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Padre Pio Devotions
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The life and spirituality of St. Pio of Pietrelcina
The life and spirituality of St. Pio of Pietrelcina

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A Good Friday Meditation: Jesus on the Cross said these beautiful and sad words – I am thirsty (John 19:28). Since then, throughout the ages, all of humanity has echoed these words . . .Now, O God, with all my heart, I say the sorrowful words, “I am thirsty.” I am thirsty for the peace You alone give, which transforms life; for the stability and living refreshment that only exists in You. I am thirsty for light, thirsty to know, to see, to possess, as we shall see and possess in eternity. I am thirsty for the profound sensitivity and the tenderness that can read hearts, and for a close and strong union with You . . . I am thirsty for immortality, that complete flourishing of the soul beyond this transitory world. I am thirsty for life, the only Life, abundant and eternal, with all our loves restored in the heart of infinite Love. My God, I am thirsty for You.

- Elisabeth Leseur
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Padre Pio’s Friends from San Giovanni Rotondo, Bolzano, and Genoa - Three Testimonies

Pietro (Pietruccio) Cugino, of San Giovanni Rotondo was just six years old when his father took him to see Padre Pio for the first time. As time passed, Padre Pio grew to love Pietruccio with a fatherly affection. He gave Pietruccio instructions in the Catholic faith and prepared him to receive his first Holy Communion.

In the early days, farmers brought their sheep, horses, and donkeys to the monastery to be blessed by Padre Pio. Pietruccio often helped herd the animals onto the square just outside the church.

When Pietruccio was twelve years old, he contracted an incurable eye disease and lost his sight. Even though he was blind, he still found many ways to assist Padre Pio. He liked picking the special wild herbs that Padre Pio enjoyed in his salad.

Twice a day he went to the post office to collect the mail for the Capuchins. He did the shopping for the Capuchins as well. He became so familiar with the monastery and the surrounding area that he did not need a cane to get about. He knew every stone, every turn, every step and incline by heart. He became almost a permanent fixture at the monastery.

Padre Pio once said to some of his friends, “Consider the fact that Pietruccio is indeed fortunate. Because of his blindness, he is not able to see the sinful and evil things in this world.” As a matter of fact, Pietruccio used to thank God that he was blind because through it, he felt that he received many extra graces from Padre Pio, graces that were not give to others. He was allowed to go to Padre Pio’s cell whenever he wanted to. He would often visit Padre Pio in his cell in the evening and stay until Padre Pio got in bed. Then he would kneel at his bedside to receive his blessing.

Through the many years of their friendship, Padre Pio kept Pietruccio at his side. When he was weak and unsteady on his feet, he used to say to Pietruccio, “You lend me your arm and I will lend you my eyes.” He would lean upon Pietruccio’s strong arm when he walked from the monastery to the church.

When Padre Pio became advanced in years, due to his many ailments, he sometimes had difficulty changing his clothing. Pietruccio counted it a privilege to assist him. Each morning, Pietruccio was given a great honor. He preceded Padre Pio out of the sacristy when it was time for the Mass to begin and was allowed to stand very close to the altar for the duration of the Mass.

For Pietruccio, just to be near Padre Pio was a great, inestimable gift. It filled him with a deep joy, a joy that sustained him in all the ups and downs of his life. Every morning when Pietruccio woke up, he would reflect on the previous day. In his mind, he would go over everything that Padre Pio had said and done. Because he loved Padre Pio so much, he wanted to savor every memory.

The Capuchins trusted Pietruccio so completely that they gave him his own key to the monastery. He usually took his meals with Padre Pio and the other Capuchins in the monastery dining room. A special cell was reserved for him so that in inclement weather, he could sleep inside the monastery rather than return to his home.

Once, Pietruccio told Padre Pio that he had a great fear. “Padre Pio,” Pietruccio said. “I feel that as long as you are alive, you will always be near to help me. But because of my blindness, I worry about my future. What will happen to me after your death? Who will take care of me?” “The God who helped us yesterday, helps us today, and will help us tomorrow,” Padre Pio replied. “He wants us to abandon ourselves completely into his care.”

A few days before Padre Pio died, he said to Pietruccio, “I am sorry but I have to leave you.” “What do you mean?” Pietruccio asked. “Let us pray about it,” Padre Pio replied. Padre Pio died a few days later.

Pietruccio felt shattered by Padre Pio’s death. The thought of never seeing Padre Pio again was almost too much for him to bear. He began to feel, for the first time in his life, the full weight of his blindness. As he reflected on it, he became convinced that when Padre Pio was alive, he had carried the cross of his blindness for him. At that time, it did not seem to Pietruccio that it was a burden to be blind. But after Padre Pio passed away, he truly felt that it was a heavy cross. ➕

Aurilio Montalvo of Bolzano, Italy visited San Giovanni Rotondo in order to make his confession to Padre Pio and to attend his Mass. He returned a number of times and felt so inspired that he decided to move there permanently with his wife and four children. He bought a hotel close to the monastery and from the income of the hotel, he was able to provide for his family and take care of all of their needs.

Aurilio had a brother who was a nonbeliever. He had never met Padre Pio. He made a trip to San Giovanni Rotondo right after Padre Pio passed away. Before Padre Pio’s funeral, he had a desire to view Padre Pio’s body when it was lying in state. However, it was so crowded in the church that the Capuchins decided it would be best to lock the doors. He was never able to see Padre Pio, not even in death.

One day Aurilio and his brother had a talk about Padre Pio. Aurilio’s brother told him that he really had no feeling for Padre Pio. He certainly did not believe that he was a saint. All the talk about Padre Pio left him cold and completely indifferent.

Not long after their conversation, Aurilio’s brother walked over to the church of Our Lady of Grace and sat alone on one of the back benches. Suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder and heard a stern voice. He turned to see who it was but there was no one there. He became frightened and immediately got up and moved to another bench the church.

