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.

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