Posts by canice

Inside Our Church

Our church on Bridge Street is very beautiful.    On entering, over the central doorway are three icons:  Our Lord seated in glory, Our Lady and John the Baptist.     These were commissioned by our late Prior Fr. Jim Harris O.P. and painted by Romanian artist and iconographer Mihai Cucu.

The central aisle is flanked by twelve pillars.   The ornamental capitals at the top of each and the statues above them, statues of Dominican saints were sculpted by Dublin stonemason James Pearse, the father of the 1916 patriots Padraig and William.

At the end of the aisle on the left is the shrine of St. Martin de Porres O.P.   The altar at the top of this aisle is dedicated to St. Joseph.   The fresco was painted by the Irish Dominican Fr. Aengus Buckley O.P.    It shows St. Joseph  surrounded by four angels.    Fr. Buckley got four local girls, three of whom are still alive, to sit as models for the angels.

On the right side of the church at  the back is a shrine to St. Dominic, opened to mark 800 years of the Dominicans, the Order of Preachers,  and towards the top of the aisle is a shrine to Padre Pio, to which there is great devotion.   The beautiful altar at the top is for Our Lady of the Rosary.   The statue depicts Our Lady giving the rosary to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena.    Two fine mosaics show the Nativity and the Coronation of Our Lady.    Above these we see angels.

The original high altar has been preserved.     The marble statue of the Sacred Heart that was over it can now be seen on the quay, near the clock tower, where it was placed as a monument to the Patriot Dead of Ireland.    Around the altar are seven mosaic panels.    The three central ones show the transfigured Christ with Peter, James and John and above them Moses and Elijah.    The four side panels are of local interest.    First, on the left is St. Otteran baptising a Viking chief.    He is shown standing in front of Reginald’s Tower but St. Otteran never set foot in Waterford.    It was the Vikings who had great devotion to him and this was adopted by the locals, so much so that Otteran is now a Patron Saint of the diocese of Waterford and Lismore.     Next is St. Declan of Ardmore and behind him is the Cathedral on Barronstrand  street.

The original cartoons for the design of these mosaics were drawn by an Irish Dominican Fr. John Heuston O.P. brother of Sean Heuston , another 1916 patriot.  Across to the standing Dominican friar.    This is Fr, Geoffrey, one of the first Dominicans in Waterford.    He was a noted scholar, especially of languages,  who translated the bible and other sacred writings into Arabic and other languages.    The seated figure in a lay brother’s habit is thought to be Fr. John Heuston who often included himself in his works.   The church behind them is this church, St. Saviours.     Finally there is Our Lady of Waterford guarding the city along with her religious troops.    The forbidding chap below on the horse is Oliver Cromwell – yes ! – a picture of Cromwell in a Catholic church in Ireland !    Between Our Lady and Cromwell appears the crest of Waterford with the motto ‘Urbs Intacta Manet’ – ‘the city remains untaken’.     This motto was given to Waterford by an English king, Henry VII in 1497, centuries before Cromwell was born.    It was granted to the noble citizens of Waterford who had kept the city for the English King safe from the rebellious Irish who tried to take it.    Here Fr. Heuston uses it as a snub to Cromwell who laid siege to Waterford  for nine months but failed to break in.   Above the mosaics are five frescoes.   These depict the four evangelists and, in the centre, the Holy Spirit.

Feel free to walk up behind the altar to view the mosaics.


Dominicans in Waterford

The  Dominican Order was founded in 1216,  eight hundred years ago, to combat heresy which was rife in Europe at the time.   St. Dominic gathered a small group of men around him to pray, to study and to preach the Gospel to the people.   At that time this was most unusual as only Bishops were allowed to preach.   Ordinary priests were not permitted to do so.    When the people saw these first Dominicans preaching openly in public they were amazed.   They became popularly known as Friars (Brothers) Preachers.

The Dominicans arrived in Ireland in 1214 making two foundations, one at Dublin and the other in Drogheda.    The following year they opened a third house, the famous Black Abbey in Kilkenny.   Then they pushed on southwards and came here to Waterford in 1226.

