Friday, September 23, 2016

St. Padre Pio: A Fountain of God’s Healing

St. Padre Pio: A Fountain of God’s Healing

Just about everyone has heard of Padre Pio, the Italian stigmatic whose death at age eighty-one on September 23, 1968, was even reported by the New York Times. The biographies that sell steadily year after year, including one by the author written with help from Pio’s friary, are crammed with accounts from people whose medically inexplicable healings came to them from God, they believe, through the gloved, bleeding hands of this Capuchin Franciscan priest.
Once Pio became the first known stigmatic priest — Francis of Assisi having been a brother, not a priest — people began to seek him out. Eventually, they were coming from all over the world. In the confessional, where he spent up to nineteen hours a day for the first five years after receiving the stigmata, he healed lives. Georgetown theologian Monika Hellwig — hardly one whose name is synonymous with pious excess in regard to saints — was living in Italy in the years just before Pio’s death. During her three-year stay, what she heard convinced her that, in or out of the confessional, Pio led people to “deep conversions” as he “mediated the presence of the divine . . . [leaving his visitors] inspired and assured of God’s presence and care for them.” Slowly, at the beginning of his world ministry, then increasingly, the gift of physical healing became an important adjunct to this primary work for God.

St. Padre Pio and a friend’s restored eye

A verified case was that of Padre Pio’s friend, construction worker Giovanni Savino. Savino was the father of eight — two of whom had been “saved” by Pio when seriously injured in separate accidents. In February 1949, the thirty-five-year-old local man was working at the friary on an addition to the building. Each morning he attended Pio’s Mass before work. From February 12 to 15, as he, as always, approached his priest benefactor for a post-Mass blessing, Pio repeated, “Courage, Giovanni, I’m praying you won’t be killed.” On the fifteenth a charge of dynamite blew up in the workman’s face. A doctor friend of Pio’s and two priests, one Franciscan, one not, rushed the man to Foggia’s hospital where “numerous” fragments were removed from his left cornea. There was nothing to do for the right eye. It had been blown to a smear of jelly.

Pio’s doctor friend returned to tell him Savino was blind. Pio indicated he thought some sight might be saved. And actually there was some slight hope for the left eye medically. Ten days after the accident the injured man, face and head bandaged, was awake, praying the Rosary, sometime toward one in the morning. He smelled a wonderful odor and felt three slaps on his head, understanding Pio was with him (by one of the saint’s many bi-locations). That morning the ophthalmologist came to see how the left eye was doing after all the fragments had been removed. It was not functioning. In fact, all sight was gone permanently. But Giovanni could see perfectly with the right eye that had been blown to a smear. Somehow it had been replaced. The doctor, an atheist, became a believer from that moment, exclaiming that he had to believe because “this happened right in front of me.”
Interestingly, the new eye which functioned so well, according to Giovanni’s wife Rosa “always looked a mess.” There is a photograph of the healed man in the early biography Padre Pio by Fr. Charles Carty.

A hint of Pio’s redemptive role in healings may be found in two details of Giovanni Savino’s cure: Pio spent days of intense prayer, and asked many others to pray, between the accident and the eye’s restoration. He also told Giovanni when, finally released from the hospital, the workman came to thank Pio, “You have no idea what this cost me.” More detail of this cure will be found in a biography easier to find than Fr. Carty’s, that of ordained Lutheran minister C. Bernard Ruffin.

Many other healings

This article is from Nothing Short of a Miracle. Click image to learn about other modern saints and healings.
Today many of the books on Pio by his fellow friars have been translated into English. Particularly recommended by Fr. Joseph Pius Martin is the one by Padre Alessandro (see footnote 115). However Ruffin’s also recommended revised Padre Pio: The True Story remains one of the best from its uniquely American perspective. According to Ruffin, the archives of Our Lady of Grace show that in Pio’s lifetime “over a thou­sand people pronounced hopelessly ill by their doctors, were delivered of such grave maladies as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, tuberculosis, congenital birth defects and paralysis caused by spinal injuries.” Follow­ing his death, a second thousand cures were attributed to Padre Pio’s intercession in the first twenty years, that is 1968 to 1988. The first edition of this book appeared that year, and I have no precise figures for the healings that took place from then until 2002. That year, St. Pio of Pietrelcina’s canonization took place on June 16 before at least five hundred thousand people, perhaps the largest crowd ever assembled for such an event.

