Monday, October 29, 2018

A Desperate Illness Cured by Padre Pio

An insatiable thirst caused her to drink countless gallons of water day and night.

For seven long years, beginning when she was only a teenager in 1945, Lucia Bellodi suffered from a severe case of diabetes insipidus, complicated by an earlier attack of encephalitis. She was a farm girl from Modena, in northern Italy, and had been admitted over the years to several hospitals and a sanatorium. The doctors did all they could with the knowledge then available, but instead of improving she only worsened. Suffering from a pituitary imbalance, she was declared incurable, and was ultimately admitted to a nursing home in Modena. At the nursing facility, a “home for the aged,” the sisters did all they could to provide her relief from her most unusual illness, characterized by an insatiable thirst. Her body was unable to maintain adequate control over its water content, and as a result she had to constantly consume large amounts of water to offset her frequent urination. We are talking about drinking gallons and gallons of water per day, causing her abdomen to swell out of proportion. Incredible as it may seem, one source mentions 105 quarts of water, and by her own testimony, it had increased in the days before her cure to over 170 quarts in 24 hours.

She was enabled to sustain this affliction by drinking constantly through a rubber hose attached to a large container holding many gallons of water. Even at night when sleeping, she had to suck water out of the hose. If she did not keep drinking, her tongue would swell and her mouth would start to bleed. The nursing sisters looked after her continually, and due to urination complications, they were forced to change her bed linens many times a day. In addition, there was another extremely serious concern – about every two weeks there would be a crisis consisting of extremely painful headaches and high fevers, to the point of delirium.

Lucia held Padre Pio in great esteem, after learning about him from her hospital caregivers and the nursing sisters. Although she prayed to him often, it was not for the grace of a cure. Instead she asked him to intercede with the Lord so that she would be able to resign herself to accepting her malady, or to be freed from it by her death.

The day of Corpus Christi in 1952, she manifested to the sisters that she had a desire to attend Mass for the feast day. They agreed to this, but when she returned from making her confession, she was unable to stand. She was rushed to her bed, since this appeared to be the onset of one of her crises. The fever and headache lasted all that morning until the early afternoon, as she drank more and more water. At a certain point during that morning, she saw a friar, who looked at her fixedly with dark eyes, as if reproving her, but he said nothing. During her delirium, the nursing sister heard her say “Padre Pio, I can go on no longer; please come to take me!” Seeing how much Lucia was suffering, this sister too prayed that God would liberate her from such a pitiful existence.

At about two in the afternoon, at the culmination of the crisis, her caregivers thought that this was the end for her, as they felt her body getting cold. Lucia could smell all around her the sweet fragrance of the perfume of violets. As she wondered at this, she fell asleep. While she was sleeping, she heard these words: “Arise Lucia, since you are cured. This evening or tomorrow come to see me at San Giovanni Rotondo.” As she slept, her mouth was firmly shut and the sisters could not insert the rubber hose so that she could continue to drink water. They were fearful that her tongue would swell and she would hemorrhage. Thus after an hour and a half of letting her rest, the sisters had to slap her into wakefulness. She awoke suddenly and got up from her bed, announcing to all that she was cured. At first they thought she was talking crazy, but after she explained what Padre Pio had said, they told her she should go into the chapel to thank the Lord.

She proceeded up the stairs on her own, feeling confident and secure, and even took part in the Corpus Christi procession. She felt completely well, as if she had never suffered at all for the past seven years. The doctors were summoned, and they could only conclude that a miracle had occurred. She expressed her wish to travel to Padre Pio's monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo, but they felt that she was not yet ready to sustain such a long trip, from the north of Italy to the south, and she was constrained to remain at the nursing home in Modena for three more days.

When she arrived at San Giovanni accompanied by two of the sisters, she was extremely happy to be able to see and to speak to Padre Pio, whom she thanked profusely. He smiled and said, “I was waiting for you,” and he told her that it was the Lord who deserved the thanks. Upon her return to Modena, she moved in with her parents, and went to work on their farm. The doctors subjected her to a final battery of tests, which indicated that she was completely healthy. But they told her that because of her severe case of diabetes insipidus, she would never be able to have children of her own. However, confiding in Padre Pio, she chose to marry in 1961, and was blessed with a child.

This article is based on Lucia Bellodi's personal testimony, published in Padre Pio Storia D'una Vittima, by F. Chiocci and L. Cirri, pp. 670-672. Some additional information was provided by Rev. Bernard Ruffin in Padre Pio the True Story, pp. 336-337; and Rev. Charles Mortimer Carty, Padre Pio the Stigmatist, pp. 171-172. Where some of the details given in the latter two sources differ from the Chiocci-Cirri version, I have relied on Chiocci-Cirri since that source presented her own words. 

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Padre Pio converts a “mangiapreti” - a priest-hater

After Padre Pio received the stigmata on September 20, 1918 at San Giovanni Rotondo, some who lived in that area remained incredulous, and became his “enemies.” One such man by the name of Michele lived in Torremaggiore, a small municipality about 25 miles to the west of San Giovanni. A clamorous incident occurred around the year 1919 involving Michele and Padre Pio, which was reported at the time in newspapers from eyewitness accounts.

