Sermons

Padre Pio – The Power of Prayer

During the war Padre Pio assured his friends that San Giovanni Rotondo would not be bombed. It wasn’t , although nearby Foggia was heavily bombed. A man asked him if they would bomb Genoa. He answered “Genoa will be bombed”, then he grew pale and his eyes filled with tears. “Oh how they will bomb that poor city. So many homes, building and churches will crumble”. But then he turned to the man and smiled. “Don’t worry. Your home will not be damaged.” In the mass of ruins that Genoa was reduced to just one building remained standing. It was that man’s house.

One day a man called Pietruccio complained to Padre Pio: “I can’t pray very attentively”. Padre Pio answered him: “In that case go near Our Lord in the Church without saying anything. It is enough if you just give him your time.”

And again, “On some occasions he will console you, but even if that never happens be content. Our obligation is to follow him. Consider it an honour and a grace that he should take us into his presence”.

“In this way don’t bother yourself about speaking to him. Just standing by his side is no less useful. Perhaps it is even better, though it doesn’t appeal to us as much”".

How often have we felt like that. We find ourselves unable to pray. Padre Pio tells us to just spend time with Jesus and not to worry about words, or what to say.

He recommended regular Mass and confession and also devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of God.  His devotion to Our Lady centred mainly on the Rosary which he also recommended to his followers.

One day Padre Eusebio visited Padre Pio in his room proud to tell him that he had said fifteen decades of the rosary. “I thought I had prayed enough to earn a word of praise from him”. He then asked Padre Pio how many rosaries he had said that  day. Padre Pio replied “I have said sixty rosaries of fifteen decades each. But keep that to yourself.”  Amazed Padre Eusebio asked “But Padre Pio how can you pray that much?” to which he got the reply. “How can you not pray that much.”

He never left the rosary out of his hands. One of his brothers remarked “I am surprised it didn’t take root in his fingers”. From morning till night he constantly fingered the beads that hung from his belt.

As well as devotion to St. Francis and to his guardian angel Padre Pio had a great devotion to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena because of their devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary. Every day he prayed to St. Joesph.  For two to three months before he died he asked to have a picture of St. Joseph put on the verandah and as he passed on his way to bless the crowds he stopped there and prayed. One of the brothers said “We never realised at the time that he was praying to St. Joseph, the patron of happy death.”

We could count in millions the number of Padre Pio’s followers who loved him dearly. Their letters attest to this. The friars saved all these letters and built a storeroom like a big garage next to the friary. Eventually the storeroom became full with an estimated two million letters from all over the world thanking Padre Pio for favours, small and great. Then in 1968 a visitator from the Vatican ordered that all those letters be destroyed. Obediently the Capuchins did what he said. The loss was irreparable.

The people who wrote to Padre Pio before his death were told by him to live a christian life by keeping the commandments. Now that Padre Pio is in heaven we can be sure that he will accept everybody on the same terms. People who have asked a favour of him are amazed at the protection they receive and at the peace and joy they experience. There is no harm in putting Padre Pio to the test.

 

Padre Pio – Crown of Thorns

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“What time is it?”  Padre Pio would continually enquire from his bed.    ”It’s early yet.    It is only one o’clock in the morning”  he would be told.    ”Help me to get up.    What am I doing in this bed.    From half past one until four o’clock he would sit in his little armchair as he prepared for Mass, praying the rosary.    At four o’clock he would go to the sacristy and continue his preparation for Mass.  He would continually ask  ‘What time is it?’.    Hurry up. I  must be at the altar at five o’clock.”

Padre Pio always cried during his mass.    When asked why he answered    ”I want to shed a flood of tears.    Don’t you see the great mystery of the Mass?”

In the early years of his priesthood Padre Pio’s  mass lasted about three hours but later the time became less.    When the mass was changed from Latin to Italian, Padre Pio asked for and was given permission to continue using Latin.

He was nearly eighty years of age and was almost blind.    It would have been too difficult for him to change.    Then he received another permission, to remain seated during his Mass.    He was allowed to say the Mass of Our Lady or the Mass of the Dead instead of the Mass of the day.

