Padre Pio’s World is, above all, his unsurpassed Mass, in which he entered the Crucifixion and people saw the agony of the Passion of Christ on His face....It is this Crucifixion he carried and suffered on His body for over fifty years -- the stigmata, at first invisible, then incredibly, startlingly visible....
"The central point in Padre Pio's life was the altar. That is where the great warrior of God principally carried on his battle for souls." Fr. Joseph Pius Martin, A Complete Priest.(www.peacethroughmercy.com)
Padre Pio’s World is his long hours of hearing confessions every day, sometimes up to 18 and 19 hours, stretching into his whole life of bringing the forgotten sins of penitents out of the darkness of the past and cleansing the poison from souls. It's his reading of hearts; that is, discerning the person, the pure from the impure. It's his clairvoyance, his prophecies....
Padre Pio’s World is a world of supernatural realism, from flights of Guardian Angels to flights of Padre Pio as he bilocated to people in all parts of the world: "...a prolongation of personality," he explained. It is the gift of perfume, of fragrances that also went around the world to his spiritual children -- roses, violets, tobacco, incense -- whatever was needed....
All this in one man, one Saint....
Jesus answered. . ."The wind blows where it will, and thou hearest its sound but dost not know where it comes from or where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the spirit.”
Nicodemus answered and said to him “How can these things be?”
Answering him, Jesus said, “Thou art a teacher in Israel and dost not know these things? Amen, amen, I say to thee, we speak of what we know, and we bear witness to what we have seen; and our witness you do not receive. If I have spoken of earthly things to you, and you do not believe, how will you believe if I speak to you of heavenly things?” (John 3:8-12)
Padre Pio’s World is a world of strange happenings defying categories. Something new and mind-boggling every day. But before one had the chance to know any of these strange happenings, for most, Padre Pio's world was, and is, the stigmata.
The stigmata imbued and flavored his world. It was 'the thing'
that drew attention, that turned the world's head in his
direction. He was "the priest with the stigmata," and anyone
could see the wounds of Christ during his Mass in the small,
antique Church of Our Lady of Grace. The people came to have
a look, invading the peaceful, isolated Gargano mountain. The
compelling Catholic writer, Graham Greene, who wrote books
about priests and Catholic themes (The Power and the Glory,
Monsignor Quixote, Brighton Rock, A Burnt-Out Case,
The End of the Affair), was one who came and saw:
"I have also seen with my own eyes the stigmata on Padre
Pio's hands, in the south of Italy. He was not a man who
looked as though he suffered from a nervous disorder.
I was so convinced of his powers of goodness that I refused
to approach him and speak with him. I explained to the
friends who had brought me along that I was too afraid
that it might upset my entire life."
(Marie Francoise Allain: The Other Man, cited
by The Voice of Padre Pio, #5/1997 "In the Margin")
Elsewhere, Greene wrote of the two Masses he would always remember:
The Pope's [Pius XII] Jubilee Mass in Rome: ". . .the enormous crowd pressed into St. Peter's. . . . and later the Pope alone at the altar...moving with grace and precision through the motions of the Mass...."
And the other: ". . .at five-thirty in the morning, at a side altar in the small Franciscan monastery of San Giovanni Rotondo, in the bleak southern province of Apulia, the Host was raised in the hands of Padre Pio -- the aged, bearded priest whose hands are famed through the Catholic world for the black, ugly dried patches of the stigmata that they bear."
(The Pope Who Remains a Priest; Life, 9/24/1951, cited in Vatican Impressions, Ed. Francis Sweeney, S.J.)
Padre Pio's World was people crowding him, touching him,
snipping his habit for a relic, barring his way, crushing him....
"Slowly, slowly...And now you're killing me."
"We, ourselves, who besiege him, implore, beseech him, place at his feet each day, in a thousand ways, an immense burden of wretchedness, of suffering. A heavy burden
of pain, above all, which we pour into Padre Pio's heart each day."
(Gherardo Leone, La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza. Oct.1965)
"I have seen with my own eyes the stigmata of Padre Pio...
the aged, bearded priest whose hands are famed through the
Catholic world for the black, ugly dried patches of the stigmata
that they bear." ( Graham Greene )
The simple truth is: a replica of Jesus Christ Crucified walked
on the Gargano mountain in Italy from 1918 until his death in 1968. Whatever God's plan was in giving the world Padre Pio, it is said the Lord sends us the saints we need when we need them. Padre Pio became the most beloved and popular saint of the century, some say in Christendom, for he stands alone in his brilliant sunburst of charisms.
