The Miracle Accepted by the Vatican for Padre Pio's Canonization!
The personal testimony of the mother of Matteo Colella, the little boy declared by the Church to have been miraculously cured through the intervention of Padre Pio.
In February 2002, Voce di Padre Pio, the official magazine for the cause of Padre Pio, (published by Padre Pio's Friary in San Giovanni Rotondo), featured this wonderful love story in a ten-page article.
The anxieties, anguish, and faith of the mother of little Matteo Colella [age 7]
[Translated from Voce di Padre Pio, February 2002, pp. 28 37, see www.frankrega.com for translation disclaimer]
Jesus, you have said "One does not light a lamp in order to hide it, but to put it on high, in order to light everything in the house". For this reason I have decided to recount the marvelous gift that you have willed to bestow on our family, in that interminable, incredible month-long period between January 20 and February 26, 2000.
You have given me the great gift of a miracle, but prior to that, the very great gift of faith. You have given back to me Matteo in your infinite kindness. "Te Deum laudamus".
Dear Padre Pio, I wish to address myself to you in a way similar to what I have read in your Letters. "Many, many graces were conceded by Jesus in that tempest", said Raffaelina Cerase, and I echo what she said, in that moment so complex in my life.
Dear Padre, sweet and lovable protector, under whose guardianship I have always placed myself and my family certain that you will never abandon one who turns to you as a humble and hopeful child you have seen my sorrows and have carried to God my pitiable prayer. Thank you for your protection.
I am certain quite apart from the judgement of men that the return to life of Matteo is the work of God, of his mercy, and of your intercession, of your nearness to him in prayer.
The dreams and the first sign
About a year and a half ago I had a very pleasant dream. I found myself in the infirmary of the convent about to go to confession when suddenly I heard many people exclaiming, "Padre Pio is arriving, Padre Pio is arriving!" Then I experienced a very deep, unaccounted for grief, and I knelt down shedding a flood of tears. In an instant the Padre came close to me and he gently said to me: "Why are you crying?" And I replied "I dont know why!"
Then Padre Pio, with his right hand, of which I still recall the warmth of his woolen glove, caressed my cheek while pronouncing these words: "What are you afraid of? I am with you, I will always be near you!"
Six or seven months later I experienced another dream. I was in an unknown, distressful cemetery. While I was trembling with fear, the Padre came on the scene and asked me "What are you doing here?" and I replied only with a shrug of my shoulders while looking around me terrified.
Padre Pio smiled at me and said in dialect: "Walk on, move, get out of here, this is not for you! Be strong, you in front and I behind you, we will go away from here!"
I awoke frightened and thinking that something very perilous must be about to happen.
Then, some days before the end of August, having entered my bedroom with tears in my eyes, after a little discussion I had with my husband (which had made us both angry and led me to ask the Padre to help me), a good two times I smelled an unusual perfume that was sweet and delightful, a mixture of roses and violets. I looked around surprised and realized that there was nothing that could give forth that odor. I even went out on the balcony, thinking that the perfume could have come from there, but it wasnt so.
I quickly called my husband and when he came into the room I asked him if he detected an unusual odor. Antonio replied: "Yes, of flowers, and so?" After that he calmly walked away. Meanwhile the smell went away and only then I thought of Padre Pio, and very moved I realized that this could have been a sign, and that he surely wanted to tell me that he was near to me. Never would I have believed that waiting for us was everything that, with the illness of Matteo, we would have to face.
January 20, 2000
This is the day that the extraordinary adventure of my family begins, the terrible nightmare that ended like a fairy tale.
It is 8:30 PM. I return from Foggia, pre-occupied by Matteos high fever, which he had since early in the afternoon, and which my husband had just talked to me about over his cell phone. Already that morning his teacher had informed me from school that the child was complaining of a bad headache, and I hastened to see, at the same time as my husband, what that situation was. But other than the fever the child did not complain of other symptoms, and for that reason we thought it was just a common flu, easily treatable. Encouraged by this, in the afternoon I traveled to Foggia for a class I was taking, leaving Matteo with his dad. The fever had remained high all day, and he had vomited, and that was what my husband had called me about over the cell phone.
Arriving in the childrens room, I find Matteo with an empty look in his eyes, and when I call to him there is no acknowledgement.
My husband, Antonio, seeks to calm me because someone else other than him has also seen the child my husband himself is a doctor. He was seen by a friend who is a Pediatrician about half an hour previous, without there being any evidence of particular symptoms (no marks, no stiffness in his neck). Yet there rises in me a panic, as if something is telling me that the situation is dangerous.
I approach Matteo to give him a kiss on the left side of his neck, and lowering the collar of his little pajamas, I become aware that he did have some marks, more or less large, of violet color.
Frightened, I call out to Antonio, "Run, come here and look, the baby has a skin hemorrhage, and has blood clots [petecchie, CID]", using the scientific terms that identified a rare and very serious syndrome, something I recalled as uncommon, which I had encountered many years prior in a medical pathology treatise, and had not studied it since then.
