Padre Pio and the Guardian Angels
Among the marvels of modern technology is the ability to communicate instantly with persons living far away. If we lived in the 18th century, for instance, we might have to wait months to receive news from a loved one. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, who died fifty years ago, found the secret to keep in immediate contact with his many spiritual children around the world. How did he know their needs so quickly? When troubled, he advised them to send their guardian angels to him. The contact was immediate and the response was swift.
Who Was Padre Pio?
For some souls, the thinnest of veils separate heaven and earth. In yet rarer individuals, God lifts the veil altogether. Such was the case of Padre Pio. He was in frequent contact with angels, often experienced heavenly visions, and performed many astonishing miracles. Most notably, he bore the stigmata (wounds of Christ) for fifty years. Who, then, was this rare and holy man?
He was born Francisco Forgione, in Pietrelcina, southern Italy, on May 25, 1887. His parents were hardworking farmers who instilled their own deep piety into the child. Francisco helped work the land and tended the sheep. One day, he heard a visiting Capuchin friar speak and felt the desire to become a friar himself. He realized this hope in 1903, aged 16, and was ordained to the priesthood seven years later.
In 1918, he received the stigmata in his hands, feet, and heart. Countless doctors examined this phenomenon over the next decades. They could not make sense of how he constantly bled yet continued to live. The wounds, which smelled of perfume or flowers, deeply embarrassed him and he usually wore gloves over his hands.
Until his death in 1968, visions, bilocation, miracles, levitation, ecstasies, became his ordinary daily experience. Countless multitudes visited the friary to attend his Mass. Among his ministries in helping others, he continually received the guardian angels of his spiritual children from around the world. He saw them plainly, received their messages, and responded with prayer.
Testing the Validity
Two teenage girls living near the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo heard of Padre Pio’s supposed communication with the angels. Finding it rather incredible, they decided to test the validity of this claim. They spent a whole night sending their guardian angels to Padre Pio. They made such requests as, “Pray for my uncle Federico,” or “Cure my cousin.”
The next day after Mass, the two friends went to the friary to ask for Padre Pio’s blessing. To their surprise, the Padre was upset with them. He said to one of the girls, “You kept me awake all night. First, you sent me your guardian angel to cure your uncle Federico,” and turning to the other girl, he said, “and you sent me yours asking that your cousin be cured. And you kept it up all night long…I didn’t get any sleep!”
Angelic Alarm Clock
Indeed, Padre Pio was accustomed to little sleep. One night in 1918, he was sick in bed and awake. He tried calling the superior of the house, Padre Paolino, but there was no response. Padre Paolino confessed that he was such a heavy sleeper that, “If you want to wake me up, you’d better send your guardian angel.” That very night, Padre Paolino was asleep and felt himself roughly awakened. He thought of Padre Pio, but tiredness got the better of him.
This same scenario occurred on the following night. Padre Paolino then told Padre Pio to make sure his angel got him out of bed. That night at 1:30 A.M., Padre Paolino said he felt himself shaken so vigorously that he got up at once and went to see Padre Pio. When he arrived at his room, he found that Pio was in great need of help and unable to assist himself.
As he advanced in age, Padre Pio became less independent and required the help of other friars. One of these helpers was Padre Alessio Parente. His duties allowed for little rest, so he slept during Padre Pio’s Mass. However, at the end of Mass, he had to guide Padre Pio through the multitudes.
Because of extreme tiredness, Padre Alessio often slept through his alarm clock or sometimes turned it off. Invariably, when the time drew near, he would hear a knock on his door. When he arose to see who it was, nobody was at the door. He then realized it was time to help Padre Pio. He arrived just in time.
On occasion, Padre Alessio slept through the knock as well. He later apologized to Padre Pio who said to him, “Yes I understand you, but do you think I will continue to send my guardian angel every day to wake you up? You’d better go and buy yourself a new alarm clock.”
Night and Day Contact
Padre Alessio also worked as a secretary to sort the huge number of letters pouring into the friary. He once asked Padre Pio about a certain request in a letter. Padre Pio expressed annoyance over these questions. “Come on, my son, leave me alone,” he said, “Can’t you see that I am very busy?” It seemed to Padre Alessio that Pio simply sat in his chair, fingering his rosary. In fact, Padre Pio was communicating with a long procession of guardian angels.
Seeing his perplexity, Padre Pio explained to him, “Didn’t you see all those guardian angels going backwards and forwards from my spiritual children bringing messages from them?” The communication went on through the night; Padre Alessio would hear Padre Pio say to an unseen visitor, “Tell her I will pray for her,” or “Tell him that he will be present in my Mass.” Though invisible to Padre Alessio, Padre Pio could see the angels plainly.
Moreover, persons who sent their guardian angels were astonished at how quickly their troubles ceased. One woman wrote to Padre Alessio, explaining that she was sick to her stomach and alone. She thought she was going to die, so she sent her guardian angel to Padre Pio. She said her pain immediately stopped and she felt better than ever.
Besides helping others, Padre Pio’s guardian angel also assisted him with various matters. In a letter to his spiritual director, Padre Agostino, Padre Pio explained one of these services, “The heavenly beings continue to visit me and give me a foretaste of the rapture [or joys] of the blessed. And while the mission of our guardian angels is a great one, my own angel’s mission is certainly greater, since he has the additional task of teaching me other languages.”