Padre Pio lived with the painful stigmata for fifty-eight years. During the first eight years, they were invisible, but on September 20, 1918, they became visible --and the blood flowed in his hands, feet and side. It never stopped flowing for the next fifty years-- witnessed and documented by doctors and uncountable people. There are years of stained shirts and handkerchiefs to tell the story.
"Blood, blood, blood everywhere. An enormous quantity of clothes that had been used to stem the flow of blood from the wounds of the chest."
(Fra Modestino, Witness to the Padre, The Voice of Padre Pio, No.12/1980)
The Crucifix before which Padre Pio was praying when he received the Stigmata.
Padre Pio’s World was a world of suffering. He walked on pierced and painful feet and endured a life of intense pain in his hands and side and shoulder wound. Padre Pellegrino, in his book, Padre Pio's Jack of All Trades, tells of a moment when the pain was so excruciating that Padre Pio had to collapse himself into a chair. Suffering was strangely his friend: "My sufferings are pleasant. I only suffer when I don't suffer."
It was a world of co-redeeming....
Even as a child, he suffered in his heart as he saw the sufferings of
others. Read his school compositions in Padre Alessio's book,
The Holy Souls -- one can almost hear the child crying out in him for humanity, especially sick children. It drove him to build the great cream-colored hospital (Home for the Relief of Suffering) that is renowned in Italy and abroad, and which some call his greatest miracle in a life filled with miracles. And if that
is what one mere human is capable of, then we realize how infinitely unknowable and powerful is God's love.
Padre Pio’s World is prayers throughout the day and throughout the night, during which he had only "fragments" of sleep as he prayed for every single soul who sought his intercession, as well as for those beyond our knowing, but whom Padre Pio knew were in the world somewhere, needing help...
The Rosary was never out of his hands...or heart.
But it's also a world of his humorous quips cheering the day, sparkling the moment, telling funny stories, jokes...bringing on the laughter of confreres and friends as they take a breather on the veranda or in the friary garden.
"His was a style full of Franciscan joy...A pure joy shone from his face...Around the winter hearth, in the company of his fellow friars, or in the friary garden during the summer with visitors, Padre Pio knew how to converse delightfully...He had a refined sense of humor that would captivate everyone! Those who imagine Padre Pio with a long face, always sad and unsatisfied, are far from the truth."
(Msgr. Antonio del Gaudio, Voice of Padre Pio, 4/01, p.21)
Padre Pio’s World is populated with children, his and God's predilection, their favorites. He loved their purity, couldn't bear to see the sick ones in their mother's arms as they crowded the corridors hoping for a cure. This very important story -- and the connection between Padre Pio, children, and the world -- is told in my upcoming book, Padre Pio and Children.
He was the instrument for a multitude of cures and miracles. Children saw him in bilocation and spoke to him. He played with them, even after his death; and when a miracle was not in the plan, he reassured them and gave them a most peaceful and unafraid understanding not many of us adults can fathom -- that they were about to go to Heaven. Many of these children, call them victim souls, if you wish, left the world anticipating....
Padre Pio’s World is also a world of war, the battle between good and evil. He was a warrior who fought the devil; the famous incidents are told in Fr. Tarcisio of Cervinara's book, The Devil in the Life of Padre Pio.
The Earth," the great French ascetical writer, Père Poulain, S.J., wrote, "is a battlefield where the two conflicting armies of good and evil angels are closely intermingled and contend for the same souls. If we saw the one army alone, without the other, we should not have proper appreciation of this battle, this conflict...As we rise higher, the light begins to shine on the two influences simultaneously."
And so, we quite literally rise higher in finding Padre Pio on the Gargano mountain, the mountain of St. Michael. It is popularly known as the spur of the Italian boot, the promontory that juts out to the blue-green Adriatic Sea. It is a world away from the tired, ordinary world so filled with its 'ways.' And when we find Padre Pio there, it's a world of finding our souls renewed.
"Let the world turn upside down; let everything be in darkness, smoke and noise. God is with us." (Padre Pio, Letters, Vol. 3, To His Spiritual Daughters, Letter # 7 to the Ventrella Sisters)
Padre Pio, St. Michael, Satan and the Gargano...
What's Going On?
This is where Padre Pio came in 1916 and was to live the rest of his life.
'The Gargano' is an odd mountain that fills the spur of the boot of Italy. It is made of karst limestone-- you can see large chalk-white boulders bursting out of the earth.
The Gargano is also where an apparition of St. Michael occurred in 490 A.D. A cave church was built on the spot, which made it one of the oldest Christian shrines in the West, and over the centuries millions upon millions have pilgrimaged to that shrine of the warrior-angel who will fight the fight when the time comes, including St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Brigid, St. Gregory, St. Bernard and Padre Pio. The shrine of the angel is still there, and the pilgrims continue to stream down the winding stone stairs to the cave....
