The Great Promise of St. Padre Pio
-- I will ask the Lord to let me remain at the threshold of Paradise and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered --
The only saint known to have made such a promise
A recent book from Italy, Padre Pio, at the Threshold of Paradise, by Saverio Gaeta examines the famous promise Padre Pio made to his spiritual children.
The following article by Andrea Tornielli, which is based on the book, appeared in the Italian weekly Gente, June 27, 2002, pp. 21 25 (dateline San Giovanni Rotondo). See www.frankrega.com for translation disclaimer.
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, the Capuchin stigmatic who died in 1968 after being persecuted at length by the religious authorities, and now recently elevated to the highest honors of the altar by John Paul II, is the only saint of the Catholic Church to have promised his devotees an assurance of life....eternal.
"When I die," the friar said many times, "I will ask the Lord to let me remain on the threshold of Paradise, and I will not enter until the last of my spiritual children has entered." In these simple but compelling words is contained the extraordinary promise of the new saint, practically an "insurance policy" on eternity. Catholics the world over picture him with a halo, blessedly contemplating the God to whom he had dedicated his entire life of prayer and suffering. It is probable, instead, that is still at the gateway to Paradise, because he has not forgotten this sensational promise.
In fact there were many of his spiritual children who asked of the Padre, especially when was approaching the time of his death: "Now that you may leave us, what are we going to do without you?" He replied, gruffly but at the same time playfully, "Silly person, I will be here in your midst, more than before. Come visit my tomb. Before, in order to speak to me, you had to wait. Then, it is I who will be waiting there. Come to my tomb and you will receive more than you did before!".
The new book by Saverio Gaeta, Padre Pio, on the Threshold of Paradise (Padre Pio, sulla soglia del Paradiso, St Paul Editions *), documents that these were not empty words. Angelo Battisti, his close collaborator and administrator of the Case Sollievo della Sofferenza [House for the Relief of Suffering, the hospital founded by Padre Pio], recounts that the saint of the Gargano often said: "In the tomb I will be more alive than ever!" The accessibility of Padre Pio, his capacity to be a companion to everyone, was perceived by those who came to him for confession. "When the Lord entrusts me with a soul", said the new saint, "I place it over my shoulders and never let it go".
Each one can say "The Padre is all mine"
The souls of his devotees were always present to him. One day, the same Battisti prodded him on this topic: "How do you remember all of the creatures that turn to you, those that come here and those that call on you from afar? I think that you make a common intention, put them all on one cauldron..." And the Padre: "In a cauldron is where I am going to throw you; I remember them and I call them one by one, and count their hairs, and then some". To Guglielmo Sanguinetti, one of the first physicians at the Casa Sollievo, who asked him how he was able to love all and be all for everyone, Padre Pio replied: "Correction, to be all for each one. Each one can say: the Padre is all mine!"
For the rest, the desire to suffer in order to ransom the souls of sinners was constant throughout his whole life. He himself, on November 29, 1910, had asked in writing to Padre Benedetto of San Marco in Lamis for special permission in this regard: "For some time past I have felt the need to offer myself to the Lord as a victim for poor sinners and for the souls in Purgatory. This desire has been growing continually in my heart, so that it has now become what I would call a strong passion. I have in fact made this offering to the Lord several times, beseeching him to pour out upon me the punishments prepared for sinners and for the souls in a state of purgation, even increasing them a hundredfold for me, as long as he converts and saves sinners and quickly admits to paradise the souls in Purgatory, but I should now like to make this offering to the Lord in obedience to you." **
A perennial victim along with Christ
Padre Benedetto understood, and gave his consent. From that time the saint of the Gargano, who had begun to experience in himself the pains of the stigmata, always renewed this total donation. "No, I want to suffer until the end of the world," he replied one day to Malvina Lureti, who had advised him to take some rest. This is also confirmed by Padre Pierino Galeoni, a priest who was a spiritual child of Padre Pio: "He revealed to me that he asked Jesus to be able to be not only a perfect victim, but also a perennial victim, that is to continue to remain a victim in his children, in order to prolong his mission as a co-redeemer with Christ up until the end of the world. He confirmed to me that he had obtained from the Lord the mission of being victim and father of victims until the last day".
Thus is explained the reason behind that oft-repeated phrase, and the profound significance of that promise, of his remaining "on the threshold" of Paradise in order to draw within the very last one of his spiritual children. When he beheld the good intentions of a penitent, Padre Pio allowed himself to offer this type of assurance. Little Anna Tortora, at the day of her Confirmation, told him she wished for a gift. The saint asked her: "What do you desire? A doll, a little book?", and the child replied: "I wish, Padre, that when you go into heaven, make sure that there is a place there for me too." "Are you certain I will go there?" answered Padre Pio; and the child: "And if you dont get there Padre, who else can get there?" At that point Padre Pio conceded: "Good, I promise you that, if I go there, I will carry you up too."
An easy way to become Padres spiritual child
But the great and most generous embrace of the friar is extended also to those who were not able to meet and get to know him, those who do not have the opportunity of visiting San Giovanni Rotondo, and those many devotees that are not able to pray at his tomb. Thus reveals brother Modestino of Pietrelcina ***, the compatriot of Padre Pio that has come to be viewed as his spiritual successor. Already many years prior, while the saint was still alive, he pondered over this problem. "I was meditating," he recounts, "on the benefits that were gained by those who are accepted by the Padre as his spiritual children. Then I thought with regret about all those that are not able to go to San Giovanni Rotondo to ask of Padre Pio to be adopted spiritually, and of those, even less fortunate, who would not learn of the Padre until after he had died".
One day while at confession with Padre Pio, an inspiration was taking form. "I would like to take on, as the Padres spiritual children, all those who commit to reciting, each day, one Rosary, and have a Mass celebrated from time to time, according to his intentions. Can I do this, yes or no?" Padre Pio, spreading out his arms, looked up to heaven and exclaimed: "And how could I deny such a great benefice? Do what you ask of me and I will assist you." And later he gave new encouragement: "My son, enlarge as much as you can the numbers because they are more favored before God than I am. Relate to them that I give them all of my soul, in order that they may persevere in prayer and in doing good."
In these words is confirmation of the promise. For this purpose, each evening from 8:30 to 9:00 the immense spiritual family of Padre Pio gathers, ideally, in the crypt at San Giovanni Rotondo, around the tomb of the saint of the Gargano, in order to recite the Rosary. Anyone in any corner of the Earth, can benefit from the extraordinary "insurance of eternal life" of Padre Pio. Whoever wishes, at any time, can become a spiritual child of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, simply uniting with devotion to this recitation, also occasionally having a Mass celebrated according to the intentions of the holy Capuchin, and pledging to repudiate sin.
* Available in Italian from the publishers web site: http://www.edizionisanpaolo.it/default.asp
** Letters, Volume 1, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina; English version, 1980, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, San Giovanni Rotondo, trans. by Mary Ingoldsby.
*** Brother Modestino of Pietrelcina remained at the friary at San Giovanni until his death in 2011, receiving long lines of Italian-speaking pilgrims who sought his counsel and blessing.
Packed with other interesting Padre Pio articles and stories, 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
was last updated on 02/09/14
Copyright 2002 Frank M. Rega