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If You Do Not See Wonders and Miracles You Will Not Believe


 Jesus Christ revealed supernatural reality to us, teaching and performing wonders and miracles. He said “If you do not see wonders and miracles you will not believe” (Jn 4: 48). Wonders and miracles have a very important place in the formation and maturation of our faith.

Their main role is to awaken the mind and the conscience in order that people are able to accept the gift of faith with trust and gratitude. Wonders and miracles should lead us towards union in faith and love with the person of Christ. They point to the existence of a wonderful reality, life after death, which God has prepared for us. Miracles are always the work of God, who, in order to perform them, often uses the services of people chosen by Him. It is a general rule that the greater the holiness of a certain person, the greater the miracles God performs through him. During Padre Pio’s beatification process, 104 thick volumes were put together, which contained documents and various testimonies to the various wonders and miracles that God performed through this great saint. Wonders and miracles that have taken place thanks to the intercession of Padre Pio astound and puzzle the scientific world, particularly those people for whom God is a distant and shadowy reality. Let us realise through these few examples that if we open our hearts to God with simple and humble faith then we will witness the evangelical truth that there is nothing God cannot do (Luke 1, 37).

An Ongoing Miracle

Gemma di Giorgi was born in 1939 and currently lives in Riber in the province of Agrigento. She was blind from birth, having being born without pupils. Her parents despaired. From the medical point of view there was no hope, since in such a case blindness is irreversible. Her parents often took Gemma to church, asking for a miraculous cure. Gemma’s grandmother never lost hope, and she directed her prayers for the return of her granddaughter’s sight to God through the mediation of Padre Pio. She even wrote him a letter, entrusting him with the case of the blind child. Padre Pio wrote that he would pray for the child. Finally, the grandmother decided to travel together with her granddaughter to San Giovanni Rotondo. After having arrived, they made their way immediately to the church and joined the confessional queue where Padre Pio was hearing confessions. Gemma had not yet made her first Holy Communion, but she was ready to receive It. After her first confession (18 June 1947) Gemma received her first Holy Communion from Padre Pio’s hands, who made a sign of the cross over her eyes. On the return journey from San Giovanni Rotondo Gemma regained her sight. She joyfully shouted, “Grandmother, I can see, I can see the whole world.” Medical tests by the best specialists confirmed an incredible fact: Gemma could see perfectly, although she had no pupils. “It is inexplicable,” stated one of the specialists, “a lack of pupils is equivalent to blindness, that is why it is impossible to understand how that child is capable of seeing anything.” After carrying out detailed tests, Prof. Caramazza from Perugia confirmed that Gemma’s eyes had no pupils and were incapable of seeing anything. However, the child had perfect sight, and it was a case which was impossible to explain humanly. It is an ongoing miracle that makes us realise that nothing is impossible for God.

The Raising of a Child

Docor Sanguinetti, one of Padre Pio’s closest colleagues, was witness to an extraordinary event. One day, a woman holding a suitcase joined the confessional queue waiting for Padre Pio. When her turn came she approached the confessional and began to cry loudly. She opened the suitcase and showed Padre Pio the body of a six month old child wrapped in rags. This woman had set out with a very sick child that had died during the journey. In despair she had hidden the body in the suitcase and continued on, hoping that Padre Pio would pray for a miracle. Padre Pio was very moved when he saw her. He took the baby’s body into his arms and prayed. Some time later he returned the child to its mother saying, “Stop screaming. Can’t you see your child is only sleeping?” And so it was: the child, who had miraculously returned to life, was breathing quietly.

The Conversion of a Masonic Journalist

Alberto del Fante was a member of a masonic lodge and wrote numerous articles for the magazine Lay Italy in which he mocked and ridiculed Padre Pio, claiming that he was a manipulator who was successfully deceiving thousands of gullible people. Some time later, his beloved nephew fell dangerously ill. Tests determined that Enrico had tuberculosis of the bones and lungs. The medical world was powerless; there was no hope of a cure. Two relatives of the sick boy made their way to San Giovanni Rotondo to ask Padre Pio for help, who told them that Enrico would most definitely return to health. Disbelieving his assurances, Alberto del Fante stated that if the boy’s health should be restored he himself would make a pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo. To the great astonishment of all, Enrico miraculously regained full health. For Alberto del Fante, this fact had an immense spiritual impact. He travelled to San Giovanni Rotondo where, after meeting and confessing to Padre Pio, he converted. In this way the mason Alberto became a committed Catholic and the spiritual son of Padre Pio.

An Incurable Disablility is Cured

Giuseppe Canaponi’s motorcycle collided with a truck. He was in a critical state. The doctors believed he had no chance of survival. For a long time he wavered between life and death. He regained health slowly. All would have been well but for his leg, which had been horribly smashed. For a year and a half he was in the orthopedic hospital in Sienna and was later transferred to a hospital in Rizzoli in Bologna. All the operations brought no result. The leg remained completely stiff owing to the calcification of the left knee joint. After many years of treatment, the doctors admitted that Giuseppe’s condition was incurable and he would remain a cripple for life. This news led to a complete breakdown and to bitterness and anger, which Canaponi primarily took out on his wife. He used crutches, but he could only drag his stiff and scarred leg a few yards at a time. When he fell to the ground, he would furiously blaspheme God and curse all around him. He was an atheist and did not believe in miracles. He often ridiculed Padre Pio and shouted out insults and directed curses at him.

