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.”
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!”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.