This year continues to see great blessings and celebrating in San Giovanni Rotondo!
Earlier this year, in February, at the request of His Holiness Pope Francis, Saint Pio was brought from San Giovanni Rotondo to Rome, along with fellow Capuchin Saint Leopold Mandic, where these two Friars, modern day examples of God's great mercy, especially bestowed in the Sacrament of Confession, were present as His Holiness greeted tens of thousands of members of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups from all over the world, and on Ash Wednesday sent out more than 1,000 Missionaries of Mercy with special a mandate to preach and confess. After his visit to Rome, Saint Pio traveled south to his birthplace of Pietrelcina, where on February 11 he was welcomed with great joy, after having departed from there 100 years before, not to physically return during his earthly life. After stopping in Foggia, at the Friary of Saint Ann and then spending a night in his greatest charitable work, La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, the hospital, the Home for the Relief of Suffering, Saint Pio's remains were returned to their resting place in the Lower Church of the great Basilica which bears his name.
Every summer, there is the local celebration, in June, in honor of Saint John the Baptist, for whom the town of San Giovanni Rotondo is named. The three day "Festa" brings out the entire town and is also enjoyed by the pilgrims who happen to be visiting at the time.
We remember our very first Festa di San Giovanni, in 1970! All of the family, six excited Calandra children and our parents along with friends from our hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania, participated every evening. We visited the centuries old Church of Saint John the Baptist in the town's historic center, lining up with thousands of the local towns folk to enter the Church, festooned with fresh flowers and votive lights. Once inside, we became part of the natural flow of people. Candles were placed into our hands, each with its own little wax-paper cup intended to shield the wind, and we moved along and became a part of the procession throughout the town. Following the statues and the Priests; the Civil Dignitaries and a large contingent of Friars; following the San Giovanni Rotondo brass band, we melded with the faithful our candles lit, watching as our wax-paper cups burned to a char and fascinated by the devoutly sung hymns as we walked along immersed in the crowd, wandering amongst the people, but always within watchful sight of our beloved parents.
The next night, Mom and Dad walked us to the "Luna Park" carnival rides, past the vendors with the "bambole" (dolls) and "giocattoli" (toys of all sorts) displayed to attract immediate attention from all of the children! You could hear the "Mom can we have one, puleeeeeeeeeze" coming from the mouths of the all of the kids and regardless of which language, the begging and the sharp "No!" was universally understood! We were attracted also by the food vendors with candied almonds and cheeses and all of the traditional festival foods but what we really waited for was the very last night. All of us gathered on the terrace of our little "pensione" which were simply rooms in the original Casa San Giuseppe, the Convent of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, which was located at that time, down one of the side streets off of the main Via Cappuccini.
Along with Madre Vincenza, Suor Bernadetta and Suor Cesida we waited until dark, for the most brilliant fireworks display we had ever seen...actually the first fireworks display for most of us! We could feel the explosions reverberating inside us, as the loud noise caused us to bury our heads in Mom's lap or on Dad's shoulder on even in the laps of the dear Sisters who were like second mothers to us. Memories of these years are etched forever in our minds and hearts and now as adults we do our best to share with our children to maintain the tradition. We took our children to the "Festa di San Giovanni" in June of 2009 which coincided with the visit of Pope Benedict. Thankfully, not much has changed except maybe for the styles of dress...we in the 1970's wore dresses every evening and my brother his "Sunday pants" and our children in 2009, jeans and tees, but the memories...unforgettable!
No sooner will San Giovanni Rotondo recover from the Festa in June that there will be another in July! The 100th Anniversary of the arrival to the remote village of San Giovanni Rotondo, of the town's "best known citizen": Padre Pio!
Padre Pio's Superiors thought that a short stay in the Friary of Our Lady of Grace, breathing the fresh air atop Mount Gargano, would bode well for the health of the poor Friar before returning him once again to the Friary of St. Ann in Foggia where he had been assigned. So packed in a small donkey drawn cart, Padre Pio arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo, July 28, 1916 for a brief stay.
However, Our Lord had different designs on Padre Pio...it was from here that the co-salvific mission of Padre Pio was to become public and it was here, in the Our Lady of Grace Friary Chapel, that Our Blessed Lord came to open upon his body the visible wounds which would become Padre Pio's greatest humiliation and at the same time his "precious jewels"...
To be continued....stay tuned!
It was in the remote mountaintop village of San Giovanni Rotondo, that for over 52 years, Padre Pio would live in total obedience to the will of Almighty God, to the will of his Superiors and in humble obedience to the authority of Holy Mother Church, until his death early in the morning of September 23, 1968.
