Friday, May 10, 2019

The Power of Padre Pio's Relic

The Honorable Giovanni Tamponi was a district magistrate in the prefecture of Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. He became one of Padre Pio's most devoted spiritual children, thanks to the saint's miraculous cure of his five-year-old son, whom he snatched from almost certain death in 1970.  

The first time Giovanni had ever heard of Padre Pio was in 1958, in an article in the Catholic magazine Famiglia Christiana. In it he learned that this priest bore the wounds of Christ, and lived in a monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo on the Italian mainland. One thing struck him in particular in the article: when Padre Pio distributed Communion to the faithful, who would kneel before the altar to receive it from his hands, there were times when he refused to give someone the Host. Giovanni thought to himself: “How can a priest give the Sacred Host to some and not to others? What would he know? How can he behave this way and take on this responsibility in public?”

Desiring to learn more about this man of the cloth, within a month Signore Tamponi was on his way to San Giovanni, arriving on a cold November afternoon. By “chance,” the first person he encountered in the piazza of Padre Pio's church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, was an attorney from Milan who offered to share his rented accommodations. Giovanni took this as a sign from Providence, to encourage him on his quest to know more about the Padre.
The two men rose at 4:00 am in order to arrive at the church before 5:00 when the doors would open. Giovanni, unfamiliar with the rush of the “holy women,” was swept away by the crowd, which actually pushed him close to the altar. There was a sudden hush when Padre Pio appeared and the Mass began, and the silence that followed allowed him to participate in the Eucharist “in a way that is not easy to describe.” Giovanni had a personal question he wanted to ask the saint, so when Mass ended he waited for him in the corridor that he traversed in order to enter the Convento. But all at once a crowd of devotees invaded the area, and he was almost swept away again. However, he was able to reach out and touch Padre Pio. He asked him the question that he had prepared beforehand, but Padre Pio brusquely said, “What do you want?” (“Che vuoi?”) and just continued walking. Giovanni tried to follow but it was useless because of all the people.

St. Pio Foundation Relic Tour

His new friend, the lawyer from Milan, saw what had occurred and encouraged him to try once more later in the afternoon. So he waited at the corridor and again asked Padre Pio his question, but the saint one more time said “Che vuoi?” However, by this time Giovanni had learned how to make his way through the crowd, and was able to follow him right to the entrance door to the Convento. Padre Pio was about to disappear behind the door, when he suddenly stopped and turned towards Giovanni. Looking him right in the eye, he repeated a third time “Che vuoi?” Now the two of them were face to face, alone. Giovanni attempted to repeat his question, but was not able to utter a thing.

Then a good-natured and paternal smile opened on the Padre's seraphic face. It was a prelude to the reply that Giovanni had so much longed to hear, and this personal advice was immediately and precisely given to him. Giovanni was overcome, and realized at that instant that he was standing before no ordinary person. Padre Pio's answer was a turning point in his life, marking a fundamental milestone. He left the church overflowing with profound emotion and joy, and encountered his friend from Milan, who shared in the happiness that he had finally spoken with Padre Pio. However, after less than two full days in San Giovanni Rotondo, he had to hasten to return to his home. There his relatives and friends were preparing a celebration for his successful triumph in the exam to enter the magistracy in Italy. 

All during his trip back, from Puglia to the Roman port of Civitavecchia, overnight on the boat to Sardinia, and then another hour to his home town, thoughts of Padre Pio occupied his mind. The joy of passing the exam took a back seat to his enthusiasm for having met the priest that everyone was talking about, the stigmatized friar who had clearly pointed out the direction his life should take. “Already, from this first short encounter with Padre Pio, I had the definite sensation of finding myself before something truly great, of an elevated spirituality in direct contact with the Divine, of a true faith with a supernatural aura, through which I felt already protected and attracted.”

The next year Giovanni Tamponi returned to San Giovanni Rotondo, and this time he was able to stay longer. Reservations were needed to confess to Padre Pio, and his turn did not come up until the fourth day of his stay. He had been going to the 5:00 am Mass, and afterwards talked to people who had confessed to the Padre. Many told him that Padre Pio recounted sins committed during their lives that they had totally forgotten about. These seemed to be mature and honest people, and Giovanni had no reason to doubt what they were saying. Having no experience with such a confessor, he was shaken and anxious as he awaited his first confession with the saint, although he felt prepared for it.
Padre Pio confessed the men in a corner of the sacristy of the old church, behind a curtain, and furnished only with a chair and a kneeler. As his turn approached, all of his preparations became completely useless. Events and episodes of his life came to mind that he had not even considered. “ I felt my mind burning and inside my soul a tumult of different feelings, of anxieties, of tensions, of agitation, of fears. I had the impression and sensation of having to be present not at a normal confession – which I was used to – but rather at a 'divine judgment'. It seemed that Padre Pio was already scrutinizing and analyzing me.” He began to sweat and could not calm down, and had to loosen his tie because he felt suffocated.