In time the leg worsened. Giuseppe was close to despair. After several months of great suffering he finally agreed to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo with his wife and son, Augusto. After arriving, with great difficulty he managed to get to the Capuchin church. Giuseppe decided Padre Pio should hear his confession. When he found himself at the confessional box, Father Pio gave him such a piercing look that he began to shake all over, as though a strong electric current were flowing through him. Padre Pio began to speak first, laying his life’s story before him, as though he had known him for years. He spoke gently, but gave him to understand clearly how senseless was his behaviour and attitude to God. Giuseppe was so taken aback and dazed by what he had heard from Padre Pio that he completely forgot his leg. Upon receiving absolution, he again felt his whole body shake. He kneeled, made the sign of the cross, completely unaware of his leg. Then he got up, took his crutches and left with an even tread. He was so absorbed in the confession just passed, that he had no idea he was walking normally. It was his wife who brought to his attention the fact that he was miraculously cured. She joyfully cried out, “Giuseppe, you’re walking!” He looked at the crutches in his hands in surprise. Disbelieving, he bent his leg, then began to jump, run and walk. His leg was completely cured. Finally, he began to cry from joy and shouted, “I am completely cured!” When he went to thank Padre Pio the next day, the holy friar answered with a smile, “I only prayed for you. God cured you.”

The doctors in the hospital in Sienna were shocked when they carefully examined Giuseppe. X-rays showed that the calcified state of the knee had not changed at all. It was scientifically impossible that he should be able to bend his knee and walk normally. Yet Giuseppe Canaponi was fully mobile and could walk perfectly. It was such an extraordinary case that Prof. Giuntini presented it at a scientific congress in Rome. Prof. Giuntini from the University of Sienna, who was also the director of the orthopedic hospital, concluded the description of this extraordinary cure thus: “The sudden and complete recovery of joint mobility is in Canaponi’s case an extraordinary fact for which the achievements of science to date can furnish no logical explanation.”

There were so many miraculous cures of this kind that no one can possibly collect and record them all. Padre Pio often wept at the sight of the sick and with fatherly affection embraced those who were suffering and who asked him for a cure. To obtain cures for the sick, Padre Pio took upon himself their suffering and offered them up to God. He used to say, “Everything must be paid for. I must pay for all that my children ask of me.”

Padre Pio believed that physical healing would lead to spiritual healing, to a surrender to God’s will to the extent that one could thank Him for all life’s experiences, above all for suffering. Padre Pio writes, “Jesus gave me to understand that the best test and confirmation of love is suffering … I do not know what will happen in the future, I only know one thing, and that with all certainty: the Lord will not diminish any of his promises. ‘Do not be afraid’ – Jesus repeats this to me many times – ‘I will send suffering down on you, but I will also give you strength. I desire that your soul be cleansed and put to the test through daily spiritual suffering. Do not be afraid that I allow Satan to torment you, that you are aware of wickedness in the world, and that even people most dear to you cause you anguish. Nothing will be able to defeat those who groan under the weight of the cross, which I prepared, and they do all this for My love, because I support them.’ ‘How many times’ – Jesus told me earlier – ‘would you have abandoned me if I had not crucified you? Man learns love under the Cross, and I do not give it to all, only to those who are very dear to me.”

Conversions

Thanks to Padre Pio many famous Italian personalities were converted. Amongst these were the comedy writer Luigi Antonelli (1882 – 1942), the writer Pitigrilli from Turin, the Roman actress Lea Padovani, the singer Aurelio Ferro (at the peak of his popularity in Italy in the 50s and 60s), the actress Silvana Pampanini (in the 50s her sobriquet was ‘Italy’s fiancee’), the comic actor Carlo Campanini, Prof. Mario Spallone (the famous doctor of Togliatti, the founder of the communist party in Italy), the sculptor Francesco Messyna (a giant of modern art), Fausto Coppi (the legendary Italian cyclist) and many others. Conversions are without doubt the greatest miracles for with the return of man to God the human soul undergoes a radical change. Padre Pio did not preach or hold conferences. Rather, he spent most of his time in the confessional. In the 1920s and 1930s he spent up to 19 hours a day hearing confessions. Later, owing to ill health, he had to limit the time spent in the confessional. Miraculous conversions took place. From the very beginning the magnet which attracted thousands of people to San Giovanni Rotondo was the stigmata, the continually bleeding wounds that had appeared on Padre Pio’s body. The most hardened sinners, masons, communists, all those who openly fought the Church, were converted.

