Encounters with Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Our founder has met Saint Pio on various occasions; he considers three encounters especially formative in view of the distinctive charism of the Fraternity.
St Pio spoke to me of “The importance of small things” on the occasion of my first confession, in 1950, that he benevolently administered to me in my own cell in the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo, where I was hosted. He sat on my bed, I was at his feet, and he preached at length on the importance of small things, and made me partake of the mystery of the Holy family in the Holy Home, and of St Francis’ intuitions on a life modelled on the Gospels. This was the source of an impelling urge for a life where the call to holiness could be appreciated in the daily events, as there are no areas of our life that are alien to this tension to holiness. It is true that holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
“A program for life” written by Padre Pio in person. In 1959, after a confession, I asked him: “Father, you see my future. Please give me a program for my life” and after a few days he let me have, through his confessor, an image with this writing on the other side: “Don’t be so involved in Martha’s activities as to forget Mary’s silence. May the Virgin Mary, who so well harmonized both ministries, be your sweet model and inspiration”. As I received this message, I soon understood its significance. However, I kept trying to understand it more and more and above all I tried to actualize in my life the contents of the “program” that, well beyond my intentions, proved to have been written not only for myself, but for many others.
This message was really a prophecy, initially for my personal life and then for the definition of the charism of the Fraternity.
The call to priesthood. In the last encounter that I had with him, in July 1968 (one month and a half before his death) he said to me: “My son, it is God’s will that you become a priest. It depends on you; however, you will do the will of your superiors. This call, that shortly after would be confirmed by Venerable Madre Speranza, came to upturn the first thirty years of my life in the Capuchin Fraternity, as a lay brother. This met with resistance on my part, both because of my little inclination for study, both because it meant to leave a status that, within the Order, however enjoyed the evangelical privilege of inferiority. And yet this great gift that the Lord has given to me, the call to priesthood, has proved to be indispensable for the accomplishment of the foundation of the Franciscan Fraternity of Bethany, that Our Lord had bestowed on me.