A young man from San Giovanni was engaged to a girl.    As a condition for their marriage she insisted that he go to see Padre Pio.    One morning the young man attended Padre Pio’s Mass but stood at the back of the church.    For several days he did this and after a week he broke down and cried.    Padre Pio saw him and said “Thank God.   Do not tell anyone.”.    “But Padre Pio I saw you at the altar and you were crowned with thorns” the young man stammered.   “Go home, thank God for what you have seen and tell no one.” Padre Pio replied.

But the young man told his fiancee.    He told her that each morning at Mass he saw Padre Pio crowned with thorns and his face covered in blood.   She could not resist telling her friends.    Soon word spread all over the place.

A woman asked Padre Pio if it were true, to which he answered  “Do you have a doubt?   You are like St Thomas.”

Laurino Costa was head cook at the Home for the Relief of Suffering, Padre Pio’s hospital.    When he first arrived he did not believe the claims of the holiness of Padre Pio.   One day he went to the church for confession.    ”Hurry Laurino.   If you hurry you will be first for confession today a priest told him.    He went to the sacristy where he found Padre Pio  on his own.    He had a deep cross cut into his forehead and his face was covered in blood.   Instinctively Laurino reached for his handkerchief to wipe away the blood.    But he could not move his arm.

The two men just stood and stared at each other for all of ten minutes. Finally Padre Pio spoke: “Well Laurino, how long is it since your last confession?”    He then proceeded to confess all Laurino’s sins in that time before giving him absolution.

Lauino left the church in a state of shock. For several weeks he couldn’t sleep.    Finally he decided to have it out with Padre Pio.    When he reached the priory he found Padre Pio standing at the door, waiting for him.   ”Come, come Laurino” he said.    Laurino stammered  ”Tell me Padre Pio, why did you make me see you like that?”    Padre Pio replied  ”Oh Laurino, what a dunce you are.    It was a grace which God wanted yo give you”.

Today we ask Padre Pio to intercede for us so that God will give us all the graces and blessing that we need.

Padre Pio & Mary Pyle

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Mary Pyle was baptised into the Presbyterian church in New York City.    In 1918 six years before she met Padre Pio she became a Catholic.    She was strongly influenced to do this by the urging of Maria Montessori, the internationally renowned educator whom she had known and toured with for ten years.

From the time of her baptism she searched for a spiritual director.    Then in 1924 she visited San Giovanni Rotondo.     Here was the wise man who could guide her to God.    She bought a small house in San Giovanni and exchanged her fine clothes for the dull brown habit of the Franciscan Third Order, the lay branch of the Order which St. Francis founded for men and women.

Most of her time was taken up working for Padre Pio.    Mary, or Maria as she was known in Italy was his secretary and looked after the huge volume of correspondence he got.    She had inherited a family fortune.    Through her generosity a friary and seminary were built in Pietrelcina.    She purchased the house where Padre Pio had been born and contributed a large sum to his hospital.    In 1968, Maria died in that hospital when she was aged eighty years.

Alberto del Fante, another devoted follower of Padre Pio wrote  “I was an atheist.    But Padre Pio has given me life in every way.    Now I pray. I attend Sunday mass.    It gives me pleasure when my children make the sign of the cross before they eat, and thank God who gives us our daily bread.     I am happy when I receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Padre Pio gave his followers the word of God in a most informal, relaxed and personal way. A casual remark meaningless to anyone but the person concerned would condition them to follow his guidance. A word from him would lead them to pray the rosary or to spend an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

A nurse from Brooklyn, New York wrote – “Padre Pio helps me every day.    I receive favour after favour.     Apparently he is as concerned with people now as he ever was.”

Alfonso d’Artega was a renowned musician who conducted symphony orchestras in America and in Europe.     He and his wife went San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio.     Alfonso wanted to go to confession to him.

They allowed themselves two days.   Padre Vincenzo said they could see Padre Pio, but they would have to wait five days for the appointment.    Alfonso was heartbroken as he had committed himself to a  recording session in three days.     He would have to return to Rome.

As he walked away cresfallen a man crossed the street and asked him  ”Have you been to confession?”    Alfonso answered no and told the man of his predicament.     ” I’ll give you a ticket”  the man replied.    ” I’ve tried to give it to others but no one will take it.”    Suspecting he was making a deal, Alfonso asked what strings were attached.    “None, just take it.” the man replied.

