Tuesday, April 20, 2010

St. Padre Pio: The Holy Man of the Gargano

Padre Pio: The True Story Padre Pio: The True Story by Bernard C. Ruffin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I was a naval officer stationed in Naples, Italy in the late 1980's, my fiancé and I once took a road trip eastward, across the boot of Italy, just to see what was on the other side. Our destination was the Gargano peninsula, the odd-shaped "spur" of the boot that sticks out into the Adriatic Sea and an ancient sea port called Manfredonia.

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On our way there,we saw a huge billboard with a picture of a gray-haired priest, with his hands wrapped in bandages. The billboard said something in Italian roughly translated, "See San Giovanni Rotondo! The home of Padre Pio!"

"Who's Padre Pio?" I asked my fiancé.

"Some priest--I think he has the stigmata," was my beloved's reply.

We drove on.

Several years later I finally learned who Padre Pio was. I read Padre Pio: The True Story. My own copy was published in 1982 and it was perhaps 1990 when I read it. I think it's time for a re-reading.

I pulled it off the shelf yesterday, (when I was writing the post about guardian angels) blew the dust off the cover and began randomly reading it. I'm not sure what is more amazing about this book; the stories of bi-locutions, miraculous healings and spiritual warfare that gives Padre Pio bruises, or the fact that this book was written by a devout Lutheran pastor, C. Bernard Ruffin.

I compared the introduction in my 1982 version with the introduction (available on Google books) in the 1991 revised and expanded edition. I noticed Ruffin left out this section in the new edition:

"My experience in visiting San Giovanni Rotondo--seeing the tomb of Padre Pio, visiting his cell, being shown where he heard confessions and where he ate in the friary refectory--was similar to that of visiting Mount Vernon or Monticello, or like my visit to the sites associated with the founder of my own denomination, Martin Luther, in East Germany..."

I suppose if we had pulled off the main highway and driven to San Giovanni Rotondo that day, I would have had a similar experience. I wasn't Catholic and I really had no clue what the stigmata was or why I should even care about Padre Pio.

Since Ruffin left that section out of the newer edition, I can only assume his thoughts had changed or he decided it didn't matter what his personal thoughts were. What mattered was his telling of the facts surrounding the life of Padre Pio.

I'm putting the new edition on my "to read" list because this is a powerful story that is worth re-reading. And if I ever get back to southern Italy, you can bet I'm taking the detour to San Giovanni Rotondo! Home of Padre Pio!

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