not make any particular impression on him, and the same was true of the other people in the group from Bologna.

The very next day, they all went to the friary again for Communion. Afterwards, when Padre Pio entered the sacristy, they went up one by one to kiss his hand. Ubaldo and the other Bolognese with him experienced a very strong and extraordinary odor of perfume when they did so. However, they marveled when Ubaldo's father Gattamorta said he had not smelled anything, even though they insisted that it was very strong. Every day during their trip, whenever they came up to Padre Pio to kiss his stigmatized hand, they could smell the same perfume. However, Gattamorta only smelled it one time, and it happened when he was in the church, but not with Padre Pio. The aroma was on his hands, and when he approached the others, they told him it was the exact same perfume that they had all experienced.

Notwithstanding the experience of the perfume, Ubaldo still retained his skepticism, while his father had no difficulty in accepting the truth about Padre Pio's sanctity. Then one day, while they were walking up the road leading to the friary, an idea flashed through Gattamorta's mind. He would pray for something to occur that would prove Padre Pio's powers even to his son. 

They reached the friary and church, and the little group knelt before the altar waiting to receive Communion, which was distributed by Padre Pio after Mass. When it was Ubaldo's turn, he held the paten in his hand. Suddenly, he turned pale and waxen like a candle, let go of the paten, and started to fall backwards. His father rushed over to him and held him tightly in his arms. Ubaldo's body seemed cold as marble, and to Gattamorta it seemed that his son had no signs of life.

Assisted by Ubaldo's cousin Narda, they brought him into the sacristy and seated him on a bench, where he remained immobile. They sprayed water on his face, and someone found some vinegar which they put under his nose, but nothing could revive him. When Padre Pio had finished his Mass and went into the sacristy, Ubaldo was still in this state. What was the Padre's reaction upon seeing him? First he smiled at him kindly and gently. Then he put his hand upon his head and lovingly caressed his head and face. At this, Ubaldo suddenly revived.

His father began to cry after witnessing his son coming to life again upon the touch of Padre Pio. Gattamorta asked him if he felt ill, but Ubaldo replied that he did not feel sick at all. He expressed a desire to receive Communion when Padre Pio returned to the chapel to distribute it, and both father and son went to receive the Holy Particle from the saint's stigmatized hand. Afterwards in the sacristy, Padre Pio once again gave a gentle caress to Ubaldo, and kissed him on the forehead.

Throughout the rest of that day, Ubaldo felt completely well. He remained so for the duration of their stay at San Giovanni Rotondo and also after their return home to Bologna. It was the first time something like this had ever happened to him, and it was also the last time. After his encounters with Padre Pio, Ubaldo became his enthusiastic admirer, and his devoted spiritual child. 

Not long after their homecoming, a telegram arrived for Ubaldo's cousin Narda, who was at that time living in the same home with Gattamorta's family. His father Giacomo, was the brother-in-law of Gattamorta. With a few words, the telegram stated that Narda's father was gravely ill and he wanted to see his son. “Giacomo grave, attendo Narda.” As soon as he read the cryptic message, Narda burst out crying, fearing that his father might be dying. Ubaldo and Narda immediately left for Ravenna to the home of the sick man. Upon seeing him, Ubaldo urgently wired Gattamorta stating that Uncle Giacomo was very sick, stricken by cerebrospinal meningitis. His condition was hopeless.

The attending doctor, a noted Ravenna physician, told the family, “I do not want to delude you, your father is more dead than alive. Speak to him now about anything you wish to tell him, because it may only be a matter of hours. There is absolutely no hope that he can survive more than four days at the most.”

But Narda had with him a picture of Padre Pio. Placing the picture under the pillow of his father, he began praying to the stigmatized friar. The very next day, the doctor returned and to his surprise found his patient sitting up in bed on his own. The physician declared, “They say that miracles are a thing of the past, but to me it seems that they still can occur!” Then after only one more day, Giacomo was able to leave his bed.

When Narda and his sisters met with the doctor to thank him, his reply was, “Do not thank me, since I have done nothing, and no other doctor could have done anything either. What happened I do not know, perhaps it was the Lord or his Mother. It is certain that, of the people in your father's condition who are hospitalized, few manage to survive, and they never fully recover. They are either blind, or deaf, or mentally incapacitated. But Giacomo regained his complete health in a few days.”

As for Giacomo, he shows the picture of Padre Pio to everyone he can, and proclaims, “My son Narda says that this is the image of the friar that cured me!”

