Sermons

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.

 

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.

Padre Pio – Path to Sainthood

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Saint Pio  was born in 1887 in a little village called Pietrelcina in the very south of Italy.    His parents, Grazio and Giuseppa Forgione  ( pictured )   were poor hardworking farming people.   They had their baby son baptised Francesco – Francesco Forgione.    At fifteen years of age he joined the Capuchin Friars.    Although his health was very poor he managed to complete his studies and was ordained a priest in 1910.    Then eight years later, in September 1918 he received the stigmata – the wounds of Our Lord’s Passion appeared on his body.   Eventually, worn out by his constant suffering – the wounds of his stigmata bled constantly – and by his constant apostolic work – he heard confessions for about fourteen hours every day – Padre Pio finally passed away at 2.30 a.m. on the 23rd September 1968. The people of San Giovanni Rotondo were in complete shock.  Newspapers  and radio reported the event all over the world.    Pope Paul VI sent a telegram to the Capuchins.    ” The august Pontiff has heard with fatherly sorrow of the passing of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina and he prays the Lord to grant his faithful servant an eternal crown of justice.    The Holy Father sends his apostolic blessing and condolences to the community in their sorrow, to the doctors, the staff and the patients of the Home for the Relief of Suffering and to the whole population of San Giovanni Rotondo”.

At first Padre Pio’s body was placed in a wooden coffin near the communion rail in full view of the huge  crowds of people who filed past in silence.    Later that was replaced by a metal casket with a clear glass cover.   Father Armand remarked  ” He looked so peaceful.   He did not seem to be dead, rather asleep as he lay there with his arms folded across his chest “.      A rosary was entwined around his hands which were covered by the fingerless mittens the people were used to seeing him wear.   The body of Padre Pio remained in the church for three days until Thursday 26th September when it was moved to the crypt below.   Before the burial Mass there was a funeral procession through the town.   About 100,000  people lined the mile and a half route.     Many of them wept openly, others tossed flowers on the funeral cortege.    Some cried out ” Padre Pio, Padre Pio “.    But the procession passed off without any hysteria.

The funeral Mass was concelebrated by Father Clementinus, the Superior General of the Capuchin Order along with twenty six friars and two bishops.    The police locked arms to hold back the eager crowd who surged forward.   After Mass the hearse brought the casket containing the body of Padre Pio to the Home for the Relief of Suffering for a final tribute to the Padre who had founded that great hospital.   Then it was brought back to the church and carried down the marble stairway to the crypt below .   The following day the crypt was opened to the public and an unending stream of visitors began.   Before he died Padre Pio had said ” Watch me when I die.   I will cause even more miracles.    My real mission will begin then”.

The prophets of doom had forecast that after the death of Padre Pio the town of San Giovanni Rotondo would become a ghost town but nothing could have been further from the truth.    Today San Giovanni Rotondo is a thriving modern town full of restaurants and hotels and a multitude of religious goods shops.    Since his death millions of people have visited the small town.

In 1982 the Holy See began an investigation into whether Padre Pio should be considered a saint.    This continued for seven years and in 1990 he was declared a Servant of God, the first step on the way to canonization.    Then the Congregation for the causes of saints debated his heroic life and in 1997 Pope John Paul II declared him a blessed.   We then had Blessed Padre Pio.    Further discussions followed on the Padre’s holiness and on his ability to do good for others even after his death.     Finally on the 16th June 2002 Pope John Paul II declared Padre Pio a saint.     300,000 people attended the canonization ceremony in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.    he became one of the only saints who was canonized by a Pope who had met him in person.     About 1947 a young Polish priest, Fr. Karol Wotyla, the future Pope visited San Giovanni Rotondo and met Padre Pio.    He attended the Padre’s masses and made his confession to the future saint.     Two years after the canonization on 1 July 2004 the same Pope dedicated a massive new church in San Giovanni Rotondo to St. Pio of Pietrelcina.

In March 2008 the body of Padre Pio was exhumed  from the crypt, forty years after his death.    It was found to be in fair condition and reasonably well preserved.    One witness observed ” His hands looked as if they had just undergone a manicure “.    All trace of the stigmata had disappeared.    Cardinal Martens celebrated mass for 15,000 followers of Padre Pio before the body went on display in a new coffin with a glass top and glass sides and decorated with marble and silver.    Padre Pio can be seen wearing his brown Capuchin habit  with a white silk stole.    His hands hold a large wooden cross.    Then in 2010 the remains were placed in a new crypt beneath the new church of Saint Pio , the big new church that had been built beside San Giovanni Rotondo.    That is where the Padre still rests to this day.

