by Phillip Campbell
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
The Eucharist is the essence of my life so reading about one of the most fascinating saints of modern times, the great Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is grace-filled for me and all readers. When the author started the research for this book, he was overwhelmed by all the information he found. Saint Pio was involved in so many different things: his vocation as a priest, confessor, and spiritual director that changed the lives of thousands; his work founding the great hospital Casa Solliero della Sofferenza; the troubles he continually had with Rome; the spiritual struggles and suffering he endured relating to the stigmata; the foundation of international “Padre Pio Prayer Groups”; his miracles, his battles with the devil, his personal life with family and friends, and his monastic observance as a Capuchin Friar. There was so much the man accomplished!
As a reader, remember this book is not a biography of Saint Padre Pio, it is historical fiction based on his life. As historical fiction means that it is based on his life and that all stories told in this book truly happened: Padre really took a little girl’s ribbon and cut it up when he was a boy; he was truly seen in the sky by US pilots during World War II; he really exorcised screaming women in church, using the Blessed Sacrament. The author in order to tell these stories, had to use his Imagination to fill in the gaps describing how they happened. A lot of names of random friars are made up, and most of the conversations are imagined, though whenever possible, I use Padre Pio’s actual words as found in his letters and the stories written about hi,. The compilation of essays on Pio published by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate under the title Padre Pio: The Wonder Worker was most helpful.
Some of the details about Pio’s life have been rearranged. For example, the dream narrated in chapter 2 when Pio was eight years old actually happened when he was fourteen. The exorcism depicted in Chapter 13 when Pio was elderly really happened twenty years earlier. I wrote that Padre Pio came up with the idea for his hospital during his first suspension, but he really came up with it much earlier. This rearrangement was necessary ta take all the different aspects of Padre Pio’s marvelous life and help them flow better as a story told in book form.
While this book is faithful to the life of Padre Pio, it is not a ‘history book”; this should not be used as a source or reference for Pio’s life. The author, however hopes it inspires you to greater devotion to this amazing saint. In an age that was increasingly becoming enamored with modern thinking and modern technology. Saint Padre Pio served as a “sign of contradiction” reminding the world that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
At the canonization, John Paul II said, “The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord. Is it not, precisely, the glory of the Cross throughout his life , he always sought greater conformity with the Crucified, since he was very conscious of having been called to collaborate in a special way in the work of redemption. His holiness cannot be understood without this constant reference to the Cross.” that shines above all in Padre Pio? How timely is the spirituality of the Cross lived by the humble Capuchin of Piettelcina? One time needs to rediscover the value of the Cross in order to open the heart of hope.