Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Praying to Our Father in Secret


"And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee."  Thus says Our Lord, as passed down to us in Matthew 6:5,6 (Douay Rheims). 

In her popular Catholic blog, "The Path Less Taken," Mary O'Regan offers a meditation on these words, and the difficulties and obstacles to praying in secret in today's busy world.  She writes: Taking a very literal approach, my mind came up with scenarios which prevent one from fulfilling Our Lord's call, and I fixed upon Our Lord's fatherly directive, "go to your room," which would be peculiar sounding to many millennials I've known who move out of home, congregate in big cities, and cannot find or afford a room of their own." 

To Mary, the idea of praying the Rosary in secret seemed "far-fetched."  That is, until she read the book How to Pray the Secret Rosary, which I recently published.  She explains clearly, probably more clearly that I do in my book, how one can pray the Rosary without using the beads, and without counting the Hail Mary's. In fact, I think I should have titled the book How to Pray the Rosary Secretly

Click Here to check out her excellent article. 




Friday, March 8, 2019

He Wanted to Give Padre Pio a Good Kick!

Alfredo was a practicing Catholic, but he did not give any special credence to the saintliness of Padre Pio. And he felt it was not a sin to feel that way since for him a saint was someone that the church had proclaimed as such, and that could not happen for a very long time. After all, it was 1950 and Padre Pio was still alive and well. But Alfredo did want to make a visit to San Giovanni Rotondo to find out more about this friar, if for no other reason than to satisfy his curiosity.

He carefully planned his trip to occur at a time when he thought there would be few visitors to the friary, so that he would have more time to observe the priest that everyone was talking about. Unfortunately for him, he reasoned that a good time to visit would be on November 2, All Souls Day, in Italian il Giorno dei Morti, the Day of the Dead. Alfredo had no idea that Padre Pio was already famous for his intercession for the souls in Purgatory, and that crowds of visitors and petitioners would converge on the tiny friary that day.

He took the train from his home in Potenza to Foggia, and the bus from there to San Giovanni was so packed that he was forced to stand in the aisle for the entire trip up the Gargano mountain. Then after he finally reached the church, he learned that he needed to make a reservation to confess to Padre Pio, and had to wait a week for his turn to arrive. In the meantime Alfredo, being resourceful, decided to at least be present in the sacristy when Padre Pio confessed the men, and also when the priest returned to the sacristy in the early evening to prepare for Vespers – evening prayer.

An hour after confessions were over, Padre Pio descended from his cell to enter the sacristy prior to the Vespers service. By that time, only a few men were present and Alfredo had a good opportunity to get close to the friar and observe him clearly. Yet, even after he came to know Padre Pio well in the years to come, he still does not really know how to describe him. “He was a figure, I would dare say, who was indefinable. One could attribute to him all possible adjectives: he was paternal, he was austere; he was frowning, he was cheerful; he was sarcastic, he was ironic. His eyes scrutinized a person as if he were piercing into their flesh, and forced you to look down.”

St. Mary of the Graces - the original church
After he entered the sacristy, Padre Pio cordially greeted and spoke with a certain gentleman who was standing near Alfredo. This man, as soon he saw the priest approach, went down on his knees and proceeded to kiss the friar's hand. Then Padre Pio, as part of his preparation for leading the Vespers ceremony, made use of a little water basin that was nearby, and washed his fingers which extended from the half-gloves of wool he wore over his stigmatized hands. As he finished, that same gentleman hastily retrieved a white handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to Padre Pio so he could dry his hands. Padre Pio returned it to him, and he put it back in his pocket. But as the priest was exiting the sacristy to enter the church, the gentleman again took out the handkerchief, carefully folded it, and placed it in his attaché case.

Alfredo was watching all this happen, and the man, seeing his curiosity, told him that he would explain everything when Vespers was over. They introduced themselves, and went into the church for the ceremony. Afterwards, they went out into the piazza in front of the church, and the mysterious gentleman said to Alfredo, “Now, I will satisfy your curiosity about the handkerchief, by telling you my story.”

It turns out that the man was a medical doctor, whose name Alfredo can not recall. He had been coming to San Giovanni every week for the past six months. He intended to keep returning until Padre Pio's hospital was finished, and then he would remain at San Giovanni to dedicate his life to the sick and suffering. His home was at Rome, where he practiced his medical profession. He was a confirmed atheist, as was his late father before him, who also had been a doctor. But his father, although an unbeliever, was a person of great humanity. “The first thing that he taught me as soon as I had reached the age of reason, was that I must always and unconditionally help and assist those who suffered in any way, materially or morally.”

He was single, and lived in the same apartment complex where his older sister lived with her husband and son. His sister and brother-in-law were both practicing Catholics, but he admired their discretion in never trying to involve him in a discussion of religion. In point of fact, he did not even know what the inside of a church looked like! Their 21 year old son, Massimo, was a third year medical student, following in the footsteps of the family tradition.

About eight months ago Massimo began complaining about severe headaches. As a doctor, the gentleman attributed his nephew's headaches to exhaustion due to his intensive studies in order to excel in his tests and exams. He prescribed analgesic painkillers for him, but the headaches continued. Then he had Massimo undergo a series of blood tests, which proved to be normal, except for anemia, which was attributed to the fact that his appetite was poor, causing him to eat little. Since there was still no improvement in his condition, recourse was had to an electroencephalogram. The EEG revealed, to the terror of the family, that Massimo was suffering from a brain tumor!

It was hard for them to accept this frightening conclusion, and he personally took his nephew to a famous clinic in Switzerland, which unfortunately confirmed the diagnosis. Not convinced, his uncle took him to an illustrious medical doctor based in London, who subjected Massimo to a barrage of tests and radiographs. After careful analysis of the results, this doctor determined that Massimo only had three or four months to live. What was worse, there was no hope for a surgical intervention, since the location of the tumor in his brain was such that an operation to remove it would result in total paralysis of the patient, or even death. 

