Monday, September 3, 2018

He shuffled there on his stigmatized feet.

The night Padre Pio left his monastery and walked to the home of a dying man.

Dr. Francesco Ricciardi, a practicing physician for many years at San Giovanni Rotondo, had always manifested a certain aversion towards Padre Pio. The doctor was a man with a very frank and sincere character, honest to the point of being scrupulous. A tireless scholar, he thought his studies could not admit of the supernatural. God was a utopia. Padre Pio was a conventionalism created only for the ignorant; science, only it, was an infallible dogma, and only in that did he believe.

He supported the attacks that Padre Pio's own archbishop, Mons. Pasquale Gagliardi, launched against him. He freely took part in the petty meetings that were organized in the town in order to express disapproval of the work of the priests, and to defame the very person of the humble friar, often also to launch insults and blasphemies in his direction. And the good priest of God, although knowing all about it, never spoke one word of blame against the wickedness that so cruelly offended him in the most noble of his prerogatives – the priesthood.

Ricciardi had not approached the confessional in thirty years, and had never desired to bow down his white-haired pate before an image of Christ or the Virgin Mary. But the “Dies irae” would arrive even for him. Padre Pio would be there at the gate, not in order to punish, nor to reprimand, but to bestow instead the holiest and unexpected of conversions.

In the fall of 1928, the doctor fell sick. A terrible disease had undermined his very existence, and it was so serious that it seemed to be carrying him to the tomb. It was stomach cancer, causing his strong constitution to wither from day to day. His doctor, Francesco Giuva, assisted by colleagues Dr. Angelo Maria Merla, Dr. Tomasso Morcaldi, Dr. Capuano Matteo, Dr. Antonio Mauricelli, were all of the opinion that he would die.

I am dying, Giuva,” murmured the patient, “It is finished.”

From Foggia, Naples and many parts, the doctors arrived at San Giovanni Rotondo, and each could do nothing but confirm the diagnosis of their colleagues; only Dr. Merla thought that instead of stomach cancer it might be acute gastritis [gastrite flemmonosa.] All treatments were attempted, including radiation, but nothing availed to stop the disease. Dr. Ricciardi was dying little by little.

Numerous priests alternately approached him, all presenting to him thoughts of peace, of love, of repentance. But he refused them all, affirming that he intended to die as he had lived. A friend of the family thought of Padre Pio. “Only he, only he,” she said, “can work a miracle.”

In December, Don Giuseppe Principe, parish priest of the town, who was the doctor's personal friend, was called to administer the last rites, while the patient was still conscious. But as soon as he saw the priest he chased him away with unheard-of fury, saying, “I do not want a priest, I don't want anyone.” He even threw a slipper at him from his bedside. In a moment of exasperation he shouted at the unfortunate man, “No one can hear my confession, only Padre Pio, whom I have so much offended, could I confess to today. But he can not come over here, and so I prefer to die as I am.”

Outside the wind howled frightfully, a heavy sleet penetrated the clothing, chilling even the hearts of the good countrymen who were gathering near his home. They were already crying over the respected doctor, who so lovingly for many years had taken care of them. He was very popular, he often tended the sick for nothing, and was generous-hearted.

The end was near. The death rattle was already fading, and the body was beginning to give out the odor characteristic of death, when the doctor who rebelled against the laws of God, saw appear in the doorway the humble Franciscan friar – Padre Pio had been alerted and asked to hasten to the bed of the dying man, with pleas that he alone could give a new soul to God.

That evening a pious person had made his way to the monastery of the friar who bore the wounds of Christ, and told him what was occurring. Padre Pio wished to leave immediately, but he had to obtain permission from the Guardian, Padre Raffaele. He was at first reluctant, but he relented and even accompanied Padre Pio to the sick man's home. It had been ten years since the Padre had left the confines of the friary of St. Mary of the Graces. The superior ecclesiastical authorities, in order to avoid fanaticism, had imposed upon him certain determinate restrictions, which only had the effect of greatly increasing the flames of love for him. 

