Blog 93 September 24, 2018


MIRACLES NEVER CEASE ~ Robert Wise explores the world of Divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

Born Franceso Forgione in the small town of Pietrecina, Italy on May 25, 1887, his parents were peasant farmers.  Franceso had an elder brother and three younger sisters. Grazia became a nun. At his baptism, he was given the name Francesco. By the time, he was five-years-old, he made a decision to give his entire life to God. The Forgione family reflected the deeply devout convictions of their faith. These little towns in Italy are filled with devout people whose faith goes back for centuries. Saints days were always celebrated. The family was in worship far more than once a week. His mother said that little Francesco appeared to be able to see and talk with Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and his guardian angel.  Apparently, he thought everyone could do the same.

Last week, I started telling you how I became a acquainted with this extraordinary man. This week, I’m adding a few more details that you may find important.

Francesco received the name Padre Pio after becoming a Roman Catholic priest in the Order of Friars Minor Caphuchin in San Giovanni Rotondo. His fellow friars reported that during prayers, Pio often appeared to be in a stupor as if he were completely absent from the group. At such times, they reported seeing him levitating above the ground. During his 81 years living in the twentieth century, his life was filled with divine interventions and numerous incidences of bi-location. However, all during this time, he struggled with difficult medical problems.

In September 20, 1918, while hearing a confession, the first experience of the stigmata appeared. While he preferred to suffer with the wounds alone, the word quickly spread and people came from everywhere to see him.  Word of his amazing gifts spread quickly.

Eventually some church leaders became suspicious of Pio and thought he induced the wounds for financial gain. The Vatican even issued severe restrictions on his work. Finally, this pressure diminished and the Pope himself affirmed Padre Pio and his work.

One of the remarkable stories concerns the visit of Bishop Karol Jozef  Wojtyla (who became John Paul II) with Padre Pio in 1962. Reportedly, a prophetic word was given to Wojtyla that he would occupy a high position in the church. Obviously, this came to pass beyond Wojtyla’s wildest dreams.

During the years that I traveled in Italy, I recognized the profound influence Padre Pio had on people and the country even though he virtually never left the monastery. He abruptly appeared on a battlefield and saved an Italians soldier from being blown up and then disappeared. He is credited as appearing during a World War II bombing of the area around the monastery and preventing a disaster. At one point while he was looking out the window in the monastery, he was also seen far away assisting a dying man. The stories were endless.

Early in the morning of September 23, 1968, he prepared for the end of his life. At around 2:30, he said, “I see two mothers (meaning his earthly mother and the Virgin Mary). He died in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo with a final whisper, “Maria.” He was buried in a crypt in the Church of Our Lady with over 100,000 people attending. He was both beatified (1999) and canonized (2002) by Pope John Paul II. Regardless of the subjective elements present in his story, the record speaks for itself.

Some skeptics will see all of these stories as nonsense or at least highly questionable. I discovered the people who experienced them believed these events to the core of their being.


Blog 92 September 17, 2018


MIRACLES NEVER CEASE Robert Wise explores the world of Divine intervention from an objective point of view. Can 21st Century people believe that the hand of God touches people in today’s world?

The first time I heard of Padre Pio was during a conversation with a Roman Catholic Priest  in Oklahoma City. I asked Father John W. Scheller what influenced him to become a priest. He told that during World War II, he was in the infantry that invaded Italy. Somewhere along the way, he heard about this amazing priest in San Giovanni Rotondo and found the church. That afternoon Padre Pio was officiating at the Mass. My friend had worked his way around to the side of the altar where he could observe everything that was happening. Padre Pio was wearing gloves with the fingers cut out. Because he had the stigmata (the wounds of Christ), his hands bled when exposed.

My friend watched Pio pick up the chalice and lift it up to the heavens for the concentration of the host. At that moment, Padre Pio began to rise up from the floor and hovered suspended in the air. As he put the chalice down, the priest came back down to the floor.

Father Scheller watched in total amazement.

As I listened, I found his story difficult to digest. I had to tell him that this sounded like something from science fiction. The priest smiled, but said what he saw in those moments with this Italian priest changed his life. Those few moments caused Father Scheller to spend the rest of his life as a celibate priest.

What a challenging story! The early portion of Padre Pio’s life was prior to Vatican II. Anyone from that era immediately finds the many stories of miraculous happenings easy to accept. After Vatican II in 1963, everything changed. The hallowed sense of stillness and quiet in a service gave way to shaking hands, talking, and priests telling funny stories in their homilies. Believers from this era look at the stories of divine interventions with more of an askance questioning point of view. On the other hand, Protestants have been raised with grave doubts about Roman Catholic saints and miracle stories. The tendency is to distrust the whole works. The point of view you bring to these accounts is probably more important than what you are actually reading. I know readers will be subjective in what they read.

However, I had no reason to doubt my friend. He had spent six decades as a humble man of the cloth. Consequently, I had to know more about this Padre Pio. As the years that I spent traveling in Italy went by, I heard many, many more stores about this extraordinary man’s ministry. Subjective? Yes, but when a man spends the rest of his life in a profession because of what happened in such limited contact, I had to take a long second look at what might be more objective than it was at first glance.

Let me tell you more about what I discovered about Padre Pio. Next week I will tell you more about what I learned over three decades. You’ll be fascinated!