Those two bitter words of mine sound the alarm bell. My husband runs to Matteo and immediately calls Dr. Pellegrino, and we decide, gathering a few things, to dash to the hospital, after leaving Alessandro with a friend, Nicola.
Fifteen minutes go by.
We arrive at the emergency room, place the child on a stretcher, and quickly transfer him to pediatrics. It is now a little after 9:00 PM.
My heart is growing more and more troubled, as is Antonios.
I sense that something terrible is happening, and in addition the marks on Matteo are growing in size and number, with a speed that is startling. The gravity of the situation is reflected in the alarmed and frightened eyes of the doctors and nurses tending Matteo.
When we arrive in the pediatrics ward, the child is already in a state of shock, and they are having difficulty in finding a vein in order to begin the urgent therapy.
Nonetheless, Matteo is awake and still speaking, after the short period of disorientation he had back home, and he has recovered enough to ask for pizza and carbonated water, and cries out when they were trying to find a vein with the needle. I am close to him and hear him ask again for sparkling water: "Like daddy says - waiter, waiter, I would like some fizzy water!"
He has such a great thirst from being in shock, and I am becoming more aware of the irreversibility of the unfolding tragedy. I am losing my son, my baby, and there is nothing I can do. I feel myself beginning to faint, but do not fall. I remain there immobile, with teardrops falling one by one, praying silently, "Jesus, help me, Jesus help me, Jesus and Mary do not abandon us".
Meanwhile Matteo, turning to his daddy, says something incredibly beautiful: "Daddy, when I grow up I want to become rich, so that I can give it all to the poor". That sentence really strikes me and it affects Dr. Gorgoglione in an unusual way, as he told me himself many days later in spite of the certainty that Matteo is dying. I read and interpret Matteos expression as a sign from Jesus that the baby will survive and I implore him, "In your mercy help us, Lord".
My husband makes me wait in the corridor, because the situation is getting worse. There I only have the strength, between my sobs, to inform my brothers that the baby is dying, and to look in my purse for the sheets of paper with prayers on them that I always carry with me. Trembling, I come across the image of Jesus, the Divine Mercy image, as he appeared to sister Faustina. I start to pray, to recite the Divine Mercy chaplet, and to repeat the words from the Gospel written at the foot of the page: "Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you", and also to repeat the phrase that Jesus himself in one of his appearances to sister Faustina Kowalska had taught: "Jesus, I trust in you against all hope".
In the meantime, after an extraordinary consultation between pediatricians and doctors, Matteo is carried on a stretcher to the elevator to be transferred to the intensive care room.
I look at him despondently for one last time before the elevator door closes. Ten days would pass before I would once again see his face and his small tormented figure.
That night passes by slowly, with the minutes and the seconds lasting longer than I have ever experienced. Dr. Pellegrino, who stayed with us during all of those long days, and my husband, continue to enter and exit the door of the intensive care unit, in attempts to glean some news about the baby. My brother Nicola and myself remain in prayer. It is a night comprised of invoking our Lord, the Virgin Mary, and Padre Pio.
That infinitely long night pierces our hearts as it progresses. In the morning I go to the endourology area where I am told I could remain while awaiting news of my child.
At that time there begins an unending procession of friends, acquaintances, relatives, priests, of which I can recall very little. Something that I do clearly remember on the other hand is my explicit and strong request, urging everyone to pray, to pray for Matteo, to pray to God.
That morning I become aware, without anyone telling me, that the situation is worsening. I know it from the troubled expressions and strange allusions. But I keep asking in prayer, pleading Christ through his sorrowful passion, through his precious Blood, to grant a miracle. I know I do not merit it, but I keep repeating that his infinite mercy encourages even the bleakest souls to ask for help.
I pray to the Madonna, the sorrowful mother, through the Calvary of her son, to enable me, an unworthy mother, to carry on in the calvary of my life.
Meanwhile in care unit number 2 and I found this out only later much was happening. In the morning Matteo had a slowdown of his heart, his blood pressure could not even be taken, the veins attached to tubes were exuding blood because of coagulation difficulties. And spilling from his mouth was a pinkish foam from a pulmonary edema due to cardiac imbalance.
I know nothing of all that is occurring, but I am aware the situation is very grave because of the exhausted expressions of our doctor friends who approach us.
Friday evening I ask the sacristans, Tiziana and Maria, to allow me to pray in Padre Pios cell and on his tomb. Padre Rinaldo opens both of them up and I have the privilege of kneeling and praying at the bed of Padre Pio, and on the block of granite that covers his remains.
I had been admitted to his cell the day of my wedding to ask, from his great heart, for protection and blessing for the family that I was about to bring forth. Now I am asking him not to have the family destroyed, to carry our poor prayers to the Lord, to bring to the omnipotent God our weeping, to not take away from me my little angel.