Canonization ended any need to keep track of the numbers of cures attributed to Pio by those who received them, in order to prove God was speaking of Pio’s holiness by answering prayers that invoked his intercession. Perhaps consequently there are fewer letters printed at­testing cures in the friary’s bimonthly magazine, The Voice of Padre Pio. Nevertheless, since canonization, as before, Padre Pio has continued to be a fountain of God-given health to many. Perhaps the most touching to me is a 2011 cure of advanced Parkinson’s disease. The Irish sufferer from this disease had, she wrote the friars from Dublin, reached a point beyond simple acceptance of her loss of dignity, loss of mobility, and great pain — all of which, she volunteered, had taught her a lot. She was actually living in peace and gratitude to God, in spite of her condition, when she was visited by a priest from Pio’s friary. The Italian visitor seemed to affirm her state as one offering her sufferings for the salvation of souls and said nothing about healing. But not long after being blessed for Pio’s intercession by the visitor, she found herself grateful to God and Pio for a return to perfect health.

Here is a sampling from just one recent issue of The Voice:
Katherine Beck had deadly, fast-moving ovarian cancer. Surgery, she writes, “was not a success.” On what should have been a last re­union with her three sisters, Katherine had a mystical experience of dead Padre Pio one night shared by a sister. Since there was a witness, it is fair to conclude this was no dream or fantasy. After this she returned home and her doctor, examining her, could find “no reason [for her] to visit him.” She is healed.

In the same issue a man from North Ireland writes in thanksgiving for his mother’s recovery from “a heart attack plus a large blood clot on her lung, also a very bad chest infection.” Although she was in intensive care and had received the last rites when William O’Reilly “prayed to Padre Pio to ask Our Lord to show His divine mercy,” the woman got better daily and is now back at home.
A Texas couple write of five anxious months having been told, after a routine ultrasound, their third son will likely be born with Down syn­drome. The wife says, “It was a very difficult and stressful time for our family. My husband and I prayed to St. Pio day after day. During this time, we learned to trust more in God.” The child was born with perfect health, no syndromes. The wife closes, “We give thanks to St. Pio for his intercession and for guiding us to trust more in God’s tender mercy. Thank you, St. Pio. We love you.” You note that although the mother uses that misleading term “praying to Pio,” her subsequent comments make clear her excellent grasp of a saint’s role vis-à-vis God.

I have dozens of other testimonies in my files, some of which will be found in my other books. There are still more in the friary archives. The only thing the recipients have in common is a willingness to ask Pio’s prayers for themselves or someone else.

This pertains also to the beatification and canonization miracles. With the problem of sorting out supernatural from medical intervention, in a day when every ill tends to be copiously treated whether it will do any good or not, a jokester might claim the beatification miracle was a miracle, even outside the cure: a woman hospitalized for a serious condition was healed by God, after she appealed to Pio’s prayers, before any treatment could be started. You will find more details in my Pio biography, Meet Padre Pio: Beloved Mystic, Miracle-Worker, and Spiritual Guide, but a brief summary here: Mrs. Consiglia De Martino was devoted to Padre Pio, the holy priest whose heroic virtues had been recognized at this time by the title Venerable. Living in Salerno, a city not too far from Pio’s friary, the Italian housewife used to make a monthly pilgrim­age to the tomb of her heavenly friend and mentor.

