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St. Padre Pio - Franciscan capuchin who bore the stigmata!

Stories of Padre Pio
Italian Capuchin priest who bore the Stigmata
Padre Pio is now Saint Pio!

Chapter 10


"...let us eat and rejoice, because this my son was dead and he has come back to life; he was lost and he has been found." -Luke 15:23-24

In a certain sense, all of us who have heard the call to San Giovanni Rotondo and have followed it are "converts." It does not matter from what country or social background we have come, nor does it matter whether we were atheists, Masons, Communists, Protestants, Orthodox, or simply lukewarm or bad Catholics. All of a sudden, Padre Pio is there: he resembles a falcon that searches out its prey before bringing it to God. It is easier to follow him than to resist.

But what is a "conversion"? A conversion is a happy transformation in Christ with which we receive the joy of faith, fervor for the Commandments and love for the Sacraments. And with that we begin a new life that leads to our salvation, which Christ's fervent souls desire so ardently for all men. Padre Pio pointed out this way of salvation to innumerable souls.

Alberto Del Fante writes in his book Per la Storia, "I didn't hesitate to say that I was a Mason, an atheist; I didn't believe in anything. Padre Pio has given me life in every aspect: Today I pray, I hear Holy Mass every Sunday, I'm pleased when my children, before they eat, make the Sign of the Holy Cross to thank God, who gives us 'our daily bread.' Today I receive Communion and I am happy when God comes into my body. Whoever will have my courage will have my happiness."

All of Padre Pio's converts talk about this "happiness". Nestor Caterinovich, who once belonged to Russian Orthodoxy and after meeting Padre Pio converted to the Catholic Faith, along with his whole family, could not talk enough about this happiness. "Padre Pio has triumphed over our hearts," he used to say to his friends with emotion, "but along with his triumph, he has gained for us such happiness that we can do no less than come to his monastery as often as possible to show him the continuous gratitude of our souls."

I myself, in one of my first visits to San Giovanni Rotondo, remember having been surprised when a celebrated engineer from Milan spoke openly about the great happiness he gained through Padre Pio. After twenty-six years he had returned to the Church and the Sacraments, and without any human respect he told us how it had happened. His best friend, a spiritual son of Padre Pio, had often invited the man to accompany him to San Giovanni Rotondo, but he had always refused. Whenever the engineer's friend returned from San Giovanni Rotondo, he said, "I have prayed for you and also recommended you to Padre Pio." "You're wasting your time! I'm too attached to my sins," was the engineer's constant answer.

One day the friend brought him a little photograph of Padre Pio, which he put in his pocket only to please the friend. A few days later, when he was coming home from an outing, he sensed around himself a strong burning odor which he could not explain. He ran home, followed by this burning odor. "What is it?" he asked himself, disturbed. "Your extremely bad life," an inner voice seemed to tell him. This thought, this sudden perception of the inner voice of his conscience, was to him as inexplicable as the burning odor that still surrounded him. Suddenly everything was clear to him: "I must change my life!" And to his own astonishment, he told himself: "I have to go to Padre Pio!"

On the following day he left for San Giovanni Rotondo. He registered for Confession to Padre Pio but had to wait a few days. This wait for him was full of doubts and temptations, and he often asked himself, "But what am I doing here? What do I have to do with Padre Pio?" Still he stayed, and when his turn came, he made an excellent Confession to Padre Pio with which, as he himself said, he received a new life and a happiness he had never before known.

Since it is not possible within the limits of one chapter to explain even the smallest part of the huge number of conversions obtained by Padre Pio, I will choose a few examples particularly well suited to give a better knowledge of Padre Pio and his priestly mission for souls.


Alberto Del Fante, the writer and first biographer of Padre Pio, who by his writings led thousands and thousands of people to San Giovanni Rotondo, used to be a fervent Freemason. As a Mason, he had also written some harsh articles against Padre Pio in the Florentine magazine Italia Laica, without even having met him. However, a prodigious healing - attributed to Padre Pio's prayers - of Del Fante's nephew, for whom the doctors had left no hope, stirred in him a desire to go to see Padre Pio. He undertook the trip to San Giovanni Rotondo out of curiosity and with much skepticism, but when he saw Padre Pio and assisted at his Holy Mass, he was so struck that he changed his life; he went on to become a militant Catholic and one of Padre Pio's most fervent and zealous spiritual children.

From then on, Alberto Del Fante devoted his life to the propagation of the Faith, especially among his Masonic former brethren. His book Dal dubbio alla fede (From Doubts to Faith) aroused in many the desire to go to Padre Pio, and from him they more easily found the way back to the Church. Not infrequently, Alberto Del Fante acted as a mediator between Padre Pio and his former brethren. Thus, one day one of Del Fante's friends, who belonged to the Masonic lodge of Bologne but had for some time followed with interest Del Fante's writings about Padre Pio, asked Alberto to have Padre Pio bless an image of St. Francis of Assisi, which the friend had been carrying around a while in his pocket.

Later on, when Del Fante went to San Giovanni Rotondo and wanted to get the image blessed, Padre Pio told him: "It belongs to a Mason, but a Mason who has St. Francis in his pocket already has the spirit of the Faith." In fact, shortly after Del Fante had brought back to his friend the image blessed by Padre Pio, the latter wanted to go to San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio later guided him to conversion. From San Giovanni Rotondo, the man wrote back to his friend Del Fante: "I am happy...I could not take a better step in my life than this; for that I thank you too!"