 

Padre Pio – His last moments

After all the celebrations to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Padre Pio receiving the stigmata and the International Convention of the Prayer Groups who could have imagined that the very next day they would all be back for a funeral.

Father Pellegrino recollects.     “Padre Pio  by means of the intercom called me to his cell.    He only asked me to look at the clock and tell him the time.    I dried the tears in his reddened eyes and then returned to the room next door to listen to the intercom which was always switched on.   He called me about five or six times up until midnight and always asked what time it was.    At midnight he begged me to stay with him and he kept asking me the time more frequently.    Then as if he had forgotten all about the clock he asked  ‘My son have you said Mass yet ?’    I smiled and replied  ‘Father it is far too early for Mass’  and he answered  ’Well this morning you will say it for me’.

He wanted to make his confession so I heard his confession.    Afterwards he said  ’If the Lord calls me today ask my brothers to forgive me for all the trouble I have caused them.    And ask them all to say a prayer for my soul’.     Finally he said he wanted to renew his religious vows.   It was about one o’clock in the morning when he said   ’I can’t breathe well here in bed.   Let me get up.    I will be able to breathe better sitting up in my chair’.    He usually used to get up at about three o’clock to prepare for Mass and he would take a little walk in the corridor.    That night to my surprise he got up and walked straight up so I did not have to support him.    He said  ’Let’s go to the terrace for a while.   He himself turned on the light, went to his chair and sat down.   After five minutes he asked to return  to his cell.    Back in his room he was starting to grow pale and he was sweating cold.     He kept on repeating in a voice that grew weaker and weaker   ‘Jesus, Mary,   Jesus, Mary’ “.

Padre Pio was slowly fading and he himself often spoke of his desire to die.  “Only the tomb is missing.   I belong more to the other world than to this one.   Pray to Our Lord that I may die”.   One can read in the Chronicles of the monastery  ” He wanted to die while still actively at work, spending the day as usual in prayer and in the exercise of his ministry for the good of souls”.

A friar came knocking on the door of the Father Superior’s cell at about two o’clock in the morning.    “Father Superior get up quickly please.   Padre Pio is very sick”.   The Superior Father Carmelo said  “I hurried to Padre Pio’s room and found Father Pellegrino, Brother Bill and Doctor Sala with the Padre who was sitting up in his chair.   His eyes were closed, his head slightly bowed and he was breathing very heavily.   I called him several times but he didn’t answer.   Father Paolo gave the Sacrament of the Sick to the Padre while the rest of us knelt and responded to the prayers.   In the meantime he was given oxygen and artificial respiration.   He was no longer breathing though he remained calm  and serene.   We recited the prayers for a dying soul.   Then Doctor Sala stopped feeling his pulse, looked up at us and said sadly  ’He’s gone …’.    It was 2.30 a.m.  on  Monday, 23rd September, 1968″.

All those who were present when he serenely passed away kissed his hand and said a prayer for the deceased Padre.    Padre Pio’s prayer to die had been answered.    He had been taken by God to be with God himself.    We thank God for answering Padre Pio’s prayer and we remember his constant request to his companions – ‘Please pray for me’.    So today we pray for Padre Pio and we thank him for all that he has done for us.

 

Padre Pio’s Sense of Humour

Saints are sad !   That’s a common perception.   In the monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo on the door of  cell number 5 there is a written inscription that reads  “The Glory of the world is always accompanied by sadness”.  For more than 25 years that was Padre   Pio’s cell.  He walked in and out that door many times.   He would have seen that inscription often.

So was Padre Pio a sad man ?    St. Paul said  “Always be happy in the Lord ,  I repeat be happy.”.    The old Latin maxim used to say  “Servite Domino in laetitia”  -   Serve the Lord with joy.

Was Padre Pio a sad man?    On the contrary, Padre  Pio was a happy and joyful person.    Photographs of him at recreation with his fellow Capuchins show him smiling and laughing with his companions.   Padre    Pio was a happy man,  considering his afflictions and his suffering he was amazingly happy and humourous.    Yes, Padre Pio had a sense of humour.    He loved to tell little jokes and funny stories to his Capuchin brothers.

One day the friar who was accompanying him pointed out a gentleman, a famous writer who had travelled all the way from Milan in order to meet him.   “What a fine thing you have come to see,  all the way from Milan.   Don’t you have a prayer book at home ?   You could have saved yourself a long trip.    A Hail Mary is worth more more than any journey, my son”.

Once in reply to someone who was trying to make him see the difficulty that some people have in practising the word of God Padre Pio said “there are three things in life that are  completely useless – washing a donkey’s head, adding water to the ocean and preaching to nuns, monks and priests”.