Padre Pio's Hospital - Home for the Relief of Suffering

When he returned to Rome from England with Massimo, the gentleman told his brother-in-law the full truth of the situation, but to his sister, Massimo's mother, he told the “pitiful lie” that with time and the proper treatment, her son would improve. The London doctor had prescribed extra-strong painkillers, since with the passage of time the sufferings would become atrocious. With these analgesics, it almost seemed as if Massimo were improving for a time, but the destructive force of the cancer was inexorable. He was forced to abandon all of his studies, and then his general physical wasting and malnutrition confined him to bed. The tumor attacked his optic nerves, and little by little he became blind.

Massimo's mother was altogether desperate, and turned her prayers to all the saints of Paradise! His uncle visited the bedside daily, trying to inspire hope and courage in the young man. Then he was constrained to leave his patient behind for a few days in order to attend an important medical conference in Milan. While he was gone, Massimo began to experience shooting pains that were so bad that he could not stand them, and his mother was forced to have recourse to another doctor, who was highly qualified, and also very religious. This new doctor, after seeing Massimo and the results of the x-rays and tests, realized the situation had become grave. He told his mother that the medicines prescribed by the London physician were the best available, but that in Massimo's situation, science was impotent. “A miracle was the only hope, and they still happen even today, although most people are unaware of it.” She must pray, continued the doctor, because Massimo has need of prayers more than of medicine. Massimo's mother had a special devotion to St. Gemma Galgani, and taking a little statue of the saint, she placed it under the pillow of her son, who had now become a mere specter.

When the uncle returned from the conference in Milan the next morning, he was rather upset that another doctor had been called in to see Massimo, but he refrained from saying anything to his sister. However, when he discovered the figurine of St. Gemma under the pillow of his patient, the confirmed atheist behaved like a beast and raged against his sister for believing in such things, and left the house infuriated.

When he returned to see his patient that afternoon, he witnessed what he considered to be an incident of alarming fanaticism. At his sister's home a group of about ten family members and friends, people that he personally respected, even though they were all fervent Catholics, had made a circle in the bedroom of Massimo. They had placed him him the center of the group, having him kneel on a cushion and leaning him on a chair for support, while they all recited the Rosary for his healing. Among them, perhaps the most fanatical but also the man the doctor most revered, was an elderly, retired ex-colonel, who was a spiritual child of Padre Pio.

At the sight of this dreadful gathering, the doctor left the room, complaining loudly about his sister and brother-in-law. Because of their religious fantasies, they could not even allow their son Massimo the joy of dying in peace in his bed! He continued to vilify the group, who could hear his imprecations, but they continued to faithfully pray the Rosary. At its conclusion, the retired military man said to them, “Now let us offer a particular prayer to Padre Pio, asking him to intercede with the Lord and to assist me in what I am about to do. I have a handkerchief that the saintly friar had used some time ago to wipe his stigmatized hands. With this cloth, I will cover the head of Massimo, and God will do the rest.”

Upon hearing these words, the doctor stormed back into the room like a madman. Seeing the ex-colonel place the handkerchief upon Massimo's head, the doctor turned towards the retired soldier, angrily shouting that although he had the utmost respect for him, he would like give both him and his Padre Pio a good kick!

He had barely finished pronouncing this threat when Massimo suddenly yelled out, “Mama, Papa, I can see you!” Staggering, he tried to get to his feet. His uncle grasped him under the armpits so that he would not fall, and placed him on his bed. Then the bewildered doctor, feeling pale and drained like an old rag, and stripped of his anger, cast himself down on a chair. Minutes later, Massimo, who was being fed intravenously, asked his mother for something to eat. Crying tears of joy, she hurried to prepare him a bit of pastina, which he eagerly consumed, without bringing it back up as usually occurred.


Padre Pio Heals a Possessed Woman - by Antonio Ciccone

As the days passed, Massimo grew better before their very eyes. After about three weeks, he was given all the x-rays and tests as before, but this time the result was different. The tumor in his brain had completely disappeared! Another disappearance was the atheism of his uncle, the doctor. “My transition to Christianity was so rapid that I did not even notice it. It seemed to me that I had always been Catholic.”

Soon after, he was awakened one evening by someone calling out his name. Startled, he thought it was the voice of Massimo's father. Now wide awake, he again heard that same voice. But this time it said, “Don't forget that I am waiting for you, because you promised to give me a good kick!” Immediately aware of who it was, he got dressed and packed a suitcase, even though it was only 2:00 am. Taking a taxi, he was rushed to the Termini station in Rome, where he boarded the 3:30 am train for Foggia. He arrived at San Giovanni Rotondo around noon and went to the friary church of St. Mary of the Graces.

In the afternoon, Padre Pio came down from his cell to hear the confessions of the men. As he walked past Massimo's uncle, even though he had never seen him before, Padre Pio grabbed the doctor by the arm and took him to confession. The man went down on his knees, and Padre Pio said to him, “Here I am, I am all yours!” He cried for a long time, as Padre Pio talked to him: “Do not torment yourself because you have time ahead of you to make amends. Be calm because you are neither the worst nor the last. You were confounded because you were not meant to be as you were. Now that you are here I can tell you some beautiful news: your father, who was an atheist as you were, is saved and is with your mother. So now you can see that the mercy of God is great, and he abandons no one.”

Padre Pio continued, “At this place we are in the process of constructing a hospital for the relief of the suffering of so many poor people, and since you are a medical doctor, I would like you to come to work in this hospital.” The doctor replied, “Padre, there is nothing in the world that will make me leave this place. I will stay here until and I die, and you can do with me as you will.”

And that is the story that the gentleman with the handkerchief related to Alfredo.

“And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them.” [Acts 19: 11, 12.]

Based on a two-part article from the “Voce di Padre Pio” magazine issued by the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, February 1995 (pp. 23-25) and March 1995 (pp. 27-29).

