Padre Pio - The Man.  Talks and Retreats










                                    Padre Pio’s Personality                                        


                                    Padre Pio’s Mission                                        


                                    Ecstasies and Apparitions                                        


                                    Reaction to his Directors   


                                    Diabolical Interventions and Heavenly Comfort     


                                    The Charisms of Padre Pio                                       


                                    Talks/Retreats/Cures by Padre Pio:     


                                    Humph’s Story of His Miraculous Cure                  


                                    A Talk to Carmelite Nuns in Sheffield                    


                                    A talk by Fr Joseph Pius at Walsingham                 


                                    A Retreat by Fr. Joseph Pius at Pantasaph               


                                    Prayer of Thanksgiving Attributed to Padre Pio      


                                    Excerpts from Humph’s talks                                   


                                    Story of a Miraculous Cure by Padre Pio                 


                                    Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus     


                                    Acknowledgements and Recommended Reading   




Dedication       Back to Contents

                      Padre Pio the Man and the Talks and Retreats.

                                                is dedicated to

                                                  Jack Grant

                               who I first met in 1990 on a pilgrimage to

                                                San Giovanni.

                        Since then Jack has not only become a good friend

                                             but also a source of

                                 knowledge and inspiration regarding

                                             St Pio of Pietrelcina.

                            Without Jack’s assistance and enthusiasm

                              this booklet could not have been written.


                       Michael Blackburn               November 2005


                                          Thanks are due to Jack’s daughter

                                             Jane Grant who proofread the script

                                              making necessary corrections and

                                                   offering useful suggestions 

                                                       for rearranging the text.                  


 INTRODUCTION       Back to Contents


In October 2001 I wrote a booklet on ‘The Life of Jesus’. The inspiration for that booklet came from my three pilgrimages to the Holy Land. In 2003 I heard a voice whisper to me “Why not write a booklet on ‘The Life of Our Lady?” The only reason I commenced that booklet is that back in the 1980s I had read Mary of Agred’s book ‘The Mystical City of God’ and had written a synopsis of the book. So I knew that I could use that synopsis as part of the booklet.


Now we come to a strange turn of events. The reason that I read the book ‘The Mystical City of God’ and had written the synopsis is that I had been mistakenly told that it was the book that Our Lady had recommended to The Medjugorje visionaries. That information was wrong. The book that Our Lady had recommended was ‘The Poem of The Man-God’. To write a synopsis of that massive five volume book would have been well nigh impossible.


So it was due to mistaken information that I had written the synopsis without which I would have not attempted to write ‘The Life of Our Lady’. Can we see the work of some hidden intermediary at work? After that, as far as I was concerned, my booklet writing days were over until in August 2004 another inner voice whispered “Why not write a booklet on St Pio of Pietrelcina”?


But before proceeding there was another question to be answered. How can a mere booklet by Michael Blackburn make any difference? Now another turn of events. Due to illness, Cecil Humphery-Smith (Humph) was unable to attend the Walsingham 2004 retreat. Stella Lilley had asked me to stand in and give a talk to cover Humph’s absence. Humph had also encouraged me and indicated the material I might use. In preparing for the talk I had considered using some of the ideas of a wonderful retreat given by Fr Joseph Pius at Pantasaph in November 1995, but I found sufficient material without using that retreat. However when considering writing ‘Padre Pio the Man the Talks and Retreats’ the plan of the 1995 retreat gave me the confidence to say “Yes”!


I hope I have not misjudged my capacity to write about a man who contains so many ‘Gifts of the Holy Spirit’ that one is left in complete awe!


What was it in November 1995 that had made such an impression on me? It was that Fr Joseph Pius had based the retreat on Padre Pio’s Letters (Volume 1) ‘Correspondence With His Spiritual Directors’. That retreat contained a vast amount of information that might help us to have a slightly better understanding of this amazing man; this incredible Saint.


But there is an even more compelling reason for writing. Many of the people who knew Padre Pio have gone to their eternal reward. Fr Allesio Parente, Fr Peter Villani, Fr Joseph Pius Martin are no longer with us. We only have access to a few people who actually knew Padre Pio and who can give us first hand information about him. We must cling on to what we have before it is lost. During retreats at Walsingham, Maryvale and Pantasaph tape recordings were made which include Humph and Fr Joseph. The talks given on those occasions were very special. They need saving and sharing.


Before continuing, for new readers on Padre Pio, it will help to give the names of some who will be mentioned in the text and to explain their involvement.


Padre Agostino

He was one of  Padre Pio’s two Spiritual Directors. He was a learned priest and was conversant with both French and Greek. From the Letters it appears that he was an excellent preacher and in that capacity was in demand particularly on anniversary days and feast days. His attitude to Padre Pio was one of understanding and gentleness.


Father Alessio Parente

Due to the stigmata in his feet Padre Pio required assistance with walking and over the years many of the friars were designated to assist him. One of these was Padre Alessio. He also leant to speak English and was in charge of the Friary’s English Office.


Padre Benedetto

He was Padre Pio’s other Spiritual Director. He was much more stern than Padre Agostino; but then he had to be because he was the Provincial in charge of the Friaries in that area of Italy. It fell to him to deal with the problem of Padre Pio’s absence from community life due to illness.


Father Eusebio.

Another of Padre Pio’s designated helpers.


Cecil Humphery-Smith: affectionately known as ‘Humph’

His story will be told in full; sufficient to say that he was miraculously cured by Padre Pio, shared in the Crown and Thorns, and became Padre Pio’s friend.


Stella Lilley

Stella organises the Padre Pio Information Centre in Whitstable Kent. For thirty-three years, along with her husband Tony (RIP), she has promoted Padre Pio by giving talks and organising pilgrimages to San Giovanni Rotundo..


Father Joseph Pius

Father Joseph was an American who, as a young man, visited San Giovanni Rotundo and at Padre Pio’s insistence stayed and eventually joined the Friary. He also became one of Padre Pio’s helpers.


Father Peter Villani

As a young boy he served Mass for Padre Pio. He became a missionary priest. In his latter days he spent time in the UK. and he spoke excellent English. He was a very gentle priest, greatly loved by all who knew him.



This is not going to be a “life story of Padre Pio”. There are already many such works written and researched by people much more erudite than I. After building up a picture of Padre Pio’s personality the booklet will continue with Cecil Humphery-Smith’s amazing story, copies of talks given at Walsingham, Maryvale and Pantasaph and a talk which I gave to the Carmelite Sisters at Kirk Edge, Sheffield  


To be able to understand Padre Pio’s personality we need to go no further than Padre Pio’s letters to his Spiritual Directors. Details of where the books can be obtained are in the ‘Acknowledgements’ at the back of the booklet.


PADRE PIO’S BIOGRAPHY.       Back to Contents


Padre Pio was born in Pietrelcina, in the province of Benevento, Italy, on the 25th May 1887. He was baptised the next day in the Church of Our Lady of the Angels and given the name Francesco. His parents Grazio and Maria owned a small patch of land but gaining any produce from it was extremely hard and they were regarded as poor. The family surname was Forgione.


His childhood, spent quietly in a modest Christian family environment, was not marked by any noteworthy events. But when he was only five years old he began to cherish the idea of consecrating himself to God for ever. At this time there occurred the devil’s first violent attacks along with “Ecstasies and Apparitions”. When questioned as to why he had hidden them for so long (until 1915) he frankly replied that he had not made them known because he thought that such things happened to everyone.


It was when Francesco was five years old that his mother found him sleeping on the floor. Due to his delicate health she worried about him but he persisted in mortifying himself.


As was the custom in those days he was probably eleven when he received his first Holy Communion. He was confirmed on the 27th September 1899.


He would play with other village boys but was known for preferring his own company. His conduct was exemplary as was his attendance morning and evening at the parish church


Religious Vocation. When he was fifteen he received an inner warning of the struggles he would have to endure with the devil. Twenty years later he recalled the deep interior combat through which he had passed:


           “Dear God! who can describe the martyrdom I went through

            in my inmost being? Even the memory of that internal combat

            makes the blood freeze in my veins, although almost twenty

            years have passed since then. I heard the voice of duty telling

            me to obey you, O true and good God! But your enemies and

            mine tyrannised over me, they dislocated my bones, they

            mocked me and caused me to writhe in agony.”

            Letters 1.Page 16


Francesco Forgione was clothed in the Capuchin habit on the 22nd January 1903 when he was four months short of his sixteenth birthday. He changed his baptismal name to Fra Pio of Pietrelcina. Four years later on the 27th January 1907 he signed the pact of the consecration which he had foreseen at the age of five.


Priestly Studies. His studies towards ordination commenced immediately after his profession. Nothing unusual was noted at that time but as he himself says later, divine charisms were not lacking. On the 10th October 1915 he wrote to Padre Agostino “Your first question is that you want to know when Jesus began to favour his poor creature with heavenly visions. If I am not mistaken, these must have begun not long after the novitiate”.


Holy Orders. On the 19 December 1908 Fra Pio received minor orders and on the 21st December 1908 the subdiaconate. He was ordained on the 10th August 1910 and celebrated his first High Mass in Pietrelcina on the 14th August 1910. He was twenty two years old.


Residence in Pietrelcina. Ill-health obliged Fra Pio to interrupt the regular course of his studies. In May 1909, in the hope that the change of air would help to restore his health, the doctors and his superiors sent him to his native village. Here, with the exception of a few brief intervals (e.g, for his ordination) he remained until 17th February 1916 struggling continually and vainly against the mysterious illnesses which racked his frail body. This was a time of intense interior life and persevering ascent by the arduous paths of the spiritual journey. This is abundantly illustrated and will be dealt with in the first part of the letters. (The ‘letters’ comprise the correspondence between Padre Pio and his spiritual directors. They refer to the first twelve years of his priestly life immediately following his ordination.)


In October 1911, after a medical examination Fra Pio was taken to the friary of Venafro with the intention that he should remain there. But his illness took an alarming turn for the worse and in order to avert imminent disaster he was immediately returned to Pietrelcina. The next day, to everyone’s astonishment he offered Mass “as if he had not been ill at all”.


The above words were pronounced by Padre Agostino who was to become one of Padre Pio’s Spiritual Directors. Padre Agostino continued: “In November 1911 at Venafro I became aware of the first supernatural phenomena. I assisted at several ecstasies and many diabolical molestations. While he was at Venafro Padre Pio lived on the Eucharist alone, both when he celebrated Mass himself and when he received Holy Communion when he was too ill to offer Mass”.


The other Spiritual Director was Padre Benedetto who was also the Provincial. He viewed with disfavour the prolonged stay in Pietrelcina and for Padre Pio this gave rise to unpleasantness and severe suffering. In March 1915 Padre Benedetto obtained permission from the Holy See which authorised Padre Pio to remain “outside the friary in order to take care of his heath, as this was the only means that afforded hope of his recovery”. He was allowed to wear the Capuchin habit and remain under obedience to the Provincial Superior.


The First World War. In 1914 the outbreak of war threw the Capuchins Friars into great confusion and eventually, on the 6th November 1915, Padre Pio had to report to a recruiting office. On the 6th November 1915 he was assigned to a Medical Corps in Naples, but by the 18th of that month he was at home on a year’s convalescent leave.


Padre Pio leaves Pietrelicna. Meanwhile his superiors were bringing increasing pressure to bear on him to return to the community life. A devout lady in Foggia, Raffaeline Cerase, asked him to come to that city to assist her during a serious and alarming illness. This request gave the Provincial Superior the chance to send Padre Pio a letter of obedience, but without revealing that the aim was to effect his permanent return to the community. Padre Pio arrived at the friary in Foggia on the 17th February 1916. He gave solace to Raffaeline Cerase in her last days and she died on the 25th March.


Padre Pio goes to San Giovanni Rotondo. But the city air of Foggia was not suited to Padre Pio’s poor health and on the 28th July 1916 he was transferred to a nearby friary in the mountains where the climate might be more suitable. Thus he came to San Giovanni Rotondo where he was stay until his death fifty-two years later.


As far as is known he only left San Giovanni Rotondo twice. In 1917 he went to Rome when his sister, Sister Pius of the Sorrowful Mother, joined the Bridgettine nuns. The second time was when the army authorities had deemed him to have to gone ‘Absent Without Leave!’. What had happened was that following his convalescent leave he had been ordered back to Naples. But the letter had been sent to Franceso Forgione who, under that name, had long since disappeared so the command was never delivered. He did eventually return to Naples but his stay there was of short duration and on the 16th March 1918 he was discharged due to double alveolar bronchitis and with papers saying that he had served his country ‘faithfully and honourably’ during his military service, which amounted to a total of 182 days.


The Mystical Phenomena. When we think of Padre Pio’s mystical phenomena we think only of the Stigmata but there were many more. There were ‘strokes of love’ and ‘wounds of love’ and ‘transverberation of the heart’ which, along with the stigmata, will be dealt with in a later chapter. It is enough now to say that they marked a decisive turn in his life.


For all that the Friars tried to remain silent about the Stigmata the news gradually became public knowledge. From then on crowds began to flock to the remote Capuchin friary. All wanted to see for themselves this ‘miracle’: a man bleeding as Jesus had bled.


This led to many examinations by eminent doctors all trying to determine whether the bleeding was truly mystical or whether there was some other cause. These examinations would not only have been painful but would have caused Padre Pio great embarrassment. In 1919 he was photographed showing the wounds in his hands. It was due to ‘obedience’ that the photograph was taken. Padre Pio could not disobey. At that time he was thirty-two years old.


The next ten years were traumatic. Rome intervened which led to even more examinations. The Vatican is ever wary and suspicious of any supernatural event, it has to be, due to some who want to deceive. Things came to a head when a rumour, encouraged by the local newspaper, stated that Padre Pio was to be moved from San Giovanni Rotundo. This caused a storm of protest from the local people who regarded Padre Pio as their own.


Limitation of Priestly Ministry. Finally on the 23rd May 1931, the Holy Office decreed that Padre Pio was to be deprived of all his priestly faculties with the exception of Mass which he was only allowed to offer privately in an internal chapel in the friary. During this painful period, which, lasted for two years, Padre Pio persevered in solitude, prayer and suffering, submitting at all times and with great confidence to the will of his superiors although this was for him a source of deep suffering.


Resumption of Priestly Ministry. On the 16th July 1933 the Holy Office relented and Padre Pio was again allowed to celebrate Mass in public. From 1934 onwards he was again allowed to hear confessions. After the turmoil of the past two years his life resumed its normal course.


The Need for a Larger Church. After the end of World War II large crowds started to flock to the man of the stigmata. The tiny chapel which had served the friary was too small for the numbers who came. Initially plans were made to enlarge the chapel but they were abandoned in favour of building a new church alongside and attached to the chapel and friary. This was consecrated on the 1st July 1959. But forty years later even that proved to be too small.

Joyful Celebrations. Padre Pio was able to celebrate many anniversaries: the 25th and 50th anniversary of his ordination; the 50th and 60th anniversary of his religious clothing; the 50th anniversary of residence in San Giovanni Rotundo and the 50th anniversary of his stigmata though the latter was celebrated by his followers, his spiritual children, and not by himself. Three days after that celebration he died.


Less Joyful Occasions. Alongside the joyful times came less joyful events. As the numbers coming to San Giovanni Rotundo increased so did the problems they caused. The crowds were at times noisy and disorderly. This could give rise to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of Padre Pio’s sufferings. This produced unpleasant repercussions and were the cause of increased suffering and sorrow for the man who had already suffered too much.


Some books about Padre Pio had been written without necessary revision or ecclesiastical authority. On August 3rd 1952 Osservatore Romana carried a decree from the Holy Office condemning several books. This condemnation of those books tended to irritate people and to create an atmosphere of mistrust.


On the 21st December 1954 a rumour began to circulate to the effect that Padre Pio’s superiors intended to move him from San Giovanni Rotundo. This stirred up the people of the town.


Padre Pio would be aware of all these difficult occasions but was helpless to control them. They would have caused him great suffering.


Two Fine Projects. Padre Pio conceived and carried out two projects which were expressions of love. One was the building of a hospital known as ‘Home for the Relief of Suffering’ and the other was ‘Prayer Groups’.


As early as January 1940 Padre Pio talked about his idea of a hospital. Work began in May 1947 and the building was blessed in May 1956. At that time it was considered to be one of the best equipped hospital in Europe. Since then it has been greatly enlarged.


The movement for prayer arose as an answer to the repeated appeals of Pope Pius XII while World War II was raging. After pondering on the matter for a long time, Padre Pio himself outlined the character of this movement in an address delivered on the 5th May 1966: it was to create everywhere ‘nurseries of faith, furnaces of love, in which Christ himself is present each time the members meet’. This was a small evangelical seed which soon grew into a leafy tree laden with fruit. By the 20th September 1968, 726 groups and been organised and were active in twenty different countries, with a total membership of 68,000.


Steady Decline in Health. The last ten years of Padre Pio’s life were marked by frequent relapses that increasingly weakened his system undermined by physical and moral sufferings. The faithful were alarmed when he failed to appear to offer Mass in the mornings.


From 25th April to August 1959 he usually offered Mass in an internal chapel. However each day he delivered a brief spiritual exhortation through a microphone. On the afternoon of the 7th August 1959, by a grace attributed to Our Lady of Fatima, he regained his health.


In March 1965 disturbing rumours began to circulate once more concerning his condition. In the three months September, October, November 1966, despite the assistance of the best specialists, the progress of the maladies gave rise to grave anxiety. The situation grew worse in January 1968 and he began to use a wheel chair to move from place to place. On the 7th July he had a serious collapse and preferred to remain alone in continual prayer.


His Peaceful Passing. In September 1968 thousands of Padre Pio’s devotees and admirers came together for a meeting in San Giovanni Rotundo to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his stigmatisation and for the fourth international meeting of the prayer Groups.


He felt really ill and very weak. On the 21st he was unable to offer Mass. However, on the 22nd he celebrated Mass at the usual time of 5.00a.m. but was reduced to extreme weakness and collapsed once more. Very regretfully he was obliged to stop hearing confessions. At 6.00p.m. he was able to come out and bless the crowd. That was his last public blessing. At 2.30a.m.on 23rd September 1968 he passed peacefully away. His holy death made headlines all over the world.


Padre Pio’s Personality       Back to Contents

To try and understand the incredible man who Padre Pio was we must examine his personality. Only by looking at every facet of this holy man may we be able to get a better knowledge of his immense spirituality and suffering.   (Quotes from the letters will have the dates so those with the books may read them in full. References will come from Volume 1 unless otherwise stated). 


His Physical Condition. Padre Pio’s medical reports, as is evident from the symptoms mentioned in the letters, never showed a clean bill of health and his condition worsened as the years passed. No doctor was ever able to give a satisfactory and convincing diagnosis and no specialist succeeded in producing an explanation for the symptoms and their sudden and equally disconcerting disappearance.


The phenomenon was a mystery to Padre Pio himself, but he never had any doubts as to divine intervention with regard to the origin and development of his illness the distressing effects of which were known to himself alone. Neither did he ever cherish the hope of being cured even though he submitted to medical treatment from time to time for human reasons or motives of obedience:


       “The idea of being cured after all these storms by the Most High

    seems like a dream to me, indeed a meaningless phrase”. (14-3-1910)


       “I am fully convinced, after my own assurance to this effect, that since

    my illness is due to a special permission of God, I do not need any 

    doctors”. (6-10-1911)


       “What am I to say to you about my physical state? I prefer not to

    speak of it, as to me it is something negligible and all I long for is that

    God may come to deal me his last blow”. (15-8-1916)


Perhaps at that time he did not foresee that the “last blow” was not to be dealt until fifty years later!


His symptoms are variously described in the letters, even though not in technical terms. They present a very complex clinical picture of the ailments which afflicted his frail body: extremely high and frequent fevers, lung trouble, agonising chest pains, crippling rheumatism, violent headaches:


        “My cough is so severe and continual, especially during the night,

     that it almost splits my chest and I am frequently so afraid that I say

     an act of contrition. (29-11-1910)


       “For several days I have been afflicted by severe headache,

     which makes it impossible for me to concentrate on anything”.



Science was sceptical, powerless and in fact vanquished in the face of these baffling symptoms and in view of the futility of treatment according to the latest findings of medicine:


        “The doctor has told me ‘I can do nothing for you’.” (2-6-1911)

        “The medicines I have taken might as well have been thrown

     down a well. I tell you frankly that I am enduring great suffering

     and if things go on like this I do not know how it will end”.



         “At present, due to the many medicines I have taken and

     continue to take, especially the hypodermic injections which have

     been so many that I have hardly a spot left in which to receive the

     needle”. (10-8-1911)


When he was called for military service further specialists had an opportunity

to observe the deplorable and inexplicable state of his feeble and wasted body:


         “I would like to let you have heard the diagnosis when I first left  

      the clinic. My whole body is affected by disease: widespread

      bronchial catarrh, the appearance of a skeleton inadequately

      nourished and so on” (4-9-1917)


He had an insatiable longing to be united for ever to his Beloved in his heavenly home. In the life of exile he feared he would lose God’s friendship and hence fall short of his destiny, namely, perfect union with God in the beatific vision:


         “It is a bitter torment to me to live in exile that I can hardly go

     on any longer. The thought that at any moment I may lose Jesus

     distresses me in a way that I cannot explain; only a soul that loves

     Jesus sincerely can understand what this means”. (29-12-1912)


         “I long for death for no other reason than to be united by

     indissoluble bonds to the heavenly bridegroom”. (6-5-1913)


To Padre Benedetto he writes:


        “Alas, my dear Father, there will be no more comfort for me

     until; the divine Master calls me to himself.”