Despite the great Crusade trail that went down the eastern coast of Italy to sailing points for Jerusalem, and despite a fascinating medieval period that saw gigantic figures such as Frederick II and his son, Manfred, whose legends still echo today in the castles strewn about the general area like a necklace -- including the massive castle in Lucera that once housed 15,000 Muslims -- despite all this, in the centuries that followed, the focus of history slowly drifted away, and this Apulian area seemed to disappear in the mists of time, although many fascinating things may have been happening.
A few fascinating tomes exist, however: Ernst Kantorowicz's Frederick II (1927) and Janet Ross' Land of Manfred (1889). (See my article, Discovering the Gargano and Thereabouts, in the menu.) Both books are out of print, but you may be able to find used copies on Amazon at high prices. There is also The Normans in the South by John Julius Norwich, and Georgina Masson's Frederick II of Hohenstaufen: A Life, both unputdownable history reading.
When Pio came along, and word of his stigmata and miracles spread, the off-the-tourist-trail Gargano mountain came to light 000again slowly. The growth of knowledge of Padre Pio was interrupted by the Second World War; GIs stationed at the nearby airfields, however, came to hear of him and made the trek up the mountain by truck, jeep and even foot, to meet the priest with the stigmata. When they returned to the States many of them brought back word of Padre Pio's existence and, in no small way, made Padre Pio known in America. Among them were Bob Coble (RIP), who returned to San Giovanni Rotondo for the first time on our first group pilgrimage in 1993, and Ray Ewen, still living and still promoting Padre Pio almost with every breath he takes. Some of the stories of these GIs are told in Frank Rega's Padre Pio and America.
After the war, the economy of the Gargano began pulsing with thriving life as pilgrims came from all over the world. Hotels and restaurants sprouted everywhere, and the small town of San Giovanni Rotondo grew and grew to accommodate the millions that came up the mountain to see the Padre.
Commenting on the continuous room shortage, even with the ever-burgeoning number of hotels being built, Fr. Joseph Pius Martin wrote: "San Giovanni hasn't ever been perfectly fit into its breeches, but always outgrown them." (Letter to Jeanette Salerno, 2/7/84)
It is no coincidence that Padre Pio was brought to the Gargano by the Capuchins; as he was apt to say in various ways, 'And who is it who arranges the coincidences.'
Padre Pio fought the devil, there is much testimony on this, and there are photos of his bruised face. He has joined the warrior-angel, St. Michael, on this battlefield where "the two conflicting armies of good and evil" will contend for souls. When we speak of things "visible and invisible," this is one of the invisible. Padre Pio said his real mission would begin after he was gone...
In our time of persecution of Christians in many places in the world, and the present threat of the loss of freedom of religion for the Catholic Church in the United States (2012), who can doubt that Padre Pio's mission, defending the Church he so loved, is deeply underway.
"Satan was very real for Jesus. He was very real for Paul and the other great saints throughout history. And he is profoundly formidable. If we want a sense of the grandeur of the Fallen Angel before he fell, the violated genius of who Satan really is, we can take a hint from the Rilke poem, "The Angels":
'...when they spread their wings they waken a great wind through the land: as though with his broad sculptor-hands God was turning the leaves of the dark book of the Beginning.'
"This is the kind of Being—once glorious, but then consumed by his own pride—who is now the Enemy of humanity."
(Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M Cap., Archbishop of Denver; delivered on January 27, 2010, at the Fifth Symposium Rome: Priests and Laity on Mission.)
There is still more to Padre Pio's World. It was and still is a world of people yearning for the truths of God, for Jesus Christ, for the reality of Heaven. While Padre Pio lived, they came to him, hearts pumping with the quest. Skeptics came out of curiosity and were paralyzed as they stood before him, frozen with a sudden awe they could not explain. Many fell to their knees....
His world, then, is also the meaning we find in him, as far as we can know or imagine, for he was a mystic and a mystery -- a mystery to himself, as well, as he wrote to his spiritual director. All of us who are or want to be his spiritual children, embrace his world joyously and with awe, marveling from the vantage point of this secular world so absent of Christian beauty and understanding, as we glimpse all that is possible with God. Even those who have not yet heard of him will come to this joy if they find him, for he wrote: "I belong to everyone..."
And that means everyone. Our children and our children's children.
For me, Padre Pio's World is a world of supernatural reality, and
when the world is much too much for us, when our minds question,
even balk at our Faith, I say, but there was Padre Pio!
Whenever I lose heart or have a moment's doubt for some earthly
reason, but there was Padre Pio, I tell myself.
