Friday, October 5, 2012

From Ghosts to a Mystical Saint Who Bore the Stigmata

My blog has been a fascinating culmination of Long Island's history, ghost tales, spiritual stories and "make you think" stories, and it's been wonderful to see all the great comments my readers have to each of them. When I give lectures, I get the same types of responses. The one thing I hadn't anticipated was the number of people who have brought up Padre Pio during my ghost lectures. I have frequently been asked, "Do you know him?" For those of you who may not know him, Padre Pio, now Saint Pio, bore the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ, for 50 years. He died in 1968, but he is alive and well in peoples' hearts, and he continues to perform miracles to this day. There are over 2 million entries if you do an Internet Search on Padre Pio. It's astounding! He also happens to be the subject of my newly released sixth book, THE MEDAL, a novel, which takes place in the seafaring town of Northport. 

Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione in the southern Italian village of Pietrelcina on May 25, 1887. He entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Friars when he was fifteen years old, and he was ordained a priest by 1910. Eight years later after offering his daily Mass he received the stigmata on his hands, his feet and in his side. Besides the stigmata, Padre Pio was blessed with divine gifts which included prophecy, miracles, bi-location, healing, reading hearts and the gifts of tongues and fragrance. At one point he was shunned from the church because of his miraculous powers. There are countless stories of people who had been cured by Padre Pio. Even more interesting is the fact that he still continues to perform miracles today, despite the fact that he's been dead for forty-four years! 

I attended Padre Pio's Feast Day at the Church of St. John the Baptist in New York City on September 23, the release date of my new book. I was taken aback by the countless stories people were telling me about their encounters with Padre Pio and their cures. On June 16, 2002, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio a saint. The largest crowd ever attended the canonization at St. Peter's Square in Italy. One of the miracles that enabled Padre Pio to become a saint had to do with a man who was cured by Padre Pio after his death. This man, believe it or not, is from Long Island. I was blessed to attend a presentation he was giving many years ago at a church in Bayville. 

My own quest in following Padre Pio began when a stranger came to me during a very difficult time in my life when my father was battling Multiple Sclerosis. He gave me a medal containing a relic to give to my father while he was ill. It was that medal that ultimately changed my life, and what inspired me to write my first novel. 

THE MEDAL is loosely based on experiences I had during my father's illness and watching him die. The true life story of Padre Pio is woven throughout the book and is told by an unlikely, cannoli loving, Godfather-type character named Jimmy. Jimmy gives the main character, Bethany, a medal that changes her life. The miracle that happens at the end of the book is true. It happened to me. 

Like my Ghost books, I believe I was meant to write this story. For anyone who has ever been a caretaker, for anyone who has given up on God and faith, this book is for you.  

Padre Pio is loved by thousands on Long Island. I think just about every pizzeria in Nassau and Suffolk County has a picture of Padre Pio on display. I've seen him everywhere, and he is beloved by people of all faiths. I spoke to a woman who was Jewish just last week. She keeps a medal of Padre Pio in her wallet. She had breast cancer, she prayed to Padre Pio and is now cured.

So I wanted to share this story with my fellow Long Islanders who love Padre Pio, but also for those who like me, didn't know a thing about him.  

I will be at the Book Revue in Huntington for my official book launch on Friday, October 19 7:00 PM. All are invited to attend. 

If you have a story about Padre Pio that you'd like to share, please leave your comments here.