I have now finished “Saint Padre Pio, Man of Hope” in the latest version of Renzo Allegri. I had bought it some time ago, but never came to reading it, likely because I found the Ruffin book (“Padre Pio, The True Story”) so well written that it would be difficult to surpass it.
All in all, I’d say that that the Allegri work is a good one, but the Ruffin one is a much better one and, if you want to buy a book about the life of Padre Pio, I would recommend the latter.
The difference between the two books I can easily discern (I have read the Ruffin years ago, though I keep coming back to it again and again for single parts) are the following:
- The Ruffin book gives a very vivid description of the environment in which Padre Pio found himself to operate. The explosive mixture of ignorance, superstition, arrogance, violence, poverty and corruption the saintly man had to endure is very vividly present to the mind of an Italian reader, who knows his people with their good and bad sides. However, without the description of all the, ahem, “quirks” of the local populace it is difficult to understand why the Holy Office would see Padre Pio with suspicion, or try to protect him from the fanaticism of the mob, or try to avoid the hysterical “cult” (and the frauds, with the awful “relic” business) that was developing around the saintly man. Renzo Allegri’s work says very little about it, and frankly describes it in a rosewater way that makes a reader wonder how the Holy Office could “persecute” Padre Pio (fact: Padre Pio had enemies and slanderers, but a lot of what was done from Rome was done to, actually, protect the man).
- The Allegri book is a revised version, modified in the last years, and it’s too much V II for my liking. You are told how good the future JP II was to Padre Pio (good for him!), and how devout Francis is of the guy! You don’t say, Renzo, old boy!! I must say, I vomited a little bit inside my mouth as I read that.
- The Ruffin goes in detail about Padre Pio’s opinion of the Aggiornamento. There are brutal sentences there. There are moving episodes. Not one word on this in the other book. You’d think the entire V II process did not make any impression, or cause any reaction, in the great Saint.
- The Ruffin book has several more instances of Padre Pio’s frank and very direct behaviour than Allegri’s one. One can clearly see that Allegri did not want to give his readers the sharpest angles of the everyday Padre Pio, the one who slapped people in the face, shouted in church, or threw sandals around the classroom (however, it has the delightful episode of the woman left by her husband…). I am Italian, and I assure you that a saint who slaps people in the face (when it has to be), shouts in church (when it has to be to get people to shut up: see above about the antics of the populace), and throws sandals around the classroom is as authentic, as unashamedly Italian, and as wonderfully tasty as Tiramisu’; but, in the case of a saint, it is obviously better still.
- Ruffin goes where Allegri does not: the militant anticommunism and anti-homosexualism of Padre Pio are not really mentioned. Big minus points here.
- Ms Pyle is mentioned, in the lesser book, only once. I don’t think this is a honest representation of a collaboration that went on for decades.
- The last chapters in Allegri’s book want to make the Church look bad for putting Padre Pio’s beatification on ice for ten years after his death, as if the Church had to be worried about beatifying great saints in double quick time so that their followers are not upset. I think this is unfair, and a worrying indication of a “santo subito”– mentality. Again, so very V II. We have seen where that goes…
Mind: I am not saying that the “man of hope” book is wasted money. However, to me this is the book you read *after* you have read the Ruffin, just to have a different perspective.
Be it as it may, delving into the life and times of this great Saint is always a very instructive, edifying, and unforgettable experience. It’s amazing that, in the midst of the godless XX Century, God gave us a Saint of such colossal, and I mean colossal magnitude.
A Saint who will help us, too, who have to live in the midst of the utterly mad, and utterly perverted XXI Century.
an instructing video.
Please always remember: some saints (mostly women, with the exception of St. Francis) had the stigmata.
Some saints had the “odour of sanctity” (emitted a scent recognised by others, though generally not by themselves).
Some could read other people’s mind.
Some could foresee future events.
Some could miraculously bilocate.
Some could be the vehicle for God’s miracle.
Only one could ever do, and be, all these things.
Every now and then, some idiot will come out in search of easy notoriety, and will question the one or other feat of the extraordinary life of Padre Pio.
This is not surprising. Satan is as terrified of Padre Pio now that he is dead, as he was when the great Saint was alive. More so, arguably, now that he is dead and in Paradise, able to help so much more.
To us Catholics, the resurgence of the one or other rumour, of the one or other slander is the source of mild amusement at best. Those who know something of Padre Pio’s life – whoever wants, can find a wealth of unbiased information – know that he was slandered for a great part of his life, and that it is a great sign of a saint’s holiness that he be slandered after death.
