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My Website:www.first.padrepiosworld.net
My blog:www.padrepiosworld2.blogspot.com 

September 8, 2017     

     September 8th is the Blessed Virgin Mary's birthday.  She was born in a house in Nazareth, where some fifteen years later the Annunciation took place and she was told by the Angel Gabriel "The Lord is with thee."(Luke 1:28) Many centuries later, in 1291 of the Holy Wars, to prevent the Muslims from destroying the home, Mary's Holy House was mysteriously "translated" -- moved overnight! -- first to Dalmatia, then to Italy, eventually remaining in Loreto, where anyone can see it and pray in it. I have been there at least three times that I can remember, as it is often on the pilgrimage path to Padre Pio, on the Adriatic side of Italy.
      Atheists and agnostics think true believers are credulous to consider this story as factual.  On the website below you will find the scientific evidence, such as how the bricks of the Loreto house match the foundation of the Holy House still in Nazareth, that simply cannot be denied.  The AAs (agnostics and atheists) stress in their arguments that there is some other way things could have happened.  The trouble is they can never produce these other ways (as in The Shroud).

     Please read about the incredible rescue in the link below, detailing how Mary's Holy House traveled to Loreto and what the witnesses saw. Especially read the paragraphs midway down, "Science Confirms: Angels Took the House of Our Lady of Nazareth to Loreto." Here is a small excerpt:    

      "However, the Annunciation took place in Nazareth, in the Holy Land, where the foundations of the Holy House remain to this day. When compared with the dimensions and characteristics of the Loreto House, they match perfectly: but the similarities and concordances do not end there.

       "How did the Holy House take off, so to speak, from its foundations and reappear about 2000 miles away where it remains intact to this day?"

Bear in mind that an angel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation.  Angels appeared to the
shepherds in the fields when Mary gave birth to Christ the Lord.  Angels were waiting for her
when she arrived in Heaven at her Assumption.

     As I  read somewhere (it may have been the French philosopher, Montaigne):
all that you can imagine is not all that there is...



                                         Happy Birthday, Blessed Virgin Mary


August 15, 2017 

W H E R E'D   S H E   GO?  



           T H E   A S S U M P T I O N

      Assumption of the Virgin, 1580-Guido Reni   



      Just a couple of months ago I was taken to the hospital with internal pain (two surgeries ensued -- and I will write about where I've been in the last year at a later post).  At the time, I was reading a long and wonderful piece by convert Graham Greene on The Assumption and I wanted it for my Assumption post on this blog, when the time came, if the hospital didn't claim me again. But wherever I left the book I cannot find it now. In the essay Greene explicated all of Mary's, The Blessed Mother's, events and appearances, crescendoing to the Assumption, and he went on to explain the meaning and glory of that climactic reward – he referred to her as a figure of perfect love.  
     I can't remember the details of what this great writer wrote (who, recalcitrant in earlier years, although he attended Mass, he seemed to have mellowed and accepted "Catholic" to be associated with his name in later years) and anyway, I would not be so bold or puffed up as to think I could summarize the depth of Greene by paraphrasing his masterful words and thoughts, so I sulked in great disappointment. But more about Greene later.

     As for my dashed hopes for a Greene-Assumption post, now what?

      A few days later I received a copy of Frank Rega's new book, What God is By Nature, Mary is By Grace -- and there, in Chapter 9, was a description of Mary's Assumption and arrival into Heaven by mystic and victim soul Luisa Piccarreta (1865-1947), as told to her by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Luisa spent over sixty years confined to bed, essentially subsisting only on the Holy Eucharist -- a grace and miracle for many victim souls.  Her Cause for Beatification is underway at the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

      I hold the writings of Luisa Piccarreta, based on the teachings of Jesus and Mary, as worthy of inclination to believe and therefore to seek and find the way the Divine Will operates -- moreso since Padre Pio was known to say, probably to those of the southern area of Italy who would have heard of Luisa (as that is where both Pio and Luisa came from) "Why come to me? You have Luisa Piccarreta."

    Here are some samplings from Luisa Piccarreta's writings on 
The Assumption, which explain to us why the Blessed Virgin was assumed into Heaven. I have plucked the quotes from the entire chapter and put them all together in one paragraph, to keep the narrative. In essence, this is what Luisa was told...and this is what she spiritually saw. As Rega points out in the Introduction, his book is a "narrative report and not intended to be considered authorized, official or definitive." Luisa's writings here deal with the Blessed Virgin Mary's "life on earth and in heaven, as lived in the Divine Will." Her Fiat!

     "She fulfilled the Supreme Will in everything; Heaven waited for she who had honored the Fiat so much . . .Upon seeing this Sublime Queen enter the Empyreum, the whole of Heaven magnified . . . In astonishment [all] implored her to ascend even higher and higher, because it was right that she who honored the Divine Will should have the highest throne and be their Queen . . .The glory, greatness and power of the Heavenly Mother in the Fatherland are inseparable . . . She knew nothing else but the Divine Will alone, loved nothing else but the divine interests and asked for nothing else but the divine glory . . .She blazes forth such beauty as to enrapture the whole of Heaven . . . All feel twice as happy in having a Mother so holy and a Queen so glorious and powerful . . .The first canticle that the heavenly host sang to their Queen upon her Assumption was the 'Hail Mary', since in it are the most beautiful praises and greatest honors . . .  The true cause of this feast is the Divine Will operating and fulfilled in the Heavenly Mother . . . So it is the Divine Will, more than anything, that was and is celebrated on the day of the Assumption into heaven of the Lord's Most Holy Mother . . . As Mother she shows us the way, to lead us to heaven . . .The feast of the Assumption is the most beautiful, most sublime, and the greatest feast in which the Blessed Trinity is glorified, loved and honored the most!  Heaven and earth are infused with an unusual joy, never before felt . . .It is the feast of feasts, the unique and new one, which will never be repeated again. What the [Virgin Queen] did on earth, she continues to do in heaven . . . In loving God she loves all, making everyone love the Most High. How could God resist and not give her anything she wants.  The Fiat ties God with Its eternal bonds so that he can refuse her nothing . . . Therefore there is no place where her seas of love and power do not flow . . . With her love she gave new life to the human generations. Her love was so great as to cover and hide, within its seas, the creatures themselves with their weaknesses, evil and sins. If this Holy Virgin did not impart so much love, it would be difficult for the Most High to look upon the earth. Only her love makes God look at it. He wants to have His Divine Will reign in the midst of creatures because she wants it so. Mary wants to give to her children that which she possesses, and by love she will win her children, along with the Most High.  Fiat!"  

                                                               Blessed Virgin Crowned Queen of Heaven


(For more information about this book, go to Rega's website, www.frankrega.com, or go to www.amazon.com, and for a beautiful meditation by Padre Pio on The Assumption, go to Rega's website.)

     Whether or not Graham Greene ever heard of Luisa Piccarreta, his conclusion about The Assumption was in harmony with her writings. He grasped the explosive nature of the Assumption when she arrived, an incredible yet believable heavenly quake. He had the courage to believe its nature and write a detailed essay about it. He did go to San Giovanni Rotondo, visiting friends who helped Padre Pio and his works for years, but he could not face Padre Pio personally for fear, it would seem, of the same life-quaking event that would change his life, which he didn’t want to do (see my website Home Page, www.padrepiosworld.net), but there may have been discussions about mystics and victim souls during that visit.  At any rate, it is written somewhere that he carried a picture or relic of Padre Pio -- I'm not sure which. 

NOTE: A suggestion--What God is By Nature, Mary is By Grace, might be read along with the short article about Mary's tenderness and love, published by the Capuchin Friars of San Giovanni Rotondo in The Voice of Padre Pio, May-June, 
2017, www.vocedipadrepio.com . The insightful unfolding and revealing of Mary's presence, mission and understanding of the Kingdom, and her most deep meaning, is in harmony with Luisa Piccarreta and Graham Greene.  If our stunted earthly reasoning balks at some heavenly things, I recall what the French essayist Montaigne wrote (if I am remembering him as author correctly): All that you can imagine is not all that there is.  

NOTE 2  Why does the Virgin Mary always wear a certain darker blue in all the paintings of her Assumption?

    I noticed that most of the paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary showed her wearing a much darker blue cloak or mantle (as shown in the painting above by Reni, despite the different centuries in which they were painted.  It seemed the painters did not back away from this portrayal and I wondered what they knew that made them want to keep it. The only thing I could find was this website  https://astoldbylaura.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/why-does-the-virgin-mary-always-wear-blue/    Here are a few quotes... 

     “The older, classic and more representative color is dark blue,” wrote Rev. Johann Roten, director of the Marian Library-International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton. On a student FAQ page, he wrote that “Mary’s dark blue mantle (cloak), from about 500 A.D., is of Byzantine origin and is the color of an empress.”

     "Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic news site, offered somewhat of an expansion/alternative theory. The OSV writes that the dark blue color of Mary’s mantle represents a kind of waiting that occurred in the darkest part of the night, which corresponds to the Catholic celebration of Advent. The OSV also suggests that the color parallels the many associations between Mary, the moon and the stars, which is seen in Revelation 12:1 …   

     "According to the OSV, the mantle had symbolized protection since well before the Middle Ages, as women would conceal babies and other vulnerable people inside for safety.

     "So although there may never be one definitive answer to the question that haunts Sunday school veterans everywhere, one thing is certain: Mary’s attire is deeply rooted in Catholic symbolism. " 


November, 2015

New book 
-- just in time for the rest of your life. . .

      Padre Pio loved and anticipated Christmas like a child, all year round, all his life--from his youth, when he would carve and shape the Holy Family Nativity figures, to his Army days during the First World War, when he was forced to outwit bureaucratic rules to be able to say Mass on Christmas morning, to the many Midnight Masses on the windblown Gargano mountain, when he seemed to bring the newborn Infant Jesus to life before the townspeople. His Midnight Mass became a legend.The Crib was everything to Padre Pio.  He holds it up to us in simple but luminous words, and once he points out some true meanings, we are there forever. We cannot look away.                                                               

If you'd love to have spent Christmas with Padre Pio, this sweet little book is for you. In short chapters like little jewels, Pio's own memories and moving reflections on his favorite day shine brightly. You're there as the enraptured saint processes with the Baby Jesus -- perhaps at times more than a statue -- and receives mystical gifts in his exchange of love with God. I felt my own soul take a leap at the saint's Midnight Mass and could only thank author Jeanette Salerno for this gem that can be used like a little Advent calendar or offer equal riches any day of the year. Patricia Treece, author of MEET PADRE PIO and THROUGH THE YEAR WITH PADRE PIO.

       This wonderful opus is peppered with selections from authentic sources, including the writings of Padre Pio himself. Among the plethora of gems are the tale of a Christmas Eve cure, and a WWII Christmas Eve when Mass was attended by U.S. GIs who traveled up the mountain from their bases is the plains below, and the celebration had to take place by candlelight because of the wartime blackout. Padre Pio's devotion to the newborn Babe of Bethlehem was legendary, brimming with intense, sincere and tender love. All year long he longed for the coming of Christmas Eve, when he could celebrate Mass after lovingly and gently carrying the statue of the Child Jesus in procession -- a statue which was seen to come alive. In the words of St. Pio, "May your hearts be his flowered cradle." Frank Rega,  author of PADRE PIO AND AMERICA, and THE TRUTH ABOUT PADRE PIO'S STIGMATA.

October 5, 2015


    When Francesco Forgione (Padre Pio) entered the friary at Morcone (his first step in becoming a Capuchin priest) he was given the name Pio (Pius).  Some have conjectured that Francesco chose the name himself, after St. Pius the Martyr, whose relics were in Pietrelcina, but actually, according to The Voice of Padre Pio, the name was given him by the master of novices, Father Tommaso of Monte Sant'Angelo, and it was quite an honor:  
      "His religious name, as was the practice of that time, was chosen by the master of novices. Father Tommaso chose for Francesco the name of the most responsible and respected friar of the province, the Commissary Provincial Father Pio of Benevento. This was for Francesco an honor and pleasure because it had been Father Pio
[of Benevento] who had accepted his request to enter the friary. And so this name given him became also a motivation on his part to imitate this
friar's holiness. . ."
      We might ask: So who was Father Pio of Benevento named after -- bearing in mind that there were twelve Pope Piuses alone? 

     For many years, ever since I first heard of Padre Pio, I've always read that Padre Pio was named after Pope Saint Pius V, and that he always celebrated his feast day on May 5th. He even inaugurated the hospital he built, La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, on May 5th, which, up until 1969, was the Feast of Pope St. Pius V (now celebrated on April 30th).

     The May 5th feast day for Padre Pio is confirmed in a letter dated May 2, 1986 to my sister and me from Father Joseph Pius Martin, OFM, Cap., who cared for and assisted Padre Pio in the last years of Pio's life, and who spent the rest of his own life as a Capuchin priest in San Giovanni Rotondo making Padre Pio known and editing The Voice of Padre Pio

 Father Joseph wrote: "You are both recommended in prayer at all times but now as it's the month of May and St. Pius Day on Monday, [May 5th] that goes double!"  

 And so the answer without a doubt is that Father Pio of Benevento was named after Pope Saint Pius V and, therefore, so was Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. If our Padre Pio was motivated to imitate the holiness of the Provincial Father Pio of Benevento, imagine what inspirations our Padre Pio received from the holiness and Christianity-saving Pope St. Pius V, after whom both priests were named?

       It seems a  heavenly dubbing. One can't help noticing the similarities between the late-Renaissance Pope St. Pius V and St. Padre Pio. Their profound holiness, of course. At least twice a day the Pope meditated on bended knees before the Blessed Sacrament, despite his heavy labors and anxieties for the world. For Padre Pio, one can never count the times he kept the Blessed Sacrament company, even during the night, alone in the little antique church. The Pope visited hospitals and prayed with the sick and dying; Padre Pio longed to relieve suffering and built the gigantic and beautiful hospital La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, which looks down the Gargano mountain and can be seen from a distant highway far below like a lighthouse for the world. 

     There was the heart of a prayer warrior in Pope Pius V, who relied heavily on The Rosary. He was a strategic warrior, as well, who gathered forces to defeat a Turkish army bent on wiping out Christianity. Quite a drama lies behind this Pope's name. Pius V reigned at the time of a threatened Europe, a threatened Christendom, and this was his urgent, pervading thought and preoccupation. What turning point in the Catholic church, in the world, did Pope Pius V bring about? The Battle of Lepanto, on October 7th, 1571. This sea battle saved Christian Europe, as the Ottoman empire had invaded Cyprus and was now at Europe's gates. Turkish ships far outnumbered the Christian fleet. however, and a miracle was needed.  Pope St. Pius V bade all of Europe to pray the Rosary, and most importantly, the Rosary was to be carried and prayed by every shipman. 

