|Padre Pio's World was filled to overflowing with thousands of people! |
Threading through all these over the years were the caregivers, those who made sure
he was well (he was often in poor health), who tended his everyday needs, who answered his
mail, watched his schedules, escorted and protected him through the crowds, whose onrush
and pressing were as unruly as with any 'movie star,' often attempting to snip off a piece of his habit!
And of course there were his many confreres living at the friary, whose company he always enjoyed. Many remembered him in books and articles, in interviews and homilies. We've chosen those we knew best, those we knew personally... who have discussed Padre Pio or put
their memories to paper.
They loved Padre Pio...
Fr. Pellegrino Funicello, OFM, Cap.
Fr. Pellegrino spent diligent years assisting Padre Pio -- see how many pictures there are
with the two together -- imagine the conversations they had! And learn how many of them
are in Fr. Pellegrino's book, Padre Pio's Jack of All Trades, compiled and published after he
died. They were starting to appear in THE VOICE -- and readers asked for more! Read how
devoted he was to the Padre!
He was with him during his last hours, and we know of these final hours of Padre Pio's life
because of Padre Pellegrino's written testimony in detail, which has been read at Padre Pio's
tomb every year on the Anniversary night of his death to close the commemoration.
Fr. Gerardo Di Flumeri (Vice Postulator for the Cause of Beatification/Canonization
of Padre Pio) points out in his introduction to Fr. Pellegrino's book how extremely close
Fr. Pellegrino was to Padre Pio:
"The examples and teachings received from the venerable
Padre were deeply impressed in his soul, and he meditated
on them with a loving intellect."
At Fr. Di Flumeri's urging, Fr. Pellegrino began to write articles about Padre Pio
periodically for THE VOICE. They are a joy; funny, amusing, often self-deprecating,
even moments of hilarity, but under it all we could see the two knew each other well.
These articles became so popular, readers requested they be put in book form.
I was one, in a letter to Father Joseph Pius Martin, editor of the English edition of THE VOICE.
Sadly, Fr. Pellegrino died in 1988; Fr. Alessio saw the need to publish the book and undertook
the effort for Fr. Di Flumeri. Fr. Alessio wrote a beautiful dedication to Fr. Pellegrino for the
front of the book.
"You left a penetrating and microscopic view of Padre Pio's world
to posterity; a world which we discover to be one of laughter, joy,
mirth and even hilarity. You place the 'perfect joy of St. Francis'
in our hearts through the pages of this book. It will be, for future
generations, a beacon of light and a happy remembrance of
Padre Pio's dear 'Don Jack of All Trades.' " (Fr. Alessio Parente)
THE VOICE OF PADRE PIO, No. 5, 1985
An excerpt from an article -- one of many-- written by Fr. Pellegrino;
another insightful recollection...
Fr. Alessio Parente, OFM, Cap.
Fr. Alessio, like Fr. Pellegrino, undertook the care of Padre Pio,
and he envisioned the help English-speaking pilgrims would need
when they arrived at San Giovanni Rotondo. Thus he started the
English Office, with cookies and tea and coffee! He realized they
would appreciate visits to their own shrines and parishes from friary
priests who would be able to speak to them in English about Padre
Pio. There was always a need for an English-speaking friar to do the
English correspondence. Eventually, there would be an English-language
Edition of THE VOICE OF PADRE PIO. Fr. Alessio successfully helped to
address those challenges. . .and the rest, as they say, is history! He wrote books,
as well, and he can be seen regularly at Padre Pio's side.
His book, "God's Graces Through Padre Pio's Intercession," was a
work of extraordinary effort. Not only did he include hundreds of
letters and comments about Padre Pio and the answered prayers,
but he also interspersed them with his own observations and 'homilies'
on his work with God and Padre Pio.
"Dear Padre," he wrote, "when you were alive, the expression 'have faith' was your usual answer to those
who approached you with problems, sicknesses and troubles. You encouraged us to increase our faith,
because you knew that without faith we would be immobilized and separated from the world of God.
"You knew that the things that surrounded us would become colourless and insignificant and we would live
an empty life. Increase our faith, so that we, too, like the people of the Gospel, may call for help and
may feel the need to be healed by saying to Jesus, 'Lord, if you want...I can become clean.'
Your 'faithful little dog.' "
He continued his work with the English-speaking groups in San Giovanni;
he traveled across continents to preach the life and works of Padre Pio...
indeed, he was the 'faithful little dog' of Padre Pio.
Padre Pio together with young Fr. Alessio on the veranda.