         “Pray for my speedy departure, for I can go on no longer. I feel

     the blood continually coursing up to my brain and I am very much

     afraid of a catastrophe that is, that I’ll go mad.” (24-1-1915)


The situation becomes even more serious when we consider what it means to a be a traveller on earth deprived of full possession of God:


        “Listen Father, till I tell you the reason why I am so imperfectly

      resigned to God’s will, and I beg you not to be scandalised. I find

      this life a great burden because it deprives me of true life.

      Since the Lord is prolonging my life, I know that this is his will.”

         “Hence it is that more often than not, unwittingly, I am led

      to make acts of  impatience and utter words of complaint to

      the most tender Lord, to the point of calling him – do not be

      scandalised, please, Father - of calling him cruel, a tormentor

      of the souls who desire to love him.” (25-9-1915)


No wonder Padre Pio himself was surprised by such daring and, at first sight, disrespectful phrases into which the uninitiated could easily read a sense of guilt or uncontrolled intolerance. But there is nothing blameworthy at all or unorthodox in these phrases. This is the language of the mystics. That is how his spiritual directors interpreted it and his soul remained in peace.


Finally, those who prayed that he might live a long time were to him his “most cordial enemies”. In a letter to Maria Gargani he wrote:


        “…you, too, have joined that group of souls whom I cannot

    qualify better than with the title cordial enemies of mine, as it is

    precisely they who prolong my very sad exile before Jesus.”

    (Letters Vol. III 26-8-1916)


Altogether different was his attitude when anyone suggested the possibility of his imminent return to the Father. This was like an open window letting in light and heat to give new life to soul and body. He wrote to Padre Agostino:


       “When I read your words ‘it seems to me that the end of your

    earthly exile is not far off’, I felt transformed. I stopped reading

    your letter and for an instant my unbearable sufferings were

    lessened. I felt my lungs swell I breathed a pure and refreshing

    air which penetrated all the fibres of my body, coursed through

    my veins and brought life to every corpuscle and every molecule

    of my blood.” (14-1-1916)


Who can fail to recognise in these words the echo of the Prophet’s cry: “I rejoiced when I heard him say: let us go to the God’s house”.


Padre Pio’s Human Traits. The correspondence is full of observations and nuances which re-echo, on the one hand, Padre Pio’s human traits and reveal to some extent his character and temperament.


Friendship: Padre Pio was deeply affected by friendship. His correspondence with Padre Agostino is full of affectionate terms:


        “Goodbye now, my dear good Father and who knows if I shall

     be granted the grace to see you again. I won’t send you a kiss,

     because this is too little for all you have done for me, but I send

     you all that I have in my heart for you, which is an infinite

     tenderness.”  (January 1912. Letter 60).


During Padre Agostino’s military service, Padre Pio lived in continual affectionate trepidation in case anything should happen to him. He asked him to write ‘every day’, at least a picture postcard with no more than the words  “I am well”.  “If you do this I hope to be a little more ease in my mind”. (21-7-1916). For several days he remained without news of Padre Agostino. The days of separation were days of extreme trepidation.


          “For several days now I have been without your news and I

      leave you to imagine how this silence is weighing on my poor

      heart”. (30-10-1916)


This cordial friendship is also revealed in the manner in which he sent greetings to his spiritual directors and other friars on their respective name-days and for Christmas and Easter:


             “With the approach of your name-day my breast seems

       inadequate to contain my heart, so great is the joy I feel, a

       happiness which I can hardly be imagined and never be

       described. I leave it to you to imagine what my wishes are for

       you”. (26-8-1914)


             “With the approach of the Infant Jesus’ feast, I feel it my duty

       to send you my sincere good wishes, and may they be full of

       heavenly joy………….…I promise myself to pour out my entire

       soul for you before the divine Child during these holy feasts”.



As a true friend he suffered and rejoiced with those he loved and shared intensely in their sad and joyful moments:


               “I am sharing in the sufferings you are undergoing at

        present and I go before you with my prayers, so that the

        Lord may restore serenity to your soul and the souls of all

        our brethren in the community there”. (23-4-1920)


               “I give most fervent thanks to Jesus for the graces he is

        showering on you. You cannot imagine the satisfaction it gives

        me to hear your good news”. (19-11-1920)


He was profoundly affected by indifference on the part of others, by their failure to respond to his kindness or, worse still, by real or apparent antipathy. It is not possible to exclude, as the remote cause of this increased sensitivity, a spiritual trial permitted by God or promoted by Satan, but this does not lessen by any means the affective suffering of the person concerned.


At a time when Padre Benedetto was showing a certain indifference towards him, and in fact disapproved of his remaining in his own home, Padre Pio poured out his feelings to Padre Agostino:


         “Speak to me about this, Father, and do not be silent. You are

      perhaps the only one left to me among men. Jesus will redouble

      your merits for heaven”. (16-2-1915)


Towards the middle of the year 1921 a new trial, never before experienced, was added to the many to which his soul was subjected not merely by God and the devil but also by men. Here is how he describes it to Padre Benedetto:


        “To the former trials of which you are already aware, there 

    has been added a different kind of trial, the fear of being a

    burden to everyone, especially to my brethren. There is hardly

    any foundation for this fear, yet it distresses and torments me

    and prevents me from enjoying spiritual peace even for an instant”.



In his sufferings and desolation he also seeks human comfort and relief, undoubtedly, but he invariably accepts freely and willingly whatever is God’s will:


         “In comparison with my bodily sufferings, the spiritual

     struggles are much greater. although my physical sufferings

     are also increasing continually”.

          “I wish, dear Father, that I could have, I do not say a long

     respite, but at least an hour each day. But let the most holy and

     most loveable will of God be done in me and all around me, at

     all times and in all things! This is what has enabled me to carry on”.



Similarly, while recognising the divine origin of his unspeakable sufferings, he seeks the warmth of human consolation and he does so in words which implicitly contain a gentle reproof towards the one who fails to realise the depth of his interior suffering:


        “My heart is pierced through, it is reduced to shreds by this

     extreme and cruel torment. Ah, Father, if you were here you

     would not be so cruel, lifting up the knife coldbloodedly like a

     new Abraham to sacrifice his Isaac. No, you would weep with

     me and have compassion on me”. (16-11-1919)


Padre Pio’s Compassion for Others. In the presence of the poor and the afflicted Padre Pio was deeply moved and would willingly forego everything to be able to help and console them:


         “The immense pity I experience at the sight of a poor man

    gives rise deep down in my soul to a most vehement desire to

    help him, and if I were to follow the dictates of my will I should

    be driven to strip myself of my clothing to cover him.

         When I know that a person is afflicted in soul and body, what

    would I not do to have the Lord relieve him of his sufferings!

    Willingly would I take upon myself all his afflictions in order to

    see him saved, and I would even hand him to him the benefits

    of such sufferings if the Lord would allow it”. (26-3-1914)


This ardent love for others in their sufferings sometimes affected his constitution. He desired the happiness and salvation of all, for he loved them all with intense love. The impossibility of winning them to God and being close enough to everyone to satisfy their desires caused him excruciating suffering:


       “For my brothers? Alas! How often, not to say always, I have to

    say to God the Judge, with Moses: either forgive them their sin or

    else blot me out of the book of life”. (20-11-1921)


His sensitivity caused him deep pain when he realised his incapacity to fulfil this human and divine ideal to the full, as was also the case when he did not see how he could achieve what he so ardently desired:


          “Alas! I am the most unhappy creature. Who will set me free

     from this dying life from these two extremes which are tyrannising

     over me and consuming me?” (6-11-1919)


Padre Pio’s Gratitude. Sensitive to any benefits he received, he repaid them with great kindness and regretted that he was unable to show his gratitude in a practical way:


        “I have received your kind and much-desired letter and at the

    same time the expression of your charity, and I only regret that I

    have no adequate words to thank you as you deserve. But what

    hurts me most of all is not being able to show my gratitude in a

    practical way, as I would wish”.(14-3-1910)


He is grieved when he is unable to send pleasant news to his directors to make their difficult task of direction easier:


         “I would be glad, Father, if my writings might bring you gladness

    and joy at least once. But this is not within my power, much less so

    at the present time. Peace has been banished completely from my

    heart and I have become utterly blind. I am enveloped in a deeper night

    than ever and no matter how I toss and turn I cannot find the light”.



Padre Pio’s Sincerity. He reveals his frank and sincere character not only in defending his own opinions but at times even by disapproving of his director’s attitude towards him.


He had suspected that his superiors did not trust him with regard to expenses for medicines paid by the Provincial. In the following excerpt he writes to Padre Agostino, using an unusual tone which is not found anywhere else in his letters:


         “I am more than a little distressed by the fact that I have written

      several times to the Provincial, not without sacrifice on my part,

      and sent also the cost of my medicines, but have received no reply.

      Pardon me if I am lacking in respect on this point, but for the future

      I do not intend to send him the account for the medicines. Let the

      Provincial use me as he thinks fit and as he pleases, but let him leave

      in peace my family who are bleeding themselves for me continually and

      without complaining. Please keep this completely to yourself, as it is

      just a son’s outburst to his good father to relieve his feelings”.

     (January 1912. Letter 60).


On more than one occasion Padre Benedetto, unconsciously or perhaps through some higher motive, seem to show a lack of the kindly human understanding required by that particularly difficult state of souls which marked the delicate phase of Padre Pio’s passive purification. Padre Pio did not conceal his chagrin:


          “For pity’s sake don’t judge me too severely. Jesus is ever so

       good, he doesn’t show the severity and the demanding attitude which

       astonishes me in you. Be indulgent with all, especially with the one

       who has dedicated himself without reserve for Jesus’ sake and for

       souls”. (23-10.1921).


Possible misunderstandings and unjustified suspicions especially on the part of his directors and superiors, caused him to shed bitter tears:


             “I received your last letter and don’t know whether I should

        hide my astonishment from you, or rather my grief at certain

        questions you put to me. To tell the truth I wept a lot. May the  

        divine will be done, if God wishes to try me in this way. Poor Job, by

        God’s permission, was also treated harshly instead of receiving

        consolation from his friends”. (Letter 315 January 1916)


With all his veneration, respect and submission towards his superiors, he did not accept passively and with closed eyes their reproofs, their insinuations and interpretations of personal matters or events in the Community if he considered they did not correspond to the truth; for love of the same truth and in justice and charity he ventured to disagree and state things more exactly.


In June 1919 some inexact news and unfounded rumours were spread with regard to what was happening in San Giovanni Rotondo, and Padre Pio stepped in to clear up misunderstandings and false interpretations:


            “As regards the report about myself which Father Provincial

       requested Padre Raffaele to send him under a precept of obedience,

       I must tell you that the matter was published to the four winds quite

       unnecessarily by people who were brought here by the superiors”.

            “This is in order to make things clear and not allow the blame to

       fall on those who are undeserving of it, because this is lack of charity

       and rank injustice”. (14-6-1919)


He replies frankly to a reproof received from Padre Benedtto who blames him for not intervening to correct or prevent certain abuses among his confreres in San Giovanni Rotondo:


           “You speak of the waste which has taken place here without

       my having ever raised my voice. All very well, but when did I

       ever have a say in matters concerning our confreres?”

            “All use prudence with regard to our brethren, except Padre Pio,

       and to him alone they lay down the law. I have imposed perpetual

       silence on myself with regard to our brethren. I made known to Padre

       Agostino the reason for this. I don’t want and don’t intend to make

       enemies for myself unnecessarily”. (16-11-1919)


Padre Pio’s Affability. It is necessary to state that he was not gifted by nature with amiability and sweetness, but acquired these qualities by a laborious exercise of his will aided by grace. It is only in the latter period of his letters that a few references to his affability can be gleaned.


He admits and recognises from experience the importance of gentleness for successful dealing with people’s souls and is very regretful each time he fails to control himself in spite of constant effort:



            “My only regret is that, involuntarily and unwittingly, I

        sometimes raise my voice when correcting people. I realise

        that this is a shameful weakness. But how can I prevent it if

        it happens without my being aware of it? Although I pray,

        groan and complain to Our Lord about it, he has not heard

        me fully. Moreover, in spite of all my watchfulness, I sometimes

        do what I really detest and want to avoid”. (14-6-1920)


Padre Pio’s Joy.  Despite his constant suffering Padre Pio was full of joy. Fr Villani was once giving a talk when he stressed Padre Pios’ joy which he had repeatedly witnessed.


              “I have noticed in myself for several days now an

        inexplicable spiritual happiness.” (10-8-1911)


              “I repeat that it was the joy that filled my heart which

        caused me to weep for so long”. (18-4-1912)


His joy was also evident when he socialised with his friends. He loved telling jokes and his sense of fun is evident in the many happy photographs of his smiling face.


His Mission       Back to Contents

A Vocation to Co-redemption. Beyond all doubt Padre Pio had a mission of his own, a specific spiritual gift which in a certain way conditioned his entire life, both from the individual point of view and with respect to his social activity. He was not always aware of the practical achievements and decisive goals of this mission entrusted to him by Divine Providence. But moment by moment he pursued it generously and fearlessly and never did he doubt the reality of this mission nor shirk the responsibilities which it entailed.


Padre Benedetto hit the mark when he defined this mission and the charisma of which we are speaking by the concise and forceful expression , “a vocation to co-redemption”. On the 27th August 1918, in the reply to Padre Pio’s letter of the 21st of that month, in which he told him of the mystical phenomenon of transverberation and the consequent painful anxiety Padre Benedetto writes as follows:-


              “All that is happening to you is the effect of love. It is a

       trial, it is a vocation to co-redemption and hence a source of

       glory……….The Lord is with you. He is with you: patient,

      suffering, eager love, crushed and trampled upon, heartbroken;

      in the shadows of the night and even more so in the desolation

      of Gethsemane, he is associated with your suffering and

      associates you with his own”.

              “This is the whole fact of the matter, this is the truth and

       the only truth. Yours is not a purgation but a painful union”.

               “The fact of the wound completes your passion as it

       completed the Passion of the Beloved on the Cross”,



The ‘vocation to co-redemption’ of sinful mankind was carried out by Padre Pio through his participation in the sufferings of the crucified Lover who chose him to be a victim of love and suffering.


On more than one occasion, reflecting on his state, on his past and his future, Padre Pio has frankly admitted that he finds something mysterious in the course of events, in his relations with God and in God’s behaviour towards him. The first reason for this atmosphere of mystery which at times enveloped his life sprang from the contrast – only too evident to him, - between his infidelity to grace and the ever greater benevolence of God towards his soul. Evidently the phenomenon must have had a precise purpose, but this escaped him and hence in great distress he asked for clarification:


             “I see something mysterious in myself: I am constantly

       sorry for the sins I have committed, I resolve continually

       never to commit them again, yet, I must admit with bitter

       tears, that in spite of all this I am still very imperfect and it

       seems to me that I very often offend the Lord. At times I am

       really in despair because it seems to me almost impossible

       that Jesus should forgive so many sins; again, more often

       than not it seems impossible that Jesus should let me go

       astray. Oh, what on earth is all this? Explain it to me a little.

       However, all this happens to me without my perceiving it,

       for I have by no means the will to offend God even to the

       slightest extent”. (2-9-1911)


In a state of bewilderment he declares that he fails to understand how and why he is placed in this baffling situation:


           “How great is my misfortune, my dear Father! Who can

      understand it? I am well aware that I am a mystery to myself.

      I cannot understand myself”. (17-10-1915)


However, the mystery did not exactly consist of being unaware of God’s fundamental designs, but of not knowing in what manner these designs were to be fulfilled in him.


In November 1922, when Padre Pio was thirty-five, in a letter which is not part of the collection, Padre Pio wrote:


            “Infinite praise and thanks to you, O my God. You hid me

       away from the eyes of all (when he entered Capuchin Order),

       but already at that time you had entrusted a very great mission

       to your son. A mission that is known to you and myself alone”.


We are all called to assist Jesus in His mission, but for most of that means making some small sacrifice during Lent. For Padre Pio it was a vocation of suffering which led to him joining Our Lady in a lifetime of co-redemption.


A Collaborator of Christ the Redeemer. Padre Pio was aware that he had been chosen by God as a collaborator in Christ’s redemptive work and that this collaboration would not be achieved unless by the Cross. The Cross was the beacon which shed light on each step of his painful journey. It was the inexhaustible source of the strength, generosity, fidelity and perseverance demanded by his vocation. He was convinced that his entire life, like that of the Master, would be “a martyrdom”.


              “On other occasions, although I am not thinking of such

        a thing at all, my soul goes on fire with the most keen desire

        to possess Jesus entirely. Then, with an indescribable vividness

        communicated to my soul by the Lord, I am shown as in a mirror

        my whole future life as nothing but a martyrdom”.

        (Letter 131 June 1913)

However this clear vision of the uncertain and acutely painful future neither troubled nor discouraged him. Indeed, in the depths of his soul he rejoiced exceedingly that he had been called to co-operate in the salvation of souls by suffering, which draws its value and efficacy from real participation in Jesus’ Cross:


            “I am suffering, and suffering very much, but thanks to

      our good Jesus I still feel a little strength, and when aided by

      Jesus what is the creature not capable of doing? I don’t desire

      by any means to have my cross lightened, since I am happy to

      suffer with Jesus. In contemplating the Cross on his shoulders

      I feel more fortified and I exult with a holy joy.

           However, I feel within me the great need to cry out louder

      and louder to Jesus with the doctor of grace: ‘Give me what you

      command, and command what you will’ (St. Augustine) .He

      chooses souls and despite my unworthiness, he has chosen

      mine also to help him in the tremendous task of men’s salvation.

      The more these souls suffer without the slightest consolation,

      the more sufferings of our good Jesus are alleviated.

            This is the whole reason why I desire to suffer more and

      more, without the slightest consolation. In this consists all my

      joy”. (20-9-1912)


Viewed in this light, all sufferings of body and soul are willingly and joyfully accepted since they are a sign of great dignity and of a most noble destiny. Hence Padre Pio is deeply moved and bows down in great humility before the evidence that the Lord has need of his co-operation to complete the redemption of mankind:


           “The Lord then consoles me and causes me to exult in my weakness”.

            “Believe me, dear Father, I find happiness in my afflictions.

       Jesus himself wants these sufferings from me, as he needs

       them for souls. But I ask myself what relief can I give him by

       my sufferings! What a destiny! Oh, to what heights has our most

       sweet Jesus raised my soul”. (14-10-1912)


In Padre Pio’s heart the voice of God calling him to sacrifice and immolation for others becomes increasingly insistent. His soul ardently desires to sacrifice itself for God’s glory and in reparation for men’s ingratitude. These desires are pleasing to God and, although indistinctly for the moment, he announces in advance that the end will be achieved by means of mysterious afflictions of soul and body. The agonising participation in the Passion which is to culminate in stigmatisation can already be foreseen.


          “Completely penetrated by Jesus’ condescension towards

     me, I address my usual prayer to him with greater confidence:

     Oh Jesus, if I could only love you, if I could only suffer as much

     as I should like in order to make some kind of reparation for

     men’s ingratitude towards you!

           But Jesus made his voice more clearly audible in my heart:

     “My son, love is recognised in suffering; you will feel acutely in

     your soul and even more acutely in your body”.

          My dear Father, to me these words remain very obscure”.



Called then to collaborate with Jesus for the salvation of souls, Padre Pio is convinced that the end of his painful journey can only be Golgotha:

            “How many times”, said Jesus to me a little while ago

      “would you not have abandoned me if I had not crucified you?”

            “Beneath the Cross one learns to love and I do not grant

      this to everyone, but only to those souls who are dearest to

      me”. (13-2-1913)


Three years later he writes again to his director. Padre Agostino.


            “I feel crushed beneath the weight of the long exile which still

       remains  before me. It is true that just one more step…. and the

       cross will be set up on Golgotha, but you must agree that the

       step to be taken to set up the cross will require further time and

       then to agonise there with Jesus will take time”. (14-1-1916)


The light which shines forth from his agonising life and reaches the souls for whom he suffers in Christ and with Christ, is his love for his fellow men:


            “I remind you that I belong with great ardour to everyone

      and for this reason I am suffering immensely for all”. (6-11-1919)


            “I am ready for anything as long as Jesus is happy and will

      save the souls of my brothers, especially those he has entrusted

      to my care”. (18-12-1920)


Fulfilment of the Programme of Co-Redemption. From his very early years Padre Pio was deeply conscious of the need to offer himself as a victim for souls and later on he tasted lavishly the painful consequences of such an offering made and freely renewed.


In one of his first letters to Padre Benedetto, after mentioning an idea he has cherished for a long time, Padre Pio asks permission to renew the offering of himself as a victim:


             “For some time past I have felt the need to offer myself to the

       Lord as a victim for poor sinners and for the souls in Purgatory.

             This desire has been growing continually in my heart so that

       is has now become what I would call a strong passion. I have in

       fact made this offering to the Lord several times, beseeching him

       to pour out upon me the punishments prepared for sinners and

       for the souls in a state of purgation, even increasing them a

       hundredfold for me, as long as he converts and saves sinners

       and quickly admits to paradise the souls in Purgatory, but I should

       now like to make this offering to the Lord in obedience to you. It

       seems to me that Jesus really wants this. I am sure that you will

       have no difficulty in granting me this permission”. (29-11-1910)


The Permission was granted to him. His offering was not lightly made. Padre Pio had a very clear understanding of the victim state. He was well aware what the consequences of the offering would be, but he never turned back on the path he had undertaken.