That evening, about 8:30 PM, Padre Marciano and the other brothers allow me to remain kneeling at Padre Pios tomb to pray the rosary together with them. The rosary, "that powerful weapon", as Padre Pio called it!
While praying with my face pressed against the cold granite, I see with my eyes closed, in black and white, a bearded friar decisively approach a bed, and with both his hands he lifts all at once the rigid little body of a child to put him on his feet. It lasts only an instant! I open and re-close my eyes in the hope of seeing this scene continue. But my mind can no longer succeed in producing images, I am in darkness and my heart in the meantime begins to pound strongly. I realize that the friar is Padre, and that perhaps while I am there, over the place of his remains, abandoned in my sorrows as a mother, so very close to him, he wishes to tell me: "I will help Matteo to rise". This I believe, I believe it strongly, I accuse myself of being irrational, but this I believe and I repeat: "Jesus, I trust in you against all hope".
And thus I begin to think that this also is a sign, as were the dreams I had in the preceding months.
A sign, such as the uncontrollable need to pray, to know God, who for the past two years had led and inspired me to frequent with awe the church, the Mass, to dedicate myself to spiritual reading, the Gospels, vespers, praises, the lives of the saints, and the Letters of Padre Pio. The Letters are always placed on my night table, ready to answer my doubts and to my questions. Yes, because each time that I have an uncertainty, a trial, a sadness, I have opened at random one of the books of the Letters of Padre Pio, and inevitably I have found, among the sentences on the page, the answer.
And that is what happens on Friday the 21st, during the evening, when exhausted by my grief my brothers take me home. I come across things belonging to Matteo around the house his book bag, his eyeglasses, his pajamas. They cause me to fall into such a state of desperation and depression, that I can only cast myself down on my bed and cry. And then at a certain point I realize that the sole consolation that remains to me, other than the continual invocation in prayer of Jesus and Mary, is to take the Letters and open them at random, as I usually do when I want to communicate with Padre.
The words which appear before me are: "May the Father of orphans always be blessed for having in his infinite kindness recalled to life poor Giovina. I dont hide from you the extreme danger she was in, more than you can imagine. She was snatched from the jaws of death: she had been conditionally destined to rejoin her parents above. Only the great number of prayers suspended the sentence." These are the words that Padre Pio addressed to his spiritual daughter, Raffaelina Cerase, regarding her sister Giovina who was ill.
My heart begins to open, slowly, and I can sense flowing in me a new hope, almost tangible, that mysteriously cancels out the crude reality and certainty of the serious condition of Matteo. I feel even stronger the need to pray, because Padre Pio spoke of the power of prayer to suspend the "sentence", and I believe that also for Matteo something similar can occur, it would be possible to suspend the execution of this sentence if we prayed.
To those who telephone me or stop me to ask for news of the baby, to friends, to parents, to relatives I ask for prayer, prayer. "Pray, we must pray, only prayer can save Matteo".
Together with my brother Giovanni, even when it is snowing, I go from one convent to another, from one community of sisters to the other, to beg for prayers, because I am thinking of Jesus who said: "Wherever there are two or more united in my name I will be there with them".
And so mysteriously and miraculously there develops a large and extended network of voices that call on the Lord, the Madonna, and Padre Pio. Only afterwards I found out that people were praying for Matteo in the churches and homes of many cities in Italy, in holy places such as Loreto, Assisi, and even at Lourdes, in answer to my request.
This saying of Padre Pios continues to renew me: "Prayer is a powerful weapon, a key which opens the heart of God". And that expression of the Padres pushes me continually more and more to turn to prayer in order to implore the mercy of God. I repeat to Jesus: "You have said I do not wish the sinner to die, but to be converted and live if the suffering of Matteo is for the conversion of myself, of Antonio, and for others, save him!"
Saturday January 22, 2000
That evening I ask Maria and Tiziana to allow me again to enter the cell of Padre Pio. Padre Rinaldo opens it up and I again have the joy of being able to kneel down in the place rendered holy by Padre to ask him to bless us. I am assailed by a bitter weeping, but with hopefulness, while I kneel before his bed, and I address to him my request for help, I entrust the life of Matteo to the efficacy of his intercession. Praying in that cell, I sense little by little the warmth of the paternal affection of Padre Pio, and notwithstanding the drama and my crying, I can subtly feel the presence of his protection and consolation.
Then I descend into the crypt and, as on the preceding evening, I am permitted to stay there to meditate and to suffer. I recite the rosary together with the friars, and when I am ready to leave and start to climb the stairs one of them, Padre Giacinto, takes me firmly but gently by the arm and says to me: "Have faith, have faith. You will see, we will do it." Oddly enough that smiling face brightens my tormented soul and I become aware that I firmly believe his words.
