Maria Castro of Santiago, Chile is a graphic designer who volunteers and collaborates in the work of evangelizing. She had prayed to the Heavenly Father and to the Blessed Virgin to be permitted to work exclusively for the Church. It was 2004, and at this time Maria was very happy with her life, so much so that she thought that her joy might be too good to be true. When she prayed to the Blessed Virgin, she would say, “It is not possible I could be so happy. You must be preparing something, you have something in store for me.”
Maria and her collaborators decided to seek for testimonies of miracles, and interviewed people who had received such favors through the intercession of the Blessed and Saints of Chile. She also wished to collect testimonies from any who had knowledge of miracles from Padre Pio, but in Chile she was only able to find one such case. However, the person did not wish to be interviewed about it. After she was denied an interview about the Padre Pio miracle, she prayed to him, saying she was sorry that she could not find any testimonies, therefore he would have to be excluded from the collection of miracle stories.
The very next day, she began to feel quite cold. She was not too concerned, thinking that it was just a passing sickness. But soon there were days when she had trouble even getting out of bed. She began to take various medicines, and was easily fatigued by the simplest tasks. She became tormented by a constant headache and shivering, and started to lose her voice.
After she developed a low grade fever, and had difficulty swallowing, her husband drove her to the hospital. The doctors were unsure of a diagnosis, but she was admitted as a precaution, and was provided with an oxygen mask. Her husband went home, and then returned with some of her personal items, including a bible and a book about Padre Pio that she had intended to read. He also affixed a picture of Padre Pio with a novena prayer over the headboard of Maria's hospital bed. After further tests and x-rays, the doctors concluded that she had severe pneumonia with acute respiratory insufficiency. Lesions had formed inside of her mouth, making it very difficult for her to speak; she could only eat jelly-like food, and had to be given water intravenously.
That night she had to remain almost in a sitting position in bed, with her mask on, and had been injected with antibiotics. She prayed to Padre Pio, and offered her sickness and suffering to God in reparation for attacks against the Church, for the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, and for the bishops. But she began to think that perhaps the Lord might not be content with her modest offering, and therefore she requested of Padre Pio: “If it is necessary that I suffer more, please tell the Lord that I am ready.” She recalled that he had asked people to send him their guardian angel, and she did so. She sent her angel with a message confirming her offer to suffer. It would not be long before she became aware that Padre Pio had received the message.
Because of the discomfort of the oxygen mask, she could not get to sleep. The clock showed that it was two thirty in the morning. Suddenly she had a great desire to confess her most serious sins. She prayed that Padre Pio would find her a confessor as soon as she left the hospital, a priest whom she could confess to as if he were Padre Pio himself.
Almost immediately she saw next to her bed an apparition of a confessional made of wood. She was still completely awake, and was not delirious or feverish. A middle-aged slightly overweight priest with blondish hair entered the confessional, and asked her to begin recounting her sins. She confessed everything she could remember, saving the worst for last. At that point there was a loud noise, and the priest pointed out to Maria something to her left.
She looked where he was pointing and saw with her own eyes Padre Pio himself next to her bed. “He looked at me with an expression of indescribable tenderness, while giving me absolution with his right hand. This was no apparition or phantasm: he had a solid human body, which even projected a shadow!” She was still wearing the mask, and could barely speak, so she kept whispering, “Padre Pio, Padre Pio, Padre Pio, I love you, I do not wish to disturb you.” Smiling sweetly, he nodded his head twice.
Maria wanted to reach out and touch him, but she resisted the impulse. She did not want him to think that she doubted his presence, as the Apostle Thomas. She wanted to embrace him, but did not feel she was worthy. She could not take her eyes off him: he wore a coffee-colored Capuchin habit, had the bearing and beauty of a celestial figure, strong and imposing, and seemed to be about sixty. His hands were uncovered, and there was no trace of the stigmata on them. (This is not surprising, since at the time of his death, about 35 years prior to this incident, the stigmata had completely disappeared from his body.) Padre Pio bent down and kissed her forehead with great tenderness. Within her soul she heard these words: “I have come because you have wished it. I have loved you all of your life, my daughter.”
Suddenly Padre Pio removed her oxygen mask, and Maria was able to smell an intense perfume of flowers. “Then he put his left hand on my abdomen, and his right on my shoulder, and raised my body vertically up to the ceiling with incredible speed. I remained suspended in the air for three or four seconds with my arms crossed.” When she came back down, he said to her, “I am very satisfied because you have not asked anything for yourself; I accept your offer. You will suffer a little more, but it will be a momentary thing, and this disease will never affect you again.” Padre Pio continued looking at her. Then Maria heard a choir of angels singing praises to the Lord. She immediately sensed within her heart this message: “For you the time of man is over, and the time of God begins.”
That evening her husband Roberto and her father visited her at the hospital. She was anxious to tell them of her experience and asked for a pencil. On a sheet of paper she wrote: “At about three in the morning Padre Pio came to see me.” The two men exchanged a look of amazement, because they knew she was not capable of fabricating a story like that.
On the next day, her condition worsened. Another chest x-ray confirmed the prior diagnosis, “severe pneumonia with acute respiratory insufficiency.” Then it was determined that one of her lungs had collapsed. She was moved to the intensive care unit, and a breathing tube was inserted in her mouth. Her husband was extremely anxious, but he was only permitted to see her for five minutes. Crying, he implored her to her not to leave him alone with two small children to care for. “Roberto believed that Padre Pio had actually visited me, but feared that he had come in order to take me away with him forever.” In the meantime the doctors had become pessimistic, thinking that she might need to be hospitalized for a month. It was May 25, Padre Pio's birthday. “Surely he desired, as a birthday gift, that I offer my sufferings to the Lord.”
The following morning, the x-rays revealed that her other lung had collapsed. However, towards noon she inexplicably began to respond to her therapy. She was even able to sit in an armchair. In the evening Roberto told her that her friends had offered a Mass for her healing, and her name was included in the recitation of the Rosary on Radio Maria.
On the morning of May 27, the examining Pulmonologist was surprised at her clear improvement. When he returned at midday, he exclaimed that her progress was incredible. And by evening, he was stunned, and told her that yesterday she had been in grave condition. “Do you know what I mean when I say grave?” She nodded her head, thinking of Padre Pio.
A few days later, on June 1, she was dismissed from the hospital. Her lungs were completely healthy and the pneumonia had totally gone away. The doctor avowed that no one would believe that her before and after x-rays were from the same person! Later she learned that in her medical records at the hospital there were various questions regarding her healing, which was inexplicable for science.
From Maria's own testimony: “Today, in a time in which almost no one listens to the voice of the Church, and they point their fingers at the priests because of the grave errors of some of them, I believe that Padre Pio has manifested himself to aid us. Faithful to Jesus and the Church, he constantly suffered for everyone. He prayed without ceasing, offering himself as a victim for all of humanity. Now that he is at the threshold of Paradise, he is awaiting the arrival of his spiritual children to the very last one.”
Based on an account in Padre Pio, Miracoli Sconosciuti del Santo con le Stigmate, by José Zavala, pp. 108-115.
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