In order to attain such a difficult and demanding ideal Padre Pio did not trust his own powers, but neither did he doubt the help which would make him invincible. He readily acknowledges this:


             “Jesus, his beloved Mother, the little Angel (his Guardian

      Angel) and the others continue to encourage me, and keep on

      repeating that a victim properly so-called must lose all his blood.

      To have such a tender father by one’s side in the battle is sweet

      and consoling”. (18-11-1912)


Padre Pio frequently renewed his offering. In May 1918 he received one of the many mystical favours described as ‘substantial touches’ and in reporting this to his spiritual director later he adds


             “While this was taking place I had time to offer myself entirely

      to the Lord for the same intention which the Holy Father had when he

      recommended to the whole Church to offer prayers and sacrifices. I

      had hardly finished doing so when I felt myself falling into this most

      harsh prison and heard the loud clang of the prison door as it closed

      behind me. Cruel shackles seemed to close on me and bind me

      tightly and I felt I was about to die. Since that moment I have felt

      myself in hell without even an instant’s respite”. (27-7-1918)


The Stigmatization.  On the 19th October 1918 Padre Benedetto wrote to Padre Pio “My dear son tell me everything quite frankly, not just by allusions. From where is this blood flowing and how many times a day or week? What has happened to your hands and feet and how did it happen. I want to know everything in detail, under holy obedience”. Padre Pio replied:


           “On  the morning of the 20th of last month, in the choir, after I had

       celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All

      the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul;

      were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded

      and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with a great peace and abandonment.

      All this happened in a flash”.

           “While this was taking place I saw before me a mysterious person

      similar to the one I had seen on the evening of the 5th August. The only

      difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This

      sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought

      I should died and really should have died if the Lord had not I intervened

      and strengthened my heart which as about to burst out of my chest”.

           “The vision disappeared and  became aware that my hands, feet and

      side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced an continue

      to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually,

      especially from Thursday evening until Saturday. Dear Father, I am

      dying of  pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment.



Ecstasies & Apparitions       Back to Contents

During his stay in Venafro, Padre Pio was almost always ill in bed. Padre Agostino informs us that he, after fearful temptations, enjoyed “many ecstasies, in which there appeared to him to him usually…. Jesus, Our Lady and his Guardian Angel”. Padre Agostino refers to the conversations…...when Padre Pio repeats several times the names: “Little Mother, my Mother, that Lady, Your Mother, beloved Mother”.


In one ecstasy he said: “Listen little Mother…., I love you more that all the creatures of heaven and earth… after Jesus of course… but I love you”.


In another ecstasy he said: “You are beautiful, my Mother… I glory in having a little Mother so splendid”.


During another ecstasy he said: “Yes, you are beautiful… If it was not for faith, men would say you were a goddess… your eyes are more resplendent than the sun… you are beautiful, little Mother, I glory in you, I love you… assist me!”.


Extract from November/December 2004 The Voice of Padre Pio.


Reaction to his Directors       Back to Contents

 In his early letters, when he was only twenty-three years old, he indicates that his Director’s letters are helpful:


            “Write to me, if you don’t mind, because your letters do me a

       world of good”.  (22-10-1910)


He was well aware of the difficulties which his problems caused for his directors, but he could not but have recourse to them in order to get through some very complicated periods:


            “Father, I venture to ask you to reply to me at once. For

      pity’s sake, don’t abandon me; my lamp is flickering and is

      about to go out. It needs fuel, may your holy words and your

      ardent prayers supply it in all charity!

            I take the liberty once more of asking you to write to me and

      at great length and not to do as you have done recently. Rather

      than this, I prefer absolute silence, which you will never observe

      towards me.

            I realise that I am trying your patience sorely, but bear with

      me still and Jesus will reward you eternally for it.”  (4-8-1915)


With what is both an apology for his lengthy letters and a gentle reproof for the brevity of the letters he receives he wrote:


          “Forgive me, my dear Father, I wanted to imitate the painful

      brevity of several of your letters; I resolved to do this, but – do

      not be angry with me – I just couldn’t do it”. (18-9-1915)


Although he wanted long letters from his directors, he himself was sometimes rather brief in giving an account of his conscience unless he received an express request to the contrary. For this reason, in order the stimulate him and in response to his desire for long letters, Padre Benedetto used what is almost a threat:


      “…….I will only cease to be brief when you write to me

       extensively”.  (18-3-1921)


Padre Benedetto’s request becomes more distressed and urgent when he feels the need of light and consolation in his own spiritual battles. On such occasions he does not easily resign himself to silence and finds it hard to endure delay on Padre Pio’s part in replying to him:


       “…..but remember too that I never left you without an

      answer even when the mass of my commitments did not

      allow me time to blow my nose. You must reply, even if it

      is only a few words”.  (29-6 1919)


           “I understand and sympathise with your illness, but

     silence must not take on the appearance of abandonment.



Were these demands of his directors justified and was there some foundation for their complaints? The answer will be found in the letters but in order for us to understand things from Padre Pio’s point of view here are three factors which explain and justify his behaviour with regard to the frequency and length of his letters to his directors:


1. His constant ill-health made it difficult for him to keep his correspondence up date and the first to suffer from this was himself. Phrases such as the following recur continually:


             “I feel in my heart a great desire to tell you many things,

      all of them with regard to Jesus, but […..] my sight does not

      help me”. (21-3-1912)


             “I imagine that you are not satisfied to hear merely a general

      account of my interior state, but, dear Father, my sight prevents

      me from doing otherwise, that is, from telling you in detail about

      my inner life. God knows how shattered I am after having written

      for a little while”.  (31-3-1912)


Not infrequently the blots in his writing reveal the agitation of his pulse and unsteadiness of his hand, especially when he writes in the throes of a very high fever or an excruciating headache.


2. Add to this the interventions of the devil who from time to time attacks him furiously to prevent regular correspondence with his directors:


           “Do you know what the devil has resorted to? He didn’t want

       me to inform you in my last letter about the war he is waging on

       me. And since, as usual, I did not want to listen to him [   ], they

       did not accept this as a reply (I say “they” because they were

       several of them although only one spoke), for they hurled

       themselves upon me, cursing me and beating me severely,

       while the they threatened to destroy me if I did not change

       my mind as regards our relations”.  (14-10-1912)


            “The other night the devil appeared to me in the likeness

       of one of our Fathers and gave me a very strict order from

       Father Provincial not to write to you any more as it is against

       poverty and a serious obstacle to perfection”.  (13-12-1912)


3. The frequency and length of the letters was also determined by the pressing obligations of his ministry, especially from 1919 onwards, when crowds began to flock to the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo. Padre Pio excuses himself to his directors even though Padre Benedetto was not inclined to believe in this impediment. In two letters to Padre Benedetto he wrote:


           “The work which is pressing on me and oppressing me

      continually, without a break either by day or by night, added to

      my physical ailments which have increased during the last few

      days [   ]. I am in pain all the time as I work. The amount of work

      is so great that I have no time to think of myself and it is a real

      miracle that I do not go out of my mind”. (14-3-1921)


           “I didn’t reply, first of all because I hadn’t a free moment,

      though as usual you won’t believe this”.  (24-12-1921)


Letters in French and Greek.. We do not know why Padre Agostino started to send his letters in French and Greek. He must have had a belief that Padre Pio would find a way of interpreting them. Also we don’t know why but the letters in French were an anathema to the devil. The very first of these were made unreadable by being completely stained with ink. At that time Padre Pio was in Pietrelcina and the Parish Priest attests to this diabolical intervention when a letter was opened in his presence.


            “But when we opened it we found it completely covered

        with ink-stains. Was this also a vendetta on the part of the

        ogre? I cannot believe that you would have sent it to me like

        that aware as you are of my weakness of sight”.  (18-11-1912)


When the letter had been placed on a crucifix, sprinkled with holy water, and the holy exorcism had been pronounced over it, it was possible to read it. (See note Letters 1 Page 354.)


Eventually the ink-stains stopped but then there was another question. How was Padre Pio interpreting the letters? The answer is contained in a letter from Padre Pio:


             “The heavenly beings continue to visit me and to give me

       a foretaste of the rapture of the blessed. And while the mission

       of our Guardian  Angels is a great one, my own Angel’s mission

       is certainly greater, since he has the additional task of teaching

       me other languages”.   (20-9-1912)


Diabolical Intervention and Heavenly Comfort       Back to Contents

The intervention of the ‘wretch’, i.e., the devil, in Padre Pio’s spiritual journey is something which disconcerts at first sight. It is a question of a deadly duel in which there is no respite, no sparing of blows between the soul and its relentless enemy. Manifold are the snares, continual the attacks, atrocious the temptations. The attacks aim at the faculties (intellect and will) with the specific intention of preventing the exercise of the theological virtues and progress in divine life.


Here is a list of epithets which Padre Pio used to describe his opponent. They contain facetious irony and also a touch of humour. They commenced in correspondence of January 1911 and continued through till September 1915 when they stopped and never reappeared: big whiskers, the ogre, scoundrel, miserable, evil spirit, wretch, filthy wretch, foul Beast, woeful wretch, hideous faces, impure spirits, those scoundrels, wicked spirits, horrible beast, infamous apostate, impure apostates, gallows-bird, howling wild beasts, malignant deceiver, prince of darkness.


In the letters there is frequent mention of the anguish caused by diabolical attacks:


            “Even during my times of rest the devil continues to afflict my

        soul in various ways”.   (22-19-1910)


At that time Padre Pio would have been twenty three years old.


            “They flung themselves upon me like to many hungry tigers,

       cursing me and threatening to make me pay for it. My dear

       Father, they kept their word! From that day onward they have

       have beaten me every day. But I am not frightened”. (1-2-1913)


             “For the past twenty-two days Jesus has allowed them to vent

       their anger on me continually. My body, dear Father, is bruised

       all over, from all the blows it has received at the hands of our

       enemies”.   (14-2-1013)


Padre Pio’s concern is that he may offend God in even the slightest way either now or in the future:


             “These temptations make me tremble from head foot with

        the fear of offending God. I hope the in the future as in the past

        I may not fall a victim to them”.   (1-10-1910)


We are aware of St Paul’s well-known doctrine: God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be also able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13)


            “Jesus, our dear Mother, my little Angel, St Joseph and our

        father St Francis are almost always with me”.   (18-1-1912)


            “In the end the Infant Jesus came to me, to whom I said that

       I only wanted to do his will. Dear God! How my heart throbbed,

       how my cheeks burned while this heavenly Child was close to

       me”.   (28-6-1912)


In a letter to Padre Benedetto of the 22nd October 1910 he asks him “Even from far away do not fail to invoke maledictions on this common enemy of ours so that he may leave me in peace.”


In that same letter he states; “Even during my hours of rest the devil does not cease to torment my soul in various ways.”


In another letter to Padre Benedetto of the 29 March 1911 he writes: “It seems to me that the wretch is more annoyed with you than with me, for he wants to deprive me of your direction. In point of fact, I have to make a great effort to tell you about my affairs. Intense pains in the head almost prevent me from seeing where to place my pen.”


The physical beatings continued. A letter of the 23 February 1913 to Padre Agostino states: “My body, dear Father, is bruised all over, from all the blows it has received at the hands of our enemies. More than once they even went so far as to pull off my nightshirt and beat me in that state.”


Padre Pio was always able to recognise and expose these devilish tormentors. On one occasion a devil came to the confessional. As Padre raised his hand to give a blessing the devil fled!


The Charisms of Padre Pio       Back to Contents

Xenogloss:; The ability to understand speak and write foreign languages.

          Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis wrote on the 21st January

     1945, in his Diary: ‘In 1940 or 1941 a German speaking priest from

     Switzerland visited Padre Pio. Knowing that Padre Pio could not speak

    his language he spoke to him in Latin. Before leaving, the priest

    recommended a sick woman to him. And the Padre replied to him

    in German: Ich werde sie an die gottliche Barmherzigkeit – I will

    remember her to divine Mercy’.


Scrutiny of Hearts: A gift whereby through supernatural means the secrets of others are known.

         A woman during a religious pilgrimage went to confession

    in one of the shrines along the route. When she arrived in San

    Giovanni Rotundo, she did not want to miss the chance of going

    to confession to Padre Pio and to the friar of the Gargano she

    repeated the same sins that had already been forgiven her. The

    Saint of Pietrelcina suddenly interrupted, to the surprise of the

    penitent, and said: “Why are you confessing to me sins that you

    already confessed in Assisi?” 


The Gift of Light: Where the body and soul are penetrated by divine light.

        Dr Giorgio Festa, on the 5th October 1925, operated, on Padre

    Pio for a hernia. Before he began to stitch the wound, he noticed

    that the Padre had lost consciousness. He took advantage of this

    to look at his side wound. Her saw then, on his left side, that the

    wound was “fresh and of a vermilion red and in the shape of a cross”.

    The scab that covered it had fallen away. “From the edges of the

    wound emitted small but unmistakable rays of light”. Then he

    finished the operation, put on the bandage and the Padre regained

    his senses. 


Bilocation: The ability to be in two places at once.

        On the 11th December 1918, Padre Pio wrote to Rosinella Gisolfli

    who was ill in bed: “This God of love wants to put to the test his elect

    (…) Place you trust, my daughter, in this divine predilection. It is out

    of love that (God) is making you undergo this trial; it is out of love

    that He allowed his unworthy minister to be present at your side

    the other night. And it was allowed by Him so as to console you,

    bring relief and courage in this very hard trial. (Letters III).


Invisibility: The ability to make oneself invisible to others.

         A group of ‘women’ in scanty dress, part of a theatre company,

     wished to meet Padre Pio out of mere curiosity. Fra Gerardo,

     hoping for their conversion, went to look for Padre Pio in the

     friary but could not find him anywhere. The women, tired of

     waiting, went away in their car. Immediately afterwards, Fra

     Gerardo saw Padre Pio in front of the church. To Fra Gerardo,  

     who asked him where he had been, he answered “I was walking

     back and forth in front of you but you did not notice”..


Gift of Perfume: A sign of unusual virtue smelt by privileged people.

         Padre Agostino of San Marco in Lamis, who could smell only

    strong odours because of a malfunction of his olfactory glands, in his

    Diary testifies: “I smelt a number of times the perfume that many

    people smell. Even when I was distant from San Giovanni Rotundo

    I smelt it”. The phenomenon of this mysterious “perfume of  Padre

    Pio” continued also after he died. And many smell the perfume not

    just in the places connected with his life but also in America and

    other distant parts of the world.

Ecstasy: A mystical experience which permits a state of communion with the Divine.

       Dr Nicola Lombardi declared: ”I saw Padre Pio in the Capuchin

  Friary of Dan Nicando, in Venafro, stretched out on his bed and

  staring with his open eyes at something that seemed to be present

  above him. He was speaking and addressing his words to Jesus, to

  Our Lady and to his Guardian Angel. He was red in the face. I found

  his heart and pulse to be normal. Everything appeared to be

  physiological. Then I lit a candle and held it in front of the Padre’s

  eyes. He did not notice a thing, and there was no reaction in the

  pupil of his eyes.


Visions: Supernatural perceptions of heavenly personages.

      One reads in the Diary of Father Agostino: “Padre Pio’s apparitions

  began from the age of five, when he made up his mind and heart to

  consecrate himself for ever to the Lord and these visions were

  continuous”. One morning the young boy Francesco was alone in

  the church and praying before the Blessed Sacrament when all of a

  sudden Jesus appeared to him and He beckoned to him to approach

  Him and He placed his hand on the young man’s head.


Healings: The gift of healing the sick.

     Antonio D’Onofrio, who had rickets and was crippled, after Padre Pio

  touched him with his wounded hand, rose up from the kneeler cured

  of his deformity. The little girl Di Chiara, At the command of the Saint

  of Pietrelcina, removed the orthopaedic supports that covered he legs

  that had been crippled by polio as a child and she began to walk. The

  famous Dr Valdoni said of these amazing happenings that took place

  in San Giovanni Rotundo: “Our science is incapable of giving an

  explanation for the things that are taking place on that mountain”.


Spirit of Prophecy: The gift to speak under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

     During Benediction, while Padre Pio was reciting prayers before

  the Blessed Sacrament with his back to the faithful, a woman hidden

  in the crowds kneeling at the back of the church, in order to be more

  comfortable folded her scarf in four and placed it under her knees. A

  few days later she went to confession to the Padre who, as soon as he

  saw her said to her “I’ll teach you to put rags under your knees when

  you are in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament”.     


Clairvoyance: The gift to know future events.

     Fr Eusebio da Castelpetroso recounts: “Pope John  XXIII had died

 recently and the Cardinals had met in the conclave for the election

 of his successor. I was anxious to know beforehand who would be

 elected and I was tormenting Padre Pio continuously. One day, as

 he was coming out of the refectory, I asked him again, in the

 presence of another friar, the same question. And the Padre, with

 absolute certainty, exclaimed: “It will be Montini!” Then added:

 “Well I have let it out now”.


The Power over His Likeness: Padre Pio had the power to copy his image or to erase it from photographs.

     Mr. Remigio Maccari of Visna di Vazzola (Trevioso), a spiritual

  son of Padre Pio and benefactor of the friary, desired very much to

  have something that belonged to the Padre as a souvenir. So a friar

  gave him a white handkerchief used by the Saint, which Remigio

  placed with care in a drawer. When after a while he took it out again,

  the handkerchief had a likeness of Padre Pio’s face impressed on it.

  Proof of this are the photographs that Mr. Maccari made of this

  singular exhibit. Also Padre Pio had the ability to interfere with

  cameras. When photographs were taken of him they would come

  out blank. No one was able to photograph the Padre until the

  Superior ordered him to no longer make the films blank.


The above Charisms are taken from Padre Pio’s Calendar for

the year of Our Lord. 2006.




Humph’s story of his Miraculous Cure by Padre Pio        Back to Contents

Prologue: Cecil Humphery-Smith, who had become a Catholic in 1953, joined the Heinz corporation as a quality-control chemist in 1954. One of his colleagues, and ultimately a friend, was Bernardo Patrizi, who since his father’s recent death had become the Marchese Patrizi, a member of the Papal Nobility. He was a commercial consultant and adviser to H.J.Heinz II. In 1955, Cecil found himself working for Heinz in the tomato fields of the Italian Po Valley. This is his story.

Introduction: I suppose I have to tell the story why I was in Italy and how I came to be able to speak with the ordinary folk. Well, Alice and I were married on £178 a year, after her parents had died and I had taken a post-graduate position in research at The London School of Hygiene and tropical Medicine. It was there that I met Juan Galarraga who was completing a Ph.D. in biochemistry at our laboratories. We soon became friends. In the summer term he returned from Spain a priest, and after completing his doctorate he was appointed chaplain to the Opus Dei community at Netherhall House, in North London. In the summer vacations the house accommodated young boys from France and Spain and I was asked to help to teach them English.  It was hard work but fun. There was Mass each day that I attended before teaching the boys. In the afternoons we would take them on cultural tours. That was harder work. One young man was a terror and on an excursion to Windsor jumped on and off the punts that I was trying to hire for the group. He would not behave. Eventually, I was so fed up with shouting at him that I picked him up by his ankles and held him head first over the River Thames. His pocket money fell out of his pockets into the water and he offered to be a good boy. Some twenty years later he sent his sons and daughters to stay with our family “for the discipline you gave to me!”  His eldest son was as bad as he was but grew up to become a judge and years later wanted us to take his delinquent son.  Enough was enough by then.  We are still in touch with the family. During the first summer that I taught at Netherhall, Father Juan came to visit us, and before Christmas he baptised our first child. Father Juan and I would often pace the lawns at Netherhall when the boys were having a time for recreation in the evenings. We would debate many matters, always returning to Faith. I had been brought up a “Middle churchman” in the Church of England, but went to a “High Church” school as a boarder. There, I spent much time studying books on all faiths and Catholicism in particular. I went on retreats to the “Cowley Fathers” SSJE, an “Anglo-Catholic” community on retreat each year. When I met Alice, and that is another story, I was happiest when I could go to Mass with her. Latin was no problem, and the silence was something Divine in its spirituality.


In the November of the year after our Susan was born, the nuns at St James’s Spanish Place, London, looked after her at the convent while Alice took me to be received into Holy Mother Church by Father Juan in that lovely church. My God-parents were two of my students. Alice had been praying for me, but always claimed that she had nothing to do with my conversion. Father Juan went on to baptise each one of our six children, and to celebrate many festivals for us, before departing for Spain once more. 


After our second daughter, Margaret was born, the funds were running low, and I left Professor Harry Raistrick crying when I left the research work to join the H.J Heinz Co. to work in the food industry. They sent me on a crash course to learn Italian with which I found no great difficulty. Then, sent to Italy to work on the tomato fields of the Po valley in quality control, I found that my Italian was good enough to debate with fellow chemists of the production plants, field managers and company directors and the like. Nonetheless, I had much difficulty in understanding or making myself understood by the workers in the fields and processing factories.


Mariucia, a peasant lady worked in the kitchens of the De Rica factory, at Valconasso di Pontenuri. This is a village in the Parma-Piacenza area, just South of the ancient Via Emilia. We laughed a lot about my accent and lack of understanding of the local dialect. Mariucia was friendly with the local parish priest, Don Lucio Bonvicini, whom I served at Mass every morning in the little mediaeval church of St Nicholas at 7.00 a.m. before the factory gates were opened.  Mass was of course still traditional Tridentine Latin. The future Pope John XXIII had not long before left the diocese of Piacenza to become Patriarch of Venice and Pope Paul VI was recently consecrated Bishop of Milan. I would manage to get to Mass most mornings even when I was travelling to farms and factories further along the valley. Mariucia would often bake something for Don Lucio’s table.


