Below find the first article published about the G.I.'s visiting Padre Pio, originally written as a letter to Col. John LaBoone, the Military Governor.
MAY 18, 1944
by William M. Carrigan
Today is a very special day for all the world, yet perhaps, not more than one percent of its people remembered it. And of those who remembered, few perhaps understood its significance. For forty days after Christ's Resurrection, He walked among His Apostles, stabilizing them and giving-them final strength of Faith. And on the Fortieth day He ascended into Heaven in the presence of Peter, John, and James. Today we Christians of the world commemorate that tremendous Miracle.
For a few of us who are attached to the 15th Air Force in Italy, this day and its meaning will long remain crystal clear in our minds. Because it was our privilege to hear and see Padre Pio say Mass. Padre Pio, who since September 20, 1918, has borne the marks of the Crucifixion in his hands, feet and side is obviously a favored son of Christ. He is the only Priest in all History ever to receive this grace. Not only are these marks visible to all but his whole person reveals the Christ who bore them before him. His Mass is an unforgettable experience, and a sermon which stirs the depths of one's soul and awakens dormant faith in the heart. Yet he preaches not a word! To me, and to the soldiers I took with me, Padre Pio's Mass eclipses anything we have yet experienced in this theater of War. That is not difficult to understand when one realizes that he is the very antithesis of the cause of War, and thereby the cause of our being here. In him we have found the true opposite of hate. And in the violence of this war, contact with the Love of Christ through this favored Priest is a shock to our thinking. We will remember.
Padre Pio is a Capuchin Monk, his Convent is a small and simple home where he shares common life with a half dozen brother Monks. The Convent, as it is called here, was built on a rocky mountainside near a small mountain town, the like of which abounds in Italy. The barrenness of the slopes above the Convent symbolize the frugality of the little community. In better times these rocks will serve as an amphitheater for the thousands of souls who will come from all over the world to seek spiritual direction from this Holy Priest whose insight of individual spiritual needs marked him as one of the Church's greatest Confessors.
After his morning Mass and Thanksgiving he goes directly to the Confessional and does not leave until noon. Then he takes a small portion of food with his Community, the only meal of the day. After a short rest, he again enters the arduous work of confessions. Women are heard in the mornings. At five he goes into the Choir for prayer. During the night he may seek three or four hours sleep, but most of the time is given to prayer until Mass time.
There is always a crowd at his Mass. The men are allowed in the Sanctuary, and crowd even to the Altar steps. Our soldiers are always accorded the favor of the Sanctuary, that they may see Padre Pio better. His Mass is often two hours long, but no one minds the time. During the Consecration he is literally on the cross with Christ. His suffering in his hands and feet and whole body are obvious to all. His pain is so great at the words of Consecration that it is very difficult for him to say them. He will repeat a word many times, rest and go on to the next one and repeat again. After the Elevation he seems to be lost to the world and pleads with Christ for the needs of his vast spiritual family. It is well known that once he accepts a person into his family of spiritual children, he never forgets them. When I asked him to remember the father of one of our soldiers, he said to me, "I will pursue him with constant diligence and love." He never forgets a person who seeks his counsel and he has said that he will not let a soul get away from him once that person enters his spiritual family. Thus it is easy to understand why he is long with Christ during the Consecration and at his Communion. A peace and calm seem to settle over his pain wracked countenance immediately after he receives the Sacred Body of Our Lord.
There are always many Communicants, and while distributing the Sacred Host he is most watchful of every particle. Many times he will take the paten and examine it closely, picking off or shaking a particle into the Suborium. Often one that he alone can see. After the Mass the men are permitted to go with him to the Sacristy and kiss the wounds in his hands while he is unvesting. He wears fingerless gloves at all times except at Mass and the men seek the opportunity to kiss his hands while he is unvesting because he puts on the gloves as soon as he removes his alb. He is most patient and kind to all who come to him at this time, especially this is true for our soldiers who often get a word and a gentle pat on the cheek from him.
At this time I have often arranged for him to take our soldiers to a side room and give them his blessing, a word, perhaps, and bless their rosaries, or anything they might desire blessed. Many like him to bless their silver wings. His engaging smile and simple humility draw everyone to him. There are always interpreters around should any wish to ask questions, but for the boys who speak Italian he is a special interrogator. He does the questioning. He wishes all a safe and speedy return to their families and loved ones.
When the soldiers board their trucks and begin the winding trip down the mountain, their is much silence and deep thought. When conversation starts, it is always about Padre Pio and what effect he had on them. Reactions vary greatly, but every one reports an undefinable change in their being. One said he found Padre Pio looking at him as he entered the Sacristy and in that moment he felt that Padre Pio could see right into his mind, and the sins of his whole life seemed to flash into his consciousness. Another man told me that he felt that his soul was given a profound shaking and his mind put to work at right thinking. Back in Camp the soldiers think and talk about this wonderful Priest and what he must be. All want to return again, most every one has a buddy who wants to go, too. So the word spreads and more and more soldiers are turning to a new and better interest here. From careless, carefree soldiers they turn to sober thought of their future, their family, and their relationship to God.
What an opportunity we have here to grasp spiritual values! Here we can talk with and receive guidance from a man of God who bears with him always the miracle of the stigmata. We can see and touch a true miracle of outstanding significance! Padre Pio is certainly a favored son of God. What an Ambassador to the Throne of God! We always seek the best lawyer we can get to plead our case in civil court, but here we have a representative known to be in high favor at the Court of Christ. Who is there who would not put their case in his hands? God has endowed him with the special gift of guiding souls no matter where they are. All that is required is desire for and obedience to this guidance which one will feel and know to exist.
Padre Pio is a designer of souls. Great artists are rare in this field. Would not you like to have your soul designed by so great a spiritual artist? Think about it.
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