PADRE PIO & THE SUPERNATURAL
Born on May 25, 1887, the miracle of Padre Pio’s holy existence is said to have begun when he was just five years old. On the day of his ordination to the priesthood he made an extraordinary offering:
“Jesus my life and my breath today I timorously raise you, in a mystery of love; with you may I be for the world the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and through you a holy priest, a perfect victim.”
Jesus accepted wholeheartedly, choosing Padre Pio to carry the heavy burden of wayward souls..
The need for Parde Pio to offer himself for the salvation of souls was a lifelong commitment, and one that was often times harrowing beyond anything he could’ve imagined.
By many he was called the second Saint Francis. His remarkable gifts were said to include bilocation, the apparent ability to be in two places at once), stigmata; bleeding from the palms and/or feet, healings and prophetic visions. But Padre Pio had his doubters as well. Pasquale Gagliardi, longtime archbishop of Manfredonia and his prestigious churchmen in Italy, swore on his pectoral cross that Padre Pio was “demon-possessed”. In the last years of the Padre’s life there was a campaign, started by several prominent churchmen, to discredit the friar as the focus of a cult. All ploys to prove Padre Pio fraudulent failed.
By the time Padre Pio, born Francesco Forgione, of Pietrelcina, Italy died in 1968 he was receiving thousands of letters monthly and throngs of visitors to the small 16th-century friary of Our Lady of Grace near the town of San Giovanni Rotondo in Italy where the Capuchin priest had lived for more than fifty years in an 8 x 10 foot bedroom where he insisted on sleeping on a hard pallet. Accounts of demonic activity were common throughout Padre Pio’s long career.
In a letter to a colleague Pio once wrote: “ I cannot describe to you how these wretched creatures were beating me! Several times I was near death…I turned to my angel and at length he appeared and flew all around me, and, with his angelic voice, sand hymns to the Divine Majesty.”
From the very beginning of his novitiate Pio suffered a variety of physical ailments such as attacks of vomiting. Once, for 6 whole months, he was forced to drink only milk. He also suffered routinely from violent coughing, terrible headaches, and often ran high temperatures. Oddly when he returned home he would recover only to fall ill again once he stepped through the friary doors.
As an infant Padre Pio cried continually. One night his frustrated Father, Grazio, seized the bawling infant and shook him, shouting “The good Lord must have sent a little devil into my house instead of a baby!” But in fact, throughout his life Pio insisted “It was the devil who was tormenting me.”
The first recorded instance of stigmata was that of Saint Francis of Assisi in the year 1224. Since then between 300 and 400 Christians have exhibited spontaneous wounds similar to the injuries suffered by Jesus at the time of his crucifixion. Curiously persons allegedly possessed by Satan have been known to also manifest these wounds. Likewise devout Mohammedans have exhibited stigmata.
One day, in September of 1918 while praying, Padre Pio described seeing a being of light whose hands, feet and side dripped with blood. The vision terrified him. According to those who saw Padre Pio directly after this vision Pio’s hands and feet were perforated and bleeding profusely. Dr. Giuseppe Sala, who was Pio’s personal physician during the latter years of the friar’s life, reported on examining the stigmata on Pio’s hands and feet several times. There is also written accounts by several friars who worked closely with Pio when he needed help in dressing and bathing. One of these was Father Alessio Parents who I spoke with while researching this article.
Padre Pio’s wounds were said to have been clearly visible on the upper and lower surfaces of his hands, circular in shape and approximately three quarters of an inch in diameter.
Dr. Giorgio Festa, a surgeon in Rome, studied Padre Pio between 1919 and 1925 and noted that “the depth of the lesions….does not seem to be very great.” However Padre Pio was unable to close his hands completely.
The Forgione family physician, Dr. Andrea Cardone, recalled that the wounds he examined “pierced the palms completely through, so much so that one could see light through them…”
One assumes the discrepancy in diagnosis is due to varying stages of the stigmata. As for the purported wounds in his left side, most witnesses attest that it was cruciform in shape and about three inches long.
When asked whether the stigmata hurt Pio replied: “ Do you think the Lord gave them to me for decoration?”
A mysterious aroma was said to emanate from the wounds, sometimes described as smelling like violets, roses or carnations. Dr. Festa told of taking a small cloth stained with Pio’s blood for examination. The cloth was enclosed in a case and although there was strong ventilation in the car, other passengers smelled the fragrance very distinctly.
An odor of “sanctity” has been pointed out in other cases, most notably in that of St Teresa of Avila. Father Alessio Parente confirmed that Padre Pio was concerned a pleasant scent meant that a healing or prayer would be answered. However if the smell was rancid often times there would result an unfortunate event, such as death.