     [Pius V] never rested till he united the forces of Venice, Spain, and the Holy See ...  He ordered public prayers and increased his own supplications to heaven. On the day of the Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, he was working with the cardinals when suddenly, interrupting his work, opening the window and looking at the sky, he cried out, "A truce to business, our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which He has just given the Christian army." He burst into tears when he heard of the victory ... In memory of this triumph he instituted for the first Sunday of October the feast of the Rosary, and added to the Litany of Loreto the supplication "Help of Christians"... He left the memory of a rare virtue and an unfailing and inflexible integrity, and was beatified by Clement X in 1672, and canonized by Clement XI in 1712.  

A prophetic dubbing, perhaps, for Francesco Forgione to be conferred with the name of the initiator of Our Lady of the Rosary's feast on October 7th. As Padre Pio devotees know, St. Padre Pio called the Rosary his weapon. It was never out of his hands, often wrapped around his wrist, even throughout the many hours he spent in the confessional. He constantly urged his spiritual children to always pray the Rosary, and was known to pray dozens of the fifteen-decades a day. 

      The two Pios/Piuses were to matter heavily and crucially as bulwarks of Christianity in their time and in all time to come. It can be said that Padre Pio helped thwart local government Communist victories in the south. Today, his popu
larity is a world force, gathering together his prayer warriors into the prayer groups he always wanted and relentlessly worked to set in motion. As a General arranges his flanks, Padre Pio formed the groups, slowly, patiently, with the help of his loyal disciples. His prayer-group movement faced obstacles and sometimes barricades of resistance, but grace came hours before his death. Word arrived from the Vatican that the groups had been officially recognized. 

     Word arrived from the Vatican that the groups had been officially recognized. . . There's something heady and mystical here.  The Vatican recognition is timed (again, it seems, by Providence) to arrive just as one of the great future saints goes off into eternity.  As Padre Pio was known to say, his real mission would begin after he was gone.  

     Padre Pio Prayer Groups are still forming. Across the breadth of his prayer army (as it was with Pope St. Pius V), the weapon Padre Pio clearly pointed out to us again and again -- the Rosary --is filling the world stage as prayer troops gather in many lands.

     Padre Pio's importance in our time is made evident by Pope Francis, who has requested Pio's body (on permanent view at The Church of St. Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo) travel to Rome for the Jubilee of Mercy, to be exhibited in St. Peter's Basilica from February 8th to 14th. One of those days will be designated a Jubilee for Padre Pio Prayer Groups.  Amazing. Also amazing; Pope Francis visited the White House on September 23rd, Padre Pio's feast day.

 If you've half a mind to start a Padre Pio Prayer Group in your parish--don't hesitate.  Read Magneli's experience in Mexico at 
www.padrepiosworld.com/page18.php and learn how she started her group and how it inspired other prayer groups. Ask your pastor to help you plant your mustard seed, and by all means check with Fr. Francis Sariego, OFM, Cap. at www.pppg.org
who is National Coordinator of all Padre Pio Prayer Groups in America, working with the headquarters at La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza in San Giovanni Rotondo -- that lighthouse on the mountain. 

January 6, 2015

THE MAGI HAVE ARRIVED. . .but how did they get there?  

Here's what Venerable Fulton Sheen had to say:

                    Simeon had foretold that the Divine Babe would be a Light to the Gentiles. They were already
                 on the march. At His birth there were the Magi, or the scientists of the East. . .The Psalmist had
                 foretold that the kings of the East would come to do homage to Emmanuel. Following a star,
                 they came to Jerusalem to ask Herod where the King had been born. . . .

                 It was a star that led them.

                  God spoke to the Gentiles through nature and philosophers; to the Jews, through prophecies. The
                time was ripe for the coming of the Messiah and the whole world knew it. Though they were
                astrologers, the slight vestige of truth in their knowledge of the stars led them to the Star out of
                Jacob. . .Though coming from a land that worshipped stars, they surrendered that religion as they fell
                down and worshipped him who made the stars. The Gentiles in fulfillment of the prophecies of
                Isaiah and Jeremiah "came to Him from the ends of the earth." (Life of Christ, p.43)

                        "Jesus was born at Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of Herod. After His birth astrologers from the east
                        arrived in Jerusalem asking, Where is the child who is born to be king of the Jews? We observed the rising
                        of his star, and we have come to pay him homage." (Matthew 2:1-2)

And here is what Werner Keller wrote in The Bible as History, 1956, much abridged here:
                  On December 4, for the third and last time, a close encounter of the planets Jupiter and Saturn
                 took place. . .in the sixteenth degree of Pisces. . . . But why this ancient learned expedition of
                 the three Wise Men to Palestine when, as we know, they [astrologers] could see the occurrence
                 just as well in Babylon? The sky-gazers of the East in their capacity as astrologers attached a
                 special significance to each star. According to the Chaldeans, Pisces was the sign of the West,
                 of the Mediterranean countries; in Jewish tradition it was the sign of Israel, the sign of the
                 Messiah. The constellation of Pisces stood at the end of the sun's old course and at the beginning
                 of its new one. What is more likely than that they saw in it the sign of the end of an old age
                 and the start of a new one?

                  Jupiter was always thought of by all nations as a lucky star and a royal star. According to old
                Jewish tradition Saturn was supposed to protect Israel; Tacitus equates him with the god of the
                Jews. Babylonian astrology reckoned the ringed planet [Saturn] to be the special star of the
                neighboring lands of Syria and Palestine.

               Since Nebuchadnezzar's time, many thousands of Jews had lived in Babylon. Many of them may
               have studied at the School of Astrology in Sippar. This wonderful encounter of Jupiter with Saturn,
               guardian of Israel, in the constellation of the "West country" of the Messiah, must have deeply moved
               the Jewish astrologers, for, according to astrological ways of thinking, it pointed to the appearance
               of a mighty king in the west country, the land of their fathers. To expeience that in person, to see it
               with their own eyes, that was the reason for the journey of the wise astronomers from the East.

            ". . .where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in  the east, and are come to worship him."  (Matt.2:2-3)



                                                                                                     The Magi Following the Star
                                                                                  Wood engraving from La Sainte Bible, Tours, 1866
                                                                                                by Gustave Doré. French, 1832-1883

The explanations in The Bible as History are much more precise than I have excerpted here, and if you wish to get down to the fascinating mathematical and astronomical details and turn back the cosmic clock to see just what was happening in the sky at the time of the Birth of Christ, it is recommended you read Chapter 2 on page 345 -- especially pp. 350-351 -- of Werner's book, and perhaps pursue other books to satisfy your probing search.

The arrival of the Magi is so heavensent via the stars, so much the conjunction of science and faith and a hungering for God, that it becomes a proof for history that something wonderful and divinely ordained happened one wintry night some 2000 years ago, and brought the Magi across the desert sands on camels for weeks to find Him -- in accordance with Isaiah  60.  Knowing this, we can appreciate The Three Kings' arrival as described by St. Louis De Montfort  on p. 63 of his lovely little book, 
The Love of Eternal Wisdom. 

           The face of this loving Saviour is so serene and gentle that it charmed the eyes and the hearts of those who
              held Him. The shepherds who came to the stable to see Him were so spellbound by the serenity and beauty
              of His face that for several days they remained to gaze upon Him in rapture. The Kings, exalted as they were,
              had no sooner seen the loving features of this beautiful Child, than, laying aside their dignity, they fell on 
              their knees by His crib. They must often have said to one another:  "Friends, how good it is for us to be here! 
              In our palaces we find no enjoyments to be compared with those we experience in this stable looking at
              this beloved Infant God."

                 "Lift up thy eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come
                     from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder
                     and be ennlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come
                     to thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall
                     come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord. All the flocks of Cedar shall be gathered
                     together unto thee, the rams of Nabaioth shall minister to thee. . . " (Isaiah 60:4-7)

And here is an excerpt from the homily of Pope Francis, January 6, 2015, Feast of the Epiphany, Vatican translation.

             According to tradition, the wise men were sages, watchers of the constellations, observers of the
            heavens, in a cultural and religious context which saw the stars as having significance and power over
            human affairs. The wise men represent men and women who seek God in the world’s religions and
            philosophies: an unending quest.

           The wise men point out to us the path of our journey through life. They sought the true Light.  As a
           liturgical hymn of Epiphany which speaks of their experience puts it: “Lumen requirunt lumine”; by
           following a light, they sought the light. They set out in search of God. Having seen the sign of the star,
           they grasped its message and set off on a long journey. Along the way, the wise men encountered many
           difficulties. Once they reached Jerusalem, they went to the palace of the king, for they thought it obvious
           that the new king would be born in the royal palace. There they lost sight of the star and met with a
           temptation, placed there by the devil: it was the deception of Herod. King Herod was interested in the
           child, not to worship him but to eliminate him.  Herod is the powerful man who sees others only as
           rivals. Deep down, he also considers God a rival, indeed the most dangerous rival of all. In Herod’s
           palace the wise men experience a moment of obscurity, of desolation, which they manage to overcome
           thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who speaks through the prophecies of sacred Scripture.
           These indicate that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, the city of David.

          At that point they resume their journey, and once more they see the star; the evangelist says that they
          “rejoiced exceedingly” (Mt 2:10). Coming to Bethlehem, they found “the child with Mary his mother”
          (Mt 2:11). After that of Jerusalem, this was their second great temptation: to reject this smallness.  But
          instead, “they fell down and worshiped him,” offering him their precious symbolic gifts. Again, it is the
          grace of the Holy Spirit which assists them. That grace, which through the star had called them and led
          them along the way, now lets them enter into the mystery. Led by the Spirit, they come to realize that
          God’s criteria are quite different from those of men, that God does not manifest himself in the power of
          this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of his love. The wise men are thus models of conversion
          to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendour of power.

         And so we can ask ourselves: what is the mystery in which God is hidden? Where can I find him?  All
         around us we see wars, the exploitation of children, torture, trafficking in arms, trafficking in persons…
         In all these realities, in these, the least of our brothers and sisters who are enduring these difficult
         situations, there is Jesus (cf. Mt 25:40,45). The crib points us to a different path from the one cherished
         by the thinking of this world: it is the path of God’s self-abasement, his glory concealed in the manger of                Bethlehem, on  the            cross upon Calvary, in each of our suffering brothers and sisters.

        The wise men entered into the mystery. They passed from human calculations to the mystery: this was
        their conversion. And our own?  Let us ask the Lord to let us undergo that same journey of conversion
        experienced by the wise men.  Let us ask him to protect us and to set us free from the temptations which
        hide the star. To let us always feel the troubling question: “Where is the star?” whenever – amid the
        deceptions of this world – we lose sight of it. To let us know ever anew God’s mystery, and not to be scandalized
        by the “sign” which points to “a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12), and to
        have the humility to ask the Mother, our Mother, to show him to us.  To find the courage to be liberated
        from our illusions, our presumptions, our “lights”, and to seek this courage in the humility of faith and
        in this way to encounter the Light, Lumen, like the holy wise men. Amen.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana  



A Reflection on the Birth of Jesus Christ by The Servant of God, Venerable Fulton Sheen. . .

The world might have expected the Son of God to be born--if he was to be born at all--in an inn. A stable would be the last place in the world where one would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one
least expects to find it.

No worldly mind would ever have suspected that He Who could make the sun warm the earth would one
day have need of an ox and an ass to warm Him with their breath; . . . that He, from whose hands came
planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that were not long enough to touch the huge heads of the
cattle; . . . that the Eternal Word would be dumb; that Omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes;
that Salvation would lie in a manger. . .
(Life of Christ, p. 28)


                                                         Lorenzo Lotto (1480-1556) Adoration of the Sheherds (Detail) . . .
And. . .
Reflections on the Christmas Animals From a 12th Century French Carol Entitled "The Friendly Beasts,"Translated From French by An Anonymous Translator.

                                                         Jesus, our Brother, strong and good,
                                                        Was humbly born in a stable rude,
                                                        And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
                                                        Jesus, our brother, strong and good.

                                                        "I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
                                                        "I carried His mother uphill and down,
                                                         I carried His mother to Bethlehem town;
                                                         I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

                                                        "I," said the cow, all white and red,
                                                        "I gave Him my manger for His bed,
                                                        "I gave Him hay to pillow His head;
                                                        "I," said the cow, all white and red.

                                                        "I," said the sheep with curly horn,
                                                        "I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm,
                                                         He wore my coat on Christmas morn;
                                                         I," said the sheep with curly horn.

                                                        "I," said the dove, from the rafters high,
                                                        "I cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry,
                                                        "We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I;
                                                        "I," said the dove, from the rafters high.

                                                        Thus all the beasts, by some good spell,
                                                        In the stable dark were glad to tell
                                                       Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel,
                                                       The gifts they gave Emmanuel.

 Learning From The Christmas Animals

If you love the above carol as I do, and want more poetic insight into the Nativity scene as far as the animals are concerned, read the following poem by the brilliantly intuitive C.S. Lewis.  Grasp his mere comprehension of the visuals being offered, the hidden gifts. . . Thank you to The C.S.Lewis Institute,
http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Learning_from_the_Christmas_Animals from which I quote:  
The French carol The Friendly Beasts gives the animals human characteristics as they share
            their unique gifts with the newborn King of Kings
C.S. Lewis in his poem, The Nativity, focuses
            on the animals of the creche, but instead of giving them human qualities, he reflects on both the
            negative and positive character traits of each animal and how those traits are manifested in his own life.                          

                                                                      THE NATIVITY                                                    
Among the oxen (like an ox I'm slow)
                                      I see a glory in the stable grow
                                                  Wbich, with the ox's dullness might at length
                                                  Give me an ox's strenth.

                                                           Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
                                                 I see my Saviour where I looked for hay;
                                                 So may my beastlike folly learn at least
                                                The patience of a beast.

                                                 Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
                                                 I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
                                                Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
                                                Some woolly innocence!

                          C.S.Lewis, Poems, edited by Walter Hooper (New York:Harcourt, Inc.,1992) p.122

Continues the C.S. Lewis Institute:
As we contemplate the miracle of Christ's birth this Christmas season, let us, like C.S. Lewis, in
            humility seek after the strength, patience and innocence symbolized in the animals of the Christmas
            story that can only come when we confess our sins, receive forgivenes from the Lord and allow Him
            to give us the most important gifts of Christmas.