Remember that this was only ten years after the end of the Second World War and, even in the countryside food was scarce. She and her family were always barefooted, even when being driven on the back of a Vespa on those treacherous unmade roads. She lived in a one roomed brick-built single storied shed about 12 feet by 10 feet with a curtain over a doorway, cooking, washing and eating being on the concrete below a canvas awning. I cannot remember there being any windows. She and her husband who worked as a mechanic and was the only one wearing old shoes, invited me to stay with them. I had many a happy evening with them after work sitting under the awning lit by oil or candlelight standing upon their only table. There I learnt Piacentai the dialect of the contadini. I slept on a straw palliasse in one corner of the room. The two children were in another corner with mother and father near the “door”. The fourth corner was ostensibly held by the pig, two goats, a goose and a number of noisy chicken who seemed to be pecking at me most of the night. Every few days I returned to my room at the Croce Bianca hotel in Piacenza from time to time for a bath and fresh clothes.


After my crash, and meeting Padre Pio, I left Heinz to pursue my hobbies and interest in family matters, which has been my life’s work since. I became a consultant to De Rica, and returned to the factory, Don Lucio, Mariucia and family for a few weeks each year between 1960 and 1978. I have met them several times since. The “house” is the same but it has a television mast and the “Miraculo italiano” has altered so much of the way of life. Last time we visited, we found the church of St Nicholas was closed. The thirteenth century wall paintings are rapidly decaying through having no air, and the internal walls are going green with mildew.


In 1955, wax for candles was scarce and expensive. What was left from the Mass candles was used in the sanctuary lamp. With the help of an electrician, Alf, from the Heinz support team, I invented and installed a gadget and one in front of each of the two beautiful murals at the West end of the church, the one of Our Lady of Consolation and the other of the Crucifixion. They were made so that by putting a coin in the slot in front of a bank of a couple of dozen uncoloured Christmas tree candle-like bulbs, a bulb would light up and stay lit for ten minutes at a time.  The two stands were still there in place with two or three lights burning when we last visited Valconasso.  The caretaker who let me in, and told me that she remembered me when she was a little girl as “il chimico inglese”, gave me the sad news that Don Lucio had died the previous year. The church is kept locked and only opened for Mass from time to time. We lit another two or three candles each side, exchanging euros for the old 25 lire coins with the caretaker lady who had a bag of old currency available for the purpose. I knelt down and wept. At least Our Blessed Lord was still there in the Tabernacle on the altar and the church had not been “re-ordered”.


Humph’s Story Commences

“It had been a bad summer, very hot periods with much rain and hailstones, which meant there were lots of problems with the tomato crop. As a result, whenever word arrived from a farmer in the region that his crop was ready, we had to go to his farm immediately to inspect it and make a decision on its acceptability or otherwise.


“My colleagues were all away and I was having to cover the whole region myself, with 40 or 50 factories to control. On 24th September 1955, I returned to my hotel extremely tired after a hard day. With long days and being called out at all hours I hadn’t had a proper sleep for two nights running. I was longing just to eat in the rain. I said I was too tired and would call in the morning. But the farmer had insisted that I should go immediately. I got in the car and drove to Montesanto. This was still just ten years after the end of the Second World War and the country roads were still on virtually unlaid tracks.


“Unfortunately for the poor farmer, by the time I arrived it was already too late. It was raining hard. The tomatoes had got wet; there were cracks appearing in them and so fungus would soon follow. He had invested too much in this one crop and pleaded with me to accept it. But I had no choice. I just couldn’t go against Heinz quality standards – the fruit would only be rejected when it, or the concentrate reached England.


“At about 10.40p.m. I left Mario Cantarelli at the Montesanto factory. His wife had gone back to the farmhouse, crying. I was very sorry but I was driving back to the hotel, desperate for sleep. Then I had the accident. I can only conclude I must have dozed off momentarily. The previous few days I had been getting cramp in my calf muscles; a sign of tiredness. When I jolted from sleep to consciousness, I had a cramp spasm in my leg and instinctively stretched it out. The accelerator, of course, hit the floor. The car shot forward. I saw a light coming towards me and think it must have been a motorbike. As I woke up, the car speeding forward, and this light approaching, I ‘thought English’. That is, in my attempt to avoid the approaching vehicle, I swerved to the wrong side of the road and ended up passing the motorcycle on its inside. I smashed into a bridge. The car was split in two.


“At that moment I had what is now termed an ‘out-of body experience’. I was outside my body looking down on the scene. My body was lying alongside the petrol tank, about fifteen feet away from the wreckage. It was night-time. It was a country road, and in those days not many people in the region had cars. One car came and passed by. Then, some time later, another. A third one stopped. It seemed I was up in the air looking down on the scene. I had what is now known to have been the classic near-death experience of going down a long tunnel and being drawn towards the most heavenly light. I knew everything would be all right when I reached that light.


“Perhaps because this third car passed, stopped and came back, I seemed to find myself momentarily back in my body – at least in my head. I could see through what seemed like mountains – but were in fact chips and stones on the road lit by the car lights – three people approached me. I could see their feet and their legs and up almost to their shoulders.


“At the same time I was aware of the petrol flowing out of the tank and onto the road all around me. They were two men and a woman. The first thing one of the men did was to light up a cigarette. I remember being aware of  the petrol all around me and of the attendant danger but I couldn’t speak.


“They discussed what they should do. One said they should move me, another said no, they should send for the police. They discussed the improbability of another car arriving which could go and inform the police, there being no telephones around. Then the women said they couldn’t just leave me there. They debated again whether to move me or not, before deciding to move me in their car to the nearest hospital.


“I drifted back out of my body again and was once more looking down on the scene as they picked me up and put me in the back of their car, my head was on a newspaper on the woman’s lap. I followed the car all the way to the hospital. It was as if I were travelling just behind, and way above it, all the way, going faster and faster.


“I was taken to the Municipal Hospital of Piacenza, arriving around 11p.m., according to hospital records. I was aware of myself in my body on a trolley in a corridor.


“I have to confess that I believe that I lifted my broken arm and took off my silver chain and Crucifix, as well as my Scapular from around my neck. In fact, did I? If so, why? When, eventually, I regained consciousness, they were on the bedside table and the sisters had put a new scapular on its cord around my neck and a Miraculous Medal on a blue thread around my wrist. I still have both.


“I felt a doctor putting his hands on me, checking my head and body. Then he pulled the sheet up over my head and the trolley was pushed through some doors into a room.


“I don’t not know what the time-scale of what follows may have been, when I was discovered to be alive and transferred from the trolley, but the next thing I remember was being in a bed. The door opened and a bearded Franciscan friar walked in. He put a bag down on the table at the end of my bed and then sat down beside me.


“All I can say of our conversation is that he forced me into making a good confession. He was pretty brutal at times. When I was lagging and couldn’t remember something, he would tell me, remind me of such and such a sin in my life. He went on and on and would force me to admit what he seemed to know better than I could remember. The physical shock of the accident must have been wearing off because I was starting to become aware of pain in my body. I think subconsciously I was getting a bit cheesed off at the insistence of this priest confessing me.


“No stone was left unturned in my life. He scoured me thoroughly, and then gave me what I recognized as what we then called ‘the last rites’; absolution, Holy Oils and Holy Communion. What I remember most of that encounter was his most beautiful smile. Then he left. I do not know how. My eyes were closed, in peace.


“The next morning my friend and colleague the Marchese Bernardo  Patrizi came in with a local parish priest, Don Lucio Bonvicini, whom I knew well because I used to go to Mass in his church at Valconasso di Pontenuri.  In fact, most mornings when mass was 7.30 or 8 a.m. I was able to serve his Mass in Tridentine Latin (as it still was), and still get to the factory in time for quality control work.  He had come to bring me Holy Communion and I told him that I had received only that night, that one of the Franciscans had been to see me. Perhaps he thought I was delirious but he just said that was all right, I could receive Holy Communion again.


“From the Municipal Hospital, Benardo  arranged to have me transferred to a clinic in Fidenza run by a Professor Venucci. He had run this clinic for years and in the war the Germans had commandeered it, blowing it up along with the equipment when they left. The British troops, when they arrived, found him crying on the steps of the ruined building. They rebuilt it and used it as a military hospital, re-equipping it as necessary. When they left they handed it back to the Professor, complete with new equipment. From then on, Venucci would look after any English people in the area, especially those who had accidents on the Via Emilia that passed close by. (That was the old road, not the later motorway).


“Eventually, Bernardo took me from there to his palace on his estate at Gerneto, in the North of Italy near Monza. There I was looked after by his daughters Giovanna and Francesca and often, by a friend of the family, Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy, a daughter of Umberto, the last King of Italy. My skull had been cracked, I had a whiplash neck injury, a broken collar bone and shoulder – only later did we find out a vertebra was cracked. and broken or badly bruised ribs, elbow, knee and ankle.  I was in rather a mess.


“For one reason or another which I still don’t know, it turned out that nobody had informed my wife. I was then flown home, both arms in slings and heavily bandaged. I should not really have been flown home so soon because in those days the airline cabins didn’t have proper pressurization and I was suffering  from cranial contusions and post-concussion problems.


“Much later I saw a letter that Professor Venucci had addressed to my physician, Dr Graham, in England. I now have that letter in my possession. It was dated 1 October 1955 and its last line, underlined in red ink, stated in Italian, ‘I counsel close care of Cecil Humphery-Smith because of the possibility of later complications to this trauma to the skull.


“After about a month I was back at work and was soon promoted  to Consumer Service Manager of the Heinz Corporation and so had my own office. But then I found that I began to fall asleep at strange times. One evening going home, I arrived at Richmond Underground station and felt dizzy  and fell forward. The train doors closed on my neck. From then on I started blacking out. I fell downstairs, on the pavement, into the road. I also began to suffer excruciating pains in my head and had brainstorms. At one time in desperation, I drove into the River Thames by Walton Bridge. I had to clamber out but the shock revived my faith.


“After many months of anxiety and agony for Alice and myself, I was taken into St Thomas Hospital in London. Doctor William Sargent had been involved in research into brainwashing during the war. As he couldn’t find a physical reason for my pain, he thought there must be a psychological one. Eventually I was drugged with about 30-40 different pills a day. 


“Nothing really changed and I was released again. But I was now suffering the most violent spasms. The pain centred on the right hand side of my skull was excruciating; a pain like a thousand dentist’s drills hitting the nerves. Having some kind of brainstorm, I would be literally banging my head against the wall, willing the pain to disappear. I even began to smash up furniture in the process, so I’m told.


“I was soon sent back into St Thomas’s Hospital, where they decided to try ‘abreaction’. The doctor, William Sargent, had the theory that I might have killed someone in the accident, may have been, psychologically, covering up having a passenger in the car or causing damage to someone else in the accident, for example. Subconscious guilt might be what was causing the brainstorms, he believed. He decided to put me under hypnosis to find out what had really happened. First he interviewed me and got from me a conscious account of what happened that night of 24th September 1955. Then, in a lecture theatre, demonstrating before his students, he injected me with some sort of hypnotic drug and made me re-enact the accident. The whole thing was recorded.


“A few days later he came into my ward and said, ”You’ll have to help us with the translation”. He brought me a tape recording of what I had said during such a session, and asked me to translate it.  I had been talking in Italian, describing the experiences. Under hypnosis, I had apparently told much of the story in the accent and dialect of that region of Piacenza where I had been living and working at the time. In fact, my account under hypnosis did not reveal any deviations from the conscious account I had given in the previous interview. There was no psychological cause for the tremendous agony, and that continued.


“In 1961, I moved with my wife and children to Canterbury. The following year our old friend Bernardo Patrizi came to visit us, and he witnessed me having one of these brainstorms. He said it was ridiculous that I should still be suffering like I was seven years after the accident. He told us that people crashed every day on the Via Emelia and other roads of Italy and did not suffer as I was. He decided he would be taking me over to Italy once more. He reckoned there were so many road accidents every day that the specialists there must be well experienced in all the different medical problems likely to arise from such injuries. I left home on 22nd September 1962.


“Bernardo took me first to the hospital at Fidenza where I had been in 1955. From there I was recommended to a clinic in Parma. The doctor there, Professor Visintini, put me on what was basically a course of anti-histamines. His x-rays, which he certified on 16th November 1962, revealed that I had a tumour on the right-hand side of the brain.


“As they decided what to do next, Bernardo put me into a little flat in Piacenza along with his chauffeur and cook to care for me. In my brainstorms I knocked it about more than once. One day in early December, Bernardo phoned me from Rome and asked if I were behaving myself. He told me that he wanted to take me to meet a friend of his. His chauffeur would drive me to meet him in Florence. I was driven over the Cisa and down into Florence and met up with the Marchese. I remember we had a good meal in a restaurant called the Bocca Luppo. Then we took train to the Southern town of Foggia, and I fell asleep. We arrived late in the evening and a car met us. Bernardo wasn’t telling me a thing about where we were going, talking instead about every other subject possible. I was still in intense pain and I suppose he was trying to distract me. It seemed like about a two-hour journey through the countryside and then up the mountainside. There was no proper road and at every twist we were faced with the precipice.


“What with my pain and the harrowing journey in the dark up the mountain, I was in a terrible state when we finally arrived as a small hotel called Santa Maria della Grazie. I had a drink of hot chocolate and went straight to bed.


“In the early hours of the morning, Bernardo called to my room to waken me ‘Come on. Be quick. Get up. We’re going to Mass. Don’t waste time, come now.’ It was snowing and there was about a two-inch coating already lying on the ground. It was bitterly cold as we trudged up the hill to go to Mass at a convent. I assure you, Bernardo told me nothing. I felt that he almost thought that I ought to know. To know what, I did not know.


“I remember an incredible crowd all huddling around the church doors that dark winter morning – which to me was still the middle of the night. They were all praying the Rosary aloud. I was in a rather a daze, I think, and it all seemed somewhat unreal. After all, only two years before the accident I had been an Anglican, and the day before we arrived in San Giovanni I had been in the north of Italy where in the 1950’s I had known members of Opus Dei. Now, after a harrowing journey, still in much pain, here I was up the Gargano mountain in the middle of the night with all these people waiting to go to Mass. We could hear the bolts of the doors being pulled back from inside, and then what I can only describe as a ‘whoosh’ as the crowd surged through and literally ran to fill up the front seats.


“In my English reserve, I stood back to let people pass me. I saw Bernardo was gone. As we had been waiting, people had been coming up and greeting him. He seemed to be known there. I sat alone near the back of the church, still only half awake. The church went silent as an old priest came out to say Mass.


“From then on, all I can say is that I witnessed and experienced a complete sharing in the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. I was transported to the foot of Calvary. Time seemed to have disappeared and I was in a state of stupor when suddenly Bernardo was pulling me towards the sacristy. I remember chiding him because the Mass was not yet finished; the priest was reading the last Gospel. [Before Vatican II reforms, each mass ended with the people being sent away having heard a last reading from the first verses of the Gospel of John on the essence of their faith; the Incarnation. ‘In the beginning was the Word.…’ (John 1)] But he just pulled me down the church towards the sacristy. As we approached, more and more men were crowding up to the door. The priest had finished the last Gospel and was making his way from the altar.


“He passed by us and I said to Bernardo, ‘So, that’s why you brought me here. That’s the priest who brought me Communion in Piacenza after the crash.’ Bernardo said ‘No, this priest hadn’t left San Giovanni for years.


We were being pushed against the sacristy door with other men at one end. We entered the sacristy. It was a long room with cupboards and chests for the sacred vestments on one side and small windows on the other. At the other end was a kneeler on which the old priest knelt and made his thanksgiving after Mass. I stood next to Bernardo, not very happy with this whole scene. I was still in a state of stupefaction. The pain was intense and I was worried about what was happening. It was only 7.30 and recognizing the priest had disturbed me. I asked myself what was Bernardo’s relationship with him.


“The priest came along greeting each one in turn. As he embraced Bernardo, Bernardo turned to me and told me to kneel down. I knelt. Then Bernardo told the priest, in Italian, “Padre, this is the Englishman I told you about”. The bearded Franciscan priest, in his somewhat gruff voice with which I was to become familiar, said ‘Eh Be. Be’ and he tapped me three times on the right of the head. The pain left me immediately. He passed on down the line to the others without looking back. When he turned to bless us and wish us all a good day’s work, his eyes transfixed me. I rose to my feet with tears in my eyes and great joy.


“Bernardo and I walked back down the hill to our hotel for breakfast, intending to come back to the friary later for confession. Bernardo began to tell me something of his association with the priest and how he had been appointed treasurer of Padre Pio’s charitable works. As we sat at table, one of the friars, Padre Eusebio, came running in and told us Padre Pio wanted to see us. We went back up the hill to Padre Pio’s room and chatted with him. In the evening we were with him again in the ‘upper room’ where he would regularly meet with his closest collaborators who had helped in the building and some of the doctors, and those who ran his hospital.


“We would do this for the next four of five days that we stayed in San Giovanni Rotondo. On that first evening, as people arrived they would kneel to greet Padre Pio, kissing his hand. I, inexplicably in the face of my usual English reserve, bent over and kissed the Padre on the forehead. He remined me much of my old grandfather. Padre Pio took my face in his hands and said ‘Bravo, Inglese, Bravo’ and patted my cheeks. Henceforward he would always call me ‘L’Inglese,’ The Englishman.


“Of course I had told Bernardo that my pain had gone at that first meeting with Padre Pio in the sacristy. I was taken to the still-new hospital opposite the friary and they prudently told me to keep taking the treatment I had been prescribed.


“In all the years I had known Bernardo, he had never once mentioned Padre Pio to me or that he was a spiritual child and close friend of his. In fact it was he who had introduced Barbara Ward to Padre Pio. He had also taken Graham Greene and Catherine Walston to San Giovanni Rotondo, but as Greene later wrote, he turned down the opportunity to meet the Padre because, ‘I didn’t want my life to be changed by a saint’. (Graham Greene, Yours etc., Letters to the Press 1945-1989, selected and edited by Christopher Hawtree, Penguin.) Years later, though, in an interview with The Tablet. he said he always carried a picture of Padre in his wallet.


“We left San Giovanni for Rome and then on to Piacenza and Bernardo’s palace at Gerneto. He rang my wife, Alice, to tell her what had happened. She couldn’t believe I was healed and didn’t want me back home until she knew I really was cured. She had suffered so much from my brainstorms and mood-changes in the previous seven years.


“As she was afraid to believe I was indeed healed, Bernardo asked Padre Pio to send her a telegram. By now we were coming up to Christmastime – a feast Padre Pio particularly loved because of the tenderness and childlike simplicity around it. The words he addressed to my wife were: ‘I present to you the Christ child and may all the crosses of your life become as a bouquet of roses.’


“I left Bernardo’s palace for home. The airport at Milan was snowbound. I took a train to Paris and thence to Calais. The sea was frozen!  Eventually, several days after setting off, I arrived in England on Christmas Eve. Alice had left home to stay with her brother.  It was a harrowing drive of many hours through the snow to reach her. I found my wife in the local church waiting to go to confession. We were reunited there in the church on Christmas Eve.


“Home again, and now almost-unbelievably well, I had to rebuild a life. I had resigned from Heinz two years previously. I set up my own business in Canterbury and was also taken on as a consultant to an association of Italian tomato-growers. Thus from April to June each year I went to Italy. I went to visit Padre Pio twice in the summer of 1963 and once or twice each year after that., sometimes able to take Alice and our growing family.


“Padre Pio didn’t permit himself to hear my confession again. When I met him in San Giovanni it would have been unfair to slip in and be specially privileged. Some would make an appointment in advance by telephone but the thousands who came might have to take a ticket and wait days or weeks. Padre Pio told me that Padre Eusebio would hear my confession and that he himself would also be there. Eusebio took me to Padre Pio’s confessional box in the old church. It was just like being with Pio that first time, after the crash. I was stripped. Did we speak in Italian or English? I have no idea. During his absolution he gave me several messages. They caused me some distress. I asked Eusebio if Padre Pio really meant them and he promised to ask Pio again. Later in the day I met them together in St Francis’ room and called over to Father Eusebio, ‘Have you asked him?’ Pio flashed his reproving eyes at me and replied loudly, in Italian, of course, … or was it in English? ‘No, he has not! You of little faith.’ Eusebio said nothing and smiled at me as if to say. ‘There, I told you so,’ and I knew I must suffer throughout the future.


“Those evening meetings when people reported progress in the charitable works, events in the hospital, progress of their patients and so on, are engraved in my memory. There was a real atmosphere of warmth and it seemed Padre Pio, besieged by people wanting from him all day, could relax among friends and close collaborators. But he still never stopped praying. So much would be reported and discussed that you would think the meeting must have lasted two or three hours. In reality they only lasted 20 to 25 minutes. This man seemed to have the ability to make time stand still! He prayed continuously, his hands turning the rosary beads all time. And I believe he genuinely had the ability to do several things, and conduct several conversations at once. As everyone came in, settled down and started to chat, he would look around and talk with one and/or another. ‘Dove L’Inglese?’, ‘Where’s the Englishman?’ he would ask, and once he’d seen me, he’d say, ‘Oh there you are, Be. Be.’ Then, whether in one language or another I do not know, he would converse with me as though no one else was there.