Somewhat incredulous, Padre Agostino decided to test the linguistic ability of Padre Pio’s guardian angel. He accordingly wrote his letters in French or Greek, unfamiliar languages to Padre Pio. The local parish priest, Don Panullo, said he was in Padre Pio’s company when he received a letter written in Greek. The priest swore under oath that Padre Pio, despite his ignorance even of the Greek alphabet, translated its contents exactly.
This angelic assistance was especially helpful when Padre Pio heard the confessions of foreigners. Once, a young American girl went to confession to Padre Pio before her first Holy Communion. Though he never studied English, Padre Pio listened and spoke English to this girl. Another time a Swiss priest went to him for confession and spoke in Latin. The priest requested prayers for a woman he knew, and the Padre responded in perfect German, “I must commend her to the divine compassion.”
Angels and Autos
Padre Pio’s care for his spiritual children drew them to visit San Giovanni Rotondo. One of these persons, Piergiorgio Biavatti, was a car dealer from Florence. As he drove to see Padre Pio in Southern Italy, he ran into heavy traffic and lost time. He stopped for coffee in Naples and continued his journey despite sleepiness. “I remember only one thing,” said Biavatti, “I started the engine, put my hands on the wheel, and after that, I have no recollection whatsoever. I don’t remember any second of the three-hour drive. Not only that but when I reached the square in front of the friary, someone shook me on the shoulder and said, ‘Come on now, take over.’”
Biavatti explained what happened to Padre Pio, “I drove here from Naples but don’t remember driving my car at all.” Padre Pio already knew about it; “You are right. You were sleeping all the way and my guardian angel was driving for you.”
Another spiritual child of Padre Pio’s lived in Rome. She and her husband had a villa near the sea where they escaped from Rome’s dreadful heat. As they were driving there one time, their car broke down. For two hours, they watched as cars sped by without stopping to help them. They began to worry as night descended.
Having experienced the help of Padre Pio’s guardian angel before, the wife suggested that they pray to Padre Pio. The husband was doubtful but said, “Go ahead and try.” After ten minutes, a black car pulled up. A beautiful young man stepped out of the car and asked, “Well, what happened?” The husband explained and the young man said, “I’ll take care of it now. You’ll see that we will fix everything.”
They looked under the hood and the young man said, “Look, you lost all the water from the radiator; it’s burnt out.” He suggested that the husband go to a nearby farm and fill up a can with water. As the husband went, the young man took a toolkit from his car. He taped up the radiator and when the husband returned, he filled up the radiator. After closing the hood he said, “Now you can return home safely; anyhow, you are quite near. But tomorrow, bring the car to be checked immediately.”
As they drove off, they followed the young man in his car. They noticed that his car had no license plate but a long white strip with hieroglyphic letters. Before they turned off their exit, they waved goodbye to him. The couple were dumbfounded and marveled at several factors. First, they had a poodle in the car who always barked in the presence of strangers; during the repair, he remained perfectly calm and quiet. Secondly, how did the young man know about the empty can in the trunk and that they were not too far from home? They could only think that Padre Pio heard their request and sent his angel to help them.
Never forget your Guardian Angel, who is always close to you, who never leaves you, no matter how badly you treat him.— Padre Pio
A Personal Account
While I’ve never seen my guardian angel, the angelic world seems very plausible to me. This stems partly from an unusual experience I had when I was about sixteen years old. I was sitting in the living room of my parent's home, waiting for my mom to say, "Dinner’s ready.” All of a sudden, I had a terrible feeling about my younger brother. I wasn't an overly devout kid; I went to church on Sundays but was far more interested in sports.
At any rate, the feeling persisted, so I went to a room on the other side of the house, got down on my knees, and started praying earnestly for my younger brother. Finally, my Mom called for dinner. Some ten minutes into it, we received a phone call...my younger brother had been hit by a car! Very fortunately, he survived. However, this experience made a deep impression on me. Having learned of Padre Pio, I now believe my guardian angel prompted me to pray.
Praying to Your Guardian Angel
Biologists tell us of an imperceptible world of microbes that exist on our skin. So also, theologians speak of an invisible spiritual world all around us. Whereas a microscope detects the unseen world of microbes, only faith working with reason may perceive the spiritual world. The highest creation in this unseen world are the angels, traditionally categorized into nine choirs. The highest is the Seraphim and the lowest are the guardian angels.
Not only baptized Christians, but all persons have a guardian angel. While only rare souls like Padre Pio could see them, all may assuredly speak to their guardian angels. We may also send him, like Padre Pio, to a distressed loved one. The following is an ancient and popular prayer to the guardian angel, suitable for reciting in the morning:
Angel of God, My guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day (or ''night'' if said at bedtime,)
Be at my side,
To light and guard,
Rule and guide, Amen
The feast day of Padre Pio is September 23 and that of the Guardian Angels is October 2.
Padre Pio: The True Story, by C. Bernard Ruffin, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1991
“Send Me Your Guardian Angel” Padre Pio, by Fr. Alessio Parente O.F.M. Cap., The Noteworthy Company, 1984
© 2018 Bede