Fr. Alessio in a high tech world of his later years at San Giovanni Rotondo.
I took this picture in the English Office on one of the pilgrimages I brought there.
Copyright Jeanette Salerno
Fr. Eusebio Notte, OFM, Cap.
For years, Fr. Eusebio was a fervent companion of Padre Pio.
There are photos of him with Padre Pio scattered throughout the issues
of The Voice of Padre Pio. He could make Padre Pio laugh so easily
(see picture below), a great gift for the Padre, whose life was filled with
pain and the misery and suffering of everyone who came to him.
In John McCaffery's wonderful little book, Tales of Padre Pio,
he wrote the following four quotes:
"The finest photograph ever to come out of San Giovanni Rotondo
was that of these two greeting each other after Padre Eusebio had
been absent for some time from the monastery. The camera caught
wonderfully the fatherly pleasure and affection on the face of one
and the confident, filially affectionate, returning gaze of the other."
"Padre Pio was not only the special kind of martyr he had been
all his life; he was also an old man, with the ailments and disabilities
of age added to his other sufferings. He needed understandng and
devoted attention now more than ever; and he got it from
"Padre Eusebio restored to him the comfort and support and light
that he had lost. He could coax him into taking more care of himself,
he could joke him out of his bouts of weariness or depression,
and day and night he was always available, always there."
"...we who came there to visit sensed these things at once...We came
away from San Giovanni content in the knowledge that, so long as
Padre Eusebio was there, Padre Pio, humanly speaking, was all right."
Later, Padre Eusebio was transferred to Pietrelcina, and he was always present
"For me it has been the best experience of all my life. . . .of all my life."
to greet groups who pilgrimaged there. I interviewed him in 1987, and he pensively
said this about his years with Padre Pio:
Here are some excerpts of the "best experience" Padre Eusebio described
in a speech he gave for the Commemoration of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, held
in S. Elia a Pianisi on the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of Padre Pio's Solemn
Profession, published in La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, March, 1969:
"So much has been written about Padre Pio, but never enough for all that
he deserves. . . Padre Pio was for me a man who didn't deny the reality which
surrounded him: I mean that he was absolutely aware of being the center of
attraction for millions of people who saw in him 'the man wholly God's,'
'the saint.' "
"But this knowledge, instead of being a source of joy for him, was a source
of unspeakable torment, because he was perfectly convinced of being a 'nullity'
before God: nay, the worst of the sinners! . . . That is why, with such a low
opinion of himself, he couldn't understand why the world ran after him. And
how many times, on looking out of the little window of his cell or from the
window which looked out over the church square, at the sight of those immense
crowds he would say to me: '. . .but what do all these people come here for?'
And I, not knowing what to answer, not desiring to offend his humility, would jokingly say:
'Padre. . . . they come here for me!' He would laugh to please me,
but I wonder how hard he wished that this were true, deep in his heart!. . ."
". . . He welcomed all in the same way, remaining quite composed, without
assuming pompous attitudes; those who saw him will remember him like this:
hands on his breast, always fingering a rosary; feet uncertain and dragging,
hiding a nameless suffering; his glance humble and unpretentious, when he
wasn't looking into your eyes, because then it became piercing, almost taking
away your breath. . . He was always in full possession of himself, because he
always had before him the presence of GOD."
" . . .from his person there emanated an occult force which drew one
mysteriously to him, and no longer permitted one to leave. This force, in my
opinion, came to Padre Pio from constant union with GOD. It has been
said that Padre Pio prayed in continuation, but I would say: Padre Pio was
prayer itself in person. For him even sleep, if his could be called sleep, was
an alternation of sighs, short prayers, invocations: 'Jesus mine' 'Mary,
mother mine' 'the lament of my poor soul is for thee!' These are little sparks
of that fire which burned the heart of Padre Pio without ever consuming him!"
" ...When he later had to go down to celebrate Mass...his face was
illuminated with superhuman light and his happiness, made of suffering
and immolation, was lost in the infinite."
"...it was enough for Padre Pio to speak the name of the Heavenly Mother
for him to be moved to tears!...Padre Pio's favorite prayer [was] represented in
that rosary which bound him like a chain, sweetly and constantly, to the
Heavenly Mother.... "
" ...I had the fortune to see [the wounds] closely many times... that hand
covered with blood, fresh and clotted, with the wound as big 'as a cent' in the
center, will be one of the recollections that will never be wiped from my memory.
Just as I will never be able to forget his wounded breast, which I had the privilege
of seeing that night when, following a mysterious fall which rang out like a crash
through the whole convent, I had to help Padre Pio to change his linen, soaked with blood!"