Shortly before, Padre Paolo, an old friar that knew us well and that was close to Padre Pio in his last days on earth, had placed in my hands a relic of the Padre wrapped in a piece of paper. I did not know what it was, but I held it tightly and thought of letting Matteo have it so that he could hold it in the palm of his hand. I had already been given another relic this same day by Padre Paolos niece Giovanna: a small piece of paper identical to the other one, which she had received from him. And that one I held in my hands, or put under my pillow, having it always with me in all of those days, hoping that Padre Pio, being with me and with my son at the same time even by means of this small material sign could unite me to Matteo, transmitting his power, and my love, in a way that otherwise would not be possible.
From Friday the 21st to Wednesday the 26th, I spend my days, along with my brothers, between the endourology section and the tomb of Padre Pio, while my husband prays his rosary next to the little defenseless, crucified body of Matteo.
My sole concern is to pray, to pray.
Sunday January 23, 2000.
Tiziana the sacristan had made an appointment with brother Modestino for Noon. We wait for a little while in the old sacristy, then the brother receives us.
Antonio and I break out in tears, but brother Modestino in his subdued voice, expressing himself sometimes in Italian and sometimes in dialect, says to us: "Have faith, have faith. Do not rebel against the will of the Lord, but pray. And simply say to God You have given him to us, and you are able to take him away from us. Dont go against the will of God. Pray! I offer my life to God, I offer my life and my sufferings."
Then brother Modestino takes the crucifix given to him by Padre Pio, allows us to kiss it and blesses us repeating: "Have faith, have faith, do not go against the will of God. I have said to Padre Pio: Pray for Matteo, pray for Matteo, so that this will be the miracle for your sainthood. You need one miracle to become a saint, help Matteo, ascend to the altar with him. I am sure that it will be so. Matteo will be cured and will take Padre Pio to the altar".
We say goodbye to the brother and leave the room, through the ancient corridor next to the old church, where Padre Pio had for years received so many of the faithful. Encouraged by the words of brother Modestino, I silently ask the Padre to make a reality of the words of comfort given by that humble brother, and to invoke the mercy of God.
Meanwhile, at that time, an irresistible impulse leads me to go to confession and communion, and to ask of my brothers, my in-laws, my parents, my mother-in-law, and my son Alessandro of only 11 years, to do likewise. Because I am certain that the Eucharist, which is the supreme moment of the Mass, which is communion with God, will also be the moment in which it will be easiest to ask the Lord, through the passion of his beloved son Jesus Christ, for his graces. I feel that the Eucharist is the best means to obtain the grace of God, and the grace of God is the indispensable condition for imploring his help.
That Sunday evening I return with my husband to the crypt seeking for a little peace. We pause down by the stairs to ask prayers of Padre Terenzio, an old and very personable friar, who comforts us by saying just as others have: "Have faith, pray, stay in the grace of God. I for my part will offer to the Lord my penitence. Every evening I will be here to pray for Matteo, rather than going to dine with the other brothers. Let us pray to the Lord that this will be the miracle that will render sainthood to Padre Pio and lead him to the honors of the altar."
Wednesday, January 26, 2000
Towards 9:00 PM, I return again to visit, as sepulchres, the places of Padre Pio: the cell, the tomb. From the Blessed I ask again his prayers so that my child would return to us, to console and cheer our days. To him I repeat his own words: "Do not be afraid, in such agony you are not alone".
Accompanied by my brothers and by my sister-in-law, I ascend to the choir loft, beneath the crucifix where Padre Pio had received the stigmata. In the quiet darkness, fixing my thoughts on the suffering Christ, I begin a long dialog with him and I beg him through his sorrowful passion for the life of Matteo, martyred in body like he was, full of dark, deep and numerous wounds. "Jesus," I say to him, "I have faith in your mercy. Make of this only a test of faith. I do not wish to go against the will of God, but as you said in the garden of Gethsemeni, if it is possible, take away from me this chalice. You have said to Sister Faustina: "Whoever will have faith in my mercy will not be deceived and will receive endless graces," concede then to this family to be reunited again, to embrace once more Matteo!"
After a long time in recollection, we leave the choir and descend to the sacristy. While on the very bottom steps of the stairway leading to the sacristy, I am enveloped by a very strong perfume of flowers, a perfume penetrating and very pleasing. After a moment of doubt and then of confusion, I understand that this is certainly from the Padre, to let me know that he is near, that something good will befall Matteo. Thus, against the evidence of the grave condition of my son, by now in a drug-induced coma for the past 6 days, I was convinced that I would receive good news.
The following day in fact, towards 8:00 PM, the primary intensive care physician decides to take Matteo to have a CAT scan of his brain to ascertain its functioning. The CAT scan was to be done before this time, then was put off, and then abruptly it was finally decided to perform it. The results are satisfying and unexpected, because there was no evidence of any type of damage or lesions.