Note:  I know that there are some readers thinking wait a minute, I thought Pope Benedict XVI said there were no animals in the Nativity scene. But the Pope never said that at all.  It is the secular media, through their headlines and rewording of what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his book Infancy Narratives, that sent the misinformation out all over the world, totally ignoring Pope Benedict XVI's actual words.  Here is an excerpt from First Things -- 

, quoting a passage from the Pope's book:  

           First of all, what did the pope actually say about the Nativity scene animals? He wrote, “The manger, as we have seen, indicates animals, who come to it for their food. In the Gospel there is no reference to animals at this point.
      But prayerful reflection, reading Old and New Testaments in light of one another, filled this lacuna at a very early stage by pointing to Isaiah 1:3: ‘The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.’ ”  

But don't stop there.  Read the entire article and learn how far afield the unchurched are as they carelessly read and poorly translate reports in Italian, and then pass it all down to you in quick, snappy, jaw-dropping Pope headlines -- and continue to do so today with their catchy reworded utterances from the  Holy Father, Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis.

There is so much more to be said on this -- about priests who make the statement almost ex cathedra that you will find no animals in Heaven --  but that is for another post later in the year on my animals page. The thing to know now is that if you want the ox and ass and other animals to be in the manger -- where animals were fed -- they were there.

Pace e bene...

January 3, 2015 

IT MUST BE SAID! It Must Be Said!
 Some well-meaning Catholic websites have published an old report of a Padre Pio prophecy of The Three Days of Darkness.  They quote a letter claimed to be written by him, detailing what will happen and what one is to do to avoid the chastisement of The Three Days. 

     In fact, such a prophecy was never made by Padre Pio!  He never wrote such a letter. 

     I have personally had many phone discussions about this with Father Joseph Pius Martin, OFM, Cap (RIP 2000), who, as Brother Bill Martin assisted Padre Pio in Pio's last years of life.  After Padre Pio' death, Bill Martin was ordained a Capuchin priest and spent the rest of his life in San Giovanni Rotondo making the Padre known to the world as editor of The Voice of Padre Pio, as well as assisting the thousands of pilgrims who visited Padre Pio's tomb pver the years--including me. If you want a touching description of  Fr. Joseph's loyalty and filial love for Padre Pio, read the obituary for Fr. Joseph by Fr. Paolo Cuvino, Provincial Minister of the Capuchin Friars at the time of Fr. Joseph's death, on this website at


     Fr. Joseph, as well as all the friars of Our Lady of Grace, lived in the friary and assisted Padre Pio in every way, including as conduits of thousands of pieces of mail per week. I often found items in Catholic newspapers or magazines that 'quoted' verbatim, they said, Padre Pio's  "The Three Days of Darkness," and I would send them to Father Joseph Pius, knowing he was trying very hard to put a stop to this false story.  He readily answered and advised all the writers and articles --  again and again and again -- that Padre Pio never wrote such a letter. Yet the report continues to this day and its appearance on the web multiplies. There are quite a number of videos on YouTube, as well.  And so it must be said -- 

The Padre Pio prophecy of "The Three Days of Darkness" never happened.  

     Reading the 'quoted' letter, one can clearly detect it isn't even Padre Pio's way of talking.  Or his way of prophesying, or predicting.  Read the many friary memoirs about Pio available and sense our Padre Pio.

    The full story of how this false report started and circulated was researched thoroughly by Fr. John Schug, OFM, Cap,  (RIP), and published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, June, 1998; the pertinent excerpts are reprinted on this website at

    This is not to deny or question any of the other prophecies of "The Three Days of Darkness" by saints of the past, as described in Fr.Albert Hebert's book, The Three Days of Darkness. This is merely to uphold the truth as known by the friars and historians of Padre Pio's friary.  You are urged to contact them with your questions at: 

                                                                   The Voice of Padre Pio
                                                                    Piazzale Santa Maria delle Grazie, 4
                                                                    71013 San Giovanni Rotondo (FG) Italy

                                                                    e-mail: thevoice@vocedipadrepio.com


                     What child is this?                    
                                                            Virgin and Child Luis de Morales
                                                                     Late 1560's

December 25, 2014

      Merry Christmas to all . . .It is the moment.

December 23, 2014


     Padre Pio often said his real mission would begin after he was gone, that he could do more in Heaven.  He said prayer is the key to God. He wanted prayer groups.  He and his disciples worked hard for years to get the prayer group movement under way. There were obstacles; he overcame them--with prayer and patience.  And just hours before he died official recognition came from the Vatican -- Pope Paul VI -- surely giving him a joyful moment as he left us. And also giving The Padre Pio Prayer Groups the highest cachet--from the Vicar of Christ. It also established something historical and significant--Pope Paul VI, as Giovanni Battista Montini, Archbishop of Milan, had already referred to Padre Pio as a saint in 1952, during the reign of Pius XII, and this surely was no idle gesture; the Padre Pio Prayer Groups were to become a force, an army for the Padre's "real mission."  But an army needs warriors, prayer warriors, just as Padre Pio knew when he and his spiritual children of San Giovanni Rotondo set out on the mission.

     Here is a case of Padre Pio's mission at diligent work in Monterey, Mexico, as reported by Magneli Villanueva in the September-October -  2014 issue of The Voice of Padre Pio (www.vocedipadrepio.com). Magneli wrote:

    "Our Prayer Group is now Diocesan. Since 2013, we have the authorization of our Archbishop and Padre Pio Prayer Groups can flourish in any parish within the Diocese. Well, there are now three Padre Pio Prayer Groups in Monterrey; our group that has been going for already more than 11 years!!! A second group that has been going now for almost two years, and a third one that started on January 2014. The Capuchins are taking care of the three groups. And let me just tell you that this last Sunday our Archbishop said Mass in the first St. Pio of Pietrelcina Parish in northern Mexico. In fact this is the first parish in all of Mexico!. . .I consider this is great news. . . .We are all very grateful to the Lord for this. People really love Padre Pio and during these difficult times we are going through, prayer groups help you feel and get closer to God."

     This is a story of perseverance from the very beginning (see my article How Magneli Got Her Prayer Group at www.padrepiosworld.com/page18php), and how Magneli's prayer group has inspired the growth of other prayer groups in Monterey. It's also about growing world-recognition and success of Padre Pio's Prayer Groups, as we devotees so much want. An additional grace is that these Padre Pio Prayer Groups keep our prayers buoyant. And here's a special strategy of Padre Pio's Mission: Charles Mandina, a loving spiritual son of Padre Pio who assisted the Padre with incoming English-speaking mail in the sixties, helped Magneli in promoting St. Pio to the Mexicans. So not only is Magneli busy blazing away, but so has Charles Mandina's encouragement become a blinking star in the blaze.  Sort of reminds one of the oldie movie New Moon with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, when Eddy sings that rousing song, "Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men and I'll soon give you ten thousand more..." 
     If you are Spanish-speaking and attend Mass in Spanish, you might use Magneli's story as an example and suggest a prayer group in your own parish. You might want to be the heart of a wheel inspiring spokes of prayer groups in all different directions. As a matter of fact, anyone might refer to Magneli's story for any parish anywhere. You can contact her at padrepio.org.mx/
Magneli speaks English.

                                                         Copyright Voce di Padre Pio, All Rights Reserved

October 19, 2014
    However they do it in Heaven -- a reception line of all Blesseds and Saints? a great cheer from all the souls abiding there? heavenly music such as no ear has heard? a paradisaical chorus of angels streaming and surrounding the moment -- however they do it, God is glorifying Papa Paolo VI, and we can be sure St. Padre Pio is prominently present in a show of love, applauding his earthly rescuer...

     In those early 1960s, Padre Pio was living through one of the persecutions visited upon him, and he was imprisoned by harsh restrictions imposed by Pope John 23rd due to the false and poor information given him.  Weeks after Pope Paul VI was elected (predicted, by the way, by Padre Pio when his confreres would give him no peace until he said who the new Pope would be) he lifted the restrictions. "Liberate Padre Pio from those restrictions. Make the work of Padre Pio easy so that he can fulill his apostolate."

     Pope Paul had always believed Padre Pio to be a holy man. As far back at 1952, as Giovanni Battista Montini, Archbishop of Milan, he stated "Padre Pio is a saint." To which the Pope at the time, Piux XII, standing nearby and overhearing, added, "We all know that Padre Pio is a saint."

     St. Padre Pio is sure to come forward before the now beatified Pope who released him to do all the works that were bursting in his heart and mind for freedom to be. . .  Below is an excerpt from Padre Pio's loyal and loving letter of  September 12, 1968, to Pope Paul VI, just twelve days before Pio died. Pope Paul VI was under widespread attack at the time for his encyclical Humanae Vitae.  

      "Your Holiness,

        " . . . I know that your heart is suffering much these days in the interest of the Church, for the peace of the world, for the innumerable necessities of the people of the world, but above all, for the lack of obedience of some, even Catholics, to the high teaching that you, assisted by the Holy Spirit and in the name of God, are giving us. I offer you my prayers and daily sufferings as a small but sincere contribution on the part of the least of your sons in order that God may give you comfort with his Grace to follow the straight and painful way in the defence of eternal truth, which never changes with the passing of the years. Also, in  the name of my spirtual children and the Prayer Groups, I thank you for your clear and decisive words that you especially pronounced in the last encyclical "Humanae Vitae"; and I reaffirm my faith, my unconditional obedience to your illuminated directions.

     "May God grant victory to the truth, peace to his Church, tranquility to the world, health and prosperity to your Holiness, so that once these fleeting doubts are dissipated, the Kindgom of God may triumph in all hearts, guided by your apostolic work as Supreme Pastor of all Christianity.

     Prostrate at your feet, I beg you to bless me in the company of my brothers in religion, my spirtual children, the Prayer Groups, my sick ones and also to bless all our good endeavours which we are trying to fulfill under your protection in the name of Jesus.  

                                                                                                       Humbly yours,
                                                                                                    P. Pio, Capuchin


NOTE; The wrong Beatification date for Pope Paul VI went out on some of my mailings.  I apologize. It is definitely Sunday, October 19th, as above.

A post-beatification note:

     The miracle required for Pope Paul's beatification turned out to be the 2001 healing in the United States of an unborn child with multiple damages in the womb, problems so serious doctors failed to correct them and said the child would either die in the womb or be born with severe renal impairment. They offered abortion. The mother refused, and on the advice of a friend--a nun who had met Pope Paul VI--prayed instead for the Pope's intercession, with a relic of the Pope's vestments given her by the nun. After ten weeks the child was born greatly improved, and continued life to this day without the damages so visible in the womb, a case that cannot be explained scientifically.

     This miraculous healing in the womb came through the very man and Pope who wrote Humanae Vitae.  It was,  how shall I say. . . Heaven's Way. And did you notice that intense turquoise sky during the entire beatification? Absolutely cloudless.  

September 18, 2014
    I was putting all my VOICE OF PADRE PIO magazines in date order -- I have every issue from the first in 1971 (http://www.padrepiosworld.com/page12.php) when the  No. 11, 1987 issue fell before me, still opened to page 41 showing photos of dear Fr. Joseph Pius,  Fr. Alessio, and my dear friend Matteo. All three have now gone home to the Lord, but all three seemed to greet me suddenly; hello how've you been, where are the books, Jeanette? (The books, of course, that I've been writing, in between many of life's interruptions!) I looked down at my friends, suddenly sad, pulled into the moment. It all seemed so very now, as though it were still happening.

This VOICE issue was special, dedicated to Padre Pio's Centenary, and the photos were taken at a conference of those who had lived with Pio.  In the photos they are standing at the conference table, before a full auditorium, giving their talks, telling their memories.  I could hear them. . .as I so often heard them speaking about Padre Pio while I was in San Giovanni Rotondo.  In all the times I've been there, sojourning, researching, even trying to lead a pilgrimage, they were always there, vivid, bustling about, working hard, leading groups around the places of Padre Pio and speaking with the knowledge of those who had lived with him, knew him, loved him. Emanations of Padre Pio came from them as they told us their experiences. Closer to Padre Pio we could not get, and we hung on every word. How I miss them, their warmth, their fun. Oh, those wonderful days.

     I remember that Centenary year...I was in San Giovanni Rotondo in September, exactly at the time Mother Teresa arrived for her visit to Padre Pio's tomb. She was to be a principle guest for a youth day held at the same time.  A great altar before a spacious countryside had been built for Pope John Paul II's arrival for the Centenary earlier that year, and this is probably where Mother Teresa appeared before the huge gathering.  I was planning to attend and Fr. Joseph came by the hotel to pick me up on the way to the event. But I had promised my dear friends, Matteo and his wife Eva, that I would wait with Eva at the hotel while Matteo went with an 'advance' welcoming group, and he would come back for us. Matteo was a 'son' of San Giovanni Rotondo, and had been an altar boy for Padre Pio. He had seen the bleeding hands at Mass so many times and told me that he never in all those times did he smell the blood. Now retired, Matteo had been with the Italian government and was Vice-Consul in many cities, including New York City.  He was now a sort of unofficial 'ambassador' of San Giovanni Rotondo, involved in all its events, knowing just about everyone.

     Eva's sight was not good and we didn't want to leave her alone, so I stayed with her and Fr. Joseph went on. But Matteo, with his perfect English and skill with people, was drawn into the formalities of the event and was never able to break away and get back to us. The festivities lasted a few hours and night came.  Mother Teresa was driven up the Viale Cappuccini to her overnight lodgings. It was the hilly road so many seekers of Padre Pio took over the decades, from the time it was a donkey path until now, a well-paved road with hotels and homes just a foot away on its edge. We, Eva and I and many others, were sitting on the porch of the Gaggiano Hotel in the cool September night, close to the road, when slowly Mother Teresa's car came coasting along. We were all delighted, softly excited.  We could see Mother's face within the car, as though a bright spotlight were on it, heavenly light within the darkness of the car. Chiaroscuro. She seemed a Caravaggio or Rembrandt painting. We could see her smile; full, untired, though it should have been, fresh joy upon it as she waved to us. I still see that moment clearly.  And so, perhaps it was a better view or memory than sitting in a great venue and seeing her small figure up there on the platform-stage.

     And now, let me tell you about Matteo and Eva.  Somewhere lying about the house is the tape I have of them telling me this story, but I can't put my hands on it now, so I will relate the bare facts as I remember them. During World War II Matteo fought with the Italian forces in Greece, and was there when the war came to an end, at least in that part of the fighting. Matteo began to make his way home, a long trek, possibly at times on foot. Eva, a lovely, gracious, compassionate Frenchwoman, was staying in San Giovanni Rotondo with Matteo's family, but means of communication were probably non-existent at that time, and Matteo wasn't able to contact her.  She hadn't heard from him for a very long time and was deeply worried, and made a vow that she would walk, barefoot, to the next town, San Marco in Lamis, if God brought Matteo safely home. Eva asked Padre Pio, from time to time, if he could tell her anything, but he didn't seem to have any news for her other than to keep praying. Time passed and still no word from Matteo. And then one day, it may have been at confession, Padre Pio said to her, "Prepare a meal for Matteo." Could it be true? If it came from Padre Pio, it must surely be true!  He simply said "Prepare a meal for Matteo."  Matteo, he said, was on his way home.