Dr. George Festa was the medical practitioner entrusted by the religious authorities with the task of pursuing research on Padre Pio's wounds. Later on he explained the results of his research in his book Mysteries of Science and Lights of Faith. He also reported the extraordinary conversion of his cousin, the lawyer Cesare Festa, former mayor of Arenzano of Genoa and one of the most eminent personalities in Ligurian Freemasonry.

Dr. Festa had often described to his cousin his impressions of his visits to San Giovanni Rotondo. The doctor's opinions about Padre Pio's wounds, which were scientifically inexplicable, and his admiration for Padre Pio were often the cause of sharp arguments between the two cousins. One day, however, the lawyer Festa left for San Giovanni Rotondo. When he reached the monastery, he asked some of the friars about Padre Pio, who himself happened to be among them. Without waiting for the lawyer to introduce himself, Padre Pio walked over to him and, greeting him affably, said,

"You, Sir, have come among us, although you're a Freemason!"
The lawyer Festa, a bit astonished, answered frankly: "Yes, Father!"
"And what is your mission in Freemasonry?" Padre Pio asked him.
The lawyer, with the same frankness, answered: "To fight the Church from the political point of view."

The rest may now be told by Dr. Festa, who wrote some memorable pages about the conversion of his cousin:

There was a brief moment of silence, after which the pious priest took him by the hand, looked him in the eye at some length with limitless pity and tenderness and then, taking the lawyer with him, he began to tell him the parable of the Prodigal Son, putting the greatness of the Father's mercy in such a vivid light in contrast with the moral misery of the son that the educated and intelligent man, who a little before had fought against my dialectic with the most harsh and violent battles in favor of his sect, wanted to fall prostrate at his feet, desiring only to hear from his lips a word of comfort, pardon and love! Thus, after more than twenty-five years, during which he had lost all touch with the Church, the Sacraments and prayer and was fed constantly by ideas contrary to the Faith, he was moved and happy and bowed down before the great majesty of that Word who is the joy and consolation of strong spirits.
In the Confession of his errors, he wanted to impose on himself a complete renunciation of the false ideas he had pursued until then. In the Holy Eucharist, which he has since had continually in his heart, he began to acquire the energy necessary to undertake new, more moving and glorious battles. Although that day he had declared, along with a solemn abjuration of his wretched past, that in the future he would, with faith, follow only the teachings of Christ's Church, and although he had manifested his intention to officially give up his office within the sect at once, nevertheless, in consideration of the delicate tasks Festa had taken on, Padre Pio prudently suggested to wait until the Lord Himself, at the opportune moment, would show him the way!

From Foggia, Dr. Festa received the following letter from his cousin:

I'm coming back from San Giovanni Rotondo and I'm on my way to Genoa. Allow me to embrace you and tell you with all the strength of my soul: thank you! You have opened for me a road I am going to follow. I return with a profound sweetness in my soul, deeply moved and desiring silence, silence so that nothing may disturb my spirit.

In his account, Dr. Festa continues:

At Genoa, after this first episode, his life changed radically; he wanted to be in touch with the most enlightened priests of the city; he devoted himself to works of charity; he frequented the House of God assiduously, prayed, meditated...


How did we become acquainted with Padre Pio? How was it that Padre Pio, without leaving his monastery in the Gargano mountains, became known throughout the world? It was Padre Pio's spiritual children and the photographs of him that made him known almost everywhere. Every one of us came to Padre Pio through one of his spiritual sons or daughters; and before we got to know him personally, somebody had already given us a photograph of him, which made his face and his person familiar to us.

Above all, it was his spiritual children of the "first hour" - that original little group of grateful people who were either converted or healed - who led innumerable souls to Padre Pio with their words and example, prayers and writings. This little group, which was around since day one, included an American and a German, both of whom came from Protestantism. As spiritual children of Padre Pio - truly good fruit from a good tree - they went on to become excellent instruments of Divine Providence for Padre Pio's mission.

Mary McAlpin Pyle of New York, who had once belonged to the Protestant Presbyterian Church, was led by Padre Pio to the Catholic Faith. Above all, she was struck by Padre Pio's Holy Mass, which made her decide to stay at San Giovanni Rotondo. At that time, the monastery was confined to its original solitude; there were no outskirts, no houses, no hotels or other places to find lodging. The inhabited areas were nearly a mile and a quarter away. So Mary Pyle's mother, once she saw that her daughter found all her happiness in living near Padre Pio's monastery, had a villa built just a few steps away from the monastery; this villa later became a welcoming house for everything related to Franciscan life. Mary herself became a Franciscan tertiary and dedicated herself to the development of the Third Order, which flourished in the shadow, or rather in the light, of Padre Pio's monastery.

Mary used all her talent as a highly cultured lady, an accomplished musician and multi-lingual person to serve the Church and the Capuchin Order. In her house, which among other things was the center of the Schola Cantorum of Our Lady of Grace Shrine, there were always many foreign visitors who desired to learn something about Padre Pio's life from this woman who followed him virtually from the beginning and could describe some moving episodes with a grace all her own.

Taken from Stories of Padre Pio by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

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