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Part Two - The Artist and Padre PIo


Earlier in the month of February, 2019, I posted an article about Padre Pio's friendship with world-renowned artist Antonio Ciccone. I had tried in vain tried to find images of Ciccone's fresco of the “Resurrection”, which graces a wall on the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Rotondo, and that Padre Pio saw him working on. Also I was unable to find on the Internet a photo of Ciccone's painting of the possessed woman who was cured by an image of Padre Pio on a prayer card – “Padre Pio and the Posseduta”, also known as “The Healing.” 

Now, however, thanks to the generosity of Antonio's daughter Tiana, who by the way is mentioned in the original article, these photos have now been made available to this blog, along with three others that are appropriate to the story of The Artist and Padre Pio.


Following are excerpts from the original article, with the photos inserted in their appropriate places. 

One day he was at work high upon the scaffolding in order to paint one of these great frescoes in the church, working about fifty feet above the ground. In order to see from a distance the result of his labors, he started to descend on a ladder from the platform – but he made a misstep. Losing his balance, he found himself beginning to plunge below. Then all at once, an unexpected force pushed him and turned him around suddenly, so that he was able to grasp a rung of the ladder and hold himself firmly in place. Once he felt secure, he looked down below and saw Padre Pio, who was there and had seen everything. Immediately he understood that he was saved through the providential help of the Friar. “It is true, such help is always from God, but Padre Pio was his direct instrument.”


In the evenings, Antonio along with others including Brother Daniele Natale and Padre Pellegrino, who were very close to Padre Pio, often accompanied him to the friary garden. There they sat down around the saint and listened with great attention as he recounted little stories and anecdotes. At the same time, Antonio would closely observe him to insure that his portraits and sketches would accurately resemble him. Often however, Padre Pio would seem annoyed at such intense scrutiny. “I did not look at him as the others did, but scrutinized him in order to impress his spirit in me. And he, in fact, every once in a while, stopped what he was talking about and looked right at me, saying, 'What are you looking at? Why are you looking at me that way?' I justified myself by admitting I was studying him, and he would respond with an engaging smile.”


When he was commissioned to paint the Resurrection fresco in the Baptistery of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni, he approached Padre Pio to ask him for advice on how he could adequately represent such a magnificent event. But Padre Pio told him, “Do not be afraid, you will see that the right sentiments will unfold within yourself.” Padre Pio passed by the fresco every morning to see its progress as Antonio worked on it. When it was completed, Padre Pio happily expressed his approval, joyful with the spirit of a child. “I realized how much the Padre, before art works or the so many things that happened to him, reacted like an innocent child. He was pleased just to look and appreciate, rather than analyze the techniques of how the painting was made.” 
 

While Antonio was working on the Resurrection fresco, he witnessed a dramatic event. A possessed woman began shouting and throwing herself down, striking her head on the marble floor, a prey to indescribable sufferings. Many people gathered around attempting to calm her, or at least keep her from hitting her head against the floor. Antonio had never seen anything like this, and was so petrified and shaken that he was unable to take any action. At a certain point, however, one of the bystanders, who had a prayer card with a picture of Padre Pio on it, laid it upon the woman. At the initial contact, she shrieked and cursed, slamming every part of her body on the floor. But shortly thereafter, she completely settled down, and an interior calm pervaded her. It was then that Antonio conceived the idea of painting the event, and a year later executed a work inspired by the woman cured by the prayer card with the image of Padre Pio: “Padre Pio e la Posseduta.”


You can read the original article, The Artist and Padre Pio, Here. 

See my Catholic books on Padre Pio and others Here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Journey into Creation

Brother Daniele Natale was a Franciscan Capuchin, who passed away in 1994. He was one of Padre Pio's most devoted spiritual children and his close friend. For many years he was assigned to the friary at San Giovanni Rotondo, in the role of porter, questor, cook, and humble provider for the friars. In this way he grew in sanctity, and was the recipient of many spiritual favors from on High. After his death, his reputation for holiness was such that his body was moved to a special locus in the same church where Padre Pio himself had been initially interred, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. His cause for canonization has begun.

In 1952 Fra Daniele, at the insistence of Padre Pio, underwent an operation for a tumor in his spleen at a hospital in Rome. For a certain period he submitted to radiation and chemotherapy at the clinic. It was during this difficult time in his life that he was granted a remarkable vision of God's creation. Daniele insists he was awake, sitting on his bed, and it was not a dream.

He found himself in an unknown place that he had never seen before – a beautiful countryside near a body of water. He began to walk along, and near a hedgerow he came upon an exceptionally gorgeous rose of a deep red color. It was marvelous to look at, and while admiring it he said, “How beautiful you are!” At the same time he could smell a perfume more heavenly than any fragrance he had ever experienced in his life. Full of amazement, he turned to the rose and said, “You are so beautiful, and with such a sweet aroma! How is it possible that you have not been discovered before?” The rose replied to Daniele, “I am from the Creator and am here in order to praise Him. As for the perfume, it serves to purify the air polluted by man, and to make up for the lack of love that man should show for his Creator.” Hearing this Fra Daniele was troubled, since he thought that it was an accusation against him personally. “These words are for me,” he thought. He felt a little relief when the rose replied, “No! They are not meant for you.”

http://www.amicidifradaniele.it/sito/viaggio-nel-creato/

Resuming his walk in the countryside, he came before a garden bursting with flowers. He could not bring himself to tread upon them by continuing his walk. But the flowers, bending a little, invited him to proceed. Even as he apologized for trampling them, they in return thanked him. Turning towards the flowers, he asked, “Tell me, what is your task?” They answered, “To purify the air of sin and impurity, and to make up for the love which mankind lacks for the Creator.” They were almost the same words of reproof spoken by the rose. And again he heard a voice saying that these words were not for him.