    It came to pass. Matteo came home a day or so later.  And Eva kept her vow.  She trekked all the way to San Marco in Lamis without shoes, about 4 or 5 miles along an ancient pilgrimage path; Matteo, who had just finished his own long tiring trek from Greece, still had more traveling to do--he accompanied her all the way, and if I remember correctly, he carried her shoes.

   Here is page 41 of The Voice of Padre Pio, No. 11, 1987!   All Rights Reserved. 
  Padre Iasenzaniro, bottom right, has written three wonderful books about his days with Padre Pio, chockful of stories and mystical happenings, available from



   --  or your nearest Padre Pio Center.


 Matteo...on the veranda of the Gaggiano Hotel.  I'm reflected in the 
window, taking the picture.  

Eva and I on the very same veranda of the
Gaggiano hotel from which we saw the
beatific Mother Teresa.  

September 18, 2014


By there, I mean Padre Pio's World in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. Those who regularly watch the Mass on EWTN will recognize from left to right, Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, Fr. John Paul Mary, Fr. Dominic and Fr. Joseph Mary, who visited Padre Pio's tomb and the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace. With them is the Editor in Chief of The Voice, Capuchin Franciscan  Fr. Mariano, who writes a distinctive editorial every issue. Hi, Fathers!

 From The Voice of  Padre Pio (May-June, 2014)                                                                                               

September 18, 2014

     "It boggles the mind that PBS can give MURDER (late term abortion) an airing as a POV, re After Tiller. What PODS took over your minds and replaced them with emotionless alien duplicates?  (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956)
      Put me down as one who protests heart and soul!

  You can contact PBS at http://www.pbs.org/about/faq/contact-us 

2012 ALL logo

Help us keep the pressure on PBS!
Dear Friend of Life,
  The Public Broadcasting Service is at it again!
  This time it is using our tax dollars to promote a program called After Tiller--a totally biased pro-abortion homage to late-term abortionists, with nary a concern for the babies they are killing.
  We immediately protested and alerted activists coast-to-coast, encouraging them to voice their objections as well!
  I'm pleased to report that we had partial success in getting After Tiller off the air in some PBS markets and rescheduled to later times in others! But we can't stop yet. American Life League is calling for continued pressure on PBS as it, a publicly funded network, continues to air the late-term abortion-promoting film online as part of its Point of View programming.
  As reported on Current.org:
At least two public television networks opted not to air this week the POV documentary After Tiller, which profiles four late-term abortion providers and prompted a campaign among anti-abortion organizations.
POV's plans to air the film's national broadcast premiere at 10 p.m. Sept. 1 spurred an Aug. 27 online statement from Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, who called the documentary "nothing short of pure propaganda intended to demonize the entire pro-life movement and drum up support for late-term abortion." Several other anti-abortion websites urged visitors to contact PBS headquarters or PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler to protest stations airing the film.
  Jim Sedlak, vice president of American Life League, was also quoted:
Thousands of pro-lifers responded to our call to action, flooding PBS with e-mails and phone calls demanding they not air this obvious piece of pro-abortion propaganda. Two PBS stations heeded the call. Now PBS wants to continue ramming this so-called documentary down Americans' throats by offering it streaming online. Pro-lifers should continue letting their voices be heard. PBS is allowing these abortionists to victimize Americans' minds right in their own living rooms.
  And it's working! Indeed, there is strength in numbers, as PBS is starting to feel the heat! This is what PBS ombudsman Michael Getler reported:
So as of this writing, more than 850 e-mails and phone calls have landed in the ombudsman's mailbox. The vast majority arrived before the program aired. All of those were critical and many were undoubtedly driven by strong criticism of the program, its alleged biases, the procedure and PBS by several right-to-life groups, including the American Life League, which is the country's largest grassroots Catholic pro-life education organization and which, as did many of the e-mailers, demanded that PBS cancel the program.
  Let's keep the pressure on! Please support ALL with a gift today of $10, $25, $50, or more so that we can stop this outrage and counter this propaganda with the truth!
 Our work at the national level--as well as at the state and local levels--is bearing fruit, but only if we have your prayers and support! God bless you for helping us stand up for the most innocent and defenseless in our society!
  Sincerely Yours in the Lord Who IS Life,
  Judie Brown
P.S. We are honored to speak up for the babies on your behalf, and to work daily to move America away from death and toward building a culture of life--for the sake of all the babies in danger, as well as for the good of society and for our children and grandchildren. Your prayers and support are so very appreciated. Won't you please send a gift of $10, $25, $50, or more today? God bless you!


July 22, 2014

     I heard a beautiful thing on Msgr. Kieran Harrington's radio show, In the Arena, on Sunday morning, July 13th at 8 o'clock. Monsignor's guests were two converts to Catholicism: Matthew Schmitz, Deputy Editor of First Things, and Christine Emba, Hilton Kramer Fellow at The New Criterion, two online magazines I enjoy. From the "perspective of Catholic culture" the discussion delved into some of the events overwhelming the world today. Later in the program Monsignor, the Vicar of Communications for the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, asked them about their conversions.  He said a lot of people must be asking "what kind of nut would become a Catholic at this time of life in the church?" What made Matthew and Christine become Catholics?

     Matthew Schmitz compared his experience to hearing a lot of bad things about a person, and that if you find one bad thing to be a lie, maybe everything else is. Obviously, pursuing the truth led him into the Church.

    Christine Emba said that as an outsider it was first beauty and then truth that attracted her. She was "awed and delighted by reverence of the Mass and the Beauty and love for God that you could clearly see. . . What is this beautiful thing. . .why do so many people believe it? Maybe I should look further." Christine, too, obviously began seeking Truth -- the second word of her answer. 

    I was immediately reminded of one of the great moments of conversion history, after St. Paul. The militant atheist journalist Andre Frossard (d. Feb.2, 1995), was electrifyingly converted in a small chapel in Paris in July, 1935.  He described that life-changing moment in his book God Exists: I Have Met Him  (alas, a scarce book one cannot find readily). 

     Here are some excerpts of what happened to Frossard, age 20, on an ordinary day when he and his friend, Willemin, set out by car to dine somewhere in Paris. . .

     We stopped, shortly after passing the Ecole Normale Su. . . Willemin got out and suggested that either I come along with him or wait for him for a few minutes in the car. I waited. No doubt he was going to call on someone. I watched him cross the road and push open a little door which stood near to a great iron gate above which I could see the steeple of a chapel.  Obviously he was going to pray, perhaps go to confession, certainly engage in one of those activities which take up so much of a Christian’s time. All the more reason for me to stay in the car. It was the eighth of July. The summer was glorious. . . What thoughts crossed my mind? I don’t remember. . . As to my inner life? So far as my conscience was concerned, it was at peace, that is to say I was not suffering from any disturbance, such as people say predispose one to mystical experiences.

     . . .I was without any metaphysical problems. . .Together with my socialist friends, I held that the world could be explained by politics plus history, and that metaphysics were the most disappointing of all pastimes. And certainly if I were to have imagined that there was a truth, the priests would have been the last people to whom I would have gone to learn about it and the Church (about which I had heard only in terms of some of her temporal malpractices) would have been quite the last place to which I would have gone to look for it. . .I was very happy in so far as I was aware; the evening promised to be a pleasant one. I waited.

    It is now ten minutes past five. In two minutes’ time I shall be a Christian.
    A complacent atheist, I suspected nothing when, bored by waiting while Willemin was busy with his devotions, which were keeping him longer than he had expected, I pushed my way past the little gate to have a look at the building into which he had disappeared. . . What I had been able to see of the chapel over the gate was not very prepossessing. . .no rush of artistic emotion had anything to do with what follows.

     The inside is no more stimulating than the exterior. . .The nave is divided into three distinct sections. In the first, near the entrance, the faithful pray in semi-darkness. Stained-glass windows, dimmed by neighbouring buildings, let in a little weak light which falls on various statues and there is a side altar covered with bouquets of flowers.  
     The second section is used by the nuns; their heads covered by black veils, they look like rows of well-behaved birds perched in bays of varnished wood. Later I was to learn that they belong to the order of ‘L’Adoration Réparatrice’ founded after the war of 1870 as a pious reparation for some excesses that took place during the Commune. They are a contemplative order; they have chosen to shut themselves up to give us freedom and to live in obscurity to give us light. . . and for the following two minutes they were those to which I still subscribed -- these women were totally useless.

     They were chanting some sort of prayer, two choirs replying to each other from either side of the nave. The chant culminated at regular intervals in the exclamation: gloria patri et filio, et spiritui sancto, after which the two-part chant continued peacefully on its way. I had no idea that it was the psalms that were being sung or that I was attending matins. I was lulled by the swell of the canonical hours.

     The end of the chapel was rather brightly lit. The high altar was draped in white and covered with a great many plants and candelabra and a variety of ornaments. Above it hung a large metal cross; at its centre there was a white disc, and three others that were slightly different were fixed to the extremities of the cross. In the interest of art, I had previously visited churches but I had never before seen a host, much less a monstrance with a host in it. I was therefore quite unaware that before me was the Blessed Sacrament below which many candles were burning. The other discs, the complicated gilt ornaments, all contributed to making identification of this distant sun still more difficult.

     I didn’t see the point of all this, naturally, since I was not looking for it. Standing by the door, I looked out for my friend, but I was not able to identify him among the kneeling figures. My glance went from the dimness to the light, fell on the congregation, travelled from the faithful to the nuns, and from the nuns to the altar without any thought consciously crossing my mind. Then, for no particular reason, I fixed my eyes on the second candle on the left-hand side of the cross.  It was at this moment that, suddenly, the series of extraordinary events was set in motion whose extreme violence was about to dismantle the absurd creature that I had been until that moment and give birth to the dazzled child I had never been. First, were the words: spiritual life. They were not said to me nor did I form them in my mind; it was as though they were being spoken by someone close to me who was seeing something which I had not yet seen.

     The last syllable had hardly brushed my conscious mind when an avalanche descended upon me. I am not saying that the heavens opened; they didn’t open -- they were hurled at me, they rose suddenly, flashing silently from the depths of this innocent chapel in which they were mysteriously present.

     How can I describe what took place in words which refuse to carry the sense, which indeed do worse, for they threaten to intercept what I have to say and in doing so to relegate my meaning to the land of fancy? Were a painter to be given the gift of seeing colours that are unknown to man what would he use to paint them with?

     What can I say to describe that which I apprehended? It was an indestructible crystal, totally transparent, luminous (to such a degree that any further intensity would have destroyed me), with a colour near to blue; a different world, whose brilliance and density made our world seem like the wraith of an unfulfilled dream. What I saw was reality; this was truth and I was seeing it from the dim shore on which I still stood. Now I knew that there is order in the universe and at its beginning, beyond the shining mists, the manifestation of God: a manifestation which is a presence, which is a person, the person whose existence I should have denied a moment ago, the presence of him whom the Christians call Our Father. And I knew that he was gentle, that his gentleness was unparalleled and that his was not the passive quality that is sometimes called by the name of gentleness, but an active shattering gentleness, far outstripping violence, able to smash the hardest stone and to smash something often harder than stone, the human heart.

     This surging, overwhelming invasion brought with it a sense of joy comparable to that of a drowning man who is rescued at the last moment, but with this difference, that it was at the moment in which I was being hauled to safety that I became aware of the mud in which, without noticing it, I had till then been stuck; and now I wondered how I had ever been able to breathe and to live in it.
    . . .  All these impressions which I find it so hard to translate into the deficient language of ideas and images occurred simultaneously and were so telescoped the one into the other that after many years I have not yet been able to digest all they contained. Everything was dominated by the presence, beyond and through the great assembly, of him before whom I had the joy of appearing as a child who had been forgiven and who had woken up to discover that everything is a gift. It was fine outside. I was five years old and the world that once consisted of stone and pitch was now a great garden in which I would be allowed to play for so long as it pleased Heaven to leave me in the land of the living.

     [Later] Willemin as he walked beside me seemed to sense something peculiar about my expression and observed me with clinical attention.
    ‘What’s come over you?’ he enquired.

    ‘I’m a Catholic.’ And for good measure I added, ‘Roman and Apostolic.’

    ‘Your eyes are goggling.’

   ‘God exists. It’s all true.’

    ‘If you could only see yourself.’

     But I couldn’t see myself; I was like an owl who has flown into the midday sun.
    God existed; he was here present, revealed and at the same time hidden by the light which, using neither speech nor images, conveyed a knowledge and a love of all things.

I realize that remarks such as these must appear extravagant, but what else am I to say if Christianity is true, if there is a truth, if the truth is a person who does not wish to be unknowable?

     Andre Frossard spent the rest of his life passionately proclaiming the beauty and truth of God, of Jesus Christ, Son of God and the only hope of the world, and along the way he became a close friend of John Paul II. He famously said, "Only God exists; everything else is mere hypothesis."

      There is so much more one would like to put down here about Andre Frossard, but as he said about the inability of mere words to express  his stunning, unbeckoned conversion and the beauty of God, so too, nothing can equal his own words in recounting it. To read the full passage and more about Andre Frossard, go to: http://www.faceup.co.za/Frossard#sthash.TNdKkBiJ.dpuf .

     And here are more links for Andre Frossard, as you never can get enough of him! He's on YouTube, as well.


In the Arena can be heard in New York City on WOR Radio 710AM at 8AM on Sunday mornings.
It can be seen on

at 8PM on Sunday nights (Timewarner 97 and Cablevision 30) and can be viewed around the world on Verizon Fios On Demand, under the NET Catholic Channel.

July 16, 2014   
[A small note: I haven't blogged since January. Life inserts itself and sends you other things to do; a series of family illnesses and deaths has occupied me and given me the honor of being something of a caregiver. But I begin again here.]
   Time to remember the Blessed Carmelites of Compiegne. Sixteen nuns went to the guillotine on July 17, 1794, two hundred and twenty years ago, rather than deny, reject or forget their Christian Faith. They were cruelly uprooted from their convent in Compiegne, France during the French Revolution and Robespierre's Reign of Terror, and were forbidden the Mass (as all of France was) or to wear their habits or to meet or gather at all, on pain of execution by guillotine. The nuns freely took vows to offer themselves as victims to save France and the Church and to end the Terror, and they would not deny their faith even if it meant their lives. Their meetings were discovered -- a most touching picture of the Sacred Heart was found in their rooms, evidence of their 'fanaticism,' and after a mockery of a trial the sixteen Carmelites were beheaded. Ten days after their beheadings, the Terror ended. Robespierre himself, who invented The Reign of Terror, was beheaded on the eleventh day.  A madness had taken over. . . and was quelled.