Michele was a confirmed atheist and socialist. He was known as a “mangiapreti,” (literally – a priest-eater), who harbored bitter resentment and hatred towards Catholic priests. An inveterate blasphemer, he considered Padre Pio to be a notorious deceiver.

He was proprietor of a furnace operation for the baking of terracotta clay used in ceramics and pottery. At that time the kiln was fired with bean and barley straw. Near the oven, Michele had two interconnecting rooms where he kept the supply of straw piled up. However, for six straight days a strong gale was blowing throughout the area, such that it prevented him from igniting his oven. Unable to work, he began to blaspheme to no end. Further, since every day a stream of pilgrims and visitors would pass by his workshop on their way to Padre Pio's friary at San Giovanni Rotondo, he cursed him in particular.
One evening, on June 24th, the feast of St. John the Baptist, Michele prayed, “Dear Padre Pio, I will believe in you if you can put an end to this windstorm that keeps me from lighting my oven and from working.” At that moment, a man entered the courtyard of the place, dressed in the garb of a humble sharecropper. He greeted Michele, and asked him if he had an ember with which he could light his pipe. At that, the artisan went into a rage. He railed that he has been cursing and swearing for six days because has not been able to fire his furnace.

The visitor replied that he would light the kiln himself. Michele became even more furious because he thought the man was mocking him. Taking hold of a pitchfork he came towards the stranger. He shouted to him, “Are you poking fun at me? Are you like that (x&@#!) Padre Pio that makes miracles for the simpletons?” But the visitor remained calm and serene, while replying “I am Padre Pio.”

Immediately, a a large and fearful tongue of fire several meters in length issued forth from the oven. A terrified Michele fell to the ground in a faint. Then he heard a voice calling him: “Don't be afraid. Learn to trust in the Lord and stop blaspheming Him!” As he came to, he saw a friar smiling down at him. He recognized Padre Pio, who took him in his arms to carry him away from the burning fire. Then the saint departed, disappearing through a wall around the property.

In the meantime, the fire which had so mysteriously started in the oven continued to rage. The flames, leaping high and wide, reached the two rooms adjacent to the furnace, where the piles of straw were stored – but incredibly the straw was not consumed. Soon, many people ran up, some coming from afar, after seeing the night sky illuminated by the blazing inferno. Michele's friends and neighbors tried to extinguish the flames, but without success. The remarkable fire continued to burn throughout the night, until about eleven in the morning.

Inside the furnace there were many terracotta vases and pots that had been readied to be baked. The usual baking time was about an hour at most, but the fire in that kiln had been going for about a dozen hours straight. Michele was certain that everything in the oven had been destroyed or pulverized. Instead, when he checked it, he saw that all the ceramics were done to perfection, none were burned or cracked, and there was no waste to throw away as usually happened. The people were amazed at this, and cried out that it was a miracle. The crowd extolled Padre Pio, since Michele told them that the monk had saved him from the flames. The straw from the storage rooms that the fire had mysteriously left unharmed, was gathered by them and taken home in bunches as souvenirs and relics. Similarly, they took away all the vases and pots that had been flawlessly baked by the miraculous fire. 

Michele was so upset by the entire occurrence that when he returned home, he had to be confined to bed with a very high fever. After he got better, he journeyed to San Giovanni Rotondo to thank Padre Pio. He had now became a fervent defender of the Padre, and finally ceased his blasphemies. 

Based on a selection from Renzo Allegri's Padre Pio Il Santo dei Miracoli, pp. 102-104. 

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Thursday, October 4, 2018

Under the Protection of Padre Pio.

A vein in her brain had burst in four places, her eye was severely damaged, she was comatose, went through a near death experience, and then recovered completely without any consequences as Padre Pio had promised.

Teresa Sorrentino lives in a small town nestled in the hills of southern Italy called Cava de' Tirreni, holds three degrees, and is a university teacher. She grew up in a family that was serious about their Catholic faith and of their devotion to St. Francis of Assisi. She is married with two children. In 1972 when she was about 12 years old, she went on a pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo, and developed a great admiration for Padre Pio. Gazing at photos of him, she was struck by the gentle and paternal expression on the face the humble friar. Although she knew little about him at the time, Teresa felt she could understand and empathize with him. From then on, she has always considered him to be her protector. When she learned that he was born on May 25, which was her birthday too, she took this as a special sign that united the two of them.

On a Friday in May of 1998, she was particularly happy, even euphoric. She had learned that she was pregnant with her third child. That morning she began to smell a very sweet perfume. Wondering where it could be coming from, she went from room to room and could sense it wherever she went; but her husband and her mother said they did not notice it. She could even smell it when she was in the car with her husband. The aroma persisted until 2 AM. Teresa did not know at the time that the phenomenon of the perfume often indicated the presence of Padre Pio.