But for all the hurry with which they came to Waterford it took nine years before they found a permanent home.   Then they were given permission and a site on which they built a church and priory at Blackfriars, just inside the old city walls.

 The ruins of the chapel and tower can still be seen off Conduit Lane.  

There followed centuries of persecution and suppression during which the Dominicans were driven out of Waterford many times,  but they always returned.

At a large public meeting in 1873  one of the priests made an impassioned plea “that the people of Waterford in the 19th century would do what their forefathers did in the 13th century:  build for the children of St. Dominic a church that will be worthy of Waterford and a suitable temple to Almighty God “.   The generosity of the response was spectacular.    Work on the new church began in 1874  and it was opened for public worship in late 1876.   The following year the church was consecrated on 2nd, December 1877 by Bishop John Power assisted by Bishop Thomas Croke of Cashel ( who gave his name to Croke Park ) and William Fitzgerald, Bishop of Ross.  

Further improvements and additions came later to give us the church we have today, the Dominicans, Bridge Street, Waterford.



Padre Pio Shrine

There is now a new shrine to Saint Padre Pio in the church.     It is to be found in Our Lady’s aisle. 





Our Lady of Waterford

Our  Lady of  Waterford

This beautiful little statue can be found in St Saviours church on Bridge Street in Waterford.     It is located on the right hand side ( as you enter ) just outside the altar rails. The title Our Lady of Waterford is appropriate as the statue has helped generations of Waterford people in their devotion to the Mother of God.

The Dominicans first came to Waterford in 1226 and it is believed the statue held a place of honour in the original Dominican Priory situated on Blackfriars Street.   When the last Prior, William Martin surrendered the priory to Henry VIII the site contained a chapel called   ‘ Our Lady’s chapel ‘ and it is possible the statue was procured for that Chapel.

It is made of wood lightly painted.    It was made on the continent of Europe but it’s date of origin is uncertain.

Dispossession and persecution failed to dim the devotion of the people of Waterford to the Mother of God.     Without the shelter of a priory or chapel the statue some how survived the persecution.    One of the Dominican friars wrapped it carefully, applied three coats of paint and then encased the whole lot in a large brick.    Miraculously, when the danger had passed,  it was discovered, excavated  from the block, unwrapped and cleaned.

In 1815 with the death of Fr. Anthony Duane it seemed as if the Dominican presence in Waterford had come to an end.    The statue was removed to the Dominican Black Abbey in Kilkenny and later it was taken to Limerick.    Invited back by Bishop O’Brien in 1865 the Dominicans resumed their apostolate in Waterford.    In 1867 they opened an oratory in Bridge Street and in May 1876 the present church was opened for public worship.    The statue of Our Lady of Waterford was returned from Limerick and has remained in this church ever since.

In gratitude for the many favours received the people of Waterford commissioned Messrs.  Egan of Cork to make two gold crowns and a sceptre for the statue.    These were placed on the statue in a ceremony in 1934 in front of a large congregation.

This statue has been removed for renovation and for its protection during the work on the church.

Our Lady of Waterford protect us.

Padre Pio and Our Lady

Padre Pio had an intense, he had an immense  devotion to Mary, to Our Lady, to the Blessed Virgin, call her what you like.   She was the mother of God.   Padre Pio called her by a different name.    In Italian he called her La Madonna and he had great devotion to his Madonna.

The newborn Francesco Forgione, his original name, was baptized in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli – Mary of the angels.   As an octogenarian Padre Pio closed his eyes for the final time close to Santa Maria delle Grazie – Mary of Graces.    His whole life was a Marian voyage.   Even as a child he used to call in to the church in Pietrelcina to have a chat with his Madonna.   Later in his life he always had a picture of her in his cell, to which he could pray.

Padre Pio’s love for the Madonna was that of a friend who has faith, one who believes and one who hopes.   It was not just sentimental piety.   It was the result of his constant contemplation of the Mother of God, something which had become his way of life.   By being closer to Mary he felt closer to Jesus.