A second time, he heard an authoritative voice and felt someone touch his shoulder. He looked in all directions but there was no one there. He was so frightened that he broke out in a cold sweat. How could he hear someone talking and feel someone touching his shoulder when no one was there?

The next time Aurilio saw his brother, he heard every detail of the unusual story. “How does someone go about making their confession?” his brother asked. Aurilio was happy to talk to him about the sacrament in great detail. “How does one prepare himself to make his first Holy Communion?” his brother asked. Again, Aurilio was very glad to explain it to him.

That night Aurilio’s brother had a dream. Padre Pio was standing beside him with a Rosary in his hand and taught him how to pray. The dream marked the beginning of his conversion. Right after that, he asked to be received into the Catholic Church. From that time forward, he lived a very devout life. ➕

There was a man from Genoa, Italy who had been away from the church for most of his life. On one occasion, one of his friends asked him to deliver a letter to Padre Pio. The man was uncomfortable around priests and tried to steer clear of anything that had to do with religion. He wanted nothing to do with it. But since he was not too far from San Giovanni Rotondo at the time, he agreed to deliver the letter. The letter needed an immediate reply.

When the man knocked on the monastery door, one of the Capuchins directed him to the sacristy. “Just wait here. Padre Pio will be down soon to take the letter,” the Capuchin said.
When Padre Pio came to the sacristy, he exchanged a few words with the man.

Unimpressed by the encounter, the man wanted to leave the monastery as soon as possible. “I just need a reply to this letter and then I will be on my way,” the man said. “I understand,” Padre Pio replied. “And what about you? Do you want to make your confession while you are here?” “Oh no, I do not care to. I do not even go to church,” the man said. “When was the last time you made your confession?” Padre Pio asked. “It was when I was seven years old,” the man answered.

Padre Pio suddenly became stern, “How long do you plan on living such a worthless and disgusting life?” Suddenly a light seemed to penetrate the man’s mind. He realized that Padre Pio was right. He had been living a meaningless existence for years. All at once, he knew that he needed to change. The man made a sincere confession to Padre Pio and left the monastery completely transformed. ➕

“We make a quiet act of faith; we believe in God, we believe in God’s interest in us, and we believe that he sees and hears us. We accept his will in all its details, especially in the dereliction which we experience. We put our whole reliance on the prayer of Christ of whom we are members, and with whom we have all things in common, especially his prayer. We rely on the spirit of Christ, who is within us and prays in us in an ineffable way. In other words, we quietly and gently begin to abandon ourselves, and to unite ourselves to Christ, by relying on him alone. He is our all . . . He is working for our detachment from all creatures - even from ourselves. All his providence is directed to that end. We can be just as much attached to our spiritual goods and attainments, to our spiritual joys and powers, as we can be to the temporal. For complete union with God, and for the bearing of “more fruit” these attachments must be purged.”

- Father Eugene Boylan, O.C.S.O.

Mario Bruschi's encounter with Padre Pio: A Life-Changing Experience

In the summer of 1957, Mario Bruschi and his mother Adele, traveled from their home in New York City to the town of Ponte Strambo, in northern Italy, to visit relatives. Mario's mother had just read a biography of Padre Pio which she had enjoyed immensely. She shared some of the details of Padre Pio's life with Mario.

Adele decided that she wanted to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend Padre Pio's Mass and she asked Mario to accompany her. But to twenty-three-year-old Mario, the prospect did not sound very interesting. He was having a great time in Ponte Strambo, meeting new friends and going dancing at the local night clubs in the area. At that time in his life, his Catholic faith meant very little to him. To him, there were a lot more interesting things to do rather than to go to a monastery to see an elderly friar. He declined his mother's invitation.

Mario's aunt Rina spoke to him about Adele's plan to visit San Giovanni Rotondo. "Your mother should not make the trip alone," his aunt said. "It will be much safer if you go with her." Mario realized the truth of his aunt's words and finally agreed to accompany his mother. He thought that they would probably spend one day at Padre Pio's monastery and then be on their way home. He wanted to spend as much of the summer as he could with his new found friends in Ponte Strambo.

Mario was irritated with his mother for not telling him until after they boarded the train, that it would be no less than a twelve-hour trip to get to San Giovanni Rotondo. When they finally arrived at the monastery of Our Lady of Grace, the first order of business was to get a ticket for Padre Pio's confessional. Adele was informed that she would have to wait ten days for her number to be called.

The thought of being stuck in San Giovanni Rotondo for ten long days was very difficult for Mario to accept. There was the monastery and the church and practically nothing else in the area. Adele encouraged Mario to get a ticket for the confessional and told him that she was certain that he would not regret it. It would be a wonderful opportunity. Reluctantly, he asked for a ticket from the Capuchin in the booking office.

As the days passed, Mario and Adele learned the daily routine of the pilgrims in San Giovanni Rotondo. Everything revolved around the small church of Our Lady of Grace. Almost all of the visitors to San Giovanni Rotondo spent their days in the church because that was where they could find Padre Pio. The Capuchins would frequently stand at the front of the church and order everyone to stop talking. "Silencio!" they would repeat, but no one paid any attention to them. However, when Padre Pio called for order in the church, everyone stopped talking at once.

Mario and his mother attended Padre Pio's early morning Mass which began at 5:00 a.m. For the pilgrims, it was the highlight of the day. For Mario, it was a test of patience. It was the longest weekday Mass that he had ever attended in his life. Because Padre Pio became deeply absorbed in prayer during the Holy Sacrifice, there were frequent and extended periods of silence. Mario found himself becoming annoyed with the time it took for Padre Pio to say the Mass. To him, it seemed excessive.

Because the little church was too small to accommodate the crowds and because of the summer heat, the Mass was held in an outdoor arcade. Mario attended the Mass each morning with his mother. He made sure to avoid making eye contact with Padre Pio. Having heard that Padre Pio had the gift of reading hearts, the thought of direct eye contact with him made Mario feel uncomfortable.