"It really seemed as though Jesus were thirsting for your blood, Padre,
which together with His was to snatch so many souls from Satan. Satan,
Padre Pio's eternal enemy! "
" . . . about him the supernatural world mingled with the natural one,
to the point of no longer being able to tell where the one finished and the other began...
In spite of this I think that his true greatness is still to be discovered: and this is what
we expect of the years to come! "
". . . Let us remember that we, men of his time, have a great responsibility
and a great duty, that of hearing the message of love which the Lord has
wished to send through the life, the work, the sufferings of Padre Pio."
". . . And you, dear Padre Pio, do not forget us. You promised that you
would take all your spiritual children to Paradise: keep, then, your promise...
Be on our path once more, to sustain those who waver, to lift those who fall,
to give everyone a hand to lead us to Heaven. Only in this way can we hope
to once again form that family which you created at the cost of such
suffering, and with you find eternal happiness."
Padre Eusebio's final prayer to Padre Pio is beautiful, without ornate
phrasing--I flow with it along its current to the Padre, knowing it will arrive
at his ear and in his heart, and from there to Jesus.
These excerpts, these flashes of Padre Eusebio's memories, only graze the
full speech with its warmth and humor...and great fraternal love of Padre Pio.
I hope to include the whole of it in a future book of similar long-forgotten
memoirs, Padre Pio Was Like That.
Fr. John A. Schug, OFM, Cap.
A Capuchin priest from the United States, Fr. Schug was dedicated to
researching Padre Pio, interviewing many people who knew him. He did lots
of detective work, and when we corresponded or spoke on the phone, I got to
calling him Chief Inspector Father Schug.
Fr. Schug wrote books and articles about Pio, to put even more information
about the Padre out there for the world to know, and we consulted and shared
on matters Padre Pio via phone or letter. And when we spoke of Fr. Bernard Ruffin's
book (Padre Pio: The Real Story), Fr. Schug , who was corresponding
with Fr. Ruffin about Pio said, "We're lucky to have him."
Fr. Schug was so generous with his findings, and we were happy to help
whenever possible: My sister and I, and a friend, Michael Simone (an actor
and director), translated an article from Italian for him, and he generously
"Dear Jeanette, Thank you, my dear friend, for your translation of the article
from GENTE. "It is manna from heaven, not only because it gives me an important
reference to the "flying monk" incident, but because the events of the past week seem to be
telling me that Padre Pio is up to his old tricks of making coincidences happen."
(Letter to Jeanette Salerno, July 12, 1995)
What was so touching was how warmly he ended his letters:
"Please give my love and blessings to Joan. God be with you.
Love, in Jesus thru Mary, Fr. John"
And God be with you, Fr. Schug. Rest in Peace.
Fr.Schug at an amphitheater in L'Aquila, on our pilgrimage to Padre Pio in 1994.
We were blessed to have this Padre Pio disciple as our spiritual director.
Fr. Schug knew to ask the right questions in his research and make the
proper determinations in the things he saw and heard. His remarkable
book, "A Padre Pio Profile," contains fascinating observations and tales
of 29 people 'close' to Padre Pio. . .and he added a Postscript about
Pope John Paul II's May, 1987 visit to the Sanctuary and Hospital in
SGR. He included some excerpts of the Pope's message, and wrote,
"I consider them only a breath short of canonization of Padre Pio."
He interviewed Fr. Joseph Pius Martin for this book:
"Few Capuchins (perhaps none) were closer to Padre Pio. I began this
precious interview by asking him about his background." This interview is
a 'must read' for us all.
One of the things he worked on adamantly was clearing away the
misinformation that claimed Padre Pio warned of the 'Three Days of
Darkness.' Padre Pio did not! Fr. Schug's article was published in
"homiletic and pastoral Review," June 1998. It was precise and
comprehensive; it helped to clear the air on the subject for anyone
who would read it...and believe it. Easier said than done.
Below is a brief excerpt from that article:
One voice among many who protested the
alleged Padre Pio connection with the Three
Days of Darkness was Joseph Peterson.We
FR. Gerardo Di Flumeri, OFM, Cap.
Padre Gerardo Di Flumeri was the Vice Postulator of Padre Pio's Cause for Beatification
and Canonization. That meant he knew everything about Padre Pio!