On October 31, 1995, as she was exerting herself strenuously, she felt a frightening and painful “tearing” in her chest and around her left clavicle. She went to bed in painful discomfort. By morning, her neck had on it a protuberance the size of an orange.
Her husband away, she phoned a brother-in-law to take her to the hospital, where a scan showed her thoracic duct had ruptured. Surgery would be necessary. At that point both she and her daughter made phone calls to a friar who had been very close to Pio and was one of their family’s close friends. Br. Modestino prayed for the injured woman “with confidence” since Pio had promised him that, once Pio was in Heaven, he would always get God to give positive answers to Modes-tino’s prayers. Surgery could not be arranged the day of her admission. The next morning, nothing having yet been done for the rupture, Mrs. De Martino woke in her hospital bed to find the big swelling almost gone. November 3, that is, four days after the injury, both an x-ray and another type of scan showed every abnormality had disappeared. With these tests plus the original scan and doctor’s examination for compari­son, Mrs. De Martino’s case proved a perfect example of a formal mira­cle. Certified by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, her healing permitted Pio’s beatification.

Also given in more detail in the latest printings of my Pio biography is the canonization miracle. Let me sum up for you here the cure of a dying child in a coma. It took place right in San Giovanni Rotondo, and once again humble little Br. Modestino played a role. Near death and without hope of recovery just eight months after the beatification, seven-year-old Matteo Pio Colella lay comatose in the little town’s modern hospital. Called The Home for the Relief of Suffering, it was across from the friary, built by the charity of penniless Padre Pio when the town had no medical facility. Matteo, whose middle name shows the family’s devotion to Pio, was the younger of two sons of local doc­tors. The father worked at the hospital. They would later testify to the miracle cure and their cries for Pio’s help, both as the praying parents and as physicians who had understood only too well that for Matteo in early 2000 a miracle was the only hope.

The tragic situation had begun on January 20, when their younger boy came down with “flu,” feverish, headachy, and vomiting. That eve­ning the child began breaking out in notable purple spots. More fright­ening to his physician parents, since it is a sign of septic shock, Matteo did not recognize his mother.
Matteo, in fact, had acute meningitis, sometimes termed “brain fe­ver.” As the next days passed, deep in a coma, his kidneys, liver, and heart weakened, as did his pulse, and he was breathing only by ventila­tor. Eventually, in spite of all the pediatric colleagues of his father, Anto­nio — a staff urologist at the hospital — could do, Matteo died. Standard efforts to revive him failed. But these doctors are men of prayer too, and one, calling on Padre Pio’s prayer help, injected the dead child with a dangerously large dose of adrenaline. Matteo returned to life. This was not recovery, however: it only postponed his death in the sense of “while there is life,” among believers at least, there remains hope.

Antonio had taken Matteo’s mother, Maria, out of the treatment area the first night because of the boy’s heartrending screams of pain as doctors tried to find a vein in a shut-down circulatory system. For the next ten days, she did not see her comatose son as he drifted toward death in a sterilized room. But she was working for Matteo every second. She spent all her time praying and seeking prayer from every convent in the area. Naturally, this doctor, wife, and mother sought prayers from Pio’s confreres at his Our Lady of Grace Friary. It had been in Pio’s cell, by special permission, that she had begged her friend in Heaven to watch out for the newly created family on her wedding day. Various individual friars now reached out to her, while the entire community let the distraught but praying mother join them in their evening community prayers at Pio’s tomb.

Br. Modestino was one of those who reached out. Meeting with both Antonio and Maria, he counseled them on attitude and prayer. He revealed he himself was urging Pio, “Pray for Matteo; let this be the miracle for your canonization.”
As stated, there are many more details in my biography, and even there I could not give all the incidents in this precisely documented series of events. Suffice to say here, after eight days in a coma, Matteo woke up — speechless and glassy-eyed but recovering from the unrecoverable. The next day he began talking — calling for Padre Pio. Seven days later, he was still covered with deep ulcers, still unable to move, but he could share with his mother that Padre Pio, angels, and a very bright light he believed to be Jesus had all been with him in the coma. Pio had told him not to worry. He would get well and do that quickly.

The eventual investigation of this cure found that ill beyond medical help — for even getting his heart to start again was no cure for the disease that was killing him — Matteo had made a medically inexplicable, complete, permanent, and relatively sudden recovery. As Br. Modestino — who, after all, had been promised by God’s friend Pio himself a positive answer to his prayers — had asked, Matteo’s was the miracle chosen from many others to be accepted for Pio’s June 2002 canonization.