“Once he asked me, ‘Englishman, do you love your mother?’ I thought it was a strange question. Of course I loved my dear old mother. But he persisted until finally I realized he was referring not to my earthly mother but to Mary, Mother of Christ, and Mother of the Church.


“Another time he asked us, “How many rosaries have you said today?” Some said two, three even four.


He asked; “four full rosaries? The full fifteen decades each time?”


“Yes Father”.


“Pah, You’re not trying,” retorted Padre Pio with a laugh.


“He was always joking. A joke, yes, but he seemed to live in a different time, almost outside time. When his superiors would ask him, how many rosaries he said that day, he had to reply truthfully. It would be sixteen, seventeen even eighteen. How could this be possible when, apart from a couple of hours alone in his cell a night, he was constantly surrounded by people, hearing confessions, listening to other’s requests for prayers, at recreation with his brethren? I truly believe he had extraordinary abilities, could do many things at one time, and already lived partly outside time.


“After this evening meeting, Padre Pio would take part in night prayers with his community in their internal chapel in the friary. He always led them in a novena prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for all the intentions of his spiritual children and those who had written asking for prayers. The traditional ending of the Church’s night prayer is an anthem to the Blessed Mother, in ordinary times of the year the ;Salve Regina’. Padre Pio could never get through this prayer to Mary without shedding tears. And so tenderly and copiously did he weep that he invariably moved the rest of the community to tears as well.


“Likewise, since his days as a novice at Morcone when a picture of the Blessed Virgin in the novitiate had a notice under it reminding the novices never to pass without saying a prayer to Mary, Padre Pio, throughout his life, never did pass such an image without pausing to offer a greeting to his ‘Heavenly Mother’. There, too tears would fill his eyes. There is a beautiful snapshot still in existences which captures just such a moment as he looked up at a picture of the Madonna in the friary corridor at San Giovanni Rotondo.


“In the late evening he would also spend time in spiritual direction of the members of the community who came to see him.  I remember an occasion when Padre Pio asked me, in the evening meeting, when there was discussion of the latest medical report on  cancer, ‘Englishman, do you smoke?’ I did smoked a packet or two a week in those days and said so. He tutted and said with a grin ‘Bad. Very bad. It’s not good for you.’ Then he turned and asked where his snuff was! In fact, I had always thought he took snuff just because he suffered from catarrh, but much later, when I was in his cell once, I saw bronchial dilatory inhalers and realised he was asthmatic.


“I learned so much from Padre Pio. He taught me how to love God and to suffer for others. At that first meeting he told me the date of the birth of a daughter we were not even expecting at the time, and the course her life would take. He taught me about my Guardian Angel.


“Once as I as leaving him – and leave-taking always appeared so painful to him, he would be sorrowful and say ‘What? You’re leaving already? Can’t you stay a bit longer? – I said I would write to him. ‘Son,’ he said. ‘What do I want with more letters? I get so many already. Send me your Guardian Angel instead.’


From then on, whenever I needed his prayers for something or for family or friends who were in trouble, I sent him a message by my Guardian Angel. Once, we were in a particular financial difficulty and I had just picked up a ‘final letter’ from the Bank. I  thought, ‘Pio, please help me!’ In the very next envelope was a cheque from someone I had never heard of before for the exact amount, down to the penny of the amount we had to settle.


“Much later, Bernardo Patrizi told me that he had sent his Guardian Angel to Padre Pio when he was told about my car crash and that I was lying, possibly dead, in the hospital at Piacenza. Bernardo had also been taught, by Padre Pio to communicate via his Guardian Angel. His friend Barbara Ward, wife of Commander Sir Robert Jackson, was once in the George’s Hospital, London, waiting to be operated on for multiple ovarian cysts. Bernardo, on learning of her condition, went out of the hospital to the Post Office in Buckingham Palace Road. He sent a telegram saying, ‘Barbara sick. Urgently require your payers. Bernardo’


“When he returned to the hospital the receptionist asked him if he was going up to see Lady Jackson. Would he take up these flowers and a telegram that had just arrived? The telegram was from Padre Pio: ‘Sorry to hear of your illness. Be assured of my prayers.’ Next time he was in San Giovanni Rotondo, Bernardo told Pio Barbara had recovered and thanked him for his prayers. Pio Replied, ‘Huh!! Telegrams! Guardian Angles are quicker – and cheaper!’


“At those evening gatherings, Padre Pio seemed to have the ability to speak to several people at once – in  that rough, guttural accent of his, made stronger by his chesty catarrhal speech.. He would leave the vowel sounds unfinished so that instead of saying, for example, ‘Dove L’Inglese?’ he would say ‘Dove L’Ingle…? In the second half of his life, Padre Pio was never known to speak more than a short sentence at a time, and yet it summed up everything. He never read a newspaper or listened to the radio yet he knew what was going on.


“In the 1960’s when the Vatican Council had just begun, some thought it would finish quickly. Someone asked, ‘How long will the Council last?’ Pio replied, ‘His Holiness had the choice to buy or hire the scaffolding for the seating of the bishops. He will make the lender into a multi-millionaire!’


“Another example of his short, sometimes brusque speech which I remember occurred while the Council was in session. Someone asked, ‘Padre, do you think we will see women priests by the end of the century?’


“Quick as a flash, ‘Pio turned on the person, with fire in his eyes. ‘Would you insult the Mother of God?’


“That was his short answer but in it was contained a whole wealth of theology. His message was clear.  


“In 1965, I had a business meeting in Piacenza for De Rica, for whom in later years I worked as quality control consultant and UK representative.  For non-business travellers there were currency regulations that year, and most were not permitted many funds in foreign currency.  A colleague had recently married and wanted to spend a honeymoon in Italy. I agreed to take the couple with me. I had a new automatic car. It had to be pushed onto the ferry at Dover and again stopped several times in France.  When we reached the Grand St Bernard, we had to stay in the monastery and a monk found that the car had stopped within a few yards of a precipice in the snow storm on the 3rd September 1967. By the time we reached the Swiss Italian border we had lost five days, so I had to find a telephone and postpone meetings. At the border, the car failed again. The Italians suggested that we should buy a Fiat!  By the time we reached the Adriatic coast, the hotel that my friends had booked could not take them.  I drove on from one seaside resort to the next and eventually reached Siponto, having passed a signpost to Foggia. The car had continued to misbehave on the journey. At last, we found a pleasant hotel.


“In the early hours, I woke and drove up the mountain roads to San Giovanni Rotondo. In the Sacristy after Mass and thanksgiving, Padre Pio rose from his prie dieu and came over to the two rows of men. One held out a parcel to be blessed. He assured father that it only contained religious objects. Padre Pio demanded insistently that it should be opened. With the help of one of the friars, the package was opened. Yes, there were religious books and rosaries there, but then Padre Pio found the lottery tickets, and shouted angrily, ‘Vi via, vi via!’ -  ‘Get out. Get out.’   The disgraced man left us. After greeting a few others, Padre Pio came to me. His arms were outstretched. ‘Inglese, Inglese, bienvento!’  He gave me a great hug and whispered in my ear, ‘Have you learnt patience?’  He smiled with a broad grin and went on to give his mittened hand to the next to kiss.  The car never failed me after that!


“In the afternoon, I took my friends to San Giovanni and to Monte Sant’ Angelo.


“1966 brought me to San Giovanni once more with Bernardo. We were with Padre Pio several time in the morning and then again in the early afternoon when we were called to see him in his cell. He was not at all well and was suffering greatly.  Bernardo knelt one side and I on the left of his chair under the window. After a while Bernardo suggested that we should leave. Father Allesio came in. Bernardo left with him. Padre Pio held on to me, indicating by pressure on my hands that I should stay.  I heard the voices disappear along the corridor.  Then I looked up into Padre Pio’s lovely eyes. They pierced me. I buried my head in his lap and cried violently. He held on to my hand with the other on my head. Then I looked up and gazed into his eyes again. I told him that what he was bearing was far too great for one man. ‘Please’, I asked him, ‘I bore these pains in my head for so long, Padre, surely I can share something with you.’ Tears were in his eyes and he shook his heard. ‘You couldn’t bear this,’ he said.  ‘Please let me help,’ I asked again. Still in tears he smiled and shook his head. After I know not how long, I rose and kissed Padre Pio on the forehead. At the door, I turned and saw his smile once more, waved to him, blew a kiss and walked out.  The corridor was alive with exquisite perfumes. Even Bernado and Padre Eusebio smelt them when I came out from the old church door and they lasted all the way down the hill to the hotel. I looked at my fingers on the hand that had held Padre Pio’s.  It had blood on them.


“From then on, wherever I would be in Italy, England, France, or America, at precisely the time of the Consecration in Padre Pio’s morning Mass, I was awake and shoot up in bed with excruciating pains in my head. Eventually, I knew what it was, when Pio, emulating Christ was crowned with those horrific thorns and then was hanged on a cross to pay for our redemption. Have you ever seen those thorns?  Not nice little hedgerow thorns but up to an inch and a half long like nails, not like a nice little circlet around the temples but a great crown pressed down on the whole of the head, pressing in to the nerves of the cranium from above and round the temples.  I appreciated this best when two years later I was at Mass in San Giovanni when Padre Pio reached the Consecration.  The pain began and was so intense that I cried out in agony, ‘No, No, This is impossible!’  That was early in 1968.  In the Sacristy after Mass, Padre Pio simply said ‘O, Inglese,’ and passed me by. On the night of the 22nd September he called upon me once more. I shared the in excruciating pain until he departed. The story is told, as best I could in agony of the passion of his death with those nails piecing my skull, in my little booklet A Saint on my Back.  At the back of that book is my translation of the prayer believed to have been written by Padre Pio, Resta con me. The Capuchins asked me to render it into English in 1965. Use it and meditate upon the value of suffering.


“There are so many other stories of our long association that I could tell, but it is not an easy task, it is impossible and unnecessary. The Saint of our times will be your help to bear the pains and anguish and suffering in this life facing a world of evil and rejection of the Love of God.  You have the remedy in Faith and prayer.


“In light if all this, those people who quoted at length apparent ‘prophecies’ of Padre Pio concerning this or that, or who reproduced supposed statements of approval by him of their particular visions or apparitions, were very far off the mark. Those who knew Padre Pio also knew very well that he had written few letters since 1922 and that his speech was always in the concise style just described.


“His letters to the Holy Father written at the end of his life have been published. They greatly inspired the present Pope Benedict XVI who, as Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger, conveyed his message to Pope John Paul II, ‘It is not power that redeems but Love!  …..  The World will be saved by the Crucifix and not by the crucifiers. ….. “May Saint Padre Pio always help his confreres and all pilgrims in their love of the suffering Lord and in the quest for that sanctity which flows from God’s open heart!’

“God bless you all, Cecil”


Talk on Padre Pio given by Michael Blackburn to the Carmelite Nuns at their Monastery at Kirk Edge Sheffield. 13TH September 2001.       Back to Contents


Padre Pio was born in 1887 in a small village in Southern Italy called Pietreclina. I have been there and seen his home. Today we would call it a hovel. It is difficult for us today to understand how people survived such poverty. His baptism name was Francesco after St Francis.


From being a small boy he was drawn to devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and a deep love for Our Lady. He would play with the other village boys but if any one of them used a swear word Francesco would run away and would usually be found praying in the church.


From five years old he talked about becoming a monk, but not just any monk but one like St Francis. In his early days he commenced his praying and mortification which were to lead him to Sainthood. His mother would find him sleeping on the floor and I believe that in his youth he scourged himself. Heaven knows what other sacrifices he made.


As a young boy he was often poorly and bouts of bad health stayed with him all his life. But they were always illnesses which the medical profession could not cure. One day he would be ill the next day he would be well. There was no apparent medical reason for his illness. They were part of his whole life of sacrifice. As an adult he often didn’t eat enough for a small baby to survive on. He was constantly fasting. Padre Pio had made a conscious decision to turn his back on the world but he had not found it easy to make that supreme sacrifice.


He was accepted as a Franciscan Capuchin and in 1910 ordained to the priesthood. In that same year he received the invisible stigmata. So he had the pain of the nails in his hands and feet and the pain of the lance in his side. He never mentioned the agony of the Crown of Thorns that he also wore. Very early in his Franciscan life he was sent to San Giovanni Rotundo, which is in the mountains in South Eastern Italy, where he stayed for the rest of his life. It was there on the 20th September 1918 when he was praying in the choir loft of the church that he suddenly realised that blood was dripping from his hands feet and side. So the invisible Stigmata became visible and was to stay with him for fifty years. The Stigmata was a great embarrassment to him. He prayed for it to be taken from him. Why weren’t his prayers answered? Probably because the good Lord knew that the Stigmata would act as a spiritual magnet which would draw people to go to Padre Pio to confess their sins and thereby save their souls. In order to hide the stigmata Padre Pio wore mittens but he did not wear them when he was offering the Holy Mass. So whenever he raised his hands, for instance at the final blessing, the stigmata could be clearly seen. In the history of the church there are only about 60 accepted instances of stigmatism. The first well know stigmatist was St Francis but Padre Pio was the first Priest.


The Vatican is always rightly suspicious of any unusual happenings. There is always the danger of fraud which would do immense damage to Holy Mother Church. So when they heard of the stigmata they issued an immediate decree that Padre Pio should be isolated in the friary. For many years Padre Pio was not allowed contact with the world outside the friary. No public Masses, no confessions, no communication with anyone outside the friary .He was virtually a prisoner. But Padre Pio had taken a vow of obedience and he never queried his enforced isolation but waited for it to be lifted. Because, of his gift of prophecy, he was probably aware of how long it would take. During that time he moved his bed into the friary library and he would spend time reading to increase his knowledge. Eventually, after exhaustive and sometimes the very painful testing of his stigmata, the Vatican accepted that Padre Pio’s state was miraculous and he was freed to offer Mass to the public and to hear Confessions.


When Padre Pio went to San Giovanni the friary and church were very small so a new church which was built to house the large numbers which Padre Pio, his stigmata, and his many gifts and attracted. Yet when Padre Pio saw the new church he said. “It is not big enough.” He knew the incredible numbers who would come especially after his death. That is why a large basilica is now being built. It is being built to hold several thousand pilgrims and have full facilities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and every facility for the disabled.


About the same time as the first new church was being built so was Padre Pio’s dream of a Hospital coming into being. The good Padre was always meeting people with medical problems and his compassion and love for the sick was all that was necessary for the need for a hospital. As soon as he put forward the idea money started to pour in. As the money was directed at himself he had to be temporarily released from his vow of poverty, though, of course none of it was spent on himself, a Trust was set up. The hospital which is built on a hillside very close to the friary, it is a huge building, has several thousand beds, the very latest equipment, and is the envy of every other hospital in Italy. There was always someone trying to take advantage of the situation and, during its construction, a supplier who had been chosen by the builder of the floors, instead of supplying the marble product, started to supply an inferior product made of rock chips from the hillside. It was only worth a fraction of the price of the real product but the supplier was charging the full marble price. But he was not able to cheat Padre Pio who, through his gift of discernment, knew what was happening. He told the accountant to adjust the prices accordingly. When the builder was paid he realised that his trick had been discovered and never complained at receiving only a quarter of what he had charged!


Let us study Padre Pio by the gifts which he possessed, and he possessed them in abundance. St Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, mentions the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Padre Pio possessed all those and many more. He had the gift of discernment, so he knew the sins of the penitents before they had confessed them. A lady once came to him to confess and she had written down her sins on a piece of paper so that she wouldn’t forget them. Padre Pio was able to recite them to her in the exact order she had written them down. He possessed the gift of communicating with his Guardian Angel, the gift of perfumes and he possessed the gift of bi-location so he could appear anywhere in the world without leaving the Friary at San Giovanni. We are looking at a man who gave of himself more and more and the more he gave the more God granted him gifts beyond our imagination.


Regarding the Gift of Communicating with his Guardian Angel his Spiritual Director, Father Agostino, realising that Padre Pio had amazing powers started to write to him in French and Greek, though it was well know that Padre Pio could only speak Italian. The replies to Father Agostino’s letters came in perfect French and Greek. When asked how he had written the letters Padre Pio replied: “My Guardian Angel acted as my interpreter.” And he would say that in all modesty with no show of pride. A lady once asked him if he could pass a message to St Francis. “Yes I can do that for you” he said as if it were the most simple thing in the world; which for him it was.


Confessing to Padre Pio could mean a wait of up to two weeks. The friars had to set up a system of tickets. You got your numbered ticket and then waited patiently till your number was next.


There are many stories of his gift of discernment. Where they include stories of occurrences in the confessional then the stories come from the penitents and never from Padre Pio. Father Joseph Pius was a young American who came to visit Padre Pio and finished up staying and becoming a Franciscan. He had the great privilege of helping to look after Padre Pio in the last years before his death. He tells the story of going to confession to Padre Pio because he had called a man a fraud. Then he had got scruples about it and went to confess. He told Padre Pio what he had done and there was a silence broken by Padre Pio saying “tell me your sins”.


Father Joseph said “But I have just told you Father.”


“Go away, stop wasting my time” said Padre Pio who, due to his gift of discernment, knew the man who Father Joseph was referring to and also knew that the man was a fraud – so there was nothing to confess.



A very large Italian Lady confessed to Padre Pio “I sometimes miss my morning prayers.”


To which the good Padre replied “Do you ever miss your breakfast?”



Then there is the story of the lady walking away from the friary in tears. Some friends sitting in a nearby café went to comfort her and she came and joined them at the table. She told them that Padre Pio had turned her away without absolution. She had confessed her sins and was waiting for absolution when Padre Pio said “There is something else.”


“No father” she said I have confessed all my sins.”


Padre Pio repeated “There is something else. I hear a baby crying.” Years earlier she had had an abortion.


“But Father “ she said “I confessed that years ago”. Padre Pio repeated


“I still hear a baby crying.” It seems that although she had previously confessed the abortion she had not been truly sorry. Perhaps at the time she confessed it she was still satisfied with what she had done as it had made her life more convenient. Confessing means ‘total sorrow and I will not do that again.’ So Padre Pio sent her away without absolution. She would have to seriously think about her sin and go back later when the good Padre would welcome her and give her a beautiful smile as he absolved her. Padre Pio loved penitent sinners.



The young American, Father Joseph, was once sitting alongside Padre Pio and thinking to himself “I wonder who brought me into the Friary? Was it Our Lady or Padre Pio?”


Not a word had been spoken. Padre Pio turned to him and said “It was Our Lady”.



A lady came to Padre Pio asking for a cure. She was in terrible pain. He said to her “If you wait eighteen more months and offer up your pain then all your family will be out of purgatory.”


“Say no more” she said. She came back in eighteen months and was cured.



A blind young man came for a cure. Padre Pio said; “Do you want to have your sight restored or save your soul?”


The man said; “If it is a strict choice I should like to save my soul.”


“It is a strict choice” said Padre Pio and the young man went away, saddened by his continued blindness, but with the happy assurance of the joy of everlasting life. He attended daily Mass with Padre Pio throughout the saint’s life and he is still serving the friary telling his story.



Padre Pio was often on an entirely different plane from ourselves. Two examples: there was an occasion when the friars noticed Padre Pio talking to someone but there was no-one there. When he had finished they asked Padre Pio what was happening. “Oh, there were some souls on their way from purgatory to heaven and they stopped by to thank me because I remembered them during my Mass this morning.”


In another instance Padre Pio was sitting upstairs one evening when he suddenly said “I must go to the confessional.”


“No Father you don’t go now.”


“Yes, yes I must go” and he was like a mad man going down the hall into the lift and into his confessional. There was no-one there but he was confessing someone. It was like a fight that was going on – he was twisting and turning – then it was all over. Who had he dragged out of hell’s door that day?



You may have heard that Padre Pio could be brusque and angry. Yes he certainly could. A story from Fr Joseph illustrates this. Padre Pio was about to enter the small lift which took him to his cell when a man came to him probably asking for his blessing. Padre Pio started to shout and rebuke the man. I recall Father Joseph saying “It was so embarrassing I just wished the floor would have opened and swallow me up to take me away from the situation.” On another occasion Father Eusebio who was Pio’s guardian at the time said “Padre you shouldn’t talk to people like that”. Padre Pio who a moment earlier had been acting like a mad man said quietly “


“Jesus wants me to speak to him like that.”


“But you were very angry.”


“That’s what I hope he thought.” We must understand that Padre Pio could see the state of that man’s soul and knew that he was heading for hell. He had to shock the man out of his apathy.



On another occasion a man came with a parcel asking Padre Pio to bless it. “What’s in it? “ asked Padre Pio.


“Oh, just some prayer books and rosary beads for the children” the man said “Open it up” Padre Pio said


“No, that’s not necessary” said the man. “I’ve told you it is only some things for the children.”


“Father Eusebio open it up” insisted Padre Pio. So the package was opened. After the prayer books and rosaries had been discarded there, at the bottom of the package, were the man’s Italian Lottery tickets. Can we blame Padre Pio that he shouted at the man and sent him scurrying out of the Sacristy of the friary?



A bishop, who probably had problems of his own, told lies about Padre Pio. Whether it was due to jealousy or some other reason is not known. Among other things he said that the wounds were self-inflicted. Rome removed him and he went to live with his sisters. But they were very poor. So the Bishop wrote to Padre Pio’s friary asking for a monthly allowance. The Father Guardian took the letter to Padre Pio and asked “What are we to do?”


“Send him the money” said Padre Pio. No resentment. Perfect charity. Perfect peace.