Countless souls, both living and deceased (the souls from Purgatory) visited that village, seeking consolation from the prayers that Padre Pio always so generously offered even to the extent of taking their suffering upon himself.
His great love for the souls entrusted to him was the impetus for the founding of the internationally renowned hospital, La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza. Early in his mission, when surrounded by the sick who came to him, he never closed his eyes to them, nor did he counsel against going to doctors, because they were a great necessity! He insisted that the sick be cared for.
Having been sent to a world in turmoil and transition during the 20th Century was no mistake; Padre Pio is a constant: a constant reminder that science, as wonderful as it is, cannot explain everything (note the open wounds on the body of Padre Pio, bleeding a cup of blood everyday for 50 years and having been examined by scientists countless times, no explanation possible).
It was during the 20th Century that the world began its transition towards the devaluation of human life, taking away the dignity of the unborn and the elderly, fighting for abortion on demand and euthanasia. However, the Hospital of Padre Pio, which is much more than a hospital but also a world-class research facility, where diseases are being studied and ethically treated and those results going throughout the world to bring relief to the suffering far and wide.
The work of Padre Pio and his mission is more important than ever in these days. This article doesn't even begin to touch upon all that this great Saint achieved in his lifetime and what he continues to do for all who call upon him to this day! Padre Pio's own words before he left this world was a testimony to his continued presence and his legacy to devotees, "I will do more for you from Heaven than I could ever do on earth!" and his promise of great hope, "I will stand at the gates of Paradise and will not enter until the last of my Spiritual Children have entered".
No wonder there will be celebrating in San Giovanni Rotondo this July, to commemorate this great anniversary! The great legacy of Padre Pio is visible there and the great love and intercession of Padre Pio, is manifest everywhere!
Thank you, Dear Lord, for this great gift of Padre Pio in our lives!
For Padre Pio, the relief of physical suffering was just as important as the spiritual guidance of souls; two expressions of love of God and love of neighbor.
Thus on the evening of January 9, 1940, the desire of Padre Pio was to become a reality. Meeting together were Miss Ida Seitz, Dr. Carlo Kisvarday and his wife, Mary; and Dr. Mario Sanvico and his wife, Maria Antonietta. These were the first members of the committee for the founding of a hospital according to the wishes of Padre Pio. The members were given positions as follows: Founder of the Work: Padre Pio of Pietrelcina; Secretary: Dr Mario Sanvico; Technical Medical Director: Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti; Director of Internal Organization: Miss Ida Seitz. First order of business agreed upon by all: anything that has to be done must first be put to Padre Pio and must have his approval.
Immediately after the meeting, the committee went to see Padre Pio and told him everything. He responded approvingly with the words, "This evening my earthly Work has begun. I bless you and all those that will contribute to the Work which will become bigger and ever more beautiful." "I myself want to make the first offering." And, from his pocket Padre Pio took a small gold coin that he received that very day from one of his faithful.
At the same time, responding to Pope Pius XII and his call for all Christians to unite in prayer, Padre Pio requested of his Spiritual Children, the formation of Prayer Groups in support of the Holy Father.
In 1966, Padre Pio gifted his Work along with the Prayer Groups to the Holy Father. Through the Holy See, Pope Paul VI, officially appointed a General Director for the Prayer Groups and to oversee the administration of the Hospital in 1968; this official recognition by Pope Paul VI gave great comfort to Padre Pio during the final months of his life on earth.
Today, an official apostolic delegation of the Holy See, the Hospital of Padre Pio continues to follow the principles and intention of its Founder; not to achieve just any hospital, but a "Casa" a "Place of Prayer and Science" where "patients, doctors, and priests shall be a reserve of love and when it abounds in one, so it shall be passed to all."
As well as being a full service hospital, the Casa is a world class scientific research center. Renowned for ethical catholic research principles, the Casa publishes on average approximately 180 scientific articles every year in a wide variety of prestigious scientific publications and journals internationally. The areas of specialization are many, covering genetic and hereditary diseases in both adult illnesses and pediatric genetic research to name a few. Patients from all over the world, even here in the United States have benefitted from the research being done at the Hospital of Padre Pio.
We hope and pray that you will join us in supporting the wonderful work being done at Padre Pio's Hospital: La Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, known in English as the Home for the Relief of Suffering.
Contact us for more information, to learn about the great initiatives being undertaken. Padre Pio once said, "I belong to the whole world", and through the Work of this great Saint, both the Hospital and the Prayer Groups which carry his name, the entire world is benefitting.