Finally it was his turn, and he quickly drew the curtain and knelt before Padre Pio. They were face to face, eye to eye. “I looked at him but could not sustain his gaze; his large, black eyes penetrated into the depths of my soul.” Giovanni started to mention a certain sin, but Padre Pio interrupted him, “You have already confessed that! Continue on,” he urged. He conducted what was essentially an interrogation, punctuated by an occasional comment. “I experienced a fear and emotion that I cannot to this day describe.” When the confession ended, he asked to be accepted as his spiritual child, and Padre Pio consented but set a certain condition. 

Giovanni went into the church to pray, feeling like a different person. As a young magistrate he had sustained examinations of all types, but never had he suffered and at the same time rejoiced in any to this measure. But how did Padre Pio know that he had confessed that sin? Evidently he could read souls and saw that there was no corresponding stain on it. Giovanni stayed in town for another week, and returned to Sardinia with a much clearer picture of Padre Pio and also of his own spiritual path. 

Many years passed during which he continued to visit San Giovanni Rotondo. Then in 1966, during his confession to the saint, he asked him for a special blessing for his son Mario, who had just had his first birthday. Padre Pio condescended, “but perhaps in that same moment he understood that in four years time it would take a lot more than a benediction to save the boy's life.” The child was affected with a chronic urinary tract infection. He was often hospitalized but unfortunately a cause could not be determined; yet his blood nitrogen counts continued to rise. He began to visibly waste away. Finally in 1970 a prominent urologist determined that Mario suffered from a congenital malformation. His kidney function was impaired because of swollen and twisted ureters that caused urine stagnation and reflex. The only solution was a risky procedure which entailed life-threatening surgery. The boy was operated on, the malformed ureters were removed, and were substituted by a complex intestinal loop between the renal pelvis and bladder.

“The following days were terrible – the fear about the good outcome of of such a difficult and complex intervention, on his little body already so debilitated, made us suffer profoundly.” Soon it became evident that there was a serious complication: there was a blockage, an occlusion somewhere, and nothing could flow through the intestine. Therefore, no food or water could be given to little Mario. Hour by hour the situation grew graver and more critical. “On the boy there was a sad and deep expression, an indescribable thinness, an almost total absence of energy, that framed his cadaverous pallor.” There was nothing that could be done except wait for the sorrowful outcome.

The family had been praying all the while, and continued to pray, but without success. Medical science was powerless to do anything, and the end seemed inevitable. Around midnight, after over a week had passed since the operation, Giovanni's wife suggested applying a Padre Pio relic of the first-class (pertaining to the physical remains of a saint) to her son. They had a clipping of linen stained with his blood. With it, Giovanni lightly and gently touched Mario' stomach, while saying the words: “Padre Pio, if you don't put your hands here, who else can do it?” As soon as he finished pronouncing these words, the boy let out a shout, “Enough!” At that same instant, a strong, rapid noise, sounding like water and compressed air together, could be heard coming from Mario's intestines, at the spot where the relic had been placed. The sound seem to go the from center of his stomach in the direction of his bladder. Giovanni's immediate reaction was to remark: “Is this Heaven's answer?” 

Mario was given a glass of water, which he was able to drink without consequences. During the entire night, the sounds of the movement of water and air persisted, as if to indicate that the intestines were resuming their normal function. At one point, Giovanni asked his son why he had shouted “Enough!” Mario replied “Papa, as soon as you touched me I felt force so strong that I could not take it any more, and I said “enough” so that you would not touch me again.” And yet, Giovanni had only lightly applied the relic to the boy's stomach. “Simply from the mere contact with the relic, a mysterious power was evidently unleashed which the boy could not abide, and an internal surge breached the blockage.” Only a few days later, Mario was dismissed from the hospital.

The next year, his family took Mario to the tomb of Padre Pio at the Church of Our Lady of Grace (Santa Maria delle Grazie), to offer their thanksgivings to the saint. Then in 1974 he made his First Holy Communion in the crypt of the same church. His father, the magistrate Giovanni Tamponi, reflecting on the miracle, noted that as soon as he had invoked the name of Padre Pio, the grace was conceded instantaneously and definitively. “Padre Pio was and is my point of reference, and after this event, how can I have doubts about his paternal care, especially now that he is so close to that Christ that he loved, served and honored so much during his life. He certainly was right when he asked one of his spiritual children to pray that the Lord would call him to heaven, because he would be able to do much more from there than he can do on earth.”

This story is based on a chapter from I Miracoli che Hanno Fatto Santo Padre Pio, by Enrico Malatesta, pp. 374-383.

Please view my Catholic books on Padre Pio and others Here.

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