Sunday, July 27, 2008

on Padre Pio

I read a biographical story about Padre Pio and really wanted to share some of that with you. It's amazing stuff! The piece was written by John McCaffery and edited by John J. Delaney in his book entitled Saints Are Now.

Different people may give varying interpretations of the phenomena which took place in that little monastery to make it a world beacon; but about the phenomena themselves there can be no doubt, for they were witnessed, sifted, and experienced in their effects by large numbers of intelligent persons. ...The Church authorities were so reluctant to accept their authenticity that for ten entire years, in the fear that they were manifestations of autosuggestion, hysteria, deliberate deception or even diabolical possession, Padre Pio was cut off from outside contact, even by letter, and he was not allowed to confess penitents or to say Mass in public.

An eminent Roman physician, last of those entrusted with a medical examination of Padre Pio's stigmata, had begun as a contemptuous unbeliever in the seriousness of what he had been asked to investigate. But in more than 200 pages covering a 2 year period he gave a detailed account of his experiments to find a humanly explicable cause for those stigmata, and ended with a confession of failure and the conclusion that their origin and continuance could be described only to benignly preternatural intervention. He became a devoted disciple of the man whose wounds and whose psychology he had coldly, methodically, and often most harshly probed.

My own conversion came only when I reluctantly consented to go down to San Giovanni with an old friend and meet the man himself. It was the nearest thing I could imagine to meeting Christ; and in his presence all the reluctance and quasi-hostility fell away, and all the incredible phenomena became easily and even logically acceptable.

After Padre Pio joined the monastery he was found unconscious one day before the crucifix in the church gallery, where the friars conducted their community prayers and where he himself went often to pray and meditate. To his intense embarrassment, he and the friar who helped him to his cell discovered that his hands an feet were completely transfixed and bleeding. And these wounds, as well as another in his side leading to the heart, bled continuously and freshly as though newly inflicted for all of 50 years, disappearing gradually only some few weeks before his death.

For 50 years he bore the sufferings described, walking around on pierced feet and using those pierced and agonizing hands, he ate as much daily as would sustain a bird - generally a forkful of vegetables or pasta - and this because he was constrained by obedience to join the other friars at the noon meal. His drinking too was absolutely minimal; and I think it would be fair to say that the strongest of ordinary men would have died of exhaustion, malnutrition, anaemia and dehydration within a matter of months.

Most of all he spent long and strenuous hours every day, every week, every month, every year, without break or relaxation, in the confessional.

He built a hospital and at its inauguration, which I attended was scheduled an international cardiological conference. None of the famous attendees was a Catholic but all of them were deeply and sincerely impressed at the saintly man behind it all. Paul White, most courteous of men, was so moved that on greeting Padre Pio with the rest of his colleagues I remember he finished his little congratulatory speech with the uncharacteristically gauche phrase..."and congratulations Father, on your wounds." !

Miracles poured out from San Giovanni which is to say those worked through his intercession upon other people. They were innumerable; and as well as having been myself healed of serious cardiac and circulatory ills, I saw a number of the more striking miracles at close quarters.

Padre Pio had appeared to a man at his home near Florence and reprimanded him severely for his drunken ill treatment of his wife. Incredulous the man stubbornly drove all the way down to the little monastery in a spirit of disbelief and challenge, and had soon found himself upon his knees in Padre Pio's confessional. He left it one of Padre Pio's most loyal and constant devotees.

Another ex-communist I met at San Giovanni was former editor of the newspaper. To him Padre Pio had appeared when he was in the act of committing suicide and taking his little daughter with him. After that the man said " what binds me to Padre Pio is his tremendous Christ likeness."

Fr. Dominic also lived at San Giovanni. Not only had Padre Pio cured him of cancer; he had assisted Father Dominic's father in bi location on his deathbed in Milwaukee.

One man had been born blind with eyes so eaten by disease that they looked like shrivelled dried peas in his head. Those same eyes, perfectly reformed by Padre Pio, were now regarding me across the desk. But there was an interesting insert to his story.

When he implored Padre Pio to pray that his sight might be restored he had added "even if it be only from one eye." When he returned 3 weeks later, weeping with joy and to thank his benefactor for the incredible transformation, he was asked, "And so you now see again perfectly?" "Yes," he replied, "from this eye, not from the other one." Padre Pio shook his head reproachfully. "Let that be a lesson for you," he said. "Never put limitations on God. Always ask for the big grace."

There were, too, happenings which seemed at first so outlandish that, even with all the evidence of the miraculous which I had witnessed or experienced, they appeared to me to be pure legend. I am thinking especially of the story of Padre Pio's appearing in the sky during the last war and turning back an American bombing mission due to drop its bombs near San Giovanni's rotundo. I took this story to be herioc folklore in the making - until the day I met the leader of the squadron personally. It was no legend; it was just another of these facts of which I have now been attempting to convince other people, and he recounted it to Lord Eldon, lord in waiting to Queen Elizabeth, when they met in a rail compartment on their journey from Rome to San Giovanni.

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