Maria Colella, who had asked Padre Pio to bless her family on her wedding day, could never have dreamed how far the humble Capuchin would go to do that.
Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Patricia Treece’s Nothing Short of a Miraclewhich is available from Sophia Institute Press.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Time Is on His Side

Time Is on His Side

Sunday, September 4, 2016
Chesterton said, “Hope is not hope unless the situation is hopeless.” He meant the theological virtue of hope may be easy during good times (and therefore illusory), but difficult during bad times when human reasons for hope in a happy future evaporate (in illness or social upheavals). So we perhaps unwittingly place our faith in the things of the world, rather than Christ.

King Solomon – initially the model of human wisdom – was so intent on protecting the peace God gave Israel that he presumed the good times were the result of his diplomatic acumen. So he “celebrated diversity” by allowing the worship of false gods. Ironically, his “politics of inclusion” brought division and destruction – the kingdom itself was divided. Solomon failed to remember that God alone delivers on all His promises, according to His schedule and in response to our faith.

A good part of our trouble today, of course, stems from the false god of sex. Suicide bombers blow up themselves and others to enjoy their seventy-two virgins in Paradise. And where would Hillary Clinton stand with Millennials without her unconditional support for abortion, the ugly outward sign of sex-on-demand?
When the “” bubble burst at the turn of this century, pornographic Internet sites stood nearly alone as profitable Internet entities. Porn site technology even provided the tools for Internet credit-card and identity security, further enshrining the “right to privacy,” i.e., access to contraception and abortion.

Amidst our multiple crises, we ask: Is God listening? Is God dead?
But how can God be dead when the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, or when it rains on the just and unjust alike, or when birds soar and wheat waves in the wind, or when a baby is born into the world? How can God be dead when acts of human virtue and kindness continue to attest to His presence?
There is also a glimmer of hope – humanly speaking – in news reports emanating from the dark side, as a recent front-page article reports:
A growing body of research shows that online pornography is warping men’s brains, diminishing their sex drives and producing addictive behaviors commonly found among drug abusers, as porn producers experiment with technologies to make the viewing experience more compelling. Advances in neuroscience have helped support the findings: At least 25 major studies published since 2011, 16 of which were released within the last two years, link habitual use of erotic videos with deleterious developments in brain structure, often mirroring those of drug addicts.
The Canaanite's Daughter (La Chananéenne) by James Tissot, c. 1890 [Brooklyn Museum]
The Canaanite’s Daughter (La Chananéenne) by James Tissot, c. 1890 [Brooklyn Museum]
Is the world growing weary of the sexual revolution? Will we eventually turn the corner and come to our senses? Will medical science once again become an ally of good morality? This report offers reasons for hope in the future. But our faith in the Gospel provides a theological reason for hope based on revelation.

In Matthew, we read the account of Jesus entering into the Canaanite territory of Tyre and Sidon. The Canaanites perhaps were not aware of it, but as they worshipped their false gods, they were really worshiping demons. (Demon worship today can be largely traced to the Canaanites. I remember a “devil worship” chapel adjacent to a seminary I attended in the 1980s – apparently they target seminaries – one of the adventurous seminarians took a peek through the window and saw the skeletal head of an animal on the altar.)

There are consequences of worshiping false gods, and those consequences occasionally include diabolical possession of the vulnerable. This may explain how the daughter of the Canaanite woman became possessed as a result of her mother’s unwitting worship of demons.

Although she is a pagan, the woman pursues Jesus, calling Him by his messianic title: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David.” She is exhausted and desperately hoping to change her life and her daughter’s. Her persistence receives its reward. The dialog concludes with her humbly begging, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus responds, “O woman, great is your faith!” The daughter was healed from that hour. Message: Persist in prayer.

When AIDS burst onto the scene in the 1980s, the gay bathhouses in San Francisco were temporarily closed in response to the health crisis. Many Catholics and others hoped the horror of AIDS – like the atomic bombings that ended the war with Japan – would bring a definitive end to the sexual revolution.
We were wrong. The sexual revolutionaries viewed the crisis as too important to waste, and those with behavior-related AIDS were recast as “victims” of an uncaring, even brutal ruling class. When industrial strength condoms and pharmaceuticals were developed to manage the AIDS infection, the bathhouses were reopened and the sexual revolution continued unabated.