Very few saints have been granted the gift of bi-location. I believe that St Anthony of Padua and St Martin de Porres had that gift. There are many stories of Padre Pio using that amazing gift.


Someone who I know personally, Cecil Humphery-Smith, was in hospital in the North of Italy following a very serious car accident. In fact the local newspaper announced the death.  As he lay in bed in the hospital the door opened and a Franciscan Friar came into his room. The friar forced Cecil to make a good confession. Cecil tells that the friar made no allowance for the fact that he was badly injured but insisted on Cecil delving more and more into his conscience and confess his sins. To put in into Cecil’s words “The friar was brutal but seemed to tell me what I had hoped to have forgotten”. Eventually the friar was satisfied and Cecil says that he will always remember the smile which came across the friar’s face as he gave absolution. Then he was given Extreme Unction and Holy Communion, and the friar left. The next morning he was visited by a priest to perform the last rites. Cecil had never heard of Padre Pio and it was seven years later before he was taken to San Giovanni by a friend. As Padre Pio came away from the altar at the end his Mass Cecil said “That’s the man. He’s the one who heard my confession when I was in hospital”

“Impossible” he was told by his friend, “Padre Pio has never left this friary and I was outside the room where your body was, praying for you.” But nothing was impossible to Padre Pio. For seven years following the accident Cecil had had terrible pains in his head which made him almost demented. The Medical profession failed to treat the problem. After the Mass he was introduced to Padre Pio who tapped him on the head and told him be more careful in future with his driving. But that tap on the head was all that was needed to effect an immediate, permanent, cure. Cecil became a personal friend of Padre Pio and some of the stories I am telling you have come directly from him.


There are so many similar stories of bi-location that it is difficult to know which to tell and which to leave out. A lady in New York was dying of cancer. She was a devotee of Padre Pio and prayed to him. He appeared to her and told her not to worry, she would get better. She did and then made the journey across to Italy to thank the good Padre.


A young farmer had a double embolism, one on each lung. He was confined to bed and was certain that he was soon to die. He was young and strong and didn’t want to die yet. So he prayed to God in a special way – he asked God, with all the supplication he could muster, to let someone more worthy than him intercede for him. Soon afterwards he had an apparition. A bearded monk was by his bedside. He bent forward and laid his hands on the young man’s chest, then he disappeared. To the amazement of the doctors he was cured. But who was the bearded monk? Some time later when visiting a friends’ house he saw a picture of the monk, it was Padre Pio and he discovered that he was at San Giovanni. The young man was on the next train. As it was winter he was able to get to confession without having to join a long queue. There had been no mention of the miraculous cure but at the end of the confession Padre Pio said ”And tell me about the lungs now? How are they?” Padre Pio knew everything.


Padre Pio’s father was very industrious and because there was more money to be earned in the USA he went there to work. On Christmas Eve 1921 Padre Pio rested his head on the table and remained still. When he sat up he was asked where he had been. The reply was “I’ve been to see my father in New York to wish him a Merry Christmas.”


During World War 1 an Italian General who was being blamed the loss of 250,000 men decided to commit suicide. He was about to shoot himself in the head when a voice said “such an act is foolish”. He turned round and saw a young monk who took the revolver from him, put it aside and then vanished. Later he realised that it had been Padre Pio who had saved his life.


Padre Pio died in 1968 but he is still coming to earth to help those in need. Ten years ago a mother was nursing her sick ten year old daughter, whose heart valves were all mixed up. One night she put her daughter to bed but, from downstairs, could hear her chatting to someone. When she asked her who she had been talking to the daughter told her “A man in a brown skirt had come to talk to her.” The next day the girl saw a picture of Pare Pio and said “That’s the man who came to see me.” The next time they went to visit the specialist he was amazed. “I can see this is the same girl” he said “but her heart is perfectly normal. I won’t need to see her again.” That girl is now twenty years old and I was talking to someone recently who had met her. A lovely, lively girl, with her life on this earth ahead of her – thanks to Padre Pio. I wonder what the good Padre thought of the young girl’s description ‘A man in a brown skirt!?’


A most bizarre story is of the Second World War. An American Bomber was flying to a target in Italy to drop its bombs when to their unbelieving eyes the crew saw a Franciscan Friar flying through the air alongside them. I have no doubt they would have rubbed their eyes and looked again but he was still there. They dropped their bombs in an open area away from any population and returned to base. One has to wonder what excuses they would have made for not carrying out their mission. But lives at the proposed bomb site had been saved. At the end of the war the Squadron-leader started making enquires which eventually led him to San Giovanni where, in meeting Padre Pio, he recognised his acquaintance in the sky.


The devil was continually attacking Padre Pio and not only mentally, with temptations, but also physically. On one occasion he was so badly injured that for three days he was unable to offer Holy Mass. There was a period when Padre Pio’s cell was over one of the rooms used by the friars. They would hear the most appalling devilish crashes and yelling coming from his room. They got to the point where they couldn’t take it any more. Eventually the Father Guardian said “Look the friars have had enough of this.”


“Alright” said Padre Pio “It won’t happen again.” and the noises stopped immediately. All Padre Pio had to do was to say to Our Lord. “I don’t want to disturb the friars. Please stop it.” There was never a sound again. But note that he wasn’t prepared to stop it for himself. If putting up with the devil and his noise would help to redeem souls then Padre Pio would put up with it for ever.


There was an occasion when he had been attacked by the devil and was found on the floor of his cell. But he had a pillow under his head. He was asked “How did that get there?”


“Our Lady put it there” was the reply. He seemed to live half way between heaven and earth.


From the lives of the saints we learn that some of them had the gift of perfume, that is to say, a fragrant odour of perfume came from their bodies. Padre Pio has this gift. But in his case you don’t have to be anywhere near the good Padre. His perfumes have been experienced all over the world during his life and since his death. Different perfumes are meant to represent different signs. For instance Incense is for ‘Prayer’. Roses is for ‘he is there with you’. Flowers is for ‘greetings’ and Tobacco is for ‘warning’. In a group of people the perfume might be experienced by only one of them or by them all. I know several people who have experienced these perfumes but I have never experienced them myself.


Padre Pio called the Rosary “His weapon.” He said that after the Holy Mass the Rosary was the most powerful weapon. He was also very devoted to the Stations of the Cross. I suspect that Padre Pio had somehow trained himself to pray the Rosary non-stop even when he was hearing confessions and chatting to his fellow friars and friends. One evening the Father Guardian asked him “Padre Pio, how many Rosaries have you prayed today.” Out of obedience Padre Pio had to reply. His reply was “Thirty Eight.” So you understand how I can only imagine that he was able to pray the Rosary all the time.


He only slept for two hours a night. He would arise at 2.00a.m. and commence the preparation for his Holy Mass. At about 4.30a.m. he would go to the sacristy and vest for his 5.00a.m Mass. Sometimes, as he approached the altar, he would be seen to tremble. When asked about this he said that he was fearful of what the good Lord would ask of him. During the Mass he would frequently go into ecstasies. For him the Mass was Calvary and, from time to time, a few members of the congregation were granted a vision of the Crown of Thorns on Padre Pio’s head with the blood flowing down his face. We are told that he was never without that Crown of Thorns he never took it off. Such was the depth at which he entered into an enactment of Calvary that he said that at the end of Mass St Francis came to take him down from the Cross.


Padre Pio knew the timelessness of everlasting life. He was often found praying for events which had already taken place. He used to pray for the happy deaths of his parents long after they had died.


He was once found in tears and the Friars asked him what was wrong. “I have just realised” he said “that I never thanked God for my baptism.”


Worn out by his constant fasting, his long hours in the confessional, his lack of sleep, his many illnesses, his physical and mental battles with the devil, his constant loss of blood through the stigmata Padre Pio died in the first hour of the morning of the 23rd September 1968 fifty years and three days from when he received his visible stigmata. He was eighty-one years old. I want to share with you the words of a mystic. I realise that when we talk about mystics we are on the very edge of reality but I heard this from the American, Father Joseph Pius, who was with Padre Pio when he died. The mystic saw Padre Pio enter heaven. He did so with such humility that the angels and saints were amazed. When Christ indicated his place to him he didn’t move. So, according to the mystic, Our Lady left her place, took Padre Pio’s hand and brought him to ‘his throne’. Those are the words which were used ‘his throne’.


The degree of sanctity of a saint corresponds to the measure in which they resemble Christ Himself. Padre Pio came very close to that Christ-like quality. Padre Pio offered himself as if he were a co-redemptorist. His suffering helped to buy back souls. That was his life’s work and, if we will allow him, he will continue it with us.


From what I have told you, you might think of me as a devotee of the good Padre. Yes it is true I am. But he can be a hard master. I don’t want to let him down. So I proceed with caution.


Padre Pio was Beatified in the 1999 and will probably be Canonised in 2002. (Padre Pio’s Canonisation took place on the 16th June 2002.)


After Padre Pio’s death, outdoor Stations of The Cross were built between the Friary and the Hospital. They climb up the mountainside but in such a way that it is made easy for the elderly or disabled. The Fifth Station; ‘Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross’ depicts Padre Pio carrying the cross. At the top of the mountain where the Stations finish there is an outside altar and on the two occasions I have been there the weather has been fine. A Mass offered on that mountain top in full view of the Friary and hospital is very special.


Finally there is a story which Padre Pio liked to tell. It is probably one which you already know. But the fact that it was told by Padre Pio, who certainly knows what goes on in heaven, makes it the more poignant for us here on earth. The story goes that Jesus is walking around heaven when he sees a gang of unlikely, even villainous, looking people. So he goes to St Peter and says “Peter what are those people doing in here.”


“It’s no good complaining to me” says Peter “You must ask your Mother. Every time she finds my back turned, she opens the gates and lets everybody in!”





             ON THE OCCASION OF THE PADRE PIO RETREAT         Back to Contents

                                        AT WALSINGHAM

                                          9th August 1993

                           TALK BY FATHER JOSEPH PIUS


                              ‘HIS LIFE WITH PADRE PIO’


I am in a predicament because, like many of you, years and years ago in America I had heard about Padre Pio and read a book about him. I eventually went to San Giovanni and saw him from the outside and, when he told me to stay, I lived there for a year and a half outside the Friary. Then I lived with him for the last three years of his life. The quarter of a century has flown by since he’s gone to heaven. I’ve been filled with the constant revelation on this man and I must confess to you in all seriousness I do not know who Padre Pio is. I really do not know who he is.


When I first went there I heard that reputation he had about been gruff and answering people in a rude way and so-forth and I saw it happening but when I went into the monastery and lived with him every day for those three years I understood that that public figure of Padre Pio was not the real Padre Pio. The real man was very simple, extremely humble – when you lived with him in the friary on a day to day basis there were no airs; he was just one of the friars – he wouldn’t have it any other way - never asked for anything special – never wanted to be treated in a special way so that living day to day with this saint became a very ordinary experience – you wouldn’t think that would you? After the beginning when my timidity died down he became an ordinary thing and I realise that the man I thought was Padre Pio wasn’t Padre Pio at all. He was an entirely different man. He was a beautiful, simple, humble man with a great sense of humour even in those last years when he was suffering terribly, physically and even spiritually. In the last days of his life they would say to him “How are you?” and he would reply “The only thing I need is the casket!” He still had a beautiful sense of humour a very warm, warm humanity. But then that makes a lot of sense doesn’t it? Because a man could not spend more than half a century dripping out his blood without giving love. Sometime he would take the cord which was around waist hit people with it –and so forth. It wasn’t easy watching him doing these things. In the very last months of his life, one of the friars, who has since died got into the little lift by the sacristy with Padre Pio after he had let go at a man - I tell you I really I just wanted to leave him there and walk away. It was painful to see it. We got in the lift and as soon as the doors closed in front of us the friar said “but you shouldn’t treat people like that.” Padre Pio, very calmly said “But I want to treat him like that.” He was working on a whole other wavelength that we didn’t even know existed, we couldn’t tell. There is a funny story, but it is a true story. There was a woman who wanted to come to see Padre Pio, her name was Rose. She wanted to ask Padre Pio to find her a husband. Don’t laugh because a lot of ladies did that then, they wanted to make sure that they were getting a good Catholic man. Rose couldn’t come to San Giovanni but her friend could. So Rose wrote a little note to hand to Padre Pio as he went through the crowds blessing after the morning confessions. The friend did that and two or three days went by and this friend had to leave and there was no answer. So finally she said to Padre Pio – she stopped him one morning and said “What shall I tell Rose?” and Padre Pio said “Tell Rose she will become a Carnation.” You hear a thing like that and you think “the old gent is getting really old!” Instead, the next year, at Rose’s wedding, she married a man whose name means ‘Carnation’! Padre Pio was living in a realm that we didn’t know!


My introduction to this man was strange. Because I would bring him his food in the last part of his life and I could not believe what I was seeing every day taking away that tray. The Superior had told the cooks to put extra things on it to try and tease him into eating something because the doctors were very strict in the last part of his life; “You have got to eat. You have got to eat.” He nibbled at a tray, he tasted a meal then we’d stand out in the hallway and one of the reasons I’m so fat (Fr Joseph was very large!) is that after we’d put him to bed and he’d rest we’d be out in the hallway and we’d be nibbling these things. One doctor would come frequently to see Padre Pio at that time of day and I’d say “Look at this. Could he live on what he eats?” Of course the doctor said “Not even a one year old child could.” I knew there was no way that he would be sneaking food.


He was sleeping only two hours a night – in the last part of his life not even that. So my introduction to the man – the human being – was all wrong. The real Padre Pio was entirely different from the public figure that had come across in books and hearsay of people. His confessor, Father Clementi, who was a saint himself, he was a beautiful Franciscan Friar, he was Padre Pio’s next to last confessor. He had, I don’t know how many years of martyrdom with terrible illnesses, he said to me one day “Padre Pio is starved for affection.” Like human beings, inside this big public figure - well known public figure – letters came from places and I didn’t even know where they were – do you know where the Cook Islands are? I don’t know. There was mail from every place. So the public figure was not the real man. So I’ve tried to understand – Who is Padre Pio?


One day he was passing me in the hallway and his face in front of me was in profile and on his forehead I saw another pair of eyes looking at me. Now there is the truth of the real Padre Pio because Padre Pio the man hardly existed any more. He had become an empty vase and was filled with Christ. When you went to San Giovanni years ago – now it has become terribly built up – it has to happen I know but you used to be able to hear the birds singing now you hear the car horns. Anyway, years and years ago when you went there you had the same feeling as if you are going to the Holy Land. Even the terrain at times is very much like the Holy Land – I had never seen, growing up in Brooklyn New York, a herd of sheep until I got to San Giovanni. It’s just like you have opened a page of the Bible and a times Padre Pio, with that great scarf he would wear to keep him warm, looked like he was a prophet walking out of Scripture.


He was an extraordinary disciple of Christ. This man, who with Christ’s priesthood, had embraced his victim-hood in this extraordinary way, was to take on a figure which was for me is one of the great figures of Christianity. I remember a priest who spoke at our ordination Mass. He had three degrees and he stood up in church one day and said “Padre Pio is greater than St Francis.” And he said “Don’t be shocked by that.” He said that because St Francis was so great that he could produce a son greater than himself. So we have awful lot to get into to really find out who is this Padre Pio. You must understand that a man who had become a living crucifix for fifty eight years had such a spirituality that we really can’t understand it. One of the Friars who has studied Padre Pio for years, who has lived with him; he said “We have just touched the outer part of Padre Pio so far.”


So we really don’t know who Padre Pio is. We know something about the man – we know how he lived – how he lived his life – but the implication behind that we really don’t know. We don’t see the forest for the trees as yet. His life is too simple and it sort of blocks an understanding of this extraordinary figure because the farm lad who grows up in extreme poverty – I mean they were so poor that for instance when Padre Pio was living at home in that period of hermitage for seven years, just like St Paul, seven years away in a hermitage in preparation for this great mission, when his confessor would come to see them, Father Agostino, the mother would have to go around to her friends on the street and say “Could you loan me a sausage because Padre Pio’s confessor has come.” That extreme poverty. Still Padre Pio in his letters says that Our Lord said to him “if I didn’t crucify you who knows what would have happened to you.” Can you imagine? So we really don’t know who this man is. We really don’t know. We know where he was born; we know how old he was when he died, which was eighty-one years, we know a lot of facts about him but they are still talking about the facts and they are not talking about what that implies. We can say very simply that Padre Pio was a living crucifix for fifty-eight years. Does anyone know what that means? There’s never been a saint like him. I remember in San Giovanni I met a woman who had the great privilege of seeing the Mystical Wedding Ring and Padre Pio’s hand. This is a very rare thing that at times the mystics actually have a ring on their finger and at times it becomes visible. This is from a mystical marriage with Christ. So we made her write it down, then we went to a Nun whose superior, the foundress, had seen the same thing and she wrote it down. When we consigned it to the cause for canonisation the priest in charge said to me “This is the last one of all the mystical phenomena known in Christian spirituality to be lacking as a document in his life. Thank you for bringing it in.” Who is this person that every single phenomena in Christian spirituality was in his life? The stigmata is only one. We get trapped with the stigmata because it is the outward sign but behind that there is so much else. He had gone to an elevation with Christ – I was shocked the first time I heard this, but one woman who had lost her mother the year before said to Padre Pio, because she had found out that Padre Pio actually spoke with St Francis, they were actually very close, because he said that St Francis used to take him down from the Cross at the end of every Mass – they were very close literally like two people living together at times – anyway this woman said to Padre Pio “Father could you ever ask St Francis to say hello to my mother heaven?” and  Padre Pio very nonchalantly not intending to give himself any airs he said “I can do that for you.”  Not for pride but to help this spiritual child of his who really has a need “I can do that for you.” Like St Paul who writes in his letters he was visiting parts of paradise. He’d get into bed at night with that Rosary in his hand, other Rosaries under the pillow. What went on during the night no-one knows; where he went. The last year of his life there was a woman came from New York. I know the hospital was called St Vincent’s. She was dying of cancer. She had an operation it was not successful, it was too late. She was invoking Padre Pio, she was in a Padre Pio Prayer Group in America. Suddenly he was standing at the foot of her bed in St Vincent’s hospital down in Greenwich Village which is down town Manhattan if you know New York and he blessed her. She was cured and came to San Giovanni to thank him and I took her to him to thank him. Who is this man?  All these things; they are interesting stories they are entertaining things even if they shock you at times but do we understand who is this Padre Pio? It’s easy to say “the monk of the wounds of Christ”. But what is behind that? It is like me not really knowing who the man was because I had heard things and so forth which I didn’t understand then when I got to live with him I got to know who the real human being was. Now we are confronted with another problem – who is this Padre Pio. There is a document which is not yet in the cause for canonisation, we are trying to get it authenticated. A genuine mystic who told in her revelations that when Padre Pio died she saw him entering heaven with such humility that the saints were surprised at his humility as he stood there. When Christ indicated his place to him he didn’t move. So according to the mystic Our Lady left her place took Padre Pio’s hand and brought him to his ‘throne’ – that is the word that is used – to his ‘throne’ – this is the document of a mystic. So there is a lot more to it than just this Francesco Forgione who grew up to be the monk of the wounds. The implications of this man are fantastic. His writings will one day, I think, make him a Doctor of the Church in Spirituality. We have only five hundred letters but they are so profound and they are all from a very early period of his life. If he was so elevated in spirituality as a young man, so perfected in Christian charity as a young man, then that first period of his life was only the beginning; there is another whole half century to follow. So what heights did he reach? I’m talking about things I really don’t know about. I don’t really know who Padre Pio is but I’m getting indications in these last twenty-five years being close to the cause of canonisation that this man is fantastic.


In the beginning I wanted the cause for canonisation to go very quickly “I want to see him a saint – I want to see him a saint!” Now I don’t care any more. Because I realise that Our Lord was doing it to give us time to really get to see this man, to understand him. He had to come out in belief that Padre Pio was the saint sent to the twentieth century church to save humanity as the Cure of Ars was the priest sent to France to save it in the last century. These extraordinary singular saints - let us not get in a discussion about which saint is greater – how can you compare masterpieces and every saint is a masterpiece - these extraordinary saints had very particular missions to accomplish. That is certainly the case in Padre Pio. When you think that this man has spent half a century working and praying constantly. Every evening at this time of day he would be in front of the Blessed Sacrament for five entire hours every night after working all day long and think nothing of it. The only thing that stopped him was when his health failed. 


His charity – there are some things about the life of Padre Pio that you don’t yet know. When he went to San Giovanni in the early years there was a Bishop, Lord have mercy on him, he was not the man of God he should have been - I think he had a lot of problems – he was eventually dethroned by the Vatican and sent off to his home. He said things about Padre Pio which were all untrue – very serious things – you wouldn’t want to see the back of him ever again. This exiled Bishop went to live with his sisters. They had no money to live on. So he wrote to Padre Pio’s Friary and asked if he could have a monthly allowance to help him live on. Now what would you say if a man had ground your name through the mud – I’m not going to tell you what he said because it is disgusting - and the Church turns around and gives him a kick in the pants. What would you do if he wrote to you and said “Will you send me a monthly cheque to help me live?” Let’s talk about these things seriously because the Father Superior at the time, a wonderful man, he brought this letter to Padre Pio and said “What are we going to do?”


 Padre Pio said “Send him the money.” Perfect Christian Charity and if you start digging under the monk of the wounds, forget the wounds, start looking inside the man, what comes out – perfection in every virtue. Perfection to such a point that you can’t measure it any more you can’t talk about it because people think you’re making it up.