It was the custom for the Capuchins to invite the pilgrims who had traveled from a distance to serve at Padre Pio's Mass. Mario was asked if he would like to be an altar server but he declined the invitation. Kneeling on the hard stone by the altar for such a long period of time was not something that he wanted to attempt.

As the days passed, the annoyance that Mario had initially felt during Padre Pio's Mass, vanished. Instead, he began to feel greatly uplifted. Although the Mass still lasted the same length of time, for some reason the time no longer seemed to drag, but instead passed quickly. Mario watched Padre Pio's movements closely. Sometimes Padre Pio's eyes would twitch. At times, he would stare upwards in a fixed spot and remain completely motionless. He seemed to be seeing something that no one else could see. His deep communion with God was very evident.

Each day at noon, Mario and his mother attended the public recitation of the Angelus. Daily, Padre Pio blessed religious articles, and on occasion he also blessed automobiles and sometimes even animals. In the late afternoon, Mario and his mother attended the Rosary followed by the Benediction service in the church. In the evening, they joined the other pilgrims who made their way to an open field outside the monastery. With lighted candles, they waited for Padre Pio to come to the little window of his cell. All would wave to him and bid him goodnight.

One afternoon, Mario walked into the monastery church of Our Lady of Grace while a wedding was in progress. Padre Pio happened to be the celebrant that day. Mario had his camera with him at the time and was happy for the opportunity to take some photos. Padre Pio noticed that Mario was taking pictures and motioned for one of the Capuchins to speak to him. He was informed that he was not allowed to take photographs inside the church, so he quickly put his camera away. He was happy that he had been able to take about seven pictures before he was advised to stop.

When he went to get the film developed, all of the pictures came out blank. He asked the film developer for an explanation since he had used brand-new film but no reason for the malfunction could be discovered. Later, Mario learned that it was not unusual for photos to come out blank on the occasions when Padre Pio did not want to be photographed.

Another time, Mario happened to be in the sacristy of the church as Padre Pio was putting on his vestments in preparation for Benediction. Padre Pio first wrapped a short, white cloth called an amice, around his neck and shoulders. Next came the long linen tunic called an alb, then the rope (cincture) which he placed around his waist, and finally the stole which he put around his shoulders, over the alb. The moment that Padre Pio put on the amice, Mario perceived the beautiful fragrance of roses filling the sacristy.

Mario's attitude underwent a change as the days passed. There were a peace and serenity in San Giovanni Rotondo that could be tangibly felt. It seemed to envelop the whole town. Mario described the beautiful church of Our Lady of Grace as "Heaven on earth."

The day for Mario to make his confession to Padre Pio finally arrived. He grew increasingly nervous as the time approached. He had heard about Padre Pio's gifts of discernment and dreaded the thought that Padre Pio might be able to read his soul. Mario was afraid that Padre Pio might be able to see the sins in his life of which he was very much ashamed.

Mario was standing near the front of the confessional line when he saw an incident that filled his heart with trepidation. Padre Pio, in a voice full of authority, reprimanded a man and ordered him out of the confessional. Deeply embarrassed, and with his cheeks flushed red, the man had no other recourse but to walk past all the men who were waiting in the line. Everyone saw what had happened.

Upon seeing the unfortunate man leave the church, Mario lost his courage. He began to tremble and to fear the worst. He hoped that it was time for the confessions to end for the morning, but no such luck. "The same thing will probably happen to me, as happened to that poor man," Mario said to himself. "After all, I am not in the best shape spiritually. I have been negligent in the practice of my faith for a long time. I am sure that Padre Pio will see it at once."

Mario told the man who was standing behind him in line that he could go in front of him. "But Padre Pio is pointing at you. He wants to see you," the man replied. Mario looked in Padre Pio's direction and found that it was indeed true. Padre Pio was looking directly at Mario and beckoning him to come into the confessional. The man standing behind Mario in line gave him a shove forward.

At that time, the men's confessions were heard in an open confessional in the sacristy of the church. Padre Pio sat on a chair and a wooden kneeler was placed in front of him. A curtain was provided for privacy.

Very slowly, Mario walked toward the confessional. Slowly, he reached for the curtain and pulled it closed. He was hoping that by his slow and deliberate movements, he would have at least a few minutes to buy some time to collect himself and to regain his composure.

After Mario closed the curtain and knelt down, Padre Pio patted his hand lovingly and said to him gently, "Be tranquil, my son. Calm yourself." The words seemed to be charged with power for at once Mario felt a great tranquility, a wonderful peace take possession of his soul. The trembling in his body stopped altogether.

Padre Pio then asked Mario a number of questions. "Do you say your morning prayers?" Padre Pio asked. "No, I do not," Mario replied. "Do you say your night prayers?" Padre Pio asked. Once again Mario had to say no. "Do you tell lies?" "Yes, I have told lies," Mario replied. It went on like that with more questions, more admissions. Padre Pio seemed to know exactly the right questions to ask. They were all related to Mario's areas of weakness. Mario had the feeling that Padre Pio knew the answers to the questions, even before he asked them. Mario had no need to tell his sins; Padre Pio was naming them for him.

As Padre Pio continued with his questions, Mario could not help but stare at him. Padre Pio's face was beautiful. There was a luminous quality about it, something Mario had never seen before. Mario felt like he was looking at goodness itself. Padre Pio's cheeks were rosy. He looked robust and healthy. Most impressive of all were his clear and penetrating eyes.

Mario stared at Padre Pio in awe. He was at a loss for words. He felt himself lifted into a heavenly place. A deep and profound feeling of spiritual joy coursed through his body and his soul. Padre Pio's eyes were piercing his spirit. He felt that Christ himself was there hearing his confession.

Mario told Padre Pio that he did not know what to do with his life. "I don't know what career to pursue," Mario said. "Could you give me some advice?" "Preghiamo, figiu mi," (Pray, my son) Padre Pio answered. Padre Pio's voice was so sweet, so tender. He spoke Italian in the Pugliese/Neopolitan dialect. Mario felt fortunate that he could understand the dialect.