The wounds humiliated Pio and he tried his best to hide them. At times they would disappear only to return sometimes more painful than ever.
PROPHET AND MYSTIC
For the salvation of others Padre Pio was known to say more than 30 rosaries each day, and abstain from eating no more than a handful of food in a 24 hour period. In his 60’s he was said to have attained “spiritual union”, the highest degree of mysticism. There are some who believe that Pio had knowledge of what is known as the akashic chronicle. According to some teachers of the occult, every thought and action that takes place in the physical world is recorded in the akasha, or “astral light” which fills all space. They also believe in this celestial medium certain people can read the record of the past.
There were countless instances where Padre Pio correctly predicted the future, and relayed information about the past before it was possible for him to know. Pio would say that from early childhood he had regularly conversed with Jesus and the Madonna. They were as real to him as his flesh and blood colleagues.
He referred to his visions and the voiced he heard as “locutions.” He credited much of his knowledge to the assistance of his guardian angel who would translate letters written in foreign languages which Pio could not read. With the help of his guardian angel he would respond to the letters, not in English, but in the same foreign language as were received.
One confessor, Federico Abresch, recalled that Padre Pio knew his entire past even mentioning the number of times the man had missed mass.
Some of Pio’s disciples claimed that he visited them through bi-location. Suor Beniamina, a nun from Florence recalled, “One morning, after I had received Communion, Padre Pio appeared to me and comforted and blessed me.”
Many had interpreted these bilocations as “astral projections.” Pio never liked to talk about them. When questioned he said, “ I only know that it is God who sends me. I do not know whether I am there with my soul or body, or both of them.”
The archives of Our Lady of Grace contain volumes of testimony that, through Padre Pio’s prayers, over 1,000 people pronounced hopelessly ill by their doctors were cured of such serious illnesses as cancer, heart disease, birth defects, tuberculosis, diabetes and even paralysis.
One well documented case of healing is the cure of Maria Rosa De Angelis in the Spring of 1948. A medical certificate signed by Dr. Antonio Buda of Laureano, in the south of Italy, stated that medical examinations on March 25, 1947, revealed that the patient was suffering from “an aneurysm of the ascending aorta.” When he re-examined the woman on July 24, 1948, he found “a noticeable improvement…with a marked reduction of the aneurysmic swelling. The reason for the improvement, the physician added, “cannot be attributed to the usual medical treatments.”
There was also a case in which a spiritual son of Padre Pio, a laborer named Giovanni Savino, was the victim of a dynamite explosion in which he lost his left eye. Miraculously, after some weeks, the lost eye which has only been a bloody socket, returned, and with it his full sight was corrected.
To those who sought healings from him Padre Pio made every effort to draw attention away from himself. Often he would only say “Let’s pray to God.” Usually after this a healing would occur, sometimes up to a year later. However if he said, “Let’s resign ourselves to the will of God”, or said nothing at all, the healing was not to be.
Those close to Padre Pio were convinced that his prayers were especially effective because of his intimate relations with God and Mary who he called “My Little Mother.”
In the aspects of healing, stigmata, and bilocation he was thought to be “Charismatic”, a term for supernatural gifts also attributed in the Bible to a handful of individuals including Christ, Moses, and Apostles Peter, John and Paul.
In the last years of his life Padre Pio suffered the most severe diabolical attacks he had ever known. Although his faith was stronger than ever his body was growing weak. By the summer of 1968, Pio, then 81 years old, was practically bedfast and frequently in great pain. After much anguish and suffering a weary and frail Padre Pio passed away on September 23rd in his room at Our Lady of Grace. The last words on his lips were: Gesu, Maria.
Today people continue to pray to Padre Pio, the first stigmatized priest in the history of the Catholic church who so utterly devoted himself to God and a life of holiness. Along with pendants of the Virgin Mary and other follows who are convinced that the grace of a miracle did and can take place in their lives. Padre Pio was canonized by Pope John Paul II on June 16, 2002, in Rome.
As Padre Pio himself said during his lifetime: “I will stand at the gates of Heaven until all my spiritual children have entered.”
Special thanks to Father Alessio Parente, O.F.M., Capuchin for his enlightening conversation and information.
And to Maria Calandra of the National Center for Padre Pio in Barto, PA.
Padre Pio: The True Story – C. Bernard Ruffin 1982
The Mystery of the Cross in Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
Gerardo Di Flumeri, 1977
Fr. Alessio Parente – Memiors and personal writings.