    Just as these nuns were swept from their convents and beliefs, today the freedom of our faith and one of the most basic of our beliefs is being pushed out of our religious intstitutions and organizations. It seems a debatable thing to the world, a small thing that can somehow be negotiated.  Talks continue, lawsuits pend. . . It always begins as a seemingly small spatter in the frying pan--until the flames are too much to put out.  Think of Padre Pio's words: "The world is catching fire!"

   We are big in numbers, we Christians and all other faiths who treasure all life and freedom of religion. Not much is asked of us, really...We have the power to quell the oncoming flames with simply an effort to make ourselves known.  To stand up and say something in some way to our leaders.  Pray that we should never have to face a greater test.

   Scroll down to my original article below, April 29, 2013, to read the whole horrifying madness that gripped France, and yes, the beauty of love and sacrifice that was triumphant.  

  Pace e bene...


January 26, 2014


   A New Year of peace and contentment to all . . .

   Before Christmas gets too far back in my rear-view mirror, I’d like to share an abbreviated version of how I spent mine.

   For weeks before Christmas, I planned and plotted how I’d enjoy every beautiful moment, not miss anything. We would watch the Papal Mass on EWTN at 5:30 ES Christmas eve, then await the EWTN Franciscan Friars’ Mass shortly after, then watch the televised Midnight Mass at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Cardinal Dolan (I love the powerful organ finale of Handel’s Messiah -- King of Kings, and Lord of Lords -- as the people processed out) and then Mass on Christmas Day at our church (with my bad back I was not sure that would happen).  To add to the joy, I had just completed a short book that had suddenly burst into my mind and needed release! entitled Padre Pio’s Christmases, and I was working on the technical aspects of getting it into an E-book in time for the season. 
    Then it happened. Joan, my sister, fell on the morning of December 24th and was taken to the hospital.  A series of tests and examinations began, to be sure she hadn’t sustained any injuries. I taxied home later that day to feed Gabriella, our dog, and take back some things for Joan, including a second-class relic of Padre Pio. Christmas-eve night came, and I desperately dialed different car services for over an hour to find one to get me back to Methodist Hospital. Meantime, Christmas eve was ticking away. Finally, a car was in the area, and just before Midnight Mass time, I was cab-racing through the dark and lonely streets of Brooklyn back to the hospital to be with Joan, at least spiritually assisting at the Midnight Mass taking place at St. Pat’s.  
    I slept during Christmas eve on two chairs put together beside Joan’s bed.  The nurses were wonderful; they offered to track down a recliner for me, which I’d had on previous occasions when Joan was in the hospital, but I declined the offer, convincing myself it would only be for one night. I just wanted to be near Joan so neither of us would be alone (our family had all ‘gone home.’) Eyes shut, but awake, I clutched the Rosary, praying through the night that there would be no complications, no surprises. I occasionally dozed, awakened by a hospital sound or voice from somewhere, or a nurse’s light footstep in the room.  Fears were aroused and lay just beneath my skin…and I kept pulling up Padre Pio‘s words, pray, hope and don’t worry.
   But other things slowly filled the hours. There were others in the hospital to see and think of, a place filled with sufferings and fears and difficult problems—a patient calling through the night to “get me out of here!.”  We talked to some of the patients and became companions, clustered together in limbo as Christmas dawned. Christmas, to me the world-changing night. . .  
    Throughout the eve and all during Christmas day the aides and attendants appeared joyfully wearing Santa Claus caps and headdresses with reindeer antlers or little bright Christmas trees perched above the forehead. Best of all were their  gleeful smiles -- they were the shepherds, and something wonderful had happened this day!
   And then the ineffable…on two occasions volunteers from Saint Savior Catholic Church across the street from the hospital brought Joan Communion and prayer. Christ had truly come. Christ was with us.
   Christmas morn, bad back aching, stiff and creaky-boned and barely able to stand straight and drag myself, I went down to the cafeteria. I passed through the Carrington Pavilion on the main floor – large and spacious with marble floors, extremely high ceilings and the echoey sound of a cathedral – a sound I’d come to love since childhood, as though some far-off world hovered. I’d passed through the Carrington Pavilion often on previous occasions on the way to the cafeteria, but this time Handel’s Messiah was filling the great space as though a chorus of angels was singing from Heaven! King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and he shall reign forever and ever! I was taken aback. Handel’s Messiah! Filling the spaces of a hospital pavilion! (Days later I read of a VA hospital that wouldn’t allow the children of the area to deliver in person to the wounded vets the Christmas cards they had written and drawn because the cards mentioned Christmas. But I’d also read of hospitals that indeed inserted Christmas in some way beyond the call of duty, for after all, as Padre Pio said when he built La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, hospitals should not only be resuscitators of the body, the heart, but also resuscitators of the soul! 

   I went into the large cafeteria, filling with immense gratitude for just the sound of Christmas and also dying for coffee and some scrambled eggs (the best cafeteria I’ve ever seen in a hospital). I took a tray and started for the eggs-to-order counter. Instead, there was a hostess sitting at the turnstile wearing a Santa Claus cap! She smiled and greeted me with a joyful “Merry Christmas” that came from her real belief in the day, and informed me that today the meals were free! Anything and as much as I wanted.

   I heard a trembleyness in my voice as this swelling gratitude almost broke free, and I told the happily-working servers I would eat the dinner upstairs with my sister and would need a plate to cover the food.  They saw, they heard, they piled my plate with meat, potatoes, vegetables, all the trimmings, coffee and cake. No stinting. 
   Passing through the Carrington Pavilion on my way back, and balancing plates and two cups of coffee (one for Joan), I heard the music was now Joy to the World, The Lord is Come. . .and I couldn’t wait to get back upstairs to be with Joan and have my Christmas meal with her.

   I had been so disappointed to miss the services in church, and on TV, yet I somehow think this Christmas was special, a continuing voltage of Christmas Light invisibly shimmering in all lives -- God is With Us. There were many people and souls to think of in their anonymity. The hospitals still carried on, the doctors and nurses on call, the patients with their suffering.  The things Padre Pio thought of, not only at Christmas, which he loved more than any time, but his whole life.
    [Note: Joan is home and doing well. Padre Pio’s Christmases didn’t make publication in 2013. It will later in 2014, in both print and E-book.] 

December 15, 2013


   Today I received Nativity Prayers, below, from the Franciscan Fathers of the Holy Land, and pass it on to Padre Pio devotees.  Padre Pio's devotees well know how much he anticipated and loved Christmas, how he relived the Birth at his midnight Mass and embraced the Babe.  If you've not read his Christmas Meditation, go to Frank Rega's fine translation at
http://www.sanpadrepio.com/PadrePioChristmas.htm  It will help you to feel the thrill of putting your prayers where it all happened--where Padre Pio still gazes with love at the greatest moment in history. . .

Nativity Prayers
Send your prayers for Christmas, to be placed by the Franciscan Fathers of the Holy Land at the Birthplace of Jesus
Click here to send your own prayers >>
Free Android App / Aplicación Android gratis
Las Oraciones de la Natividad
Envíe sus oraciones para la Navidad, para ser colocadas por los padres franciscanos de la Tierra Santa en el lugar donde nació Jesús
Haga clic aquí para enviar su oración >>
The importance of the power and uniqueness of prayer at the Holy Sites in the Holy Land is known worldwide, but few are granted the chance to visit the Holy Sites and pray there for themselves and their loved ones, especially at Christmas time.Here, with this new application specifically developed to address this important need, you also can send your prayers and the prayers of your friends and your family in a free, direct and discreet manner, from anywhere in the world and at any time, to be placed in your name by the Franciscan Fathers of the Holy Land at Christmas time at the Grotto of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the holy place where Mary gave birth to Jesus; thus your own personal prayers and prayers for your loved ones will be present at the time and place where it all began, and you will be blessed and bless your loved ones for the New Year.
Click here to send your own prayers >>We pray that the Lord sends His blessings upon you and your family and may the Spirit of Jesus Christ fill you with His Grace. Amen.God bless you and your family.Nativity Prayers
La importancia del poder y la singularidad de la oración en los Santos Lugares de la Tierra Santa son conocidas en todo el mundo, pero a pocos se les concede la oportunidad de visitar los Lugares Santos y orar allí por ellos mismos y por sus seres queridos, especialmente en Navidad.Aquí, con esta nueva aplicación, desarrollada específicamente para satisfacer esta importante necesidad, usted también puede enviar sus oraciones y las oraciones de su familia y de sus amigos, de una manera libre, directa y discreta, desde cualquier parte del mundo y en cualquier momento, para ser colocadas en su nombre por los Padres Franciscanos de la Tierra Santa en Navidad en la Gruta de la Basílica de la Natividad en Belén, el Lugar Santo donde María dio a luz a Jesús; así, sus propias oraciones personales y las oraciones por sus seres queridos estarán presentes en el momento y en el lugar donde todo comenzó, y usted será bendecido y bendecirá a sus seres queridos para el Año Nuevo.Haga clic aquí para enviar su oración >>Oramos para que el Señor envíe Sus bendiciones a usted y a su familia y que el Espíritu de Jesucristo los llene de Su Gracia. Amén.Que Dios los bendiga a usted y a su familia.Las Oraciones de la Natividad
December 5, 2013


  For splendiferous Christmas music 24/7, go to
and click on Holiday Channel. This non-commercial radio station, bought a few short years ago from The New York Times, is playing everything beautiful from A to Z, from Masses to Medieval to Traditional to jolly, to everything you've ever felt about Christmas and The Birth. If you don't 'get' the classical, stay tuned; your favorites will soon come along, all in great taste.

December 5, 2013

On the other hand. . .  very disappointed in WNBC'S two-hour lighting of the Christmas tree program last night from Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. Except for a few mood pieces, like Mel Torme's Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...) and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, it was two hours of bouncy bodies and bobbing heads until Mariah Carey sang, pre-recorded, Joy to the World.  That was the only reference to the Birth of Christ until the tree lighting at the ultimate moment. Then -- an encore Joy to the World was sung by a distant chorus. In a past telecast I remember WNBC showed a bluish-lighted St. Patrick's Cathedral from a rooftop just across Fifth Avenue. The shot of St. Patrick's in the night was beautiful; stalwart in the madness of the world.  We could have used some of that last night, for in case the producers and directors of the program don't know the meaning of Christmas, yes, indeed, the Lord is come, Let earth receive her King. 

July 19, 2013

There’s something I’ve wanted to write for a couple of years concerning an infamous book about Padre Pio, but time sneaked away and I'm late, I'm late, for this very important date... (to borrow from the White Rabbit of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).

Nevertheless, I have to have my say.

The book, which shall go nameless here (I’m sure everybody knows of it anyway,) gained worldwide publicity because of its touted flash to the world that the Vatican released secret documents of an old testimony claiming that Padre Pio secretly ordered carbolic acid from a pharmacist. The question hung: why was Padre Pio ordering acid? The insinuation-- indeed, the implied accusation—was that he did so in order to produce/fake his stigmata! Headlines followed stating it as
Evidence proved this was not so. The truth is very simple: there was a raging Spanish Flu pandemic sweeping the world in 1918, killing many hundreds of thousands, while the First World War also raged. Doctors were scarce and overworked.
“The two dozen or so boys now in the college [of the friary] were almost all ill. A doctor examined them and prescribed injections. Since alcohol was not available, the doctor left some carbolic acid to sterilize the site of the injection [and obviously the syringes]. Unfortunately, the exhausted doctor didn’t think to tell the friars [Padre Paolino (the Superior) and Padre Pio] that they were to dilute the carbolic acid before applying it to their pupils’ posteriors… ‘You can imagine what happened to the part of the body we had disinfected for the injection!’[said Padre Paolino.]" (C.Bernard Ruffin: Padre Pio: The True Story, p 153)
The priests spilled the acid on themselves, as well, as they disinfected the hapless students, which left lots of red spots and rashes. I can also imagine how much acid was lost in the spilling, and that they might have needed more. And Padre Pio might have quietly requested someone to obtain it. At any rate, how anyone could think that carbolic acid could produce the precise, perfectly rounded stigmata of Padre Pio evenly on all sides of hands and feet, instead of some ragged, imprecise, eaten-away flesh and/or furious redness, is the first rebuttal to this absurd accusation. 
An excellent chapter covering the details of the carbolic acid accusations can be found in Frank Rega’s book, The Truth About Padre Pio’s Stigmata and Other Wonders of the Saint, also published in The Voice of Padre Pio (Sept-Oct. 2012) and in Catholic Family News (June, 2012 issue).Rega also gives explanation in his book Padre Pio and America. (www.frankrega.com
And best of all, following is Padre Pio’s explanation, his testimony in those very same secret Vatican documents given to The Apostolic Visitor (The Inquisitor), Monsignor Raffaello Carlo Rossi, who was sent by the Holy Office against his wishes to investigate this incident and the life of Padre Pio. The explanation, though mostly ignored by the "historian" (as he inserts and asserts himself in the book) is presented completely in Francesco Castelli's Padre Pio Under Investigation. After sessions of questioning, of examining the stigmata, and careful reviews of all the facts of the carbolic acid incident,  Monsignor Rossi, who admittedly arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo against Padre Pio (p14), wrote
“ [Padre Pio] requested carbolic acid to disinfect syringes needed for shots, and veratridine for. . . a prank to be played during recreation !! Padre Pio had experienced the effects of this powder mixed, in an imperceptible dose, in the tobacco offered to him by a Brother. Without knowing anything about poisons, without even considering what veratridine was (and that is why he asked for four grams), he requested it to repeat the joke and laugh at the expense of some Brothers! That’s all. Instead of malice, what is revealed here is Padre Pio’s simplicity, and his playful spirit.” (pp 24, 25) 

And here is the June 17, 1921 Deposition of Father Ignazio of Jelsi, Capuchin, which informed Monsignor Rossi of the very prank Padre Pio planned to repeat in secretly ordering the veratridine.