One of the earliest and most well known conversions was that of the distinguished lawyer Cesare Festa. He was the adviser to the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III and the mayor of Arenzano. As a young man he became a freemason and was initiated into one of the lodge’s highest levels. He fought the Catholic Church uncompromisingly. He often discussed the subject of miracles with his cousin. One day his cousin told him that if he were to go to Padre Pio, he would be convinced that miracles truly do happen. C. Festa decided to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo, but only in order to unmask the swindler that he believed Padre Pio to be. He was in the monastery and was standing close to the holy friar, who was talking to a group of pilgrims. Suddenly the latter came up to him and asked, “What has happened that you, a freemason, should have come here?” The confused lawyer admitted his masonic affiliations and, when asked what his role there was, answered that it was to fight the Church. With a smile Padre Pio took the lawyer aside and held a long conversation with him. At the end of it Cesare Festa knelt and asked for his confession to be heard. From that moment on he wished with all his strength to mend all the evil that he had done. The news about the famous freemason’s conversion echoed loudly through all of Italy. At a secret meeting of the lodge, during which it was determined to expel Cesare Festa, the converted lawyer bravely admitted to his faith and return to the Catholic Church. He also withdrew the oath he had taken on joining the freemason’s lodge. Cesare Festa became Padre Pio’s spiritual son and a courageous apostle of the faith. The freemasons endeavoured to make life difficult for him in various ways, but Festa did not allow himself to be intimidated and continued to fearlessly give witness to the truth.

The conversion of Festa was an example to others. Amongst them was Prof. Ezio Saltamerenda, a well known scholar, who, wanting to understand what had caused the passionate freemason’s conversion, himself travelled to Father Pio. After meeting the holy friar, he converted.

One of the more famous conversions was that of the Marxist activist Italia Betti, who returned to the Church and renounced communism. She was known throughout Italy as “Karl Marx’s virago.” She was a professor of mathematics and one of the leading figures of the Italian communist party. For many years she rode around Italian villages on her red motor bike, propagating atheistic communism and secular teaching. She fought for the removal of war orphans from Catholic priests and nuns who had taken them in. Betti happened to drive into San Giovanni Rotondo and there, during a meeting with Padre Pio, she converted and publicly confessed her past. She resigned from political activism, settled down in the outskirts of the city and dedicated herself to penance and prayer. Following her example many other members resigned from the ranks of the communist party, including Giovanni Gigliozzi, the editor of the communist newspaper Avanti.

Much talked about was the conversion of Constant Rosatelli, who was the most aggressive communist in the region of Castelli Romani, specialising in street blockades and organising mass meetings. One day he saw a friar who was closely observing him. From then on, every night, he dreamed of this friar, who invited him to pay him a visit. When Rosatelli heard about Padre Pio for the first time and saw his photo, he started to tremble, for he recognised the very same friar who appeared every night in his dreams. Rosatelli immediately went to San Giovanni Rotondo, confessed to Padre Pio and became a committed Catholic, cutting all ties with the Communist party.

Giovanni Bardazzi was an extremely passionate agitator for the Italian Communist Party. A person who was close to him asked Padre Pio to pray for the salvation of his soul. After Padre Pio’s prayer Giovanni fell into a coma, which lasted for 3 hours. He awoke from it filled with horror for he had dreamed of hell, from which emanated inhuman groans and a sulphurous stench. He immediately left for San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio heard his confession. After a while he came again, bringing with him seventy membership cards of ex-communist party members which were to be burnt. From that time on he often saw Padre Pio, bringing with him ex-party members who converted.

A doctor from San Giovanni Rotondo, Francesco Ricciardi, was a convinced atheist, who aggressively fought against Padre Pio. He became ill with stomach cancer and following a consultation, the doctors concluded that he only had a few weeks left to live. Despite being close to death, Ricciardi remained implacable, refusing to be reunited with God. He claimed he wished to die as he had lived. Padre Pio paid him a visit. They talked for a long time. Following this conversation and moved to tears, the dying doctor asked for his confession to be heard and for Holy Communion. After the confession, Padre Pio said to him, “Your soul has been healed, now your body will heal.” And so it was; miraculously, Ricciardi’s health was fully restored. He became a friend of Padre Pio, and from then on lead the life of a committed Catholic.

For all converted people walking the narrow and steep path of faith Padre Pio gives the following advice: “Quieten the agitation which torments your heart and from your imagination banish all depressing thoughts and feelings. Jesus is always with you, even when you do not feel His presence. In fact, he is never as close to you as during your soul’s battles. I beg you, do not wrong Him with the smallest of suspicions that He would abandon you even for a short while. That is really one of the most diabolical temptations. You must push it aside as soon as you become aware of it. Let the thought cheer you up that the joys in heaven will be all the greater the more days of mortification and years of misfortune we know here on earth. That is not only my opinion. The Holy Scriptures give us unerring testimony. The psalmist says, “Make us glad as many days as you humbled us, for as many years as we have seen trouble” (Ps 90: 15). What is more, St. Paul the Apostle writes, “And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory.” (2 Cor 4: 17)

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