A Tipperary woman was one of the first miracles attributed to St Padre Pio - when her cancer was cured after she met him.
One of the first Irish miracles attributed to Padre Pio – the recovery of Thurles resident Mona Hanafin from cancer in 1964 – is also featured in the book. She travelled to San Giovanni in Italy where she was blessed by the stigmatic. Shortly after her return to Ireland, doctors discovered that the cancer had disappeared.
“I definitely regard him as the greatest mystic ever,” Hanafin says. “You had St. Francis and St. Anthony but in our times of trouble you had Padre Pio. He was special, he was just sent to us for our time. And why did he do it? He didn’t do it for himself; he did it for us, for mankind.”
Mona's story and another Tipperary link to the much loved saint was the surprise visit of future pope, Pope Paul VI, to St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, in 1951, are featured in a new book about Padre Pio written by bestselling author Colm Keane.
Author Colm Keane
Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini, as he was then known, dropped in to the Cistercian abbey having landed at Shannon Airport after a special mission to America on behalf of Pope Pius XII. He was on his way to Dublin where he planned to catch a flight to Rome.
“Those who met Montini during his brief stopover later recalled him as a man of magnetic personality,” Keane says of the visit. “They weren’t far off the mark. One of the monsignors who accompanied him commented, ‘That man will be Pope someday.’ His prediction proved to be accurate when, 12 years later, Montini became Pope Paul VI.”
Montini not only believed in Padre Pio, but on his election as Pope he instructed that the stigmatic should be liberated from all restrictions previously imposed on him by Rome. Instantly, the future saint was no longer required to say Mass at abnormal times of the day; was allowed to meet visitors in the sacristy; and was told he could talk to anyone he wished following confession. The Pope and future saint remained close friends up to Padre Pio’s death in September 1968.
Padre Pio: Irish Encounters with the Saint features stories told by more than 50 Irish people who knew, met or witnessed the stigmatic. It includes accounts of the friar’s wounds, powers of bilocation and ability to read people’s minds. The Italian saint’s views of women, new fashions and even his interest in football are outlined.
Among those who visited the stigmatic, and whose stories are in the book, are an Irish organiser of The Great Escape in World War II, a wartime spymaster living in Donegal, two adulterous authors, and a Vatican diplomat from Dublin who investigated the famous Capuchin at his monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo.
Colm Keane has published 26 books, including six No.1 bestsellers, among them Going Home, We’ll Meet Again and Heading for the Light. He has written two previous No.1 bestsellers on Padre Pio.