By Michael H. Brown
Padre Pio Remains Total Mystery — With Amazing Cures That Still Stun Experts
Who was Padre Pio? How do we comprehend a man of so much mystery? How could a single person have so many gifts?
There are saints who have been known for healing; there are saints who could “read” souls; there are saints who were known for levitation; there were saints who bore the stigmata, or were seen in apparition, or had the “odor of sanctity.” There are saints who could understand languages they didn’t know.
But Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who died in 1968 and will be canonized Sunday in a huge, historic ceremony, had all these charisms — and more. In fact, no saint in history, with the possible exception of St. Francis, had more in the way of mysticism. It seemed there are no charisms he didn’t possess. This was a man who was a mystery to everyone he ever met and a mystery even to himself. To this day, we still don’t understand how a single person could pack such potency — nor what this implies. Who was he? Why did one man have such potency?
We know only that he has been a fantastic intercessor — stories of his miracles, both during and subsequent to his death, are absolutely legion — and after his canonization, that intercession will grow. Of all Padre Pio’s healings, one of the most remarkable may have been a blind girl from the Palermo area named Gemma DiGiorgio. “I had no pupils in my eyes,” said Gemma in 1971, several years after Padre Pio’s death. “I had no sight at all. When I was three months old, my mother took me to a very famous eye doctor in Palermo. He told her that, without pupils, I would never be able to see.”
Some claimed that she may have had pupils, but that her birth defect was so severe they were not recognized as such. Whatever the case, in 1946, when the girl was seven, a nun took it upon herself to write Padre Pio on her behalf and received a note saying that the girl should be brought to Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotundo. That’s exactly what Gemma’s grandmother did: brought the girl to see the famous monk, who heard the child’s first Confession and gave her first Communion — then made the sign of the Cross on her eyes.
After the blessing, Gemma was able to see. It’s a fact that is beyond question, confirmed by amazed doctors. Did she really lack pupils? Or was her entire eye one large pupil (making it seem that way)? We know only that there was a severe defect and that although the physical defect remained unchanged, afterward Gemma was able to see normally.
More astounding still may be the thoroughly-documented cure of a construction worker named Giovanni Savino, who was severely injured on February 15, 1949, in a dynamite mishap. When Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti, a physican, and Padre Raffaele, another Capuchin, and Father Dominic Meyer rushed to the injured man’s side, “all three men noted that among Savino’s numerous injuries, his right eye was gone entirely. They agreed that ‘the socket was empty,'” reports biographer Bernard Ruffin in Padre Pio: The True Story.
Other doctors confirmed that the eye was completely annihilated and the other one badly damaged.
It looked like Savino was also going to be totally blind.
For three days the worker lay on a hospital bed with his head and face bandaged. When a surgeon entered the room three days later, Savino reported that Padre Pio had visited him — something Savino recognized because he had detected the beautiful aroma so often reported around the priest.
A week later, at about one a.m. on February 25, 1949, Savino felt a slap on the right side of his face — the side where the eye was completely gone.
“I asked, ‘Who touched me?'” testified Savino. “There was nobody. Again I smelled the aroma of Padre Pio. It was beautiful.”
When later the ophthalmologist — an atheist — came to examine the remaining eye, there was shock. “To their amazement,” writes Ruffin, “the doctors found that his shattered face was fully healed and covered with new skin. Savino, however, was most delighted at the fact that he could see. ‘I can see you!’ he said excitedly to the eye specialist.”
And indeed, as is medically documented, the doctor saw to his ‘utter astonishment” that Savino had his right eye back. Somehow, the eye had materialized. (“Now I believe too,” exclaimed the doctor, “because of what my own hands have touched!”)
As Ruffin notes, it’s one thing when diseases disappear; this is exciting. It’s tremendous to hear of diabetes or arthritis or even cancer leaving a person. “For a missing part of the body to be restored, however, is another matter,” noted the expert biographer.
Padre Pio: The True Story is available in our bookstore