Based on an account in Per La Storia, by Alberto Del Fante, pp. 348-352.

View my Catholic books on Padre Pio, St. Francis and others Here.

Friday, November 30, 2018

When Padre Pio Felt the Pains of Purgatory

One day, while he was praying for the souls in Purgatory, Padre Pio saw a vision of one of those suffering persons completely enwrapped in flames. Marveling at the vigor and power of the fire, he was moved to ask the soul if that fire was hotter than flames on the earth. “Alas,” replied the sorrowful creature, “All the fire on the earth compared to that of Purgatory is like a breath of fresh air.” Padre Pio then asked him how such a thing could be possible. In reply, the soul in the vision invited the friar to experience it himself. Padre Pio then touched with his hand what seemed to be just a bit of sweat which fell from the forehead of the being. He immediately emitted a loud cry, and because of the great intensity of the pain, and his fear, he fell to the ground.

Hearing the shout, other friars rushed over, to assist in whatever way possible. When he came to himself, Padre Pio recounted the terrible experience, in which he was both a witness and a victim. He ended the tale with these words: “Oh, my brothers, if only each one of us knew how great is the severity of Divine Justice, we would never sin.”

Late one evening at the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, the friars suddenly heard the loud clamor of voices at the entrance way, who were exclaiming “Viva Padre Pio!” It was during the Second World War, well after the evening repast, and the friary had already closed up for the night. Acting as if it were something of no importance, but just an everyday occurrence, Padre Pio calmly reassured his confrères. He explained that the voices shouting “Viva Padre Pio” were those of soldiers who had been killed in the fighting; they had come there to thank him for his prayers.

One day, in 1943, Padre Gerardo De Caro recommended the soul of someone recently deceased to the prayers of Padre Pio. It was the soul of an author whose works Padre Gerardo had enjoyed reading as a child. He did not mention his name to the saint, and had said nothing more about him. But Padre Pio understood perfectly to whom he was referring. His face reddened, as if he were experiencing torment, pity, and sorrow for the pains of another. He grieved for that person, for whom there had been no lack of spiritual help and prayers. Then Padre Pio said: “He loved creatures too much.”

Padre Gerardo then beseeched, more with a look of anguish than with words, how long that soul would have to remain in Purgatory. The reply: “Almost a hundred years!” Padre Pio continued: “It is necessary to pray for the souls in Purgatory. It is difficult to believe just how much they can help our spiritual well being, through the gratitude that they show to those on earth who remember and pray for them.”

Padre Pio's father, Grazio Forgione, would often travel from his home in Pietrelcina to visit his son for a few days at the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo. The Superior of the monastery allowed him to spend the nights in one the vacant cells. One evening in 1928, when he was about 67 years old, he took leave of the friars and his son at the close of their dinner and recreation period, and headed for his assigned room. It was cell number 10. As he walked down the hallway and approached the room, he was surprised to see two friars standing right in front of the doorway, blocking him from entering. 

Grazio Forgione

Grazio thought they were visiting friars who had mistakenly gone to the wrong room. He calmly began to explain to them that he had to take his rest, and asked them to let him enter, since this was his assigned cell. But it was to no avail. He repeated his request a couple of times, but the two friars held their ground, and gave no reply. Beginning to become impatient, he tried to convince them that it was not their room because it had only one bed. Finally, he decided it was time to simply force his way past the men. But as soon as he began to push his way through to his cell, the two friars just vanished into thin air!

Confused, shaken, and fearful, he immediately set off to find his son, and told him about this mysterious occurrence. Padre Pio understood right away what had happened. He put his arm around his dad's shoulder, and with gentle words comforted him until he began to calm down. When he saw that his father's fear had subsided, he told him: “Dad, these two friars that you have just seen in front of your room are two pitiable religious who are in Purgatory. They are doing their expiation here in the very place in which they had violated the rule of St. Francis. They are also asking our prayers for their liberation. Therefore, be calm and don't worry. They will not return again. Then Padre Pio accompanied his father back to cell number 10 and waited until he had gotten into bed, before bidding him good night.

Padre Giuseppe Antonio, of the friary of St. Anna in nearby Foggia, was one of Padre Pio's close friends. He was suffering greatly because of major kidney problems, and was under the watchful care of the doctors and friars. On December 30, Padre Pio was informed that the condition of Padre Antonio was worsening, and only prayers and divine intervention could alleviate his suffering and cure him.