Continuing onward, he came to a little hill, at the bottom of which was a running brook which led to a pretty waterfall. Within himself he was thinking, “Is the water also going to tell me that it praises the Creator?” Then Daniele asked, “Sister water, what is your task before the Most High?” “To praise the Creator,” was the reply. “And in what way do you praise the Creator?” he asked. “With my sounds,” the water replied. Daniele then became aware that he had never heard rushing water sound such beautiful notes! From that little waterfall came forth the enchanting chimes of an organ, to which no man-made organ could compare. It was a truly celestial melody, that penetrated so deeply within the soul of Fra Daniele that he was forced to plead, “Enough! Enough!” 

http://www.amicidifradaniele.it/sito/viaggio-nel-creato/

Then he began to walk along, stepping right in the brook itself, and yet he did not get wet. How curious! The brook led to the sea, and he found himself at a cove. The grass was beautiful and shiny, and the blades seemed to be statues pointing straight to the heavens. In their midst was an exquisite lily. It was tall, with a single flower in the form of a chalice – it was so attractive and enchanting to look at. But Daniele seemed to be in a hurry and did not linger there. However, he thought to himself that this lily too is going to tell me that it praises the Creator. So he continued walking, but the lily turned towards him as if to get his attention, and he said to it, “I already know, I know what your purpose is: to praise the Creator!” The flower then made a profound bow as if giving its assent, and he continued walking in the stream until he came to the sea.

He kept onward and walked right into the sea, not on the surface of the water but on the sea floor. It contained many beautiful plants, and a quantity of little fish that he had never seen before, thin and of various colors. They danced before him, and were so pretty, so attractive. Then after going a few hundred feet, he noticed a very large fish coming towards him, confidently smiling at him. But Fra Daniele was afraid, and as it approached him, he told it to stop and tell him what it wants. But the great fish was mortified at having to keep away, and Daniele felt sorry for it. He exhorted the big fish to come closer. When it was only a few yards away, he asked the fish what his purpose was. “My task is to gather the praises of all creatures that live in the sea, and through the mediation of a priest who lives in the world, to offer them to the Creator.” Daniele responded, “Oh I understand, that priest is Padre Pio.” Upon hearing the name of Padre Pio, the large fish bowed profoundly, and remained that way until Fra Daniele asked him to straighten.

While walking on the sea bed, just as in the brook, he did not get wet. He marveled at it, and wondered to himself why. The waters themselves seemed to answer him, “You are here in our midst not merely as a man who has the weight of his body, but also as a spirit.” That was why he did not get wet. 

http://www.amicidifradaniele.it/sito/viaggio-nel-creato/

Returning to solid ground, he found himself on the banks of the sea, beyond the sand, where there were many bushes and rocks, and he came to a small hill. Looking around, he saw many little snakes of various pretty colors, similar to those of the little fish he had just seen. They twisted around each other, and as they swayed towards him, they seemed to be dancing in a marvelous way.

Then in the distance, on that little and pleasant hill, he saw a very large and long snake, that aroused fear in him as soon as he saw it. He kept turning away from it in order to avoid confronting it, but that snake somehow kept always in front of him. Finally, Daniele was forced to ask it, “Perhaps you too wish to talk to me? Maybe you also are going to tell me that you snakes praise the Creator? But how can you praise the Creator if the devil has your appearance?” The great snake replied, “No, the devil does not look like us. It is mankind that has ascribed to the devil the appearance of a snake.”

Then Daniele asked, “What is your praise, how do you praise the Creator?” “By our sounds.” Immediately the serpents began to harmonize with each other and Daniele heard a sweet, penetrating melody. Once again, as with the enchanting sound made by the waterfall, he had to shout out, “Enough, enough!”

After ascending the little hill, he walked ahead and entered a forest. The plants there gave the impression that they were moving together with their leaves and vibrating, as if they were expressing joy. Daniele thought to himself, “Will not they also tell me that they are praising the Creator?” Then he heard a voice responding to his unspoken question. “Certainly! Yes, we praise the Creator!” He asked, “How, in what way do you do so?” Their reply: “With our beauty, to purify the air and provide oxygen for people, the people that are so ungrateful towards our Creator.” Daniele's impression upon hearing this was that all creation is reproving mankind!

http://www.amicidifradaniele.it/sito/viaggio-nel-creato/

Proceeding along in the forest he encountered many animals – squirrels, birds, even a herd of elephants who made a great noise as they paraded, and as they passed by it seemed that the trees moved out of their way. Then he saw, resting on top of a rock, a majestic and beautiful lion. Although aware that the lion would not hurt him, Daniele was still afraid, and he ordered the lion not come near him. If it wanted to speak it would have to do so from where it was sitting. To the lion, he asked the same question – what is your task? And it replied in basically the same words at the fish, adding, “We can praise the Creator, but we cannot offer Him love. This is something that only people with immortal souls can do. Ah! If mankind only understood what love is! All of our praises are nothing in the face of an act of love made by a human to our Creator. And we entrust all our praises to a priest living in the world because he is so pleasing to the Most High.” Daniele responded, “I understand, he is Padre Pio.” Then the lion, as did the large fish, bowed profoundly upon hearing the name of Padre Pio. Daniele felt a bit of pride, because he knows and even lives with Padre Pio.