"...I have the veratridine...One evening, joking with the Brothers, I made them try the effects it produces when it is drawn close to the nose. Padre Pio, too, took some, and he had to go back to his cell because he couldn't stop sneezing."
Padre Pio Under Investigation - The Secret Vatican Files, p.168)
Hence, we can understand the desire to be secret about ordering the carbolic acid and veratridine from the pharmacist for the use in an upcoming prank!
The stigmata incident can be so easily dismissed with all the medical and scientific evidence against the accusation. But here is the more insidious aspect of the book as far as I’m concerned:
Throughout the pages, the "historian" (as the author insists on intruding himself) tells a secular tale, absent of the holy. Padre Pio seems like some distant shadowy figure, never really present, never developed as a personality. The “historian” writes pages and pages about all that surrounds Pio in those Fascist times, all the evil-doers and their nefarious activity throughout the country and even in France, and then he places Padre Pio, like a flat paper doll, into the center of the ensemble, as part of the Fascist landscape, as if Pio conspires with the era.
This is the sulfur that permeates the book, clouds the truth.
The book shamelessly and transparently wants to recast and re-characterize Padre Pio’s entire life and events by implication—although the author stresses, as if stamping his petulant foot, that he is an “historian!”
The "historian” doth protest too much, methinks. . .
The distaste the “historian” has for Padre Pio in the pages of his book is like a buoy that he can’t keep down. He mentions a few anonymous Capuchins (Padre Pio’s confreres) who seem askance at Pio—no names, of course. But he ignores the vast majority of friars who indeed loved and respected Padre Pio, their “Spiritual Father.” They wrote their memoirs about Pio in which this love and respect lifts off the pages, but these the “historian” ignores except to refer vaguely to hagiography.
In other words, no religious figure is considered a reliable source – unless of course he has something damaging to imply, like the anonymous Capuchins.
There are hundreds into thousands of stories that can be quoted from reliable, intelligent, indeed esteemed witnesses, which have been noted in all the books written about Pio--for there is no three-dimensional Pio without his activities, his words, his daily pearls of wisdom, the quips in the midst of his constant, excruciating suffering before our eyes. Where are these witnesses?
Where are the wonderful Pio conversations, the great one-liners to the point, the quick humor, the consolations? Where is the lover of souls, the heart that wouldn’t stop beating with fervor to build that hospital on the mountain so that the sick could have care? Where is the brilliance in getting it done in the face of immense obstacles? Where is the priest who slept before the tabernacle not to leave Jesus alone? Where is any positive opinion of Pio at all? The “historian” must surely have come across some in his delving.

It’s as if the “historian” couldn’t bear to draw near holiness. What comes to mind are the old Dracula movies of Count Alucard (Dracula, spelled backwards, played by Bela Lugosi) raising his black cape as a shield as he turns away in horror from the Crucifix held before him to stop him in his tracks.
But if you would have the truth about Padre Pio, then take this criticism from Vittorio Messori’s Preface in Padre Pio Under Investigation, which counters all of the “historian’s” manipulations of the documents he uses…
“…[the author’s] way of reading the events, by making use of historical and political, when not ideological, categories, is absolutely insufficient to describe and penetrate phenomena like the ones at issue, which, while belonging to history, at the same time transcend history. Only faith—which is not fanaticism or sentimentalism, as it would be sometimes convenient to portray it—grants that vision of the world, and hence of history, which allows for the hypothesis of God and accepts all wonders in a person like Padre Pio and through him may powerfully intervene in the world.” (pXI)
And here is Francesco Castelli, the author of Padre Pio Under Investigation, writing about Monsignor Rossi’s investigation of Padre Pio’s stigmata and all the virtues and all the rumors:

“ …he summons and interrogates nine witnesses—to be specific, two diocesan priests and seven Capuchin Brothers. ‘Tell me about Padre Pio, tell me everything you know!’ And we’re off to “a barrage of questions to which Monsignor Rossi subjects them for eight days.” (p13)

When Monsignor Rossi orders Padre Pio: Let me see your stigmata,” Padre Pio, resigned, removes the gloves. Monsignor Rossi reports:  “The stigmata are there: we are before a real fact—it is impossible to deny it.” And he goes on to describe them in detail. (p21)

It is one of the most informing, rewarding, scholarly and beautifully written books about Padre Pio, a heavenly-light-of-truth shining on the saint.
Monsignor Rossi’s report to the Holy Office, concluded:
“Padre Pio is a good religious, exemplary, accomplished in the practice of the virtues, given to piety and probably elevated to a higher degree of prayer than it seems from the outside; he shines especially because of his sincere humility and his remarkable simplicity, which did not fail even in the gravest moments, when these virtues were put to the test, a test truly grave and dangerous for him.” (underscoring mine.) (p27)
Elsewhere, Monsignor Rossi writes: “To think that so many idle words had cast such an unfavorable light on this poor Capuchin! I’ll take the liberty then to call to the attention of the Most Eminent [Fathers] his genuine and honest depositions,  since they reveal him to be not at all like an unscrupulous miracle worker or an enthusiastic instigator of mobs. He is a poor friar who, as far as I know, keeps his place and unwittingly has become the center of such attraction.” (p20)
Unfortunately, none – or very little --of Monsignor Rossi’s positive report is in the “historian’s” book.

If you read Castelli’s book, you will read Padre Pio's depositions, and you will know once and for all what was revealed by the Vatican about Padre Pio’s stigmata, what Our Lord told Pio just before the moment of the stigmata, what his mission was to be, and the whole explanation of the acid. You’ll read what the Apostolic Visitor thought about the stigmata: “…there seem to be enough reasons to lean toward the presence of a supernatural gift.” (p25)

For us….Saint Padre Pio will go on inspiring, magnetizing, interceding, all the while accomplishing his “real mission” --
“…he was united with the Passion of our Lord to remedy men’s ingratitude” and as a stigmatic “to share in Christ’s Passion for the sake of his brothers’ salvation.” (Padre Pio Under Investigation. p41.) Thus, he can help save the Faith in a rising anti-Christianity era. He can draw us back from the magnetic pull of the world and help us cling to Christ, like metal slivers to that other magnet, The Cross. 


July 19, 2013

Mary O'Regan recently described the pains and joys of writing about Padre Pio in her blog.  She said she stopped writing about him for "fear of offending people who find Padre Pio disturbing, "...mostly because they are thrown off balance by the stories of his 'reading souls' and telling people their darkest sins in the confessional, or of his stigmata and bleeding palms. But thank Heaven Mary has decided to "keep a goin' " as the poet put it, and is back writing about him, as you'll see from her post July 2nd,
One of the complaints Mary received was that Padre Pio refused absolution to a woman who had had an abortion. Many of the books and articles about Padre Pio go into this sort of incident: he withheld absolution from men and women who seemed to make a mockery of the confessional by having no repentance. One woman didn’t even remember her abortion. Padre Pio did all he could to nudge her into remembering it, instead of losing it in the clutter of her past.

Padre Pio always stressed that he knew most of those he turned away would then realize the gravity of their sin and come back repentant and desiring of true absolution—which happened most of the time. For those who would not return, he knew they would find another priest. Padre Pio also strongly advised that all priests do not do the same. For as we know, Padre Pio did read souls. 
As revealed for the first time in the Vatican secret documents released to the world and reported in Padre Pio Under Investigation (discussed in the previous post) a mission was entrusted to Padre Pio by Our Lord on the day he received the stigmata in the antique church of Our Lady of Grace, on September 20, 1918. Padre Pio was united with the Passion of our Lord to remedy men’s ingratitude…to share in Christ’s Passion for the sake of his brothers’ salvation. He spent his life “remedying” in the confessional, as he willingly suffered the stigmata. But if sin is weightless to us, Pio must put weight into it. His means was to withhold absolution—and that little white wafer of Christ some people don’t take too seriously.
We talk about it a lot here in the States, regarding Catholic politicians who are Pro-Choice (and thereby gain votes), yet approach and take the Eucharist despite breaking Church teaching.

Pope Francis recently
told a congregation at his morning Mass: "The Problem is not that we are sinners. . . The problem [instead] is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done."
This is what Padre Pio’s remedying was all about.

June 3, 2013

St. Padre Pio's relic body is now on permanent exhibition, as of June 1, 2013 in the lower church of San Pio of Pietrelcina. The friars of the Sanctuary of the Shrine of Padre Pio say in their announcement (see below) "This decision was made after many phone calls, emails, letters, and the continuous requests of the pilgrims who come to San Giovanni Rotondo, in which they express the desire to be able to pray once again before the relics of the revered Capuchin."

When asked by his spiritual children what would happen after the unthinkable...after he was gone, Padre Pio replied, "Tell them that I am more alive than ever before. And here they will find me, and they can ask anything they like and I will refuse nothing."

Padre Pio knew, of course, it was going to be a busy place. And so we go, we pray and implore...A saint so great, so gifted with Grace, miracles, love, a heartfelt wanting to save the world and it's souls -- "I belong to everyone!" -- a saint who is a profound influence on Catholicism-- is sought by millions of pilgrims.

And now pilgrims will see him again. This is the face of the saint who also said so many things we can recall and hear in that mellow voice often tender, often firm in authority--

"I am just a friar who prays..."
"My sons, the world is catching fire! Fight with all your strength against divorce and abortion!" -- something he said in the same year he died.
"Abortion is not only murder but it is also suicide!" referring to the diminishment of the human race.
"To me, those mothers who sacrificed themselves, truly do...become immortal."
"Life is made up of a struggle for healthy and holy principles: principles of truth and goodness, which...perhaps have disappeared from the face of the earth, but which, at the right moment will return in all their splendor.”
"My real mission will begin when I'm gone."

And here it is now, his real mission, underway. But what is this real mission? For Padre Pio to say it, he knew something was long awaiting him.

Padre Pio himself explained it: "Life is made up of a struggle for healthy and holy principles..." Since the beginning of time it's been a war between good and evil, and Padre Pio was significantly planted on the mountain of St. Michael the Warrior, battler of the first dark angel, the first rebellion. Shortly after, Padre Pio received the stigmata, and was well aware of the meaning of the Cross, its power, its mercy and salvation, insofar as it was accepted by the world. He was well aware of the battle...

No one can deny the times we live in, the turning of backs to Christianity in Europe alone that so concerned Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the descent into the path of self-destruction the world has taken -- especially the killing enmasse of the unborn innocent and how this has intensified globally and culturally, ("The world is catching fire...") as if a numbing fluid has spread through our veins and we feel not the killing!
As if the furnace handles of hell on earth have been turned to full force. The Year of Faith has been declared, the New Evangelization has been called for--but these are not just words, this is full-blown action: what new evangelization means is that the shock pads must be applied to our hardened hearts, impassioned Christianity must begin to beat again, strong, healthy. A Christian effervescence must course through our veins, changing the very colorless, numbing liquid into a warming red wine. And so...a "mission" is intensified. It is "my real mission..."

When Padre Pio said "Fight with all your strength..." he of course meant himself as well, in prayer, in presence, in his "real mission." Always.

"... here they will find me..."

There is something even more mystical about this strategic presence of Padre Pio on the Gargano mountain--like a transmitting tellstar. It has to do with Megiddo!

Megiddo (Me-GID-o) is in Israel, and is considered one of the most famous battlegrounds in history. The many battles that have been fought there involved the Assyrians, Canaanites, Egyptians, Greeks, Israelites, Persians, Philistines and Romans. One has only to Google Megiddo and begin the journey back in history to what has already taken place on this battlefield, and what has been prophesied yet to come ...especially in Revelation 16: 14,16.

"...and they go forth unto the kings of the whole earth to gather them together for the battle on the great day of God almighty...." "...and he gathered them together in a place that is called in Hebrew Armagedon" (in Hebrew Har-Megiddo, the mountain of Megiddo.)
It is the battle where Good and Evil will meet, a gathering of armies in the final world battle--the Battle of Armageddon.*

*The footnote in my Confraternity Edition of the Bible, New Testament Challoner-Rheims Version, reads: "...here the fortunes of kings have been decided, here rulers fought and fell. This battleground becomes the symbol of the divine struggle."

In the First World War the final allied offensive of the Sinai, the Holy Land, by General Edmund Allenby was the crucial Battle of Megiddo. General Allenby began his attack on September 18, 1918 and it continued through September 25th to its victorious finish.

Something else happened in those very days. Padre Pio was graced with his stigmata, on September 20, 1918. They lasted his lifetime, the living Crucifix, symbol of the power of the Cross.

As Padre Pio so often said, "And who is it who arranges the coincidences?"

Pilgrims will look upon his face and form, now permanently visible before the world, and they may think about his "real mission," "more alive than ever," as he said, and which must certainly want our prayers.

Something else Padre Pio said: "Let the world turn upside down; let everything be in darkness, smoke and noise. God is with us." (Letters 3, No. 7 to the Ventrella Sisters)


The relics of the body of St. Pio of Pietrelcina will be permanently exhibited for veneration beginning on June 1.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, will preside at the celebration of the Eucharist to begin the exhibition, which will take place on 11 a.m. on June 1, at the church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. All those who work with him in the dicastery will join him in pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo to venerate the remains of the saint. Concelebrating with the Cardinal will be Very Rev. Michele Castoro, Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, Very Rev. Marcello Bartolucci, Secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and many priests, both Capuchins and diocesan.

The body of St. Pio of Pietrelcina will remain in the same place, namely in the center of the lower church dedicated to the saint, in a glass reliquary.

This decision was made after many phone calls, emails, letters, and the continuous requests of the pilgrims who come to San Giovanni Rotonodo, in which they express the desire to be able to pray once again before the relics of the revered Capuchin.

The friars and the Archbishop have seen fit to carry out this initiative precisely in this Year of Faith, certain that it will renew the spiritual benefits that came from the last exhibition (April 24, 2008 - September 24, 2009), and, in particular, to awaken faith in the hearts of the many pilgrims, a virtue of which Padre Pio was and continues to be an exemplary witness in his writings, with his spirituality, and, above all, with the constancy of his life.

Press office of the Friars Minor Capuchin of the Province of ‘Sant'Angelo e Padre Pio' (Foggia, Italy)

May 12, 2013 (Mother's Day in the U.S.)

Here's something Padre Pio would agree with. In 1881, the great author Henry James (The Bostonians, Washington Square, The Turn of the Screw, Wings of the Dove, Italian Hours, The Ambassadors--and dozens and dozens of other books) was visiting America to see his family for the first time since 1876. This is taken from The Opposing Self by Lionel Trilling, pp.115-116.

In January he went to stay with Henry Adams in Washington, and there, on the thirtieth of the month, he received the telegram announcing his mother's serious illness, which was intended to prepare him for her death.

It was James's first familial loss and it shocked and saddened him deeply. Yet it also, as he writes of it in his notebook, moved him to a kind of joy. He had always known that he loved his mother, but not until he saw her in her shroud did he know how tender his love was. Mrs. James had been a quiet woman, with none of the spirited quality of her husband, the elder Henry James. But her son wrote of her, "She was our life, she was the house, she was the keystone of the arch. She held us all together, and without her we are scattered reeds. She was patience, she was wisdom, she was exquisite maternity." And as his impassioned memorial of her draws to its close, he says, "It was the perfect mother's life--the life of a perfect wife. To bring her children into the world--to expend herself, for years, for their happiness and welfare--then, when they had reached a full maturity and were absorbed in the world and their own interests--to lay herself down in her ebbing strength and yield up her pure soul to the celestial power that had given her this divine commission."

