It was said he had gifts of prophecy, bilocation and performing miracles, but Padre Pio is probably best known for having the stigmata on his hands and feet and side that he was banned from showing in public for most of his life.
The Double Life of Padre Pio
Reports abound of Pio’s double appearing everywhere, from the American midwest to China and Africa. The idea of bilocation blatantly contradicts the belief that a human being is a physical object occupying one space. Nevertheless, the annals of saints, yogis, and psychics are full of bilocation stories, sometimes well attested.
Padre Pio bilocated by means of his voice, his presence, his aroma; he appeared in people’s dreams and sometimes he appeared fully materialised.
Mary Pyle, one-time secretary to Maria Montessori, spent the last 45 years of her life in San Giovanni Rotondo. In her diary she wrote:
“One day I went into the sacristy and said to Padre Pio: ‘Father, I believe my mother is in Florence today.’ His immediate answer, given with certainty was: ‘No, she is in Umbria.’ Surprised I said, ‘No Father, I do not believe she was supposed to go to Umbria.’ But he insisted, looking far into space. ‘She’s been in Umbria.’ A few days later I received a letter from my mother who told me: ‘Thank Padre Pio for the visit he paid me while I was sick in bed in Perugia (which is in Umbria). I did not see him with my eyes, nor did I hear him with my ears, but I felt his presence near my bed’.”
Controlled Bio Location
Padre Pio knew in advance he would be able to bilocate at a particular place. The Vicar General of Uruguay, Monsignor Damiani, a frequent visitor at San Giovanni, once told him he wanted to die in San Giovanni; he wanted Pio to assist at his death. Pio said the Vicar would die in Uruguay, but promised assistance anyway when the day of reckoning came. In 1941, the Vicar died in Uruguay. Cardinal Barbieri was in the house where Damiani resided the night he died. Someone knocked on his half-open door. He noticed a Capuchin pass, got up and went to Damiani’s room. The Vicar had just died of a heart attack, but left a note on his dresser: “Padre Pio was here.”10
Many bilocation stories revolve around healings. A typical example: June 12, 1952. Lucia Bellodi, stricken with pernicious diabetes was on her death bed when she sat up and began to wave her hands. She cried out that Padre Pio had appeared to her, told her she was cured and that she should come to his monastery. By June 16 she regained her speech and stopped having to consume twenty-five quarts of water a day. When she visited the Padre he smiled and said: “I’ve been waiting for you.”
A tantalising case is that of Cardinal Mindszenty. According to a reliable Vatican source he once received a “visit” from Pio while imprisoned in Communist Hungary. The monk of course was in San Giovanni, but his double turned up with water, wine, and altar breads, served Mass and vanished. When Schug wrote to confirm this from Mindszenty, he received back a one-sentence letter: “I cannot say anything about that.” If the story were false, it’s not clear why the Cardinal didn’t say so, unless he meant to perpetuate a pious myth.
This form of bilocation, if it actually occurred, implies materialisation of the double and teleportation of objects. There are, in fact, many reports, some of them reasonably compelling, of other saints bilocating at great distances and teleporting physical objects. Two outstanding examples are Saint Martin of Porres and Sister Maria Agreda of Spain. Scott Rogo’s book, Miracles,11 documents the prodigies of these two saints.
Dematerialising the body
I want to note in passing another phenomenon related to Pio’s bilocatability. He was, on many occasions, said to disappear from the confessional, a structure in full view and always surrounded by crowds of devotees. He would reappear in the rectory or sacristy. Asked about these disappearances, which occurred when he had a hard time breathing, the Padre would casually remark, “I flew over your heads.”
Perhaps the best authenticated type of Pio’s bilocation was via his characteristic odour. The odour of sanctity is linked with the phenomenon of bodily incorruption. The incorrupt bodies of saints are known to give off inexplicable fragrances, but with Pio the paranormal fragrance made his presence known to people at a distance. The scent emanated from his person and also, contrary to nature, from the blood that came from his stigmata. The first doctors who examined him actually complained that the monk was using perfume. Padre Pio’s brand of “perfume” however, was noticed by people far away from him, sometimes thousands of miles.
The Aroma of Sainthood
Bernard Ruffin, whose book on Pio is the best in English, gives a detailed account of the fragrance occurring to a Lutheran seminarian, Robert Hopcke, in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1978, ten years after Pio’s death. William Carrigan, normally skeptical of miracle stories, reported to Ruffin his perception of the aroma at his desk at Foggia (about twenty miles from the monastery):
“I had no trouble in identifying the aroma as that of Padre Pio. It wasn’t something you could confuse with any other odour.”
Padre Alberto D’Apolito, Pio’s confrere for many years, wrote in 1978: “The reality is that hundreds of thousands of individuals, even unbelievers, have testified and continue to testify that they have suddenly and inexplicably perceived the perfume of Padre Pio.” Emilio Servadio, a Jew and leading Roman psychoanalyst, had a powerful experience of Pio’s scent during a visit to San Giovanni in 1937.
If the Padre had a knack for “prolonging his personality” in space, he could also prolong it in time. Precognition, if a fact of nature, wrenches our normal view of time, cause and effect. (It seems impossible for something that hasn’t occurred to influence us in any way). Even so, there are countless claims of Pio’s paranormal forays into the future. These were usually done offhandedly, never as public pronouncements. Pio was unusually prescient about what Italian cities would be bombed during the war and what soldiers would return.
Like spiritual masters in other traditions, Pio foretold the year of his death. He often had prevision of others’ deaths. A young priest, Father Dionisio, on his way to Venice for studies, said goodbye to Pio. “Studies! Studies!” Pio muttered, “think of death, instead, so that when it comes…. “ His voice trailed off. A confrere who overheard commented on Pio’s strange way of saying goodbye. Pio shrugged wistfully. Twenty days later the young priest was dead. In 1983 Pope John Paul was almost assassinated; Pio had told the Polish Cardinal years ago he would one day be Pope; he also said the Polish Pope would be brought down in blood early in his tenure. I hope Pio’s prophetic gift is flawed, for he once said a war was coming which would destroy two thirds of humanity.