The rosary was his favourite prayer.   He recited it continually all day, every day.  For him it became a constant meditation on the events of the life and death of Jesus and of his blessed mother.    He had a special fascination with the Hail Mary and in his rosaries he said it slowly and reverently.    Who could count the number of rosaries he said in his lifetime.    He was ‘the friar of the rosary’.    One day his Father Superior asked him how many he said each day.    Padre Pio replied  ‘ Well I must tell my Superior the truth – today I have recited thirty four’.    Thirty four rosaries of fifteen decades each,  that’s 510 decades !

For Padre Pio the rosary was a constant meditation on the events of the life and death of Jesus and of his blessed mother.   He had a fascination with the Hail Mary and in his rosaries he recited it slowly and lovingly.    He always had his rosary with him.   He carried it in his hand or on his arm as if it were a bracelet or a shield.    He had more rosaries under his pillow and still more on the bureau in his cell.   He used to call the rosary his weapon.    One night when he was sick in bed he was unable to find his rosary  so he called a friar to him and said   ” Young man get me my weapon.   Give me my weapon “.

He devoured the rosary with a massive hunger.   At certain hours he would walk up and down the central path of the monastery garden totally absorbed in his suffering, in his prayer and in his love for Jesus while the beads slipped through the fingers of his wounded hands.     He had lots of rosaries in his pocket also and would give one to anyone who asked for one.   How many people there are today who say  ” This is a rosary which Padre Pio gave me.    I treasure it with all my heart “.    I suppose you could describe Padre Pio’s life as one continuous rosary.

He loved to listen to famous singers.    He listened with obvious pleasure and always requested them to sing either a hymn to Our Lady or a Neapolitan song.    He was particularly moved when the renowned tenor Beniamino Gigli came to the monastery garden and sang Gounod’s ‘Ave Maria’ for him.   ( Pictured is Beniamino Gigli  with Padre Pio ).    So attentive and fascinated was he that he seemed to  be enjoying a taste of paradise.

He often got out of bed in the early hours of the morning and opened his window because someone outside was singing  ‘ Ave Maria ‘ in his honour.    He would listen to them, enraptured, and at the end he would applaud and shout to them  ” Bravo, bravo.   May the Madonna protect and bless you, my child “.

He waited with great anxiety for the arrival of the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima.   While the statue was leaving Portugal in a helicopter to tour the major cities of Italy Padre Pio lay in his sick bed suffering from serious pleurisy.    He had been too weak to celebrate mass for several months, something which caused him great sadness.    Each night he uttered a spiritual thought into a microphone which connected to a loudspeaker in the church.    His words could be heard by the large crowd who gathered to listen to him.

Finally the big day arrived.    Padre Pio announced with a voice full of emotion  ” In a few minutes our mother will be in our midst.   Let us open our hearts to her “.     Despite his condition Padre Pio got up from bed, dressed with help and went to the church.    Exhausted,  he had to sit down and remained there a long time in front of the image of the Madonna.    When the statue was brought to him to kiss it he did so reverently and then placed in her hands a rosary which was a gift he had received from a visiting prayer group.

When finally the helicopter rose from the terrace of the Home for the Relief of Suffering bringing the status away among the eyes that followed it were Padre Pio’s, wet with tears.     He addressed her with one final prayer.     “Beautiful Madonna I have been sick during your visit to Italy and now you are leaving without curing me”.     At that moment he felt a chill run through his body.     He turned to his fellow priests and exclaimed  ‘ I am cured ‘  and he was truly cured.    Word spread rapidly and everyone who saw him looking so fit and well was amazed.

Padre Pio had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Pompei.     On the fiftieth anniversary of his receiving the stigmata,  shortly before he would die he was presented with a bouquet of roses.    He was deeply touched by this gesture and he in turn took from it a rose which he gave to one of his spiritual children and asked that they take it to Pompei and place it in front of the image of the Madonna there.     This was done and that rose did not wilt or wither but remained as a fresh and fragrant bloom right up to the day he died.      Then it closed up and became a bud again.