No authors give the actual location of Dr. Ricciardi's home. Maria Winowska writes it was only a “few yards” from the convent, and that Padre Pio “shuffled on his martyred feet to see the doctor.” It must have been a short distance from the monastery, perhaps down the main road from the friary, the Viale Cappuccini. Alberto Del Fante, who was the first to write about the incident, informs us that the person who went to fetch the Padre, over the resistance of Dr. Ricciardi, was Dr. Angelo Maria Merla, who at one time was also an atheist. “He told me himself in February of 1931 that instead he believes in God and is a good Catholic and spiritual son of Padre Pio.”

Notwithstanding the late hour, the bad weather, and the distance to be covered, Padre Pio “shuffled” down the road, desiring only to reach the bedside of the poor sick man. He took with him from the little Chapel of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a consecrated Host and holy oils, and along with these two precious helps from heaven, was Padre Raffaele. As he approached the house, he was recognized by passers-by, who gathered around him and accompanied him to the place where Dr. Ricciardi lived, joining those that were already in front of the home praying for his conversion and healing.

While Padre Pio continued towards the bedside of the sick man, the growing crowd of people who had heard of what was happening began kneeling along the roadway by the house, now lovingly visited by Lord present in the Host. They were crying and praying prayers of peace, consolation, and love. All the while, large flakes of snow were falling, as some manna from heaven coming to bless the auspicious event that was to take place in the humble room of the dying man.

Padre Pio reached the bedside of Ricciardi, and embraced him with a smile, as proof of his forgiveness. As soon as the doctor saw the priest, he seemed to experience an infinite wellbeing. The atheist was conquered. The atheist bowed that head which he had never bowed, the atheist joined his hands, made the sign of the cross, and after confessing, received the Holy Eucharist and Extreme Unction from the stigmatized hands of the Padre of Pietrelcina. God entered into him, God, who can not abandon and does not abandon. The smell of death was overcome by the perfume that emanated from Padre Pio, the impure soul became pure, and the lips that for thirty years only spoke empty words, were now thanking God.

Rev. Bernard Ruffin reports that he whispered to Padre Pio saying, “Father bless me one more time. There is no more hope for me, and in a little while I will be dead, and so I want to leave the world with your pardon and another blessing from you.” But the good Padre responded: “Your soul is healed, and soon your body will be healed as well. You will go to the friary and repay the visit that I have made this evening.”

After having once again kissed and blessed him, the Padre left the house in order to walk back to his friary.

Outside of the home of the doctor, the people, defying the wind and snow, waited for the miracle. And the miracle arrived! Padre Pio once again chased away death and gave to the Divine Lord a new soul. Dr. Ricciardi survived, happy to have found the light, the spiritual light, that illuminated his white hairs. All signs of the cancer were gone in three days, and Dr. Ricciardi did in fact come to the friary church to thank God and Padre Pio.

The renowned doctor, in that unforgettable day, after his close contact with the humble herald of heaven, was cured of a very serious double infirmity: that of his soul, because from that moment onward he continued to live devoted and thankful to the one who was so good to him – and that of his body, because he was cured of his physical malady. He was able live for almost another four years, doing good works and most importantly thanking the Lord, who had forgotten the affronts He had received, and had given him back both spiritual and material life. He died in June of 1932 at the age of 71.

This was perhaps, according to Dr. Giorgio Festa, the one and only time Padre Pio, driven by love and the desire to do good, left his sanctuary of peace and prayer. [Other than to vote.] Dr. Festa reported that those who had been present at the event, in remembering what had occurred as they told him about it, had tears in their eyes from the intense emotion that had reawakened in their hearts.

Comment of Alberto Del Fante: “Almost all of these doctors mentioned are still alive. I do not cite facts from Mr. X or Mr. Y, but facts verifiable by all who desire to touch with their hands or see with their eyes, or hear with their own ears.” He quotes the Gospel of St. John (3: 20-21). “For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved. But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God.”

Translated freely from two historical sources for Padre Pio: Alberto Del Fante, Per La Storia VI Edition, 1948 pp. 312-314; and Dr. Giorgio Festa, Misteri di Scienza e Luci di Fede, 1949 pp. 244-246; Also C. Bernard Ruffin Padre Pio the True Story, 1991 pp. 224-226, 340; and Maria Winowska, The True Face of Padre Pio, 1955, pp. 140-141. 

View my books on Padre Pio and others Here.  

No comments:

Post a Comment