The late Charles Rice, Notre Dame’s renowned legal scholar, used to say, “God always forgives. Man sometimes forgives. Nature never forgives.” When man’s nature is habitually violated, whether through false worship or otherwise attempting to tamper with the Natural Law of the Ten Commandments, destruction, exhaustion – and ultimately death – ensue because we’re dealing with demons who hate us.

A world growing increasingly weary of pornography may still turn again to pharmaceuticals or frontal lobotomies for salvation. So we must admit, unless the end times are upon us, it may take a very long time before an exhausted culture definitively turns to Christ in faith and hope. But even if there is no immediate sea change in the culture, the futility of the worship of false gods may be the grace that brings many individuals to their senses – and Confession.
Time is on His side. This is our faith. This is our hope. Or it should be. Without presumption and with God’s grace, may we remain strong and remain faithful. And may the Lord gaze upon us and our holy persistence and say, always, “Great is your faith!”

© 2016 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The New Ignorance Far Worse than the Old- by Anthony Esolen

The New Ignorance Far Worse than the Old


“Education,” wrote Malcolm Muggeridge fifty years ago, “the great fraud and mumbo-jumbo of the age,” had not brought to the mass of men the best that has been done and thought and said, but rather spread ignorance and folly across the land. Muggeridge understood, though he did not feel he needed to say so explicitly, that the modern ignorance is a new kind of thing, not like the ignorance of old. We Catholics who wish to bring the good news of Christ to the world must now reckon with the malady, because it will require of us something other than what was required of the old missionaries when they went among a heathen people, to show them that the best of what they already believed was but an adumbration of the truth, whole and living.

The old ignorance is easy to describe. All it meant was that people did not know how to read, or had not had a chance to study arts and letters and the sciences, or were never introduced to the gospel. Among peoples already Christian it had more to do with what class you were born to than how intelligent you were. So an Italian mason would know how to dress a block of marble for a rounded pillar, so that it would sit securely in place, tapering it towards the top, too, lest it look as if it were beetling above you and getting ready to fall upon your head. The miller knew how to rig the carpentry so that he could engage and disengage the water wheel with ease. The painter knew how to build scaffolding, and where to get the earths, greens, shellfish, bones, berries, and whatnot to create his pigments. You could not get through an ordinary day without putting into act a wide variety of skills, and practical knowledge of the world around you, and this was true of both sexes, and even of children. But they might not know who Cicero was, or how to read The Divine Comedy, or, unless they were sailors, what route you would take on the sea to get to Ireland, or what a logarithm is, and so forth.

I could now say that the new ignorance is just the old ignorance, without those skills and that practical knowledge. The new ignorant are vague about what a mill is, nor do they know who Cicero was, even though they have attended school, that efficient emptier of brains, for twelve to sixteen years. That would be bad enough, but it would still not be exactly correct.

Lately I followed a lead to an article written by our good friend Joseph Pearce, on the fact that students coming to college and students leaving college do not really know much at all about the history, theology, philosophy, art, and poetry of the Christian heritage. He is quite right about that, and I’ve long known about it. I’m sure he is aware of an even deeper ignorance, though—the ignorance you have to be educated into; the ignorance on gaudy display in the comments below his article.
For examples:
Constantine decreed that the Church had to believe in the Trinity.
Christians adopted a pagan festival to celebrate Easter and Christmas.
Christians were pacifists who sapped the strength of the Roman Empire (hat tip to you, Edward Gibbon, sour skeptic and despiser of the Church).
Christians massacred people who did not convert to their religion.
Christians burned down the library at Alexandria.
Catholics persecuted the “heretic” Copernicus.
Jesus preached socialism and the redistribution of income.
Christians despised pagan philosophy.
Christians are responsible for the rejection of centuries of scientific achievement.
Christians caused the fall of the Roman Empire.
Catholics burned a million people at the stake for being “witches.”
If it weren’t for Christians, we might have been driving around in automobiles fifteen centuries ago.