Padre Pio did not need to be asked twice. That night in his cell, as he was praying for his desperately ill friend, there was knock on his door. “Avanti,” said the Padre upon hearing the sound. The door opened and to his great surprise and wonder, Padre Antonio entered the room. Padre Pio greeted him with: “How are you doing? I was told that you were suffering from a grave illness, and now I find you here!” The friar replied, “I am doing well. All of my torments are over and I have come to thank you for your prayers.” And then he disappeared. Unbeknownst to Padre Pio, Padre Antonio had died that very evening of December 30. 

Carmela Marocchino lived near the friary at the house of Mary Pyle, the American who had become his disciple. Carmela's brother, Padre Vittore, was a beloved priest until his sudden death in January of 1958. Wondering if he had saved his soul, she went to Padre Pio a few days later. She began to cry, and so did Padre Pio. She asked the Padre why the Lord had taken her brother. He explained that the Lord entered a garden where there many beautiful flowers. Walking over to the most beautiful flower of all, he picked it. This is exactly what happened to Padre Vittore. Carmela then asked if her brother was saved. Padre Pio answered in the affirmative, but added that we must pray.

Some months later, hoping that Padre Vittore would now be in Paradise, she asked Padre Pio in the confessional if her brother was now in heaven. He replied, “My daughter, we priests have more responsibility before God, and when we appear before Him, it is with fear and trembling. Therefore, let us pray.” Then, about a year after her brother's death, she again asked Padre Pio about him. This time his answer was, “He is in Paradise.” Carmela was overjoyed. But she began to consider that even though he had been a priest, and was a student of Padre Pio's, he still had to spend 11 months in Purgatory. This was because of the responsibility of so many souls under his spiritual direction.

On yet another occasion, Carmela asked Padre Pio if she should still pray for her deceased parents. He replied, “Even if your parents are in heaven, we must always pray. If they no longer need prayers, they are applied to other souls.”

One time in 1949 Padre Pio was talking with a certain doctor who was very close to him. They were discussing prayers for the dead. Padre Pio said to him, “Maybe you don't know that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather!” But the doctor remarked that he has been dead for many, many years. Then Padre Pio explained, “For the Lord the past does not exist. Everything is an eternal present. These prayers had already been taken into account. And so I repeat that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather!”

Based on accounts in Padre Pio Mistero e Miracolo, by G. Giacometti and P. Sessa, pp. 225-35, and also The Holy Souls, by Padre Alessio Parente, pp, 103-104 and pp. 177-179.

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Padre Pio Hitches a Ride

Bilocation does not exclude ordinary means of transportation.

In the autumn of 1949 a young man was in the Boston area, working at Harvard University for the purpose of scientific research. He was preparing for a trip by auto to visit Ottawa, Canada. While at Harvard he had become acquainted with an elderly descendant of Italian immigrants who, like many Italian-Americans, was quite attracted to the homeland of his ancestors. That man, whose name was John, was a restorer of paintings, and had done some restorations for pictures belonging to a bishop living in Ottawa. Consequently, John asked the younger man if he would be so kind as to deliver the cleaned and restored paintings to the good bishop. The researcher replied that was no trouble at all for him to do so.

After driving to Ottawa, he went straight to the bishop's residence to bring him the renewed artwork. The bishop received the visitor into his study, and the two men engaged in polite conversation. There was a photo on the prelate's desk, which attracted the attention of the visitor, since it looked like a picture of Padre Pio. The bishop confirmed that it was indeed Padre Pio, and that he had become a disciple and great admirer of him, after meeting him in Italy during the course of the war. The face of Padre Pio was familiar to the Harvard researcher, since his mother was quite devoted to him.

During their conversation, the bishop had told him that unfortunately there were no Capuchin friars or convents at all in Ottawa. Therefore one can imagine this visitor's surprise and troubled amazement, when, upon exiting the court-yard of the bishopric, he came face to face with a Capuchin! The monk bore an uncanny resemblance to Padre Pio himself. The researcher stood amazed as the friar spoke to him with a strong southern Italian accent, and asked for a ride to the home of an acquaintance who was urgently awaiting his arrival. Dumbfounded, he signaled to the friar to get into his car, which was parked nearby. As they rode along, he followed the directions given by the monk (keep to the right . . . turn left here), without saying a word himself.