The most important thing that I remember of that occurrence is that while Matteo is being taken down to radiology, I am making as I do every day the novena to the Madonna of Pompeii. Upon completing it, in order to reduce the anxiety of waiting for the outcome, I hurry from the hospital and head towards Padre Pios church to say the rosary with the friars and to ask of God, in his house, for help. And just as I arrive at the door of the old church, I hear my name being called out by my brother Nicola. He is running to tell me of the negative findings: "Maria Lucia, they already performed it, and all is OK, there is nothing the matter with his brain, nothing!"
The joy that we experience is immense.
Meanwhile that same day mysteriously an acquaintance of mine, Maria, had given to Antonio through her husband Mario Pio, also a doctor, a relic of Padre Pio that I later found out was very dear to her. I immediately arrange to have it attached to the head of the bed of my son. With Maria there was not a deep friendship; however, when she heard about the illness of Matteo, she felt an interior urge, each day more pressing and unexplainable, to let me have that very precious relic of the Padre.
January 20, 2000
I no longer have any conception of time or of reality, I do not care about what is happening around me, I am only looking for God to give me strength, courage, and not to abandon me.
It is 6:00 PM and together with Grazia and Pasquale, who had kindly thought to take me to meet Sister Teresa, we go to the monastery of the Poor Clares, a storied place of peace and meditation. Sister Teresa is waiting for us behind the grate. Her expression is very kindly. We stay and speak for a long time about the love of the Lord; we talk about Matteo, about whom Sister Teresa is convinced that he has had and will have the Padres prayers.
In fact she too had sent me a relic of Padre Pio, that I had affixed to his bed of grief at the hospital, alongside of the other one. Now she encourages me, assuring me of her prayers and those of the other sisters. And I believe firmly that prayer, so extensive, so strong, will open the heart of God; that the trial the Lord has sent is a test of love which will be followed by consolation, as Padre Pio said: "Your suffering will one day be changed into joy for you!"
I go away enheartened, together with the friends that had taken me to her, like my guardian angels. We attend Mass in the church of Padre Pio.
After Mass, I feel an irresistible urge to go to see Matteo, whom I had not seen since the day of his admission to the hospital. With me is another friend, Antonietta, who was the first to see him when he was born and that now presses me to go to him, and gives me courage, saying that she wishes to accompany me. And so, with a great sorrow and indescribable emotions, together with my husband, we go up to intensive care. We don green hospital garb, caps, slipper socks, we put on breathing masks, and finally after ten interminable days, I see Matteo.
The impact is terrible, I begin to shake, to cry violently, because he is all hooked up to tubes, covered with sores, with his eyes closed, with an array of pumps behind him making their macabre sound - Matteo is for me Christ crucified. "Jesus, Jesus save him, only you can, only you can. Padre Pio, give him a hand in my place, give him a hand to keep him among us here on earth, turn him towards us, dont take that little angel into heaven! And you Matteo, hold on, stand firm, all of paradise is with you, you can do it!"
That evening, when I return home, I find another unbelievable surprise: one of the friars, I did not know who at the time (this too I found out later), had sent me a little piece of paper, and on it is a very beautiful prayer written by Padre Pio dated 1934. It reads: "In sad moments you may surely cry, provided that yours are tears of confidence, because the tears that God makes flow are the prelude to the torrent of delights that will overwhelm you!"
I feel that this is another sign from Padre, that he wants to encourage me, to prod me into having faith and trust, that he wants to tell me: "I am with you, with all of you". And I recalled the words of a priest of Salerno who had comforted me during a telephone call: "The Lord has said whoever believes in me, I will be with him and will not abandon him".
January 31, 2000
This is an important date, today is the feast of Saint Ciro and I will always remember this day as the second "birthday" of Matteo.
I am getting ready to go to the hospital accompanied by Giusi, the wife of Dr. Catapano, when a telephone call comes first. It is my carpenter, Michele, a friend from San Marco, who asks me if he can bring me a small item for Teo, a photo of Padre Pio. Without thinking about it, I say yes. If it is something related to Padre, then I absolutely want to receive it. After a few minutes, a second phone call. It is Antonio, out of breath, to tell me that Matteo has opened his eyes, and is awake! They have cut off the curare, and even though he is still under the effects of medication [diprivan], he understands and shows recognition.
I can not comprehend anything else. The emotion, the fear, and the joy are too much.
Giusi and I race to the hospital. Arriving in intensive care, we find Antonio and Giuseppe, her husband. We put on the sterilized garments and arrive behind the glass partition to Teos room. His eyes are open, with an empty look, but open. Giuseppe, who in the preceding days was our messenger from intensive care for news about the baby, tells me that they have done it, that Matteo is going to make it, and the serenity in his expression gives me strength and hope. All I could do was repeat "Jesus, Mary, Padre Pio and all the saints of paradise, thank you, thank you!"