Alfonso took it and returned to the friary.    Padre Vincenzo was just locking up when Alfonso came and told him of his good fortune.    One hour later Alfonso was kneeling, shaking, before Padre Pio.     Alfonso later said  ”He was very gentle with me.   He gave me absolution straight away despite my many mistakes.”

Padre Pio has given millions of favours to those who ask him, favours from God with whom he intercedes.    And he still does. that is why we have gathered here this morning, as we gather on the first Saturday of every month to ask Padre Pio to intercede for us, to win for us from God all the graces and blessings that we need.

Padre Pio please hear us and help us.

Padre Pio – Stigmata and His Wounds

In September 1911, Padre Pio wrote to his spiritual advisor Padre Benedetto.

Yesterday evening something happened which I cannot understand.   In the centre of the palms of my hands a redness appeared.    There was also an intense and acute pain.    Even under my feet I can feel some pain.

Six months later he described what is commonly known as the “transfixion” of his heart.

From Thursday evening until Saturday and on Tuesday I experienced excruciating agony.    My heart, my hands and my feet seemed to be transfixed with a sword. I felt tremendous pain

It was he said as if someone has plunged a fiery sword into his heart.

The wounds disappeared after a few days but the occurence was repeated every week.    After a few years the wounds became permanent, and also the constant pain, always the pain!

In September 1918 he wrote

The intense pain of the open wounds makes me angry against my will.    It leads me to the pain of delirium

And again

I have endured terrible and sorrowful hours.    I die every moment, and fear for the loss of faith in God.    My soul doesn’t know God.   Oh God where are you?     Where have you gone to hide?    Where can I look for you?    Have you given me up for ever?    My God, my God why have you forsaken me?

Then he described in detail the beginning of the stigmata.

It was the morning of the 20th of last month.    I was in choir after celebrating holy mass when I was overcome with drowsiness.    When this was happening I saw in front of me a mysterious exalted person spilling blood from his hands, feet and heart.    The vision faded away and I noticed that my hands, my feet and my side had been pierced and were bleeding.

The wound of my heart pours blood profusely.    My father I am dying from suffering through the pain and confusion which I feel in my soul.    I fear that I will die from the loss of blood if my Lord does not heed the groans of my poor health and stop what is happening.

Will he take away the pain that I’m experiencing from this external sign?    I will cry to him at the top of my voice and will not stop begging him so that in his mercy he will take away, not the suffering, not the pain but I will beg him to remove these external signs which utterly confuse me and which cause indescribable and unbearable humiliation.

Finally in December 1918 he wrote to Padre Benedetto.

For many days I have been aware of something like a shaft of iron entering from the bottom of my heart and penetrating through to the lower part of my right shoulder.    It causes me excruciating pain and does not let me get a bit of sleep.

I offered myself to God as a victim for you

And he offered himself as a victim for us too.    So as we gather today we give thanks to Padre Pio for taking our sufferings on himself and we ask him to continue to bless us and to intercede for us with God.

 

By Father Canice Murphy O.P.

 

Padre Pio – Illness And The Army

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Padre Pio was ordained to the priesthood on Friday, 10th August, 1910.    His Mother, Giuseppa, attended the ceremony along with his brother and sisters.    His father, still working in New York, couldn’t afford the journey home.

From that time on his mother never called her son Francesco, but always Padre Pio.    She insisted on kissing his hand repeatedly at which he would object – “What is this?   The son should kiss the hand of the mother and not the mother the hand of her son.”

Shortly after his ordination Padre Pio’s health started to deteriorate.    He was unable to celebrate Mass and for 21 days he ate nothing aside from Holy Communion.    Several doctors in Naples were consulted but could make little or nothing of his illness.    Then, after several weeks he regained good health, to everyone’s amazement.

Padre Pio had lengthy conversations with his Guardian Angel.    He called him his constant companion.   Once his secretary said to him: “Padre you look tired.   Didn’t you sleep well last night?”    To which Padre Pio replied “My Guardian Angel kept me up all night with one message after the other.”

His Guardian Angel was not only his constant companion, he also dictated letters to him in french!   ”My Guardian Angel explains it all to me” he said.

