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.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Padre Pio Appears in Bilocation to Pope Pius XI

By the mid 1920's there was a concerted effort by Padre Pio's enemies, including even his own bishop, to bring his ministry to a halt. False stories, rumors and accusations had reached the highest levels in the Vatican itself. As a consequence, in 1923 the Congregation of the Holy Office issued a public decree declaring that there was nothing supernatural in the ministry of Padre Pio, and therefore the faithful should act accordingly. In other words, the stigmata, miracles, cures, bilocation and conversions were not acknowledged by the Vatican. The Holy Office (now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), was responsible for the defense and promulgation of Catholic Doctrine.

Notwithstanding the decree, crowds continued to besiege the monastery, spurred on by the many who had been recipients of Padre Pio's charismatic gifts. Thus, in 1924 a new decree was issued, in which the Vatican repeated that nothing supernatural has been exhibited by Padre Pio, and the Holy Office again exhorted the faithful to abide by its decision. By 1925 many restrictions on his priesthood had been established, putting limitations on the length of his Mass, on his confessional, and his conversations with others. In addition, he could no longer correspond by letter with anyone, and was prohibited from seeing his long-time spiritual director.

This isolation of Padre Pio still did not satisfy his opponents, whose ultimate goal was to have him suspended entirely of his priestly ministry a divinis by Pope Pius XI. They swamped the Holy Office with calumnies and accusations, and its Secretary, Cardinal Merry Del Val, convinced the Pope that such a suspension was necessary. However, two high-ranking cardinals were avid supporters of Padre Pio: they were the Secretary of State Cardinal Gasparri, and Cardinal Sili, Prefect of the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the highest court of the Church. Hoping to achieve a consensus on the suspension, Pope Pius convoked a special, secret meeting to discuss the case of Padre Pio.
Pope Pius XI

Present at the meeting with the Pope were the above-mentioned cardinals as well as five other cardinal “inquisitors” from the Holy Office. The discussion soon became heated due to the energetic defense of Padre Pio by his two supporters. However, the others remained firm in their opposition to him. The Pope appeared ready to decide in favor of the suspension a divinis, when suddenly there occurred “the most amazing charismatic episode that can be found in the lives of the saints.”

The door to the meeting room opened, and a young Capuchin friar entered. The attendees were bewildered and shocked, since not only was he uninvited, but Swiss guards were supposedly protecting the entranceway. The monk had his hands hidden in the sleeves of his habit, and he seemed to walk with a slight limp. Before anyone could stop or interrogate him, he came directly towards the Pope. When he reached the Holy Father, he kneeled before him and kissed his feet. Then he pronounced these words: “Your Holiness, for the good of the Church do not permit this to occur.” Kissing once again the feet of the Pontiff, he asked for his blessing, arose and left the room.

Just as soon as he departed, all the cardinals, recovering from their amazement, became very agitated. Some of them exited the room to demand from the guards why they had let this monk enter, in spite of the strict prohibitions against visitors. The surprised guards marveled at this, and said that they had not even seen any friar. The cardinals re-entered the room, and the Holy Father, having intuited what must have occurred, immediately suspended the meeting. He commanded them not to speak about the incident. However, with great solicitude he ordered Cardinal Sili to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo. The cardinal was to interrogate the Father Guardian of the Convent as to where Padre Pio was on that day and time, and what he was doing.
St. Pio of PIetrelcina
The sister-in-law of Cardinal Sili, the Countess Virginia Salviucci Sili, was a frequent visitor to San Giovanni, had confessed to Padre Pio, and had become one of his spiritual children. Aware of her devotion to the friar, the Cardinal invited her to accompany him on his mission, without telling her a word of what it was about. Upon their arrival at San Giovanni Rotondo, the Father Guardian told the cardinal that Padre Pio had not gone out of the friary that day, and at the time in question he was in the choir reciting the prayers of the daily Office.