Towards dinnertime, I return home to retrieve items I will need so that I can stay in the hospital alongside Matteo. After a few minutes Michele the carpenter arrives with the photo of Padre Pio in his hand. I thank him profusely for his affectionate gesture, remove the photo from its carrying case, and look at it. It is an original photo of Padre with the baby Jesus in his arms, in black and white. I turn it around, and on the back are written some words in Padre Pios handwriting and signed by him, addressed to one of his spiritual daughters. And the thing which strikes me is that this spiritual daughter is named Lucia, like myself. In that moment I have the feeling that Padre Pio himself had wished me to have this photo in the very day that Matteo revived, so that I would understand that he is near, together with the Lord, and that he is praying with us. The words say: "Dear Lucia, I wish you a holy name day with the words that the Father recently said to me May Mary chase away from you all fears, calm your spirit, and render you worthy of the Divine Mercy, showing you Jesus in the fullness of his glory (Padre Pio)".
When I finish reading these few lines my eyes are wet with tears. I hold the photo close to me and thank Padre Pio for letting me feel, yet another time, his presence and his protection. I am sure that Matteo will improve each day, and that his body will respond because the Lord can do all.
Thus begins the recovery of my son, very difficult and very painful. The first hours are terrible because the baby is surrounded by tubes, can not speak, does not know why he is there, and our pain is the reflection of his.
The next day, while Matteo is with me, he rolls his eyes in emptiness a number of times, and moving his lips, whispers to me: "I want Padre Pio, I want Padre Pio", then he opens and closes his right hand. I do not understand what this means, and not knowing what to do I take a picture of Padre Pio and put it in his right hand. Only later did I understand at his telling me that Matteo was looking for Padre Pio because Padre had held his right hand during the drug-induced coma, and when he awoke he no longer saw him nearby.
February 6, 2000
It is Sunday; seven days have passed since he woke up. Matteo plays with the playstation, watches television, and is still very weak and suffers, but his organs have begun to function well, and the hemotological-chemical exam results are better every day. Its 7:30 PM, and I am alone with him. For the past week Antonio, my brothers, and myself have been taking turns at his bedside.
By now I have learned well how to read from his lips that which he cannot say with his voice. At a certain point Matteo asks me, moving his mouth, "Mamma, when did they put me to sleep and why? How long was I asleep?" In order not to upset him, I tell him he had only slept one night, and that they put him into a deep sleep in order to cure him. Then all of a sudden I ask him on impulse: "But you had no dreams during this night? You dont remember anything from that long sleep?" And Matteo first raises his shoulders then closes his eyes as if he wanted to think about it. After a moment, his eyes open and he says with his lips "Yes, I saw myself!"
"How did you see yourself?" I ask him curiously.
"I saw myself while asleep, from a distance, all alone in that bed", Teo told me.
"Oh!" I replied. "My poor love. All alone. And there were no doctors, nurses, mamma or papa?"
"No," adds Teo.
The he closes his eyes again. Evidently he is concentrating on his memories. He reopens them suddenly and adds: "No, mamma, I was not alone!"
"And who was with you?" I ask him.
"There was an old man, old with a white beard," he replies.
At that moment I do not understand and ask, perplexed: "And how was this man dressed?"
And Matteo: "He had on a long, maroon garment".
"And what was he doing?" I ask.
"He gave me his right hand and said to me Matteo, dont worry, you will get better soon."
At these words my heart began to beat like crazy. I understood that Matteo must have seen someone exceptional and I could imagine who it was, but I did not dare to believe it. So I took the little image of Padre Pio that Matteo had been grasping in his hand (without having looked at it), and put it in front of him, not saying anything. He looked attentively at it for a little while, with his eyes all bright and with an unexpected joy, then he said to me with his lips "It is him, mamma, it is him, it is Padre Pio. It was Padre Pio who was with me!"
My instinctive response, at his clear and certain affirmation, was to kneel down beside the bed and to thank the Lord for not only for the gift of being able to re-embrace my baby, but also for the marvelous and unexpected gift of this sign. I had felt, through all of the incredible events that followed one after another, that Padre Pio was close to me, to all of us, but I never could have imagined having such certainty from that spontaneous and innocent story of Matteos.
And that was not all.
A second later Matteo added that on the other side of his bed he saw large angels.
"How many?" I asked him.
"Three," he replied.
And I: "How do you know that they were angels?"
"From the wings! One was white with yellow wings and two red ones had white wings".
"And what did they say to you?" I asked him.
"Nothing, they were there in silence!" he replied to me.
And I: "What were their faces like?"
"They did not have faces because they were too full of light," added Matteo.
A moment later Dr. Mione entered, and found Matteo radiant and me perplexed. He asked why, and I told him what happened. The doctor listened in silence and after a while, lowering his eyes, said: "You know, Matteo, that even we believe that he came!"
The next day I related to each nurse that came on duty, in particular I remember Angela, what Matteo had told me. Fascinated and happy, they confirmed that certainly something incredible had occurred, especially seeing the terrible and violent beginning of the malady, and then the inexorable worsening of the situation the next morning, Friday the 21st.