As a result of his illness Padre Pio had many limitations, he lost his sight.   His superiors were considerate, he was allowed to say a mass of Our Lady instead of the mass of the day.    He could substitute the rosary instead of the divine office.

Another problem he had to deal with was his conscription into the army.    In 1915 he was called to the medical corps in Naples.   However, after 6 weeks he was given a one year leave of absence because of his poor health.   When his leave ended he went back to Naples but twelve days later he was given another medical leave, this time for six months.

After six months when he had not returned to Naples, the Army considered him a deserter and sent military police to arrest him.    They searched for Francesco Forgione, his name before he joined the Capuchins, but in vain.    Nobody knew him.    Perhaps they were being coy in covering up for him or maybe they just knew him as Padre Pio.    Eventually they found his sister who told them he was now called Padre Pio and he was at San Giovanni Rotondo.   He was arrested and brought back to Naples but avoided prosecution when he produced his papers which allowed him “to go home for six months and then await instructions.”   He said  ”I am still awaiting instructions.”    The Army could only agree and he was freed.

Eventually he was dismissed from the Army as being medically unfit.   He took up residence in San Giovanni Rotondo where he spent the rest of his life.

Today we thank God for that life and for all the graces won for us by Padre Pio.    We ask him to continue to intercede for us.

 

By Father Canice Murphy O.P.

Padre Pio – The Man

Padre Pio was born in the little town of Pietrelcina in the south of Italy on the 25th of May, 1887. His parents , Grazio and Guiseppa Forgione were poor peasant farmers.   He was baptized Francesco, a name chosen by his mother because of her deep devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi.   Life was hard for Grazio and Guiseppa but they had eight children, three of whom died in infancy.   His elder brother Michele spent several years working in Jamaica, New York. Felicita and Pellegrina both died when they were about thirty years of age.   His youngest sister, Grazia became a nun.

Francesco’s father, Grazio, was described by a friend as “a good man but not a saint”.   Francesco was generally a calm, quiet baby but every so often he would get bouts of loud crying, trying his father’s patience.   Grazio would respond with a stream of colorful language at the baby.   Once when Francesco would not stop crying, his father took him and threw him on the bed.    He bounced and fell on to the floor.    ”Why has a little devil come into my house instead of a quiet baby” shouted his father.    Francesco was unhurt and incredibly his fall cured him of his crying spells.

From five years of age, Francesco said he wanted to become a priest.   At the age of fifteen he took the first step when he received the Franciscan habit.       He entered the Capuchin Monastery in Morcone in 1903.   At first he was given the name Pio so he was known as Fra Pio – Brother Pio.    During his three years in simple vows he suffered very high fevers.   His temperature used to go up to 125 degrees!    After his solemn vows, for life, he continued his studies and eventually on the 10th of August 1910 he was ordained a priest and became Padre Pio.

As early as eight years later, 1918, the stigmata, the wounds of Christ crucified appeared on his body much to his embarrassment.   His ill health returned and he began to have visions and struggles with the devil.    And so his life became suffering and prayer.

Crowds started coming to Padre Pio’s mass.    Many of these came out of curiosity, to see the wounds on his hands. Eventually his superiors ordered him to cover up his wounds so he got a lot of little light gloves which he wore.    We are privileged to have one of Padre Pio’s gloves here in Bridge Street.    At the end of this mass you will have the opportunity to bless yourself with this precious relic.

Eventually, worn out by a life of suffering and apostolic work – he used to hear confessions for up to fifteen hours a day – Padre Pio finally passed away on the 23rd of September 1968.    Huge crowds flocked to San Giovanni Rotondo to pay their respects.   Devotion to Padre Pio grew and in 1983 the process of his canonization began. It was completed by 1990 and nine years later on Sunday, 2nd of May 1999 Pope John Paul II declared Padre Pio Blessed.     On the 16th of June 2002 the same Pope John Paul declared him a saint and gave us Saint Padre Pio.

We thank God for all the blessings we have received through the intercession of Padre Pio and we ask Padre Pio to continue to pray on our behalf.

By Father Canice Murphy O.P.

Padre Pio – Home for the Relief of Suffering

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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 but 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 the equivalent of one or two old pence. Others gave millions of lire – but for those in charge  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 come 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”.   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”.

 

By Father Canice Murphy O.P.