Only at a later date did Cardinal Sili tell the Countess Sili the story about the bilocation of Padre Pio to the Pope. She in her turn related it to a priest who was her friend, confessor and a devotee of Padre Pio. His name was also Padre Pio – Padre Pio Dellepiane, of the order of Minims of St. Francis of Paola. The spiritual bond and mutual respect that existed between the two Pio's was such that the friar of San Giovanni Rotondo often recommended penitents to turn to Padre Dellepiane. St. Pio also said of him that although his name was Padre Pio Dellepiane, he was not Padre Pio of the Plains, but Padre Pio of the Peaks! Padre Dellepiane's own Cause for sainthood was opened in 1990, and on May 19, 2018 he was declared Venerable.

Venerable Padre Dellepiane carefully recorded the testimony of the Countess, writing that “I declare with an oath that the following is true.” It is his hand-written report from 1966 that is the basis for the story of the bilocation of Padre Pio to Pope Pius XI. The outcome of the incident is that the suspension a divinis of Padre Pio from the priesthood never occurred. Although the Holy Office continued to persecute Padre Pio for years, the view of the Pope changed and Pius XI began to have a more favorable opinion of him.
Venerable Padre Pio Dellepiane
This post is based on material from Chapters 9 and 10 of Renzo Allegri's Padre Pio Il Santo dei Miracoli. Additional information about Padre Dellepiane was obtained from the Internet Here.

Please see my Catholic books about Padre Pio and others Here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Padre Pio Corrects a Mischievous Boy

It happened back in 1939, when Gigino was only nine years old. Everyone at San Giovanni Rotondo called him Gigino, but his name was actually Luigi Capotosto. He lived with his parents on the Viale dei Cappuccini, the road which led directly to the friary and church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. One day near the Patariello, the hill upon which the friary stood, Gigino played a nasty trick on his best friend by furtively stealing his knapsack, which contained the lunch that the boy was to bring to his father at work. Just as he was about to open the satchel to partake of its contents, he saw a friar emerge from along the top of the hill – it was Padre Pio, although Gigino did not know it at the time.

Gigino, fearful that his “crime” had been discovered, tried to flee to avoid being punished, but he tripped and fell at the edge of the road, which was rugged and unpaved at the time. He scraped his knee, and as the blood ran down his leg, he saw the friar approaching him. He was terrified, because he feared the monk had found him out and was going to report him to the police. He had heard that not long ago, when a boy of his age had broken a window, the boy and his parents were summoned to the police station.

But instead, to his surprise, the friar, showing great compassion, came over to help him, and in a gentle and kind voice asked what had happened. The intensity of his eyes, the magnetic expression of his face, and a smile that invited trust and affection, induced Gigino to make a complete confession of the entire event. “I told him of the games we boys were playing and confessed that I stole the rucksack of my best friend. Then when I added that I knew that it contained his father's lunch, the monk did not have hard words for me or threaten me with punishment. Instead, with a calm voice and in a reassuring tone, he explained to me all the consequences of my action. After a hard morning's work, the father of that boy would have nothing to eat. My seemingly innocent trick has become instead an abuse of the poor worker. It was a lesson in life that, even though I learned it while so young, has remained impressed in my mind as an indelible memory throughout the years.”
As he rose to his feet, Gigino noticed that the friar's hands appeared to be wrapped in cloth. He asked out of simple, childlike curiosity, if he too had fallen down. Why were his hands wrapped? The monk answered that no, he had not fallen. “These are my poor sacrifices for the Lord.” Astonished, Gigino asked him who was this Lord, and Padre Pio's concise reply was “One day you will see and you will understand.”

Now, as an adult, Gigino can firmly avow that those words were prophetic, because on the day of his accident, he truly understood who this Lord was. He had become a delivery truck driver, and periodically drove up the Gargano mountain from the plains below to San Giovanni Rotondo, to deliver meats and grains to various stores and other businesses. The serpentine road along the mountain-side is extremely steep, consisting of five sharp, hair-pin turns, with the edge of the road dangerously close to the cliffs with sheer drop-offs below.