Thus, speaking with them, I come to learn the terrible particulars that up till then I was ignorant of. This makes me hold with great conviction that God intervened and that the doctors - although very courageous, conscientious and profoundly compassionate, the primary physician in particular so silent and hardworking, sensitive and untiring - were all instruments in the hands of God.
Something that particularly strikes me and makes me tremble is a phrase by Angela. Recalling that sad morning, she tells me she had thought with much sorrow, while Matteo was getting worse, that she would soon have to wash this baby who was already near its end, to take him down below. Below, I realize, even if she does not say it explicitly, means the mortuary. I experience a chill that shakes me throughout, and that scene, only spoken of and imagined, takes away my breath. I turn towards Matteo, his body torn but alive, lower my tearful eyes, and say within myself: "Jesus and Mary, thank you, thank you, thank you!"
A little later Dr. Del Gaudio enters Matteos room, saying that he had heard about Matteos dream. He said he was with Dr. Salvatore and others (whom I dont know), working at the bedside of Matteo at the time that the baby seemed done for. I ask him to explain further, and he tells me that the heart of Matteo had almost stopped, there was a beat only every once in a while, his blood pressure could not even be measured, and the pulmonary swelling was serious. By this time they believed that the baby was lost as they say in slang. They became aware that there was nothing more they could do and they were devastated. At that point, however, Dr. Salvatore, inspired by some interior voice, pleaded for one more, final effort. Dr. Del Gaudio replied: "All right, we will try it, but Padre Pio had better lend a hand!"
So then they administered adrenaline, not 1 but 5 vials. From what I understood as a layman from his explanation, it was a question of a great amount that normally is never used. Matteo responded to it without effects from overdosing; his life began to return.
Certainly the doctors can explain in technical detail what had happened and why. I only know that I experienced at these words, first a great suffering and then a great happiness, at being able to be there to again see my son alive.
February 7, 2000
It is evening, about 7:00 PM, and I am giving thanks to God in prayer for the outcome, while I happily press Teos hand even though still suffering greatly, he is alive. Alive!
I am thinking that I should tell someone about what my baby told me. But I dont know how and to whom, and I ask the Holy Spirit for help. And in that moment Fr. Giacinto arrives. He had come one other time for Matteo, while the baby was asleep, and had touched to his lips a relic of Padre Pio that he had received recently from whom I dont know.
When I see him arrive I ask him if my sister-in-law Maria, a sacristan at the friary, had told him anything. He says no, and listens happily to what Matteo had told me. When I finish he tells me with a smile: "In prayer, we have wrested this miracle from the Lord, but now because others are coming to know about it, we must wait until Matteo is out of intensive care. Meanwhile, we know and are certain that the miracle occurred, but in order that it be completed, so that the Lord can continue to work, you must be in the grace of God, in the grace of God!" And I listen closely to his words, convinced that his speech is inspired.
We continue to pray by Matteo, reciting the Angelus and the Glory Be. In the meantime in my heart I am prepared to wait.
February 12, 2000
Today Matteo, sooner than expected, is moved to pediatrics. He is still covered with sores, the ulcers are many and deep, he has serious problems with his throat, stomach, and muscles. He can barely move, but notwithstanding, his condition is improving, little by little, as with little ant steps. That is what Rosetta said about him, a sweet special friend from Salerno who had prayed so much for him, reassuring me that the baby little by little would completely recover.
My joy is great and so is Matteos. I look at the crucifix and think, as I have so often read: "Lord, open my lips and let my tongue proclaim your praises!"
The welcome that Matteo receives in pediatrics is marvelous. Also there all had been rooting for him, they even uncorked a bottle of sparkling wine. Dr. Pellegrino who was surely for all of us a guardian angel did the honors along with Dr. Gorgolione.
That afternoon Fr. Giacinto found us again and this time implored me to without delay write down on paper something about what has happened so he could give it to Fr. Gerardo. It seems that the time has arrived to make the vice postulator aware of the events, in a calm and reserved way.
I told him of receiving, in the preceding days, the prayer of Padre Pio from 1934, and
Padre Giacinto explained to my satisfaction that he was the one who had sent it to me. He
had received it in the confessional, on the very day Matteo became ill, from a pilgrim
who, while passing through Foggia, had felt an irresistible urge to go to San Giovanni
Rotondo to give to the friars the photocopy of this holy card of Jesus Crucified. Padre
Pio had given it to his father in 1934 with those marvelous words on it, which gave me so
much strength during that tormenting time when my baby was in
With that very prayer a very strange thing happened to me two days prior, that now I am prepared to tell him. I was sitting up in bed transcribing on the first page of the Letters of Padre (the second book, the one that I had opened the evening of the tragedy and on which I had found words of hope). While I was thanking the Lord with tears of joy for having truly let a torrent of sweetness follow after my pain, I smelled again as in the sacristy the perfume of flowers, almost as if Padre Pio wished to tell me: "Now you have seen, I was and I still am with you".
