September 23

Okay, brace yourself, I suggest sitting down. This post is not meant to be read in a quiet spot, because shouts of exclamation are most certainly appropriate. I also don’t promote the reading of this post over cliffs from your smart-phones, as you might slip and injury yourself from sheer astonishment, inspiration and jubilation.

First read this miraculious story!

I am very close with my older brother James. He is a tremendous blessing to me and a beautiful witness to me. James is a Captain in the United States Marine Corps.

In August of 2009 he returned from overseas. In September of 2009 his Commanding Officer (CO), said he was sending him back. This scheduled return was exceedingly unexpected seeing that he had just arrived back in the United States. Two days later I flew out to California to welcome him home and say goodbye again.

As I passed through security at the airport it really hit me that James was leaving again. I had two hours before my plane took off for California, so with a little Lady Antebellum playing in my  ipod I walked over to Starbucks to get a Cappuccino. I always travel with books to read and reached into my North Face book bag to pull out a book about Saint Padre Pio.

Right then it dawned on me that I should pray for a miracle that James wouldn’t be deployed through Saint Pio’s intercession, as he feast day was mere days away. Why hadn’t I thought of this before, I thought to myself. This was just the sort of thing that would delight Saint Pio. Saint Teresa of Avila once said, “We pay God a great favor by asking big things of Him.” So with faith and love in my heart I prayed for James. When I arrived in California my eyes welled with joyful tears as I saw him walk toward me wearing his favorite Rainbow flip flops (total California style).

The morning that I was going to say goodbye to James I got up early to go running down by the beach. The elevator was broken and there was a sign on it that said to use the stairs. As I approached the stairs I thought it odd that they elevator would be broken because it was an extremely upscale hotel where weddings were hosted. I opened the door to go down the stairs and couldn’t believe what I saw. The entire stair case was covered with roses!! I was in awe, because roses are a sign that Saint Pio is close to you. I knew Saint Pio was doing something, especially since this was the day before his feast day.

California mornings are usually slightly cloudy and that morning was no different. I ran 6 miles just as the sun was rising and the view was breathtaking. All of the surfers were just getting to the ocean, driving up in their jeeps with their surf boards on top and morning coffee in hand. It was gorgeous.

James told me to meet him at a cafe’ for breakfast. He called, said he was running late and to go ahead and order. I ordered belgium waffles, a cappuccino and a mimosa. James and I always drink mimosas in California and I ordered mine with a smile. About fifteen minutes later, just as my waffles were served, and the steam still rising from the plate James walks in. As the waiter pours the champagne and the bubbles fizzle James sits down. “You’re never gonna believe this, but I’m not going. My CO (commanding officer) just told me I’m not going.” I knew it was Padre!! James continued to say that out of 1,000 men and women that were being deployed he was the only one told he was staying. To this day no explanation has been given to him.

Blessed be God! God is ALIVE my friends! Pray for miracles, they delight Him.

James and his wife Susan.

Today is the feast day of St. Padre Pio. Today is a glorious day. The story about James is just one of times that Padre has interceded for me. One of the things I love about Padre is his response to suffering. Saint Pio once said, “Beneath the cross one learns to love.” Everyone struggles, everyone is faced with the cross. But it is our response to that cross that determines so much. To know that a saint as holy as he is, is before the throne of grace praying for me and my intentions is mind-boggling. His life is an example of the fact that sanctity is attainable when we abandon ourselves to God.

Who is this saint who interceded for James? you may ask. What is his story? Allow me to introduce you to one of my closest friends – Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.

Saint Pio is one of the most beloved, astounding and controversial religious figures of the 20th century. He bore the wounds of Jesus on his own body, healed the sick, predicted future events, read the minds and consciences of those he counselled, and in some instances appeared miles away to help souls in need. But those who came to see him were less moved by these wonders than by his compassion, warmth, holiness and  profound love for Jesus. In his lifetime he was unjustly accused of neurosis, hysteria and immorality, In time he was vindicated, and thirty-four years after his death in 1968, was named a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Francesco Forgione was born in 1887, in the village of Pietrelcina in the South of Italy. He was the second of five children. His parents were poor farmers. An exceedingly pious boy, Francesco had frequent visions of Jesus, Mary and his guardian angel. At the age of ten he announced his intention of becoming a Franciscan friar, and entered the Capuchin novitiate in Morcone at the age of sixteen.

His piety intensified in his late teens and early twenties, and with it his mystical experiences. Jesus appeared and spoke to him, but Satan also assailed Padre with frightening visions, numerous temptations, and even physical assaults. In September, 1918, Padre Pio had a vision in the friary chapel, the crucifix transformed into a vision of Jesus crucified, and from this vision came rays of light that pierced his hands and feet. Within a year enormous crowds were coming to San Giovanni, and Padre Pio was spending sixteen hours a day in the confessional.

St. Pio endured extraordinary persecution from jealous clergy. And from 1931-1933, Padre was forbidden to hear confessions, or say Mass in public. During this period Padre appeared cheerful. But was equally well-known for outbursts of temper towards curious pilgrims and unrepentant sinners. He underwent continual darkness and doubt as to if he was in a state of grace. He never thought of himself as “holy.”

After WWII ended, Padre embarked on a new mission, to build a hospital in the community. He began organizing a board of directors in 1946. Donations poured in from admirers and disciples around the world, and in 1956 the House for the Relief of Suffering opened its doors. It is known today as a world-class medical institution.

On September 23, 1968, 50 years after receiving the stigmata, Padre died. He was beatified in 1999 and canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. Over eight million visit his tomb each year.

Saint Padre Pio, pray for us!

“The most beautiful credo is that which comes from your lips in darkness, in sacrifice, in pain, in the supreme effort of an unbending will for good. It is this which like a stroke of lightening penetrates the darkness of the soul; it is this which in the flash of the tempest lifts you and leads you to God.” -St. Pio

‎”The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain.” -St. Pio

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