One day in 1963 with Gigino driving the truck, and a co-worker sitting next to him in the cab, they began the long descent down the mountain after making their delivery run. As they were making a turn around one of the sharp bends in the road, Gigino tried to slow down the truck, when he suddenly realized that the brakes did not work. The steel control rod connecting the brake pedal to the wheel carriage had broken. He frantically tried to use the emergency brake, and to mesh the gears, but the truck just kept bounding along, swaying from left to right, going faster and faster. At any moment they could fail to round one of the hairpin turns and tumble down the escarpment. Gigino gripped the steering wheel hard, as he desperately tried to keep his vehicle on the roadway.

While his co-worker could only scream and curse, Gigino began to earnestly and fervently pray to all the saints of Paradise! They tried jumping out of the careening truck, but were afraid because of its great velocity. As they barreled down towards the next sharp turn, all at once a very intense perfume of roses penetrated the driver's cab. The aroma was so strong and instantaneous that they could only breathe with difficulty. It was the sign of Padre Pio's spiritual presence, and it seemed to suffocate them. Seconds later the speeding truck abruptly halted, amid the sound of a violent crash. It had smashed into the trunk of a giant olive tree that stood right on the edge of the curve. 

Road down the Gargano Mountain. Google satellite view.

“I have no image in my mind of the actual impact, we seemed to be enveloped by a protective cloud. I only recall that after some minutes had passed, we realized that we were uninjured.” Gigino and his companion crawled out from the twisted and smoking wreck. Neither man had a scratch on them nor any other effects or bruises from the impact. They looked out on an incredible scene – at the apex of the hairpin turn, the olive tree overlooked a steep ravine. If they had gone over that cliff in the truck, not even their bones would have been found. If the tree were located half a meter to the left or to the right of the precipice, their lives would have been over. “Right below the driver's cab, through which the branches of the tree now protruded, we could see the wide, deep valley below. In sum, it was a miracle we were alive!”
But Gigino's special connection with Padre Pio did not end there. Oddly enough, exactly one year later he was on that same road, running the same delivery route, but this time of course in a new truck. It was raining cats and dogs, and was already dark out. He had come to the curve where he had his fortunate escape, and had just passed that same olive tree, when he saw a broken down car at the edge of the road. He saw the driver working a tire iron in the pouring rain, trying to change a flat tire. Gigino, aware of the great grace he had received at this very spot, knew that it was his duty to help out this poor man and vehicle stuck here in the cloudburst. He stopped his truck, and as he came near the auto, he saw that it bore a license plate with the letters “SCV,” Stato della Citta del Vaticano, and he noticed bishop's colors on the vestments of the passenger inside. This was the car of His Excellency Karol Wojtyla, Auxiliary Bishop of Kracow, Poland, and Titular Bishop of OMBI.

It was 1964 and the Vatican Council was going full tilt. Mary Pyle, who lived practically adjacent to Padre Pio's friary, has remarked that “So many bishops from the ecumenical council came up to see Padre Pio that sometimes it seems that the Council is at San Giovanni Rotondo!” So such a private visit would not be unusual, and in the case of Bishop Wojtyla, there was a special reason for him to want to see Padre Pio and thank him in person. Two years previously the bishop had written him asking for prayers for his good friend Dr. Wanda Poltawska, who was scheduled to be operated on for late stage cancer. When it was time for the operation, the doctors were astonished to find that the tumor had disappeared.

Gigino helped change the tire, and saw to it that the car and its passenger were safely on its journey. Little could he have known, or even remotely imagined at the time, that he had helped the future Vicar of Christ, John Paul II, who would be the very pope to canonize Padre Pio.

This post is based on an account in I Miracoli che Hanno Fatto Santo Padre Pio, by Enrico Malatesta, pp. 176-179. Additional information from Padre Pio the True Story by C. Bernard Ruffin, pp. 360-361. 

See my Catholic Books on Padre Pio and others Here.