Sixty years later, these close friends of the holy priest can attest that his advice worked!
Padre Pio had a daily ritual: Every day he recited the Chaplet of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, offered for the intentions of all those who entrusted themselves to his prayers.
There were, indeed, many people who asked him for his intercessions for difficult causes. They included Giovanni and Paola Siena, a couple to whom the Italian mystic had “promised” nine children!
It all began in the 1920s in San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio lived. Giovanni Siena met the Capuchin mystic for the first time in 1928, on the occasion of his First Holy Communion. Giovanni was 8 years old at the time.
After working in the mines, and then working as a teacher and a journalist, he ended up joining the team of the hospital complex founded by Padre Pio, the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (“Relief from Suffering” Home). It was there that he came across the Capuchin father again.
At that time Paola, his future wife, a 21-year-old young woman, went regularly to visit the future saint (she lived in San Giovanni Rotondo). As she would later testify, it was thanks to the intercession of Padre Pio that the young woman was cured of her depression, as well as of serious lung problems.
Convinced that her vocation was to marriage, one day the young woman asked Padre Pio for advice. “What is your deepest desire?” he asked her in reply.
Paola answered him that she wanted to start a family—that she loved children and dreamed of having them. “So let’s pray that the good God will allow you to meet a good young man,” the mystic concluded. He gave her some advice: Go to confession regularly and receive Communion every day.
Some time later, Paola observed that a certain man named Giovanni seemed very interested in her. From time to time she crossed paths with him in the entourage of Padre Pio.
After a few months, they decided to get engaged. At this time, they agreed to pray together every day, entrusting their future marriage to God.
On August 27, 1950, during a Mass celebrated at 5 a.m., the future saint blessed their marriage. Moved with emotion, Pio repeated this wish at the end of the Mass: “Be happy. Be happy. Be happy.”
Padre Pio’s recipe
When they had been married for only a few months, Paola and Giovanni learned that they would not be able to have children, because Paola suffered from infertility. Padre Pio, who was now counseling them as a couple, promised to pray the Chaplet of the Sacred Heart of Jesus every day for them.
This was Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition, sometimes called the Chaplet of the Sacred Heart, or also the Sacred Heart Novena Prayer.
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
He told Giovanni (who would recount the story in his book Il mio amico Padre Pio, “My Friend Padre Pio”), “You’ll see, you’ll have as many children as the choirs of angels.” That is to say, nine!
Not long after that, on July 24, 1951, a baby girl was born. But their newborn daughter immediately fell seriously ill. According to the doctors, she had no chance of survival.
The couple, devastated, asked Padre Pio to pray for their daughter on her deathbed. The friar immediately reassured them that the child would not die, and indeed would live a long time. Sure enough, the child was cured.
After this miracle, Giovanni and Paola became even closer to Padre Pio, until his death in 1968. They went to him for Confession and prayed with him. They regularly asked his advice about their marriage, the education of their nine children, and their daily problems.
Paola would later say, “After 60 years of marriage, I can say that Padre Pio’s recipe, the Chaplet of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, works. Giovanni and I love each other as much as on the first day.”