Just look at him from the point of view of a confessor. That man would not take a vacation because he didn’t want to, in fifty-one years. The only vacation Padre Pio ever knew was when he was sick in bed – why? – because he wouldn’t leave the confessional. He was in that confessional box morning afternoon and evening. When he was in good health and been confessing all day long; “Oh Padre a coach has just arrived with fifty people.” He would say “Bring them in!” The very last year of his life when he was so sick and was eighty-one years old and weak, and so forth, the Father Superior came down and knelt down beside him and said “Padre you know you can leave off the confessions if you want to now.” Padre Pio was so shocked he didn’t know what to do. To answer the Superior was for him was so very delicate. He said “Father Superior?” in other words “I don’t know what you are talking about!” The patience of the man – if you think it is easy - if you think it is easy to hear confessions for hours at a time – seven days a week - every day single day of the year - for half a century - you do not know what you are talking about because you go to confession you are there for five minutes the priest is there for hours.  Padre Pio was there for days at a time. How do you describe patience like that?


So we are dealing with this man who was a wonder worker and in his life there are beautiful stories to tell and entertaining things – do we understand what is behind it -  I don’t – I really don’t know who Padre Pio is. It’s like looking into a  kaleidoscope, that it keeps changing and getting bigger and brighter and you just don’t know who we are dealing with. He is elusive in his simplicity because he was so simple. We are used to people making a lot of noise and being very powerful and being out in the front row. Padre Pio was very silent and in the back row and you wouldn’t know him. The first time I met him – I was taken into the friary by an English Capuchin – he put me in the hallway upstairs and I was waiting for the entrance of ‘the saint.’  There was a row of men and I was in the middle of them – suddenly a door opened at the end of the hallway – two friars came in, arm in arm, came up the few steps that were there and started walking towards us. If Padre Pio hadn’t had the gloves on I would not have known who this Padre Pio was – that is how humble he was. You wouldn’t know at all – there was no “Stand up I’m coming.” The humility of this man – the humility to take on the load he took on – why? - who was paying him? The humility building this hospital in which he could have built a penthouse on the top of it and had servants and have had a lovely lush life and a car with a driver and you name it he could have had it. He remained in that two by four cell. Wouldn’t dare leave it. So when you start analysing what is behind you have to realise “Who is this Padre Pio?” I still don’t know and I’ve lived there for thirty years.  I don’t think I will ever know. He once said “Some of the mysteries in my life you will only understand in heaven.” So even when we get to heaven we are going to say “Who was Padre Pio?”


A man who comes from the top of a bare topped mountain – has no money – and builds one of the best hospitals in all of Italy – they have machinery in that place which other hospitals just dream about – one thousand two hundred beds – how can you explain something like that. I once heard Padre Pio described by a Canon Law Theologian; he said “In the gospel of the good Samaritan we talk about one person who was sick – look at that hospital – one thousand two hundred beds – that is what Padre Pio has done.”


There are implications in his life but, my God, what is his story? Who is this man? We were living with a great saint a fantastic saint. I’ll tell you another story, someone else said – when St Francis died the friars who lived with him saw him taking the place of Lucifer in heaven. Lucifer – the word means giver of light – the angel was responsible for bringing light - that was the empty space. We are all to take the spaces of the angels that fell. You know what space Padre Pio took, according to someone who I think is very reliable? The space right next to St Francis.


Padre Pio is – on a ‘throne’ – imagine that – a ‘throne’. So all these pieces are coming out – still coming out – still coming out – still coming out – the mosaic is still not finished – we really do not know who this man is. I don’t think anyone does. Think what Padre Pio went through – can you imagine offering your whole life to the Church and wanting nothing to be but a priest of God and then being slapped into a little cell for two years like a dog in quarantine, that you couldn’t even go out in front of the church and take a walk. That’s what happened to Padre Pio. Then later Padre Pio said “Kneel down and venerate the Church which is your Mother.” That same Church which had stopped him going out. The extraordinary virtue of this man who, in life, gave everything to Christ.


When I read the story of Padre Pio the story of the gifts, the charisma which he had – St Paul talks about the mystery of the charisma – Padre Pio had everyone of them. It’s as if he kept giving to Christ and Christ said “Now what can I give him.”  Like a mother who wants to get something for her son – I can give him this - and Padre Pio did something else – I can give him that. Its as if Padre Pio was just offering, offering, offering and Christ was just saying take, take, take. He was a man who lived one foot on earth and one foot in heaven - nonchalantly going to see his father in New York City on Christmas Eve way back in 1921!  Put his head down on the table when he came out of it – “where were you?”  When I say what he said it wasn’t that he made an announcement he might have been answering one Friar who was with him that was recorded. He said “I was in New York to wish my father a Merry Christmas.” What does that imply to you? This extraordinary person who had entered into the realm of God, penetrated into it, to such a point that he could flip off to heaven or flip off to New York. How do you explain it? There really is no-one quite like him is there? There really isn’t – the greatness of this man which is hidden inside and this is the thing that hits me all the time because when the documents come out and when you hear things in the Beatification they keep telling us little things that come up with the Documentation. We will be saying “Is it possible that all of this was in that little, simple, humble man that I knew.” It was always like that – Padre Pio the man with the mask to put in front of this great sanctity. This extraordinary person who would know the future – the day the Pope had died and Pope Paul VI was to be elected, the friars all day long were running Pade Pio up the wall “who’s going to be the next one”; “who’s going to be the next one”; “who’s going to be the next one”. He started in the morning saying “I don’t know” then he couldn’t face it any more. So finally he said “Montini” which is the family name of Paul VI. Penetrating into unknown realms - flipping off around the world – going up to heaven and coming back down to earth. How can you explain this man? One day we were sitting upstairs and he suddenly said “I have to go to confess.”


“No you don’t go to confess at this time of day to confess.” “I must go down now.” He was like a crazy man going down the hallway. We got in the lift we went downstairs, he went into the confessional – there was no-one there - but he was confessing someone. It was like a fight that was going on – he was turning and twisting – and then it was all over. Who had he had dragged out of hell’s door that day? We saw these extraordinary things happening sometimes and he was living in an entirely different realm, but who is it that lives in that realm? Hidden in the simplicity was this extraordinary figure – so I have come to tell you that I don’t know who Padre Pio is. What else can I say? Because it is a constant revelation of a greatness of which I have no conception and of which I have very little understanding. He is not yet known so we still have to go on saying “Who is this Padre Pio.”  I have a cousin in America whose is a doctor he married a nurse – two very fine Catholics – couldn’t have any children. They adopted three children. One day, Padre Pio was already dead, and I got a Christmas Card from them and I said “Padre Pio can’t they have a child of their own?” I said not another word. A year went by and on his birthday which is May 25th a letter from my Cousin’s wife arrived, and she’s the nurse, and it said “I’ve had the child I never should have had”, and a year later she had another one. He can do anything. He just goes to the Blessed Mother and says “Can’t we do this?” and the Blessed Mother who loves him so dearly says “Alright, if you want to do it we’ll do it!” The two of them have been in cahoots – ‘Holy Cahoots’ – for years and don’t think that it’s stopped, it is just going on, it’s going on all the time. There was a miracle just a year ago, a year ago tomorrow 10th August. A woman had hernias on her spine and could no longer walk. The doctors had said “You are going to have to resign yourself to be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.” She prayed to Padre Pio. He appeared to her in on the 7th August and on the 10th August, she didn’t know it was the anniversary of his death, she just started to get out of bed by herself and started walking around. She was in San Giovanni about a two months ago perfectly healthy fine – returned to life normally – so he is doing these extraordinary things. There again – Who is this Padre Pio who does these things? Natural order, for him, is not a problem. He did them in life on earth so now ask him anything as he doesn’t have to suffer to obtain it – it’s his inheritance. So I leave you with the question that I am still pondering myself – Who is Padre Pio? I don’t know.


During question time Father Joseph was asked:

Question:- Would it be true to say that If the kaleidoscope, which you talked about, were to come together one would see an image of Christ.


Answer:- Definitely, very definitely. Those eyes I saw were of Christ. There is one of our friars who is now very critically ill, one day he looked at Padre Pio and he actually saw Our Lord. In his letters even Padre Pio said “This morning Christ changed His heart with mine.” He was living on a spiritual level which has very seldom been attained. I would almost say ‘had never been attained’ – the spiritual greatness that man was living in. Isn’t that what every Christian is to be – to be another Christ.


Question:- To do with God sending saints when the world needs them.


Answer:- When you read church history you are instructed that God sends the church the saints it needs at the times it needs them. But he doesn’t send them like a copying machine in various copies, just one. There was one Cure of Ars in France in the last century – the say that if there were five of them France would not be in the pagan state it is in today. God sends one.


Question:- To do with Padre Pio’s fights with the devil. Part way through the answer someone mentions ‘exorcism’ and Father Joseph also answers that. 


Answer:- The fights with the devil were frequent in his life. You must remember that this man’s ‘raison d’etre’ was particularly to fight evil, the evil spirits. There were times in the beginning when, for instance, he was just a young priest and had just ended that seven period of hermitage and was in Foggia at St Anne’s Friary on his way up to the Gorgano at San Giovanni never to leave it ever again, and in St Anne’s Friary Padre Pio would never take an evening meal. He’d be upstairs and suddenly the friars down in the friary would these bangs and crashes and yelling and so forth. They got to the point where they just couldn’t take it any more. A bishop came to the evening meal, hung up his hat and coat in the hallway, went into the dining room with the friars, and suddenly these bangs and crashes and yells started. The bishop just got up and ran out of the place and they had to send his hat and coat after him the next day. Then the friars said to Padre Pio “Look we’ve had enough of this.” So he said “Alright it won’t happen again.” How did he do that? He just told Our Lord “I don’t want to disturb the friars any more. Please stop it.” There was never a sound again. But he was physically beaten by evil spirits even in July of 1964 and he died in 1968. He couldn’t say Mass for three days when that happened the last time. Even in the very last hours of his life – Satan knew when he was to be called and they were constantly sending spirits against him. But he was a warrior. We shouldn’t be afraid of the devil as he wasn’t. He didn’t like it but he wasn’t afraid - there is no power like Christ. I was at his Mass one day – still a layman - and there were two Anglicans came, they were seminarians and they were thinking about entering the Roman Church and one of them, I’m convinced, had an exorcism during Padre Pio’s Mass.






Question:- To do with the stigmata.


Answer:- The stigmata disappeared with his death. They were disappearing for a short time before his death and they completely closed with his death so that when we dressed the body for burial the wounds were completely closed and left no scar which is an impossibility because when he held up his hands and the crust would fall from the stigmata you could see light coming through the hand. I cut my hand five years ago and I still have a tiny little scar. His flesh was like baby flesh. From Padre you could get as much information from about his interior spiritual life as if you were talking to the wall, never would he tell you a thing, never would he show you a thing. But the stigmatists always have a little doubt about the stigmata so the fact that in the last months of his life the stigmata began to close and dry up and then disappeared completely in the last days for him would have been a burden I should think. Just another trial. You can only understand something about Padre Pio if you read the diary of Father Agostino, which is a big bore, to tell you the truth, as a book. Because this priest would go to see Padre Pio from another monastery far away and he would arrive for an hour and he would just put down in a tiny little diary ‘I found Father Pio tired’, ‘I found Farther Pio struggling’, ‘I found Father Pio suffering’ it just repeats itself, it is not a book to read. But in that diary he quotes a demon speaking through a person in 1923 who said “I can no longer work directly at you Padre Pio but I will get at you through other people.” That is the only way you can understand Padre Pio’s life. Part of the victim-hood he had to suffer. This extraordinary victim-hood. He knew how to say only “Yes.” The crucifix that he was praying in front of when he received the permanent visible stigmata has four nails in it. Now nails in spiritual language are the vows that a religious takes to hold them to the cross. Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Padre Pio had a fourth vow – a fourth nail – and that crucifix, which was made three hundred years before he was born, has a fourth nail – the feet are separated – he had a vow to God to never say “No.” Who was Padre Pio?


Question:- Do you agree that the second book of letters to his spiritual children enables those of us who are not on that exalted plane to really come to know Padre Pio much better, to understand him more?


Answer:- To understand him much better – to me they are extraordinary – that  book. These are letters which Padre Pio wrote in 1914/15. He was only ordained in 1910. They are full of such exalted spirituality that to me it is unbelievable that such a young man could write like that. They are to a woman – a holy woman, of Foggia who was dying of cancer – she eventually died of cancer. The letters read like a book. It is a school of spirituality. It brings you on to discuss Padre Pio as a Spiritual Director because he operated the gifts of God in a way that no-one has done that I know of.  Her could look at you and, it all depends on Our Lord, it all depends on Christ, and he could tell you your sins. I used to confess with him. I’ll tell you a true story. When I first got to San Giovanni I wanted to go to confession to Padre Pio. The only things I knew how to say in Italian was Spaghetti, Lasagne and Pizza! So I got a dictionary and translated my sins onto a piece of paper and I had this in my shaking hand for three days waiting on the line to get to his confession. So I got in and knelt down and he said something to me I have no idea what he said – he could have said “what time of day is it” I don’t know but he had a grin that was cracking his face from ear to ear. So I said “It’s impossible.” He said “What’s impossible” I said “To confess in Italian” and grinning from ear to ear he said “Well go to the priest who speaks English.” Then, two months before he died we were in his little cell on our way to the veranda he turned round to me and, as good as the Queen of England would pronounce it he said “Close the window.” Who was Padre Pio? It is very important how he was as a spiritual director because he will confess you. You wouldn’t get away – one day I had really forgotten a sin and, as it happened with all of us, if you had forgotten something he just kept saying “and what else, and what else, and what else”. Until he got it out of you, you weren’t moving and you weren’t going to get that absolution. On another day I had said that someone was a fraud, then I got scruples about it so I went to confession I said Padre Pio “I have said an awful thing. I said a man was a fraud.” He just looked at me and he just agreed! But because I was so mixed up with the scruple of saying it I wouldn’t accept what he was saying. Finally he said “leave the confessional.” That destroyed me. I was back there a week later. Another story – I was again waiting for days on this line to get to confess with him and I was first in line. Suddenly a side door flew open and there was just time to go. Padre Pio was going to be finishing then because I knew the schedule – in came a friar with two of his friends and put them in front of me. I thought –“I’ve lost my confession for the day” and I was very annoyed at that. I was standing at the door of the church and Padre Pio was confessing on the other side of the old Sacristy. When the first of these two people went in I hard him say “Where is the American?” He said it so loud that I could hear it and I clamed down. He confessed those two people who had been out in the line then he confessed me then he got up and left. He was full of those little tricks. One day I confessed with him – and this makes nothing of me now – so don’t think it does – but someone had accompanied me to the confessional. I didn’t know whether he was looking at my guardian angel or who was there. He’d look at me and say “What did you do?” “When was your last confession?” Then he’d look up and smile at someone then he’d say “What else?” then he’d look up again. I didn’t know who was there – Who is Padre Pio who is living in this realm that we didn’t know? A lady just died in San Giovanni a month ago – Martha the Swiss Lady. The night that Padre Pio died she was out on the balcony of her little home which was behind the friary garden. She couldn’t quite sleep it was 2.30a.m. in the morning. She saw, behind the friary garden, a great globe of light and it suddenly moved off into heaven. He had said an hour before he died, I was there when he died, He said “I see two mothers.” Evidently the Blessed Mother and his own Mother had come to fetch him. Who is this man that the Blessed Mother would get up and leave Heaven and come and get him? But the two of them, I told you, were in holy cahoots his whole life. Anyway I don’t want to lose that point and I keep going away from it; his spiritual direction was such that he would confess you and that’s alright, but then if you move on in the spiritual life and started to take it more seriously and started to pray and really wanted to walk with Our Lord in spiritual perfection he became more severe as you went on – much more severe. He would take things from people who just walked in off the street that he wouldn’t take from a lot of people who were living a spiritual life. In Padre Pio there was no grey it was black or it was white – there was no compromise whatsoever. It was black or it was white. I know a pharmacist who was working in a pharmacy when the pill started to come out in Italy and she was very disturbed. At the end of her confession she said to Father Pio “What am I going to do? The people who own the pharmacy where I work are selling the contraceptive pill.” He said “Get out and get another job.” No grey, either black or white. No compromise whatsoever – So who was Padre Pio? It’s a riddle. It is really a riddle.


Question:- During the days you were in the presence of Padre Pio all those years when you were in San Giovanni when you realised, as you’ve been explaining to us, the wonderful man, has it affected you personally to know that you were in the presence of such a man.


Answer:- In the beginning – also because I always have a little timidity as a character element – as quiet and shy. That wore off very quickly and after about six months in the friary I can remember saying “The friars are like other people.” It was a shock! Living day to day with Padre Pio it just became a daily thing you didn’t think about it any more. But I always, even before going into the friary I always accepted him as a saint. But it was after his death now that a lot of this stuff is coming out and it is making us say “Who is the Padre Pio hidden inside  of that simple friar? Simple, humble man.


Question:- Father Joseph – why did you go to see him and how did he help Our Lady.


Answer: The lady behind me! (Behind Father Joseph was a statue of Our Lady). My family in America were very close to the Carmelite Nuns and I know they prayed for me a great deal. I lost my mother when I was six and my father when I was seventeen. As I grew up I consecrated myself to Mary but by no way was a good Catholic. I would go to Mass on Sunday, usually late – didn’t even say her Rosary – and I was searching very much for what I wanted to do in life. I’d seen Padre Pio once when I was twenty-one years old in 1959. After five years I went to see him again thinking “If don’t go now I’ll never see him because he’ll die.” He’d accepted me as his spiritual child which means he’ll take care of you spiritually as a father would take care of his own child more than take care of other children. It’s a very special privilege actually. He told me to stay there without saying why and if at that time you had told me I would have been a friar/priest I would have laughed in your face. I stayed there. I asked if could go to the Holy Land on pilgrimage and he said of course but remember it is where Christ suffered. He put me in the right frame of mind. I had great deal of agitation to get back to him. I had the time and the money to travel more – but I had to get back to San Giovanni. I got back - spent the summer – knew I wanted to be a religious - packed my bags – actually closed the suitcases – went up to the friary to ask his blessing and he said “No, you are to stay here.” I thought “He accepts the responsibility before Our Lord that I’m not following the vocation that I feel I should.” I stayed during the winter and then a need came on for English person – an English speaking person – because they had lost the priest who spoke English. He had been transferred. So I started helping the friars with mail and so forth and you know I just asked to enter and they said “Yes” It had never dawned on me that I was going to enter Padre Pio’s friary. He taught me a great lesson. Padre Pio constantly taught in his life. He was such a teacher like his model Christ of whom he was a great disciple as a teacher. The Provincial – the Father Superior of the friary had said “Yes, you’re accepted come in” but nothing happened they never told me when to come. I went to Padre Pio and he taught me I had to do everything in the name the Lord. Once I had prayed in the name of the Lord, asking permission to be a friar and to enter and so forth, just prayer now, because all the rest had been agreed I was told “Come in on the 15th September.”


I got into my first cell in the friary - over every friary door there is a little biblical quote – what was written on mine “The name of The Lord is a strong tower. Who takes refuge in it will find……….” I was invested in the habit and Padre Pio would very often be alone in the afternoon on the veranda. He’d always be there. The real miracle in Padre Pio’s life, and I’m not kidding you, is that those beads did not take root in his fingers. He was never without them. He’d be talking to you and under the pectoral piece the Rosary would be going. He was sitting there and I got to thinking, because Padre Pio’s confessor had said to me “Look, the greatest gift God can give a person after Baptism is a religious vocation.” So I was thinking “To whom must I thank; Our Lady, because I realised the consecration to her certainly meant something, or Padre Pio?” I didn’t say a word. He looked at me – he looked at me and he said “Our Lady.” The answer to your question is ‘Our Lady’ who brought me there. She did, because if I had gone back to America I would never have been a priest today. Because hell broke loose in American seminaries in the last years when I would have been studying and I never would have got through it.




Question:- To do with Prayer Groups.


Answer:- His advice to the Prayer Groups would be first of all to use prayer as a weapon, as Padre Pio did, in the fight that he was living through in the apocalyptic age, always connected with the Blessed Mother.  His Mass was a fight – his Rosaries were fights – this great warier of God was carrying on the fights. His word to you for prayer would be “Keep it going, don’t let it drop, don’t stop. The Church needs it terribly, and the world needs it terribly.” That’s why he started them. He first started talking about Prayer Groups not after the second world war, which they have in all those booklets, but in 1916.


                                         PADRE PIO RETREAT       Back to Contents













Prologue:  -  Father Joseph’s purpose was to show how Padre Pio’s life reflects our own.  Therefore Father wanted the Retreat to emphasise the spiritual nature of Padre Pio as shown by his letters.  Nevertheless other relevant comments and anecdotes were frequently told. In order to show the spiritual content separately it is printed in capitals.


At the end of the Report is a Summary of the main points.



Father Joseph’s Introduction


Father Joseph commenced by asking everyone to pray that a good Padre Pio video may be produced.  This was needed to get through to young people.  At prayer meetings it is sad to notice that there are few young people. The way to get to them and to the work is through videos and books. 


Father told us that “God talks in silence” and recommended that we observe silence until Sunday morning.  (In truthfulness it has to be said that we were not very good at this!  Father kept having to remind us!)


We moved from the Conference Room to the Chapel where the rest of the retreat took place.  Father suggested that, in order to concentrate on the Retreat, we should leave all our worries at the foot of The Cross.  We spent some time in silence carrying out Father’s advice.  Then Father anointed each of us.