After concluding his conversations with the lion and the other animals of the forest, Fran Daniele kept walking until he came before an ancient tree. It was so large that three men would not be able to reach around its trunk. At the foot of this tree, feeling tired and dazed, he sat down in the hopes of not having to experience anything further. This plant was a type of cedar of Lebanon, whose branches did not overhang, and was almost completely stripped of its bark, remnants of which clung to the trunk. Daniele wondered if this tree too would tell him that it praises the Creator. The reply was immediate, “Certainly! Yes I do praise the Creator! I cannot love Him, but only praise Him. Indeed, and for centuries I have carried out my task. I gather all of the praises of the different plants and the trees throughout the world, and by means of a priest who, except for Jesus, is the most pleasing to God, I offer them to our Creator.” Immediately Daniele said, “The priest is Padre Pio.” He felt good in just pronouncing his name, since he was his personal friend. 

http://www.amicidifradaniele.it/sito/viaggio-nel-creato/

All at once he heard rustling noises. Looking around, he saw that the ancient tree and all the other plants were bending in reverence. After having them resume their proper bearing, Daniele exhorted the ancient cedar to speak to him about Padre Pio. It spoke to Daniele for a long time about Jesus as High Priest, and then launched into a panegyric on the priesthood of Padre Pio, the man so pleasing to God, who knew how to make present the person and the message of Jesus in every way. The discourse of the ancient cedar was marvelous, and Daniele had never heard of anyone speak of Padre Pio so beautifully. Since he knew Padre Pio well, he could confirm that what he was hearing about him was truthful. Unfortunately, he can now no longer remember all the particulars, only that it was a magnificent tribute.

It was at this point that Daniele found himself sitting on his bed, wide awake. He thought to himself, “How is this possible. I was awake and yet was there, in all those places. I don't understand what happened, or what to call it. One thing I am sure of – it all really happened.” Afterwards he laid down on the bed trying to make sense out of it in his mind. But the more he thought about that journey, the more mysterious it seemed. “Now I understand Saint Francis, I understand his Canticle of the Creatures: Praised be You, my Lord, through all Your creatures.”

The next morning, when Daniele was traveling by bus and trolley for his radiation therapy, whenever they passed by any trees, he felt he wanted to greet them, and in fact he did greet them. But he was very careful not to be noticed, otherwise people would think he was crazy. 
http://www.amicidifradaniele.it/sito/viaggio-nel-creato/

When he returned from his treatments in Rome back to San Giovanni Rotondo, he related the entire occurrence to Padre Pio. After he listened to it all, Padre Pio said, “And so it is, my son.” (“Cosi è, figlio mio.”) In this way he confirmed and sealed as the truth: that all Creation converges on him and he offers everything to the Creator. 

This article is based on Brother Natale's own testament of his vision, found at the website of the Friends of Fra Natale, Here.

See my Catholic books on Padre Pio and others Here.
 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Artist and Padre Pio

Antonio Ciccone is a world-renowned artist who has had hundreds of exhibitions and showings throughout Europe and the United States. One of the world's foremost portraitists, his works are to be found in museums and private collections from California to London. A spiritual child of Padre Pio, he grew up in San Giovanni Rotondo and was encouraged in his vocation by the saint. He is the artist responsible for two magnificent frescoes adorning the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Rotondo. This is the church that was consecrated in 1959, and was at that time called the “new church” to distinguish it from the adjacent 16th century monastery chapel, where Padre Pio had received the stigmata. These two works are the Resurrection fresco and St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata. The room where they are located was once the Baptistery of the church, but now has been transformed into a place of prayer and devotion, enshrining the remains of Brother Daniele Natale, another spiritual child of Padre Pio.

After Antonio's First Holy Communion, which he received from the stigmatized hands of Padre Pio, he began to sense his spiritual presence. He had great desire to be near him and started to frequent the friary, where he often made his confession to the saintly monk. Antonio says he owes everything to Padre Pio: career, family, children, success . . . and even his life.

One day he was at work high upon the scaffolding in order to paint one of these great frescoes in the church, working about fifty feet above the ground. In order to see from a distance the result of his labors, he started to descend on a ladder from the platform – but he made a misstep. Losing his balance, he found himself beginning to plunge below. Then all at once, an unexpected force pushed him and turned him around suddenly, so that he was able to grasp a rung of the ladder and hold himself firmly in place. Once he felt secure, he looked down below and saw Padre Pio, who was there and had seen everything. Immediately he understood that he was saved through the providential help of the Friar. “It is true, such help is always from God, but Padre Pio was his direct instrument.”

By Antonio Ciccone

At the year of his birth in 1939, His family had a farm not far from the friary. The first of nine children, his tasks included milking the cows and pasturing the sheep and goats. One day, while he was tending the animals, he raided a neighbor's cherry tree, unable to resist the temptation to taste them. The next time he saw Padre Pio in the confessional, before he could say anything, Padre Pio looked him straight in the eye and said, “And the cherries, they tasted good?” Anthony's face became redder than one of those cherries. He lowered his head and with a meek smile promised he would never do it again. Then Padre Pio gently touched his head, blessed him, and assigned him a very long penance. “I remember that I exited the confessional stunned but light-headed, my spirit was in the clouds.”

As he grew older, he decided he did not want to be a farmer or rancher, but instead wished to be a painter. In fact, he had been drawing pictures from the age of 5. He loved to draw pictures of Padre Pio with a charcoal pencil, and admits that sometimes he went to confession just to observe and study up-close the particulars of his face. Sometimes the Padre would shoo him away from the confessional if it seemed Antonio was not there to make a sincere confession. But when he was 12 years old, he went to confession one day carrying a roll of drawings. Kneeling before the priest, Antonio told him that he wanted to study to be a painter, but his father could not afford it. “I am aware that you know so many people, Padre, throughout the world, and if you can help I will accept it willingly!” Then Padre Pio asked him what he was holding in his hands, and Antonio gladly showed him his drawings. One of them was of Padre Pio himself, but he was more interested in a drawing the budding artist had made of the Crucifixion by Guercino. “These are your own drawings?” he asked. After Antonio responded in the affirmative, the Padre said “E Bravo!” Then like a broken record, Antonio kept saying he wanted to be painter, and Padre Pio told him to have patience. “You will see that one day Divine Providence will assist you!”

