Apparitions and Miracles
BBC News - May 3, 1999
Capuchin monks were among those who gathered for the beatification for Padre Pio.
The events that set him on the path to sainthood began in September 1918.
"After I had celebrated Mass, I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep," he wrote later to his spiritual advisor.
While in this drowsy state, the 31-year-old Capuchin monk saw a "mysterious person" whose "hands, feet and side were dripping blood".
"The sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable," Padre Pio wrote.
"I thought I should die and really should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. "The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. "Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday."
Perhaps understandably, Padre Pio found the wounds "embarrassing", and prayed for the visible marks to be removed.
But he did not ask for relief from the pain of the wounds, he wrote, "since I wish to be inebriated with pain". He believed that the wounds, which stayed with him 50 years, gave him the strength to fend off attacks by the devil.
Padre Pio wrote that one night, "that wretch did nothing but beat me continually". "He presented to my mind many diabolical suggestions, thoughts of despair, distrust in God. But praise be to Jesus, for I defended myself by saying to him repeatedly: ‘your wounds are my merit’. "
Padre Pio’s devotees says that from his childhood in an Italian peasant family, it was evident that Francesco Forgione - as he was originally called - was a special child of God.
But it was the gift of the stigmata that began to attract attention to the padre, which grew into a cult following as more miracles came to be associated with him.
He was said to emit an odour of sanctity, similar to that of roses or violets.
Prophecy and miraculous cures were also attributed to him during his lifetime.
Followers of the padre say that all evidence of the wounds disappeared several days before his death in 1968.
A lifelong devotee of the Virgin Mary - he is said to have recited the rosary 35 times a day - Padre Pio died repeating the words "Jesus - Mary" over and over again.
Many regard him as a saint already - especially in Italy - and his monastery in southern Italy receives over seven million visitors a year.
Rosaries and holy water dishes with the padre’s image can be purchased over the Internet.
Back in the fold
Past pontiffs have been suspicious of the Padre and his miraculous wounds. The Vatican even bugged the Padre’s confessional and opened his mail. He was also banned from saying Mass for many years.
But the present Pope, who travelled from Poland to visit Padre Pio in 1947, has accepted him back into the church’s fold and honoured him with the title "The Venerable".
But beatification - an honour which usually leads eventually to sainthood - requires evidence that the candidate has been responsible for working miracles.
For followers of Padre Pio, the good news came in 1991, when a woman who had been hospitalised for a burst lymph vessel made a rapid recovery after praying for the padre’s intervention.
After investigating the case at length, the Vatican declared the cure to be authentic and "extraordinary" - evidence enough to put Padre Pio on the path to sainthood.
Zeitun, Egypt 1968
...an estimated one million eyewitnesses claimed to see the vision of a woman hovering over a church. Two mechanics working at night at first a woman was standing on the room about to commit suicide. They called a priest who ran out. Everyone was amazed to see the apparition of what they claim is the Virgin Mary. The apparitions occurred over a period of four years.
Conyers, Ga. -October 13, 1998
More than100,000 people came to Nancy Fowler’s farm Tuesday to hear the last of the annual messages the homemaker said she relays from the Virgin Mary. Fowler claimed that Mary had visited here earlier in the day inside her small farmhouse about 30 miles east of Atlanta.
"The future holds no concern to those who truly seek God and truly love him and remain in his favour," Fowler, reading from hand-written notes, told the crowd.
From October 1990 to May 1994, Fowler delivered the messages on the 13th of each month. Then she announced that the Virgin Mary would appear with a public message only once a year on Oct. 13. The crowd has steadily increased over the years. Fowler announced last October that this year’s public message would be the last. Fowler, whose visions have not been endorsed by the local Catholic hierarchy, told the crowd that Mary told her she would not be permitted to visit with her again in the way she has since 1990.
The crowd responded to the message Tuesday with occasional gasps and scattered applause. But for the most part, they were quiet and attentive while Fowler read for 30 minutes. People fell to their knees, gasped and clapped when Fowler said that a multitude of souls accompanied Mary in her vision. She said the souls were in purgatory but were being released into heaven in honour of Mary. Fowler attracts many visitors from Mexico to hear her messages, and most in the crowd Tuesday were women.
By James Pilcher, Associated Press Writer
Medjugorje, Bosnia, Yugoslavia
This is another popular site where the sun is set to perform miracles. This is a small mountainous village. Like at Fatima a group of teenagers claimed to have been visited by Mary. Since 1981 when she first appeared she is said to continue her contact daily at exactly 6:40 every evening. She brings messages of peace every day.
Though only the so called Visionaries now in their early thirties insist they can actually see and hear her...millions of others from all over the world still come to see the vision of Mary . People see the sun changing colour and pulsing. This manifestation has been caught on video. A cross has been photographed burning. Lenticular clouds appear in the form of a cross or of Jesus. Though war surrounds Medjugorje the people and pilgrims who visit each year remained unscathed.
The Virgin Mary has given 9 out of 10 secrets so far to the original 6 people who first saw her. They await the 10th secret or prophecy.
Several trees in New England overnight developed the face of Jesus in the knot of trees where a branch had been removed.