Mario then asked Padre Pio about a personal matter concerning one of his brothers. Padre Pio's response was, "Pray, my son." Lastly, Mario spoke to Padre Pio about his mother. Once again, Padre Pio advised him, "Pray, my son." Padre Pio was so kind, so gentle. "Go in peace, my son," Padre Pio said as Mario kissed his hand. He gave Mario a blessing. The confession was over but Mario did not want to leave the confessional. He wanted to stay with Padre Pio forever.

The thought came to Mario that if Padre Pio had asked him to stay on in San Giovanni Rotondo, he would have agreed to it in an instant. He would gladly be willing to do any work, no matter how small or menial, just to be able to be near Padre Pio. But Mario knew that was just wishful thinking. He and his mother would soon be going back to the northern part of Italy and later they would return to their home in New York City. Mario thought about the long line of men just a few feet away, waiting patiently for the same opportunity, the same blessing that he had just received. He forced himself to get up and walk out of the confessional.

Later on in the afternoon, Mario saw Father Giovanni Battista who asked him how his confession to Padre Pio had gone. Mario shared that it had been a true gift, a truly "heavenly" experience. "Did Padre Pio say the words, Ego te absolvo?" Father Giovanni Battista asked. "No, he did not," Mario replied. "That means that you received a blessing from Padre Pio but not absolution," Father Giovanni Battista explained. "Don't worry about it, though. Padre Pio on occasion withholds absolution. Believe me. He knows very well what he is doing. He has his own reasons and we trust his judgment completely. He is guided by God. Just follow me into the monastery and I will be able to hear your confession and give you absolution. Padre Pio knows that we Capuchins hear the confessions and give absolution to those who, for one reason or another, have not received absolution from him. That is what we always do in these cases. Everything will be all right."

But Mario was disappointed, deeply disappointed. Although Father Giovanni Battista tried to assure him that everything was all right, in his heart, Mario wondered what had gone wrong.

Many people made their confession to Padre Pio but had no real desire to amend their life. They knew that they would continue to commit the same sins; they were not ready to give them up. It became easy for them to go from sinful acts to confession and right back to the sinful acts. Their souls were in grave danger but they remained completely indifferent to their situation. Padre Pio knew that they had to be shaken out of their spiritual lethargy. Something had to grab their attention. Being denied absolution was a definite "attention-grabber." In this way, Padre Pio let the penitents know that by their own decision, they had forfeited the grace of God. The shock of not receiving absolution often woke them up and brought about the spiritual change that was needed.

Padre Pio was keenly aware of his responsibility to those who made their confession to him. His greatest desire was to help people draw closer to God. It hurt him to see the way people neglected God, their highest good. He wrote a letter to his spiritual director on one occasion and said, "I am alone in bearing the weight of everyone. And the thought of not being able to give some spiritual relief to those that Jesus sends to me, the thought of seeing so many souls who want to justify their sins and thus spite their highest good - afflicts me, tortures me, makes me a martyr. It wears me out, wracks my brain, and breaks my heart."

Mario followed Father Giovanni Battista into the private quarters of the monastery. He made his confession to Father Giovanni Battista and received absolution. He was assured that he was in a state of grace. As they left the small chapel and walked down the corridor, they passed by Padre Pio's cell and noticed that the door was open. A young altar boy was assisting Padre Pio and helping him put his sandals on. Mario was startled to see that Padre Pio's bed was completely covered with letters. The amount of letters was so great that not even the blankets on his bed could be seen.

"Mario, this is your chance," Father Giovanni Battista said. "Padre Pio is in his cell. Stand right by his door and wait for him. You can ask him for the absolution that he did not give you." But Mario did not think that he had the courage to ask Padre Pio for absolution.

Padre Pio walked out of his cell and saw Mario standing in the hall. For some reason, Father Giovanni Battista was no place to be seen. As Padre Pio drew closer, Mario knelt down. "What is it you want?" Padre Pio asked. "I think that you forgot to give me absolution when I made my confession to you," Mario replied. "If it is possible, I would like to receive it at this time."

Padre Pio placed his hands on Mario's head in a blessing, just as he had done before. Mario once again kissed his hand and waited, but the words, "Ego, te absolvo," were not spoken. Padre Pio then started to walk down the corridor but before he had gone even ten steps, he stopped and looked back at Mario. He stared at him in silence. Then he raised his eyes upward and remained motionless for some moments. He then turned and continued to walk down the corridor until he disappeared from view.

The next day, Mario and his mother would be leaving San Giovanni Rotondo to take the train back to Ponte Strambo. Father Giovanni Battista knew that Mario wanted to say goodbye to Padre Pio. He told Mario that Padre Pio would be at the monastery stairway at 11:00 a.m. the next morning. If Mario could be there at the same time, he could receive a final blessing from Padre Pio.

At the appointed time, Mario was standing at the stairs where Father Giovanni Battista had indicated. He was able to speak to Padre Pio briefly. Mario told him that he and his mother were leaving that day and he wanted to bid him goodbye. Padre Pio gave him a final blessing and said, "May the angel of God accompany you on your journey."

As Padre Pio started to walk down the stairs, Mario took hold of his arm to assist him. One of the Capuchins held his other arm for support. As they slowly descended the stairs, Mario could tell that Padre Pio was suffering greatly. Mario knew what a privilege it was to be able to help Padre Pio down the stairs. As they made their way toward the landing, many people were reaching out their hands, trying to touch Padre Pio and speak to him.

Before they left San Giovanni Rotondo to return to Ponte Strambo, Mario's mother, Adele, obtained another ticket for Padre Pio's confessional. She explained to Mario that they were going to have to return to the monastery in just a matter of days. She had been so excited about being able to make her confession to Padre Pio that she forgot to kiss his hand, and she had a great desire to do so. When getting her new ticket, she tried to estimate how many days the wait would be before her number was called. She estimated correctly, for she and Mario returned to the monastery on the very day that her name and number were called. She had a chance to see Padre Pio once again and to kiss his hand. To Adele, it was well worth the twelve-hour train trip.