In the evenings, Antonio along with others including Brother Daniele Natale and Padre Pellegrino, who were very close to Padre Pio, often accompanied him to the friary garden. There they sat down around the saint and listened with great attention as he recounted little stories and anecdotes. At the same time, Antonio would closely observe him to insure that his portraits and sketches would accurately resemble him. Often however, Padre Pio would seem annoyed at such intense scrutiny. “I did not look at him as the others did, but scrutinized him in order to impress his spirit in me. And he, in fact, every once in a while, stopped what he was talking about and looked right at me, saying, 'What are you looking at? Why are you looking at me that way?' I justified myself by admitting I was studying him, and he would respond with an engaging smile.”

By Antonio Ciccone

As time went on his skills and portfolio grew. With the support of Padre Pio, it was not long before Ciccone was able to find sponsors for his artistic endeavors, and he left home for Florence to study with the painter, Pietro Annigoni, famous for his portraits of Queen Elizabeth II. Periodically, about once a year, Antonio returned to his family in San Giovanni Rotondo, and never failed to visit Padre Pio, who was eager to learn of his protégé's progress. “I told him about my experiences, and he would reply in his Benevento accent 'Don't make me lose face!' He reminded me to always thank God.” Young Antonio, who was still rather timid and uneasy, liked to be accompanied on these visits by Padre Pio's friend, Brother Natale. Antonio would ask Padre Pio for a blessing for his friends, family and sponsors. “At these encounters, he would look at me intensely with his dark eyes, and with just a few words took away my anxieties, encouraging me to be confident and pray to the Lord, and to be patient with myself and others.” He told the saint that certain situations were not easy to handle. The Padre responded, “It is for this very reason that you must pray and be patient! My child, if you cannot resolve on your own some problems, you must continue to humbly ask the help of our Heavenly Father, and patiently wait until you receive an answer.”

But Padre Pio was not always easy on him. Sometimes he instilled in him a real fear. “I felt I was before a judge, a man strong in spirit, who with authority rebuked me for my indecisions, my thousands of excuses and delays, and forced me to meet, face to face, the responsibilities of life.”

Antonio became settled in his career, and in addition to studying in Florence and working in parts of Italy, he spent many years in the United States where his works were favorably received. He espoused an American woman, Linda, who bore him a daughter Tiana. With Padre Pio's blessing, the couple also adopted six children of various nationalities and ethnicities. Antonio currently maintains a spacious studio in the historical district of Florence.

When he was commissioned to paint the Resurrection fresco in the Baptistery of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni, he approached Padre Pio to ask him for advice on how he could adequately represent such a magnificent event. But Padre Pio told him, “Do not be afraid, you will see that the right sentiments will unfold within yourself.” Padre Pio passed by the fresco every morning to see its progress as Antonio worked on it. When it was completed, Padre Pio happily expressed his approval, joyful with the spirit of a child. “I realized how much the Padre, before art works or the so many things that happened to him, reacted like an innocent child. He was pleased just to look and appreciate, rather than analyze the techniques of how the painting was made.” 


While Antonio was working on the Resurrection fresco, he witnessed a dramatic event. A possessed woman began shouting and throwing herself down, striking her head on the marble floor, a prey to indescribable sufferings. Many people gathered around attempting to calm her, or at least keep her from hitting her head against the floor. Antonio had never seen anything like this, and was so petrified and shaken that he was unable to take any action. At a certain point, however, one of the bystanders, who had a prayer card with a picture of Padre Pio on it, laid it upon the woman. At the initial contact, she shrieked and cursed, slamming every part of her body on the floor. But shortly thereafter, she completely settled down, and an interior calm pervaded her. It was then that Antonio conceived the idea of painting the event, and a year later executed a work showing the woman cured by the prayer card with the image of Padre Pio: “Padre Pio e la Posseduta.”

On September 23, 1968, while he was in America working on a painting, he read about Padre Pio's death in the newspapers. “For me it was a day of great suffering and solitude. From that moment my thoughts of Padre Pio became more constant. Since I would no longer be able to visit him in person, I had to visit him within myself. At that period of time, I felt a special union with him. What struck me most was his humanity, the force and power of his attraction as a person. His soul was pure, totally rapt in God. I believe that Christ expressed Himself through him freely and openly, in childlike fashion. That is the explanation of the fascination that he exercised on the people that sought him out from all parts of the world.”

This article is based on a chapter from I Miracoli che Hanno Fatto Santo Padre Pio, by Enrico Malatesta, pp. 362-374.

See my Catholic books on Padre Pio and others Here.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

What to do on Sunday

What to do on Sunday if you cannot attend Mass for whatever reason: 

1.  Obtain a Sunday Missal written prior to Vatican II, which has the Latin text alongside the English.  I use My Sunday Missal by Fr. Stedman. 

2.  Before praying the Mass using the Missal, pray this short prayer, to unite your intentions with those of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the sacrifice of her Son at Calvary.  The Mass is a sacrifice, not a social event.  See this link for the prayer. 

3.   Pray the Mass, it is the most powerful prayer you can pray.  Prayerfully read the text of the Missal, with the specific readings and prayers for that Sunday, known as the Proper of the Mass.

4.   Very important, at the time of receiving Communion in the Mass, make your Spiritual Communion.   And if you happen to be a Divine Will devotee, ask Jesus to enter your heart with His Real Life, as taught in the revelations to Luisa Piccarreta.   The Real Life of Jesus in your heart is the same as His life in the Eucharistic Sacrament. 

5.  Additional note:  I make the intention that the priest offering this Mass is St. Padre Pio.  
 


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Friday, February 1, 2019

Padre Pio and the Angels.


Mr. P. Biavati was on his way to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend Padre Pio's Mass and make his confession to him. He began his journey in the morning, leaving from Florence, quite a distance away from saint's friary. But the traffic was very heavy on the main highway heading south, the “Autostrada del sole,” which incidentally is the oldest European motorway. The congestion on the road caused him serious delays, and instead of reaching San Giovanni by sundown, he had only gone as far as Naples. Tired and agitated from the drive, he thought it would be best to stay overnight there, and then proceed the next morning. Before exiting the Autostrada, he stopped at a rest stop for some coffee, three cups in fact. This made him feel so refreshed and awake that he scrapped his plans to stay in Naples that night, and instead decided to drive the rest of the evening to his destination, a distance of about 135 miles.