Often he used to tease the doctors who from the hospital who came to see him each night.   “What do you doctors know ?”     “But Father” they replied “you have built a big hospital”.    “Ah yes” he replied “but only for sick people, not for doctors”.    Then he would remind them “Never forget the old proverb :  a mouse has a better chance with two cats than a sick person has with two doctors.”

One of Padre Pio’s favourite stories concerned the soldier who was being prepared for the visit of the king.  The conversation with the king never varied.   “How old are you ?” the king would ask.    The soldier should answer “Twenty two”.    “How many years of service do you have?”.    “Two” was the correct answer.     “Which do you serve more willingly, your king or your country ?”.      “Either one or the other”  the soldier was told to answer.    Eventually after a long session of practice the sergeant felt the soldier knew the answers well enough.    Finally the king arrived.    He reviewed the troops and asked his usual questions, but in a different order.    How many years of service do you have ?”    “Twenty two” said the soldier confidently.    “How old are you ?”    “Two”.    “Either you are a fool  or I am”  said the king.    The soldier gave the third answer ”Either one or the other, your Majesty”

Whenever he told the joke about the drunkard he always got up from his chair and acted out the part.    A drunkard saw a centipede walking up the wall.   “Why O Lord” he said  “did you give this little creature one hundred legs and to me who can barely stand up straight only two !”.

Our Lady to whom he had immense devotion even found a place in his anecdotes.   “One day the Lord took a walk through Paradise and saw so many ugly faces wandering around that place that is so full of beauty and devoid of all evil that he was amazed and sent for Saint Peter.    ‘ Peter what has happened ?     It seems as if we have transferred the local  jail to paradise’.    Peter replied   ‘Lord I don’t know how they get in’.   The Lord ordered him to guard the gates of Heaven more carefully.    A week later the Lord took another stroll through paradise and to his horror he noticed an increase in the number of ugly faces or jailbirds as he called them.    Again Peter was summoned.    ‘Peter, I told you to be on your guard.  You are no longer doing this job well.    Give me back the keys’.    Peter replied  ‘Lord, I didn’t want to tell you this.    I refuse them entry but no sooner do I turn my back than your mother opens the door and lets them all in.     What should I do when your mother goes to the door ?’.    The Lord thought for a moment and then he answered  ’ Peter, just pretend you don’ see it !’ “.

That story has a message – Our Lady is everyone’s mother and without her Heaven would not be the same.    Padre Pio did not talk for the sake of talking.    All his jokes and stories had a message and a purpose.   He used his sense of humour for his apostolic goal  -  to win people over to Christ.

We thank Padre Pio for teaching us with his sense of humour and we thank God for giving us Saint Padre Pio.

 

Padre Pio – More Miracles

gemma di g

Gemma di Giorgio was born on Christmas Day, 1939. But all was not well. She had no pupils in her eyes. The oculist told her that she would never be able to see.

The pupil is the black part at the centre of the eye. In fact it is an opening that allows light to enter the eye. Without puplils no light can get into the eye. Gemma would always be blind.

When she was six years of age her grandmother brought her to San Giovanni Rotondo to ask for Padre Pio’s help and prayers. Gemma was to make her first confession to him and receive her First Holy Communion. They joined the crowd outside the confessional. Then Padre Pio looked out and motioned Gemma to come to him. Her grandmother pushed her forward and told her to be sure to ask for the favour. But Gemma had no idea what a favour was. She forgot to ask Padre Pio, but after confession he made the sign of the cross on each eye. Gemma could see!

The doctors could not explain it. She still had no pupils but she could see.

In 1968 Giuseppe Scatigna developed a red spot in his groin. The doctors said it was nothing but it was very painful and did not go away. Giuseppe and his wife went to Lourdes to ask Our Lady and Padre Pio to cure it.

Then the doctor said an operation was necessary. They opened his groin and found a tumor which later proved to be malignant. The doctors sent him home from the hospital even before the incision had closed as they though he would die.

His wife went to the superior of San Giovanni and asked him to pray with all the friars for Giuseppe. He was so touched by her tears that he brought her a piece of cloth that had been used by Padre Pio and told her to put it on the sick part of his body.

A few days later the doctor took more x-rays and this time he was puzzled. He told the wife “I don’t know but these x-ray show that there is nothing wrong. I can’t see any tumor.” She replied “Oh! that means Padre Pio has finally worked the miracle.”

The doctor dismissed Giuseppe with the words “You can go home now, there is nothing I can do for you.” Giuseppe returned home to Palermo. He took no medication, he was completely well, he even put on a little weight and all subsequent medical examinations showed no sign of the cancer returning.