Those are just from the one article. I can supply more. 
The Founding Fathers were mostly deists. Enlightenment skeptics were primarily responsible for abolishing slavery. Nothing important culturally happened between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. 
The American Indians were largely peace-loving until Europeans arrived. Women in the Middle Ages were no better than chattel. Michelangelo and Shakespeare were homosexuals. Scholars in the Middle Ages fought over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. People believed the world was flat until Renaissance scientists (or Columbus) proved otherwise. The American economy flourished because of the slave trade. People used to practice abortion every bit as commonly as now.

“Wise women” used to give herbal remedies to people, and that is why they were accused of witchcraft. The drafters of the American constitution determined that a black man was worth only three-fifths of a white man. Women were not allowed to own property before (pick your year). The Catholic Church in particular, and Christians in general, have always been afraid of sex and the human body. Islam was peaceful enough until the Crusades. Pope Pius XII was Hitler’s man.

Catholics believe, and have always believed, that all Protestants are surely going to hell, and vice-versa, and both Catholics and Protestants believe, and have always believed, that every person not baptized with water by a priest or minister is going to join them there. Religion is just a means of “controlling” people. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Saint Paul invented the Church. Jesus was just an ordinary teacher, like the Buddha. The gospels were written down a hundred years after the facts. The first Christians suppressed the “real” gospels.
The human race was matriarchal until (pick your event: the ancient agricultural revolution will do). There was no division of labor between men and women until (pick your event: the industrial revolution will do). Very few people in the United States knew how to read anything much until the advent of compulsory schooling. The account of creation in Genesis is just like every other account of creation from the ancient world.

And on it goes. I will soon be meeting my college freshmen for the first time, in our program in the development of western civilization, and I know that I will have to un-teach them a great deal of nonsense that they have been taught. Much of it is sheer blinkered stupidity, such as that you must never use the personal pronoun “I” in an essay, or that you may not begin a sentence with “because,” or that you should never use the passive voice—defined as using any form of the verb “to be.” But much of it is this new kind of ignorance, the shallow bigotry of people who have been malformed in their schooling and in their reading of bad books or sloppy journalism, over the course of many years, so that they “know” all kinds of things that are not true, and “know” them as ingrained prejudices. 

I have seen it many times before: we will spend a whole semester teaching them about the glorious art and literature of the Middle Ages, introducing them to Dante and Giotto and Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure, and still some of them will repeat that canard about darkness covering the world in gloom for ten centuries, until Petrarch or somebody was born.

The situation would be bad enough if we encountered it only in the graduates of high school and of the “lesser” colleges and universities, but not from places like Princeton and Harvard and Yale. Alas, that is not the case at all. The graduates of still-Catholic and still-Christian colleges are more likely than are their counterparts from the Poison Ivies to know some things about the western heritage. You cannot graduate from my school, Providence College, without at least brushing up against Homer, Virgil, Marcus Aurelius, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, inter alia. But it is highly unlikely that a graduate of Brown University, that overpriced bohemian stew pot across the city from us in Providence, will have read a single play by Shakespeare for his or her classes, let alone anything of Virgil or the Scriptures.

We will also encounter it among the self-styled prophets of our time: the journalists, and journalistic writers of memoirs and cultural analyses. Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates, new darling of the left and a recipient of one of the MacArthur “genius” awards, admitted recently without embarrassment or apology that he had never heard of Saint Augustine; which is rather like a prize-winning author from England having never heard of Charlemagne. Since Coates writes about racial issues, his ignorance of the great intellect from North Africa was all the more stunning. And yet he can speak endlessly about racism and the Christian faith. Such a thing is common among journalists and the writers of popular journalistic books, and it comes from all races, all political persuasions, and both sexes.

That is what we have to deal with now. In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis said that the task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. That is still true, except that the desert-dwellers we meet suffer one jungle-mirage after another, a veritable fantasyland rain forest of monstrous untruths and massive foolishness. We will have to help them clear their heads of the hallucinogens before we can fill those heads with truth and beauty.
Editor’s note: The image above depicts Bugs Bunny’s nephew Clyde in the final scene from the Looney Toons cartoon Yankee Doodle Bugs (1954).