Mario reflected many times on every detail of his trip to San Giovanni Rotondo. It had been a painful experience for him to realize that Padre Pio had not given him absolution. It caused him to do some very deep soul-searching.

Mario knew that he had been negligent in the practice of his Catholic faith for a long time. Before visiting Padre Pio, Mario had been fully engrossed in worldly pursuits. He was completely indifferent to the state of his soul. The only reason he went to Mass on Sundays was because his mother expected it of him. Other than that, it meant nothing to him. Although he went to confession on occasion, he knew he would go right back to committing the same sins that he had previously confessed. He did not want to give them up.

Visiting Padre Pio had made Mario aware of the great spiritual distance which separated him from God. He came to understand that he had been offending God by his lifestyle. If Padre Pio had not denied him absolution, he probably would never have realized that his soul was in grave danger. The times that he had made his confession in the past had brought no real change for him. But making his confession to Padre Pio marked a turning point in his life. He would never be indifferent to spiritual matters again.

Mario returned to his home in New York City, but it was not to business as usual. In order to learn more about Padre Pio, he bought a biography of his life and read it with great interest. He prayed for Padre Pio's guidance and intercession. He began to attend daily Mass and he also spent time in church in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He asked his pastor if it would be possible to have an all night prayer vigil at the parish. The pastor thought it was a good idea. Mario organized the prayer vigil which began at 9:00 p.m. and continued until 6:00 a.m. the next morning. It was held on the first Friday of the month and was always well-attended.

Continuing his education, Mario graduated from St. John's University in Queens, New York and went on to get his Master's Degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He felt very fortunate to find a very good job with the state of New York in the field of social service.

It was in the beautiful church of Our Lady of Peace in New York City that Mario met his future wife, Sarojini Kannangara, a native of Sri Lanka. They married in 1972. Their first child, Pia Angeli, was a true blessing from God. In 1973, the Bruschis traveled to Sri Lanka to visit Sarojini's family.

While in Sri Lanka, a country that is only 7 percent Catholic, Mario gave a talk on Padre Pio and showed a documentary film of his life. The presentation was very well received by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Mario had only planned on showing the film once while on his vacation in Sri Lanka. He was surprised to receive many requests for additional showings of the film in other parts of the country.

The response to the documentary was so enthusiastic that double showings had to be given on many days. Mario spent almost the entire three weeks of his vacation traveling from one end of Sri Lanka to the other, showing the film. Quite unexpectedly, his first trip to his wife's homeland, turned out to be a "working" vacation. He was filled with joy to be able to share the message of Padre Pio with so many people.

Mario also received many inquiries regarding the Padre Pio prayer groups. Through his assistance, many Padre Pio prayer groups were established in Sri Lanka for the first time. When his three-week vacation was over, Mario knew that his work on the beautiful tropical island of Sri Lanka was not. He returned to Sri Lanka nine more times, sharing the story of Padre Pio from town to town and village to village.

Most Reverend Dominic Athaide, the archbishop of Agra, India invited Mario to show the documentary film of Padre Pio to the people of India. The archbishop had a great devotion to Padre Pio. He had previously visited San Giovanni Rotondo and had met Padre Pio. Mario accepted the archbishop's invitation and traveled to India three times, showing the film of Padre Pio in the cities of Madras, Bombay, Agra, Delhi and many more.

Although India is less than 2 percent Catholic, Mario noticed the same interest and receptivity as he found in Sri Lanka. In India, he gave presentations on Padre Pio in schools, seminaries, parishes, private homes, hospitals and cloistered convents.

During his travels, Mario lodged in the Capuchin monasteries of southern India. He came to have great admiration for the Capuchin priests and brothers who lived there. Their lifestyle was simple and austere, true to the spiritual ideals of St. Francis of Assisi. In accord with the monastic custom, Mario slept each night on a straw bed with a hard pillow. He traveled to each new destination, not in an automobile, but in a simple rickshaw. He was able to adapt to the culture of India in all ways, except one. The traditional food, namely the very hot and spicy curry dishes, proved to be more than Mario could handle. He finally settled for boiled vegetables only, with no spices.

While in India, Mario showed the film of Padre Pio's life to the members of a leper colony in the city of Agra. The lepers were very inspired by the presentation. They told Mario that the film on Padre Pio gave them a great sense of hope. Mario was impressed with Archbishop Athaide's important work at the leper colony in Agra. In an effort to help the lepers, the archbishop asked them to list their fifteen most immediate needs. After reviewing their comments, the archbishop finally asked the lepers, "What is your greatest need?" Their answer was, "spiritual consolation." It was the same great need that Mario saw in all of his travels. Everywhere, people were hungry for spirituality and a deeper relationship with God.

Through his public lectures as well as the showing of the documentary film, Mario was able to introduce thousands of people in the Far East to Padre Pio. But Mario thought of a way to reach even more. He contacted one of the executives in charge of television programming in Sri Lanka and asked if it would be possible to have the film of Padre Pio shown on Ceylon television, which broadcast not only to Sri Lanka but also to southern India. The executive viewed the film and approved it. When it was aired, it is estimated that between 17-20 million viewers watched the program and were introduced to Padre Pio in that way.

It was Mario's dream that one day the country of Sri Lanka would have a church named in honor of Padre Pio. He spoke about it to Most Reverend Marcus Fernando, the archbishop of the diocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The archbishop was very supportive of the idea. The following year, Mario returned to Sri Lanka. He and his brother-in-law, Gamin Kannangara began making plans for the new church. With the help and guidance of Father Bertram Dabrera and Father Kingsley Jayamanne, the dream began to materialize. Mario went back to the United States and raised most of the funds for the project.

On September 23, 2007, Most Reverend Oswald Gomis consecrated the beautiful and stately St. Pio Shrine Church in Athurugiriya, Sri Lanka. It is the first church in the Far East dedicated to Padre Pio. Several first class relics of St. Pio have been enshrined there for public veneration. A Padre Pio prayer group has also been established there. Not long after the shrine was erected, several miracles of healing were reported. People now travel from all parts of the Far East to pray at the St. Pio Shrine Church in Athurugiriya.