To non-Catholics, Padre Pio will always remain an enigma. An enigma they will refuse to examine in detail, because they know that to delve deep into Padre Pio’s life means to discover the depth of Truth, and they are scared.
But the most stupid of them all are those who on the one hand tell themselves Catholics, and on the other can ever conceive that one of the greatest Saints not of our, but of all times might have thought about committing a fraud, about abusing of the public credulity for – let me count – fifty years or so. I do not know whether this is more blasphemous, or more stupid. More blasphemous, I think. No, more stupid. Hhmm, no… more blasphemous for sure! No, wait…..
This, whilst half of the Catholic world – and the most influential one at that: Gemelli didn’t like him; Gemelli’s friend Pope Pius XI wasn’t a great fan, either – didn’t believe in him and tried everything to “expose” him, the astonishing combination of his graces being, in fact, too much to be believed at once even by undoubtedly smart people, or smart Popes; whilst others, like Pope Pius XII, always supported him with astonishing firmness, and no little courage.
So, we are now asked – and please don’t laugh – to even contemplate the possibility this great Saint might have been a fraud. Worse still, that a great Saint might have been a fraud, and still be a great Saint. Make no mistake, dear reader: this is the work of ignorant, perverted minds.
To the Catholics among you, I do not need to tell anything. You all know that one can’t be a great saint and a massive, fifty-year fraud more than Martha could have been a transsexual, or Judas the good man in the story.
To the non-Catholics among you, some words of instruction:
There has been – before padre Pio – only one male stigmatist: St. Francis. Some other saints have been known to spread around them flavours of roses or other flowers, without being aware of this – this is the origin of the saying “to be in odour of sanctity”, by the way -. Others more have been known to be able to read other people’s mind, particularly in the confessional. Others still have been known to have received – on rare occasions – the gift of bilocation. Finally, some of them have been known to talk to angels on a regular basis, and to be harassed by the devil because of their holy lives.
There is only one Saint known in the entire Christianity for having shown not one, or two, but all of these graces. This is the same man who – ad majorem Dei gloriam – is still slandered today. May this long last, I am tempted to say: the more the slandering goes on, the more intelligent and inquisitive people will be attracted to the Church through this great, great son of Hers.
Padre Pio didn’t live in some obscure middle-age time, his feats lost in the fog of time, and embellished by the charm of legends. He lived in an age of advanced technology, of radio and television, of spread atheism, and of accomplished medicine. His stigmata were witnessed by atheist doctors, who couldn’t explain their origin – not many know this, but the Church also uses avowed atheist doctors for this sort of exams, as it keeps everyone honest – and his other miracles and graces and signs were witnessed by so many, that it would be utterly un-Catholic to question the sainthood of the man and thus, by definition, his not being a fraud.
Most importantly of all, the man has been canonised. If there is one thing that canonisation means, only one, is that the saint was not a fraudster. This is not difficult to get. Not for a non-Catholic, much less for a Catholic. Canonisation is not like beatification, after which event one can still legitimately question the sainthood of the person beatified. Canonisation is matter of infallibility. When someone has been canonised a Catholic shuts up, period.
There. I had to say it.
Beware of the wolves in sheep’s clothes.
The impending beatification of John Paul II will no doubt cause many questions among non-Catholics as to what this beatification is, and might reinforce many of them in their errors and misconceptions about this beautiful Catholic institution of beatification and canonisation.
I’d like here to give some very short explanations in bullet points, in the hope that in the coming months some non-Catholics may end up here and get some benefit from them and that Catholics may get some points to give explanations if and when required.
1) Everyone who is in paradise is a saint. Everyone. Angels are saints, the Holy Innocents are saints, etc.
2) Normally we cannot know whether someone is in Paradise. When the neighbour dies we know that he is either in hell, or in purgatory, or in paradise. Purgatory is widely believed to be the most frequent occurrence at death, but no one really knows. In Catholicism, individual certainty of someone’s destination is a sin of presumption, unless one believes one’s own private revelation (say: an apparition); indirectly, he can draw a big amount of confidence from the truth of a credible revelation to someone else (say: Saint Padre Pio’s well-known hours-long mystical vision of Pope Pius XII in Heaven on the day of his death). ” I believe that John Lennon is in Paradise because he wrote such beautiful music” does not qualify.
