My Friend Padre Pio

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It has been reported that I've been seen in two places at the same time. But unlike Padre Pio, who possessed a true gift of bilocation, mine was a case of mistaken identity; I am an identical twin. Being a mother of 10 children has stretched me in multiple dimensions, but I still reside in only one place at one time. I have the tremendous potential to influence the lives of 10 people, for better or for worse. Padre Pio, who never left his monastery, managed to influence (for better) countless souls, and seemed to make many personal visits around the world!

Padre Pio is my favorite Saint. He is best known for having etched in his flesh the reality of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion for 50 years – the stigmata. The range of his spiritual gifts puts him at the level of the greatest mystics. Having died so recently (1968), we are privy to countless living witnesses testifying to the tender mercies of God won through this Saint’s intercession.  It was in the confessional that those gifts snatched souls from the devil; many persons had their sins revealed to them, not visa-versa, through this Saint’s ability to read souls (in case they forgot a whopper). Language was no barrier either, for Padre Pio had the gift of understanding languages he had never learned, while in confession.  No excuses!

He was a man of sorrows.  Born May 25th, 1887 he was named Francesco by his pious parents. He never was free from illness, which seemed to threaten even his entrance into the monastery (the Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin) located in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. His superiors gave him permission to return to his beloved mother in Pietrelcina when necessary. From the letters to his spiritual directors, we learn that he asked to take on the sufferings of the souls in purgatory and poor sinners.  His prayer was answered.

Slander, accusations of fraud,  periods of isolation from saying mass publicly,  doctors examinations,  jealousy, and even having his room bugged because of false accusations of affairs with his spiritual daughters, what did this man not experience for souls? He was grabbed and pulled about by the throngs coming to him, hungry for God. The friars heard frightful sounds at night when the devil would assault him physically. Asked by a friar while lifting him off the floor on such a night, covered with bruises, who it was that put the pillow under his head while he lay on the floor, he moaned: “It was the Madonna.” Ultimately, the most severe suffering seemed to be prior to receiving the stigmata. His letters reveal a profound darkness and depression – an experience St. John of the Cross best referred to as the dark night of the soul.

My relationship with Padre Pio began with a book.  His feast day (today) is my husband’s birthday, and his mother’s birthday (March 28th) is mine.  I shamelessly use these to stake a claim on his attention from heaven; I am one of his self-proclaimed spiritual daughters,  and he seems to have honored my numerous knockings.  I was once whining that I had not felt his loving presence lately and asked for some attention. Shortly after, while attending a Marian conference, a man directly in front of me turned around handing me something.  He briefly said, “Here, I’m supposed to give you this.” It was a third-class relic of……you guessed it: My special friend.

I took that precious relic to a friend complaining of ovarian cysts.  She was raised a Baptist, so I brought a video on Padre Pio to explain our relationships with the saints.  I’ll never forget how she grasped the relic in her prayerfully folded hands and prayed her heart out with tightly closed eyes.  At her next visit to the doctor, expecting to schedule surgery, she instead was told by the befuddled doctor that the cysts were gone!  ”I think you Catholics may be on to something,” she quipped.  On the day of my daughter’s wedding, she announced that she was converting to Catholicism: it was the beauty of the wedding and conversations about the mission of the family that convinced her.  Another victory for Padre Pio?

In a dream once, I saw him standing with open arms inviting me to come and receive a hug.  I’m Irish – and that means reserve.  He’s Italian.  After a hug, he drew back, looking at me with an expression that said, “Is that enough?”.  I embraced him in another, but wish I would have really opened up, cried my eyes out and surrendered to the compassion that was offered me in that dream. Maybe I’ll get another chance someday.

I recommend that everyone read about this mystic, so close in time to us. Not much time has passed for stories to be spun into legends: all you need are the facts of his life and the testimonies of so many healings and conversions to lift your faith in God’s awesome mercies. And by the way – one of my daughter’s friends has a grandmother who was Padre Pio’s cousin.  She’s working on a relic for me… maybe a 1st class?

In any case, in the midst of the many trials and sufferings that surround us today, let us all take to heart and prayer the words of this great Saint on his feast day: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry!”

Rosie Ladewski

About Rosie Ladewski

Rosie Ladewski resides in a country house in New Carlisle, IN. She's a housewife and mother of 10 , and teacher on the side, homeschooling 17 yrs, and still sane. She has been married to her high school sweetheart Pat for 28 years