Back home in New York City, where Mario and his family make their home, Mario has shown the documentary film on Padre Pio's life in more parishes than he can count. A number of people have told Mario through the years that seeing the film on Padre Pio changed their life. For many, it was the wake-up call that brought about their return to the Church and to the Sacraments.

For the last thirty-two years, Mario has organized the annual Padre Pio Mass and celebration that takes place every August at the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Washington, New Jersey. Three thousand people attend the full day of prayer, adoration, holy hour, Mass and procession. In New York City, Mario is the organizer for the annual Mass for St. Pio at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Mario has started numerous Padre Pio prayer groups throughout the United States. One of the most rewarding of the Padre Pio prayer groups that he has organized and that he leads each Thursday afternoon, is held at the Metropolitan Correctional Facility, a branch of the federal prison in New York City.

The format for the prayer group includes the recitation of the Rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, prayer for the intercession of St. Pio, and a talk on the life and spirituality of St. Pio. One of the inmates who attended the Thursday afternoon Padre Pio prayer group felt the beneficial spiritual effects and wanted to share what she had received with others. When she was released from the Correctional Facility, she returned to her home in Columbia, South America and started a Padre Pio prayer group there.

Mario has also given Padre Pio presentations at the federal prison in Otisville, New York, showing the documentary film on Padre Pio in both English and Spanish. He regularly visits Catholic schools, sharing the story of Padre Pio with children in elementary school and junior high school.

Mario attributes the conversion of his late brother, Dr. Walter Bruschi, to the intercession of Padre Pio. Walter worked as the Chief of Psychiatry at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. Mario frequently had discussions with him about Padre Pio. Walter had a brilliant mind and could hold his own in any conversation. However, whenever Mario talked to Walter about Padre Pio, he felt that his words were falling on deaf ears.

Walter had been away from his Catholic faith for most of his adult life. He doubted every word that Mario said about Padre Pio. "It is science that I believe in, not religion," he would say to Mario. But a turning point in Walter's life came when tragedy struck the family. His twenty-three-year-old son died suddenly, leaving the entire family devastated.

Walter visited Mario in New York shortly after his son's death. He told Mario that he wanted to find a spiritual director and asked him if he could recommend a good priest to him. Mario gave him the name of an excellent priest who was gifted in the field of spiritual direction. "I would also like to have a Rosary," Walter said. "Would you happen to have an extra one?"

Mario was very surprised at the request. He gave Walter the Rosary that Padre Pio blessed for him when he visited San Giovanni Rotondo in 1957. Walter told Mario that the grief he experienced over the loss of his son, made him aware for the first time in years of his need for God. Walter began attending Mass on Sunday and eventually became a daily communicant.

After Walter's conversion back to his faith, he saw his work as a psychiatrist in a whole new light. For his clients who were Catholics, Walter often recommended to them that they go to confession. He would say, "I am only a man. I want to help you but I am limited in what I can do for you. I am not able to relieve you of the guilt that you feel. But God can. Make a good confession as soon as possible and you will experience the healing power of the sacrament and a great sense of freedom."

Later in his life, when Walter was diagnosed with cancer, he united all of his suffering with Christ's sufferings, and offered it in reparation for sins. When Walter passed away, he was at peace with God. He was buried with the Rosary that Padre Pio had blessed.

Mario continues to lead the all night prayer vigils on the first Friday of each month at Our Lady of Peace parish in New York City. This year, 2011, will mark his 42nd year as organizer of the vigils. He is very happy that his son has agreed to continue the prayer vigils and the annual celebration Masses for Padre Pio when Mario is unable to do so.

Mario has recently been invited to Africa to speak to the people there about Padre Pio. He is enthusiastic and excited about future possibilities. "Perhaps God has some new work for me to do," he says. "Preghiamo, figiu mi," (Pray, my son), Padre Pio advised Mario each time he asked him for guidance. Mario has learned to entrust all of his plans to the Lord.

Mario, through the years, has learned the supreme importance and value of seeking the deep spiritual realities of life. In his younger days, Mario had little true faith to guide him. His brief encounter with Padre Pio in 1957, changed all of that and set him on a completely new path. Since that time, Mario has seen miracles both great and small. Most importantly, he has seen countless lives transformed and restored through the message and the intercession of Padre Pio.

There is a quotation which says, "I am only one, but still I am one; I cannot do everything, but I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do." Mario Bruschi is only one person. Of course we know that he cannot do everything for the kingdom of God. No one can. But he has never refused to do the work set before him, the work that he has felt especially called to do. And he has done a lot.

Testimony above taken from: "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio Book II" - by Diane Allen

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Today, Dec 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

A Spiritual Reflection: "Grant me the grace today, Jesus, to accept your word and to place my trust in you as your Blessed Mother did. Let her be a model for me as a person who was willing to devote her whole life to serving your Father. She accepted your word and became your Mother. I am not faced with such an awesome responsibility, yet I often fail, and fail miserably, even in small things. I am weak; I am afraid. I often find it hard to believe . . . Lord, help me today to remember the example of your Mother, to know amid the confusion of everyday life that you are truly with me and that your kingdom is at hand."

- Robert Meehan
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Today, Dec 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

A Spiritual Reflection: "May your heart always be the temple of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus always be the helmsman of your little spiritual ship. May Mary be the star which shines on your path and may she show you the safe way to reach the Heavenly Father."

Padre Pio
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A photo of Padre Pio offering candy to his grand-nephew. Today, October 31, many children will receive candy for "trick or treat." Padre Pio said, "I will stand at the gates of Heaven and I will not enter until all of my spiritual children are with me."
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Padre Pio celebrating Mass at Our Lady of Grace in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy.