All of Padre Gerardo's writings have a gentle voice, convincing like a slow,
steady ascent to the final heavenly conclusion. When I interviewed him in 1987,
I sat on the other side of his desk as he carefully enunciated in English. I could
feel the intellect that seemed to permeate the air. His mind, his heart, held all
that information and love for Padre Pio. Every last but important detail. Yet,
one felt at ease talking to him because of his unflappable calm. His gentleness.
At least to me.
In these photos, we see
the documentation of Padre Pio's life placed in folders and then sealed with wax and 'red tape' for
consignment to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Fr. DiFlumeri, here on the left in these
pictures, with the Postulator General (below) signing for the documents.
Dear Padre Gerardo watching
all the documentation (104 volumes) being sealed with wax seals, then to be consigned to the
congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican. The documentation took years of Padre Gerardo's untiring work, sacrificing his health. . . . Can't you imagine that loving heart beating a little faster this moment, as he held back the emotion?
So imagine my surprise when I read his account of Padre Pio's Beatification day
and discovered the sweet, happy, childlike heart of this implacable wise man beating away. . .
"I had just put on the sacred vestments and was ready for the
concelebration presided over by the Holy Father John Paul II when I
was overcome by strong desire. To look at the crowd which had come to
the beatification ceremony of the Venerable Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
I was with the other priests, bishops and cardinals in the right wing of
Saint Peter's Basilica. . .To reach the main entrance I had to walk quite
a long way, which was a considerable effort for my poor heart since
I had had a heart attack. . .
" I plucked up courage and asked one of the guards. I timidly expressed
my wish and waited in silence for a few minutes. How surprised I was
when one of them said with the most amiable smile: 'But certainly, Father!'
and opened the door for me. I rushed out of the basilica and stopped in the
church porch, from where I could see all those present.
"My heart gave a sudden leap and I remained speechless. From the
entrance of the basilica up to the Tiber, an immense crowd filled all the areas
prepared to receive the faithful; the areas to the right and the left... the area
where it was possible to sit comfortably and the remaining area where it was
only possible to remain standing. There was complete order; that immense
sea of people was motionless. . .
"While I looked in ecstasy at this superb spectacle, I was favourably
struck by another element, which reigned supreme on this heterogeneous
people who had come from all parts of Italy and the world: silence. This
people was silent. . . But this silence was not just something unusual in
the presence of such a vast multitude, it was also the natural habitat,
without which that sacred ceremony could not have taken place, nor would
it have taken place decorously. It was not an imposed silence, but a requested
silence as a necessity of the spirit when faced with the sacred. In this silence
one did not even hear soft whispers or slight murmurs. . .From time to time
there welled up the consoling sound of tears. . .And finally, emotion: a deep
and extended emotion, that like a blanket covered all that multitude of people.
But also an emotion that was restrained with dignity, that did not manifest
itself unbecomingly nor was it out of place. "
In my book, Padre Pio and Children, (soon to be published), I noted Padre Gerardo's
remembrance of the Midnight Mass of Padre Pio, and how Padre Pio "would await
in anticipation of Christmas for all the days of the year." (Voice, #12/1997).
Then, when Christmas came, Padre Gerardo wrote of Padre Pio:
". . . that look of wonder, his profound recollection and prayer. . . the
spiritual light surrounding the Padre. . .and his inexpressible
spiritual joy took us all aback."
"I will always remember that Christmas of 1963 that I spent with
Padre Pio, my beloved and venerable spiritual father." (Voice 12, 1993)
Do we not feel this "spiritual joy" nearly bursting from
Fr. Gerardo as he looked out over the sea of people awaiting
the Beatification of "my beloved and venerable spiritual father" ?
When my article All That You Can Imagine Is Not All That There Is
appeared in The Voice of Padre Pio in 1993, concerning The Shroud,
Fatima, and Padre Pio, I received a letter dated August 23, 1993, from
my dear friends Eva (RIP) and Matteo Mangiacotti (RIP). Matteo was
a San Giovannese, an altar boy for Padre Pio, who became a Vice-Consul
of Italy in the U.S. and now lived again with gracious, generous, beautiful
Eva, in his hometown of SGR, retired. (Matteo had many a Padre Pio story
to tell.) Matteo closed his letter with: "I, and also Padre Gerardo, wish to
thank you for [the] article on the 3 outstanding spiritual events in our century,
article which we find very interesting and appropriate. "
I, too, then...feel that childlike joy nearly bursting from my heart, knowing
Padre Gerardo, with all his knowledge of Padre Pio, was still appreciative
of my small effort.
What tender, unexpected graces were sent my way. . .to have known
these confreres and friends of Padre Pio, and to have received kindnesses
and blessings from all of them. JS