3) Catholic theology says that those in purgatory cannot effect intercessory prayer for those on earth, but those on earth can do the same for the souls in purgatory; on the other hand the saints can pray and intercede for those on earth, but not for those in purgatory. Notice the “circle” of prayer here, with saints being able only to help those on earth, who themselves are the only ones who can help those in purgatory. In this way there is a beautiful solidarity, a chain of love or if you prefer a “prayer cooperative”. This common destiny and common purpose uniting every good Catholic (souls in hell aren’t catholic, and can’t be helped) is called by the Church “communion of saints”.
4) As a consequence, a Catholic will need some clues to know those to whom he can pray for intercession knowing that they will actually hear their prayer and be able to intercede for them. He can obviously ask Christ or the Blessed Virgin directly, but the beauty of the communion of saints is in the mutual giving and receiving help like members of a loving family. Therefore, one may prefer to ask a person particularly dear to him to help him and to intercede for him by Christ. In order to do so, he’d be helped if he knew, instead of hoped, that the relevant person is really a saint, that is, is really in heaven. Mind, though, that no Catholic is forbidden to ask for the intercession of someone of whom he thinks that he is very probably in heaven.
5) God helps this system of “prayer cooperative” by making known that the one or the other actually is in heaven. He does so by linking a miracle to this person. With one miracle one can be declared Blessed, with two he can be declared a Saint. Notice that here the “s” is capitalised. Whether the miracle has occurred is decided – after an always careful and generally lengthy process – by a Vatican “ministry”, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
6) Whilst the miracle is God’s choice, the decision whether to declare the beatification or sainthood is the Pope’s choice and it is an eminently political one. A Pope might think a canonisation dangerous or politically not convenient (eg. because it could spark a wave of persecutions, as in Thomas More’s case; or a wave of slandering, as it is probably the case by Pope Pius XII), or he might not be persuaded himself that the work of the congregation was really good, that is: that the person is really in paradise. He cannot “kill” the process though, merely let things rest.
7) One day, a Pope decides that the moment has come and a man or woman is ready to be declared Saint. His decision is inspired in the sense that God takes care that a Pope does not make mistakes in this matter*. In the last centuries, this process was very slow and people canonised were people who had lived a couple of centuries before, but there always were exceptions. The late Pope John Paul II was himself of the opinion that canonisations (and beatifications, comes to that) of recently deceased people were the best choice, because their memory is still well alive among the faithful. This was the thinking followed in the first thirteen centuries or so, with some canonisations being really, really fast (think of St. Francis: death on the 3 October 1226; canonisation on the 16th July 1228).
8) Coming back to 6), the beatifications or canonisations of particularly popular people have always been relatively uncomplicated, whilst those pertaining to politically sensitive people have been, or are being, slower. But be assured that Thomas More and Pope Pius XII do not care in the least for that. There is no race to be canonised first and the speed of canonisation is no indication whatsoever of the “ranking” among saints. This is important in order to understand that calls of “santo subito”, particularly when angry or expressing a demand rather than a wish, are not really Catholic and are more suitable to football stadiums.
9) Once a Pope has taken his decision about a canonisation, every Catholic is bound by it*. A Catholic rejoices for every canonisation not only because of the happy news, but because he knows that many people will be drawn to Christ through the canonisation of the person they love.
The reasons for a fast-track for John Paul II are now evident. The sainthood of the man is uncontroversial among everyone except the most severe sedevacantists; his popularity makes of such a beatification a great weapon in the Church’s hands; his beatification helps to shift the accent from the political aspects of his pontificate (which many don’t like, yours truly included) to the towering spiritual dimension of the person.
It is not – and it can never be – about “giving precedence to celebrities”; it is about recognising that:
a) The Pope seems to believe that God wants hom to know that the man is in Paradise, and
b) the Pope doesn’t see any political obstacle to his declaring so in front of all Christianity.
This is as simple as that. It doesn’t mean that one only becomes blessed if he is a celebrity. It doesn’t mean that only famous people are said to go to heaven. It doesn’t mean that “Church celebrities” get special favours compared to those whose beatification has not been declared and emphatically it does not mean that, between two saints, the one is “more of a saint” that has been canonised or beatified.
* the matter is slightly different with the beatification. With it, the Church merely declares that it is “worthy of belief” that the person in question is in heaven. There is, though, no obligation for every Catholic to feel bound by this.