A Spiritual Reflection: "I don't believe that my life is a long row of randomly chained incidents and accidents of which I am not much more than a passive victim. No, I think that nothing is accidental but that God molded me through the events of my life and that I am called to recognize his molding hand and praise him in gratitude for the great things he has done for me. I wonder if I really have listened carefully enough to the God of history, the God of my history, and have recognized him when he called me by my name...Maybe I have been living much too fast, too restlessly, too feverishly, forgetting to pay attention to what is happening here and now... Just as a whole world of beauty can be discovered in one flower, so the great grace of God can be tasted in one small moment."

- Henri Nouwen
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Padre Pio's Friends from the U.S.A.
Ellie Hunt and Carmelina Maruca: Two Testimonies

Padre Pio has been a part of Ellie Hunt’s family ever since she can remember. Ellie’s father, James Rummo as well as her maternal and paternal grandparents lived in Pietrelcina. It was a small and close-knit farming town where everybody knew everybody else. Francesco Forgione (Padre Pio) would eventually become Pietrelcina’s most famous citizen, although no one ever imagined it at the time.

Ellie’s maternal grandmother, Anna Maria Scocco was the same age as Padre Pio and knew him as a child. Anna Maria’s family owned a farm in the countryside of Pietrelcina, an area called Piana Romana. Padre Pio’s family, the Forgiones, also had a small landholding in Piana Romana as well as a vineyard. As a youngster, Padre Pio tended the family’s sheep.

Anna Maria recalled that Padre Pio was very pious as a young boy and always carried a devotional book with him. He was shy by nature and also very quiet. Anna Maria once asked him why he was always reading books. Instead of answering the question, he asked Anna Maria why she didn’t attend school. She told him that it was because her father wanted her to stay home and learn how to cook, clean and sew. At the time, education was not mandatory in southern Italy.

Padre Pio’s health, which was never good, began to deteriorate after he moved to the Capuchin seminary in Morcone in order to study for the priesthood. Doctors were never able to successfully diagnose and treat the mysterious illnesses that continually wracked his body. The distressing symptoms of his ailments would come and go with no apparent reason. Because of his frail health, Padre Pio was forced to interrupt his studies and move back to the family home.

For the better part of seven years, from 1909 until 1916, Padre Pio remained in Pietrelcina. He spent much of his time in prayer and solitude and did his best to regain his health. It was one of the few times of relative quiet and peace in his life. During this period, his prayer life grew in intensity. It is thought that the seven years he spent in his hometown were almost like an extended retreat, arranged by Divine Providence, to prepare him spiritually for the great mission that was just up ahead.

It was during the time of Padre Pio’s long convalescence in Pietrelcina that Ellie’s father James came in contact with him. James’ grandmother, Saveria, would send him with fresh eggs to deliver to Padre Pio. The hope was that the eggs would build up his strength. Everyone in the community knew of his illness and hoped for his recovery. Even in his youth, the townspeople held him in the highest esteem.

It was very difficult to make a living in Pietrelcina and for that reason, Ellie’s father, grandparents, and other relatives eventually moved to New York. Once in New York, the men joined the “Pietrelcina Society,” which sent regular financial help to those who had stayed behind.

Alfred, one of Ellie’s cousins, made yearly visits back to Pietrelcina all through the 1950’s. He noticed that St. Anne’s parish, where Padre Pio had been baptized, confirmed, and received his first Holy Communion, and later, where he celebrated Mass, was in a great state of disrepair. “Someday people from all over the world will be coming to our town,” Alfred said to his relatives in Pietrelcina. “They will want to see Padre Pio’s birthplace and the parish of his youth. The church must be kept clean at all times. It must be swept and dusted daily. It cannot be neglected like this!” he said emphatically.

In the 1950’s, when Alfred spoke those words, Padre Pio was relatively unknown throughout the world. The tiny, impoverished town of Pietrelcina was even more unknown. It could barely be found on a map. Many of its residents had long since moved away. But Alfred was convinced that the saintly priest from Pietrelcina would one day become world-famous and that people would be interested in seeing his hometown. His words proved to be prophetic.

Gradually people from all parts of the world began to learn about Padre Pio. Today, the pilgrims who annually visit the town of Padre Pio’s birth and pray in the church of St. Anne, number in the thousands. The increase in visitors has been so dramatic that the town is hard-pressed to accommodate the crowds.

All through Ellie’s growing up years, she heard the family reminisce about Padre Pio but she was never very interested in the stories from the “old country.” All that changed however due to an incident that happened in 1960, when Ellie was thirty-one years old. That was the year that her grandfather, Jack Crafa, became gravely ill. Ellie and her parents lived close to his home in Flushing, New York and during his illness, the family stayed constantly by his side.

When Jack fell into a coma, everyone knew that his end was near. One day while Ellie and her parents were at her grandfather’s bedside, a stranger knocked on the door. It was a Capuchin monk dressed in a dark brown habit. Ellie was surprised to see that he was wearing sandals without any socks for it happened to be a particularly cold day, with snow still on the ground from the last storm.

The monk said he had come to pray for her grandfather. Ellie was perplexed. There were not any Capuchin monks in residence at their parish in Flushing or in any other parish in the area, for that matter. Ellie was also annoyed. The parish priest should have come to the house in her grandfather’s time of need rather than a complete stranger. But she was impressed by the kindness and compassion of the young religious.

The monk went in the bedroom and blessed Jack Crafa. He told the family to pray the Rosary while sitting at Jack’s side, and to pray the 'Hail Mary' close to his ear. He had the sense that Jack was still able to hear. After the monk said that, Ellie was surprised to find that when she took her grandfather’s hand in hers, she felt a very slight response from him, a very slight squeeze from his hand.

The young monk gave Ellie’s grandfather the Last Rites, and after blessing the family, he bid them goodbye. As he walked out the front door, Ellie’s father, James, observed that there was no car waiting for him outside. James watched him as he walked up the street until he disappeared in the darkness. It was that very night that Jack Crafa passed away. He had been in a coma for nine days.
After the monk left, James became pale and appeared quite shaken. Ellie’s mother Lucy asked him for the reason. “Don’t you know who that was?” James replied. “It was Padre Pio. He came in bilocation to give the Last Rites to your father. He looked exactly like I remember him when I used to deliver eggs to him in Pietrelcina.”