What the Popes have said about the Padre Pio Prayer Groups entrusted to them:
"Among the many great things that Padre Pio did was the creation of this immense array, this great stream of people who assemble to pray and who, after his example and trusting in his spiritual assistance, devote themselves to the Christian life, bearing witness to communion in prayer, charity, poverty of spirit and in the power of their Christian Faith." - Pope Paul VI, 24 September 1975
"You who belong to the Prayer Groups intend to cooperate with the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God" and, "you place prayer as the foundation of your Christian life; the prayer of praise; the prayer of impartation; the prayer - as your statutes affirm incisively - with the Church, for the Church and in the Church. This individual prayer becomes communal, expresses itself in the conscious and active participation of the liturgy; find its strength in the Sacraments, in particular in the Eucharist and Reconcilitaion; it becomes a need of communion and obedience to the Magisterium of the Church, to the Vicar of Christ, to the Bishops." - Pope St. John Paul II, 1 October, 1983
"Be...silent adorers of the Divine Mystery and apostles of His mercy. Follow Padre Pio's example, imitate his unceasing search for intimacy with the Lord, as this is the only secret of the spiritual life." - Pope St. John Paul II, 29 September 1990
Pope Benedict XVI on October 14, 2006, described the Prayer Groups of Padre Pio as "That part" of the Saint's apostolate "that knocks continuously at God's heart, like an army of intercessors and restorers, to obtain those graces that are necessary for the Church and for the world."
That is how the Italian news media is reporting the upcoming events planned from February 3 through February 10 in Rome, during this Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy, involving the Reliquaries containing the remains of two remarkable Capuchin Franciscan Saints, St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Leopold Mandic. And, the National Centre for Padre Pio and the members of our Prayer Group have been blessed to be invited to participate!
The remains of the two Saints will leave their Churches: St. Pio from San Giovanni Rotondo and St. Leopold from Padua and meet at the Basilica of St. Lorenzo al Verano where they will remain under the care of their confreres until February 4th when they will be transferred to the Jubilee Church of San Salvatore in Lauro.
The Centre's Group departs the USA on February 4 and will arrive in Rome on the following day, in time to participate in the historic Grand Procession. After a Solemn Mass officiated by His Excellency, Most Reverend Michele Castoro, Archbishop of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo, the procession will form wherein the Relics of the two Saints will be accompanied by the Faithful from the area around the Piazza Navona to Saint Peter's Basilica...the thoroughfares will be closed to motor traffic all those accompanying the Saints will pass...attendance is expected to be in the tens of thousands...And we will be there! Look for us in the crowd, carrying our banner from the "Home of Padre Pio in the USA" Barto, PA! Truly an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience...
The following day, our group will participate in the special audience with Pope Francis along with the Padre Pio Prayer Groups from around the world and the staff from the Hospital founded by Padre Pio, the Home for the Relief of Suffering. Following the audience, with the other Spiritual Children of Padre Pio, we pass through the Holy Doors in St. Peter's Basilica to obtain the indulgence...
Our group must leave Rome on Monday to continue our Pilgrimage. On Ash Wednesday, when the Holy Father will send 1,000 Missionaries of Mercy throughout the world, giving them a special mandate to preach and confess, our group will be attending solemn Mass, offered by our accompanying Chaplain from the Congregation of the Fathers of Mercy, in Auburn, KY, Father Thomas Sullivan, CPM, in the Grotto of St. Michael the Archangel, acclaimed as one of the holiest places on Earth, located high atop the Gargano Mountains, as we begin our Lent imploring the protection of the Holy Archangel upon ourselves and our loved ones.
Thursday the 11th we visit Pietrelcina and have our Mass at the Piana Romana where Padre Pio began to suffer the Passion of Christ shortly after his Priestly Ordination. Later that afternoon, we welcome Padre Pio as he returns to his beloved birthplace, which he left precisely 100 years before! He will spend several days in the Friary Church in Pietrelcina again in the care of his Capuchin Franciscan confreres before returning to San Giovanni Rotondo on the 14th of February.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis chose St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Leopold Mandic to be present in Rome during the particular events during this Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy; both were renowned confessors and wise spiritual fathers who untiringly demonstrated God's Mercy not only in their daily lives of sacrifice, but in the countless hours they spent in the confessional where the Mercy of God is freely and bounteously dispensed to all humble and contrite souls!
We pray that you will join our Pilgrimage in spirit! Go to your local designated Jubilee Church, pass through the Holy Doors and avail yourself of the indulgence...the requirements are simple: Confession and Mass with reception of Holy Communion and prayers for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, within several days of visiting the Jubilee Church. Remember you may only obtain the indulgence once a day and the indulgence can be applied to yourself or a deceased soul. Jesus we Trust in You!