Many years ago, as a child, I was told stories of a priest in Italy who had the stigmata and the gift of discernment and bilocation. Those are all big words for a little girl but I knew what they meant - I loved to read, after all.
My dad worked in Brooklyn and knew a priest who knew Padre Pio - the name was funny to me as a kid. I would see photos of him and be told amazing things but as far as I knew, he was someone only me and my family knew about. There was no internet then, ladies and gentlemen.
When I grew up, I was given the opportunity to study in Italy. I moved there in 1998 and in May 1999, when I was traveling for a class I had to take in London, that man, Padre Pio started his journey to sainthood.
Ironically enough, while I was living in Italy at that time is when I recognized that I had my own faith not just the “act” of going to mass with my family to avoid being grounded or yelled at for not being a good girl.
So there I was in and around Europe when Padre Pio was on his way to Sainthood and I do have a necklace with Padre Pio’s image on it and it says “Roma” on the back. I do not remember purchasing it but then again there is a lot I do not remember post-chemotherapy.
Since then, I have been busy balancing work and family life with a focus on instilling my faith in my children. We pray every night and I have been taking them to church alone since they were both babies. This has entailed holding my daughter the whole hour as she napped during mass and chasing my son as a baby as he danced during mass.
A few years ago, I had a strange dream. I was in an apartment building in NYC and when I walked into the apartment, who was sitting there but Padre Pio. I was so excited to meet him - I said, “Padre, it is an honor to meet you, I am Lisa...” and he interrupted me and said, “You do not need to tell me who you are - I know you already very well.” And I said, “Excuse me, Padre, but how is this possible? I have never met you - this is our first meeting.” Then, in my dream, Padre Pio showed me a piece of paper and on the paper was the handwriting of my father - handwriting I know so well and I said, “That is my father’s handwriting!” To which Padre exclaimed, “Yes, he is my friend - he has prayed to me about you many times and I know you through your father!”
It was so realistic and I felt I truly did meet him. It is interesting because at many times in my life I have felt that certain saints or angels were looking out for me …but this time, I just knew it to be true. Padre Pio was known to appear in dreams and to share messages to those he called his “spiritual children” and I like to think I am one.
It is my belief that Padre Pio helped me through this entire process of diagnosis to treatment to becoming a survivor. So much so that right after my chemotherapy ended and before I began my radiation, I went to the National Center for Padre Pio in Pennsylvania and was able to pray with one of the gloves Padre Pio wore to cover his stigmata.
When I found out that some of his relics would be in New York City at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, I knew I had to be there. Of course, as anyone who lives or works in New York City can tell you, when something is going on at a major landmark like St Pat’s, there are going to be tons of crowds. A week before the relics would arrive, I checked out the St Pat’s website and saw that there was going to be a private reception to view and pray with the relics and that there were tickets available for $100. I was thinking of how I could work this into my budget when my dad decided to get the tickets for my husband’s birthday so the 3 of us could go.
It was an amazing night - when I got there, I was able to spend time with the relics - there were no crowds and ultimately I was able to go through to see the relics 5 or 6 times before we headed home. I was able to bless some prayer cards, too, with the relics.
If you are not Catholic, you might have no idea what I am talking about but suffice it to say it was an emotional and amazing evening. I am including some pictures below- these relics are going on an 11 state tour and were only here in NYC for a few days so I am lucky I got to see them up close and personal.
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