Ellie believed her father’s explanation and she was aware of Padre Pio’s gift of bilocation. Her grandfather, Jack Crafa had been one of Padre Pio’s spiritual sons from Pietrelcina. But Ellie was confused about one thing. The black and white photos she had seen of Padre Pio showed him as having very dark hair. This monk had sandy colored hair. Later, when Ellie read a biography of Padre Pio, the author described Padre Pio’s hair as a dark sandy color. It confirmed her own observation.

Padre Pio had always said that the people of Pietrelcina held a very special place in his heart. Ellie’s mother had a cousin named Rose who was from Pietrelcina. Rose was very devoted to Padre Pio, and she regularly sent packages to her aunt who lived in San Giovanni Rotondo. Rose heard that Padre Pio enjoyed American coffee and so she made sure that the packages always included coffee. Her aunt always took the coffee directly over to the monastery and asked the Capuchins to give it to Padre Pio.

For many years Rose had longed to visit San Giovanni Rotondo and was finally able to make the trip. One afternoon, she was standing among a large crowd of people who were gathered outside the monastery waving to Padre Pio. He was standing at a window, waving a handkerchief in greeting to the crowd below. As he looked at the large gathering of people, he pointed out Rose to one of the Capuchins. The next thing she knew, one of the Capuchins approached her and told her that Padre Pio wanted to speak to her.

Rose was escorted inside the monastery and asked to wait. After awhile the Capuchin returned and apologized to Rose. He said that Padre Pio had intended to come down and personally thank her for the coffee she had been sending to him but unfortunately he was unable to do so.

In that large crowd of people, Padre Pio picked out one of his fellow citizens of Pietrelcina to give a special word of thanks to. He had never met Rose before nor had she ever met him. And yet he obviously recognized Rose and was aware of her thoughtfulness. His love for the people of Pietrelcina was always very evident. Padre Pio once said, “In my lifetime I have made San Giovanni Rotondo known but after my death I will make Pietrelcina known.” ✞

In 1967, Carmelina Maruca, and her two children, made a trip to Italy to visit relatives. Antoinetta and Mario, Carmelina’s sister and brother-in-law, lived in Salerno where Mario had a medical practice. Carmelina had a very enjoyable visit with them. Before returning home to California, Carmelina and her children along with Antoinetta and Mario, decided to visit San Giovanni Rotondo to attend Padre Pio’s Mass.

When Carmelina and her family arrived at the monastery, they learned that Padre Pio was ill. They had to wait five days before he was once again able to celebrate Mass. Carmelina noticed the great devotion the pilgrims had for Padre Pio but somehow she felt differently. “Padre Pio is not a saint,” Carmelina said to herself. “He is a priest, yes, but nothing more than that.” She could not believe otherwise.

Carmelina and her family were able to attend Padre Pio’s Mass. After the Mass, they were told that Padre Pio would be giving a blessing when he came out of the sacristy. About fifty people knelt down outside the sacristy and waited to receive Padre Pio’s blessing.

Carmelina knelt down too but after a short time her knees began to hurt. “Why am I kneeling like this?” she said to herself. “This is not a holy person we are waiting to see. There are many Capuchins at this monastery and Padre Pio is just one among many. He should not be receiving so much attention. These pilgrims have a misguided devotion!”

Carmelina rose to a standing position to be more comfortable. A few moments later, when Padre Pio came out of the sacristy, Carmelina was the only person who was standing. All of the others were on their knees.

Padre Pio placed his hand on each person’s shoulder in a blessing but when he came to Carmelina, there was no blessing, only a very severe look which made her feel extremely uneasy. She realized that Padre Pio knew the negative thoughts she had been thinking about him and she was deeply embarrassed.
Carmelina’s daughter had noticed the frown on his face as he looked at her mother. “Mother,” she said. “I saw the look on Padre Pio’s face and I know that he is not happy with you. I am going to pray for you.”

That very brief encounter with Padre Pio made a deep impression on Carmelina and her attitude changed completely. The knowledge that he had read the dispositions of her heart, confirmed to her his authenticity. Her devotion to him has increased through the years.

Living in Salerno, Mario and Antoinetta were able to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo occasionally so that Mario could see Padre Pio and receive spiritual direction from him.

Conversations with Padre Pio were always a source of great consolation to him. During one visit, Padre Pio said to Mario, “I see that there is suffering ahead for you, but with prayer, you will be all right. God will assist you.”
Not long after, cancer was discovered in Mario’s shoulder. Very extensive surgery was performed which included the amputation of Mario’s arm. He was no longer able to practice as a surgeon and Antoinetta had to seek employment to support the family.

Antoinetta passed away at the relatively early age of fifty-five years, leaving Mario a widower for many years. Remembering Padre Pio’s words, Mario turned to prayer and he received the strength he needed to fully surrender to God and to accept His will in his life. ✞

“When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels l that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along – illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation – he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days, but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level, putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary, but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.”

C.S. Lewis

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Today is Padre Pio's Feast Day as he died on September 23, 1968. In this photograph, Archbishop Andrea Cesarano is seen standing at the casket. He had a great admiration for Padre Pio

"The best preparation I can make for death is to live the reality of the Paschal mystery as fully and as deeply as possible in union with Christ, because Christ will re-live that mystery in me at the hour of my death. If I am following the spirituality of the Paschal mystery, I expect to die and rise again many times in the course of my monastic life, in my daily tasks and duties, in unexpected events and circumstances, and in my life of interior prayer. . . I expect to have to let go and give up again and again, discovering a new richness of life each time. . . I will learn to trust more and more this Father into whose hands I shall one day, freely and gladly, hand over my life. On that day my final act of dying will be inserted irrevocably into the saving death and resurrection of Christ my Lord."

– Father Charles Cummings, O.C.S.O.
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