We were then given a brief resume of Padre Pio’s life emphasizing the extreme poverty of his whole life and especially during his early years in Pietrelcina.  Padre Pio hadn’t found it easy to reject material things.  He said that he had found it difficult to turn his back on the world. 


Father spoke of Padre Pio as a co-redemptorist.  His suffering helped to buy back souls.  He was once approached by a lady who had a rare painful disease.  “Please let me be cured” she asked.  Padre Pio replied “If you accept this pain for eighteen more months all your family will be released from purgatory.”  “Say no more” the lady said.  Eighteen months later she returned and her request for a cure was granted.


We were told that only the briefest of prayers were necessary.  Father’s cousin in the USA got married but the couple had no children.  Eventually they adopted two children and, following the Vietnam War, they adopted a Vietnamese child.  Father recalls making a brief prayer to Padre Pio.  “Padre Pio, please let them have a child of their own.”  The following year, on one of Padre Pio’s  feast days, he received a letter telling of “the child they never expected to have “.  The following year they had another child!


Father Joseph told us that the retreat would not be a talk on Padre Pio but how his life reflects on ours.  Records kept at the Friary showed that Padre Pio confessed one million people during his lifetime.  Padre Pio said that “There is nothing more important than saving souls.”  Every evening he spent five hours at prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  He slept only two hours at night.







Padre Pio had special gifts from God.  One was ‘Word of knowledge’.  He knew things which were going to happen. We were told of a lady called Rose who wanted to know whether she would get married.  She asked Padre Pio but go no answer.  A friend of hers was visiting the friary and was asked to get the information.  Eventually Padre Pio said “Tell Rose that she will become a Carnation!”  Everyone thought it was some sort of joke or that perhaps Padre Pio was becoming mentally geriatric!  Within a year Rose had married a man whose name meant ‘Carnation’.






When Padre Pio rejected a sinner it was because he knew they were not repentant. We were told of a Nun who kept confessing the same sin. Jesus appeared to her and said “Why do you keep mentioning that sin?  I have forgotten it.”


Father told us that Padre Pio could be very cross with those who deserved it.  He told of one particular incident when Padre Pio had scolded a man extremely harshly.  It was very embarrassing.  The Friar accompanying him said “Padre you shouldn’t talk to people like that”’ 


Padre Pio answered “But I want to talk like that.”  Padre Pio’s ability to see people’s souls meant that he knew when such remonstrations were very necessary.


Padre Pio lived a life of victimhood.  He was always ill…colds/fever/pleurisy he never had good health.  As if that wasn’t enough he had constant battles with satan who was allowed to attack him physically.















Report writer’s comments:-  Father Joseph’s talk answered a personal problem.  I know that God forgives me all my sins but I have immense difficulty forgiving myself.  I now realise that this is the work of Satan who allows my mind to dwell on past sins thereby not only causing me mental distress but also side-tracking me from my main purpose of praising and loving God and my neighbour.


You cannot be a Christian unless you have a devotion to the Mother of God.  In history there is no-one who has a title such as Mary.  Her name for early Christians was ‘Mother’.  Padre Pio’s devotion for Our Lady was immense.  At the time of his death he saw two mothers coming to greet him …. Our Lady and his earthly and his earthly Mother.  Padre Pio was very special to Our Lady.


Padre Pio called the Rosary his “weapon”.








The Gospel reading for the day was the Marriage Feast at Cana in Galilee.  Father told us that Jesus, in calling His Mother ‘woman’, was making the most polite method of address.  Our Lady didn’t doubt that Jesus would carry out her wishes.  We must continually remember Our Lady’s request and Jesus’ response.  Jesus, in accepting Our Lady’s request, made this her first Mediatrix.  Christ wants us to approach His Mother.


Father Joseph recommended the book ‘True Devotion To Mary’ by St Louis de Montford.  Reading this book is the best thing to do after Baptism.  (This is an American Publication.  If not available at your Catholic Bookshop then it can be obtained by contacting:- Tan Books & Publishers Inc., P.O. Box 424, Rockford, Illinois 61105, USA.)


Father Joseph told us that as a young man he was Catholic in name alone.  He would attend Sunday Mass but usually arrived late due to being out the previous night.  He visited San Giovanni and Padre Pio told him to stay.  He made a visit to the Holy Land and while he was there he felt drawn to a religious life.  Back in San Giovanni he packed his bags and went to the Friary to say farewell to padre Pio.  He was intending to return to the USA to commence his vocation.  Once again Padre Pio told him to remain in San Giovanni.  Later, after he had joined the Friary, he was sitting by Padre Pio who was saying his Rosary.  Father Joseph thought to himself “I wonder who was responsible for my vocation.  Was it Padre Pio or Our Lady?”  Padre Pio ceased his Rosary turned to Father Joseph and said “It was Our Lady of course!”  He even kew what people were thinking!














We took time to quietly think of those we should forgive.












Padre Pio was constantly mortifying himself by eating small amounts.  This is on top of his constant pain through the stigmata which included the Crown and Thorns which ‘he never took off’.









2.    WRATH.


3.    MALICE.








We were told the story of a Bishop who told lies about Padre Pio saying that the stigmata was self-inflicted.  Rome removed the Bishop and he retired to live with his sisters.  But they were very poor.  So the Bishop wrote to Padre Pio’s Friary asking for a monthly allowance.  The Superior took the letter to Padre Pio and asked what should be done.  “Send him the money” said Padre Pio.  (No Resentment.  Perfect Peace.)


Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.


Adoration means to love profoundly.


Father told us of someone sitting in front of the tabernacle who said that he was ‘son-bathing’.


We were told the story of a lady who told a priest “Don’t come with Holy Communion I have Padre Pio with me.”  Padre Pio would have been furious at such a statement.


On one occasion Padre Pio existed for twenty days on the Eucharist and no other form of sustenance.




Padre Pio’s early life was used in his writings, learning his spirituality, which in his later life he would be conveying to others.


Padre Pio’s Perfumes     .        Incense =     Prayer

                         Roses                              He is there with you

                         Flowers    =     Greetings

                        Tobacco     =     Warning


The Altar was Padre Pio Battle Ground.  He was always anxious to get to the Altar to commence his battle.  He sometimes trembled on approaching the Altar.  When asked about this he said that he was fearful of what God was going to ask of him.


Due to his perfect love of God and the total sacrifice of his whole life Padre Pio was granted gifts beyond belief.











During two of the years when padre Pio was not allowed to say Public Mass or hear confessions he moved his bed into the library so that, at that difficult time, he could be near his readings which were a major part of his life.


Padre Pio suffered from a lack of affection.  Pilgrims would even cut pieces off his robe etc.  They were always taking from him not giving to him.







One day the friars found Padre Pio crying.  When asked the reason for his tears he told them “I have never thanked God for my Baptism.”








2.    JOY.


3.    PEACE.


4.    LOVE OF GOD.














5.    CHARITY.








9.    MODESTY.








Father Joseph told us about his first meeting with Padre Pio.  Two friars approached him.  If it were not for the mittens he wouldn’t have known which was Padre Pio. Padre Pio never expected any special treatment.  He always showed perfect humility.


Padre Pio did not favour the fashion of ladies wearing short skirts.  Any lady coming to him with a skirt above the knees was told “Out you go”!





Blessing and Sharing.


Everyone was blessed by a blood scab from one of Padre Pio’s hands and all received Padre Pio medals.  Then it was time for questions and answers.


Father Joseph was questioned regarding the recent critical comments regarding Padre Pio in the Catholic Herald.  Father told us that the newspaper had printed the ‘sensational article’, and even given it front page coverage, without making contact with anyone who could have advised them of the truth.  It was an example of newspaper sensationalism and not what one expects from a responsible Catholic paper.


A question was asked about the cause for Padre Pio’s Canonisation.  This is proceeding but the amount of evidence is so vast that it is having to be drastically reduced before it can be considered. The Holy Father is very pro-Padre Pio and has said that he hopes to officiate at the Canonisation.



























2.    WRATH.

3.    MALICE










2.    JOY

3.    PEACE

























                     Translated from the Italian by Cecil Humphery-Smith

                                    Arranged to music by Stella Lilley.                     


                        Stay with me Lord for without Thy presence I forget Thee,

                        Thou knowest how easily I abandon Thee.


                        Stay with me Lord for without Thy strength I fall,

                        Thou knowest how weak I am.


                        Stay with me Lord for without Thee my fervour fails,

                        Thou art my life.


                        Stay with me Lord for without Thee I am in darkness,

                        Thou are my light.


                        Stay with me Lord and show me Thy Will.


                        Stay with me Lord and let me hear Thy Voice.


                        Stay with me Lord that I may follow Thee.


                        Stay with me Lord that I may love Thee more.


                        Stay with me Lord that I may stay with Thee,


If Thou woulds’t have me to be faithful,

stay with me Lord.


Stay with me Jesus for thou my soul is poor,

it desires to be in the fold of love for Thee,

a place of consolation.


Stay with me Jesus for it is getting late,

the day is ending, life is passing;

death, judgement, eternity are coming soon.


Now I must muster all my forces,

so that I do not faint on the road.

I have such great need for Thee on this journey.


                        It‘s getting late and death is approaching.

darkness, temptations, dryness, crosses

and all sorts of troubles beset me

and Oh how much I need Thee my good Jesus

in this night of exile.


Stay with me Jesus because this night of life

is so full of dangers and I have such need of Thee.


Grant that like Thy disciples I may recognise Thee

in the breaking of Bread.




Grant that the Eucharistic Union may be the light

which casts out the darkness; the force that

sustains me and the one means to sanctify my soul.


Stay with me Lord because when death arrives

if I cannot really be with Thee in Holy Communion

then I shall wish to remain united to Thee at least

through Grace and Love.


Stay with me Jesus. I do not ask Thee for Divine

Consolation because I deserve it.

But I beg of Thee with all my strength

for the gift of Thy most Holy Presence.


Stay with me Lord. Thee alone I seek.

Thy Love, Thy Grace, Thy Will, Thy Heart,

Thy Spirit, for I love Thee. Thee alone I love.


Let me seek no other reward but the increase

of that love. That my love may be real and firm

and practical.


I ask no more than to love Thee with all my heart

on earth and to follow Thee with all with all perfected

love for all eternity.



Excerpts from Humph’s Talks       Back to Contents


Humph Obtains Padre Pio’s Permission for a Documentary.


The BBC had wanted to make a film about Padre Pio, this is a couple of years before he died, and the head of the cause in Rome, during Pio’s lifetime, asked me if I would represent the cause here. So I went to see Padre Pio for his birthday the year he died and he said “Alright so long as you don’t rub my name in the dust” (that is a rough translation) and this is what I say to other people who want my story ‘don’t rub my name in the dust’ because each one of us has a dignity which that does not want to be demeaned


The Documentary of Padre Pio.


That wonderful journalist Patrick O’Donavan made a magnificent documentary which quite remarkably began with Padre Pio’s funeral because they had got back to Rome to process the filming they had done in San Giovanni and heard that he had died so they rushed back for his wonderful funeral. That was the first contact that England had, I think, with the news about Padre Pio.


Prayer Groups.


Some years after that when Padre Pio Prayer Groups had begun Stella Lilley came to a little group that I had started with the nuns at Whitstable and said “Is there anything I can do for you? I would love to help, because my mother was devoted to Padre Pio.” I met Stella’s Mother and her Father – wonderful – people.



Silence in the Presence of The Blessed Sacrament.


We are in contact with Almighty God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. What do we do - WE START CHATTING! No respect. No awe. No silence. Please try and get a message – if I say nothing else in these few days from Padre Pio it is to revere that presence. Let us be perfectly clear that Jesus is present really and truly the one who loves us so much gave his only begotten Son and that only begotten Son loved us so much that he could actually hung on the gallows to redeem us and that, if one wants an answer to who is Padre Pio, he is the man that Padre Pio earnestly wanted to emulate throughout his life; earnestly wanted to be Jesus because he realises that ultimately at the end of our days each one of us had to be a perfect reflection of the face of Christ. We still will have our personality, that

individuality but we will be perfected. That is why there is a Hell; that is why there is a Purgatory that is why there is all the suffering that we go through in order to make us perfect images of He who died for us on the Cross yet left Himself with us eternally


Hump’s umHuRecommended Reading


If you ever get the chance to read his letters study them. He’s only saying all the things that we have had in Jeremiah and Matthew and Mark and, if you can go through John about twenty times, in succession studying sentence by sentence you may get somewhere to understanding that Gospel. It is the most beautiful one of them all to my liking. The pity is it is not related to us as it used to be at least that first chapter at the end of Mass any more, and I have no idea why it was ever cut out. Somebody here may be able to tell me why it was. But what I’m saying to you is that if you can’t take it from Pio take it from Jesus himself. The Gospels are there to teach us. Each one of them reflects upon the rest of the Bible. I’m not suggesting you will end up as Bible Christians. You need the scriptures to tell you what Jesus’ message is and it’s as plain as a pikestaff as interpreted in our own lifetime by the person of Padre Pio.


The Priesthood of the Laity


Padre Pio spent many, many hours each day in the confessional and he took upon himself the sins of those he forgave. That is the measure of a true confessor. That is the measure of a true counsellor of a good, humble spiritual adviser. To take the spiritual worries of the one he is advising on himself.  That is your responsibility, and yours, and yours, and yours, and yours, and mine when we are counselling others because we too have this divine commission of the priesthood of the laity. The priesthood which Christ gave us as His disciples to give the message of the Gospel to others. That message of love, mercy, forgiveness, understanding in His name. Only the ordained may absolve but we have a duty to be instruments of Christ in counselling if we have prepared ourselves adequately. Therefore we need the counsel of a good priest, confessor and spiritual adviser and I think every lay person should find a spiritual adviser. Padre Pio used to say “find the best.”




Over the past forty five years since I enjoyed a close friendship with Padre Pio for the first time I have learned what it is to take up the cross. Suffering is, in a divine sense, a joy. How could I appreciate that without knowing what Pio was going through? Why was he joyful? Again you have to forgive me if I repeat myself but do read the Psalm from beginning to end ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (22–21) and get to the end – read it. People forget that Jesus Christ was a Rabbi who knew his Old Testament – probably forwards, backwards, sideways, inside out, after all in another sense he had given the word to those who had written it. But certainly as a Jewish Rabbi he had learnt the Psalms and he just about had the gasp of breath – I don’t think many people appreciate the physical impossibility of hanging on the cross and still being able to breath let alone to articulate. So he could only gasp out those first lines but then in the next period of time, in his heart and mind, he came to the end of it which is praise and glory of God – perfect joy which is what is demanded of us. So without the darkness you cannot see the light - without the suffering and pain you cannot appreciate the joy. That is what the love of God is all about for us being formed in his likeness on earth. Then he turns again with an enormous effort of his lungs to say to the good thief “this day you will be joining me, in effect, in Paradise” with a smile - and that is the prayer which we always forget the prayer of the smile.



A MIRACULOUS CURE       Back to Contents


The story of a cure at the intervention of Padre Pio.

Told by Sean Mulrine at Maryvale 3Oth October 1994


Sean had come to Maryvale from Derry, Northern Ireland.  His story commenced thirteen years ago when his wife, Annie, collapsed and was quickly taken into hospital. The doctors told Sean that his wife had suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and was clinically dead. As she was pregnant they suggested keeping her on a life-support machine so that the pregnancy could go its full time and the baby be born. Sean signed a form to allow this to happen. At the time he and his wife were only in their thirties and this whole situation, with no forewarning, came as a great shock to Sean. He told us that he had been a normal Catholic, attending Mass on a Sunday, but not doing much else. A relative gave him a prayer card of Padre Pio and he started to say the prayers. He also started to pray the Rosary and his whole prayer-life became meaningful and no longer a chore as it had been in the past. Despite all the prayers his wife’s condition didn’t alter and the doctors continued their diagnosis of her being ‘clinically dead’, ‘no more than a cabbage’.

As well as his prayer-life changing he also became devoted to Our Lady and daily took red roses and put them in front of her statue at his local church.

Sean’s prayers continued and he became certain that they would be heard. On one occasion while he was sitting by his wife’s bed and holding her hand he asked Padre Pio to send him a sign. At that moment he felt his wife squeeze his hand. When he told the doctors they just didn’t believe him and told him not to build up his hopes. On the basis of her condition it was impossible that she could have squeezed his hand. He was kidding himself. Nevertheless he felt her hand squeeze again and knew that Padre Pio was at work.

The doctors decided to move his wife to a larger hospital. When they got her there Sean found them cutting off all her hair. He asked them why and was told that they were going to take her to the theatre for a thorough examination. (Sean told us that he made a promise to bury her hair at Padre Pio’s grave. Which, as he told us, showed how little he knew about Padre Pio’s tomb! Later he buried the hair behind the Fifth Station of the Cross at San Giovanni.) After the examination the doctors spoke to Sean again. His wife had seven ruptured blood vessels in her head. The centre of her brain was clotted with blood which it was impossible to remove. There was no hope.

 Sean continued with his prayers and realized that the time was coming nearer when the baby would be born and the life-support machine would be turned off. One particular night he paced up and down the corridor outside his wife’s room continually asking Padre Pio for help. At that same time a local man who was a devotee of Padre Pio and had one of the Padre’s mittens was woken by a telephone call from a lady asking him to go the hospital and ask for Sean and Annie Mulrine. It was 2.00a.m. in the middle of the night when he received the call and initially he supposed it was a hoax and got back into bed. But then he had second thoughts and made his way to the hospital.

Sean remembers seeing a man walking towards him and saying ‘You are looking for me’. He didn’t know how he knew that or why he said it. But it was right. Sean told the Padre Pio devotee about his wife and together they went to her bedside. The mitten was placed on her forehead at which she raised her right arm and made the sign of the cross. The mitten was then put on her tummy, over the unborn child, and once again Annie made the sign of the cross. Apart from the squeezing of Sean’s hand this was the first movement she had made and it was witnessed by nurses who immediately called the doctors. They were stunned. What was happening was impossible. Shortly afterwards Annie sat up and then started to speak. The impossible became more and more impossible.

Due to Annie’s return to health she was transferred back to the original hospital. News of the miracle had spread and as she was wheeled in all the doctors and nurses came out into the corridors and gave her a standing ovation. Shortly afterwards she gave birth to twin boys.

At the end of his talk Sean introduced us to his wife Annie. She is lovely, with beautiful red hair and looking the picture of health. I can assure all who read this that there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Alleluia and thank you Padre Pio. (But who made the telephone call to the Padre Pio Devotee? Could it have been Our Lady? We are unlikely to know the answer to that this side of the grave.) 


      Efficacious Novena To The Sacred Heart.       Back to Contents


I.   O my Jesus, you have said “Truly I say to you, ask and it will be

Given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened

            to you”. Behold. I knock, I seek and ask for the grace of……..


           Our Father…..Hail Mary…..Glory be to the Father…….Sacred

           Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.


     II.   O my Jesus, you have said: Truly I say to you, if I ask

            Anything of he Father in my name, He will give it to you”.

            Behold,. In your name, I ask the Father for the grace of….


           Our Father…..Hail Mary…..Glory be to the Father…….Sacred

           Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.


    III.   O my , you have said: “Truly  say to you, heaven and earth will  

      pass away. But my words will not pass away”. Encouraged by your

      words I now ask for the grace of…….


           Our Father…….Hail Mary…….Glory be to the Father…..Sacred

           Heart of Jesus. I place all my trust in you.


      O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have

      Compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and

      Grant us the grace which we ask of you, through the Sorrowful

      and Immaculate Heart of Mary, your tender mother and ours.


      Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add: St Joseph, foster father

      of Jesus, pray for us.


N.B. This novena prayer was recited every day by Padre Pip

        for all those who asked his prayers. The faithful are invited to

        recite it daily. So as to be spiritually united with the prayer of

        Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.


Acknowledgements & Recommended Reading       Back to Contents



A Saint on my Back

By Cecil R Humphery-Smith

Available From

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre

Kingsdown Park House



Kent CT5 2DF

Tel 01227 274050

Fax 01227 276136



On The Road With Padre Pio

By Stella Maris Lilley

Available as above from

Saint Pio of Piertelcina Uk Centre



Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

By Padre Aklbderto D’Apolito.



The Friary of San Giovanni

Tales of Padre Pio

By John McCaffery



Padre Pio’s

Jack of all Trades.

Available as above from

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre.



Padre Pio The Pierced Priest

By John Gallagher



The Apparitions of the

Child Jesus. To Padre Pio.

By Padre Gerardo Di Flumeri



Padre Pio’s Prayer Life

By Padre Gerardo Di Flumeri

Available as above from

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre



Homage to the Blessed Padre Pio

By Padre Gerardo Di Flumeri

Available as above from


Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre.

Padre Pio’s Rosary

Meditations by Cecil R. Humphery-Smth.

Available as above from

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre.



Saint On My Back

By Cecil Humphery-Smith

Available as above from

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre.



Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Letters Volume 1

Correspondence with His Spiritual Directors.

By Padre Gerardo Flumeri

Available as above from

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre.



Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Letters Volume II

Correspondence with

Raffaelina Cerase.

By Padre Gerardo Flumeri

Available as above from

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre.



Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Letter Volume III

Correspondence with His Spiritual Daughters.

By Padre Gerardo Di Flumeri

Available as above from

Saint Pio of Pietrelcina UK Centre



The Apparitions of the Child Jesus to Padre Pio

By Padre Gerardo Di Flumeri.