Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Touched by Padre Pio's guardian angels

PURPLE SHADES By Letty Jacinto-Lopez Updated July 26, 2009 12:00 AM

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The main altar at the church where Padre Pio used to say Mass

It was 1965. My brother and sister-in-law (“sis” for short) had wanted to have a baby in the first five years of their married life but all attempts failed. Anxious and getting desperate, my sis agreed to travel to a then-sleepy town called San Giovanni Rotondo — about a four-hour drive from Rome, Italy — to meet Padre Pio, the Capuchin friar who bore the nail wounds of Jesus on the cross.

She said, “I waited for three hours at the confessional room. Finally, I saw Padre Pio motioning to me to speak. I was holding my knees to keep them from shaking. My confession was brief but I felt that he knew that I was there for something more important. After giving me the Absolution, he looked up and whispered, ‘Next year, you will have a baby boy.’”

“Wow!” my sis exclaimed. “He closed his eyes and made the sign of the cross on my forehead. Immediately, I felt a warm glow, both calming and comforting.”

The following year — as promised by Padre Pio — my sis gave birth to a healthy boy and she named him (you guessed it) Pio. My nephew, Pio, is now 43 years old, happily married and a loving father to two kids.

All the time, one teeny question kept popping into my head: “How did my sister-in-law and Padre Pio communicate? She didn’t speak a word of Italian, nor did Padre Pio speak English.

Simple. Padre Pio’s guardian angel had acted as his translator and spokesman. “You don’t say!” I yelped. “Yes,” said my sis. “I heard Padre Pio speak to me in English!” Still, I was not completely convinced. Maybe there was a hidden booth somewhere with UN-trained translators. That is, until I read a similar incident written by Father Alessio Parente, author of the book on Padre Pio entitled Send Me Your Guardian Angel:

“A little American girl was brought to Padre Pio so that he could hear her first confession. Since she didn’t speak a word of Italian, an American religious sister by the name of Mary Pyle, who was close to Father Pio, brought the little girl to him. ‘Father, I’m here to help you as this little girl doesn’t understand any Italian at all.’

“‘Mary,’ said Padre Pio, ‘you can go, as the little one and I will take care of this.’ Mary Pyle waited outside and when the little girl emerged from confession, she asked her, ‘Did Padre Pio understand you?’ ‘Yes,’ came the reply. Mary, a little surprised, asked one more question: ‘Did he speak in English?’ ‘Yes, in English,’ said the little girl.”

If you enter the area called Ricordi di Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, you will walk into a room containing some of Padre Pio’s memorabilia. You will see thousands of letters from devotees all over the world encased in glass cabinets. It was a known fact that Padre Pio could only read, write and speak in Italian yet he was able to reply to these letters. How? He counted on his multi-lingual guardian angel and kept him busy and on his toes, in his “translation booth,” so to speak, all the time.

Padre Pio kept an active and vivacious relationship with all guardian angels — including his own — fulfilling a promise he made long ago to all his spiritual children that “If you are too busy to see me, send your guardian angel!” (Note: A special liaison that Padre Pio promised to continue even after his death.)

For example, there was a woman who never failed to attend the daily Mass celebrated by Padre Pio. One day, she was running late so she sent her guardian angel to Padre Pio to “delay” the Mass so she wouldn’t miss it. As a sign that her guardian angel would do this task for her, she told him to hide the skullcap of Padre Pio. When she reached the church, there was Padre Pio, indeed a little late, but ready to say Holy Mass. The woman confessed to Padre Pio what she did. Nonchalantly, Padre Pio replied, “I know that. Your guardian angel hid my skullcap and I could not find it in the usual place and only pointed me to where he kept it after a few minutes.” This guardian angel had played “hide and seek” with Padre Pio in complete obedience to his ward.

A Capuchin brother used to hear Padre Pio talking to himself in his private cubicle. This got him very curious so he asked Padre Pio, “Who were you talking to?” Padre Pio replied, “Guardian angels. They came with petitions and requests and they kept me up late again last night.”

Mind you, Padre Pio was physically beaten up and tormented by the devil, but he remained unyielding, thanks to the encouragement and protection of his personal guardian angel.

There are many more amusing stories of Padre Pio’s interaction with guardian angels and when I finished reading these inspiring stories, I was struck by Padre Pio’s consistent reminder not to forget the Virgin Mother. In the thick of all these amazing “save and rescue” operations, we must remember that our beloved Mary is the Queen of all Angels. They would not have made any move without her stamp of blessed approval (or is it “blessed conspiracy”?).

Incidentally, Padre Pio also had something to say about our tears. “Your tears are collected by the angels and are placed in a gold chalice and you will find them when you present yourself before God.” Now, who wouldn’t want to cry me a river or gather a bucket of tears or let the floodgates (of tears) open?

After a full day of touring San Giovanni Rotondo which included a private Mass in the same church where Padre Pio said Mass, watching videos on Padre Pio’s ministry, shopping for some religious souvenirs and posing for a group photo, Father Dave Concepcion, our tour chaplain, gave us something to think about. “You will notice that all the saints manifest three deep loves in their lives: the love for God, the love for the Holy Eucharist, and the love for Mama Mary.”

I turned to my co-pilgrims and said, “Hey, doesn’t that apply to us as well? Could it be possible that we can also become saints, someday?”

They all laughed — nervously, but maybe hopefully, too.

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