For Padre Pio his love for the Madonna meant constant imitation of her.     If Jesus is the way and the light that leads us to God the Father then Mary is the way and the light that leads to her Son, Jesus.    With Mary’s help and imitating her virtues Padre Pio drew ever closer to Jesus, so close as to be almost transformed into him.

So we thank God for giving us Padre Pio and we thank Padre Pio for showing us how to love his Madonna and our mother, Mary.


Saint Padre Pio Mass and Blessing with Relic

Each month here in Bridge street we have a mass in honour of Saint Padre Pio.     It takes place at 10.30 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month.     At the end of that mass you will get an opportunity to bless yourself with a relic of Padre Pio.

The relic we have here in the Priory is one of Padre Pio’s gloves.    When he received the stigmata,  thousands of people came to see him, but many of those only came out of curiosity.    They just wanted to see his wounds and be able to say that they saw them.    So his Superiors gave him instructions to cover up the wounds.    The wounds on his feet were already covered by his shoes and of course the wound in his side was covered by his Capuchin habit.    He got a number of little gloves – light fingerless mittens- to cover the wounds on his hands.   It is one of these that we are privileged to possess here in Bridge Street and you can bless yourself with it.   If you are unable to attend you can call in to the shop next door to the church any day during the week and ask for a blessing.

Mass in honour of Saint Padre Pio

And Blessing with the relic

the first Saturday of each month

at 10.30 a.m.

Padre Pio – Irish Pilgrims

Back in the 1950′s a few Irish people set out for San Giovanni Rotondo.   It was a big venture.    First they set out on a long journey in old propeller driven aeroplanes.    Then they took slow trains and old buses to their destination.    Since then hundreds , even thousands of people have been drawn to San Giovanni Rotondo drawn there by the presence of a priest, a mystic, a man of God – Padre Pio.     A stream of miraculous events, cures and strange happenings have occurred there through the intercession of Padre Pio, many of them enjoyed by Irish people.

Mona, Mary and Des Hanafin

Let’s start with the story of Mona Hanafin of County Tipperary.    Mona is the wife of Des Hanafin who had served in Seanad Éireann for over thirty years and the mother of Mary Hanafin, the former Fianna Fáil T.D. and Minister in various departments.    In 1964 when she was in her mid-twenties Mona was diagnosed with cancer.

She went to Padre Pio.     ” I was very ill at the time and in San Giovanni Rotondo mass was at 5.00 in the morning.    I went to mass and got very close to him.   Later he passed right by me, he stopped, put his hand on my head and blessed me.     On the return journey home I got extremely ill.    My mother checked me into a Dublin hospital.     My temperature was 106.5.    I lost consciousness for about four days.     When I came to a miracle had happened – my cancer was gone !      I owe a big thank you to Padre Pio”.

Josephine McLaughlin lives in county Donegal.    She has a son called Bill.     Back in the 1990′s on All Souls Day Bill went to work as usual.     He was then 23 years of age.    That evening he was driving home.    His mother said    ” I was  waiting for him for dinner but he didn’t arrive.    Then the guards knocked at the front door and came in.    They were friends of ours and good friends of Bill.    They said he had had an accident and that we should go to the hospital straight away.

The guards pieced the incident together.    He had been driving home along a narrow road when his wheels caught the grass verge and he lost control.    He crashed into a bridge and was thrown through the sun roof but fell back into the car, in the front passenger seat.    It was a quiet country back road but eventually a woman came along.     She was a nurse, saw the crashed car and stopped and had a look.    Bill was dead – his heart was stopped.      She called an ambulance and went to work on him.     She managed to resuscitate him.    The ambulance took him away to Letterkenny hospital.     He passed away several times on the journey.      From the hospital he was brought by helicopter to Beaumont hospital in Dublin.    The doctor said he had only a fifty per cent chance of living and that if he did he would be a vegetable.