When a priest goes wrong, I repeat, but there was Padre Pio!
Padre Pio tips the scale on the side of Faith a millionfold.
When the outlook is bleak in a world smothered by arid secularism
and highly contagious evil, I say always, but there was Padre Pio!
When human logic mocks Faith, but there was Padre Pio, I say...
and say again.
Which means, of course, but there was Jesus. t
...He accepted suffering of every kind and yet he never lost his peace in
the depth of his spirit...A gentle supernatural smile lit with a mysterious light
in his deep, beautiful eyes..."
(Antonio Del Gaudio, Voice of Padre Pio, 4/01; p21)
"A powerful attraction shone from him...illuminated and foreseeing..."
(La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, 8/04; p3)
I have long agreed with the quotes above and those following. Reading issues of La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza since 1959 and the Voice of Padre Pio since 1971, I have noticed that there is always something supernatural about Padre Pio in all the photos -- as though he is inserted from a heavenly realm with a heavenly light on him.
It's all there, in that face. In those eyes. Everyone speaks of his eyes. Something there...the sweet hold on a soul. Pictures show it. I imagine what the real thing must have been, and an intense desire to have lived close to him in those days then overpowers me.
"The goodness that transpired from his face and his limpid countenance immediately made an impression on our hearts, We were attracted to him by an indescribable force..."
(One of the Ventrella sisters, on their first seeing Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo,
Letters 3, p535)
"The world climbs to San Giovanni Rotondo and gazes at this old monk, and in his gaze and gestures discovers in itself the nostalgia for a differest, better, more divine world."
(Don Giancarlo Setti, La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza; 10/66; p2)
My favorite picture of Padre Pio.
His eyes have "...the sweet hold on a soul."
"...a measureless love for his neighbor, without pretenses, self-interest and exclusions. In the style of the Gospel!"
(Antonio Del Gaudio, The Voice of Padre Pio, 4/01; p20)
"I end my paper with this idyll of love between Padre Pio and the Blessed Mother. My words are only a pale vision of the wonderful world that the Holy Spirit built in Padre Pio's soul. He let us glimpse this when his deep and luminous eyes contemplated ecstatically the image of the Immaculate Virgin. When he directed to her his ardent prayer, which was often bathed in tears and interrupted by sobs. When he let the beads of the Holy Rosary run through his bloody hands."
(Padre Bernardino of Siena, Acts of the First Congress of Studies on Padre Pio's Spirituality)
You won't find a chronological biography of Padre Pio on this website. I would prefer you catch telling glimpses as you read the books and piece together the mystery, the man who was half here, half in Heaven, remembering you'll never find Padre Pio in one book, or find all of him in all the books.
Bear in mind words expressed by Fr. Joseph Pius Martin (RIP 2000), who attended Padre Pio in the last years of his life, as told to Fr. John Schug in an interview (Profiles 0f Padre Pio; p70).
Father Joseph said: "Some people think they can't get close to God, but they can get close to God through him. That will never stop. The fact that he is dead makes no difference at all. When you see the thousands of people [coming to the tomb], they can't all be fanatics and tourists. We will never be finished with Padre Pio till the end of time."
My purpose for this website is, of course, to share Padre Pio with those already devoted to him -- old faithful followers that we are -- but also to awaken interest in him in newcomers, even mere curiosity! Best of all, to awaken a sudden feeling or a grasp of the great something that is there, and a wish to begin the journey of getting to know him, finding your Padre Pio...who is for everyone! I'll be adding many things with time, between my book writing -- things that to me, touch Padre Pio's World.
If something here enlivens you in some way, I'd like to hear about it, so send me an email and tell me your thoughts. It's also very encouraging. . . .
Padre Pio . . .
Born: May 25, 1887
Ordained: August 10, 1910
Invisible Stigmata: August-September, 1910
Visible Stigmata: September 20, 1918
Died: Septmber 23, 1968
Beatified: May 2, 1999
Canonized: June 16, 2002
JESU, LUMEN DE LUMINE
Launched October 7, 2010
Our Lady of the Rosary
. . . and propelled in the three days leading up to "Launch" on the jet-stream of the Divine Push, with the help of: St. Francis of Assisi (October 4th); Sister Faustina; my cousin-saint, Jamesie, who died at fourteen years (October 5th); and St. Bruno (October 6th), founder of the Carthusians, who proclaimed the Mother of God the first and chief patron of the Order and who settled in the land of my father (Louis Maria Bruno) and is venerated there.
And of course by Saint Padre Pio, whose day, for devotees, like Christ's, is always . . .
OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY
PRAY FOR US