In a short time they arrived at their destination. Thanking the man with a “Pace e bene” (peace and good), the friar exited the car and all but ran up the four steps to the doorway of a house, into which he was quickly admitted. Still emotionally disoriented, the driver left his car and began to pace back and forth along the sidewalk, mulling over his extraordinary experience. For what seemed like an hour or more he waited for the friar to come back outside; but there was no sign of him.

Finally, he climbed up the steps and knocked on the door of the home. He was greeted by an older woman who seemed upset, but at the same time was smiling. Before he could utter a word, she told him, “The Padre already left a while ago. But my husband is now serenely at rest in the peace of the Lord. Padre Pio accompanied him to Paradise.” The driver said goodbye to the woman, and returned to his automobile disquieted and confused.

About half an hour later he stopped at a motel to spend the night there. On the pillow of the bed he found a small sheet of paper. On it he read, “Thank you again, well done.” One can imagine his bewildered state. He folded the piece of paper into his wallet; but some months later it completely disappeared, and he was unable to find it.

Two years later, in 1951, he returned to Italy and found the time to make a brief visit to San Giovanni Rotondo. He waited as Padre Pio made his way through the throng of the faithful. As soon as the saint saw him, Padre Pio blessed him and asked if he had made a good journey back home from Canada.

Based upon an account in Padre Pio Mistero e Miracolo, by G. Giacometti and P. Sessa, pp. 131-132. The authors never give the actual name of the protagonist.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Twelve "Apostles" of Padre Pio

Unlike those of Jesus, Padre Pio's were all women.

Nina Campanile was one of the first of Padre Pio's spiritual daughters, not just in the order of time, but also in the height of her spirituality. Nina was a primary school teacher in San Giovanni Rotondo. She first met the Padre on October 5, 1916, only one month after he was assigned to the friary of Our Lady of Graces at San Giovanni. Although he had just arrived, and the stigmata were not to appear for another two years, his reputation for holiness was already spreading in the Puglia region of southern Italy.

World War One was raging, and Nina's younger brother had recently died at the front. Their mother was worried about his eternal fate, so she asked Nina to visit the “holy monk” to ask if he was saved. She did so, and the reply of the Padre was: “If the mercy of God depended on what you think, all men would be in hell. He is saved, yes, and in need of prayers.” In her diary, she wrote that her first impression of him was that he was entirely a supernatural being, “with a halo around his head,” because at that time she did not understand that before saints can be illuminated by the light of paradise, they first had to be truly human.

Once she had met him, she found it difficult to be away from his presence, and that initial meeting proved to be the beginning of many others, either in person or by letter, through which Padre Pio provided for her spiritual direction. He told her that he understood from their first encounter, that the Lord had sent her to him, and that much work would be required to form her soul in God. About that visit, Nina wrote: “He penetrated to the depths my soul, without my having spoken, such that I felt ashamed to be in his presence, and I did not dare to raise my eyes to look up at him, so much was the confusion that I felt.” 

Nina Campanile

Twice a week, Thursday and Sunday, and often on other days, Nina came to see Padre Pio along with some of her teacher colleagues and other spiritual daughters. Conferences took place in the guest parlor in an informal, friendly atmosphere, where he taught the way of perfection, and spoke about the gospel. They would ask him about things they did not understand, and with paternal gentleness, he would resolve their difficulties and doubts, enlightening their minds.

He told Nina that it was his intention to form a few, good souls, so that they in turn would be the seeds sown in the bosom of the of the people. Whenever he talked to them one-on-one in private, he would not only be interested in their spiritual growth, but also showed an interest in their families, as if he were himself a family member wanting to know what was happening to his loved ones. If one of them were sick, he would inform them of any steps to be taken. “In this way this exquisite conquistador of souls captivated our faith, such that we manifested to him the most intimate fibers of our consciences; he sifted and directed our sentiments and our spirits, steering them towards the supreme ideal.”

Nina writes that there were twelve women who attended Padre Pio's conferences. In her memoirs she lists them as Rachelina Russo, the Ventrella sisters, Giovanna and Lucia Fiorentino, Lucia Campanile [Nina's sister], Maria and Antonietta Pompilio, Maria Ricciardi, Filomena Fini, and Maddalena Cascavilia. Padre Pio said that “Here it is not a question of personal acceptance. Souls are attracted as the Lord disposes.”

