One day, while he was praying for the souls in Purgatory, Padre Pio saw a vision of one of those suffering persons completely enwrapped in flames. Marveling at the vigor and power of the fire, he was moved to ask the soul if that fire was hotter than flames on the earth. “Alas,” replied the sorrowful creature, “All the fire on the earth compared to that of Purgatory is like a breath of fresh air.” Padre Pio then asked him how such a thing could be possible. In reply, the soul in the vision invited the friar to experience it himself. Padre Pio then touched with his hand what seemed to be just a bit of sweat which fell from the forehead of the being. He immediately emitted a loud cry, and because of the great intensity of the pain, and his fear, he fell to the ground.
Hearing the shout, other friars rushed over, to assist in whatever way possible. When he came to himself, Padre Pio recounted the terrible experience, in which he was both a witness and a victim. He ended the tale with these words: “Oh, my brothers, if only each one of us knew how great is the severity of Divine Justice, we would never sin.”
Late one evening at the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, the friars suddenly heard the loud clamor of voices at the entrance way, who were exclaiming “Viva Padre Pio!” It was during the Second World War, well after the evening repast, and the friary had already closed up for the night. Acting as if it were something of no importance, but just an everyday occurrence, Padre Pio calmly reassured his confrères. He explained that the voices shouting “Viva Padre Pio” were those of soldiers who had been killed in the fighting; they had come there to thank him for his prayers.
One day, in 1943, Padre Gerardo De Caro recommended the soul of someone recently deceased to the prayers of Padre Pio. It was the soul of an author whose works Padre Gerardo had enjoyed reading as a child. He did not mention his name to the saint, and had said nothing more about him. But Padre Pio understood perfectly to whom he was referring. His face reddened, as if he were experiencing torment, pity, and sorrow for the pains of another. He grieved for that person, for whom there had been no lack of spiritual help and prayers. Then Padre Pio said: “He loved creatures too much.”
Padre Gerardo then beseeched, more with a look of anguish than with words, how long that soul would have to remain in Purgatory. The reply: “Almost a hundred years!” Padre Pio continued: “It is necessary to pray for the souls in Purgatory. It is difficult to believe just how much they can help our spiritual well being, through the gratitude that they show to those on earth who remember and pray for them.”
Padre Pio's father, Grazio Forgione, would often travel from his home in Pietrelcina to visit his son for a few days at the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo. The Superior of the monastery allowed him to spend the nights in one the vacant cells. One evening in 1928, when he was about 67 years old, he took leave of the friars and his son at the close of their dinner and recreation period, and headed for his assigned room. It was cell number 10. As he walked down the hallway and approached the room, he was surprised to see two friars standing right in front of the doorway, blocking him from entering.
Grazio thought they were visiting friars who had mistakenly gone to the wrong room. He calmly began to explain to them that he had to take his rest, and asked them to let him enter, since this was his assigned cell. But it was to no avail. He repeated his request a couple of times, but the two friars held their ground, and gave no reply. Beginning to become impatient, he tried to convince them that it was not their room because it had only one bed. Finally, he decided it was time to simply force his way past the men. But as soon as he began to push his way through to his cell, the two friars just vanished into thin air!
Confused, shaken, and fearful, he immediately set off to find his son, and told him about this mysterious occurrence. Padre Pio understood right away what had happened. He put his arm around his dad's shoulder, and with gentle words comforted him until he began to calm down. When he saw that his father's fear had subsided, he told him: “Dad, these two friars that you have just seen in front of your room are two pitiable religious who are in Purgatory. They are doing their expiation here in the very place in which they had violated the rule of St. Francis. They are also asking our prayers for their liberation. Therefore, be calm and don't worry. They will not return again. Then Padre Pio accompanied his father back to cell number 10 and waited until he had gotten into bed, before bidding him good night.
Padre Giuseppe Antonio, of the friary of St. Anna in nearby Foggia, was one of Padre Pio's close friends. He was suffering greatly because of major kidney problems, and was under the watchful care of the doctors and friars. On December 30, Padre Pio was informed that the condition of Padre Antonio was worsening, and only prayers and divine intervention could alleviate his suffering and cure him.
Padre Pio did not need to be asked twice. That night in his cell, as he was praying for his desperately ill friend, there was knock on his door. “Avanti,” said the Padre upon hearing the sound. The door opened and to his great surprise and wonder, Padre Antonio entered the room. Padre Pio greeted him with: “How are you doing? I was told that you were suffering from a grave illness, and now I find you here!” The friar replied, “I am doing well. All of my torments are over and I have come to thank you for your prayers.” And then he disappeared. Unbeknownst to Padre Pio, Padre Antonio had died that very evening of December 30.
Carmela Marocchino lived near the friary at the house of Mary Pyle, the American who had become his disciple. Carmela's brother, Padre Vittore, was a beloved priest until his sudden death in January of 1958. Wondering if he had saved his soul, she went to Padre Pio a few days later. She began to cry, and so did Padre Pio. She asked the Padre why the Lord had taken her brother. He explained that the Lord entered a garden where there many beautiful flowers. Walking over to the most beautiful flower of all, he picked it. This is exactly what happened to Padre Vittore. Carmela then asked if her brother was saved. Padre Pio answered in the affirmative, but added that we must pray.
Some months later, hoping that Padre Vittore would now be in Paradise, she asked Padre Pio in the confessional if her brother was now in heaven. He replied, “My daughter, we priests have more responsibility before God, and when we appear before Him, it is with fear and trembling. Therefore, let us pray.” Then, about a year after her brother's death, she again asked Padre Pio about him. This time his answer was, “He is in Paradise.” Carmela was overjoyed. But she began to consider that even though he had been a priest, and was a student of Padre Pio's, he still had to spend 11 months in Purgatory. This was because of the responsibility of so many souls under his spiritual direction.
On yet another occasion, Carmela asked Padre Pio if she should still pray for her deceased parents. He replied, “Even if your parents are in heaven, we must always pray. If they no longer need prayers, they are applied to other souls.”
One time in 1949 Padre Pio was talking with a certain doctor who was very close to him. They were discussing prayers for the dead. Padre Pio said to him, “Maybe you don't know that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather!” But the doctor remarked that he has been dead for many, many years. Then Padre Pio explained, “For the Lord the past does not exist. Everything is an eternal present. These prayers had already been taken into account. And so I repeat that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather!”
Based on accounts in Padre Pio Mistero e Miracolo, by G. Giacometti and P. Sessa, pp. 225-35, and also The Holy Souls, by Padre Alessio Parente, pp, 103-104 and pp. 177-179.
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