Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, Catholic Exchange <i>, and <i>Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Most everyone knows of Our Lady of Fatima. Most everyone has heard of St. Padre Pio. But how many know that Padre Pio was very seriously ill, bedridden, and Our Lady of Fatima visited him to cure him?
The miraculous event happened in 1959. That spring, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima had come from Portugal to make several stops around Italy’s provincial capitals. Traveling by helicopter, the statue of Our Lady should have been going to Foggia where Bishop Paola Carta had readied a tremendous welcome for Our Lady. But she detoured.
Later as Bishop Emeritus, in 1997 he would tell the story and aa bit about the longtime love Padre Pio had for Our Lady of Fatima in Voice of Padre Pio from the Friary of Our Lady of Grace, in San Giovanni Rotondo.
Bishop Carta recalled the requests of Our Lady at Fatima and said he could “assert that in the half century which followed, no one in the Church has given a more complete reply than Padre Pio. The maternal anxiety of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the souls going to hell had profoundly and completely invaded the heart of Padre Pio, who made of his whole life a great sacrifice to our Lord to snatch souls away from eternal damnation.”
The bishop noted that at Fatima Our Lady asked especially for the prayer of the Rosary. “And who could count the hours Padre Pio spent in prayer for the conversion and salvation of sinners?...And with how much loving insistence did he not recommend the Rosary to everyone as a means of salvation.”
Besides, the bishop pointed to the countless acts of mortification, penances and sufferings to save souls from hell that Padre Pio practiced in answer to what Our Lady called for.
“This heroic reply of Padre Pio's deserved a sign of maternal pleasure from our Lady,” he noted. “And the sign was marvelous.”
Mary’s Visit to San Giovanni Rotondo
The pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima from Portugal was scheduled to stop in the large city of Foggia. The monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo was within the Foggia diocese, but Padre Pio was severely ill with pleurisy, unable to even celebrate Mass from May 5 let alone go to Foggia. Here it was the beginning of August that Mary was to arrive, and Padre Pio remained bedridden.
“But could the Mother with an Immaculate Heart so sensitive and delicate not visit her dearest son, Padre Pio?” explained Bishop Carta.
Somehow the scheduled got changed. The statue would not go to Foggia but to San Giovanni Rotondo instead. Joy filled the air as people gathered by the monastery. With the help of a loudspeaker, Padre Pio was able to prepare them for their Mother’s arrival on August 6.
That Aug. 6 morning, Padre Pio managed to get down to the church. He managed to get before the statue of our Lady — “but had to sit down because he was exhausted — and he gave her a gold rosary,” observed Bishop Carta. “The statue was lowered before his face and he was able to kiss her. It was a most affectionate gesture.”
That same afternoon. Between two and three o’clock, Our Lady of Fatima was again on the helicopter ready to travel to the next stop. Taking off from the House for the Relief of the Suffering — which was built from Padre Pio’s idea and inspiration and opened on May 5, 1956 — the helicopter circled three times around the monastery before flying away to its next stop. Afterwards, the pilot could never explain why that circling happened.
The Padre’s Surprise
Bishop Carta described how “From a window Padre Pio watched the helicopter fly away with eyes filled with tears. To our Lady in flight Padre Pio lamented with a confidence that was all his own: ‘My Lady, my Mother, you came to Italy and I got sick, now you are going away and you leave me still ill.’”
But as the helicopter was circling, he felt a shudder, a jolt, through his body. The bishop repeated what Padre Pio would say for the rest of his life: “In that very instant I felt a sort of shudder in my bones which cured me immediately.”
The bishop added the words of his Spiritual Father who confirmed the event saying, “In a moment the Padre felt a mysterious force in his body and said to his confreres: ‘I am cured.’ He was healthy and strong as never before in his life.”
In Padre Pio a Personal Portrait, originally published in 1978 and recently republished, Friar Francesco Napolitano who worked with the saintly friar said, “I was present at the scene and can testify that Padre Pio never felt as healthy as he did after the departure of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.”
When the saintly friar was told about an article in the Foggia paper asking why Our Lady of Fatima went to San Giovanni Rotondo instead of the shrine of Saint Michael at Monte Sant'Angelo in the Foggia location, Bishop Carta repeats that Padre Pio simply replied, “Our Lady came here because she wanted to cure Padre Pio.”
Three days after her visit, he was back celebrating Mass.
Cure Spotlights Perfect Example
The bishop had his own idea of why Our Lady of Fatima came to the monastery to Padre Pio. “I like to add that she also came because the example of Padre Pio's ardent devotion and his prodigious recovery would rouse in Italy and the world a fervent increase of love and confidence towards the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Bishop Carta saw this heavenly favor as such a reminder, adding that “from this marvelous episode we must make a holy resolution to grow always in this devotion with a generous reply to the message of Fatima, reciting fervently the Rosary every day, praying and offering our sufferings for the conversion of sinners, receiving Communion on the first Saturdays of the month in the hope that the consoling words will come true for us: ‘I promise salvation to all those who practice devotion to my Immaculate Heart. These souls will be most dear to God, and like flowers I will place them before his throne.’”
For his response to her message and requests, Padre Pio is like a whole bouquet.