Fr. Giacinto, at my telling him this, smiles happily without saying anything, then takes his relic of the Padre and lets me and Matteo kiss it as had already occurred in intensive care asking me if this time I smell the splendid perfume that emanates from it. I do not smell anything, instead I look at it a little perplexed. However, a little later, when he had gone, I was again surrounded for a moment by that incredible, sweet and gentle scent of flowers. Perhaps a little while before I was not disposed to believe! And while I am watching Matteo play peacefully with his toy puppets, the words of the canticle of Moses come to mind: "My strength and my song is the Lord, he has saved me... Who is like you, awesome in deeds, worker of prodigies?"
February 24, 2000
I had spoken with Fr. Gerardo - shy, because he is a quiet person, his eyes penetrating: they study you, they evaluate you.
I told him of the illness and of the cure of Matteo, of my profound love for Padre Pio, of knowing him through his letters, of the fact that whatever the decision of men about this case, my deep conviction as a mother and as a believer will remain that my son was returned to us because the Lord, though we did not merit it, gave him back to us. He intervened to console us in his immense mercy, through the intercession of our dear Padre Pio.
Then I returned to Matteo and explained to him that I described to Fr. Gerardo his dream (which I believe however to have been a true occurrence) with the Padre. And Matteo related to me by now he was feeling better and very alert other particulars.
"You know mamma" - he said to me "I was sleeping and was looking at myself from behind the bed, where the pumps were, then at a certain spot I saw from the door to the room, such a show of strong light coming in. The light awoke me and then I saw first Padre Pio and then the angels on the other side.
"And what did you think of this light?" I ask him.
"I thought that perhaps it was Jesus!"
The words are strong, but I make believe it is nothing. After a few seconds, Matteo adds: "I saw myself and I was well!"
"Then did you feel anything?" I asked.
"No, nothing, I was well because I did not feel anything. Instead when you awoke me I was sick and I was alone, because Padre Pio and the angels were no longer there and I looked for them and suffered".
I remain in silence for some minutes thinking, then it occurs to me to ask: "Excuse me Matteo, you say you were with Padre Pio. How can you be sure?"
"Because he is the same person there in that photo" he says, indicating the photo hanging in his hospital room. "And then in our house we have him in all the rooms!"
"You are right, Teo, you know him well, perhaps you can explain to me why when you were with him you did not ask him anything?"
And Matteo, with a long-drawn sigh, tells me: "I could not speak, mamma. You forgot that I had the tube? Perhaps another time I spoke with Padre Pio!"
"And when?" I ask him.
"Some nights after I awoke I dreamed I made a trip with Padre Pio, I already told you that I had cured a baby that was rigid, do you remember mamma? I also told uncle Giovanni. I along with Padre Pio that night made a sort of flight. He gave me his hand and we went to a famous city, what is it called, mamma?"
"I dont know Matteo: Naples, Foggia!"
"No mamma, that city with the houses that I know. We went together!" He pauses a second and then satisfied he says: "Rome, it was Rome!"
"And what did you go to do in Rome?" I ask him curiously.
"We went to a hospital where there was a very sick child 11 years old, that I seemed to know, and there Padre Pio said to me: Matteo, do you want to cure him?" And I asked him: "How is it done?" He: "With will power."
"Then the child woke up, and from then on I no longer saw Padre Pio!"
At the words of Teo I remained silent and I remembered what he had told separately to me and to my brother Giovanni, in intensive care a few days after he awoke.
He had told both of us, at different times, of having a dream during which he had cured a child that was rigid. However we had let the matter drop. And I certainly would not have thought that, after so many days, he would have remembered and repeated the dream in such a detailed manner, making us also participants in his hypothetical voyage with Padre Pio.
I can not succeed in giving a meaning to his words, but one thing is certain: Matteo relates his dreams with conviction and certainty.
Only the Lord knows the meaning of all that has happened to our family. My certainty is that he was close to us and has blessed us, thanks also to the intercession and the loving prayer of Padre Pio, who of his mission on earth said: "As a priest mine is a mission of propitiation: to propitiate God in confrontations with the human family".
And so it was, dear Padre Pio. You have embraced us in the trial and have recommended us to God.
Controversial, bold and thought-provoking, the above book is available in print or Kindle format.
Frank Rega is the author of: Padre
Pio and America,
St. Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims,
The Greatest Catholic President: Garcia Moreno of Ecuador
Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - Journeys in the Divine Will vols. 1 and 2
Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - volume 3 in preparation
The Truth about Padre Pio's Stigmata and Other Wonders of the Saint
Vatican II, Evolution, and Medjugorje: Hubris, Heresy, and Mystery
www.frankrega.com www.sanpadrepio.com www.thepoverello.com www.lifeofluisa.com
Disclaimer All translations in any of my Web pages made from various Italian language sources are intended as an informal, good faith sharing from my own personal notes, and are not otherwise authorized, official, or presented as completely accurate.
Copyright 2002 Frank M. Rega