It was late at night by the time he left the Autostrada and took the road to San Giovanni Rotondo. The drive would take almost three hours, but amazingly Mr. Biavati remembers nothing at all of the trip! All he can recall is starting the engine, and putting his hands on the steering wheel. The next thing he can remember was his car approaching the square in front of Padre Pio's friary. At that point, someone shook him on the shoulder, and said, “Come on, now, take over!” Fearful and confused, he parked the car, rested awhile, and then made his way to the church for Padre Pio's early morning Mass. After the Mass ended, he was able to approach Padre Pio to tell him how astonished he was to ride all the way from Naples, without remembering that he drove the car at all. But Padre Pio replied with a smile, “You are right. You were sleeping all the way and my guardian angel was driving for you!” 




Kevin Hale, who lives in the Chicago area, visited San Giovanni Rotondo for a week in January of 1965 where he attended the 5:00 am Mass at the friary church. When Padre Pio took off his half-gloves during the Mass, Kevin was able to clearly see, from his vantage point, the marks of the stigmata on the saint's hands. One morning he took a crucifix with him to Mass, which he had purchased at a nearby religious goods store. Afterwards in the sacristy, Padre Pio came to bless each person there. Kevin extended his hand with the crucifix as Padre Pio approached him. Seeing the crucifix, he blessed it, kissed it, and then pressed it to Kevin's lips for him to kiss it also. Then Kevin kissed Padre Pio's hand, and when he did so he immediately smelled a strong, sweet fragrance, similar to cinnamon and roses. The aroma stayed with Kevin for almost an hour.

One night at his hotel before going to sleep, Kevin prayed to his guardian angel. He asked him to go to visit Padre Pio and tell him about all of his spiritual needs. The following evening, he joined the villagers and pilgrims outside in the square by Padre Pio's monastery cell, to bid him goodnight. He came to the window and gave everyone his blessing, speaking something in Italian to the group. Kevin asked a woman standing next to him, who spoke English and Italian, to tell him what Padre Pio had said. She told Kevin that Padre Pio said that he had been kept awake the previous night by an American's guardian angel.

Two young girls, who were neighbors, lived with their families in San Giovanni Rotondo. One night, they stayed over together in one of their houses. They did a lot of talking before going to bed, and the conversation got around to a famous person living right in their own town, Padre Pio. They were at the age when religion was beginning to make an impression on them, and they had heard that Padre Pio has a special relationship with the angels. They were discussing the report that anyone could send their own guardian angel to him to deliver special messages.

They realized that this was not an opportunity to miss. So one of the girls said, “I am going to send my guardian angel to Padre Pio to ask him to cure my uncle Fred.” The other girl declared that she would send her angel to ask for a cure for her cousin. And so it went during the evening, until the two girls fell asleep. The next morning after Mass, the girls went to receive Padre Pio's blessing in the sacristy (this was in the early days, when women were allowed in the sacristy of the friary). But to their surprise, Padre Pio seemed angry at them. He said that their guardian angels had kept him up all night long. First one asked for prayers for her Uncle Fred, then another arrived with a request for prayers for her cousin. “And you kept it up all night long,” he said. “I didn't get any sleep!”

But he was not really angry, he was just trying to point out to them that their angels did really do what they were told. We know this because of what he said to one of his spiritual daughters, Carmela Marocchino, who lived near the friary at the home of Mary Pyle. Carmela wanted to send her angel to him very late one night, but did not do so because she was worried about disturbing Padre Pio's rest. When she told him this, he replied, “You may send your guardian angel any time of day or night, as I am always happy to receive him.” 




A husband and wife were making a weekend trip to their vacation villa by the sea on the coast of Italy. They were leaving from Rome on a Saturday evening, and planing to spend a few days there to ready the place for the summer months. Traveling with them was their fairly large French poodle. About a dozen miles before turning off from the main highway, the Via Aurelia, to reach their destination, their auto broke down. They pushed it to the shoulder of the busy thoroughfare, hoping that someone would stop and give them assistance. But car after car just sped by, and no one bothered to stop and help them.

They had patiently waited by the roadside for about two hours, and it was starting to get dark. Finally the wife told her husband that they should pray to Padre Pio so that he would send an angel to help them out in this predicament. Padre Pio was still alive at the time, and she had previously spoken to him about guardian angels. Her husband was not too enthusiastic about this suggestion, but he told her to go ahead and try.

Not more than ten minutes later a black car approached, slowed down and stopped at the disabled vehicle of the beleaguered couple. Out stepped a very handsome young man, of aristocratic countenance, and well-dressed in blue. He asked them what had happened. After the husband explained their situation, the stranger confidently announced that he would take care of the problem and fix everything. He lifted the hood of the car to inspect the engine, although the husband, who was an experienced driver, had already done this without finding the problem. But the young man said to him that the radiator had lost all its water and was burnt out. He told him to take the empty can and fill it with water. There was a nearby farmhouse with a well from which he could draw the water.

The husband reached into the trunk for an empty can, and automatically headed for the farm house which was on the other side of the busy highway. Although normally it was extremely hazardous to cross the Via Aurelia on foot, he reached the other side with ease. While he was gone, the stranger in blue fetched a black box from his own car. Taking out a roll of adhesive tape, he proceeded to seal up the radiator. The wife, who was silently watching everything, was amazed at seeing his elegant and tapered hands, gracefully performing the task at hand. She also noticed that her dog, the French poodle, was also watching the man quietly and calmly, although he normally would bark at strangers.