His mother was the strength that is not power as the world knows power, the strength of conservation, the unseen, unregarded, seemingly unexerted force that holds things to their center.

And following is what Padre Pio said to Padre Pellegrino, recounted in Pellegrino's book, Padre Pio's Jack of All Trades, p.226, and discussed in Chapter 9 of my book Padre Pio and Children, to be published later this year.

Padre Pio rose from his chair. “To me, those mothers who sacrificd themselves, truly do…become immortal for having given their own life for their children. And it is a great comfort to know that many mothers knew, know and will always know, how to immolate themselves.”

April 29, 2013
coming again to the Metropolitan Opera, and to be heard all over the world online at

                   Those who shared more fully in my passion will share more fully in my glory.
                                                                                             Jesus to Sister Faustina

     Sixteen Carmelite nuns were beheaded on July 17, 1794, in the late days of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. With hands tied behind their backs, they were trundled through the streets of Paris in the trumbrel, passing the raucous, shouting crowds along the way.It was hours before they reached the guillotine at the Place du Trone, where they were taken down from the cart by the Revolutionary Army. . .

     The nuns sang Salve Regina and Te Deum as they approached the guillotine, and as they ascended the scaffold they sang Veni Creator, praying the Lord be with them to the very last moment. When the bloodied blade came down, one by one the gentle chorus of their voices was diminished until there was none. Watching the atrocious beheadings of the nuns, the shouts and clamor of the crowd were hushed to silence as the Carmelites of Compiegne entered history. . .
     This scene will once again be dramatically recreated on the Metropolitan Opera stage at the end of this 2012-2013 season when it presents three performances of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites – some of the most beautiful and startling operatic music ever written.
The first performance will be broadcast on May 4, 2013 over WQXR at 105.9 fm. at 11:30 a.m. EST, for anyone who lives in the area. But you can also simultaneously listen online at
www.wqxr.org where it can be heard all over the world -- as it should be in our time of intensifying Christian persecution. The remaining two performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on May 9th, and 8:30 p.m. on May 11th. You can tune into a Met Live Stream free online at the May 9th performance at
www.metoperafamily.org/stream/aspx .

     So much has been written about these nuns and all that they inspired, that it is nigh impossible to come to the end of the commentaries. It was a savage period of Robespierre’s philosophy and psychology of terror (“Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice…”). King Louis XVI had been beheaded in January, 1793, his head victoriously and mockingly held up to the cheering mass of watchers, and Queen Marie Antoinette met the same fate the following October. The Church was suppressed in the new Republic, replaced by an allegiance to a Cult of the Supreme Being. An oath of loyalty to the Civil Constitution was mandatory. Church property was confiscated and religious images and statues demolished. The clergy was dispersed, forbidden to meet or hold religious services or wear their religious habits, on penalty of execution at the guillotine. It was a monstrous swath of de-Christianizing France.

     The Carmelite monastery of Compiegne, north of Paris, was pillaged in 1792 and on September 14, 1792, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the nuns were uprooted and scattered in four groups to different living quarters. They took a vow, a consecrated oath, offering themselves as victims to save France and the Church and to end the Terror. They would not deny their Faith even if it meant their lives, and repeated their consecrated vows daily. Against the orders of the Committee of Public Safety, they gathered as a community for prayer and survived for about two years outside the monastery, until a surveillance committee discovered the meetings and searched their apartments. They found a picture of the guillotined king, scapulars of the Sacred Heart and letters from their former confessor, among other similar things, all considered “seditious”. They were arrested and imprisoned in a former convent. 

     There were many priests and religious beheaded or shot during the French Revolution, but the story of these nuns’ martyrdom is one of the most famous and stunning in Christendom for many obvious and mystical reasons: their vow and oath; and the fact that the Reign of Terror came to an end ten days after their beheading! The excesses of The Reign (Sept.5, 1793-July 28, 1794) had disillusioned the populace and Robespierre himself was beheaded, facing his own “terror” on July 28, eleven days after the nuns, and on the same bloodied scaffold. This was not lost on the Catholic populace and it was believed even then that the sanctity and sacrifice of the Carmelite nuns, victim souls at the ready, brought the end of the Terror.

     And so began the long mystical journey of the martyred Carmelite nuns of Compiegne. . .
     The first step of the silent, invisible travel of their tale was in a book by Mere Marie of the Incarnation, a surviving member of the scattered community who happened to be away in Paris at the time the nuns were arrested. She was not present at the executions but she found eye-witnesses and collected the details of the arrest and beheadings. And so we know that the nuns were brought to an old convent turned into a jail, which they shared with the English Benedictine community of Cambrai: 
    “Within the church, the influence of the Martyrs of Compiègne has been profound, beginning with their fellow prisoners, the English Benedictine community of Cambrai. Catholic religious orders were still forbidden in England, and these exiles had sought a haven in France. But the nuns were imprisoned by the Revolution in October of 1793, and they welcomed the Compiègnoises" when they, too, became inmates of the same house of detention in June, 1794. Learning that the Carmelites were daily offering themselves as victims to divine justice for the restoration of peace to France and the church, the Benedictines regarded them as saintly; when the Reign of Terror ended only days after their martyrdom, the English nuns credited the Carmelites with stopping the Revolution's bloodbath and with saving their own community from annihilation. The nuns of Cambrai preserved with devotion relics of the martyrs, the secular clothes they were required to wear before their arrest, and which the jailer forced on the English nuns after the Carmelites had been killed. Indeed, the Benedictines were still wearing them when on May 2, 1795, they were at last allowed to return to England, where they became the community of Stanbrook Abbey. The Abbess of Stanbrook, on the centenary of the martyrdom, wrote to the Prioress at Compiègne:
     “ ‘ We hold these things in high honor, as twofold relics; relics of the martyrs, and relics of our own Mothers, who were almost martyrs. How happy we are to have kept this sandal for so many years! It seems to invite us to follow in the footsteps of those who, in the person of our [Carmelite] Mothers, bade us farewell so tenderly, before getting into the cart to reach the throne of glory by way of Paris and the guillotine’ ”. (Terrye Newkirk, OCDS, The Mantle of Elijah:The Martyrs of Compiegne as Prophets of Modern Age, Copyright 1995 by ICS Publications, http://www.icspublications.org/links/index.html )

[Continue, on this website, to learn how the Martyrs of Compiegne inspired so many in the Church through all the decades of persecution. I have tried to find out where, in Compiegne, the nuns’ relic clothes rest, since the original monastery no longer exists, but so far I have been unsuccessful. When and if I get the information, I’ll post it. JS]  
     While in prison in Compiegne, the Carmelites helped and consoled other prisoners in any way they could. For three weeks they were held there, and numerous times they asked permission to wash their clothes – the secular clothes they were forced to wear.  Finally permission was given, but on July 12 as they were laundering, the order came to remove the nuns immediately to Paris for their trial.  Since their clothes were still in the washtub they were given permission to wear what remained of their religious habits. Somewhere online, I have seen a small painting showing the nuns at the guillotine in their habits.  
     With hands tied behind their backs, the Carmelites were taken in two carts on the long, rough and bumpy journey to Paris and arrived at three or four in the afternoon the next day, July 13. They spent three days in prison helping the sick into the night, saying their prayers and divine office daily, and in the middle of the night chanting matins. On the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16, one of the sisters composed a canticle to the tune of the Marseillaise. On July 17 they faced a mock trial in which their fate was already decided, and were condemned as traitors and “fanatics” and for crimes against the state--which automatically meant beheading. The judge read the accusations, and with regard to the Sacred Heart of Jesus image found in their possession, the words “fanatical puerility” jumped out at Sr. Marie Henriette (Madame de Croissy) and she asked him to explain. He answered, “What I mean is your attachment to your childish beliefs, your stupid religious practices.” Sr. Marie Henriette said to the nuns, “My Dear Mother and Sisters, let us rejoice in the Lord for this. We are going to die for the cause of our holy religion, our faith, our reliance in the holy Roman Catholic Church.”   

    Death by guillotine was sentenced and received with serenity and joy. Although one nun fainted, she was revived and assured her fellow-sisters she would keep faithful to the end. They had not eaten or drunk anything, and Mother Lidoine managed to barter for some hot chocolate for her daughters. Again, with their hands bound behind them, they were taken in the tundrels to the place of execution immediately, some hours away. At some point Mother Lidoine had asked the nuns to tear away their collars and necklines so their necks would be bare and the executioner wouldn’t need to touch them – William Bush in his long and well-researched book To Quell the Terror offers the possibility that this cutting took place in Compiegne, during their meetings or daily vows, as a preparation for that fateful day, should it ever come. 

      The blade that beheaded the nuns was drenched with blood and there was a stench on the scaffold from the putrifying blood beneath and from flesh of previous beheadings from the nearby common graves. Accounts differ but some report fifty-two executions that day. The nuns’ torsos and heads were tossed into the  common grave at Picpus Cemetery, where today a cross marks the spot where the remains of 1,306 victims of the guillotine lay. 
      The martyred Carmelite nuns are Blesseds. They were beatified in 1906 by Pope Pius X.  Less than a century and a half after their beheading, Mere Marie’s book inspired Gertrud von Le Fort, a German writer and convert to Catholicism who lived in the time of Hitler’s growing Nazism. She harbored a great fear of what similar suppressions would happen in Germany and Europe if the Nazis gained power. Gertrud von Le Fort took hold of the nuns’ story and wrote a novella, The Song of the Scaffold, adding a fictional nun, Blanche de la Force (a play on LeFort’s own name), who embodied all of Gertrud’s own fears of encroaching Nazism. Blanche, a young aristocrat, fears the Revolution and all that she has seen happen in Paris. She fears dying so horrible a death at the hands of the revolutionaries, and fears living in the world.Von Le Fort’s book was highly successful and came to the attention of a Dominican priest and filmmaker, Fr. Raymond Leopold Bruckberger, who was so taken with the nuns’ martyrdom, he sent the book to Georges Bernanos—an esteemed Catholic writer. It is a long, labyrinthine tale of how Bernanos, a Catholic Monarchist for the France of historical tradition, finally came to write Dialogues of the Carmelites.  He was as “dazzled” as Fr. Bruckberger over the book, but was so disgusted with the political weakness of France over the same encroaching Nazism as Gertrude von Le Fort (he wrote in 1944, “...On the boulevards one could smell the extermination camps that were to open.” Opera News, Jan.10, 1981), he left for Brazil and did not return until after the Second World War. In postwar Paris, Fr. Bruckberger sent Bernanos a movie scenario of Le Fort’s book that he had written with Philippe Agostini, a cinematographer, writer and director.
     But if Bernanos was political, he was also – first and foremost – an impassioned, intellectual, deeply spiritual and artistic Catholic. His wife, Jeanne Talbert d’Arc, was a direct descendent of the brother of Joan of Arc, who was surely held deeply and reverently in Bernanos’ heart. Joan of Arc was captured at Compiegne during battle on May 23, 1430 by the Burgundians, aligned with the British who were dominating France in the Hundred Years’ War (for the throne of France). Like the nuns, Joan was not executed at Compiegne, but quickly transferred to Rouen, where a year later she was burned at the stake (5/30/1431). It is acknowledged that her achievement was great—she saved France from English domination late in the Hundred Years’ War, but more than that, had Joan not come on the scene and inspired the people—and the Dauphin -- to join her in battle for France, France would have fallen to Burgundian/English rule, and when Henry VIII, a century later, threw out Catholicism and ‘Popery’ from England, one has to think he surely would have stripped France, eldest daughter of the Church, of  her Catholicism and drawn and quartered her priests. One can say, then, that Joan of Arc saved Catholic France (she is patroness of soldiers and one of the patron saints of France), and I can’t help thinking that the Compiegne connection of Joan of Arc and the Carmelite nuns in the salvation of Catholic France cannot have escaped Bernanos.

        Writing between World Wars, with shattering memories of the first and unutterable premonitions of the Second, Bernanos discovered that the experience of Christ at Gethsemane is the mystical core of existence. The injustice and fear so brutally demonstrated in World War I converged on Gethsemane, “without which there can be no inner life.” Therefore in Bernanos’s last work, Dialogues des Carmelites, published posthumously in 1949, the heroine becomes Sister Blanche of the Agony of Christ. (Opera News, Jan. 10, 1981)

       In Bernanos classic book, The Diary of a Country Priest, a great Catholic read, he gives that “mystical core of existence” theme to the young priest: “I am never to be torn from that eternal place chosen for me – I remain the prisoner of His Agony in the Garden.”
       The fears of Blanche, in the character created by von Le Fort, were bound up in social issues. But Bernanos makes changes and gives her a more personal agony, the very same agony that obsessed him. He wrote of Blanche’s all-consuming fear, not just of the violence of the Revolution, but fear of her own fear—a dreadful thing to live with-- and fear of her cowardice, of living in the world as well as of dying. She was, essentially, trapped. An agony-- her agony. When she enters the Carmelites she takes the name of Sister Blanche of the Agony of Christ.

      Bernanos wrote of grace…that greatest of gifts and of all moments. The last words in Bernanos Diary of a Country Priest come out of the mouth of the dying priest. “Tout est grace…” Grace is everywhere or more directly, Everything is grace. This was an echoing of the words of the dying St. Therese of Lisieux, whom Bernanos admired.

     When grace comes in Bernanos’ play, it comes big. The most audacious and mystical idea that Bernanos injected into his adaptation was the exchange of deaths…the exchange of grace. He gives young, cheery, joyful Sister Constance the important clue words: “We never die for ourselves but for each other, and sometimes in place of each other.” Bernanos here inserts the transference of grace into the story. He introduces ‘the agony’ of Christ as the heart of things in the death scene of Madame De Croissy, the Prioress of the nuns, as she succumbs to anguish and agony (whereas a peaceful death might normally have been hers) in exchange for a fearful death for Blanche of the Agony of Christ who, through this exchange finds her calm and courage to go to her martyrdom at the guillotine (although she had not been arrested with her companions and was safe). Touched by grace at that very moment, she comes out of ‘the darkness’ of the crowds (in the Met Opera production) and joins her fellow-Sisters of her own free will. She finds herself, as well. For the first time, fear is lifted away by grace, and the feeling of living and being comes to her in that sacrificial moment. It is the Lord choosing the weak ones of the world to do his great things. . . to show the power of His Grace. 
      It is breathtaking…

      This is the heart of Bernanos’ play. He was dying of liver cancer while writing Dialogues, and wrote some ten hours a day, as though racing to meet the deadline. He may have been writing Dialogues for his own impending death, which he hoped would be as filled with grace at the end, as that of the dying priest of his Diary of a Country Priest, and as that of the martyred nuns.

