Centuries before the arrival of the great Saint Padre Pio, the church and monastery in which he would spend decades — rarely leaving, at San Giovanni Rotundo, in eastern Italy — had been a hotspot for miracles.
It was way back in 1540 that a cross was erected on a hillock, next to which monastery walls were soon raised.
Next to the monastery, a little church also arose, dedicated to Our Lady of Grace.
As for miracles?
“In this hermitage,” a chronicler of the monastery’s history wrote, “the religious strove fervently to acquire the holy virtues, and especially holy poverty, because they well knew what our Seraphic Father had said: that poverty makes us poor in possessions but enriches us with virtues.
“And why be afraid of want, if we have for our provider the God of Heaven and earth? Oh, what beatitude it was for them to pay attention only to heavenly things, depending for everything else on the Lord’s loving providence, which did not fail to provide them with the necessary sustenance, even in a miraculous way, as we see in fact in the year 1548.”
What occurred, that year, was astounding indeed.
“In fact,” said the chronicler, quoted in a neat little book, Stories of Padre Pio, “it is related in part one of the first volume of the annals of the monastery that enough snow fell that year to isolate the monastery completely, making it impossible for the brother entrusted with alms collecting to provide for the needs of his fellow brothers.
“Already all the bread and legumes were gone, and as there was no hope of human assistance, the friars had recourse to the Lord.
“That same evening, ‘four young men of lordly appearance came to the monastery, one with bread, the other with wine, and the third and fourth with various kinds of foods. And because there was not anybody in the monastery who knew them, the doorkeeper asked them whence they had come from and who had sent the alms, so that the brothers could give proper thanks.
“Yet the young men said only, ‘Thank the Lord, Who does not abandon His faithful servants in their needs.’ And thus they suddenly left.”
When, soon after, worried local people pushed a path through the snow to the monastery, they learned what had happened some days earlier — about the four men who had saved the friars in their dire need.
No one ever was able to identify who the young men had been, and locals, after failing to locate any possible local rescuers, knew it was impossible that such alms had come from any other community, for the snow had been “very high.”
“So they recognized the miracle and were convinced that it had been angels who, in the form of young men, had provided for the needs of the poor volunteers of Jesus Christ.”
[resources: books about Padre Pio]