Margherita  Hamilton had her friend Giovanna staying with her. They were walking on the terrace.   Giovanna remarked “What a beautiful rose. Can I take it please.” “No” was the answer, “that is the first rose – it must go to the Madonna.” The next day another rose had opened. Margherita cut it and her friend told her to give it to Padre Pio. She put it in a little vase beside a picture of the Padre. The next day the rose had disappeared. A thorough search proved fruitless. “It seems that Padre Pio has accepted it” Giovanna said.

About three weeks later they went to San Giovanni Rotondo and met Padre Pio. He had the rose in his hand. “Thank you very much for the rose” he said and he gave it back to them. Giovanna had it framed and hung it up in her house.

A year after the death of Padre Pio, Margherita and a friend went for a drive. After about an hour Margherita got very thirsty. Her mouth was completely dry and she could hardly speak. “Please stop soon when you see somewhere we can get something to drink. I am very thirsty and it’s terrible.” she said.

Finally they came to the place where they could turn off and leave the car. As they walked to the cafe they heard this terrible bang. They went in and asked the proprietor if someone had thrown a bomb. “Oh no” he replied “there’s just been a crash outside”

As they looked they saw a truck that had been following them stuck into the back of the truck that had been in front. If they had not stopped, if Magherita had not been thirsty their car would have been crushed between the two. “I saw the hand of Padre Pio in this as my thirst immediately disappeared” she said.

But also, when they returned another friend came rushing to greet her. “It’s a miracle that you see me” Margherita told her. “I know” said her friend “I had a dream of Padre Pio and I asked him how you were” she said “Oh Margherita!” he replied,. “You can thank me because if it had not been for me you would never see her again.” Padre Pio told her that and without that she could not have known.

Padre Pio – The Miracles

Giovanni Savino and his son

 

 

In 1949 some workmen were building a small extension to the friary. While digging the foundations they came across a huge rock which had to be removed. They set a charge of dynamite under the rock, lit the fuse and retreated to safety. They waited a minute but nothing happened. They waited more but still no explosion. Then one of the men, Giovanni Savino went up to have a look. Suddenly the dynamite exploded in his face.    ( Pictured on left are Giovanni Savino and his son ).

A shower of rock hit him in the face which was badly burned .    The doctor confirmed  his right eye socket was completely empty.

He was taken to the hospital in Foggia to recover. There the words of Padre Pio before the accident began to make sense. Each morning, after mass, Giovanni would kneel and say “Padre Pio, bless me I am going to work” and he would put his hands on his head and bless him. But on the day of the accident Padre Pio threw his arms around him and said “Courage,  I’ll pray to the Lord that it may not cause your death”. I didn’t know what he was talking about.

After about ten days he awoke one morning at about one o’clock. He felt someone give him a light slap on the right side of the face, where the eye was gone. “Who touched me?” he asked, but there was nobody there. Then he smelted the aroma of Padre Pio -  a beautiful scent often associated with him.

The next day they took him to the oculist for treatment to his left eye. The right eye was gone. When the oculist removed the bandages Giovanni excitedly exclaimed “Doctor, I can see you.” The oculist turned his head so he was looking at him with his left eye. “No” Giovanni protested “I can see nothing with my left eye. It’s with my right eye that I see you.” “Are you crazy ” the oculist asked “you don’t have a right eye!” “I see you with my right eye” Giovanni assured him.

The oculist was an atheist. Eventually he examined the right eye socket yet again. To his amazement the eye was in the socket. “Now I believe” said the oculist because of what I have seen for myself.”

Laurino Costa lived in Padua. He had never heard of Padre Pio but a friend told him he had been to see him and he gave him his address and a photograph of the Padre. Laurino was fascinated by him and within a few days he wrote a letter to Padre Pio and soon received a reply telling him to go to San Giovanni Rotondo immediately.

He had never seen Padre Pio and the Padre had never seen him but when he arrived Padre Pio called out “Laurino, come. I see you have arrived. Now go feed my sick.” “But Padre, I am not a cook. I don’t know how to cook meals.” “Go. I’ll always be near you” was the reply.

He began cooking and felt as though it had always been his trade. He catered for eight hundred people each day. Eventualy he moved his family from the north of Italy to live in San Giovanni. After the death of Padre Pio, Laurino remained as cook for the hospital.

Shortly before his death, Padre Pio told a crowd of his spiritual children: “I will wait for you at the gates of heaven”. Today as we gather to honour him he says to us: “I will wait for you at the gates of heaven.”