Josephine continues   ” Then someone told me about Padre Pio.    I went to the Padre Pio office in Dublin and they gave me his mitten.    I brought it and rubbed it on Bill “.    The next day he came out of the coma but he was paralysed all down his left side, even his eye was closed.     Someone said there was a Capuchin, Brother Lawrence in Beaumont and he had a Padre Pio mitten.    ” Eventually I found him and asked him to come to Bill.    He came with the mitten and rubbed it all over Bill.    Then he gave it to us and we blessed ourselves with it.

Just fifteen minutes after he left Bill lifted his left leg way up the full way.   He crossed his chest with his left arm.   The nurse was astonished.    She called the doctor at once and he said ” Normally after paralysis some movement starts with a small twitch.   Then after lots of work a little more movement.   But this is amazing “.

However there was a problem.   Bill still recognised nobody until one day when the nurse called Mrs. McLaughlin and said that she had a phone call for her.   She got up to take the call and when she was half way across the room a voice called her from the bed – “ Mammy where are you going “?   Bill got everything back after that.   He was a hundred per cent normal.

When they visited their own doctor in Buncrana he was reading Bill’s notes.   ” You shouldn’t be here”  he said .   “You should be dead “.

They went to visit the physiotherapist in Letterkenny.   She called for a Bill McLaughlin and we went in but she said “Not you.   I want Bill McLaughlin”.    ” This  is Bill McLaughlin”  his mother said.    She consulted her notes again and said   “According to these it’s not !    He should be in a wheelchair”.

Later they were called back to the Beaumont in Dublin.   Bill drove.    Before he went in to the neurologist Bill had a brain scan.   When they were called to see the neurologist they went in and he was reading the scan.    He spoke to Mrs. McLaughlin.    ” How is he ? “.   ” He’s fine ” she answered.   “Tell me ” he persisted ” can he put on his own clothes ?”    ” Of course he can ” she laughed.   ” He doesn’t put them on inside out, does he ?”   ” No, no.   In fact he drove us here today from Donegal “.    The neurologist looked at Bill in surprise and after that he spoke directly to him.

At the end the mother asked  ” Tell me, why is he so good after such a serious accident ?”.    The neurologist paused in thought for a long  time and then he said   ” I can’t explain it.    It wasn’t anything we did.    It must have been divine intervention “.

” I knew then it was Padre Pio ” she says.

Ann Mulrine with Seán

One Sunday morning almost 20 years ago Seán Mulrine and his wife Ann from Derry were planning a picnic.    After dinner the wife Ann went to the sitting room with a cup of coffee.   Her two older children Nicola and Michael joined Seán in preparing a picnic hamper.    Then they heard a scream !    They ran in to find Ann lying on the floor.    At that time she was pregnant, expecting twins.

The doctor was called and an ambulance whisked her off to hospital.    Then they came to Seán and said  “ Your wife has half an hour to live.   She has had a massive brain haemorrhage or a tumour of the brain, we don’t know which yet.   If you wish we can keep her going on a ventilator until the twins reach about 38 weeks.    Otherwise your wife and the babies will die in about 30 minutes”.     Seán signed the forms and they told him to go and say goodbye to his wife.

Seán  got a leaflet of Padre Pio and he said the prayer on it a few times each day.    Then a visitor, Michael Murray brought Padre Pio’s mitten.   He blessed Ann’s head with it and then …!    She moved her hand, grabbed the mitten and kissed it.   She blessed herself with it three times and then fell back on the bed exhausted.     The doctors were called and  they examined her again.    ” We don’t know how this has happened.    Clinically she’s brain dead”  they said.   The next day she opened her eyes and she spoke.    She got so well that she was discharged from the hospital back to Derry.    The date was 23rd September, the Feast of Padre Pio.

Seán and Ann later went to San Giovanni Rotondo and met Fr. Alessio, Padre Pio’s friend and his nurse.   He asked them for permission to investigate Ann’s case as part of the cause for the Beatification of Padre Pio.   The investigation lasted several years and when they asked Ann’s doctors  for their personal opinions they all said that it was beyond medical science how she had recovered.