From the very first meetings, he taught that their spiritual progress hinged upon five basics. These were: weekly confession; daily Communion; spiritual reading; meditation; and nightly examination of conscience. At whatever the cost, he did not want them to neglect daily Communion, unless they had committed a mortal sin. In order to allay any doubts, he listened to all of their frequent fears and scruples about approaching the altar. He told them that they should abstain from Holy Communion only if they knew for certain they had sinned mortally. In this way he triumphed over their fears. Following the example of his twelve spiritual daughters, in a very short time the practice of daily Communion diffused itself throughout San Giovanni Rotondo. 

Maria Pompilio receiving Holy Communion from Padre Pio

But the teaching of Padre Pio was not simply catechetical, he used various means to make them understand and penetrate the truth. In her initial years under the Padre's tutelage, he treated Nina in an exceptional way in comparison to the others – he treated her as if she were a little child. He often gave her very pretty holy cards and sacred objects, and gave her all the candy and sweets that his devotees had personally given to him. In her spiritual blindness, Nina thought that these gifts were a sign of her special predilection in the eyes of God and of the Padre. However, as time went on, she began to think about the poverty of Saint Francis of Assisi, and here she was eating sweets. She mentioned this to Padre Pio, who immediately responded, “That is why I don't eat them, and give them to you instead.” She replied, “Am I not also a daughter of St. Francis, so then why do you give them to me?” He answered in jest, “You are not the daughter of St. Francis [San Francesco], but of your dad, Don Francesco.” And they both laughed. But the wisdom of this little joke reached into her heart. And she considered it often, especially when the daughter of Don Francesco, who wished to be the daughter of St. Francis, had a great desire for sweets and candy.

God was in him in a supernatural manner the way that natural things are in us, and Nina cited many facts which demonstrated it. During the first year under her direction by the Padre, her mother was stricken with a very high fever. The doctors diagnosed double pneumonia, and the family was very concerned. When Padre Pio met with Nina, he asked how her mother was doing. She told him that the doctors were prescribing certain treatments for the pneumonia, including eight leeches [bloodsuckers – sanguisughe]. Padre Pio exclaimed that her illness was actually a severe case of malaria. A short time later, the diagnosis that Padre Pio had discerned supernaturally, was confirmed.

In February 1918 her sister had a terrible fall from a great height; she was in severe pain and lost consciousness. A doctor was urgently summoned, and he diagnosed that she had suffered serious internal bruises and her kidneys had become displaced – she would die before the night was over. Nina ran over to the friary through sleet and snow, to find Padre Pio, and he reassured her that “This is just God accosting her, she will soon be healed.” But that evening her sister was still lying unconscious on her bed. Nina called out to her loudly, shook her, even pinched her, but there was no response. All of a sudden the face of Nina's friend, who was also present, began to pale, as she announced, “The Padre is here.” It was bilocation.

Nina was stupefied, never having experienced anything like it before. “But the Padre is here?” she asked. “Yes, he is here in spirit.” “How is he dressed?” “Like a monk.” “If I reach out to touch him, can I feel anything? “No, because it is his spirit. See? He has come near your sister and said 'poor girl.' ” After about ten minutes her friend said, “Now, he has gone away.” Nina wanted to verify the reality of this event, and carefully noted that the time was 8:00 pm. She approached her sister's bedside, and once again called out to her. To Nina's surprise, she responded with a profound sigh, and said she was feeling much better. The next day Nina went to the friary, and when she saw the Padre she asked him point blank, “Padre, what time did you come to the house last night to see my sister?” “Around eight o'clock,” he replied. The proof was evident, and her sister was cured.

Nina's nephew was a medic serving on a hospital ship, and one day she heard that the ship was bombed. Fearful, she immediately approached the Padre and asked him about her nephew. He replied without hesitation, “Be calm, he was in port and not on the ship.” Later, she learned that this was in fact the case. Padre Pio could not have learned that her brother was safe by normal means, since she had asked him as soon as news came of the bombing.

Nina wrote that the stormy times in which we live have need of a “divinized being” on earth to give an example, comfort, sustain, and above all to support us through the raging and furious storms, to insure that if the body is lost, the soul will not be. The life of Padre Pio, like that of the Divine Master, is one of total sacrifice. He eats little, and sleeps even less. He prays, works, suffers. Forgetting himself, his life is dedicated to the cause of souls; he is open to everyone. He said, “If you do good to those who deserve it, what merit is there? It is necessary to know how to treat with the bad and with the good, in order to draw out the best in the one and in the other.”

Based primarily on Enrico Malatesta's La Vera Storia di Padre Pio, pp. 136-143. Additional information from Letters of Padre Pio, Vol III, pp. 949-950.

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