      But Bernanos did not live to see the film Fr. Bruckberger eventually made years later, starring Jeanne Moreau as Madame Lidoine. He died on July 5, 1948. Father Bruckberger wrote in his diary: 
     " Georges Bernanos is dead. He knew that he was going to die. He felt that his foot was already caught in the stirrup. I have never known a Christian so constantly obsessed with the idea of divine justice and what seems divine injustice, and by the holy agony of Christ. Now he has finished his exile. Honor, to him, was Christian honor. To Bernanos, the fatherland was France, the chosen land of Christian honor, illustrious by our saints and our chevaliers; land of freedom because it was the land of sacrifice. "

       When Bernanos’ play Dialogues of the Carmelites was posthumously published, it was hailed as a masterpiece. The eventual stage production received the same great notices. 
      Enter Francis Poulenc. . . Referred to in bios as a boulevardier and bon vivant for his high life of theater and concerts and seeing friends every night in fashionable Paris, Poulenc (pronounced poolank) was also a somewhat open homosexual, even, it would seem, bi-sexual (he fathered a daughter). He was a composer of light-hearted music and lovely French art songs, carefree, humorous, witty, melancholy, still sung in recitals. Then personal sadness entered his life when his close friend, Pierre-Octave Ferraud, also a composer, was beheaded in a horrible car accident in 1935. Devastated, Poulenc found solace in a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Black Virgin of Rocamadour, perched high on the rocky plateau of Rocamadour-- a statue of the Madonna with a young child on her lap. His Catholic faith was re-awakened there and changed his life. As if he had been touched by the life-giving hand of God, his genius blossomed and his music turned to the sacred. Extremely beautiful liturgical music of great depth and meaning lay in wait in his soul and floated to the surface one after the other, among them his chorals, his Gloria, his Mass, all played in Catholic churches. The first one to appear was Litanies a la Vierge…dedicated to Our Lady of Rocamadour. The more one listens, the more one finds, and the more one wants to listen to find more…In Nazi-occupied France, Poulenc brazenly wrote anti-war art songs, also a Hymn to Freedom. One of my favorites pieces was written during that period, Les Animaux Modeles, a suite jaunty and solemn, again humorous, sweepingly magnificent, a story he wrote from the fables of La Fontaine about animals and people in a farmyard. One senses his respect for animals ---he had a little dog who was constantly at his side or his feet, when he composed at the piano. One can hear in this piece the wonderful Poulenc orchestrations waiting to burst upon the scene more religiously and dramatically in Dialogues…     
      Poulenc was the first to admit he was not walking the straight and narrow path (a critic referred to him as a lover of life, “half monk and half delinquent.” The delinquent part was in his love of life and the way he lived it; his “monk” was his faith, so deep and serious and melodic in his music. This is where he met God. Poulenc tells in a letter to the director of the Paris Opera how he came to Dialogues. He was having lunch in Rome with the director of the Ricordi publishing house. . .

      I divulged to M. Valcaranghi, the director of Editions Ricordi, who had commissioned a ballet from me, my lack of enthusiasm for the project. “Ah," I added, in the course of a lovely luncheon, "why don’t you ask me for an opera?”

      “So that shouldn’t stop you, I’ll commission one right now,” answered my host.

      “But the libretto?”

     “Since you’re looking for a mystical subject, why don’t you make an opera from the Dialogues des Carmelites of Bernanos?”

     I sat stunned by this proposition. What would people say about an opera without a love interest? Having always believed in the innate theatrical sense of the Italians, I put aside this objection, but asked time to reflect—a lot!
     I already knew, of course, the Bernanos play, which I had read and reread, and seen twice, but I had no idea of its verbal rhythm, a major detail for me. I had decided to look into the matter later, after returning to Paris, when two days later, right in the middle of a window of a Rome bookstore, I discovered the Dialogues, which seemed to be waiting for me. . . . That was how, in spite of myself, I was led into this great adventure which was to haunt me for three years. (Herbert Kupferberg, Notes on Dialogue of the Carmelites, Stagebill, Feb. 1977)

     With the just-bought book, Poulenc settled himself at the famous Tre Scalini café on Piazza Navona, with Bernini’s Fountain of the Rivers splashing before him. He sat reading the play for hours. Finished, he shouted to himself, “But of course, it’s made for me!” And of course it was; God writing straight with crooked lines brought it to him from Mere Marie of the Incarnation…to Gertrud von Le Fort…to Fr. Bruckberger…to Bernanos…to Poulenc. This was the pivotal moment! the moment when Poulenc found his masterpiece, often cited as the greatest opera of the 20th century. It was a meeting of two great Catholic minds, although Bernanos was dead by now. I do not know if the two ever met—nor does Ned Rorem, composer and friend of Poulenc. Rorem says that Poulenc believed the commission to have been plotted in heaven. (Opera News, Feb.5, 1977)   
     Poulenc embraced Bernanos’ mystical concepts and kept to his brilliant ideas and play, but cutting Bernanos’ lines where necessary and making a few changes, just as Bernanos had done to Bruckberger and Bruckberger to Le Fort. Poulenc began the opera in August, 1953. He wrote in a letter, “If I am to succeed with this work it will only be through the music identifying absolutely with the Bernanos spirit. Very light orchestration to allow the text to come through.” On the 31st he wrote: “I am working like a madman, do not go out, do not see anyone. . . I do not think of anything else. . . .I hardly recognize myself. I am crazy about my subject, to the point of believing that I have actually known these women.” (http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Lowther%20Gail%20Elizabeth.pdf?bysul) It is very hard to imagine Poulenc not going out every night, not seeing all his friends.
     Poulenc understood the mystery of the Dialogues of Bernanos, as well as the mystery of the nuns' martyrdom. In an interview he said, “If it is a work about fear, it is equally and above all, in my opinion, a work about grace. This is why my Carmelites climb the scaffold with an extraordinary calm and confidence. For are not confidence and calm at the base of all mystical experience?”
http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Lowther%20Gail%20Elizabeth.pdf?bgsul )

     Something one must be aware of when hearing the opera for the first time is that it is made up of dialogues among the nuns, and very important spiritual things are said. But interspersed between the dialogues are Poulenc’s rich melodies, his opulent orchestrations and motifs that brilliantly and melodiously express the very words the nuns speak. For this reason, Poulenc wanted the opera to be performed in the native language of each country, so that the dialogues could be heard and understood. Otherwise, one must read the libretto before attending the opera in its original French. At any rate, one should read the libretto and know what is being said in every scene, every moment, otherwise you miss the great points. For it is a tight libretto, the very best of Bernanos thought preserved. As Patricia Racette (the soprano who will be singing Madame Lidoine at the Met in the three performances) said in an interview April 20 over WQXR-fm, in this opera, it is a case of “the audience leaning in.”  

     One of the most beautiful scenes is Blanche’s meeting with her brother in the monastery. The sway and torment of her fear emotionally rises in the music, the back and forthness of her love for her remaining family, and of her fears. Fear to die and fear to live. We get hints of this theme in Blanche's interview with the Prioress, Madame Croissy, in the First Act. She enters the monastery to find safety and be with God, but her fear follows her everywhere (“I am never to be torn from that eternal place chosen for me – I remain the prisoner of His Agony in the Garden.”— says the young priest in Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest).

     All sorts of very upsetting delays beset Poulenc in composing the opera; the difficulty and convoluted legal process of getting permission to use the late Bernanos play for his libretto. At the same time, his affair with Lucien Roubert was fading. “I am weak enough to hang on to it desperately. No doubt this climate of anguish is necessary for my ladies.” Further, his close friend and companion, who lived with him for years, also moved out, and Poulenc felt abandoned. It all led to a nervous breakdown. Ned Rorem wrote that “…during the birth pangs of Dialogues [Poulenc] developed stigmata and was confined to a Swiss clinic from where he wrote "premature" farewell letters. (Ned Rorem, Monologues and Dialogues, Opera News, Feb. 5, 1977)
     The Lucien affair revived, but during the writing of Dialogues, Lucien was very ill with cancer. He succumbed at the very moment Poulenc finished the final copy of the opera. Poulenc was crushed again. At one point he was terribly ill and thought he was dying of stomach cancer. He wrote Fr. Griffin of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers at Mt. Carmel Seminary in Dallas, Texas to ask the Carmelites to make a novena to recover his health “…that I may glorify God and the Blessed martyrs of Compiegne with my music.” When he played his opera on the piano for a friend, he would be almost in a trance. Although he had two years of agony actually writing Dialogues, Poulenc felt he had to suffer agonies to be able to write the opera. Denise Duval, who sang Blanche at the Paris premiere in 1957, and over two hundred times thereafter, said in an interview, “. . .for seven long years it looked as if it never would be finished. There was a serious nervous breakdown, and it really was a miracle Poulenc finally snapped out of it. During that period he worked only in fits and starts. Finally it was ready, and anyone who heard him play the score could tell this was a masterpiece.”(Lanfranco Rasponi, The Voice of Poulenc, Opera News, Feb. 5, 1977)
     Dialogues of the Carmelites opened at La Scala on January 26, 1957. History had been made, yet no one was aware at the time. Four months later the Paris premiere took place on June 21, 1957. Tyrone Power, the star of American movies, flew in from Los Angeles especially to attend some final rehearsals and the premiere night. Poulenc “was already at the piano and he explained the opera to an enchanted Tyrone.” (Margarita Wallman, Wallman Memories, Opera, August, 1977) The supreme French soprano, Regine Crespin, who sang Madame Lidoine (which Poulenc wrote with her in mind) in this historical first Paris Production, said of that premiere evening, “As a performer you cannot resist this opera, especially the death scene, or the scene in prison and then the end, as they all go to the guillotine. In Paris, at the premiere, each one of us was in the wings, watching and all crying.” (Opera News, Feb. 5, 1977) 
     In the next months Dialogues was mounted in German in Cologne, in English in San Francisco, and Rome, Lisbon, Vienna – and even New York television. Through the years it has been performed in the major opera houses of the world as well as regional theaters and colleges. I have seen it, enthralled, numerous times at the Met since its first 1976-1977 season with John Dexter’s production (now referred to as “iconic”—a word that has become overused by the media and therefore staled… but not in this case). The Met was so stunned at how well the audiences took to the opera, they brought it back the next season, and the Dexter production became part of its repertory; it is famous for its opening scene, the curtain rising on the nuns lying prostrate with their arms outstretched like crosses over an immense white cross on the floorboards of the stage. This white cross reappears in the final beheading scene. 

     After watching many YouTube videos of scenes from other productions around the world, my opinion is that the Met does the best production of all, even in its minimalist settings, which actually contribute to the music and dialogue of the monastery atmosphere. In the Met production, the final dramatic scene of the Carmelite nuns singing their way to the guillotine is shattering shattering is the word one runs into again and again in reviews, for it is nothing less. The Met production doesn’t show the nuns arriving in the tumbrel, but it shows them being herded to the scaffold “square” after they have been delivered, with the blood-thirsty crowd pressing against them, clamoring for their death. Then begins the one-by-one march to their execution as they sing Salve Regina. When the first nun is beheaded the first thud of the blade coming down shocks the nun who is to follow and she halts in horror and fear, almost taking a step back. Then Poulenc’s music literally sweeps her forward again with courage –for they will complete their vow -- and she continues her singing and walking to martyrdom as a disguised priest in the crowd secretly blesses and absolves them. When Blanche, unseen in the crowd at first, finds her courage and joins her Sister nuns as the last to be beheaded, a profound silence has fallen on the multitude (as Mere Marie wrote was the case). At the finish, the stunned crowd slowly disperses. A moment passes, as if we are invited to pray, and the curtain comes down on one of the most glorious gifts of music, of faith-inspiring love and action, of memorable Bernanos dialogues awakening imaginations to profound beauties, of undying Christianity, and of a Metropolitan Opera production that galvanizes and musically thrills the audience. The applause is immediate and strong and also…reverent! Emotions are felt in the great Metropolitan Opera house. All of it gives joyful hope to optimists like me that there always remains somewhere in the world Bernanos’ core of grace, emanating from Christ at Gethsemane. I am with you always…
     Every opera house or regional production ever done of this opera has entered into an invisible history that must have some greater meaning and effect in God’s books, than we can ever imagine…As the saying goes, Heaven only knows. . .

     Poulenc died at his home of a heart attack on January 30, 1963 maybe with his little dog at his feet while he was composing at the piano. He loved God—and as God is Love, I dare imagine the wait in the purgatorial anteroom is a little shorter than it would have been, for giving the world this most beautiful music to contemplate the mystery and meaning of the Carmelite Martyred Nuns of Compiegne.
                                                                          +  + +

I have shown some of the many sources I used in the article, but sometimes they slipped away from me, and for this I apologize.

I want to thank the following books, articles and websites for giving me so much more than I ever knew about Dialogues of the Carmelites. If you wish greater explication of the story of the Carmelite nuns and their rightful glorification by the authors and composer who were deeply touched by them, do not fail to read the sources below. A special thank you to Patricia Morrison of ICS Publications for her generous help in my pursuit of information.
To Quell the Terror by William Bush - ICS Publications
The Song of the Scaffold by Gertrud von Le Fort
Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos

www.icspublications.org/links/index.htm (The Mantle of Elijah: The Martyrs of Compiegne as Prophets of a Modern Age)

http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Lowther%20Gail%20Elizabeth.pdf?bgsul) A Historical, Literary, and Musical Analysis of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, Lowther, Gail Elizabeth 


Here are two YouTube scenes from the original Met Opera production with Maria Ewing and Regine Crespin, which is the one I saw and loved. The first video is the final scene of the opera, the Carmelites going to their martyrdom. Blanche (Maria Ewing) comes into the scene at the end when she comes out of the darkness of the crowd to encourage Sister Constance, and goes to her own martyrdom. 


The second video is between Blanche and her brother, also the original Met production.  Hear the taunting sway of the music.  Taunting and haunting.  And a magnificent Maria Ewing as Blanche.   


The CD below of Dialogues is the original French production, the one in which Poulenc was present as an advisor.  It is the one we have.  Many years ago Joan, my sister, who was studying opera, came home with this original LP album.  She loved Poulenc's music and sang some of his art songs at recitals.  I owe my knowledge and first hearing of the opera to her.  




Blog-ette is simply an attempt to 'blog' a thought out there now and then.  Some may be long, some short.  I'm not really a blogger--too busy writing the books-- but sometimes I just can't resist, as in the case of these beloved nuns.   If you'd rather not receive Blog-ette, let me know.