As a result Ann and Seán were invited to attend the Beatification ceremony and again for the canonization.    They went up on the altar to meet the Pope, Pope John Paul II and presented him with flowers – roses from the people of Ireland.

Seán now says   ” We never make any fuss about it or say it was a miracle.  We just say it was a grace given to us by God through the intercession of Padre Pio “.






Padre Pio – Curing Children

   Leonello Marinelli  was inspector of public buildings in Corciano in Italy.  For some time he and his wife were weighed down at seeing their ten year old little   boy lingering with a terrible illness for which they could find  no  cure, despite repeated treatment by several doctors.        Then his condition grew worse and all hope of saving him was abandoned.    The local doctor called in a specialist from Florence but after extensive tests he came to the same conclusion.    The boy had a serious heart disease which had produced extensive swelling all over his body.     He could not be cured.

One evening after yet another examination the boy in a weak and barely audible voice asked his father to go to Padre Pio to beg him for a cure.    His father promised to go the next day but the boy insisted he go at once.    His poor father took the train that very same day.    When he appeared before Padre Pio, before he had said  a word the Padre assured him that his son was better and would slowly be cured.      The man was overjoyed and wanted to get home immediately.    The Padre advised him to stay until the next day so that he could attend his mass and receive communion.    Afterwards in confession he repeated his assurances – in two months the boy would be completely cured.

On retuning home Marinelli heard from his son that on the night that he met Padre Pio the Padre had also  appeared to him with bleeding stigmata on his hands.   After this vision the boy grew slowly better, the swelling went down and the heart condition almost disappeared.    Two months later he was completely cured, just as Padre Pio had predicted.

Mario and Adele Lacitignola had a three year old daughter, Anna Clara, who suddenly developed infantile paralysis.    After three months of treatment by doctors and specialists there were no signs of improvement.

Then her grandmother, without telling the family, decided to go to San Giovanni Rotondo.   She arrived late one evening but was up next morning at five o’clock to assist at mass and to  wait her turn for confession but as soon as she knelt before Padre Pio she was unable to open her mouth.    Before she had uttered a word Padre Pio said ” What ?   You have come about the girl.  Go home and you will find the girl well and pray to Our Lord for a cure “.   She kissed his hand and went off very happy.    When she got home she learnt that at the same time that she had met Padre Pio Anna Clara had managed to sit up in her bed spontaneously  and she showed a marked improvement in her condition.    From then on she got better and better until she was completely cured and she grew up to be a healthy, robust and very bright young woman.

A young girl called Nicoletta developed bronchitis, pneumonia and meningitis and became delirious causing her brain damage and paralysis of the tongue.   The doctors, seeing that their treatment was proving useless told her parents that they could do no more for the child.   They also said that even if she ever got better she would remain deaf and dumb and also blind.   Later at the insistence of his family the father, despite his scepticism, went to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio.   When he recommended his daughter to him the Padre just smiled and said ” Go home and be happy.   Our Lady of Graces will make her well “.   Thinking that the Padre did not understand the seriousness of his daughter’s situation he told of what the doctors had said and that even if she got well she would still be deaf, dumb and blind.   The Padre, a little annoyed, said  ” Man of little faith, I told you to go home and be glad that Our Lady of Graces has healed her “.   He went home on the train and was met at the railway station by his wife who was overjoyed and told him that the dying child had spoken without difficulty and said that she was hungry.    From that day on Nicoletta steadily improved until she was completely cured and no defects remained.   The doctors who saw her were astonished and said that she had returned from the grave.

More remarkable miracles worked by the grace of God through the powerful intercession of Padre Pio.   We ask for his blessing and we ask him to intercede for us.

Padre Pio by your prayers gain for us all that we lovingly ask of you.