After the husband safely re-crossed the Via Aurelia to return with the can of water, the young man filled the radiator and closed the hood. He told the couple that they could continue on safely, especially since they were quite near their destination. But tomorrow they should not fail to take their car to be checked out. They thanked the man profusely, and with a smile he said goodbye to them, and got into his car which was right in front of theirs. Since it was now nightfall, the couple entered their car and quickly turned the headlights on. The wife was eager to read the license plate of the stranger's car before it pulled away. But there was no license plate! Instead, there was a long white strip filled with what appeared to be hieroglyphics. She could see everything clearly since the cars were still going slowly, and there were no standard numbers or letters where the license plate should be, to indicate a place of origin. They proceeded onward until the couple approached their turn-off from the highway. They occupants waved good-bye to each other from their cars. The pair expected to see the stranger just continue along on the Via Aurelia, but suddenly they could no longer see his car – it had disappeared!

They reached their vacation villa in a rather dreamy state, pondering over what had just occurred. The stranger came directly to them, he knew that there was an empty can in their car, and knew they were close to their home, although they never mentioned their destination to him. The failure of their dog, who was always wary of strangers, to bark at him was perplexing. They could not fathom why there was no license plate on his car, just a strip of hieroglyphics. Finally, whenever they drove on that section of the Via Aurelia in the future, they never could find that farmhouse with the well.

The wife later said that Padre Pio confirmed to her that it was an angel who had come to their aid. The saint had heard her prayer to send them a heavenly helper, and Padre Pio does not disappoint! This story is drawn from a report by Padre Alessio Parente (see below), who lived with Padre Pio for years. Padre Alessio affirms that the adventure, although incredible and unusual, is true. 



This article is primarily based on accounts found throughout the book Send Me Your Guardian Angel, by Padre Alessio Parente. The Kevin Hale story is based on an interview in Pray, Hope and Don't Worry by Diane Allen, pp. 275-6.



View my Catholic books on Padre Pio and others Here.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

One does not pray to God only at San Giovanni Rotondo!

Padre Pio had saved Michele's life during World War II, but then refused to hear his confession.

Michele Cardone was born in Padre Pio's hometown of Pietrelcina, before moving to Australia later in his life. While he was living in Italy, he heard Padre Pio spoken of often, even from his childhood. However, he never bothered to find out anything about the saint, and was not even sure what he looked like. As a young adult, all he knew about him was that he was a holy monk who lived in San Giovanni Rotondo.

When the Second World War broke out, Michele volunteered for the Navy, and was assigned to various ships. On Palm Sunday, April 18, 1943, he was serving on board the destroyer Alpino, which was anchored at the port of La Spezia, in northern Italy. The chaplain of the ship had invited the sailors to perform their Easter duty that morning, by going to confession and communion. Almost everyone responded to the request, except for a few. Among those few was Michele Cardone. But it was not because he was opposed or indifferent to the sacraments. Instead, during his next shore leave, he was planning on going home to Pietrelcina, and then from there to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo, in order to make his confession to Padre Pio, and to receive communion from him. It was to be his first visit to see him and his friary.
But that Palm Sunday evening, about half an hour before midnight, an alarm suddenly sounded, taking the 200-man crew by surprise. A heavy incursion of enemy aircraft rumbled overhead, and they began raining down their load of bombs. In just a few minutes, the earth and the sky were transformed into an immense ring of light and fire, both from the anti-aircraft artillery and from the exploding projectiles. There were enormous flames and deafening booms – it seemed like the end of the world. The destroyer Alpino was directly hit by the incendiary bombs at many points, causing deaths and injuries among the crew. The ship began to take on water through the numerous holes opened by the bombs, and slowly began to sink. In the meantime, crude oil naphtha began leaking from damaged storage tanks on board; it ignited and spread in rivulets of fire along the deck.

The sailors were trying to remain calm as the situation became more frightening, but the terror disoriented everyone completely. They did not know where to go to seek safety because of the suffocating fumes and heat produced by the spread of the burning naphtha. In addition, munitions that were stored on the deck were beginning to explode due to the intense heat, endangering the larger ammunition stores that were below deck in the interior of the ship. The situation was desperate. In those moments Michele was sure that his life would be over.

“Then I beheld before me, at some distance, the figure of a monk with a beard, who had suddenly appeared. He was there with his arms opened wide as if waiting for someone at the opposite side of the quay. I don't know why, but I regained courage and hope again.” Then, just as quickly as he had emerged, the monk disappeared. How would it be possible to get across through the flames of the naphtha raging on the ship and on the dock? “Then I saw once again above and in front of me the same friar beckoning me with open, inviting arms. I became infused with tremendous energy, and dragging along with me two wounded companions, succeeded in reaching a place of safety.”

A few days after that fearful April night, all of the uninjured survivors were allowed a short period of leave. Michele returned to his home in Pietrelcina, in order to be reunited with his family, and to refresh himself spiritually and physically. He hastened to the parish church of Our Lady of the Angels, to make his thanksgiving before the statue of the Madonna della Libera (Our Lady Liberatrix), the Patron Saint of Pietrelcina, to whom Padre Pio was very devoted.
Madonna della Libera
Then on the first of May, Michele, accompanied by his mother, traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo. They entered the monastery church, where he waited in line to confess to Padre Pio. “While I was waiting for my turn to make by confession, I began to feel empty and spiritually dry in my soul. When my turn arrived, and I saw Padre Pio for the very first time, my breath was taken away, and my heart gave a start. He resembled perfectly the monk whom I had seen two times in front of me with open arms during the evening of the bombardment at La Spezia.”

But Padre Pio refused to hear his confession. Brushing him away he said to Michele, “One does not pray to God only at San Giovanni Rotondo!” Although mortified and confused, the very next morning Michele returned to the friary. This time Padre Pio listened with kindness to his confession. His emotions reached a peak when later he was allowed to visit the saint in his cell. Padre Pio blessed him, saying, “Go forward, pray, and may God be with thee.”

Based on an account in the “Voce di Padre Pio,” January 1996, page 46.

View my Catholic books on Padre Pio and others Here.