Two days later, she experienced the first signs of a possible spontaneous abortion. She called her doctor, who ordered her to come in for some tests. She was worried, and her thoughts turned to Padre Pio. Another day passed. Then while on the phone with her doctor, she began to feel weak. Her last words to him before she collapsed unconscious onto the floor were “I feel ill.” She fell in a dead weight, slamming her head against the telephone receiver – it penetrated her right eye causing a large hematoma and a seriously damaged eyeball.

Teresa was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the gravity of the situation was ascertained – a vein in her brain had burst. But that hospital was not equipped to handle such a case, and she had to be transported to a different one. By the time she arrived there, she was close to death. They did everything possible to save her. She underwent a cerebral drainage, which only aggravated her condition. She lay in a coma in the intensive care ward, hooked up to IV's, tubes and wires, under the care of the best specialists available. The CT scan revealed an aneurysm, caused by a blood clot from the spontaneous abortion.

Between the aneurysm and the head trauma from her fall, her brain was filling with blood. Her condition was desperate. The coma was considered irreversible, and there was no hope. Even if she did awaken she would be paralyzed, blind in one eye, with disturbances in her speech and thinking; in other words a vegetable.

Yet, while her body was incapacitated, her mind and spirit took flight. She went through that extraordinary experience which many in a coma or near death have reported – a visit to heaven. She felt that she had broken free from her body and had abandoned it. She found herself in that famous dark tunnel, but the darkness was so thick that she became fearful as she traveled through it. Then, at the end of it she found herself immersed in a vibrant, bright light. It was impossible for her to describe the joy and happiness that filled her soul. She comprehended that in that light there were beings, persons, but she could not see anyone. Then, suddenly, she is not sure how, but she recognized her father. She saw him as a very beautiful figure of light, and was able to precisely communicate with him, but not with words. 

Her dad had died from throat cancer thirteen years previously. An operation had resulted in a hole in his throat, but here, on the other side, he looked perfect. She asked him why there was no opening in his throat, and he replied that where he is now, there are no physical anomalies of any sort. Then Teresa noticed that near him was another person, a young boy that she knew, who had died at age 18, and was the son of her friend. She marveled at the fact that she was seeing him there; her father said that the boy wanted to give her an urgent and important message to bring back to his family. The boy spoke to her about many things that were later verified.

He told her personal and private details, and explained to her where a certain letter was kept in his house. He described the exact piece of antique furniture and the drawer in which was to be found a maroon colored notebook, within whose pages lay the letter. Upon her return and recovery, Teresa verified that everything he had told her was true. She believes that the encounter with him, since he was not part of her usual circle of friends, had purposely occurred so that she could believe her experience was real. If her father was accompanied by a dead relative, she might have thought that her journey to the afterlife had not actually happened – that it may have been a fantasy or a dream.

Since she considered that the encounter with the boy was real, she also believed that what her father said about her illness was true. He told her that during her horrible misfortune she was protected by Padre Pio. He explained that the perfume she had smelled a few days before entering her coma was that of the saint. Finally, he said that Padre Pio would heal her without any consequences. Then her father told her that she must return to her earthly life. But she replied that should would never want to depart from this place of such peace and immense happiness. However, he insisted, stating that Padre Pio wanted her to return to her family and to give testimony of all she has received. The mention of her family brought back the memory of her two little children, and she realized she must return. Guided by her father and the boy, she reentered the dark tunnel, but this time without any fear.

There is one more incident to relate. Teresa was in a coma for seven days before awakening. When she did, it was in the presence of her mother and a host of doctors and nurses. Shortly before she awoke, her mother had begun to smell the aroma of a very strong perfume. She knew that it signified the presence of Padre Pio. She asked the people in the room if anyone else smelled it, but all they could smell were medicines and carbolic acid. Her mother realized it must be a sign from heaven, since she was the only one that sensed it. So she shouted out with joy that it was the perfume of Padre Pio, and it meant that her daughter would soon come out of her coma! But the doctors thought she was hysterical, and tried to calm her.

In general, when someone awakens from a coma, they are confused and possibly raving. But about half an hour after her mother first noticed the perfume, Teresa awoke, and she was completely lucid. The doctors were astonished. It was an extraordinary case, one that they had never witnessed. She recognized her mother and cried out in a clear voice “Mamma!” And the date of her return just happened to be “coincidentally” May 25, Padre Pio's birthday.

Teresa was transported to a hospital in Rome, where she underwent two long and difficult operations to repair a vein that had split open in four places. But as Padre Pio had promised, all went well and there have been no consequences. As for her damaged right eye, it has mysteriously recovered completely, although the oculists had told her she would lose half of her vision in it. Shortly after her discharge, she resumed her university studies. According to the doctors, her recovery is a “miracle of nature,” but she knows she owes everything to Padre Pio. She is a member of a Padre Pio prayer group, and dedicates every moment of her free time to him, traveling everywhere to give her testimony.

Based on an article by Renzo Allegri, in Padre Pio Il Santo de Miracoli, pp. 41-45.

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