Home for the Relief of Suffering

Padre Pio suffered greatly – both emotionally and physically throughout his entire life.   But as he welcomed those sufferings, he offered them with Christ for saving souls.   However while he was happy to accept suffering himself he had an intense desire to alleviate the suffering of others.   He had a dream, an idea, a goal to help them: To build a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Early in 1940 Padre Pio was in his cell with three good friends, three spiritual ones. Dr Sanguinetti municipal doctor of San Lorenzo in Florence, Dr. Kiswarday a pharmacist from Yugoslavia and Dr. Sanvico a vet from Perugia in Italy.

Padre Pio spoke  “ In every sick person there is Christ who is suffering.   In every poor person there is Christ who is languishing.   In every sick person who is poor Christ is doubly present”.

This is how the idea of the hospital was born.   He pulled from his pocket a small gold coin which had been given to him by an anonymous old lady for his works of charity.   He held it up and said  “I want to make the first donation for the home for the Relief of Suffering” – his hospital – that was what he called it!    Not a hospital – a home – for the relief of suffering.    That same contribution was the first of a great stream of contributions that came flooding in to help.   Some people gave ten or twenty lire – a very small amount - only about one or two old pence.   Others gave millions of lire – but for those in charge of the work the twenty lire were worth as much as the millions.

One day a highly intelligent young English woman named Miss Barbara Ward who was editor of The Economist was in London with the Marquis Parizi when she expressed a wish to meet Padre Pio of whom she had heard so much.    “I will accompany you” he said.

They took the plane to Rome and continued on to San Giovanni Rotondo.   As they approached the monastery, Barbara was surprised to see a priest in charge of twenty men working on the road.   She asked him what they were doing and the priest replied “We are building a very large hospital”.   “How much will it cost?” she asked and he nearly exploded like a bomb.    “Four hundred million lire” he answered.   “Who pays for it?” she asked him.   “Whoever passes by pays” he said. Miss Ward passed by and went to see Padre Pio.

“Everyone in London speaks so highly of you that I have to ask you a favour.”    “Yes the Lord does grant favours” he replied.     “Father I am a Catholic but my fiancé is Protestant.  I would like him to convert to Catholicism”.    Padre Pio answered “If God desires it he will be converted”.     “But Padre Pio, when? “ she asked.    “If God desires it will happen right now”.    Miss Ward returned to London not quite satisfied with Padre Pio’s answer.

To her amazement she found that her fiancé had been baptised a Catholic on the very day, at the very hour that she had asked Padre Pio.   She made the miracle known and begged her fiancé to go to Padre Pio to thank him, and “Remember they are building a hospital and need four hundred million lire”.

Her fiancé was managing director of UNRRA – the United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Administration – he not only kissed Padre Pio’s hands but also made him this proposition.   “Father” he said “I know you need money, well if you consent to name the Hospital in honour of Fiorello la Guardia, I can help you”.    Fiorello la Guardia, a native of Foggia was former mayor of New York and president of UNRRA.    Padre Pio just shrugged and agreed.

A few days later the fiancé went to America to tell Fiorello la Guardia’s widow that a big hospital was being built in Italy in honour of her late husband and then he told her that he had obtained a sum of four hundred million lire from the UNRRA for the project.

So work proceeded on the building. Padre Pio’s frequent visits to the site brought great joy and encouragement to all.   On the 5th May 1956, the feast of St.Pius, the home was formally inaugurated.

At first the hospital was equipped with 300 beds – now there are well over 1000. In 1957 Pope Pius XII appointed Padre Pio administrator of the hospital – a signal honour never before granted by Holy See.

On the 10th anniversary of the Home Padre Pio spoke to his children.   He looked at all the good that had been achieved in the ‘Home For The Relief Of Suffering’ and he spoke.   “My dear children, to all of you, may the peace and blessings of Our Lord be with you.   My blessed children, I thank you for your generosity, for your sacrifices and for your interest and thoughtfulness.   You have been instruments in God’s hands.   As a token of my gratitude and appreciation I offer my prayers and my suffering for all of you”.

Today the Home for the Relief of Suffering is a thriving hospital at the cutting edge of medical practice, a leader in modern medicine.    Many huge conventions take place there each year with experts drawn from all over the world.   Many major discoveries and great advances in medical practice have been made there.    Many, many people owe their recovery and even their lives to this place, the Home for the Relief of Suffering.

And it’s all the legacy of Padre Pio born out of his love for God and his love for all of God’s people.    He had particular love for those who suffer just as he himself suffered.    He believed that by their suffering they shared in the suffering of Christ himself.

Padre Pio – The young priest

Padre Pio was ordained a priest on 10 August, 1910.    He returned to Pietrelcina and on 14 August he celebrated his first solemn high mass there.    He wrote down this thought : ” Oh Jesus, my breath, my life,  today trembling I raise you in a mystery of love.   May I be with you for the world, the way, the truth and the life and for you may I be a holy priest and a perfect victim “.    His early priestly life was interrupted by his poor health.    His superiors, hoping that a change of air would help him sent him to live at home for a while.

It was there later in 1910 that he received the invisible stigmata.    One day his mother saw him shaking his hands and asked him ” What’s the matter Francesco ?   Are you playing the guitar ? “    ” No mamma “  he replied  ” it’s just that they sting so badly ”.

With the outbreak of World War I even Padre Pio had to present himself for military service.    He was assigned to the medical corps in Naples but he was soon back at home again having been discharged because of his ill health.   Later he returned but was again discharged on medical leave.   At the end of his six months leave when he had not returned he was declared a deserter and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Private Francesco Forgione, his real name.    Despite extensive searches by the local sergeants no trace could  be found of the missing  man.     Eventually purely by chance they met his sister, Felicia.    ” Do you know of anyone called Francesco Forgione ?”  he enquired.     ” Of course I do” she replied  ” he is my brother ”.    The Army had finally found their deserter.   When Padre Pio was informed he immediately took the train and returned at once.    The officer addressed him sternly   ” Private Forgione do you know that you have been declared a deserter ?”       ” No Captain I am not a deserter “.    He produced a document that said he had six months of sick leave and that he should then await further orders.    ” I have obeyed ” he continued.    ” I have waited and the orders only reached me yesterday.    I left immediately “.    The Captain was nonplussed and could only mutter ” All right.   You may go “   The case was closed on the account of an incompetent document. As a young priest Padre Pio was very devout.

On one occasion he wrote to his spiritual director   ” I saw someone thrust a sharp flaming sword into my heart.    He pulled it out only to plunge it in again with all his might a short time later.    These repeated blows filled me with a great love of God “.     Again he wrote  ” I was in the church making my thanksgiving after mass when I felt my heart being wounded by a dart of flame so vivid I thought I would die “.     This phenomenon known as transverberation of the heart preceded the stigmata which Padre Pio would receive one month later.    ” Last month I was in the choir after celebrating mass when I saw a mysterious being with his hands, feet and side dripping blood.    What I felt is indescribable when the being disappeared.   I then became aware that my own hands, my feet and my side were dripping with blood “.

As well as the physical pain that these wounds caused they were also a source of extreme embarrassment to him.    Despite efforts to keep all of this secret, word soon got out and spread quickly throughout the surrounding region. The Capuchin Provincial Superior invited Doctor Luigi Romanelli to examine the wounds from a scientific point of view.   Two months later Professor Bignami repeated the investigations for almost a week.    A third visit was made later that year by Dr. Giorgio Festa who wrote this in his report   “In the palms of both hands I discovered a circular lesion that was covered by a brown scab”.      And again  ” In order to observe the lesions to his feet I helped him to remove his socks.    They were drenched with blood”.

While the opinions of various scientists and doctors differed, the general public had no such doubts.    Thousands began to flock to San Giovanni Rotondo to see the stigmatised priest for themselves and all of those thousands asked him for special graces and favours.     Padre Pio heard all of those prayers just as he will hear our prayers and who better is there to present our requests to Almighty God.